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 a few large 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 mirrors and the roof or perhaps because of it and the various drapes, props and materials around, the room has a nice acoustic quality to it
Not hard, not too live, not dead, no echo and an almost imperceptible reverberation
The primary purpose of the sessions isn’t recording. It’s a pressure free 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. It can accommodate and there have been up to 15 players, more at a pinch
There’s no order/list of players or predetermined pieces on the day unless someone brings along something they’d like to try. No audience as such, though occasionally there are listeners
Instruments are set up across one side of the room 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.
Because recording isn’t the primary aim, not everything is recorded and not everything recorded is published. Try to present the best of each session. Sometimes for a variety of reasons nothing makes the grade …
All recording at the sessions is one take: Often there’s no discussion about what’s going to happen. Players will sometimes start while a large 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. Some improvisations have extended to an hour!
Everything is close miked: (to prevent live leakage) or DI’d. 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
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 can’t 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 tracks are edited then mixed down and mastered, with a touch of 4 band compression, EQ tweek and final reverb. Since October 2015 the ‘sound’ of the room has been captured using two (2 x STC 4021s)
Editing & mix down Choices: If a track isn’t adding to what’s going on, necessary to the sound or for whatever reason isn’t up to scratch it’s archived as a reference for anyone who 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, hum etc are of course edited or EQ’d out
The final product has a lot less than what we started with!
All mics and 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.
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. In such a small space the FOH with a touch of reverb 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.
Fold Back System: 1 x dBTechnologies Opera Biamped 15″ wedge for brass and vocals. 1 x ElectroVoice FM-12C wedge for the drummer. 2 x 12″ x 2 way enclosures powered by an Amcron Micro-Tech 1200 – Stereo 480 Watts per side. The two 12″ speakers are set either side and to the rear of the players at head height
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. The monitor for the drummer carries vocals, acoustic instruments and a touch of the other amplified 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 is on a 10″ mobile drum riser, permanently close miked (great minds think alike :-).
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). There is also 1 x Dixon Piccolo Snare and 1 x Drouyn 12″ Double Snare
Tom Toms 3 x SM57.
HiHat 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 Sennheiser 421
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’ that overload the mic signal
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 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 place flute and sax/es to the front or back, with trumpet/flugelhorn and trombone playing slightly to the ‘sides’ of the SM315. Do test runs to find the optimal positioning
Vocals: In this live situation 2 x Beyerdynamic M500 Ribbons (matched pair) thru Triton FetHead pre-amps, 1 x Sennheiser e835, 3 x Shure SM58’s. If recording vocals separately I’d use ribbons as a first choice
Again, in this live situation, 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. Otherwise I’d use ribbon mics with pop screens. Other tips for reducing popping
Finally & a recent addition
The Room Mics
2 x STC 4021 Apple and Biscuit
Suspended midway between floor and ceiling, about 1/3rd of the room apart
Slight boost to tops and bottom end and slight compression, no other effects.
Mixed in as a ‘dry’ stereo track to the mastered track to give it a unique, actual ‘room’ or ’82a signature’ sound.
Standard Channel List In Sonar X2 Producer: 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 Multi Band 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
Ch10 Sennheiser MD421 U – Congas/Timbalis/percussion – Panned 45% Right – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
Ch11 DI bass Post outboard gear – Panned Centre – Samson S-com compressor, ART 351 31-Band Graphic Equalizer, Digitech DSP128, Samson S-com compressor – Output plug ins: Compressed and filtered with Sony Multi Band Dynamics via SoundForge10 – to Drums & Bass bus
Ch12 DI or other
Ch13 DI – Technics SX-PC15 Keyboard via Peavey KB100 – Panned 45% Left – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
Ch14 1960s Shure 330 Uni-Ron Ribbon & Triton FetHead – Panned 70% Right – Fender Princeton 65 DSP – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
CH15 Shure SM57 – Roland JC120 – Panned 15% Right – to Instruments bus (no drums or bass)
Ch16 1982 Fostex M88RP Ribbon & Triton FetHead – Vox AC30C2 – Panned 70% Left – 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 Shure 5M58 keyboard vocal – Panned 40% Left – to All vocals bus
CH23 (muted) STC 4021 Room mic R – to STC 4021 Room Mix bus
Ch24 (muted) STC 4021 Room mic L – to STC 4021 Room Mix bus
Ch27 Final mix down for export – tweek with SoundForge 10 via Sonar – out thru VolCheck bus
(Usually about 22 microphones in all)
Snare mix – Group EQ, compressed – to Drums
Cymbals mix – Group EQ – to Drums
Tom Toms mix – Group EQ, Group Compression – to Drums
Drums – Boost and Limited via Sonar Boost11, pre-delay 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 Instrument & Vocals mix
Vocals mix – to
Intrument mix & Vocals mix – to
Master – Izotope 5. I usually edit one day, mix the next, master a few days later, keeping the whole mix active in the Daw for final tweeks. Post mastering to Master and Room mix bus
STC 4021 Room Mix – Slight EQ and limited, no effects – to Master and Room mix bus
Master and Room mix bus – Vol Check
VolCheck – final output to …
For video – Broadcast WAV @ 48,000 x 16 bit
For CD Broadcast WAV @ 44,100 x 16 bit
For SoundCloud MP3 Lame @ 320kb/s (Lame first produces a WAV file, then converts, my setting in Lame for that WAV file is 44,100 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 – Free Lame Encoder & 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 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. I do this in Sonar X2 so the mastered tracks stay in the same DAW file as separate tracks. The mastered tracks are also 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
Lame Code for Sonar )