Week 5 – Mic’ing Drums

This week we were taught how to Mic up a Drum kit, making several different recordings using different Mic’s in the same placement to give us a close up comparison.

We used the Neumann’s for the overheads again, but they were set at totally different angles than we had practiced before. One looking down from above on the Snare and Hi-Hat (right) and one looking across, much lower down (left) each set equidistant to the Snare/Hi-Hat. For the Hi-Hat we also used the AKG 414 set to Omni-Directional looking down towards it. Heres a couple of photos that show this…

Notice the Neumann at the back/middle just above the Floor Tom

Here you can see the Neumann looking down on the Snare/Hi-Hat and the AKG looking at the Hi-Hat

For the Snare, we use two Omni-Directional Mic’s (DPA’s), each set 3/4 of an inch (ish) from the skin (or whatever you think sounds good) – one above, one below, phase reversing the lower Mic. Heres a photo of the setup.

The two DPA's setup for the Snare

 

 

We also used the Sennheiser again for the Kick, but this time, it was place just inside the hole at the back of the Drum.

 

After recording some of Jonno on the Drums, we tried different Mic’s out for the Snare so we could compare them to see which one we preferred. We used the AKG 414, the AKG 421, the Sennheiser 57, the SHURE SM57 and the Neumann

The 414 on the Snare...

The SM57...

...And The Sennheiser (with no name...)

 

After analysing the different Snare recordings, I think the best results came from the two DPA’s. It seemed to sound more crisp than any of the others by quite a long shot. We were told that with s Directional Mic, if it is too close to the sound source emphasises the low end frequencies, where an Omni directional Mic won’t do that because of its Polarity. I don’t know if that was the reason for better results or not, but it seemed to do the job.

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First Studio Szechuan

This week I has my first studio session where we recorded stuff for my first piece. I was in the studio with the 3 Andies; Andy Crowe, Andy Hosker and Andy Bucklaw. We recorded 2 takes of Andy C playing the Acoustic Guitar and 1 take of Andy Hosker playing the Drums. We had the kit hooked  up with 2 Neumann’s (Cardioid/Condenser) as the overheads using the NOS setup, the SHURE SM57 (Dynamic) for the Snare/Hi-Hat and the Sennheiser E602 (Dynamic, with a low frequency extension) for the Kick stuck right in close to the skin. Below are some pictures I took of the Mic setup for the Kit.

The Neumann NOS setup for the Overheads

The SHURE SM57 for the Snare/Hit-Hat

The Sennheiser E602 used for the Kick

I did want to try the MS (Mid-Side) setup to record the Guitar, but unfortunately we were a little strapped for time, so we tried the XY setup, which came up with some pretty nice results (in my opinion). These are some photos of Andy C playing the Guitar with the XY Mic setup.

The XY Mic setup for Guitar

A (staged) action photo for good measure

This is a picture of the Patch Bay where we had the 4 Mic’s (for Kit) fed back from the (Drum Room (name?)) to the Studio, the 2 Mic’s (for Guitar) from the Chill Room fed back to the studio, the 2 Headphone outputs patched to the same rooms and the Talkback Channel.

The Patch Bay

Results

Overall I was quite happy with the first proper recording session in the studio. Im definitely still getting a feel for just how long it takes to set everything up even with the help of the Andies (thanks v. much again for the help by the way). I will definitely be consciously trying to speed things up so we have more time for the actual recording!

So, we got two takes down of the Guitar part, which sounded quite crisp with the XY setup and 1 take of the Drums, which sounded OK. I will definitely be recording the Drums again, mainly because everything was so rushed when we did it, we didn’t have time to perfect it. Another problem we came across was that with the Guitar part, Andy makes a percussive hit on the body of the Guitar, which made the recording clip, which was on take 1. Unfortunately, after we reduced it even more for take 2, Andy wasn’t totally pleased with the way he played, so we will record that again in our next session when we have a bit more time and everything won’t be so rushed.

Week 4: DI to Mic – Phil Spector

This week we learnt about a recording technique by Phil Spector. It involves DI’ing the Guitar into the ISA 828 Pre-Amp, sending the signal through to the Chill Room, playing it through a Guitar Amp and then picking up the signal with a Mic at a chosen distance away from that. Below is a screenshot that shows the different hitpoints of the audio being picked up from the mic’s that were placed infront of the Guitar Amp. Below that is a picture I took of an array of different Mic’s that we placed infront of the Guitar Amp. This screen shot shows the entry points of the audio to the different mic’s.


This is the Limiter Plug-In which we used on the Master Fader. We will use this on the master fader, putting the ceiling to 0.2 db and adjusting the threshold appropriately.

This is the Sample Delay (Time Adjuster) Plug-In that we used to sync the tracks. We had to highlight the area from the start of the track to the actual hitpoint of the audio, which gave us the length of silence (in samples) that we had to put into the Sample Delay (Time Adjuster). Now the tracks are effectively in Phase.

This is a screenshot of the High-Pass filter that we put on the appropriate Mic track.

This is the Amp Farm Plug-In that we messed around with to get some crazy sounds out of the Guitar. Very cool.

This is another one of the many Guitar Plug-Ins (The SansAmp).

Week 3: Mic Techniques – NOS and MS (Mid-Side)

This week we covered another two different Stereo Mic techniques, NOS (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting) and MS (Mid-Side). The first technique I will be explaining is NOS. NOS is a Dutch technique that uses two Cardioid Mic’s spaced 30 cm apart on the horizontal axis, each pointing at a 45 degree angle outwards toward the sound source/instrument being recorded. In this example, we used the Neumann’s. Below is an image of the NOS setup. Sorry about the quality of some of these pictures, they’re a bit shabby.

The NOS Mic Setup

Note: XY and NOS are good techniques for recording self balancing acoustic groups. It wouldn’t really be a suitable technique for recording vocals due to the fact that there are two Mic’s picking up the vocal signal. The mouth of the vocalist is always susceptible to marginal movement whilst recording, which, if using this stereo technique could create unwanted acoustical changes in timbre due to the positioning of the Mic’s. This is why Mono Mic-ing techniques are better for recording vocals. Another thing to note is that if we were to put the Mic’s closer together at a 20 cm spacing, this would be called ‘DIN’.

This next bit explains how to perform the MS-Matrix Setup.

The MS (Mid-Side) technique uses two Mic’s, one (Cardioid) pointed straight at the sound source and one (Bi-directional – figure of eight) below it at a 90 degree angle creating a stereo image. The bottom Mic can be moved up or down (either physically, or by turning down the fader) to adjust the Stereo Wideness. Below are images of the MS Matrix Setup.

 

The MS Setup From The Left Hand Side

 

 

The MS Setup Straight On

 

It is a little bit more tricky to setup on the software, but here goes… First you need to open two New Mono Audio Tracks and one New Mono Auxiliary Input Track. Name the first Audio Track ‘Mid’ (this is the forward facing Cardioid) and make sure it is panned centrally. Name the second Audio Track ‘Side Positive’ and pan it maximum left. We now need to relay the signal back through to the Aux Track with a Bus, which will be named ‘Side Negative’ and panned maximum right to give a phase reversal. I will show how to do this a bit further on. Here are a couple of images that visually explains the spectral analysis of the audio to be picked up and how the signals flows from one channel to the next.

 

 

MS Matrix Spectral Analysis Diagram

 

 

MS Matrix Signal Flow Diagram

 

Now to relay the signal from the 2nd Audio Track to the Aux Track, we need to select a (Mono) Bus number in the ‘Sends’ section of Track 2. Now that signal has been sent, we need the Aux channel to pick it up. So, in the ‘Input’ section (of the Aux Track), select the appropriate Bus number from which we just assigned the signal. Here is a screen shot of the MS-matrix faders setup.

Next, on the ‘Inserts’ section for the Aux Track, select the TDM EQ 3-1 Plug-In and select the ‘Reverse Phase’ button. Now the Aux Channel is set 180 degrees out of phase to Channel 2. Here is a screen shot of the EQ 3-1 Plug-In.

Next, open the Bus fader for Channel 2 and make sure the fader is set to 0 db and that the ‘PRE’ button is selected. Why u ask? I don’t know, but do it anyway. Here is a screenshot that shows this.

Next we need to group our Channel 2 (Side Pos) and our Aux Channel (Side Neg) together so when we adjust the faders, they move simultaneously. To do this just select both Tracks and press ‘Cmd-G’. The Group will appear in the left hand side of the main project window. Here we can rename the Groups (‘Side’ in this case) and change attributes relating to that particular Group.

For the Plug-In delay compensation engine, goto the ‘Setup’ Menu > ‘Playback Engine’ and in the drop down menu where it has none, short and long delay times, select short.

Another useful thing we used was the ‘PhaseScope’ Plug-In, and with this on the Master Out fader, we can visually analyse/monitor the soundfield. When the signal is just showin up on a narrow vertical axis, that means that it is ‘Mono’. If the signal is showing up in circular array, equally out to the left and right the signal is ‘Stereo’. Also, (in this case) there is a bar with the range of numbers -1 to +1 (left to right). When the signal show 0 to +1, it is in phase. If the signal shows 0 to -1, it is out of phase.

Check Check

This week I was in the studio with Jules, Andy Bucklaw and Andy Hosker. It was just a test run to get used to setting stuff up. To be honest I didn’t actually do a great deal, I just followed their lead. They are a lot more clued up than I am with working in a studio, whereas I am a studio virgin! This is a picture of the AKG 414’s setup in the X-Y stereo position that learnt about in class.


This is another version of the X-Y Stereo, but with the Neumann’s instead.

This is a picture of Jules playin into the Shure SM57

This time we tried recording with both techniques and mixing them down together.

Week 1/2: Types of Mic’s, Mic techniques – AB and XY

The Dynamic Mic

Has a moving coil in a permanent magnet. The diaphragm is attatched to the coil, and when it moves it produces varying currents through electromagnetic induction. The construction of Dynamic Mic’s are quite simple, which makes them rugged and inexpensive and they dont require external power. The rugged heavy construction also makes them more ‘forgicing’ with less resolution. Most common applications are live – especially on vocals, drums and amplifiers.

SHURE SM57 Dynamic Mic

 

The Condenser Mic

A condenser microphone consists of a capacitor, where one side is the diaphragm and the other is the back plate which is polarized either from an external power source or by prepolarization. As the diaphragm moves it changes the capacitance, and these changes are then amplified to make a transmittable signal.

All condenser mics need external power (referred to as phantom power) to energize the internal electronics. They produce a sound signal of a much higher quality than the dynamic mikes, but they are more expensive, and a little more fragile to use, however newer technology has made them far more resistant to rough use, and the use of condensers in live applications is on the rise.

Cross-Section of a Condenser Mic

AT4060 Condenser Mic

 

Note: Some text above was adapted from the DPA Mic University Website

 

MIC POLARITY

The Omnidirectional Mic – is ‘non-directional’, it pics up sound from an equal spectrum in every direction regardless of where the sound source is in relation to the Mic.

 

The Cardioid – is a directional Microphone if you like. It pics up sound in a heart-shaped sound field, hence the name – Cardioid.

 

The Heart Shaped Sound-Field Pickup

 

 

Bi-Directional – is has a figure of 8 poly-directional sound-field pic-up.

 

This is a diagram showing some other Mic Polarity Patterns (with the Mic facing the top of the page in this Diagram)

 

MIC TECHNIQUES: A-B Stereo

The A-B technique uses two Omni-Directional Mic’s set equidistant apart with a Mic Spacer. The farther apart they are the greater the Stereo Image received. Note: if the Mic’s are too far apart they will fall out of phase. Obviously if they closer they are the narrower the stereo image. A-B is good for recording groups of Instruments because of the character of its polarity. Note: Filters may be required to take off some of the unwanted background noise that is picked up due to the fact that it is recording sound in every direction. (60Hz cutoff and 14K cutoff)

 

 

MIC TECHNIQUES: X-Y Stereo

The X-Y technique is usually a close Mic-ing technique that uses two Cardioid Mic’s set Coincidentally to each other (at the same point). The most common implement of this technique uses two Cardioids set 90 degrees adjacent creating a Stereo image. They can however, be set up at opening angles upto 180 degrees, which changes the recording angle and stereo spread.

 

Start of Year 2: Studio Recording Module

So, its the second year now and we are starting the Studio Recording module where we will be learning about using lots of different Mic recording techniques and track mastering. I am very interested in learning about this because it is something I will be doing a lot of in the future. I am pretty chuffed about the studio that we have to work in, mainly because I only found out that we had one about a month ago! Not sure how I managed to miss that. Wally. We will be using Pro Tools, which is an extremely powerful sequencing program primarily designed for high standard Studio Recording. It has some Genelec monitors, a huge patch bay, two Focusrite ISA 828 Pre-Amps a Command 8 Mixer and a load of other knobs and buttons to play with. Here is a picture of the Control Room.

ASSESSMENT GUIDELINES

We will be undertaking two Productions in this module. Here are the guidelines:

The First Task – 30%

This is a ‘dry’ task that demonstrates appropriate mic placement and basic studio competence. We will make a Band Recording ‘free of stylistic constraints’, it will be a recording of 2-6 minutes of any genre and may be an original composition or a cover. It must include Drums, Bass, Guitar/Piano and Vocals. We may also include Woodwind, Brass, Strings, Percussion and Synths. All the Instruments use are to be Mic’d, in addition, Guitar and Bas may be D.I. (Direct Inject).

Mastering/Treatment – We are allowed to use :

>High Pass Filter

>Sample Delay (time adjuster)

>Compression

>Sidechaining

>Limiting (on the master fader)

Note:

The mix output must not clip prior to limiting.

Limit the track to 0.2db

Use of no other Effects or EQ

The Second Task – 40%

The purpose of this task is to borrow present and/or past production techniques in creating our own original production pastiche. It will be a NEW band recording of 2-6 mins (any genre) including Bass, Guitar/Piano, Vocals, it should include at least one of the follow: Woodwind, Brass, Strings, Percussion or Synths.

Mastering/Treatment – We are allowed to use:

>eq, compression, effects, elastic audio manipulation, sample delay (time adjuster), sidechaining, limiting (on any track, aux input (including a sub-mix) and the master fader)

With the exception of bass and guitar, which may be D.I., all instruments must be Mic’d, although this production need not be of a ‘performance’ ie. it could include ‘sampling sessions’, in which case, evidence of the original recording must be provided (as a ‘muted’ track/s).

(To clarify, you could for example, record individual drums and cymbals, then programme a drum track, or trigger drum sounds by midi.)

NB:  The mix output must not clip prior to limiting.

Limit to -0.2dBs

We may focus on one approach ie, using several techniques of one producer, or combine a variety of techniques, for example, sample drums, then ‘send’ them to the recital hall and record the hall’s natural reverb.

Here are some recommended names of producers for us to study/imitate: Phil Spector, George Martin, Brian Eno, Frank Zappa, Trent Resnore and John Leckie.

Blog – 30%

We must also keep running this blog recording plans and progress, photographs and screenshots of various aspects of the mix.