Recording Process: Mic’ing & Outboard Gear, Techniques for Pre-Production

In the studio units in trimester 3 of my Sound and Audio degree at SAE, we were given a project. The brief was as a group to create a subject matter for a library production music collaboration. We were to record as a group and then individually compose and mix 3 songs each with 29-second stingers included.

My group chose to base our assignment on a theme of ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’, tailoring the music styles to anything that would fit into these categories (ie. Car show music, car advertisements, plane & train documentaries, movie or tv scenes involving any of the medium, etc.).

My particular topic was trains. To address the subject, I used a mixture of studio drum recordings, acoustic guitar, and location recordings which were carried out at Brisbane’s Central Station. The Vlog explains the steps I undertook to achieve this, but below is a brief description and photos demonstrating.

DRUM RECORDING: 13 MICS
The drum mic setup I used involved 13 mics. I used certain brands, but broken down, it was simply 2 large-diaphragm condenser mics for overheads set up in the Glyn Johns arrangement (see http://homerecording.about.com/od/recordingtutorials/a/glyn_johns.htm), 1 large-diaphragm condenser room mic, a small-diaphragm condenser for the hi-hat, another small-diaphragm condenser combined with a simple dynamic mic for the snare top, and a broadcasting mic to capture the snare wires. For the kick I used a broadcasting mic in the hole, with 1 kick mic on the omega side, close to the spot of impact, and another kick mic 20cm from the beta side of the kick drum. The 3 toms each toms each had a broadcasting mic placed at an angle from the sound source.

Overhead mic positioning. SE Electronics SE4, used in Glyn Johns overhead technique.

Overhead mic positioning. SE Electronics SE4, used in Glyn Johns overhead technique.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overhead mic positioning. SE Electronics SE4, used in Glyn Johns overhead technique.

Overhead mic positioning. SE Electronics SE4, used in Glyn Johns overhead technique.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this particular recording I used a Neumann TLM103 as a room mic.

In this particular recording I used a Neumann TLM103 as a room mic. The room mic was placed in the far corner of the studio, closest to the control room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a Neumann KM184 used to record the Hi-Hat.

This is a Neumann KM184 used to record the Hi-Hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a Newmann KM184 taped to a Shure SM57. The SM57 has been placed to partly cover the Neumann so as to create a buffer to lessen peak distortion.

This is a Newmann KM184 taped to a Shure SM57. The SM57 has been placed to partly cover the Neumann so as to create a buffer to lessen peak distortion.

An AKG D5 was used to capture the snare wires.

An AKG D5 was used to capture the snare wires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beta Side: Electrovoice RE20 in the hole of the Bass Drum (to pick up the 'thud'/pulse, from 60Hz-450Hz), with a Sennheiser MD421 which ended up a further 10cm than in photo to pick up the 'whoosh'/late occurring bass.

Beta Side: Electrovoice RE20 in the hole of the Bass Drum (to pick up the ‘thud’/pulse, from 60Hz-450Hz), with a Sennheiser MD421 which ended up a further 10cm than in photo to pick up the ‘whoosh’/late occurring bass.

As hard as it is to see, this is an MXL A55 Kick mic placed at the omega side of the kick drum, to pick up the 'slap'/attack (800Hz-4kHz).

As hard as it is to see, this is an MXL A55 Kick mic placed at the omega side of the kick drum, to pick up the ‘slap’/attack (800Hz-4kHz). There’s nothing worse than an impotent kick drum. This method of 3 mics combined with subtracting the frequencies outside of each mics specific purpose creates a very healthy, solid kick.

3 toms with 3 Sennheiser MD421 mics. A pretty standard procedure.

3 toms with 3 Sennheiser MD421 mics. A pretty standard procedure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When recording drums through the Neve, I prefer to use the Retro/Analog function. This means that the signal can be pushed to the limit through the transformers. To a degree, the peaks on the desk do not lead to distortion (like in digital recording) but instead, the perpetrating frequencies are bent and the overall sound is bronzed.

When recording drums through the Neve, I prefer to use the Retro/Analog function. This means that the signal can be pushed to the limit through the transformers. To a degree, the peaks on the desk do not lead to distortion (like in digital recording) but instead, the perpetrating frequencies are bent and the overall sound is bronzed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The patching between the room mic and the Distressor compressor.

The patching between the room mic and the Distressor compressor.

 

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The room mic signal was compressed through an Empirical Labs Distressor Compressor on a 'nuke' setting. This adds what I would describe as 'crunch' to the master mix. I have also heard it described as 'bringing your drums to life'.

The room mic signal was compressed through an Empirical Labs Distressor Compressor on a ‘nuke’ setting. This adds what I would describe as ‘crunch’ to the master mix. I have also heard it described as ‘bringing your drums to life’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACOUSTIC GUITAR, ELECTRIC & BASS:

Though not hugely successful when it came to the quality of the recording, I learned a lot about handy techniques such as re-amping as well as an understanding as to the importance of quality amps and instruments.

One of the recordings I used. This is a Royer Ribbon R121 placed at the 12th fret.

One of the recordings I used. This is a Royer Ribbon R121 placed at the 12th fret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bass and electric guitar was plugged directly into the instrument input on an Avalon 737.

The bass and electric guitar was plugged directly into the instrument input on an Avalon 737.

 

 

 

 

The signal was then patched from the Avalon's output into a desk channel DAW input, then sent from the DAW input to a desk mic input channel.

The signal was then patched from the Avalon’s output into a desk channel DAW input, then sent from the DAW input to a desk mic input channel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using a male-to-male XLR connector, the signal was then sent into a Radial X-Amp which had the instrument jack going from its output into an amp's input.

Using a male-to-male XLR connector, the signal was then sent into a Radial X-Amp which had the instrument jack going from its output into an amp’s input.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The re-amped signal (already compressed) was played through the amp which was dually recorded with a Shure SM7B on a separate channel.

The re-amped signal (already compressed) was played through the amp which was dually recorded with a Shure SM7B on a separate channel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOCATION RECORDING:

I could never have guessed how well this would turn out. A couple of years ago I was listening to music on a train going through Central Station, I had a pair of cheap headphones on and the screech of the train, it’s horn, and other sounds combined with the song I was listening to and created an eerie effect which I quite enjoyed. This was my original inspiration to do these recordings. The end result was not only atmospheric additives to my mixes, but also ended as a great horn as well as other noises I added to my drums. I also caught a train and used a combination of hitting the window, train wall, and under the seat to create beat patterns I later added as one-shots to layer my drums.

I used the Zoom H6 for on-location recording of trains and improvised beat sounds made on them.

I used the Zoom H6 for on-location recording of trains and improvised beat sounds made on them.

 

 

1 thought on “Recording Process: Mic’ing & Outboard Gear, Techniques for Pre-Production

  1. Pingback: A Reflection On The Trimester… | Tim Knox – Audio Engineer & Producer

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