Technical backstage: Recording vox

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


Capture and recording at the best, vocals is a basic work for a sound engineer.

When you list a radio program or a song with a speaker/singer you must understand speech/lyrics and every nuance and dynamic of their voices. Here’s why when I record a singer I pay great attention to capture his perfomance at the best. But, check it out, it’s not just a matter of microphone tipology.

Sometimes vocals recording session become an album cover

Sometimes vocals recording session become an album cover

I draw up a list by five points.

1) Let him hair down

A good perfomance need a quiet environment in a comfortable feel with a warm half-light and with a presence of few people (better a trusted person or none) to realize a relaxed situation without any kind of embarassament. For me it’s important to create an empathy with the singer.

Generally, lead and back vocals need two hours to record. I consider some breaks to listen takes or simply to drink a cup of coffee.

My live room with a warm and diffuse half-light

My live room with a warm and diffuse half-light

2) Suitable acoustic environment

It’s basical working into a room with a flat and balanced response and with a small reverberation. The top is a room with variable acoustic (from absorber to diffusive).

My room is made with double side panels on the walls, one absorbent and one reflective. By this way I can change room response quickly. Generally, I use all panels with absorbent face to record vocals or half-share panels reverse when recording drums, strings or acoustic guitar.

I projected a quadratic diffuser panel, Acoustic Environment DRQ13, to balance my control room’s acoustic response and sometimes I use they on my live room.

Quadratic diffuser panel Acoustic Environment DRQ13 on my control room

Quadratic diffuser panel Acoustic Environment DRQ13 on my control room

3) Setting up a good level monitoring

Obviously monitoring is a main step.

I prefer create a customized mix for singer with a separate sub-master for pre-recorded accompaniment (musical base). I use my SPL MTC 2381 CUE Mix controls to balance vocals and sub-master.

SPL MTC 2381 (pic from web)

SPL MTC 2381 (pic from web)

My monitoring phones are Sennheiser HD 25 sp (closed with 75Ω impedance) or AKG K240 (semi-open with 600Ω impedance). The latter has a superior sound quality but it has a low sensibility and some interference troubles.

Once occasion a singer used my monitor speakers to listen base because he found a live perfomance feel.

Generally, I use a light, short reverb like large room.

4) How choosing the best way to record…

Drop verse and chorus one by one or at once?

I usually ask to the singer to perform two or three times at once to create a right feel and to facilitate his focus. After I record all verses at first and all chorus to follow meaning not to lose his feeling and to find a better perfomance.

I choose in real time better takes and edit they to listen an almost definitly compilation of session.

5) …and the better microphone for his perfomance

Be careful: I wrote “to record his perfomance” not just his voice.

I generally use a Neumann U87ai (I bought two of it) but I always check if the nuances and the sound are linked with the essence of the song.

I tried Cloud JRS-34, a beautiful ribbon microphone, to record a youth singer and to add a warm and mellow presence.

Sometimes I use Electrovoice RE-20, a typical dynamic broadcast microphone, which it’s perfect to record speech on intro or bridge to create a deep, in-face sound.

I use two matched microphones with different gain to record very wide dynamic session like growl or scream voice.

About explosive consonant or breath, obviously, I use pops filter to minimize them but, sometimes, I turn capsule by 90° and I switch the microphone polar pattern to omnidirectional. Air flux overtake microphone without noisy effect.

FAQ

– Do you add an equalizer or compressor during recording? No, I don’t

– Do you add automation on vocal track during mix? Yes, I do (if  needed)

– Can you record my song in your studio? Yes, with pleasure 😉  Contact me

If you got a question, please tell me 🙂

Cheers,

Lorenzo


Copyright © 2013-2014 by iuatwest. All rights Reserved.
This material has been copyrighted, feel free to share it with others; it can be distributed via social media or pingbacks or added to websites; please do not change the original content and, provide appropriate credit by including the author’s name @ http://iuatwest.com and your readers shall not be charged by you under any circumstance.

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Technical backstage: D’Anca minipassive EQ

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


After my analog consolle D&R Dayner I want speak about a fine piece of gear, which you found a couple into my control room: D’Anca minipassive equalizer.

D'Anca minipassive EQ

D’Anca minipassive EQ

Michele D’Anca laboratory is in Milan and his products are handmade with great quality and attention.

Minipassive is a passive EQ like EQP-1 Pultec program equalizer with some added frequencies.

EQP-1 is originally made in 1951 by Ollie Summerland and Gene Shank (*) and it works with solid state electronics (EQ section) and three tubes (one to AC rectifier and two to amp section)(**).

The first time which I tried passive EQ it was the Waves PuigTec EQP-1A plug-in and I loved it because it adds a depth and tridimensional sound on my ITB mixes.

I like D’Anca minipassive much more than any similar plug-in because it adds more warmth and solid sound to instruments.

Generally I use it on drums stereo group to add a solid low frequency and a breezy high end and kick, snare and cymbals are grateful. Others tracks like bass, guitars and vocals have a good time with it.

I tested my D’Anca minipassive EQ with SpectraFoo Complete, to display how it operate.

Cheers,

Lorenzo

(*) history by Universal Audio website

(**) Pultec EQP-1 electronic


Disclaimer: I tested this gear with care, nevertheless this test is inevitably affected by my opinion and possible analyzer gear and software imprecisions.


Copyright © 2013-2014 by iuatwest. All rights Reserved.
This material has been copyrighted,  feel free to share it with others; it can be distributed via social media or pingbacks or added to websites; please do not change the original content and, provide appropriate credit by including the author’s name @ http://iuatwest.com and your readers shall not be charged by you under any circumstance.

Technical backstage: Drums miking

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


Hi,

today I speak about my solutions to recording drums.

There isn’t a one way to recording this complex instrument indeed I tried several microphones and spots to find the better acoustic sound for single drum or cymbal and the sum of all.

My overall approach is based to find a good sound in and of itself with bass drum and overhead (typical shooting for jazz drums). Other spots are used to add presence and more punch.

To analyze it bit by bit I refer to rock/blues standard drums.

Bass drum or kick

In my opinion is the most hard and controversial piece to take. Actually I use dynamic AKG D112 to take bass reso with a deep low-end and condenser AKG C414 B-ULS (omnidirectional pattern and routed by 90°) positioned inner kick drum and very closed to bass batter. The latter is very good to capture kick attack without too much interference by snare and toms.

Snare drum

Normally I take both snare drumheads. For the batter I use standard Shure SM57, it points to the center of the drumhead. On the snare side I prefer vintage Sennheiser MD409 placed far away snare wired. In that position I tried also Shure Sm57 and AKG C414 B-ULS but they have harsh sound.

Snare up and bottom mike

Snare up and bottom mike

When I record standard jazz I use one Shoeps CMC6/MK4 on batter drumhead.

Toms

I started with Sennheiser MD 421 on every toms (included floor tom) but later I preferred Shure SM57 for small tom (8″ or 10″). Sometimes I use Electrovoice RE20 on floor tom.  I position microphones very closed to drumhead near the edge.

Recently I tried with condenser Schoeps CMC6/MK4 (cardiod) and I was really impressed for they fine sound.

Often I take toms reso drumhead to take deep low ending and to use it on batter drumhead tracks gate sidechain. Also it’s useful to find a eighties drums sound.

Hi-Hat

The best choice is a condenser mic. Now I use a vintage AKG C451e (cardioid), angled by 45° at the edge of hihat top, because it sound very fine with little interference from snare. I worked also with Schoeps CMC6/MK4 and AKG C300 with CK91 capsule (cardioid).

View of Hi-Hat, Snare and Tom1 microphones

View of Hi-Hat, Snare and Tom1 microphones

Overhead

My best solution is a pair of Crown PCC-160 upside down attached on ceiling live room. They are in spaced stereo array and capture a wide and airy sound image of the drums without reflections interference.

Crown PCC160 (image from web)

Crown PCC160 (image from web)

Recently I add two Schoeps CMC6/MK4 which look cymbals bottom and near toms. They add presence on mid and mid-low frequency to cymbals and toms.

Shoeps CMC6/MK4 look cymbals bottom

Shoeps CMC6/MK4 look cymbals bottom


Microphones preamplifier

I wrote about they on this post.

I use Focusrite to handle drums microphones (kick, snare and toms) and Millenia to cymbals mike.

Typical sheet is this:

List Drums channels

List Drums channels

Total ten Focusrite and four Millenia channels.

To make A/D conversion I use Focusrite AD card installed on both ISA428.

During session I change acoustic response of the live room with some reflective wood panels.

See also:

Technical backstage: microphones that I chose

Technical backstage: microphones preamplifiers

Cheers,

Lorenzo


Copyright © 2013-2014 by iuatwest. All rights Reserved.
This material has been copyrighted, feel free to share it with others; it can be distributed via social media or pingbacks or added to websites; please do not change the original content and, provide appropriate credit by including the author’s name @ http://iuatwest.com and your readers shall not be charged by you under any circumstance.

Technical backstage: my analog consolle

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


D&R Dayner in my control room

D&R Dayner in my control room

Hi,

before talking about my analog consolle I want to expand my point of view on some questions about the summing and the mixing.

Summing

The result of summing is a single signal (electric or digital) from several sources(*), the problem is how to make it without quality drop. Obviously that signal can be mono, stereo or multichannel in order to destination.

Theorically analog or digital summing are the same, but in real world, analog gear has a non-linear response with typical distortions on second harmonics and cross-talking. Digital summing can emulate it or capture the nuances of analog gears with convolution to add “warmth” and depth to mix.

(*) example of Op-amp summing amplifieranother example

Mixing

Assumed that you used a good microphones and preamplifiers to capture several instruments, it’s probably necessarily change their timbres, levels and dynamics to make a pleasure sum. This is a basic approach to mix.

Today it’s possible work in several ways:

– Full Analog (rare)

Analog tape recorder with analog gears

– Out The Box (box is the pc) or OTB

Computer as digital recorder with analog gears like consolle and audio processor to mix

– In The Box or ITB

Computer become a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and it’s added with audio card with AD/DA converter and specific softwares.

– Hybrid

DAW and several analog outboards are chained by a multichannel DA/AD

Nothing of their is the best choice but each can be a better way to work into a specific situation.

I chose two solutions: ITB and OTB.

To work ITB I chose Apple Logic Pro (since 1996 – 2.5.4 version) with many plug-ins like Waves, Softube, Metric Halo, Brainworx, SPL and Abbey Roads (this last is discontinued – ouch).

Alternative DAWs available are ProTools 10 and Harrison Mixbus 2.x.

ITB mix is a cheapest way to add many times the same expensive (but virtual) compressor or reverb, to create automation for all parameters available, to edit takes, to create incredible audio effects, to add and manage virtual instruments and to add samples to substitute or sum it with original recording. At last to save and restore the project with one “click”.

But after many years I realized an innate problem in ITB mixing.

If it’s true that when I add plug-ins the relative delays (into DAW) are automatical compensated, the delay due in conseguence how to CPU works (multiplexing) affects time alignment of all channels into sum (unlike analog consolle where all signals are process in a parallel way). That phenomena is audible in complex mix with many tracks and many plug-ins and it’s highlighted with a shifting the mix to muddy sound with a depth deterioration.

Let’s be clear ITB mixing is good choice but adding plug-ins without limits can shift your sound in trouble although your high perfomance pc system. Just the same of any machinery when is overfilled.

It’s odd to note how many phase or time alignment plug-ins are maded in last years although digital recording has less problems about phase correlaction compared with vynil cutting.

To realize OTB mixing I bought a second-hand consolle, directly from eighties, D&R Dayner.

Ok, now I go to present it.


D&R Dayner

This is a tipical studio in-line consolle, with direct outs, tape returns, eight busses and eight auxiliaries.

It has 24 channels and eight effects return and I did broaded it frame to insert Euphonix MC Mix control surface, Apple keyboards and third screen of my DAW.

Dayner peculiarity is it floating busses (named subs), that is the possibility to assign any bus to any channel (along left/right assignement). Tape output and monitor section are substitute by bus signal. It’s useful to send to recorder premixed channels.

Dayner input section - above the floating subs assign

Dayner input section – above the “from floating subs” assign

Then it’s possible to work from 24 channels without busses to 16 channels and 8 busses.

They have three kinds of channels: In-Line, Split and Tape/Effects return.

In-line: it’s a basic channel, it manage mic and line input with eq, aux sends and volume. Also it manage tape return on specific input and monitor section. It’s possible invert input with tape return to mix the latter (remix switch). Bus assignement send it to tape out and monitor section without possibility to assign it to main.

Split: it’s the dedicate channel to manage floating bus on mixing with assignement to main. It haven’t tape return section. I haven’t split channel but on In-line channel I chained tape out with line-in to replicate their. In this way I can applied insert and complete eq section on bus signal and mix it.

Tape/Effects return: it has four balanced line input. They are perfect to manage extra eight channel to mix. Today I use it chained with two channel strip Focusrite ISA220 and to input stereo effects return from DAW.

I tested Dayner bandwidth with Spectrafoo and DAD AX32 at 96kHz (see test here) and the eq too.

Bandwidth and phase response measured at 96kHz

Bandwidth and phase response measured at 96kHz

I like the eq of Dayner, it works in mellow way without artifacts. It sounds great on drums and electric bass.

The eight auxiliaries are routed to DAW to applied reverb, delay or modulation effect.

I can mix from 32 channels without group to 24 channels + 8 groups (busses).

I’m very happy for my Dayner consolle, I suggest it to mix rock, blues and jazz (acoustic and electric).

Cheers,

Lorenzo


Copyright © 2013-2014 by iuatwest. All rights Reserved.
This material has been copyrighted, feel free to share it with others; it can be distributed via social media or pingbacks or added to websites; please do not change the original content and, provide appropriate credit by including the author’s name @ http://iuatwest.com and your readers shall not be charged by you under any circumstance.

Technical backstage: a small summary

Hi,

in that 2013’s last sunday I want write technical backstage section’s small summary.

I spoke about:

05 january 2014 I’ll start with new article about my eighties analog consolle D&R Dayner.

Happy new year!

Lorenzo