Well it took far longer than necessary but FINALLY here is my first blog post. I suppose what you have to ask yourself now is "why did it take you so long?" That's a good question, hypothetical person, but the answer is quite simple. My most recent session at Abbot Street Studio marks the first of many hugely important lessons in my career as a recording engineer and I wanted to begin this blog on a high note.
Before I explain what I learnt, I'll quickly rundown the highlights of the first few weeks of my apprenticeship:
- Sitting in on a 'red letter day' session. I learnt the basic set-up for vocal recordings on Pro Tools and had a brief introduction to patching.
- Sitting in on an ambient recording session which took place in the studio lounge for the fantastic band Ruby and the Ribcage. This was a first for Jim, and a great insight into experimental recording. I am very much looking forward to hearing the completed songs.
- Mixing a song of my own that I put together on Logic Pro nearly two years ago. Jim offered to help finish it with me and it's sounding a lot better as a result. Thanks to his help I'll be able to improve the quality of my music tenfold.
So now to what I learnt more recently. As you'll see in the photograph below, we recorded Mike (thanks for letting me take this photo, Mike) playing guitar for his cover of the 60s song 'I'm the Urban Spaceman' by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
Jim decided to let me take the helm for this part; at least as far as recording technique anyway. So I decided to go for the popular XY technique which consists of having two pencil mics placed at an angle of about 120º about a foot away from the guitar's 12th fret. While I set this up, Jim set up a couple of mics (I should have asked what they were, I didn't think) one on the left and one on the right, much further apart.
When we came to recording, we constantly compared the two set-ups and we agreed that mine sounded a lot better. It had a nice, bright sound which fitted well into the bluegrass theme we were going for. Jim's on the other hand sounded warmer and the top end was fairly weak. I didn't truly understand why he'd used that mic placement until we added the other instruments into the mix.
It turns out that Jim's set-up was preferable over mine as it sat in the mix perfectly. I actually cringed when I heard the result of my own mic placement in the mix because it just didn't fit in at all. Jim had engineered it so that he had very little work to do when he came to mixing the guitar at the end. Genius.
The word of today is: foresight
So what I learned from this is that I need to foresee what the end of the mix is going to sound like. I can make such a huge difference by predicting beforehand where each recording is going to fit into the mix and adapting my microphone set-up accordingly. That way I can increase the efficiency of my work and maintain control over the mix.