Spent this afternoon tracking lead vocals and acoustic guitar for a Birds Over Arkansas song called Forgotten Lights. If you're not familiar with the term "tracking", it refers to the actual process of recording of an instrument or vocal track (as opposed to mixing, editing or mastering). Last year, we had recorded everything for this song at a Weathervane recording workshop with producer/engineer Brian McTear. The workshops with weathervane basically take one song from a band/artist for a weekend. Saturday is spent tracking the song, and Sunday is spent mixing the song, each day with a live audience of patrons for the weathervane organization. Here's a video of the whole process if you're interested! video 1 of 2
Again, if you're not familiar with the recording process, this is actually a short time to record for today's standards. With the endless options available with computer recording and home recording options, bands can take years to record a collection of songs. Of the recordings I've been involved with, the less time a recording takes, the more exciting and spontaneous the end product sounds. Granted, there is a tradeoff; there's usually recording quality gained in taking more time to be more precise and detailed about the process. Best case scenario, you have musicians who are prepared and a separate producer and/or engineer who knows what they are doing and can pull a good performance from the musicians in a short period of time.
So, everything actually went really well that weekend and everything we set out to record was finished on time (Laura wasn't there that weekend, so we recorded her vocals later). So the reason we re-recorded the vocals is, they were recorded somewhat experimentally with a ribbon microphone. Although the result was pleasant, interesting, and worked within the scope of one song, it was a very different sound than we usually get/prefer in either my studio or John's studio. Ribbon microphones tend to get more low frequency response than dynamic and condenser microphones with a diaphragm, and actually roll off (decrease above a set frequency) the high frequencies in the sound spectrum, which gave us a boxy, midrangy sound on the vocals... kind of lo-fi and cool sounding, but we wanted something more conventional. So I redid them, and it actually went really well today.
As for the acoustic guitars, when the workshop is over, Brian McTear sends a mix to everyone who attended, and after we trade notes on the mix, Brian emails a final copy to the group. After that, the band gets "stems" of the recording, which means they get the individual drum, vocal, guitar, bass and all the auxiliary/extra instrument tracks. Once the band has this, they can mix the song on their own, or redo things if they wish. So, when we got the stems, the acoustic guitars were missing, and after a little bit of back and forth, we decided to just re-record them. Given the studio's and Brian's super busy schedule of paying bands/artists, and the fact that we were able to do all of this basically for free, it was an easy decision.
The performance was simple enough, since we've played the song live quite a bit since doing this workshop. So, that went well too. I doubled the track, which means I recorded myself playing the part twice, identically, on two separate tracks. Most commonly, these two tracks are sent separately to the Left and Right speakers in a mix, and what results is a very wide, large sound.
Once it is mixed by John, our good friend Bryan Dale will master the track, which means he will clean up any odd frequencies, trim the beginning and ending seconds and optimize the dynamic levels and loudness of the track.
So, we are very excited to finish mixing Forgotten Lights, which was written for my grandmother during her last year of life. She lived to be 97 years old, and in her final year her memory began to fail. We knew she wouldn't make it much longer, because mentally, she had showed almost no signs of aging well into her 90s. Pretty incredible. Everyone in my family misses Eva quite often, and were so lucky to have her for so long in our lives.
Thanks for reading!
Acoustic and Vocal recording chain at my studio today:
- guitar: Guild D55 acoustic with D'Addario Bluegrass coated strings
- microphone: Rode NT2 large diaphragm condenser microphone in cardiod pattern, no rolloff or pad.
- preamp - Universal Audio Apollo duo twin, Solo 610 B emulated preamp plugin.
- Logic Pro X