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Author Topic: new project...hand perc / acoustic guitar....  (Read 2818 times)

djakes

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new project...hand perc / acoustic guitar....
« on: April 25, 2004, 09:14:26 pm »

Hello out there. I am about to start engineering a project. The band consists of two percussionists, an acoustic guitar, and vocalist. I am fond of the guitarist's style/chording progressions and such. I think that's sort of the backbone of the songs. The singer has a good voice and interesting melodies. Good lyrics too. The percussionists go to town on hand drums of different sorts. Congas, djembes, bongos and other assorted drums. Also different types of shakers, tamborines, a few cymabal parts. Overall, the material is rather beaty......a tribal/campfire feel.

I'm looking for some insight on how to go about tracking. We don't really have an acoustically superior room at the studio. When we've done other bands we usually separate the band members and use headphones. Guitar amps and drum kits go in different rooms. I feel the most important thing here is to get the best take of the songs out of the band. So I have to make them comfortable with good headphone mixes. Now there's going to be quite a few percussion tracks going on here. During the course of a tune, we may have a hand drum, and then a tamborine or shaker may enter. Do you think they should stick to one instrument throughout the initial take of the song? Go back and overdub other trinkets? Also, I'm wondering about the two percussionists. One thought I have is placing them in the same room. Maybe use a type of divider between them to minimize mic bleed.?.?.? I sort of feel if they're together, they will get a better take. I can put the acoustic guitar in another room and mic him up somehow. He has an acoustic amp that I think I will mic up in another separate room as well. I need to get those drums right. I want some real life on the tracks. Any cool mic'ing techniques you might suggest? ? ?

Our studio has:
              four AT PRO 37R condenser mics
              A handfull of SM57's
              A Rode NTK tube mic
              AT 4033
              AKG C1000
              Audix D1 through D4 (our drum kit mics)
              AKG D112
              2 Shure unidyne mics (old) SM55
              some other dynamic mics also....
              1 Avalon 737
              Panasonic Ramsa DA7 mkII digital mixer
              Alesis HD24 (recorder)

In the past I have felt we could have spent more efforts/time on getting things better at tracking time. Mixes have usually been a cumbersome experience. I would love for these tracks to be juicy right from the playback. Our console has onboard dynamics processing. Would you advise using any of that at tracking?...If we get it dialed in right, I'm sure that would help our recording levels. Do you track some things processed? I have usually shyed away from that in fear of screwing up the sound. Could there be any benefits though?

Thank you all so much for taking the time here. If anyone could point me to some helpful reading on this subject that would be great! Thanx again.

djakes
             
             
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otek

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Re: new project...hand perc / acoustic guitar....
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2004, 11:28:57 pm »

Djakes,

I would definitely try and get as much as possible of the song as a live performance.

I have recorded Arabic and Kurdish folk music this way.

In your case, percussionists to the far left and right, guitar and vocal in the middle, all in a slight semi-circle.

Put up some low gobos to isolate the perfomers from each other without disrupting their sight lines.

I usually end up using an X-Y configuration for capturing the whole ensemble: Out of the mics you have, I would probably go with the AT Pro37s - unless you have pairs of any other condensers.

I would also close mic everything, and use the AT4033 or the Rode through the Avalon for vocals.

Definitely overdub shakers, tambourines and any of the jangly shit. Drums, acoustic guitars and vocal in the live take.

Also, I recommend using a 57 on the shaky stuff, never really cared for how shakers sound with condensers, plus they usually end up overloading.

You greatest task will be to get the musicians to control their dynamics (if they don't have a handle on this already). Your X-Y pair should ideally contain a good blend of the performers, even without the close mics. If this is unattainable, then consider overdubbing whatever instrument you can't fit in. Also, record an instrumental version, and try overdubbing the vocals. Compare the takes. Better? Worse? listen for performance and technical issues both.

Be meticulous when placing the close mics in the stereo spectrum from the X-Y pair... the instrument should be panned and placed according to where they are in the stereo field. Use headphones to double-check.
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brandondrury

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Re: new project...hand perc / acoustic guitar....
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2004, 05:30:02 am »

Sounds like your fucked!!  Not because of your situation with this particular project, but because your are being attacked by the recording spirits.

In my limited experience, mixing is where you find out how bad you screwed up while tracking.  After doing 50 big projects you learn a few tricks.  

Unfortunately, there are no answers, but a few simple guidelines.  Personally, I hate the sound of vocals with excessive bleed into the vocal mic.  I would avoid this, if possible.  Then again, I like the sound of a whole band playing together in their natural environment.  Record the whole thing in the room and see what you get.  You can always add and replace stuff later.  One trick is to setup the whole band, get your sounds, have them record one song.  Then tell them to go pick up some hamburgers or something.  In this time, you can really evalutate what's going on in a setting that closely resembles your 2am mixing sessions.

Whatever happens, blame it on the musicians.
Brandon

josh

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Re: new project...hand perc / acoustic guitar....
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2004, 11:08:55 am »

Does this group sound good, play well together, etc., when they are just all in the same room playing?  The most important thing is to get the best performance out of the band.  Once you figure that out, then comes the question of how to record it.

Just guessing, but a band with acoustic guitars, vocals and hand percussion probably plays better live without headphones just from acoustic feedback in the room they're in, and your best move is to capture the energy and vibe they have going on without screwing it up with too much emphasis on isolation, controlling bleed, setting up overdubbable tracks etc.

So my suggestion would be to let the band set up and play however they like in the room... whatever works for them.  Then set up a pair of stereo mics (frankly I disagree with the suggestion of X-Y but whatever works for you...  if you have a pair of omnis, then a spaced omni or A-B setup will work better imho).  Set them up and move them around until you are getting a good sound just through those mics.  Spot mic everything, putting your best vocal mic on the vocalist, using your dynamic mics for the bottom side of djembes or for overly crisp instruments.,.  keep your LDCs on up-front instruments such as the main rhythm guitar and the vocalists.  Just get a good isolated tone from each instrument so you have some fine control over balance and position later on, but plan on getting the bulk of your sound from the stereo mics.

My guess is that if you're stuck for space in the room, you may end up with some mics too close to walls and get incoherent sound or too much reflected sound.  So if you need to apply any acoustical treatment, I'd focus it around the perimeter rather than trying to isolate instruments.  IMHO it's foolishness to isolate bleed, unless the band flat-out can't perform the tunes live together and therefore will necessitate overdubs of bleedy stuff (lead vocal, percussion).  If that's the case, then forget all this, record guide tracks, then build one track at a time and forget about live energy.  That question depends on the band.

The main thing is to focus on getting a good performance out of the band first, then worry about how to record it later.  If you can do that, then you won't need the overdubs and you won't really care about bleed.  If you don't even put headphones on them and let them balance in the room as they play then you might be surprised at how little extra mixing you have to do, so therefore it will result in a lot less need for bleed control.

djakes

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Re: new project...hand perc / acoustic guitar....
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2004, 06:54:12 pm »

So far, some have suggested a stereo pair of mics, and everyone in the room together. The band does sound good together, but the drums are quite a bit louder than the acoustic alone(without amp)....And the vocal would almost be inaudible without added P.A. or something next to those drums. Do I go with the amps also in the room? ....And I understand the X/Y mic thing, (I think). We put two condensers directly above the snare with the capsules at a 90* angle as OH's on drum kits. That has worked well for us. How else would yoiu position the two condensers in this situation? I know I will have to experiment some, but what else would you suggest on the hand drums? One close mic? Two?

thanx

cory
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josh

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Re: new project...hand perc / acoustic guitar....
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2004, 04:42:33 pm »

You don't use any amps or PA...  have you actually heard how stuff sounds through an acoustic guitar amp?  

You'll be close-miking ("spot mic" I'd say in this case, since you're also miking the whole room) the instruments so the vocals and guitars can be brought up in the mix after the fact, however placing your "room" mics near the vocalist will have a big impact on balance.

X-Y technique is as you describe, but imho it won't get the best of #1 balance of instruments or #2 get good imaging, particularly when you are blending in a mix of close-miked sources... the image will sound very "small" and collapse in the center.  To get a more exaggerated stereo image (which will hold up better when you mix in monaural sources like the lead vocal) use A-B "spaced omni" technique...  if you don't have a pair of SD omni mics then drop $100 on a pair of Behringer ECM8000's and they'll do the job nicely, otherwise Stapes or omni caps for your MC019's or whatever other omnis will work...  in a pinch some mic other than your MC019 might work in cardiod set up like A-B (that is about 2-4 feet between L and R mic), but pick a mic with lots of bottom end, one whereby with close miking you have to use the low-cut... some kind of LDC for example.

The other advantage of spaced omni is that you can put the omni mics in the midst of the instruments and pick up from all directions.  So for example you can set up the band so that the guitarists are on one side facing the percussionists, and put the omni mics (left and right) between them...  like this:
+----------------wall-----------------------+|                                           ||     gtr       vox/gtr         gtr         ||          [MIC]        [MIC]               ||                                           ||                                           ||                                           ||                                           ||      perc    perc    perc    perc         ||                                           |+-------------wall---------------------------


This way you will get a lot more of the guitars and the vox in the room mics compared with perc...  which basically balances the quieter vox & guitars with the percussion.  This setup also conserves space and avoids putting mics too close to a wall boundary.  Since you're using omnis, they will pick up the perc from the back side of the mic just with atten. top end a little bit which will help put the guitars and vox in the front of the mix.

If there's a bass, plug it in direct with a DI.  If they need it in the room, use a small amp just to get as much as they need.  Bass player might need headphones with mix of room mics plus his bass.

The "room" mic sounds at this point should have a fairly exaggerated stereo image.  If you bring up the spot mics for the guitars and vocals then the image should get a lot more realistic.  You probably will need very little of spot mics for percussion, my guess is it'll be fine in the room mics.

This is how I'd do it, but of course I have omnis and a bunch of LDCs and record acoustic instruments fairly regularly.  With a plan like this you'll get a pretty live, organic acoustic sound in the end, but you may lack some flexibility you are accustomed to with close-miking and isolated overdub tracks.
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