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Getting ready to record the third This, Not This! EP

posted Jul 25, 2013, 10:04 AM by Frank Adrian   [ updated Jul 25, 2013, 10:05 AM ]
The headline says it all. The band is looking for a more organic feel with all of us recording basic tracks at the same time. We'll be recording this upstairs in my house, again, trying for a more organic feel. In all of this, I'm taking the philosophy that simpler is better and that's reflected in way I'm miking the drums.

I started by using my bedroom for the drums - it's the room with the best sound in the house. It's basic sizes are not multiples giving it complex room modes and it also a gabled ceiling to add reverberant space and further reduce room modes. It also has a bed and some furniture in it for reflection and absorption. Finally, it opens into the hallway that opens onto the bottom floor, giving it a huge ambiance, if needed.

We started miking by getting a pretty good sound for the drums in the overheads (a pair of matched Mike Joly modded MXL 990s). Next, a Shure Beta 52 was placed to reinforce the kick and a couple of packing blankets tossed over that to reduce bleed. Then, I added a Shure SM61 (a venerable old dynamic vocal mike with a nice high-end sizzle) to reinforce the snare. I balanced the mix and put up an Audio Technica AT3035 as a room mike and added that in for some more ambiance (since it's going to be smashed to hell when I mix, any LDC mike would work here, but the AT3035 is familiar to me). Until this setup doesn't give us what we need, this will be the default.

In the past, I've used another mike on the hi-hat, but that always seemed to lead to nothing but snare bleed and heartache, so I'm not using one this time. Another omission? Individual tom mikes. In general, I find that using these only added to the ringiness of the toms (not my favorite sound) and that boosting the overheads in the mix during the fills works just as well. This simpler miking technique should also reduce (if not completely obviate) phase issues, too. So, simple, simple, simple and it sounds pretty good.

The guitars will be recorded using Cascade FatHead II ribbon mikes. The engineer on our first album used them and I had good luck with them on the last album, as well. They just seem to sound good for this purpose. Gary will go in the laundry room, Phil in the guest bedroom. The bass will be DI'ed from the control room, as I can muck about with it as much as I need with my standard plugins.

As for vocals, Debbie will be using an Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina in the guest bathroom. This is an LDC built by a local microphone maker named Phil Graham, optimized for live use. Intention notwithstanding, it sounded very good for Debbie's vocals on the last album and it has a certain mojo in it's look that seems to make people comfortable while recording. Pretty straightforward setup here - pop screen in front, an absorbing screen in back to try to tame some room reflections.

You notice that I'm not mentioning preamps here. They say that clean is the new color. If I really need color, I'll put it in by re-amping, not preamping. I'm keeping everything clean by using solid state preamps - a combination an M-Audio Octane, a PreSonus Digimax, and three Symetrix 202s. I may break down here and use a UA 610 as a preamp for Debbie's vocals (Yes, clean is the new color, but we can go too far with everything, can't we?).

I've also been taking time to set up separate headphone mixes for all involved. The four channels for Dave, Gary, Phil, and myself will go through my Furman HDS, while Debbie's channel will be a separate full mix (controlled by the recordist - i.e., me) fed into a discrete headphone amp.

My upstairs looks like the cable fairy came to visit. All tidied and zip-tied around the edges of the rooms, but still a quite unique look. Have I mentioned that I have a very tolerant and loving wife? I do.

So, on to recording... Of course, the main battle in recording an album like this is getting everyone together at the same time to do it, so I don't see it starting until the first week of August. The songs that we will be recording include Goodbyes, Takedown (not to be confused with Takeaway), Proof of Life, and a new one with the working title Hardhitter. In the mean time, I'll probably have Dave do some drumming for some tracks on my solo album.