A few people have asked how the Sunday Sessions are recorded.
What mics, how many takes, software etc
Is basically a large room used for theatre/dance/music in the middle of an artists warehouse/residence
It’s not sound proofed, there are no baffles, no partitions, no booths. There’s no separate/isolated control room
It has a sloped corrugated iron roof partially covered with what’s left of the original ceiling material, some kind of compressed wood fibre that’s slowly deteriorating and; it has mirrors on some of the walls
If it rains, it’s great for … well, it’s great for recording rain on a corrugated iron roof!
Despite the roof or perhaps because of its slope and the various drapes, props and materials around, the room has a nice acoustic quality to it
Not hard, not too live, not dead.
The primary purpose of the sessions isn’t recording. It’s a friendly and relaxed environment away from any industry hype or pretense, where people can jam, play around with ideas, meet new/like minded people, push the envelope, give and accept critical dialogue.
There’s no order/list of players or predetermined pieces unless someone brings along something they’d like to try. No audience as such, though occasionally there are listeners
Instruments are set up in a wide semi-circle as they would be for a band on a stage, leaving room for dancers/other activities in front. The FOH PA enclosures are angled inwards towards the players. Everyone can see and hear each other without the use of head sets.
Don’t record everything. Don’t publish everything recorded. Try to present the best of each session. Sometimes nothing makes the grade …
All recording is live. One take: Often there’s no discussion about what’s going to happen. Players will sometimes start while a long file is being saved or before record is pressed and because it’s entirely improvised, it’s not the kind of thing one can say “OK guys, start again!”. The end result is sometimes beginnings are either faded in or a reasonable starting point is found and suitably edited. Likewise with endings.
Everything is close miked (to prevent leakage) or DI’d: It’s not all amplified thru the PA/Fold Back. For example in a room of this size it’s not necessary to have drums, electric bass, electric keyboard and guitar amps thru the PA. As a consequence, the recorded sound is not the same as the live sound which is a mixture of PA and otherwise amplified and non-amplified sound and room acoustics.
What goes in: No overdubs, no samples. Everything is recorded fairly flat, with a boost to the tops on ribbon mics and some roll off on the subs to eliminate rumble. There are Triton FetHeads on ribbon mics, which combined with the Pro Channel ‘tube’ plug in gives a close proximity to the warmth of a tube preamp. Phantom power required for a FetHead cannot pass through to the microphone. MORE @ Tech Tips
What comes out in the Mix Down: Some compression on some individual channels, EQ tweek, ProChannel ‘tube’ on ribbons, reverb on vocals etc. Compression on drums, reverb for spacial positioning.
The final track is then mastered to represent the ‘sound’ of the studio, with a touch of 4 band compression, Eq tweek and final reverb. An 82a ‘sound’ is slowly evolving.
Mix down Choices: If a channel isn’t adding to what’s going on or necessary to the sound, it’s either EQ’d out or archived as a reference if someone asks “Why aren’t I in there?”
If no one asks it’s eventually deleted as are monumentally boring bits and blatantly obvious mistakes. Clicks pops etc are of course edited out.
The result is a final product with a lot less than what we started with!
All mics, DI’s first go thru: a PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 – 24 channel digital mixer and firewire to the recording computer.
Fujitsu Lifebook SH761: Processor – Intel(R) Core(TM) J7-2620M. CPU – 2.70 GHz. RAM – 8.00 GB. Operating System – 64-bit / Windows 7
At the moment recording 24 tracks @ 48,000 Hz Record Bit Depth 24
Recording Software/Daw: Sonar X2 Producer (32-Bit at the moment)
Processing: Sound Forge 10, iZotope Ozone 5.
Plugins: Sonar, Sound Forge, iZotope Ozone 5 and Variety of Sound (Warm, free and extremely nice)
From the Presonus: there’s a stereo send to a 1970 Jands JM10 12 Channel Analogue mixer to the PA FOH with a touch of reverb added via a Digitec DSP128 processor. Talkback and other non-recorded signals go thru this desk to the PA and Fold Back.
In this ‘close’ situation the FOH is fold back at the front & the Fold Back is fold back at the back :-)
The PA/FOH: 2 x 15″ JBL reflex enclosures & 2 x JBL 2425J HF compression drivers, powered by a Behringer iNUKE NU3000 – Stereo 880 Watts per side, so they say. Because it’s a small space/venue the FOH also acts as a foldback for vocals and acoustic instruments, no guitar amps, bass, keyboards or drums. This is quite adequate for the players and an audience, not that there is an audience at the sessions.
Fold Back System: 2 x 12″ x 2 way enclosures powered by an Amcron Micro-Tech 1200 – Stereo 480 Watts per side. The two speakers are set either side and to the rear of the players at head height (I don’t have wedges yet! If someone has any laying around they’d like to donate, lemme know).
Fold back carries a raw signal from the Presonus, no reverb or effects. Mono vocals & acoustic instruments and a slight touch of keyboards & guitar amps to their opposite sides of the band setup so everyone can hear each other. There’s also a small powered mono monitor for the drummer carrying vocals and acoustic instruments. (if the drummer can’t hear themselves, they’re playing too ^&%$#@ loud! :-)
Gain for FOH & Fold Back is set: just below feedback, then taken down a notch. It’s fat and hot, even if I do say so myself.
Quite often have to show mic shy ‘singers’ how to ‘make love’ to a mic, it is after all an intricate part of their ‘instrument’.
(More about mic technique and muscle memory exercises for singers/players/performers in a later article)
Drum Kit: The house kit on a mobile drum riser, permanently close miked.
Cymbals 2 x (Matched Pair) Rode NT55 positioned overhead by about 1/3 of a mtr.
Kick drum 1 x Sennheiser e602-II.
Main snare is a 1930’s Premiere double snare 2 x SM57 one on top, one underneath close to the snare).
Tom Toms 3 x SM57.
Timbalis & Drouyn Marching Snare share 1 x SM57.
HiHat and Piccolo snare share 1 x SM57.
The drums are not damped. So we get a full range of tonality which can be EQ’d out and compressed in the mix. Tonality can’t be put in in the mix because if it ain’t there, it simply ain’t there! However it’s easy to make drums sound like cardboard boxes. I have a special preset.
Congas/percussion 1 x SM57 with transformer removed.
Removing the transformer results in a better frequency response and warmer sound. The gain drops significantly, so it’s boosted with a Triton FetHead pre-amp. The mic is nestled in amongst the bongos and congas. Sometimes use a Sennheiser 421 for other percussion (
Another is More are on my must have list. They’re great)
Usually have to tell people not to play Tambourine, Cow Bell, Triangle, Afuche/Cabasa, Claves etc into the mic. A) They have unique sounds so they’ll be heard anyway and; B) they’re ‘hard surfaces’ and will overload the signal especially close to a vocal mic.
Bass: Via a DI after the musicians effects if they insist. For a normal recording situation I’d also mic the bass rig with the Shure 330 Uni-Ron Ribbon or a 1940s Electro-Voice V-1 Ribbon @ about 1/2 mtr from the cabinet, sometimes with a chunk of acoustic foam clipped to the reverse side. I prefer to play and record bass without any effects unless they’re an essential part of the live sound. With a nice clear fully tonal recording you can do anything with it. You can’t delete effects from a recorded sound and you can’t add ‘tonality’ or ‘string and finger sound’ with EQ if it wasn’t recorded in the first place. All you can do is + or – bass & treble.
For recording double bass, use their bug if they have one into one channel and another channel with an ElectroVoice V-1 about 12″ from the instrument directly in front about 6″ above the bridge, with a chunk of acoustic foam clipped to the back. Best if the instrument is far away from the kick drum, or side on at worst.
Digital Keyboard: Via a DI, again after the musicians effects if they insist.
Guitar cabinets: Vox AC30 – 1 x Fostex M88RP Flat Coil Printed Ribbon (with a chunk of acoustic foam clipped to the reverse side), Roland JC120 – 1 x 1952 Riem 230 Mignon Ribbon (same, chunk of acoustic foam), Fender Princeton DSP65 – 1 x 1960s Shure 330 Uni-Ron Ribbon ( & chunk of acoustic foam).
In a normal recording situation, I’d double mic guitar cabinets with Shure SM57s or an SM58 with the grill taken off, basically the same as an SM57 about a foot away and slightly to one side of the speaker. There’s usually not enough channels or mics available on the Sunday Sessions to double mic :-(
Sax/Brass: 1 x Sennheiser MD 421-II or an SM57 sans transformer + FetHead
In a normal recording situation for more than one brass instrument an SM315 ribbon, doubled with an Rode NT55 above the SM315 and just above head height. Players proximity to the mic is important. One step back for trumpet/flugelhorn, one and a half steps back for trombone. One step forward for flute. OR flute and sax/es to the front or back, trumpet/flugelhorn and trombone play to the ‘sides’ of the SM315. Do a test run
Vocals: 2 x Beyerdynamic M500 Ribbons (matched pair) thru Triton FetHead pre-amps, 1 x Sennheiser e835, 3 x Shure SM58’s.
All vocal mics have foam covers which cuts down on ‘popping’ ‘p’s, ‘b’s and the whoof of the ‘when/what/why’ and fullsome f‘s. Also makes for easy cleaning after each use.
Standard Channel List: Unless otherwise stated, plugins for the mix down are ProChannel via Sonar. No plug ins used for recording. You can’t delete effects from recorded sound.
Ch 1 Rode NT55 CymbL – Panned 17% Left – to Cymbal bus
Ch 2 Rode NT55 CymbR – Panned 17% Right – to Cymbal bus
Ch 3 Sennheiser e602-II Kick drum – Plug ins: Compressed and filtered by Sony MultiBand Dynamics via SoundForge10 – to Drums bus
Ch 4 Shure SM57 Snare Top – Sonar FXreverb – to Snare bus
Ch 5 Shure SM57 Snare Bottom – to Snare bus
Ch 6 Shure SM57 HiHat – Panned 7% Left – to Drums bus
Ch 7 Shure SM57Tom l – Panned 5% Left – to Tom tom bus
Ch 8 Shure SM57Tom 2 – to Tom tom bus
Ch 9 Shure SM57Tom 3 – Panned 12% Right – to Tom tom bus
Ch1O Shure SM57Timbali – Panned 20% Right – to Drums bus
Ch11 DI bass Post outboard gear – Panned Centre – Samson S-com compressor, ART 351 31-Band Graphic Equalizer, Digitech DSP128- Samson S-com compressor – Plug ins: Compressed and filtered Sony MultiBand Dynamics via SoundForge10 – to Drums & Bass bus
Ch12 DI Technics SX-PC15 Keyboard via Peavey KB100 – Panned 45% Left – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
Ch13 1960s Shure 330 Uni-Ron Ribbon & Triton FetHead – Panned 65% Right – Fender Princeton 65 DSP – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
Ch14 1952 Riem 230 Ribbon & Triton FetHead – Roland JC120 – Panned 15% Right – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
CH15 DI – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
Ch16 DI Acoustic Instrument – Triton FetHead Piezo PreAmp or Behringer TUBE ULTRAGAIN MIC200 Preamp – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
CH17 Shure SM57 bypassed transformer & Triton FetHead – Sax – Panned 30% Left – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
Ch18 Sennheiser e835 Lyre vocal – Pan 15% Right – to All vocals bus
Ch19 Shure SM58 Drum vocal – Pan Centre – to All vocals bus
Ch20 Beyer M500 Ribbon & Triton FetHead – vocal – Panning depends on there being other vocals – to All vocals bus
Ch21 Beyer M500 Ribbon & Triton FetHead – vocal – Panning depends on there being other vocals – to All vocals bus
Ch22 1982 Fostex M88RP Ribbon & Triton FetHead – Vox AC30C2 – Panned 65% Left – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
CH23 Shure 5M58 keyboard vocal – Panned 40% Left – to All vocals bus
Ch24 Conga Shure SM57 – Panned 50% Right – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
Ch22 Final mix down for export – tweek with SoundForge 10 via Sonar – out thru VolCheck bus
(Usually about 20 microphones in all)
Snare mix – Group EQ, compressed – to Drums
Cybals mix – Group EQ – to Drums
Tom Toms mix – Group EQ, Group Compression – to Drums
Drums – Boost and Limited via Sonar Boost11, Placement Sony reverb via SoundForge10 – to Drums & Bass
Drums and Bass – out to All instruments mix
Instruments (No Drums or bass) – to
All instruments mix – to Instrumental & Vocals mix
Vocals – to
Intrumentals & Vocals to
Master – Izotope 5. I usually mix one day, master a few days later, keeping the whole mix active in the Daw for final tweeks. Post mastering to
VolCheck – final output to …
For video – Broadcast WAV @ 48,000 x 16 bit
For CD Broadcast WAV @ 41,000 x 16 bit
For SoundCloud MP3 Lame @ 320kb/s (Lame first produces a WAV file, then converts, my setting for that WAV file is 41,000 x 24 bit)
NB: Whatever you send SoundCloud:, they first convert it to a WAV file, then render to a 128kb/s MP3 for listening. This results in artifacts. They recommend up loading a WAV file which uses up copious amounts of bandwidth for upload and download.
For best listening to the 82a Sunday Sessions: download our files from SoundCloud, you’ll get the original MP3 file @ 320kb/s or 156kb/s vbr on older recordings. More on MP3’s & Sonar
Also have: a variety of DI’s and other mics .. full list of gear
VA@82A (Virtually Acoustic):
The last hour is usually an acoustic period. Absolutely essential amplification only!
Captured at the 82a Sunday Session on the 31st May 2015
Craig Collinge electric piano, Arron Manfield sax, Benni Seidel audio edit mix,
Mono raw, recorded flat (no EQ)
Thanks to Frank Sinko
for caring for this mic before I bought it
Captured at the 82a Sunday Session on the 15th March 2015
Melanie Eden vocal, Peter Busboom guitar L, Arron Manfield flute, Benni Seidel bass. When players listen anything is possible
Recorded with Vocals and flute thru PA (recorded with 2 room mics, amps close miked – FedHead preamps)
Mixing process: Because the room is live and there’s spill, a lot is EQ’d out, leaving only what’s required to define the character of each instrument or voice. The tracks are then grouped, edited, cut down, getting rid of glaring mistakes and really boring bits before position/panning & reverb/effects on each channel if necessary and a mix down. The mixed track is copied two or three times. One copy is kept, the others are used for mastering versions. These are all kept in the one DAW file as separate tracks. A copy of the raw mix is exported as a high quality .wav file, so if the DAW file is lost or corrupted there’s still a copy of the semi finished track
Mastering: Usually left for a few days before mastering with Sound Forge 10 & iZotope Ozone 5. This is done via Sonar X2 so the mastered tracks stay in the same DAW file. Again, the mastered tracks are exported as high quality .wav files in case the DAW file is lost or corrupted.
Monitoring: 2 x Behringer Truth B2031As – 2 x Bowers & Wilkins DM12s and a Hyundai SW-HY-1010 for Subs powered by a SonyTA-1120A. (The B&W’s, Hyundai sub and Sony were found discarded in a Sydney back lane) Five different head sets … incl Sennheiser HD 595’s and AKG 701’s
Distribution: MP3 by Lame via the Sonar DAW (If you use Sonar and don’t want to pay for the Sonar MP3 encoder, the Lame script is below )
Create a “Lame” directory in C:\Program Files\Cakewalk\Shared Utilities\Lame
Place a copy of Lame.exe and Lame_enc.dll in the new directory
Load Sonar – Go Utilities/Cakwalk Ext Encoder Config. Enter the following
Friendly Name : Lame High Quality Stereo 320
Description : Lame High Quality Stereo 320 using the inbuilt “insane” preset
Lame -m s --alt-preset insane --tt "%T" --verbose --ta "%A" --ty "2015" --tc "%C" %I %O
Path : C:\Program Files\Cakewalk\Shared Utilities\Lame
Command line :
Lame -m s --alt-preset insane --tt "%T" --verbose --ta "%A" --ty "2015" --tc "%C" %I %O
*** Exports a highest quality 320Kb/s Mp3, embeds the track name, the author as ‘Contributing Artists’ and Copyright as 2015 MORE HERE ***