This blog post is a continuation of my role in the Music and Audio Production class group project for our module “Communication and Popular Music”. Our project is a 4 part series of podcasts which show the importance of popular music to the wider college community. As I mentioned last week, I am on the production team and specifically working on the promo.
I collaborated with my classmate Mark on this and we worked closely. I contributed the initial idea/structure of the promo which I posted both on my blog and Moodle. Mark sourced a lead guitar lick to kick it all off and a crackin’ tune for the background (composing and recording a jingle was just too time consuming with all the other assignments going on). He sent me a rough demo via email so I could get a taste of his vocal approach for the script we collaborated on.
We had a very manic, busy week in college between final studio production sessions and sample recordings but we managed to get a 2 hour block which suited us both to get together and record the real voiceover.
We recorded in the isolation both in a Mac lab using Mark’s Rode K2 microphone, my Roland Cakewalk UA25 EX audio interface and my Macbook Pro using Pro Tools SE 10. We recorded a lot of takes and after 25 minutes we were happy we got everything we needed.
Later on I edited down to those special takes, the ones I wanted to comp into the final playlist. I popped in some fades to get rid of any nasty pops and glitches that occurred through the editing process. The lead guitar track needed a low pass filter to get rid of some high frequency crackles and I also popped some eq and compression on Mark’s voice.
I had fun with the end of the promo with the wildtrack of Mark ad libbing “DKIT!” and “POPCAST!”. I added 2 new tracks with the same eq and compression settings and added a short delay on both. I panned each hard left and hard right and dragged the right track slightly behind the left one. (You’ll hear the effect when you listen to my SoundCloud link at the end).
For an extra bit of fun I created another new track, added the first sample of “DkIT”, chopped out the “kIT” leaving me with only the “D”, inserted a medium reverb directly onto the track, bounced out… I then brought this bounce back in to a new track and reversed it, giving me a lovely swell of “ddddDDDDDD” which I popped in leading up to the “DkIT” sample.
So my finished promo looks a little something like this:
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…
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!
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! 😀
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.
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.
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!
After a lovely reading week which turned out to be a brilliant balance of study, work, play AND industry experience (see recent post where I described my day recording location audio on a film set!), I’m all set and raring to start back to college (part 2 of semester 1) in the morning!
I’ve spent the last 6 weeks preparing for my music production project and tomorrow morning we go into the recording studio to start tracking! It’s an early start and I hope to record cajon, a guide vocal and acoustic guitars. I’ve chosen to realise a new Shock Sorrow song called “December”, myself and Keith Caffrey composed during the summer.
I’m very excited to have my classmate and good friend Shane Taaffe play cajon and new friend, bass master Ciarán O’Brien play double bass on this recording! I’ve never recorded both instruments before and I’m very excited! Keith Caffrey will of course be singing lead vocal, playing guitar parts (yes, a solo!) and a secret percussion instrument! 😉 I will of course be playing a small bit of guitar and maybe piano if I’m lucky, my regular studio partner Shauna Kearney will be assisting me (I can’t imagine being in studio without her actually!).
My mind is racing from the sheer excitement of this project and I’m getting ideas all over the place! “Oooh wouldn’t it sound great if I did this!” and “I’d love to slip in a little harmony there!”, it’s so easy to get carried away! The main point of this recording is to capture the sounds as accurately as possible, get the sounds right at the source! “I’ll fix it in the mix” attitude is bye-bye, out the window! There are of course plenty of other criteria to check, good production, instrumentation, record with hardware compression (mmmm Avalon baby) etc!
My primary aim is to record a polished studio version of this song that includes a full band of musicians but with a stripped back approach.
I aim to not only meet the instrumental requirements of this project brief but also extend beyond that by capturing one or two additional instruments and vocals, creating a sonically interesting and more varied recording.
I also aim to create a pleasant and relaxed working environment and enjoy a successful recording process.
I will post a blog tomorrow night about how the session went!
In other news I got to play an Irish harp tonight! I had such fun! Shane Taaffe is one seriously gifted musician, I already knew he is very talented with a guitar, cajon, voice, anything musical he puts his hands to, but I never got to hear him play Irish harp before now. Wow! I could have listened to him all night! Such beautiful music he played. I’m a big Irish trad fan from my fiddle days and lately my influences have been creeping back into my solo material. He played beautiful Turlough O’Carolan tunes, airs, reels and even treated me to “Nothing Else Matters” (Metallica), I pretty much just melted into the floor by then!
So! Expect a future recording featuring Shane Taaffe on the harp! I would dearly love to compose a traditional piece myself and record it. This will happen!
Off to pack my school bag and equipment bag for tomorrow, where’s that list I penned up? 🙂
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?! 🙂
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!!!