I sat in on my first tracking session last night. It was absolutely incredible. Reason being? The drummer was great, professional, laid back - the woman producing the song had asked him to redo some parts, do a few takes - and he calmly agreed and performed it perfect every take. He was called in to the studio last night to perform on one song, and if there was time, he might take a stab at a second song. So, he had prepared for the one song he was definitely going to perform on, and then he said he "listened to the second song once, maybe twice." Well, after nailing the first song within 25 minutes, after 4 or 5 takes, the woman requested him to record the second one. He agrees, and boom, done in about 3 takes. This is all within the first hour of getting there.
Why might this be interesting to anyone? I'm sure that all audio engineers have worked with drummers of this type, where they come in for a session and get it done and are professionals. The reason this was so incredible was because the drummer was twelve years old! Twelve! He is far superior as a drummer than most people 3 times his age. And even more... He played on a third song that he had never heard before, but the producer threw it at him, and 10 minutes later, within 2 takes, the song was complete. He was so modest and even a little shy during the session, but he was damn good. I say shy because at one point, we had to turn the lights out in the control room and turn our backs to the glass so we "weren't" watching him play. This was during the first song, where he was punching in to the last chorus, and the producer just said "play like an animal, don't hold back," and he was a little hesitant about opening up and going full Bonzo on the drum kit around us. But of course, I didn't want to miss this... I just had to watch this dude play, so I knelt down behind a chair and peaked my head around. Right before the take, he looked in and saw me. He laughed a little, rolled his eyes, and then played, like an animal, and crushed it. It was quite incredible to sit in and watch.
Anyways, during this session, I was able to see some of the concepts from the first two chapters be applied. The main one, from chapter one on waveforms, had to do with phasing. Because we were recording a drum kit with 8 microphones on it, there were bound to be phasing issues. This was cleared up by flipping the phase of some of the microphones on various pieces of the drums. The snare, for instance, had its phase flipped and the sound completely changed. It was night and day. It went from a hollow, tinny sound to a big, booming sound. This was because there was a close mic on the snare and two overhead microphones above the kit. The sound wave traveling from the snare hits the close mic quicker than the overheads, and depending on when that sound hits the overhead, the waveform could be out phase with the close mic's waveform. This also occurred with the kick and floor tom, but everything else seemed to be in place. Whenever I would record, I never actively thought about phase issues because I ignorantly didn’t think they were that big of a deal. I knew they existed, but I never had given it much attention. I’ve recently been experimenting with fixing these issues and seeing a little bit of a difference, but now after hearing what I heard last night, I can fully see why phasing is incredibly detrimental to the sound of an instrument (or good if you’re going for that sound). Before I understood that it could be an issue, and last night I heard how big of an issue it is (sometimes).
So far, this program has been very helpful. Being able to get my feet wet in a professional studio is truly eye-opening and I am learning so much just by watching the people work around me. I'm very excited to get deeper into the course material and to learn some more of the "why's" about what audio engineers do to get a mix to sound so great.