Posts Tagged ‘recording studio’

Recording Firedaze “Another One Like That”

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We’ve just finished mixing a new track for Leamington based band Firedaze. This track is following on from their 2014 album, “Never After Land” which was also recorded at Dmusic/dVoicebox.

Logo of Coventry Blaze Ice Hockey teamFiredaze singer Steff has a massive passion for ice hockey and is a regular supporter of the Coventry Blaze Ice Hockey team. She recently decided to write and record a song that could be used by supporters of the team to cheer the team on.

“Another One Like That” is a song that started life as another song by the band with a similar title – “Another One Like This”. In fact the original song is still in the Firedaze live set – but Steff felt the reggae style laid-back folky vibe of the original was not right for a song to cheer the ice hockey team on. She knew the song needed to be more up tempo and rocky with an easy to pick up and sing along hook line.  The band took the lyrics of the original song but set the words in a much more rocky setting.

Firedaze normally use samples, foot percussion and drum loops when performing live but for this song it was decided that the sound needed to be the much more straightforward sound of a band with a live drummer.

Steff - guitarist and singer - FiredazeOnce the song structure was fixed the band recorded a guide track that could be used to track the drums. The choice of drummer was a former Firedaze and Rack and Ruin sticksman Duncan Arrow. I recorded the drum track in Dunk’s home studio using his Roland V drums recorded into Logic and then imported the drum audio files into the song project back in the dVoicebox studio.

Bass, guitar and fiddle were then re-recorded to replace the guide versions. I usually record fiddle player Jen’s violin in another room here at the studio to get the natural sound of the instrument. However for this song we decided to DI using just the feed from the AT Pro-35 fiddle-mounted mic she uses live.
The bass was also recorded on a DI via the TLA5051 channel strip to take advantage of the unit’s warm valve drive and slight compression.

Steff had recorded the original main vocal part during a rehearsal session wearing the AKG headset mic she uses live. While this mic works fine for live performance it sounds very nasal and slightly fuzzy when recorded. The final (and much clearer) version was recorded using an AT4033. I generally use this mic or sometimes a Rode NT1 for Steff in preference to the studio Neumann U87 as they just seem to suit her voice best.

VU meter on a TLA5051 channel stripWe had several reference tracks we were using for the general attitude and vibe of the track in particular some songs from the Drop Kick Murphys and Chumbwumba. One key element was the sound of a live crowd sound signing along – to achieve this kind of feeling we recorded all the band members and then got anyone male who came in during the recording session to record several passes of the main hook line. I then layered up these many voices and used some panning and reverb to spread them across the stereo picture.

Steff was pleased with the result. Her dream now is to hear the crowd at the Skydome singing this song every time the team stick the puck in the net.

“Another One Like That” by Firedaze is now on Soundcloud:

Chris Radley – dVoiceBox

Mic Blog 02

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It is only relatively recently that I’ve started to get really interested in microphones. Not just the sound of them but how they look too. I think this post says quite a lot about me and microphones.  It was reported this week that Bradley Wiggins is making a cameo appearance in the long running radio 4 soap The Archers.

I discovered the story when I saw a photo on the BBC website.

I suspect many people would be drawn to the image of the famous Olympic gold medalist, maybe wondering when the side burns had morphed into a full beard.  But such thoughts were not for me – my first thought was “What kind of mic is that that they’re using there?”  I think it’s becoming an obsession.

Anyway I was particularly struck by this microphone as it was one I’d never seen before.

I’ve listened to the Archers off and on over the years and often wondered about the practical aspects of recording it but it’s only really recently that I’ve begun to wonder about the mics they use.

Further research threw up a photo by Edward Moss taken on a recent tour of The Archers’ studio in Birmingham that clearly reveals the actual mic to be an AKG C426 B.

It has been designed for stereo recordings and is a neat solution for coincident recordings where normally you’d put up 2 mics at a fixed point in either X/Y or Mid/Side configurations. It’s basically 2 mics in 1 and they both rotate in relation to each other so you can get the optimum angle for the recording – between 0 and 270 degrees. Each mic has a LED on it so you can see the angle of each at a glance.

I discovered that the C426B is an update on the original AKG C24 which also used the 2 mics in one set up and years ago was highly regarded by many studio engineers.

I gleaned from various forums that the C426 B is apparently great for drum overheads, piano, choirs, strings – and as we know the BBC deem it suitable for radio drama recording.

Sadly I’ll almost certainly not get to road test one. Firstly they are no longer in production and secondly they cost (and I could only find a US price) around 3000 dollars secondhand.

They look great though – really eye catchingly different – it would be great to put one up in the studio just to get the “what the hell is THAT!” reactions.

More than the appearance though I like the neatness and relative compactness of this solution to X/Y and mid/side recording.

 
Chris Radley – dVoiceBox

Audio production – The Beatles are Coming

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Dvoicebox was asked by Atlantic Publishing to help with some audio production for the DVD documentary that accompanies the book “The Beatles are Coming”.

The DVD uses archive footage to tell the story of Beatlemania “from The Cavern to Candlestick Park” – it’s during the years when the Beatles still played live with their Vox AC 30 amplifiers continually drowned out by the screams of their fans.

Frances Hill from Atlantic Publishing had sourced a large number of archive clips from the Getty Foundation. They included TV interviews, film of live events and footage from contemporary newsreels.  Most had been very rarely seen before.

The clips were from a wide variety of initial sources and recorded on a range of audio devices of varying quality. It was my job to clean up and enhance the worst sounding recordings and standardise the levels and overall sound as much as possible across the whole project.

It was a fascinating job and, as one who was too young for Beatlemania, gave me more of an insight into how it was that the Beatles became so phenomenally famous in the early 60’s.

There were also some great examples of how not to do interviews – conducted by some shockingly complacent, patronising and inane TV interviewers. I suppose they represented the stuffy establishment view at the time – No wonder the down to earth and funny young Beatles were like a breath of fresh air to young people just escaping the austerity of the 1950s.

The clips were cut together into an hour long documentary. I recorded the voiceover from a script written by Tim Hill. It was then produced as a DVD to accompany a book containing hundreds of photos from the Beatlemania era which has just been made available.

“The Beatles are Coming” book and DVD is currently exclusively available for just under a tenner from W H Smith.

The Beatles are coming was produced by Atlantic Publishing

 

 

 

Recording Poetry and Music

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DvoiceBox has been invited once again to record the Love in Leamington event on the evening of Feb 12th 2014.  Once again the venue is in among the books in Leamington’s Library and we’ll be providing the PA for the event as well as recording it all for subsequent radio broadcast and podcasts.

Here’s the poster

Poster for Love in Leamington 2013

DvoiceBox recorded the first Love in Leamington in 2013. A CD of that event is to be made available by the Warwickshire Library Service.
Love in Leamington takes place in a space in the middle of the Leamington Library itself (with the book shelves wheeled to one side). Acoustically its quite a dry space and that helps with recording – although on the night the musicians felt it made their performance feel a bit “flat”.

Last year there were a variety of musical ensembles (choirs, bands and solo performers) performing music inspired by Julie Boden‘s poetry. It was quite a challenge to know what mics to use and where to place them – especially as some performers couldn’t decide until the last moment whether they were going to perform on the stairs in the Library or not. This year the recording and PA is a bit simpler from a technical perspective with just the one band – a trio, an MC and a 7 poets performing.

Should be fun – I’m looking forward to it!

 

 

Mic Blog 01

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I am certainly no expert on microphones – but recently I have become more and more fascinated by them. So this post is about mics – and later on I might add some more.

On my voiceover blog I’ve written a few times about my experience of using different mics for spoken word projects – on those occasions I’ve talked about mics I have used or have in my studio. This post is about a mic (actually 2 mics) I don’t have but I think it could be cool to have.  Mind you the cost of one of them is even more than (double)  the Neumann U87 I’ve blogged about before – so I’ll not be owning one anytime soon.

So I was recently watching videos of a band I’ve been following for a while – The Smoke Fairies. The duo are Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies. I love their folky, bluesy, kind of PJ Harvey-ish music built around simple but  brilliant guitar parts with stunning vocal harmonies.  Early in 2013 they released a limited edition 7″ vinyl single The Water Waits taken from a recording session recorded back in 2011.

At the time the band were touring in the US with Blitzen Trappen and they recorded a session upstairs at the United Pressing Plant, Nashville.

It seems they press the vinyl records downstairs and have a suite of rooms upstairs that have been used by recording artists for more than 50 years.  The “Upstairs” series are all analogue recording sessions – recorded to quarter inch tape and then released as vinyl records.

The video I watched was shot by Luke Norby from the Blitzen Trappen crew and shows members of the band learning songs in the session to provide drums, bass and keys behind the duo as they perform six songs.

I have a background in analogue tape based recording – mostly in radio and to a lesser extent in music. The site of the vintage console and the spools of tapes spinning had me hooked: the whole session is recorded using vintage analogue mics and equipment provided by Chris Mara from the “Welcome to 1979″ recording studio in Nashville.

It’s a while since any band I’ve been in has had to record a song and nail it in a couple of takes with no overdubs allowed (the recording goes straight to quarter inch 2 track stereo tape) So I appreciated watching these musicians working through a long session to get the songs down.

On the one hand I had my musician head on – appreciating the hard work and the rewards of the players. On the other hand my studio engineer head was in gear – interested to note for example, an EV RE20 as an over-head on the drums, the amps out in the corridor with the mics on them, the vintage console – the tapes running at what looks like 15 ips – you have no idea how fascinating all of that is!

But more than the tape and the vintage console – what really caught my eye was the mic Chris used for recording the vocals.  Katherine and Jessica sing together most of the time and have a great musical chemistry so it makes sense to put them head to head on a mic that does a figure of eight configuration.  It’s a well established old school recording technique.

Engineer Chris Mara could have used one of his U87’s but instead goes for a real vintage looking silver mic – but what was it? I was intrigued – It was a massive silver metal object like one of those old school radio mics from the 30’s and 40’s that you might see in old black and white news reels.

Actually some research revealed to me that the mic in question is exactly that – it’s an RCA 44  velocity mic, or ribbon mic and it was widely used in broadcasting the 1930’s and for many years thereafter.

I guess these days you might not want to use it for a contemporary pop recording – nevertheless there are quite a few rock artists who rave about the modern recreation of this beast from the past (now available as the AEA R44) which is hand made and comes with a price tag to match.  Ribbon mics are favoured by many engineers for stringed instruments as well as voices and you can use them for percussion and brass too.

And because it was designed to be used for musical ensembles as well as in radio broadcasts you don’t have to be right on top of it to sound great.  Jessica and Katherine in the Smoke Fairies sessions are around a foot away and it sounds fabulous.  I did some more on-line research on the RCA 44 (in the process discovering the Coles 4038 BBC ribbon – subject for another post perhaps).

I’d love to get my hands on an original RCA44 – or maybe the AEA R44 – but at the moment their price range puts them into the major investment category (about £3780 for the AEA) still – nice to have something to aspire to.  The Coles 4038 on the other hand – while still pretty pricey – is perhaps more within reach and with a great BBC broadcast pedigree may be one to consider for future spoken word work.

 

You can also see the Smoke Fairies and the RCA44 in action in the video here:

 

AT4033 Shockmount repair revelation

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What do you do when the elastic breaks on the shockmount of an AT4033 microphone?
That was question that formed in my mind this week when, at the end of a studio session, I discovered that the elastic in one of my AT shockmounts was rather “slack”. Closer inspection revealed that it had broken on one place and was worn and about to break in another.
I’ve used this shockmount for many years as it’s the one that came with my very first AT4033 – right back when I first started getting into voiceover work.
I quickly discovered on a variety of on-line forums that other AT users where quite rude about the AT shockmount and the elastic – but in all the years I’ve had mine (more than 15) it’s never broken before.
Which is why I didn’t know what to do.

The particular shock mount in question is the AT8441 that came with the original AT4033 (it’s got 4 “legs” that stick up and down) – the current mic is the AT4033a and the current shockmount is the AT8449 (which has a metal “O” rather than the “legs”) – it looks different overall but the elasticated middle part of the mechanism that holds the mic is the same.
The trouble is a new shock mount is more than £70.

So I wondered about a DIY approach. There’s loads of ideas on different forums about how you could go to the pharmacy and get some scrunci hair ties, or maybe you could get quite fine elasticated cord from a ship’s supplier’s, or the rubber bands out of certain vacuum cleaners. Others suggest buying some document binders and somehow using the elasticated cords that hold them closed.

Many, many intriguing ideas…. and I was entertaining at least some of them because I was scared of the price or a new shockmount – and all because the elastic on my current one was gone.

In the end I did what I probably should have done in the first place and went onto the Audio Technica website – in fact I’d done a search on-line using “How do I repair my AT mic shockmount?” and found just the page. Not only was there a sequence of photos showing me how to re-thread the elastic but it also linked to the page on their webstore where I could buy the elastic.

In the end I fixed my AT4033 shockmount for less than a tenner and they sent the parts within 2 days. It took some time researching on the internet to sort it but it was worth the effort.

One tip though – if you do have to do this yourself – make sure you’ve got scissors handy to trim the cord because it frays every time you push it through a hole in the mount. If you don’t trim it then you can’t get it through the next hole!

 
Chris Radley
dVoiceBox Studio