Recording - August 2016 - 16

This understanding will help you make
critical decisions around the tone of the
session. You may find yourself needing
to, or actually contracted to, take on a
producer role along with your duty as
the recording engineer. Let me illustrate
with a few examples how understanding
the band and the music plays into
preparation and eventual setup.
Tight or loose?
If I'm asked to record a typical rock
band-say, one or two guitars, bass,
drums, vocals, and maybe a keyboard-I would tend to record the bed
tracks live from the floor. I would try to
achieve a fair degree of separation
between the various sound sources, but
I wouldn't be obsessive about it. I
would, if possible, isolate the drums in
a booth and maybe tuck a particularly
aggressive guitar amp out in the hall,
but not always. I'd be looking for a
2

Typical small guitar amp, set up with
both a close and distant mic plus a
Chandler Tube Driver effect pedal.
16

RECORDING AUGUST 2016

cohesive sound, and the energy of a
good group of musicians playing in
time together is not harmed by a bit of
bleed. In fact it often helps glue the
whole thing together.
I'm reminded of this simple fact every
time I delve into some of my most cherished records from the past 40 or 50
years. As a matter of fact, I'm listening
to some classic tracks done in the Chess
studio in Chicago as I write this. These
are essentially live takes from the studio
floor with minimal separation between
the various instruments. The energy and
"realness" of the sound is what tickles
my ears, not the sonic perfection of the
recording. They don't sound perfect, but
boy, do they sound great!
If a drum room isn't available, or not
easily created in a spare room somewhere, I'd start to plan how to achieve
the degree of separation I'm after. I'd
scope out the room and, using some of
the techniques I outlined in my March
2016 article on "Guerrilla Acoustics",
I'd create a layout in the room that minimizes bleed. I'd do my best to baffle
any loud sources, amps primarily. I use
heavy upholstered furniture like ottomans
to create gobos. I'd organize the musicians in a fairly tight formation so that
the bleed is not exacerbated by longer
time delays.
I'd also use the closeness of the setup
between players to allow them to turn
down a little to lessen the bleed. I know
in this situation I'll need to spend quite a
bit more time with mic placement trying
to avoid phase cancellations. Generally
(but not always) I'd be using my microphones with the tightest pickup patterns
to reject as much back and side energy
as possible while still letting me move
the mic back a bit from the speaker
grille to allow the sound to develop.
Sometimes I'll work with the guitarists
to take a completely different approach
to achieving their sound. I will ask them
(not tell them... guitarists are devoted to
their sound and so they should be) to try
a smaller amp. Surprisingly hefty sounds
can be generated by small amplifiers.
Much of Jimmy Page's sound on the
early Led Zeppelin recordings was created with a relatively small low wattage
amp. There is still a lot of conversation
about which ones he used, but generally
it seems to be agreed that he was partial to Supro amps, made by the Valco
company in Chicago. They break up
very nicely at a relatively low volume
and their tone is greatly augmented by
the standard Jensen speaker.
Several years ago an artist I worked
with on a recording gifted me a small
Univox amp that has similar specs to the
Supro, along with a glorious Jensen
speaker. I have that on hand to offer as a
substitute amp for certain tracks. I also

recently acquired another small amp with
a two-stage preamp section. It allows me
to dial in a range of musically pleasant
distortion, from subtle to extreme, while
maintaining a modest decibel level.
I also keep in my kit a hand-wired tube
preamp (which I made from a kit advertised in this very magazine 20 or so years
ago! See Figure 1, page 14) and a real
tube guitar effect made by Chandler. I'll
offer them up as a way to increase the
"tubeiness" and associated distortion of an
amp set at modest volume. See Figure 2.
Not every guitarist (or bassist... see
Figure 3) is amenable to this approach,
but it's worth a try. Being a guitarist
myself helps. I can be sympathetic about
how one approaches tone. I've been
there. I try to encourage experimentation
in a manner that is knowledgeable and,
hopefully, not offputting.
Drumming it in
In a situation with no drum room and little means of creating separation, I'm very
particular about the height of the overheard
microphones on the drums. I find the compromise sweet spot that allows the overheads to create a wide picture of the natural sound of the drums, and not so much of
the guitar and keyboard sounds. I'd also
take advantage of any acoustic enhancement the room might offer.
In my own recording space, the ceiling
height is not great but the ceiling has been
treated with lovely cedar wood. I like to use
a figure-8 pattern on the mics I use for the
overheads, with the mics mounted so the
capsules point down at the drums and up at
the ceiling. It gives a little more depth to the
sound and a little more roominess. The
Royer R-121 ribbon is brilliant for this,
although I also use condensers in this role
and on percussion table (Figures 4 and 5).
3

Typical bass amp recording setup, DI
plus large-capsule condenser mic.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - August 2016

 Contents
Recording - August 2016 - Intro
Recording - August 2016 - Cover1
Recording - August 2016 - Cover2
Recording - August 2016 - 1
Recording - August 2016 - 2
Recording - August 2016 - 3
Recording - August 2016 - 4
Recording - August 2016 - 5
Recording - August 2016 -  Contents
Recording - August 2016 - 7
Recording - August 2016 - 8
Recording - August 2016 - 9
Recording - August 2016 - 10
Recording - August 2016 - 11
Recording - August 2016 - 12
Recording - August 2016 - 13
Recording - August 2016 - 14
Recording - August 2016 - 15
Recording - August 2016 - 16
Recording - August 2016 - 17
Recording - August 2016 - 18
Recording - August 2016 - 19
Recording - August 2016 - 20
Recording - August 2016 - 21
Recording - August 2016 - 22
Recording - August 2016 - 23
Recording - August 2016 - 24
Recording - August 2016 - 25
Recording - August 2016 - 26
Recording - August 2016 - 27
Recording - August 2016 - 28
Recording - August 2016 - 29
Recording - August 2016 - 30
Recording - August 2016 - 31
Recording - August 2016 - 32
Recording - August 2016 - 33
Recording - August 2016 - 34
Recording - August 2016 - 35
Recording - August 2016 - 36
Recording - August 2016 - 37
Recording - August 2016 - 38
Recording - August 2016 - 39
Recording - August 2016 - 40
Recording - August 2016 - 41
Recording - August 2016 - 42
Recording - August 2016 - 43
Recording - August 2016 - 44
Recording - August 2016 - 45
Recording - August 2016 - 46
Recording - August 2016 - 47
Recording - August 2016 - 48
Recording - August 2016 - 49
Recording - August 2016 - 50
Recording - August 2016 - 51
Recording - August 2016 - 52
Recording - August 2016 - 53
Recording - August 2016 - 54
Recording - August 2016 - 55
Recording - August 2016 - 56
Recording - August 2016 - 57
Recording - August 2016 - 58
Recording - August 2016 - 59
Recording - August 2016 - 60
Recording - August 2016 - 61
Recording - August 2016 - 62
Recording - August 2016 - 63
Recording - August 2016 - 64
Recording - August 2016 - 65
Recording - August 2016 - 66
Recording - August 2016 - 67
Recording - August 2016 - 68
Recording - August 2016 - 69
Recording - August 2016 - 70
Recording - August 2016 - 71
Recording - August 2016 - 72
Recording - August 2016 - Cover3
Recording - August 2016 - Cover4
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