Skip James - Kit Downes
AKG C541- Drum Overheads Bayer Dynamic
M201 – Snare
AKG 414 – Kick Drum
AKG 414 – Centre/Rack Tom Beyer Dynamic
M201 – Cello 2x Sony C48 – Piano Strings in cut out 2x Calrec – Piano Hammers
KSM’s – Sax Clarinet
DPA – Double Bass
DI – Bass
As this was an important recording the people helping with the recording and I had set up a backup Macbook Pro with its own interface which was a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40. The primary set up was also made up of a Macbook Pro and its own dedicated interface. Each Macbook was running Reaper to record the audio into as it is 'technically' free therefore both Macbooks could run it and record without any problems of conflicting file types across different users. However for the mixing process of the track 'Skip James' I made use of Reapers tools to bounce out the stems of each track and mix them in Pro Tools as I am more familiar with the user interface.
Piano Mics: On the left, a stereo pair of C48's in the cut out of the body set to cardioid to avoid feedback from the bass behind and to isolate the piano. The C48's capture the body of the piano while the Calrec's positioned above the keys help to capture the more percussive attacks of the piano notes. This technique proves in giving a grand piano a lot of depth over the frequency spectrum.
Kick Drum: An AKG 414 placed off centre of the drum, more specifcally for the type of music as we weren't wanting to capture a bassy and boomy kick drum sound.
Tom Rack: Another AKG 414 to capture the toms of the drums.
Snare: Beyer M201, great at picking up the dynamic properties of Jazz playing which can be vast in terms of dynmics.
Overheads: AKG C451's that capture the body of the drum kit and it's overall sound including of course the cymbals and hi hats.
The purpose of the drum mic setup overall was to suit it for a live environment but capture the overall sound of the kit and its timbre rather than spot mic'ing which is not the right thing to do in this type of space.
Bass: This is such an effective microphone placement for all stringed instruments using a DPA clip-on microphone. We also ran a direct input as means of a back up in case anything failed during the recording.
Sax: It is hard to see in this picture but there were two of the KSM's used on the Saxophone, one directed at the mouth piece and one directed near the bell of the instrument, again to get an overall, realistic sound of a sax.
Cello: A M201 was used on the cello and directed at the bridge, as the cello is smaller it was very suitable for catching the overall timbre of the instrument.
Having never really done a lot of live recording of gigs, let alone jazz gigs I took away one key lesson, which was that if you get the mic positioning right, it saves you so much hassle in the mixing process.
It was for this very reason why the mixing process was fairly straight forward and just a case of cleaning up and editing the piece.
I chose the piece 'Skip James' as it has a gradual ramp in dynamic towards the end of the piece displaying the execution of the mic positioning.
It also has the 'rawness' that I love about the recording overall, most people may be afraid of compressing the whole recording or certain instruments in case there is too much background noise. I however, love it. As a listener it really helps to put you in the context of the space and of the players.
As I said, the mix was about tidying up any discrepancies within the overall mix and the individual instruments. Saying that, pretty much every track had its own EQ to shave off any unwanted hiss or low-end hum.
For instance, I cut off some of the high-end frequencies on the drum overheads as it was simply not needed in the overall mix. Similarly I cut off some of the low-end at around 60 Hz, again as it was simply not needed and cut out the muddyness of the mix.
Another aspect of the mix was gently bringing the levels up of certain instruments to make the overall mix louder and to help the solo lead instruments shine through. This was just a case of using soft compressors on each track. Nothing to hard, otherwise I would have made more problems for myself with peaking towards the end of the piece.
Nightflight - John Hardy
I was lucky enough to record the premiere of John Hardy's latest symphony 'Nightflight' in which he collaborated over with various students on the Contemporary Music course.
This was my second big recording in with Dora Stoutzker hall with the Soundfiled microphone, so I was pretty familiar with the set-up although there had been some changes since my last recording in there!
There is not bucketloads to say about a recording like this, the Soundfield does a lot of the work, however the key part is the Soundfield settings.
Personally I think it is absolutely crucial to tailor the settings to each recording for many different reasons, but mainly because of the setting. Whether it is a piano and soloist or a full orchestra.
Playing this piece was the Welsh Sinfonia Orchestra, it was a fairly small orchestra, but they still managed to fill the space suitably.
Unfortunately the picture of the other half of the soundfield settings got lost, this show the settings on the night. I spent a good 20/30 minutes listening to the players rehearsing, specifically for load sections to fine tune the levels in order to avoid peaks.
I also spent this time fiddling with the pattern and getting a realistic sound for the orchestra.
The pattern was set in between Cardioid and Hypercardioid, but more in favour of the Cardioid side. Furthermore, the angle of setting was at about 110 degree to 120.
Originally I was going to record in Sonar, however I noticed there was a level coming in but I did a test record and found a problem, therefore I switched to the Pro Tools system which functioned fine.
With a recording like this, in such a magnificent space, there is not a whole lot to do with the recording.
I would say it was more of an editing job. I went through using strip silence and removing the silences in between the movements to get rid of any unwanted audience noise.
The only significant element of mixing was the use of a Maxim in Pro Tools to bring the level up and get it as high as possible without any peaking but leaving room for dynamic space.