Time to Reflect - It's Payback Time 2017

Welcome to my new blog and my first post for 2018. The year so far has been full of challenges and inspiration, the kind that has left my bleeding heart ready for a shakeup. Let's begin with a recap of what happened towards the end of last year and what I learned from my mistakes. Creatively I had a great year and I demonstrated prolific presence in the studio throughout the last quarter of the year, but found it hard to finish my projects with speed and efficiency. For example, I struggled to find the right balance and tone with nearly every drum mix I did last year, and my confidence got a huge boost from pitching the ideas and the skills I gained through my studio practice within the Audient 8024 space. As the title mentions, 'It's Payback Time' and I don't mean that in a negative way, it means I made great mistakes in 2017, and it caused me some great anguish, but I want to show 2017 what it should have been like. 

Recording Trails

Although there were many events that shaped the outcome of my learning last year, the biggest challenge and creative experience I had was recording the band 'Trails' a 5 piece indie rock band that could best be described as Radiohead inspired indie pop. The time spent with them in the studio has had many positive and negative outcomes, a few of those being scheduling, time management within the sessions and technical difficulties. I have found that the attitude you take into the studio becomes the musician, meaning they will respond to your mood in kind and like clockwork. Although this seems easy for some people I find keeping my mood in check a very difficult undertaking, so to remedy this I started to meditate before each session. This allows my mind to focus and for my mood and thoughts to calm throughout the longer sessions. The second challenge I faced was knowing my role in a production team and taking a step back when Tyler (Lead Singer) needed to input his creative feel on the tracks. As the producer I became more of an organisational lead when it came to session management and Tyler took the lead on most things in the arrangement. At first I felt creatively displaced, but after realising my ego was in the way like a wall I just let it happen, and what I learnt was a new way to be creative and to collaborate. To keep this blog focused I will concentrate on the drums and bass recording part of the production and post again about the guitars, because they deserve there own space entirely. 

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Gear In the Studio

Drums and Bass

The advantage of working with 5 musicians who all really love what they do, is they bring the best gear and they take the time to take care of it. On day one we tracked drums and bass with a drummer who builds his own drum kits and some real quality bass gear to match. Getting through four hours of drum takes meant getting the very best out of the two songs. The quality of the sound coming from the kit and the placement of the microphones created some really professional hits, however, the time I spent in the live room was time I could have spent tracking. 

Techniques used

As an experimental technique to create a room microphone, I used a garden hose with one end taped over one nozzle and the other with a Shure SM57 taped over the other. The idea came from watching a tutorial on YouTube with Sylvia Massey about her book 'Recording Unhinged'. I was impressed with the results, and managed to get a really great room sound with a cut of the unnecessary high end frequencies.  My choice of snare mic was something I had never tried, but was willing to except defeat if the result wasn't there. It turns out the RE20 is a great choice for a big snare drum, because it really isolates those tones coming straight from the snare and blocks out reverberant noises from the side. I'm going to keep using these techniques, but I definitely understand the importance of less is more after this production. The bass player had well rounded grooves that sat perfectly in the pocket with the drummer, but found ways to add flare from time to time. He played within the live room space, but went directly into the junction box, which had a Line 6 Amp Head patched into the mic ties to be able to generate a more well rounded bass tone. Listen below the video for the results.

The Plan for 2018 

To really shove it in the face of 2017, i've developed a plan to get this production finished and to give it some real artistic merit in the process. As the guitars and synths wrap up for this production, I have dived into some pretty heavy research into the recording techniques for Radiohead's 'In Rainbows'. These tracks sound very similar to what they want and what we produced tone wise. The plan is to create a recording with the same beautiful melodies Thom Yorke gets from his vocal recordings using only analogue hardware like compressors, EQ and Effects and the RE-20 dynamic mic. To branch off from the studio I have been developing my skills in Ableton Live 9, so that I can get a basic grasp of the DAW. My primary DAW is Pro Tools, but I believe they both have their uses. My main reason for the interest is to develop my skills as a game soundtrack composer and to collaborate with other electronic producers in the future. I've set some realistic goals for myself this year and I believe that I have and will go very far in my development this year. 

 

 

References

 

Ferri, D. (2017, July 2). In Rainbows: From The Basement - Radiohead . Retrieved Febuary 9, 2017, from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUbqNxcU8cY&t=204s

Massy, S. (2017, Febuary 17). Sylvia Massy Drum Recording - with Hella Comet. Retrieved Febuary 9, 2018, from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh-B7W41oCI