When you have a musician coming in to the studio to work, you want them to have the best experience they can. Your job is to make the recording process as transparent or invisible as possible for them. This allows them to totally concentrate on their playing and creativity without having to worry about the technical aspects of the recording process. I recently had a friend come in to start working on a new song. Time is a precious commodity so we wanted to complete as many tracks as possible in one session. He wanted to see if we could complete the guitar, bass and vocal tracks in one session. We’ve worked together before and he’s an amazing musician, so I knew he’d hold up his end and have his track ideas ready to go. My job is to have the studio prepared to move seamlessly from one track to another. Here’s some basic preparation steps that will allow you to do that in the studio.
1) Decide what equipment you’re going to use. One of my goals is to give the musician multiple sonic options whenever possible. In this case that applies mostly to the guitar sound. If the musician has a particular amp or effect pedal of their own that they want to use, I try to get it in to the studio before they get there so I can have it miced and pathed. In this case we were using all in house studio equipment and decided to use stomp box FX pedals instead of rack mounted FX units. This photo shows the overall floor pedal setup.
2) Set up the effect path. The guitar signal is split at the stereo chorus pedal (the pink pedal). One line goes to a delay pedal, a flanger and a distortion pedal to an amplifier. The other line goes to a phase shift pedal and then in to a POD direct in amp emulator. This allows for a variety of guitar sounds to be recorded in one pass, both amped and direct in. The order of the pedals does make a difference in the overall sound. You can try several configurations to get what you want.
The output from the distortion pedal goes to an amplifier set up in another room. Although this large room is great for natural reverb, in this case the amp is just close miced with an SM57.
The bass guitar goes to a ten band EQ pedal. You can see it in the upper right picture of all the floor pedals. I love this pedal for bass, whether recording or live. It allows you to really dial in a specific EQ as well as boosting the signal if necessary. Two other items will go in to the patch bay. One is the drum machine seen in the upper left of the pedal picture to use for a click track. For vocals we have a Neumann mic going in to the patch bay.
3) Set up the signal path through your patch bay. This is where you run your incoming signals in to the rack mounted units then in to your mixing boards. I have paper diagrams of all the patch bays connections – when you have a lot of connections you don’t want to make any mistakes.
For this session all the inputs except the drum machine will run in to rack mount pre-amps and compressors/noise gates. Although the mixing boards have pre-amps and compression for each channel, I like using the higher quality outboard units. For me they’re also easier to fine tune.
4) Set up the signal path through the mixing boards. Decide what channels in the mixing board each signal is going to. I’d advise coming up with a logical system that works for you. I tend to set up multiple recording tracks by instrument the same way for most sessions. This makes my life a lot easier as ‘muscle memory’ will kick in if you’re trying to move quickly to make an adjustment during a recording take.
This is also where you select where each track will go in to your recording software. On a digital mixing board you should have a page that defines where the signal will be sent to. Again, try to maintain a consistent logic as you do this setup.
You can now set up the tracks in your recording software. You’ll want to keep the same order whenever possible. I usually have tracks that go left to right on the mixing board go top to bottom in the recording software.
5) OK, here’s where the organization part really needs to kick in. I like to create a chart for everything in the recording path. With this many transitions and connections, there’s a pretty good chance you could have some type of failure in one of the pathways during the session. The last thing you want to do is have to start guessing where a problem is while you’re trying to record. I don’t want to have the musicians standing around waiting while I’m trying to make a fix. It just feels less professional to me. And it could put a stall on the musician who was on a roll. Inspiration is like lightning in a bottle. When you catch it you want to keep it.
6) Test every pathway. I go one path at a time and test all the connections from the instrument all the way in to the recording software. I work to get a good strong signal level at each stop. Make sure the effects pedals work. Get a good strong signal in the pre-amps, compressors, mixing boards and software. Get basic settings ready in the pre-amps and compressors. That way when you’re recording the changes will be tweaks rather than ‘where the hells the signal?’. This is when you can change out a cable if it’s causing a problem.
All of this does take time. And nothing is perfect. You’ll probably hit some small glitch in any session you do. But when you get to run a smooth recording session it will all be worth it. In the session I was referencing in the beginning we completed the click track, four guitar tracks, the bass and three vocal tracks in a three hour period. And the session was a lot of fun. You can’t ask for much more than that. Now – go out there and create!
We have another Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs ‘Live In The Studio’ performance for you. This time we recorded a live version of our song ‘The Wish’. This song was originally created with our previous band Conduit for the CD ‘Superior Olive’. You can find out more about the band and the CD version by visiting the website for our record label Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds. The version in this video is performed with just vocals and acoustic guitar. That’s how we write most of our songs, so this gives you an idea of how we start out with a tune before we add all the other parts for the full studio version. This version is recorded with just two room microphones. We want our blog reading friends to have the feeling of sitting with us in the room as we play, so the video is live start to finish from turning on the camera to the end, comments, silly faces and all.
And….the story of the t-shirt. For anyone who’s not from the northeast US, ‘Live Free Or Die’ is the state motto of New Hampshire – it’s also on their license plates. New Hampshire is an awesomely beautiful state, so I wanted to give a ‘shout out’ in the video like when I wear national park t-shirts (please support and cherish your national parks). I always thought it was such a cool motto to have on a license plate. If you want great hiking, head to the White Mountain National Forest. Some wonderful, rock strewn trails to challenge you. I’ve included a photo from the last trip my wife and I took below .
Anyway, here’s the video – Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs performing ‘The Wish’ live in ChurchHouse Studio.
We’ve finally been able to get back in to the studio to start working on recording. We decided to start with a live video performing one of our original songs. ‘Details’ is a song we first created when we had the band Conduit. The song had a bit different origin as it was written from the bass line up. So for the album version we started with bass and then vocals with the other instruments being added afterwards. Writing this way definitely gives a song a more rhythmic feel. The song was originally on the Conduit album ‘Superior Olive’. You can find it and the other songs on the album on our Soundcloud account – there’s a link on the blog page. You can also find more about Conduit on our label site – Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds. For this version we recorded guitar, mandolin, banjo and some percussion first. These tracks were recorded in live fashion – no punch in, straight through tracks. Since the song was written from the bass and vocals, we decided those would be the instruments we would play on this video. The video is also ‘live’ – no edits. As an FYI – you can ‘follow’ our blog. Just scroll to the bottom of the post page and fill in ‘Join The Mailing List’. You’ll get an email whenever we do a post. You wont be swamped with emails – we do a couple posts a month. As always comments, questions and suggestions are welcome.
Episode 14 of ‘In The Studio’ begins our discussion of the use of frequency equalization in the recording process. This video will cover the basics of sound frequencies and EQ. In the future we will post videos showing the use of equalization in recording, mixing and mastering.
**Edit – at 2:23 in the video when ‘human hearing’ frequencies are discussed I said “20 Hertz to 20,000 Kilohertz”. It should be “20 Hertz to 20 Kilohertz“.
Episode 13 of our In The Studio series discusses how to record electric bass guitar. When you’re listening to the video, there are a few places where we give sonic examples of the different methods. All of this video was recorded directly to the GoPro camera, including the sound. The ‘amp sound’ is a live amp in the room. The ‘direct sound’ is being heard live in the room through the studio monitors. As a result, the differences in sound you hear on the video aren’t as great as they would be if you heard them after were tracked in the recording system and played back. Keep this in mind if you’re listening and trying to decide what type of sound you might want. Also remember you can do more processing on the sound after it is captured – either before or after mixing. As always, questions and comments are welcome.
This episode of In The Studio describes the basics of microphone functions and the different types of microphones. As with most episodes of In The Studio, I’ve tried to keep this from being overly technical. Since there are literally thousands of YouTube videos and blogs that are made for tech heads, I wanted to put out content for people who may not be deep in to the subject, but are interested in how recording studios work. So this video is set up like a conversation between me and you. This video is straight from the camera without editing software. As always, please feel free to comment or ask questions – discussion is always welcome.
It’s been a while since we did an In The Studio episode. We had some live performance ideas started, but as with much of our lives, that’s temporarily on hold. So I thought we might do some more episodes that simplify studio tech as we did with micing the snare drum. A good place to start would be with a quick overview of the studio. You’ll have to excuse some of the noise in the video – it’s literally live with me picking up the camera and moving around, no post recording editing. You know us – we love running it ‘live’. If you have any questions, comments or topics you’d like to see discussed in future episodes, let us know. So let’s get started……….
Below are some photos referenced in the video. This will give you an idea of how the main control room setup is changeable depending on the task. First two photos are of different mixing/mastering station setups.
A couple of photos of setups using the movable sound panels – Vocal booth and amp separation.
And finally a couple of photos of setups in the big room. All the mic signal goes back to the main control room in to the patch bay shown in the video.
Welcome to Episode 8 in the ‘In The Studio’ series. Today’s topic is how to create mixing options for yourself during the recording process. A couple things to add about the process in the video. In the video the guitar sounds you hear have not been EQ’d on the mixing board. You can magnify the differences in sound by tweaking the EQ on each microphone using the mixing board. You can also add more diversity by adding effects units in the line between the guitar and amp (this will make more sense after you watch the video). As always if you have any questions or ideas, let us know.
Currently, in the studio, we are “messin’ with the music”… essentially taking songs we know, like, or think we can do in a unique way and most of all, having fun. While we do write originals, and have several in the pipeline, we like doing this as a source of creativity with a little less pressure (at least in our minds). We have some songs that we have messed with and are looking to get those up soon. Well, we won’t waste your time outlining what is in the video, take a look, and as usual, if you like it give it a thumbs up and subscribe. Drop us a line if you want to see more!
The idea of an ‘Inspiration Point’ always reminds me of standing on the edge of a canyon and looking down at the beautiful scenery below. Or shouting in to the canyon and hearing an echo come back. Here’s an In The Studio version of our indoor inspiration point (Episode 6):
We also have three new ‘Messin’ With The Music’ songs in production and hope to have something out soon.