Today we did the basic tracking for the acoustic portion of Andrew’s album. I used a pair of Neumann KM 184s in an XY configuration to capture the acoustic guitar. I used a Nady TCM 1150 as a room microphone. The TCM 1150 was placed over Andrew’s right shoulder. I set up a Rode NT-1 to give Andrew a talk-back mic.

When we were setting levels, Andrew played an acoustic version of “Waiting”. I thought It was more powerful than the electric version, so the beginning part of the session was focused on getting a good acoustic take of “Waiting”. Andrew did a scratch vocal using the Rode microphone.

We moved on and recorded several takes of “Run Out of Love” and “No Time”. I had Andrew play a few takes of each song with a scratch vocal and a few takes without.

Andrew wanted to try a few takes using a semi-hollow body guitar played through a small overdriven Vox amp so I moved the TCM 1150 in front of the amp and we recorded a few tracks. Ultimately, I felt these tracks sounded thin and the Vox amp was too washy to be the bed instrument of a track. As a compromise, I suggested to Andrew that we take this approach during an overdub session.

We finished the session by having Andrew put scratch vocals on the best takes of the tracks that were done without vocals to give me a reference for editing.

This session gave me some insight on how to work with artists and get them to work outside of his or her comfort zones.
I had force Andrew to remove the chains, wristbands, and other jewelry from his wrists that were clanking during the recording. I had to force him to be more aware of his tendency to scrape his guitar with his finger picks in between beats to keep time. He reluctantly took my suggestions and we managed to record some good takes.

This session was also cancelled due to the college being closed for the snow. I spent the afternoon researching and auditioning snare drum samples to blend in to give a more snare sound to my snare drum tracks.

Once I found a sample that was usable. I made a duplicate of my snare drum track for “I Ain’t Got No Shotgun” and used the Sound Replacer AudioSuite plug-in to import my sample into the session.

I also experimented with using a Tone Generator plug-in creating white noise that was gated using the Digi-Rack Expander/Gate Dyn 3 plug-in. The snare drum track was applied to the key input to trigger the gate. I decided to scrape the white noise generator because I felt that it sounded too artificial when the drummer was playing fills on the snare drum.

In my pre-production meeting with Andrew he requested that the kick drum have a boomy sound. The drums used for the session were completely filled blankets. The end result was a very defined kick drum with a nice tone, but it was not boomy. To make up for this, I again experimented with a tone generator and a gate. This time I set the tone generator to produce a low frequency sine wave. The gate was triggered by applying the kick drum to the key input of the gate.

All of these techniques give me more options to color my drum sounds, but I am still unsure if they will be used in the final mixes.

The session was cancelled due to the college being closed for the snow. I went back and listened to the tracks that we recorded on the last tracking session and determined what takes usable and what takes could be fixed with some editing.

I found some spots that needed manual editing. I removed some stick clicks that were in between some bass drum hits. I edited some drum hits at the end of “Nobody Knows Me”. I completely rearranged the drum track at the end of “Tell Me Something Different”.

I also spent a great deal of time experimenting with the Beat Detective feature in Pro Tools. I got some very strange results from using Beat detective. I spent most of the following Sunday watching video tutorials and reading forum posts about tips and techniques using Beat Detective.

I arrived early to sign out equipment and make sure that the drum set and Dr. Z guitar amplifier were available. Unfortunately, The drum set, the Dr. Z, amplifier, and several of my microphone choices were already taken.

I immediately called the band and informed them that they would have to bring their own drums and came up with these substitutions:

-Drum Overheads: Neumann KM184s replaced with AT 4041s

-Room: AT 4050s replaced with AT 4030s.

-Guitar Amp Mic: Neumann KM 184 replaced with Shure SM 81

-Dr. Z Amplifier replaced with Marshall JCM 800 Kerry King Signature Amplifier and cabinet.

Set up for the session took longer than expected. Luckily, I had my second engineer to help me run mic cables and set up the Pro Tools session while I placed the microphones and set up the SSL console.

Lab assistant Dan Pelletier saved the session by tuning Matthew’s drums. He also helped me set up the room mic in the isolation room in the piano to get the “piano verb”.

Once the session was set up and the sounds were dialed in I recorded the band playing a short set. I took this approach to get the musicians warmed up and comfortable in the sterile studio environment. I wanted the session to feel more like a band practice to the musicians.

In hindsight, I regret not taking more control of the session. Since we had another session booked for drum tracking I approached this session as a warm up to get the drummer acquainted with the studio. We recorded a lot a material, but things were a little chaotic. I would have rather recorded 5 well disciplined songs than the twelve songs of varying quality songs we ended up recording.