It's been a couple of weeks since my last update and I apologize because I have been too busy to type. I've been recording an EP by the band Four Birds and getting a small release of my own together, but that's a separate post.
We began the album a couple of weeks ago in the house of one of the guitarists. We were going to track a fair share of the album at Music Lab but due to conflicting schedules we needed to start earlier than 11am so in the living room we began. To track the drums I used a four mic set up with one room mic that is in maybe half of the finished songs. On the kick I used an F-15, on the snare there's a SM 57, the main overhead is a NT1A and the floor tom was miked up with an MXL 990. The room microphone was a Nady Starpower that worked well when it worked. =[
A question that I've been fielding for a couple of years now is "how do we sound more professional" or something similar to that and I want to address this thought in another post, but a quick answer to that question is pre amps. The problem is that a good pre amp doesn't cost less than $1500 or so. I don't think that's one those old guy recording myths that seem to permeate the air like shit at a rodeo; you want a pre amp to be nice.
I have a few cheap (as in $15) single channel pre amps and I don't use them for their intended purpose ever. Need your guitar to sound like it's exploding? Pull out the ART! Need your bass to sound like a young Peter Hook set the tone? Go grab my pawn shop pre amp.
Sarcasm aside, I love all of my cheap, wonky equipment. If I had a choice I would make everything sound like it were being recorded in the middle of a firework stand exploding under the sea but that's not what bands want. Ever. Probably? If you do, then email me and we'll work something out. Back to preamps, a good piece of equipment doesn't come cheap so after a few days of thinking I remembered that I had a Behringer Xenyx 2222 that was purchased a couple of years ago when I wanted to start recording more live instruments. My favorite thing about Behringer is that their equipment is nigh indestructible. You can throw their mixers against a brick wall from a moving truck and they'll plug in and record like you just pulled them out of the box (don't do this), and they're one of the most affordable companies around. My board was about $300 plus shipping and it's great. The only problem is that the second channel stopped working about a year in. That's probably why I stopped using it now that I'm thinking about it. Broken second channel or not, there are still 15 other channels to record on and they work great. Beyond being a great sounding and inexpensive piece of gear, the Behringer allowed me to differentiate this recording from the album with Diving that I've been working on without going out and renting a bunch of new microphones or a barn for us to record in. After I decided to start using the Behringer my recording chain became MIC -> BOARD -> INTERFACE. Placing the board in the middle of the chain allowed me to control my gain and keep the levels low so I could get a cleaner sound out of the recording and I could also get a little extra EQ, not much but enough to shape the sound and help with the over all dynamics of each instrument.
Hayden's house has small rooms with wooden floors that was built in, the latest, the early 1970s. It wasn't designed to have fantastic reflective surfaces but there they are. Setting up the drums in the living room gave us a little bit of natural reverb, not as much as a larger room but more than the room that I would have been using that's double the size at Music Lab and made of concrete and carpet.
The second day was spent on guitars guitars guitars. We got an early start in the extra reflective living room and tracked song by song until the end of the day. On Hayden's Fender Deluxe I close miked with an SM57 and set up my NT1A around the corner in the "control room" to get some great room sounds. On Zack's Soldano MIG 100 -> Marshall 4X12 I close miked with an MXL 991, a copy of an SM57 that sounds good but gets a little woofy when it's too close to the speaker. I kept the NT1A as my room mic and got some AMAZING reverb. Zack's guitar tone is probably my favorite thing on the album. It's rare that you find guitar tone that sways between a bluesy shoe gaze tone and an incredibly aggressive, hard fisted over driven tone. I don't think that I'm going to go out and buy a Soldano head any time soon but I'd certainly suggest it to anyone in an aggressive band that's looking for a lifetime purchase. The last couple of days were spent working on vocals, trumpet and bass. For bass we ran their rig through the ART pre amp that I spoke about earlier and for trumpet and bells I set up the NT1A in my living room and let Hayden go nuts. And by nuts I mean take a few different stabs at a melody and choose the best. In the morning we're going to finish up with vocals and maybe touch up one guitar part before the album is finished. I'll post some mixes as soon as we're finished at let you throw down.