If people can blog about baking cookies a hundred and one times and still read fresh, let me see if I can write something fresh for our jamming journal.
While waiting for our 2nd guest drummer to get back to us, we continue to explore the possibility and to learn from our 1st guest drummer Wieke. Throughout the week, I have been reviewing the recording of our previous session and finding ways to improve. My vocals really sucked last week so this time, I committed 20 minutes of vocal exercise in the morning and another set in the evening. And I stayed away from caffeine the entire day. That really helped and my vocals sucked less. In preparation of this session, I have also called up the manager of Stone Jamz and requested for the bass drum pedal to be tuned because it hurt the foot of our guest drummer. The manager has it replaced with a new one, which is kind of cool. She gave us a very nice room for us to jam too. Two thumbs up!
I weighted my gears. 20 kg in total. That includes my guitar, the effect and amp processor, cables, recording device, my personal mic, the mic stand, and etc. Mic stand? That’s right. I need a sturdy one to be freed from distraction.
Lugging that 20 kg gear through several blocks of building can be quite an exercise on its own. I said to my guitarist Jason that I need to resume my weightlifting exercise. I ain’t kidding. I need a crew; our band needs a crew. (Hey Selrol, are you there? We need to hire our nEC crew.)
Since our unofficial band manager Selrol was not feeling well, I took up the responsibility as a designated band photographer. As you can see, nothing as lively as hers. Oh well …
OK. Here is as far as I can go to stay general. The next bit is more technical and for those who share the same hobby as mine, you may be inspired in some ways. If you are already a pro, please feel free to share your experience. I’d love to learn from you.
As you may see, the above setup poses a challenge to our live recording. And I will tell you why.
Zoom Handy Recorder H2 is a versatile and inexpensive device (below S$300) that in my humble opinion is a must-have for those who wish to record sound. I was told by the sales assistant that when a container worth of Zoom H2 arrived last December, they were sold out in a matter of days. Journalists and institutes order these devices by hundreds. When I bought mine on the day of that silly incident I had at the Malaysia Custom, I was told that 500 units were delivered to an institute in the same morning.
H2 is capable of a front and rear surround sound recording – front stereo track at 90-degree and rear stereo track at 120-degree. That is a total of 4 mono tracks simultaneous recording inside this tiny device.
The front of the H2 should aim at the vocal speakers and ideally, the drums should be placed at the back. In this setting, we can’t do that. Drums are also the only sound that is acoustic in nature. That is, the volume cannot be controlled. And since there is a limit as in how loud the vocal speakers can go without inducing the feedback noise, the drums are going to dominate the entire recording.
And that was preciously the outcome.
Previously I relied on the H2 to mix the surround tracks into stereo mode (which took 30 minutes per song by the way) and perform minimal post production work at my computer. For this studio setup, I can’t do that because our challenge cannot be overcome by 3D panning. Decreasing the front channel volume in order to make the drums sound softer will have the same effect on the vocals. Our mission is to bring down the drums’ volume while giving more emphasis on the vocals and strings.
To answer that, I rely on different compression settings for the front and rear channels. I have covered the technique compression extensively in one of my articles. It’s time to put it to work and have the post-production work done at the computer.
I use a hard knee compressor for the front channel (click here to see the setting of ‘Drum Destroyer’). By default, it has a +8dB gain boost, which is great to bring out the details of the vocals. And it also comes with a 30 times hard compression that is perfect for general drums recording. For the rear channel, I use my favorite “Vintage Neve 33609” (click here to view setting) and manually apply a +10 dB gain. Mix the two channels together (with a -6 dB gain reduction) brings forth a much fuller sound. The overall gain is hotter than any recording I have ever had.
It took me 12 hours to select the right materials and complete the post production work for 12 of our takes (outtakes included). Different studio rooms may require different settings. I reckon if we do jam in the same room again, the process will be much faster.
Related Blog Entry: No Eye Candy’s 1st Female Guest Drummer (July 4)