Category: Chris M.

Day 25: Repetitions

At the start of my internship, I thought the most frustrating part of the internship would be listening to the same song over and over again. Although it seemed to be that way at the beginning, I have grown use to listening to the same song on repeat. After a while, I’ve learned to find new things to listen for every time around. Today was a great example of how often you have to listen to a song over and over.

The same band that has been in for two weeks continued recording today. The singer for the band came into do vocal overdubs. The band was past recording music, as all of the instruments sounded up to par, but the vocals still needed work. For the past couple of weeks, I have been listening to the same set of songs on repeat, and especially so when recording the vocals. I didn’t have a problem with having the same song repeated, and I managed to enjoy the song every time around.

In the afternoon, a guitarist came into the studio record a guitar solo for a song, and that was the important thing on his agenda. To record about 15 or so seconds of a song, we took an hour to get the solo right. There were a lot of takes made, and it took a while to finally get it right.

Today just showed how the recording process is just a matter of repetitions.

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Day 24: Tune Up

We started the day by recording some vocal overdubs. A singer from a local folk band came into the studio to fix the vocals from a live performance. The band is set to put out a live album soon, but the vocals sounded off. We took three takes, and added them all into the song. The singer was recorded in three different spots in the recording area in order to imitate the live sound again. We only worked on one song, and with that, the first part of the day was finished.

In the afternoon, the guitarist and bassist from the band we’ve been working with came into the studio to continue their work on recording overdubs. The bassist, however, was only there for moral support, and did not record any bass lines.

The problems with the original takes was that the guitar came out of tune in the middle of the songs. There were a lot of tuning problems with a couple of guitars, but we eventually found one that didn’t have any immediate problems with tuning. Once the guitar was tuned, we were able to get a lot more progress on recording music.

Today was a day full of recording, and full of great music once again. It was definitely a busy day.

Day 23: More Guitar

The same band from last week continued to work on recording their songs. The last time, only the rhythm guitarist recorded overdubs to his parts. Today, the lead guitarist recorded his parts. The new rhythm sections were placed into the mix, and so he was able to continue working over the newest stuff.

To create a similar effect on his guitar as the rhythm, the guitar amplifier was mic’d up in the same fashion, with two SM-57 microphones facing away from each other on either speaker. The guitarist preferred to work out in the recording area instead of back in the control room. He was using a Fender Stratocaster guitar, and used different effects on his guitar to contrast the rhythm guitar.

We were able to record the lead guitar on about four or five songs. The bassist did not come into record any overdubs, so at this point, all that is fixed up is the guitar parts and the drums for the most part.

The songs all sounded great with louder guitars and better takes of everything. It took a long time to get everything right, but so far, the guitar tracks for this band are sounding great, and I’m excited to see what other recordings are in store for the future.

Day 22: Take Two

The guitarist from the band that recorded last week came into the studio today to finish recording his guitar parts. He wasn’t happy with the way that the guitar sounded on the recording last week, and so he came in today to redo those recordings for all of the songs.

He sat in the control room, while the guitar amplifier was out in the recording area. His amplifier had a setting in which it could produce a stereo image sound, and so to enhance that through the recording, we set up two SM-57 microphones on both amp speakers and had them facing away from each other to get a unique sound out of both.

Over the course of the day, we were able to record a lot, and the sound of the guitar was better than what it had been before. About four or five songs got the improvements today. There would be a lot of moments when the guitarist had to redo a part because either he knew he could do better, or he knew he just messed up.

The songs were greatly improved by the new sounds, and he and his other bandmates should be in tomorrow to do the same for their instruments. They may even completely redo a whole song if they decide their take isn’t perfect. It just goes to show that even though a song is recorded, there may need to be a second look at it to make it sound the way it’s supposed to sound.

Day 21: Making Music is a Process

When a song is recorded, it is not the end of the process. Today was a great example of that. The day was spent doing the mixing process over again, but I got to experience this process from a different perspective than I have before.

Last week, I was there at the studio for when a band wanted to record a pedal steel guitar into a few of their songs. Today, we worked on those songs, making sure that all of the levels of the steel guitar weren’t too overpowering.

It was an interesting experience mixing today. I still had the tune of the song stuck in my mind, and I knew how the song was supposed to sound, more or less. Usually, when I am there to witness the mixing of a song, it’s to mix a song that I have never heard before.

I know that once a song is recorded, it’s not the end, but I have come to realize that from a different point of view now that I have witnessed the process of recording to mixing first hand.

At the end of the day, four songs were mixed, and the beginnings of an album were made, as all of the songs set to be on the record were finalized just before being mastered.

Day 20: Problems in Recording

Today was another late start, and the same band came into the studio to record. Everything was still set up from yesterday, so there was no need to spend any time worrying about microphones or anything like that. The drummer didn’t like the original sound of his snare drum, so he brought in three more to find out what kind of a sound he wanted. We tried out all three snare drums, and finally found one that worked.

When we were finally ready to record, the guitarist turned on his amplifier, and that’s where the problem began. The amplifier made a buzzing sound that was almost as loud as his guitar, making it nearly impossible to record a good sound from that. We spent a while trying to figure out what the problem was, but could not figure it out. Unplugging and plugging in different cords did not seem to help, so instead of using the amp, we bypassed it and recorded directly into the recording console.

Once the problem was fixed, we were able to begin recording, and we got a nice sound from what we had, despite all of the problems with the guitar.

Here are better pictures of the chaos that is all of the cords and mics involved in recording just the drums and guitar.

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Day 19: A Late Start

Today, I came into the studio at 1pm. A band was scheduled to record in the afternoon, making it my second full band session. The band consisted of a guitarist, bassist, and drummer. I helped bring in the drum kit from the van and set up all of the instruments, and we were ready to record.

Most of the time was spent setting up everything. It took about an hour or so to get everything perfectly where it needed to be. It was no fault of the band, or anyone in particular. Setting up this kind of project just takes a lot of effort, especially when the band wants the recording to be done in a specific way.

Recording this band was a little more complicated than usual. Instead of wanting to all play together in the same room, they wanted to isolate each instrument in order to get a more clear sound from each. The drummer was in the usual recording spot, the bassist was in an isolation room, and the guitarist/vocalist was in the control room.

Another slight complication was the amount of microphones used to record the band. To record the drums, we used ten microphones to record every piece of the drum kit. We used about thirteen microphones in total, and there were cords everywhere.

The band was loud, and they were great. It was a lot of fun setting up all of the microphones, and working with another band.

This is what all of the microphones on the drums looked like.

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Day 18: New Instruments

Today was a normal recording session. There was a musician who had recorded earlier for another band in the studio. He was recording for someone else today. Instead of playing the guitar like last time, he played the pedal steel guitar, which has an interesting sound of its own. The music was similar to that of the bluegrass/roots genre.

We recorded over three songs, and took an average of three or so takes each song. All of the pedal steel guitar was improvised, and so we just had to pick and choose from the best takes to put it into the song, wherever it sounds best. The session took until midway through the afternoon, just about a few hours to get everything sounding the way it’s supposed to.

Once all of the recording was done, we spent the rest of the day mixing the newly recording sounds into the song itself, making sure that the levels of the steel guitar weren’t too high or too low at certain points in the song.

It was a busy day overall, but it was a good way to start out the week.

Day 17: Microphones

When I entered the studio today, there was already a recording in process. This wasn’t a typical recording session this time, though. We weren’t recording a band or a musician. Instead, we were recording a writer reading aloud his short story. He is scheduled to be on the PBS radio show “This American Life” this Saturday. We recorded his reading for almost four hours straight, without any stopping. The producers of the show wanted the recording to be sent to them completely unedited, so the laptop was recording for almost all of the day without any interruption. The recording of the story had to be very quiet, and we even had to restart a sentence because a jet flew over just as he was reading. 

When he was done recording, we had another session soon after. An artist who has frequented the studio ever since I have started came in today to record guitar overdubs. Jim gave me more freedom than usual today. He told me to pick out what kind of microphone to use, which channel on the recording console to plug it into, and where to put the microphone with respect to the amplifier.

I chose the Shure SM57 microphone to record his guitar, and plugged it into channel 8 of the recording console. I set up the microphone pretty close to the amplifier, and we started recording. The recording of the music sounded pretty good, so I guess I did an alright job in setting up the microphone by myself.

Day 16: Mixing and Diversity

A different musician came in today, but not to record. He came in today to watch the mixing process on his songs. His music was primarily electronic music, so I got to see how a different genre affects how we mix the song.

We worked on a total of six songs over the course of the day. Mixing electronic music is different from the music that I have usually seen in that there is much more attention to detail when it comes to mixing electronic music. Generally speaking, there is a lot more open spaces for effects to come in and out of the song. Each synthesizer or drum track needs to come out every now and then, and the song needs to fill the space by being in a more stereo sounding setting.

The mixing process, while at times tedious because of how long it takes to work on a song, turned out to be a great learning experience. The lesson I got from this, on top of learning how to mix electronic music, is that different genres require different techniques.

While it sounds intuitive, it’s often lost in what defines a genre. Yes, different instruments, or different tones, or different tempos, all affect what kind of genre a song is, but with that comes how a song or album is treated.

Here is what mixing looked like.

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