So I’ve been pretty quiet on here for a while. In all honesty, I don’t really use this anymore, but I thought I’d write about some recent sessions which I’ve taken on. A few weeks back I recorded drums and bass for an upcoming local band, Summer Drive Home. We tracked drums in the village hall again, but this time I experimented with Blumlein room mics with my Cascade Fathead IIs. The standard array of mics was used on the kit; modded 57 on kick, subkick, 57 top and bottom snare, 57 on hi-tom, 421 on floor tom and KSM32s on overheads.
After comping and quantizing, we tracked bass at the studio where I work. We used Chris Aiken signature p-bass > Sansamp > TC Electronic BH250 > Ashdown MAG210T > MD421 > KSM32 > Warm Audio WA12s. The 421 gave me a more rounded bass tone that wasn’t as hyped like the D112, the KSM32 was quite smooth in character and not at all hyped.
I’ve also been working with local Metallers, Fissure of Riddles. We tracked drums a couple of weeks ago in the studio where I work. I didn’t use any room mics in this session due to input limitations, but the mic list was; modded 57 on kick, subkick, 57 top and bottom snare, 57s on hi and mid toms, 421 on floor tom 1, Audix F6 on floor tom 2 and KSM32s on overheads. The drum sound is a bit more close than that of Summer Drive Home’s, mainly due to the character of the room and that I didn’t use any room mics. We start tracking bass on the 3rd before progressively doing the rest on a weekly basis.
Hopefully got some more sessions coming up this year with old pals Light Fire Down recording a new single and some mixing sessions for the unnamed band I recorded back in January. 2014 has been my best year yet for recording new artists!
Last weekend, I recorded a few friends of mine and their new unnamed band in a Village Hall near my house. This room is the same place where I recorded my brother’s old band for their rehearsal. Impressed with how my Cascade Fathead IIs sounded on overheads, I decided to put them through their paces again in this session and retired one of my KSM32s as a room mic facing the brick wall to pick up a bright room tone. The Fathead IIs were definitely the right choice in this session, as the cymbal choice wasn’t the best and we had to settle for a lot of aggressive and splashy cymbals.
I also put my new Warm Audio WA12s through their paces on the outside kick mic (which was an NT1-A), and floor tom (MD421), both with the tone buttons pushed in. For the rest of the mics, it was a pretty standard array with SM57s on snare top and bottom, and hi-tom, DIY subkick for meaty subs, and another SM57 inside the kick to pick up the beater.
The guys wanted to just record drums with me, and they’re recording the rest themselves before sending the other parts to me for the final mix and master. I’m really happy how the session turned out, the drums are already sounding great and in the ballpark of ‘Anthology’ by Thrice, which is what I wanted. This is literally the best drum sound I’ve achieved, and I’m looking forward to mixing and mastering it!
For years, I’ve been contemplating whether or not I should buy an external mic preamp or not. With plugins such as Slate VCC that emulate Neves, APIs, SSLs and Tridents, you can get “warm” sounding tracks in your DAW for a fraction of the cost of what you’d be paying if you bought their hardware counterparts. If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning, I wrote a post about the Golden Age Pre-73 and how I thought it’d be a great bang for the buck for those looking to get a coloured sound on their tracks without going high-end. I toyed with the idea of buying one for a while, and I think what put me off was a number of things, mainly that the audio transformer was Chinese, and not something well-renowned like a Cinemag or Lundahl transformer. In addition to that, if I wanted to rack mount it, I’d have to shell out more money just to buy a red rack tray to mount it.
For a long time, I was watching YouTube videos of people that had the Pre-73 and although it didn’t sound bad (in fact, it sounded quite reasonable), I just couldn’t justify buying one. I then started toying with the idea of building an API 312 clone, as the schematics are readily available if you do a quick Google search; but then with my recent guitar pedal building projects being unsuccessful, I didn’t want to spend the money on the components and fail miserably.
That’s when I heard about the Warm Audio WA12. I read forums and people were comparing it to the API 312. This got me interested immediately, and I began researching and finding any bits of audio I could find where it was being used. For months I was contemplating whether I should buy one, and in the end I took the plunge and bought a stereo pair which came with a rack tray.
My first impressions of the mic pre is that it seems to be solidly built. Nothing feels like it’s going to break any time soon, and the components are safely housed in its robust metal enclosure. The pre has a built in direct input for guitars, phantom power (as you would expect), pad button, polarity button, and a tone button which seems to boost the lower mids even more, although it could respond differently with other mics. Although the pre is simple and no frills, the ability to reverse the polarity and alter the tone of your mic on the way in is a huge plus, and not something you see too often on recording interfaces, unless you buy high end. In terms of audio quality, I’ve only tested this out on my voice, but the difference between the WA12 and the built in preamps of my PreSonus AudioBox are quite substantial. The WA12 is quite a lower-mid forward pre, and the sound is quite classic in comparison to the AudioBox which is typically clean and modern. This makes the WA12 a great alternative when you just want to smear your tracks with rich, warm goodness.
Two things I am disappointed with is that; one, there’s no metering on the pre, and two, if you buy a stereo pair like I have, it ships with a QuickLok rack tray which has punch holes that don’t marry up with the WA12 at all, this means you have to do some DIY to the rack tray in order to screw the pres down onto the tray. Besides those two things, I can’t find any obvious drawbacks.
To round things off, the Warm Audio WA12 is an exceptional mic pre for the price, it retails for £349 in the UK, which is a great price considering its spec. If you’re wanting to get away from the characteristically “clean” sound of modern audio interfaces and don’t want to spend £1000s, I seriously recommend this mic pre. I guarantee that you won’t find anything better for the price. I’m looking forward to using this on future sessions and will most likely use it as my go-to mic pre for bass, guitars and vocals.
A couple of weeks ago, I recorded another live rehearsal and gave my newly acquired Cascade Fathead IIs a spin on overheads. I was initially a bit worried that I’d damage the ribbons in this loud environment with loud guitar and bass pumping through the room as well as a loud drum kit, but the Fathead IIs have an SPL of 140dB and according to my Decibel Meter on my iPhone, the SPL was only about 96dB.
I went fairly minimal again; MD421 on kick, 57 on snare, Fathead IIs on overheads. Then 57 on guitar, DI bass and my KSM32 facing against a brick wall acting as the room mic.
At mixdown, I added a lot of harmonic shaping plugins to add more vibe; Slate VBC, VCC and VTM, as well as SoundToys Devil-Loc Deluxe on the room mic and Little Radiator on bass.
I really love the sound of this room. It’s not that big, and at first glance it would seem like you’d have a really “boingy” room sound, as it’s fairly narrow and quite long; but the wooden floors and bare brick walls add some great character when a room mic is put up. I’ve discovered that I REALLY like KSM32s as room mics, but these are my go-to overhead mics, and something about using ribbon mics as overheads for Punk and Rock records seems weird to me.
Take a listen to the sample below, no reverb plugin was added to this, this is the sound of the room I recorded in:
P.S, I haven’t exactly posted a great deal on this blog for a while, I initially made it to promote my recorded work and write about sessions that I’m working on, in the hope that I’d attract more business, although it turned out to be a way of sharing recording knowledge instead. It’s most likely that I won’t really be posting a lot on this site anymore, and instead just to have a simple website that I don’t need to update much which gets straight to the point. That’s why I’ve made this site up, it’s still a bit of a work-in-progress, but it’s the beginnings of something new.
Can you really record drums with just one microphone? The answer is – yes! You can record drums with just one mic if that’s all you have, and still get half-reasonable results! The tip is to experiment with mic placement. Trying to get a balanced sound of a whole drum kit is going to be challenging, so getting creative with the mic is a must.
For you bedroom studio artists, you’re most likely going to have a two channel interface with something like an SM57 and a large diaphragm condenser like a Rode NT1-A, or something similar. In the example below, I placed a Sontronics STC-2 large diaphragm condenser microphone just below the ride cymbal and in between the mid tom and floor tom. The mic was angled towards the snare and hi-hat. The mic is cardioid pattern.
The drawback of just using one mic is that you’re left with a mono drum recording; although, this enforces phase coherency, as you’re not battling with two or more microphones. To get some sort of stereo, send the drum recording out to a stereo reverb and blend it in with the dry signal, that way you’re giving the drums a sense of space even though the recording is mono. In the mixed example below, I added some basic EQ, some parallel compression and reverb. That’s it!
*I’m a pretty lousy drummer!
It’s been a very long time since I’ve written a blog post, and this is really just some self-promotion for my recorded work, but my buds in Light Fire Down (who I recorded over this summer) have got their EP streaming in full over at Punktastic. I’m very happy that my recorded work has finally got some recognition other than those who live locally to me, and hopefully this will put the boys in good stead. You can stream the EP in full for a week by following the link below.
So today, I’ve been tracking the last few vocal bits with Light Fire Down by working on harmonies. I went to the studio early so I could record some abstract chimes/bells for the bridge of one of their tracks. I thought it’d be a cool idea, and it sounds really doomy, which I like. I used one of my Sontronics STC-1s for more transient detail and attack, and set it around 3ft back to capture the whole spectrum of the instrument. The instrument is this really old, beaten up, hunk of junk that never gets used in the studio, but I’m glad we haven’t chucked it out, as it sounds really cool!
For vocals, I recorded through one of my Shure KSM32s. This whole EP has been recorded through PreSonus FireStudio Projects; no fancy recording desk, no fancy external compressors or EQ on the way in, just an 8-channel firewire audio interface. I’m so impressed by how good the pres are in these units. Most interfaces generally sound pretty good these days anyway, but the signal going in is so clean and full-bodied.
Below are some pics from the session: