Home Sweet Home Studio

Moving recently has been very exciting for me, and not just because I’m moving in with my girlfriend. In our new house we have a spare room, which means I get a home studio! I think this may have only been agreed too so my girlfriend no longer has to listen to me mix, but all the same, I’m very happy. 

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Luckily I have a reasonable amount of gear already to outfit my new studio room, a pair of Yamaha HS5’s, a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40, an SM58, some drum machines, guitars, a bass, amps, keys etc. and I’ve just bought an AT2020. 

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The AT4040 is a great mic I’ve used often at LIPA. Its great on acoustic guitar and works amazingly on some vocals. The 2020 is it’s cheaper, cardioid little brother. I got a chance to try it out last week when my friend Will came over. We recorded some acoustic covers of a couple of Black Metal songs. Only using my new AT2020 on my pretty crappy Fender acoustic was an interesting trial. The great thing about a limitation like that is it forces you to take time to get the result you want, rather than just throwing a ton of microphones in front of an instrument. Carefully positioning the mic for each section of the songs to get the result I wanted, and not settling until It sounded perfect. 

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I’m a fan of the AT2020 already and it genuinely seems like the best microphone in it’s price range. It has great rejection from the back, lovely sounding mids and highs and is incredibly versatile. If you’re looking for a budget condenser mic I would highly recommend it. It has a somewhat lower output than I would like however, but a low self noise, so in the age of digital recording this isn’t really a problem. 

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I need to spend some time treating my new room and getting used to it, but I’m pretty happy with how it sounds already, and it’s inspiring me to mix. I’ve got tons of material to mix, so I’ll have something to show you all pretty soon!

Thanks to Charlotte Tangen for the photos and thanks for reading,

Liam.

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Magic In The Magnets

I finally got the opportunity to record a band on tape last week. From 10 till 6am on the 4th of May, I fought a battle with ancient technologies and won. It was my first time actually recording onto tape, and it wasn’t easy.

There’s so many things you get used to in the digital world, how easy it is to set up projects, to route signals around, to edit. All of this was hard in the land of tape. You have to think a lot more about what you’re doing, what you’re patching where, what will happen to the signal. We have a few mishaps, but the recording went extremely well. 

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I was recording Anne Groen (She’s amazing, go check her out on Facebook!) and her band. They’re a psychedelic prog rock band, in the vein of something like Led Zeppelin. It just felt right recording it onto tape. They speed up and down during the track, and change time signatures, but doing it to a click felt too rigid and just didn’t suit them. I tracked them live, with limited mics, 12 for the whole band, drums, bass, guitar, acoustic and vocals.

I used the good ol’ Glyn Johns method for the drums, mostly because this had been used on a lot of Zeppelins records admittedly. I also tracked the vocals and acoustic in the same room of a blaringly loud electric guitar. I originally planned to over dub them vocals and acoustic, but the spill from the electric guitar actually sounded great, so I kept the original take. It took us two run throughs of the song to get the perfect, imperfect take. It had so much energy. When a band knows that everything they play counts, that there is no beat detective or melodyne, you get a different vibe. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. The whole band playing their hearts out together has a magical quality. Hence the title.

Tape brings something to the table. You may not like the hiss, or the way it fucks with your sounds, but you have to appreciate it’s finality. When working with tape you have to do a lot of your EQ and compression on the way in. To get the right gain structure it’s essential to compress anything very dynamic and if you EQ any highs once you’ve recorded onto tape you’ll be bringing up tape hiss. This in itself is magical. It’s hard to make decisions in the digital world, everything can be undone, but I don’t think ctrl z is out friend. Working this way has really inspired me to make decisions and stick to them.

The record isn’t mixed yet, but it’s sounding great. The pleasure of doing so much on the way in is that when you’re done tracking the band gets to listen to something almost finished. It’s a great feeling. Tape is good, I encourage any of you who have access to a tape machine to go try it out, you might find some magic in the magnets too.

Good luck,

Liam.