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Recording a band "live" using 8 tracks or less...

Discussion in 'Recording' started by BioFlava, Jun 11, 2016.

  1. BioFlava

    BioFlava Active Member

    Hi folks,

    I'm an audio geek in my 40s. I have a bit of training and experience with recording bands, but I'm coming back to recording after a long hiatus.

    Here's my situation and questions...
    • I'm in a rock trio (I play bass with a drummer and guitarist) and we want to record our band in a rented house over a long weekend. We play rock covers (Beatles, Grateful Dead, Pixies, Radiohead) and some originals. I will be engineer, tape op and musician.
    • Given this, I want to create a simple, but high fidelity setup to capture our band "live" while we bash out our set and jam.
    • I'm thinking of renting or buying a set of Earthworks omni drum mics (http://www.earthworksaudio.com/microphones/drumkit-series-2/dk25r/) instead of going the "close mic every drum" approach--and then hanging a Sennheiser e609 on the guitar amp and going direct on the bass.
    • My goal is to keep the track count reasonable (8 or less) to make recording, playback and mixing relatively easy.
    • I'm not worried about bleed--as long as the overall recording sounds phase coherent and "good" (which to me means warm and organic over isolated and pure).
    • I'm not planning to do much post-recording effects processing beyond compression and EQ.
      • Does anyone have experience with this style of recording?
        • I'm particularly interested in folks who have used a simple approach to drum micing--does the three-mic style work? Any tips?
        • Is there any benefit to placing baffles between the drum mics and the rest of the band or if I go live, just go live?
        • Or, is there a way I can place the mics so that the bleed is coherent?
        • Should I compress anything as I record?
        • Will Logic running on a fast Mac PowerBook be able to record a 1-hour set w/o drop outs?
    Thanks for any thoughts here!

  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome.

    I love recording a band live like that, but there are limitations to what you can accomplish in the scenario you're describing. It's a matter of what trade-offs you're going to be comfortable with.

    I'm getting ready to head out the door, but I do have some quick follow-up questions that will help us help you.

    Have you been to the rental house before, do you have any idea what the room sounds like? (relative to how well the 3-mic style will work)

    Is the thought of everyone using headphones a possibility, or out of the question? (relative to how well the 3-mic style will work and gobos / baffles)

    OR, do you intend to have the guitar and bass amps blaring in the same room with the drums? A small PA or monitor wedges for the vocals? (relative to how well the 3-mic style will work and gobos / baffles)

    The 3-mic technique can absolutely work, but by definition it leaves those mics wide open to everything else in the room (for better or worse).

    I know you said you'd run the bass direct, but that doesn't exclude using an amp, so I'm just looking for clarification. Will you be using a bass amp too? Even if the bass is through a DI, putting an amp in the room with the drums, or anywhere in the house for that matter, is going to inevitably bleed into the drum mics.

    Do you intend to keep this truly 100% "live", and never go back and fix a bum-note on any one instrument to save an otherwise perfect take? How much bleed you have will become a factor immediately when you go back to fix one bad vocal/guitar/bass note and find the bad note still indelibly printed on the drum tracks. (Those Earthworks mic will hear EVERYTHING).

    When I'm recording into a DAW, like Logic in your case, I rarely apply any compression during the tracking unless there are special circumstances.

    What will you be using for an interface between the mics and the Mac? Your results may vary, but I've recorded numerous live shows with 24 tracks via Firewire from a PreSonus StudioLive into an MBP for hours on end using Capture without any problems at all. Your interface, computer speed, RAM, hard-drive speed, available space, & file fragmentation will all be important factors.

    I guess the last thing that I'd want to know is, what your expectations are with the finished recording.

    OK, that's some food for thought. I'm out the door. I'll look forward to your reply.
  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I love recording live. Here's how I'd handle it. I'll leave some suggested mics, for illustration. I will say that earthworks have always left a lot to be desired with drum kits imho. They're better suited for classical, or acoustic testing, again imho. The ones I'll suggest are usually available for rent, or borrow.

    Stereo overheads- in xy (coincident pair) (large diaphragm condensers in cardiod are my first choice. AKG 414s are nice, u87ai works well too.) (if small diaphragm condesner is your choice the shure sm81 is nice). I like LDC because it picks up the meat of the kick and snare as well, which can be quite beneficial considering the OH is most of a drum kits sound in general. This leaves the option to filter things out if you need/want to later. SDC don't offer this option since they won't pick up as much of the full audio spectrum of the kit.

    Kick- close mic w dynamic, AKG, sennheisser, make nice dedicated kick mics. The sm-57 is capable of recording kicks, and the sennheisser md421 does well too, with a bit more meat than 57s. . If your brave, a Neumann 87 kicks butt In this role.

    Snare- 57 close. Lots of people use audix i6, but I like the 57 much better in this role.

    Guitar- close mic Sm57 or sennheisser 906. The 609 really isn't the same quality level of the other two, and I think isn't a good choice. Imo.

    Bass- sm57, AKG d112, or sennheisser kick mic, or md421.

    I'd also split the guitar signal, so I can take a DI clean into the daw. This is for both creative and technical reasons.
    ditto for DI on the bass, which most amps offer.

    Bleed is subjective, and really only good as long as the room is good, or interesting. Close mics aren't gonna pick up much bleed, that said I'll usually toss a blanket over the amp, just to get a clean signal to the mic. And bleed Into an amps close mic is going to be out of phase, and not pleasent. This still allows the guitarist to hear and feel his own amp.

    I also toss a blanket over the kick/mic, since this is another area where bleed isn't usually good, or necessary.

    With this configuration there's not a big reason to use baffles around the kit, and often there's some cool sounds that develop within the room. When it comes to mix, drum replacement/reinforcement is easily accomplished with things like drumagog, so recoridng with bleed and openness isn't really a compromise.

    It's a good idea to record a few kick and snare single shots, in case you need samples of the actual kit as micd. Don't wait till the end like a lot of guys would, do it in the beginning when the drums are tuned and the heads still crisp.

    So that's how I do it, in general when it's a situation where the band is all in one room. It keeps track counts low, gives no compromise in flexibility for the mix, and helps capture the irreplaceable vibe of air moving in the room. It doesn't have to be technically 'good' air, 'interesting' is just as cool.

    If you have the opportunity and extra mic and channel, you could also toss up a single or pair of room/ambient mics, for fun. It could be a pleasent surprise, or something that never makes the final cut, but could even be useful for momentary swells, or for effect, ala super compressed room. Or gated verb.

  4. BioFlava

    BioFlava Active Member

    Hey guys -- thanks for your comments and thoughts. To answer some of your Q's...
    • We will probably play live w/o headphones and thus probably have bass and guitar amps in the same room as the drums.
    • So, yes, we will have significant bleed and do not not intend to punch in to fix any clams.
    • The only thing we won't do in the initial takes is record vocals; possibly might overdub some solos too.
    kmetal likes this.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Man what a nice little studio. I haven't looked back since I've used the "aim mic at wall" technique. It works amazingly if you do that technique in an adjacent hallway. You adjust the reverb time by how open the door is. The more open the door the less the reverb tail. The more you close the door, the longer the reverb tail. Essentially balance the direct sound, vs ambient reflections, with the doorway.
  7. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I've gotten pretty good results with X-Y plus kick. And this was live in the sense of live on stage with an audience, amps at performance volume and no goboes.

    You could go without isolation but that takes away a lot of options. Sometimes committing up front is good, but I tend to like options. I would tent the guitar amp, go direct with the bass and use headphones.
    kmetal likes this.
  8. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    How about the nature of the rental house, and the room you see yourself setting up in?
    Have you been there before, are you familiar with its sonic qualities?
    And what interface, or digital mixer, do you have to work with as your front-end?
    What's your goal? (A retail-ready album? A good demo? Doing it just for the fun of it?)
  9. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Clever acoustic mic techniques for drums sound great in an excellent sounding room, with the other players in a different room. If you use these acoustic techniques in the room with the guitars, then lack of separation will wreck it. So you have drums, bass and guitar and 8 tracks max to record. Do you have to waste 3 on vocals, or are all for D,B and G? With 5 channels for the drums - kick snare O/H with a couple for toms. With limited channels, my preference is not to have stereo OHs.
  10. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Those are excellent questions, and the answers will probably determine the best approach more than any other factors.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Lots of records - particularly from a few of the bands you mentioned - were done using 8 tracks or less.

    You may want to consider trying the Glyn Johns drum mic technique...

    Sean G and kmetal like this.
  12. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Still haven't gotten around to trying this technique going to have to use it sometime. Although it was news to me about opening up the mic 10 DB more and pulling the Fader down. Very interesting. I wonder if this applies to both digital and analog.
  13. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    If you ask me :
    1. BD
    2. SN
    3. OV
    4. OV
    5. Bass
    6. Guitar
    7. Second mic on guitar cab or acoustic or bac vocal
    8. Lead Vocal
    For the overhead, it's tricky since the bleeding will be high. I'd use space pair or x/y
    If you could have GOBOs or a couch to have a bit of seperation between players, it migh help.

    Another option is to close mic the drum and record it through a Group bus on a mixer
    kmetal likes this.
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    1 mic.

    Sean G and kmetal like this.
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Yup, the mic should be first and foremost, ears to the capture. Pretty simple when you think about that.

    Good post Kurt.
  16. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    If the room is pretty live gobos won't really help much. Every instrument will still get into every mic. Gobos in a dead room would work fairly well on non-bass stuff.

    The best option is what I mentioned above, tent the guitar amp, run bass direct and use headphones. If you're not going to use headphones just remember that if the drummer can hear the guitar clearly so can the overheads.
    pcrecord likes this.
  17. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Here's an example of a tented amp that I've recently recorded. There's an AC30 in there set to normal stage volume and yet it's almost inaudible in the overhead mics. I'll try to post samples of this exact setup. The bass rig is off and he's going direct.

    recording session tented amp.jpg
    kmetal and Sean G like this.
  18. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    A mics null point(s) are just as important as what is facing. A tight patterned mic like a 441, or even regular cardiod like a 57 does wonders reducing off axis gunk.
  19. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

  20. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    heres one from my old bands demo.


    .wav (16/44.1) might take a min to load

    Recorded live in an unfinished basement, to Tascam 34 reel to reel. Vocals overdubbed in the basement w a 57, into the art. We surrounded the drummer with aurelex pamels glued to pegboard which i made. Ditto for vocals.

    We used a nady kick mic, 57 on snare, 414 oh. Kick and oh thru an art pro vla. All thru mackie Vlz mixer. Drums sub mixed (thru mackie) to 1 track, guitar track 2, bass 3. 57 on guitar (jcm 900). Bass (ampeg Svt 3 pro) micd w at 3035. Crappy bass due to my crappy playing and tone.

    Among the problems with this recording, bleed isn't one of them. IMHO anyway. Setup was guitar off to the side like in boulders pic, bass on other side of kit.

    We mixed in DP7 at the studio. No other overdubs on this one.

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