How Well Do You Know Your Gear?

I recently watched a video of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks showing off their home studio. As you can imagine it’s pretty swanky. You could say it’s in a shed at the end of their garden, and that would be true except that their shed is nicer than most people’s houses and it is packed full of lovely instruments and recording gear.

Susan is interviewed and asked why they have mostly vintage gear. The instruments are mostly older; the console is a Neve but they record to a DAW of some kind. The standard answer would be some waffle about vibe and/or mojo. She doesn’t go that way though. Her response is that people know how to use the older gear well. It has finished developing and you can learn its tricks while modern gear is changing fast (particularly in the realm of software) so keeping up is hard.

This resonated with me as I am in the process of switching to a new DAW and it is driving me bonkers. There are lots of great new things to excite me, but they also distract me as I spend hours playing with the new gegaws. There are also moments of desolation as I find that a feature I relied on is no longer available to me. Perhaps the worst aspect is the change to my workflows. This is something that I didn’t think about that much before switching but this has had the biggest impact on my work by far. Continue reading How Well Do You Know Your Gear?

Capture the moment with direct to stereo recording

RCA 44-A ribbon microphone
A great microphone is just the beginning of making a great recording. You need to find the right configuration and placement and most importantly some great music to record.

I have written before about the benefits of recording direct to stereo and that post has proved popular so I wanted to go in to a bit more depth about how I decide if direct to stereo recording is suitable to use and what setup I might use in a couple of common situations. The main advantage of recording straight to a two-track setup is, as Joe Boyd points out in the comments to the previous post, that it tends to make the recording sound like events. It creates a feeling of integrity to the preserved moment.

Can the musicians perform the song together?

The crucial thing here is the moment to be preserved. With a direct to stereo recording you are capturing what is happening in the room, the live performance, so the quality of that is vital. There are some genres of music where this choice is easy, classical, jazz and folk all lend themselves to this approach as they are idioms based on performance. It can work well for rock/pop genres too. Indeed it can create a recording of great immediacy, but there is less scope for post-production. This is both the blessing and curse of direct to stereo recording. Continue reading Capture the moment with direct to stereo recording

Independent, impecunious and heading for the recording studio: An exhortation to prepare excellently

She Makes War
The album Disarm by She Makes War is out now

A lovely coincidence of information occurred today that give me a chance to beat a drum for using good studios to record your music, if at all possible, and to do this sensibly by preparing thoroughly for the recording sessions.

The first element is a great blogpost from warriorgirl announcing the release of the She Makes War album Disarm. Before going any further you can (and should) buy the album here because it’s great. In the post she shares her thoughts on making an album as an independent artist including the decision to spend money on making the album in a studio rather than recording at home.

… I wanted to show people that indie artists could make a product with a quality of sound and aesthetics on a level with or better than those with label backing, at a fraction of the cost. By being prepared for the recording sessions (the songs were all written and arranged) and getting down to work in the studio rather than wasting time playing pool and drinking coffee you can get a professional sounding album made for a reasonable sum of money, and I’m happy I chose to work with Myles rather than added the pressure to become a good quality engineer to my already full plate.

There are a couple of things here that I want to heartily endorse, Continue reading Independent, impecunious and heading for the recording studio: An exhortation to prepare excellently