AUS220 Week 10: Drums, Drums, Drums
Another jam packed week as SAE, and the heat is certainly turning up as we approach week 11. This week was about podcasting, freelancing and A LOT of recording sessions. Since this time last week, I have accumulated over 30 hours of studio time. Along with recording the voice over narration for our podcast, we tracked guitars and piano for our Advanced Studio project, and I also tracked a massive drum session in the Neve for a freelance job I'm doing currently on, recording a 5-track EP for a Melbourne based hard rock group. So it's safe to say I'm feeling pretty fit in the producer department, but there's still a long way to go. On Saturday I tracked drums for the freelance job, and then on Thursday we tracked drums for our Demo project. It's been a week of drums, drums, drums.
On Saturday, I had actually booked the band I am recording into the large Audient studio, purely because it was what I was most comfortable with at the time. I spent a lot of the lead up to that session researching drum miking techniques, EQ processing tips, and generally drum recording information to make sure I was as ready as possible for the day. I arrived well prepared for the session, but as always, I still had to be ready to think on my feet. My good mate and fellow student Sam thankfully agreed to assist me on day too, without which I would've been in big trouble. One thing I hadn't factored in to my planning was that the tech desk will only lend us certain mics for certain studios, and the mics I wanted where only allowed when using the Neve studio, specifically the U87, the Royer 121s, and the KM184s. I wanted those mics badly, so although at that stage we had only had one lesson on it, Sam and I decided to jump in the deep end and try our luck on the Neve. I'm really glad we did. We of course hit a few speed bumps during the day, but we managed fairly seamlessly to navigate the desk and the studio and we got through it in pretty good shape. It was a huge help for us, because even though the sessions with Wilko are great and informative, there's so much to learn that you really need to just get in there and feel your way round first hand. I'm feeling very confident on the Neve console now that I've done that session. We ended up using 16 mics on the kit, and got a full, even sound. I'm not super happy with results, but that is more to do with the kit itself and some of the performance. I was so preoccupied managing the desk and studio that I dropped the ball on managing the artist. Normally I would spend a lot more time concentrating on the player and performance but I had a full plate that day. In reflection, I learnt a lot during this session and going forward I'm feeling much more sturdy and strong.
This drum tracking session was perfect practice for our Thursday intensive with Wilko. Our newest member, Cody, was kind enough to rope in his younger brother Lochie, who is an amazing drummer with an amazing kit to lay down some bangs on our Max Martin inspired Demo project. The day was really successful, but again, as always, there were some hiccups and bumps in the road. Working in the Neve studio with such a big group can get really stressful and hot. There's so many of us all trying to divvy up the work in such a small space that it takes a lot of effort to remain focused and calm. We managed to get a really impressive session done, and the end result from our drummer was really nice. We did struggle with certain drum sounds and miking techniques early on though. We were getting a lot trouble from the floor tom and high hats especially, but after some microphone replacing and mic placement changes we got there in the end. It was nice to see people like the amazing Elysha, who sometimes keeps quiet when everyone is talking at each other, take a stand and make some really strong, confident, and successful decisions. Sometimes the stress makes people shine and I saw that Lysh works really well under pressure, much better than myself. Speaking of my hero Elysha, her and I along with electric guitar legend Pat spent a massive day on Monday in the Neve working on the composition and guitar tracks for the same song.
Elysha and I arrived early Monday morning and setup the Neve console and Pro Tools for the session. We then got stuck straight into finishing off the composition for our track. We kept it really simple and generic in terms of chord progression and key to match the style of our reference tracks. Once we were happy with our composition, I laid down the whole track with midi pianos so that Pat would have something solid to play along to. Once Patty arrived, we got started on setting up his rig. He bought in his beautiful Japanese Fender Stratocaster and an awesome old tube amp. Along with his pedal board and creativity, the sound he came up with was so fantastic. We miked up his amp with an M88 in front, and a 57 stuck actually inside the amp from the back. The sound was GREAT! Then the real magic happened. After laying down some padding and familiarising himself with the song structure, Patty laid down an awesome lead guitar line and solo. There was only one thing wrong with what we got down, and that was that the song was starting to sound too good. That is to say, too cool. It was loosing the cheese-y boyband feel we were planning on. But once Pat was done and I recorded some acoustic guitar parts, we started getting our sound back. It was so nice to have gotten so much done on that Monday session, and to be able to play it all back to the rest of the group once we came together on Thursday. Everyone loved what we had done, and it gave us a super clear direction to go in with the drum tracking that day. It really is starting to sound fantastic! I cannot wait to hear the finished product once it's done. I think it will be something really special.