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.

 

I am an addict

Over the past few years I have slowly surccum to an addiction. An addiction to sound technology. I’m a huge gear head, obsessed with mics, outboard  and the idea of owning my own studio. As my addiction became worse I knew i would have to dedicate my life to the world of recording sound, and probably being poor for the rest of my life. Oh well, I guess I can’t complain when I get to do what I love. I’m currently studying sound technology at LIPA in Liverpool and having a great time practically living in their studios. I love what I do and want to share some of it with you all. It might be interesting crap I find on the internet, ideas I’m playing around with in the studio or even things I’m taught about at uni. In this case it’s the latter.

Today we were talking about a couple of interesting thing. The first is Steve Albini. The famous “producer” who refuses to call himself a producer. He is a great engineer, working with some of my favorite bands, Pixies, Nirvana and Fugazi. There is a letter he wrote to Nirvana when they asked him to produce their album ‘In Utero’ which you can have a read for yourself here. I really echo his sentiment, the idea that the producer or engineer is there to help the band and capture them at their best, not to take control and use them as instruments to create the music the producer or record company wants to make. In my opinion (and I understand that we all need to make a living), music should never be about making money. Music is something that helps and heals us and really should be created for enjoyment, not changed just to make a few extra quid.

The second thing I want to share with you is something from the strange mind of Brian Eno, the producer behind U2, Coldplay and many more. He and his friend, the artist Peter Schmidt, created the Oblique Strategies. These are a deck of cards to try and help defeat the monotony that idea creation can be. A series of words and phrases to help you break free from your standard routine. Now if they will actually help you with your songwriting or mixing, or just confuse the hell out of you depends on what kind of person you are. Regardless, I hope you find them as interesting as I did, even if just as an insight into the brain of Eno.

On a final note, I just got the first radio play of any song I’ve ever worked on! If you want to have a listen or check out any of my other work, head over to my Facebook.

Thanks for reading,

Liam.