This blog is a reflection on the first recording session which took place on Saturday 3rd June at SAE Campus Studio Audient B. A great deal of planning went into this project and the first recording session went off close to flawless! The project (as indicated in the production plan blog), is to record and mix a 10 track album for a vibrant Brisbane 3 piece punk band with a political message called Permanent Revolution. This first session was to obtain scratch tracks for the next two sessions where the instruments and vocal would be recorded separately.
The studio was booked for 8 hours from 9am and the day commenced well with all parties arriving early! After helping the lads with all their gear and facilitating the general housekeeping, our team; Shay Jagger Mitchell (Producer), Jaxon Arundal (DAW Operator), and myself (Console Operator), proceeded to get the band set up in Audient B and prepare the studio for recording. Shay had not had an opportunity to print out the work plan but fortunately we all had a clear understanding of the details of the setup having discussed these in depth prior and had booked our chosen equipment for the session so fortunately this did not impede us. We were ready to roll by 10:30am.
The DAW session had been prepared days before so that we were close to ready to record after checking all the routing and making the necessary amendments. Permanent Revolution has a consistent history of regular live performance around SE QLD, and know their songs and each other well; this was clearly demonstrated right from the first take. They were tight, confident and committed to each song. The energy was amazing (lots of ‘1-2-3-4’s’ and ‘Let’s Go’s!), and we recorded two+ takes of each track so that the boys could choose prior to the next session which ones they wanted to utilise. All in the control room were bopping along throughout!
We were happy with the overall sound of the recordings and the mic choices and placements reproduced effectively the sound we were searching for when related to the reference tracks and genre. A little work however is needed on the drum sound in particular the kick. The kick on the drummers kit did not have a sound hole and as a result we were unable to capture the real punch we were hoping for. After doing some research, we have discovered another mic placement option which may improve this defect. Failing an improvement with a different set up, we should still be able to attain the desired sound during the mixing stage however are all mindful that the ideal outcome is to get as close to the sought effect during the recording stage. The guitar and amp combo (Epiphone Les Paul and Marshall), had a great sound with the sort of punch and distortion akin to this style of music and the mics (SM57’s), and mic placement used need little improvement. We are however going to experiment with a different technique in the upcoming session just to ensure we have the best sound to meet the brief and bands expectations.
With the bass we used a Sennheiser MD421 on his amp and it sounded pretty good but as with the guitar we are going to experiment in the individual recording sessions. In the case of the bass, by using a Direct Input and perhaps some compression on the way in also. The vocals were being drowned out by the guitar amp and general room bleed so we removed the pop filter and had the lead singer focus on singing closer to the mic (these are just scratch tracks in any case). This issue was minor however as the vocals like the other instruments will be tracked on their own in the next sessions.
The beauty of recording these guys was that they were at a stage where they were planning to record their first album when Shay approached them. They were keen and focused, hardworking and professional on the day. I have worked with other artists in my short time in the studios who were not as committed or professional and this makes a huge difference to how smooth the whole process evolves. I felt that our producer, Shay led from the front and communicated / delegated well in this session. He had a clear understanding of the sound and feel the band was trying to achieve and did not waiver from that course.
As to reflection of elements that could have been executed better:
- Sounds obvious but ensuring backup plans are in place for every possible contingency is a lesson I am consistently learning. We did not have a written copy of our production plan on the day and this communicated to me that all team members should come ready with copies of any documents pertaining to the session on the day. Despite the best and most thorough research on equipment suitability done prior to the session, contingencies must be planned for in this area also.
- A better knowledge of the specific instruments/equipment being used by the band is also crucial. This was brought to the fore by the drummer not having a sound hole in his kick. Had this been known, some research (which has retrospectively been undertaken), could have ensured we were ready for the difference resulting in the dull strike of the kick out sound evident by not being able to get the D112 inside the barrel.
- Remember that the repercussions for losing focus and forgetting that the external rooftop door is locked all day Saturday include 1/2hr of being excommunicated from the building before finally being rescued by a member of the tech team. Just another reason to quit cigarettes!