Tag Archives: Rode NTK

My Music Production Project Recording is Complete!

Party over here! I have completed my 3 recording sessions for my music production project “December”, written and composed by Keith Caffrey and myself, featuring Shane Taaffe on cajon and Ciarán O’Brien on double bass.

Monday morning was my last 3 hour studio session, I had 3 blocks of 3 hour sessions over a 6 week period to record the song. Time was extremely valuable and every minute counted in these sessions (especially when the song itself is 5:02 long, one take alone eats up 5 minutes…).

In this final studio session we recorded the lead vocal (Keith Caffrey), my backing vocal (thanks to my assistant Shauna Kearney for engineering for me here!) and a rainmaker. The session was the most relaxed (for me at least!) and though we kept a sharp watch on the clock, we were not under as much time pressure as the previous sessions.

Although it wasn’t ideal to record vocals at 9am, it had to be done and Keith was warming up his voice from 6.30am. The set up was simple- a Neumann U87 with pop shield and reflection filter going through the Audient ASP 8024 to Pro Tools. It would have been ideal to record with compression because there is a broad dynamic range in the vocal performance but as we’re still in early days, the compressor wasn’t patched in. We recorded some takes adjusting the gain for the loud and soft parts and also recorded the contrasting sections separately. It did occur to me after the session that I could have set up an AKG C414 right up beside the U87 on a separate track and adjust the gains of each microphone, so one would have a lower gain than the other. Hindsight! Every day is a school day…

Keith in studio
Keith in studio

Nonetheless I got what I needed committed to Pro Tools. Using the same set up with a tad extra gain I laid down my backing vocal, taking care to double up. Backing vocals are not a requirement of this project but one of the defining sounds of Shock Sorrow (myself and Keith) is our vocal blending. My sweet, soft voice is a nice contrast to Keith’s powerful and deep rock voice.

The rainmaker was the next recording- we set up 2 AKG C414s (mono tracks, cardioid pattern, no filter), and recorded the gentle sway of the falling beads during the intro and outro, this is a nice falling rain-like sound as opposed to a rhythm. I have two rainmakers, one bamboo and one plastic, the bamboo one was the rainmaker of choice as it sounded much more organic and watery! The plastic one sounded like a hail storm!

Me and my bamboo rainmaker :)
Me and my bamboo rainmaker 🙂

With 15 minutes to spare before wrap up time (once the clock strikes 12 we had to be out- mic’s put back into their cases, cables tidy, stands collapsed, wrap up time had to occur at 11.45), we recorded 2 lead vocal ad lib tracks for fun. I was impressed with Keith’s improvisation, counter harmonies, whispers and echoes. He gave me so much good stuff I can’t bear to edit them! 😀

Ready for your close-up Rockstar? :)
Ready for your close-up Rockstar? 🙂

Later that afternoon after my last lecture, myself and Shauna headed to our beautiful, ambient Winter Garden in the college building. The Winter Garden is probably my favourite place to hang out between classes for it’s greenery and general peace and quiet!

I had my own recording set up with me- Macbook Pro (with Pro Tools 10), Cakewalk UA25 EX audio interface, Samson S-Amp and Rode NTK microphone. I wanted to record a couple of extra tracks to see if they might work in the project- violin and small djembe drum. I wanted the massive natural reverb so I placed my microphone in the middle of the garden and stood about 8 feet away.

My on-the-go recording set up
My on-the-go recording set up

I actually didn’t play my own violin (the Chinese violin my parents bought for my 13th birthday- too long ago!!!) although it did sound really nice. One of my lecturers actually loaned me his 100 year old German violin for the recording! I’m honoured to have played this violin and even more honoured that I’m the first person ever to have actually recorded it! Not even my lecturer has recorded it! It was beautiful. Beautifully smooth and amazing tone. It was slightly smaller than my own violin (it wasn’t 3/4 size but just slightly smaller than full size) and as light as feather.

Me playing the beautiful 100 year old violin in DkIT's Winter Garden
Me playing the beautiful 100 year old violin in DkIT’s Winter Garden

I played the djembe for the first time in my life (it’s been sitting in my house for years as a decoration!), I just wanted the simple accents, “snap” sounds with that lovely reverb. It actually sounded really lovely and different! My right hand is in absolute bits, 3 lovely bruises on the insides of my fingers! But definitely worth it!

We actually spent 3 hours in the Winter Garden, it was busier than I thought it would be and most takes were spoiled by the noise of people opening doors, walking by, chatting, cleaners hoovering, you name it, I heard it through the sensitive Rode mic! I did expect such noise in the public space and it was really after 5pm that we started recording “clean” tracks.

I was absolutely shattered after all this but after 2 hours of chilling out at home I was back in Pro Tools, editing and starting the first rough mix until the small hours. Of course the point of the project is to not fix anything in the mix but I did need to comp the vocals and go through the violin takes while it was fresh in my mind. All I have left to do is some fades, an micro edit here and there and adjust the mix balance.

Then the write up… 😉

So expect to hear the final mix of “December” on my SoundCloud in… December!

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New Song – “The Key” by Stephanie Caffrey :)

I have been feeling creative lately! I’m announcing the follow up track to “Ashes Forever” which I posted online a couple of weeks ago… “The Key”. 🙂

Composition for this piece started about two weeks ago in my bedroom studio. I wished to complete it before my trip to Oxford so I could mix it over there, but feeling this song was coming from somewhere very deep inside me, I didn’t want to rush the creative process.

I had composed all the music by the time I got to Oxford and there I mixed what I had and structured half the song.

I returned home to Ireland in a whirlwind of emotions and penned the lyrics and vocal melodies shortly afterwards. This song is a deep one to me and I hope the listener enjoys my creation.

It’s the first time I’m publicly showcasing my violin skills on a recording and also my lovely B flat tin whistle, I was really surprised how nice it recorded, adding just a touch of reverb! It’s probably also the first song I’m actually not playing guitar! Written, composed, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered entirely by myself with the exception of giving my friend Lee Fitzpatrick some deserved credit for advising me on my equalisation curves at the early stage of mixing!

Me and my violin! (This picture is back to front, I’m not left handed!)

So put on your headphones, sit back, relax and breathe and enjoy “The Key” 🙂

Steffy xx

Aztaria Live Acoustic Recording

Last night was Aztaria’s 2nd rehearsal in Dublin after our summer break. To ease ourselves back into the swing of things, we decided we would rehearse our entire set acoustically. And sure while we were at it (seeing as I never leave home without my iMac, microphone and magic recording box!!!), why not record the whole session as well?! 🙂

Paweł, David and Arianna share a joke in rehearsals!

As you can see above, many a giggle was had and it felt as if we never had a break, in a good way of course! Were any of the naughty jokes captured on video-camera? Perhaps! 😉 Aztaria Rockumentary coming soon!!!

I set up my trusty Rode NTK microphone in the far corner of the rehearsal room, as far away as I could get from David’s kit (no offense to David in any way, it’s only natural he’s the loudest member of the band! :)) and Sandra positioned herself in front of the mic. I sat to her left with my Tanglewood acoustic guitar and Paweł sat next to me again. He wished to use his (hot and sexy) Cort electric guitar with his new guitar rig which includes his Boss GT-10 effects processor, Boss V-Wah pedal (love the sounds he’s making with this new toy!!) and a host of Marshall and other racks to compliment his sound! Arianna sat nearby on her bass amp (playing her electric bass as as she’s saving for a new acoustic baby!) and far, far, away all by his lonesome was David using his full kit with brushes 😉 We set up a 58 over his kit to make use of the second input available on my Roland Cakewalk UA25EX audio interface (aka my magic recording box!) and recorded straight into my iMac. Not the most acoustically soundproof room but I was surprised after a brief soundcheck of the clarity of our realtime mix (leaning closer and further away from the Rode mic as appropriate and playing/singing louder and softer when necessary), we recorded 4 tracks, 3 of which we may use!

It was great fun to do something different together and make something productive! Aztaria are back and ready to rock and roll!!!

Arianna, Sandra and David chilling out during a break!
Aztaria grrrrrrrrrrrrls Sandra, Arianna and myself posing outside the rehearsal room!