After researching The Rubens’ Hoops, we had a session booked for Wednesday record drums for the sound-alike and we’d decided on mics, set up a ProTools session and tempo map.
Our session plan changed a little and we swapped a few of our mics choices based on Daniel’s drum set up and reviewing the gear available. Our research into the recording session for the Ruben’s record led us to an image of drummer Scott Baldwin recording with a set of Coles ribbon mics for overheads, so it didn’t make sense for us to use the Rode NT5s we’d planned on. We swapped the NT5s out (and made use for them elsewhere) for a pair of AKGC414s and warmed up them with the Empirical Fatso. The top end was rolled off and mids were warmer, more like a ribbon. We used one of the NT5s as a snare ‘crack’ mic which turned out to be the secret ingredient (along with a Shure Beta57 under the snare) in the snappy, clappy snare on Hoops. We used a combination of moon gel, towels and t-shirts to dampen the snare and toms before miking the toms with Sennheiser MD421s (set to ‘Music’ as instructed by Trinski).
My role for the session was to run the Audient console, and on setting up the mic channels, I moved into the ProTools role swell (sorry Ben). We ran the Fatso and some pre amps (both BAE 1073s) pre-tape as opposed to parallel. We got signal to every channel very fast, and Trinski quickly moved in to show up setting up the levels and checking phase. Trinski emphasised the importance of checking phase, and the process of checking it, as well as how quickly it needs to be checked and how quickly you need to commit to your decisions. He explained that by this time the drummer is ready to go and checking phase can easily derail a session and have engineers checking and re-checking. We checked the stereo image of the overheads, making sure the snare was centred, then check the first kick drum mic with the overheads and the other kick drum mics with each other, followed by the snare/s and so on.
Once the console was set up and our drummer ready to go, we had to make sure our drummer had everything he needed to start a take. Our drummer Daniel, had the song dialled + some insight into sounds and understood recording as a player and engineer himself. Throughout the recording, our producer Julian took notes on the bars and beats in the takes for us to reference later. Admittedly, I slipped into ProTools operator swell as operating the console while tracking, but I do think that these roles go together and its easier for these to be operated on the fly (especially during tracking) by one person.
By the end of the day, we had some solid groundwork for the rest of the instruments to be tracked over the next two weeks. I’ll be tracking guitars on Wednesday June 15 and we’ll track vocals with a singer after that, before the mixing session on June 22. I’ll be playing an Ibanez RG as the pickups can be split to single coil like a Telecaster. Unfortunately a Fender Reverb amplifier isn’t easy to come by, and through our research we discovered the specific amp used on the recording wasn’t functioning correctly (this may be the extra hum that can be heard on the guitar). The buzz of the amp is emphasised by vibrato or tremolo effect onboard the amp, and it sounds like there’s onboard reverb as well as reverb added in post production. I’ll be playing through a Zoom G2 effects pedal on the ‘Fender Clean’ emulation with tremolo and spring reverb (similar to the reverb onboard a Fender Reverb) into a Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister and Marshall 1960A cabinet. The amp on the recording has a buzz and I’ve imitated this by setting the ‘Gain’ on the clean channel of the amp to 100% and backing off the matter volume. All these effects and sounds aside, the playing on the recording sounds softly picked through a loud amp. This is easily the most difficult part of the sound to emulate, as the guitar is full of character but also sits in the pocket of the song.
We haven’t decided on mics yet, but a ribbon and trusty 57 will keep the song warm and vintage with the ribbon mic but also solid with the SM57. A warm room mic would also capture the reverb tail and roominess of the loud amp. In the Audient recording space we’ll draw back the curtains to keep the sound live. The guitar sounds the most gritty unprocessed of the recording.
In conclusion, Wednesday’s session went well and we’ve got a solid foundation for the rest of the song. We’ve captured the sounds characteristic of the drums in the track, and I’m excited to fit my playing into it.