The Drum Tracking for Permanent Revolution went really well. I feel as though we all worked together and fell into our roles much better with this session. We achieved exactly what we set out to and worked better as a team than last week.
Here is the ammended input list
The Set Up
I arrived early for a 9 am start and got everything turned on. The drummer James was there soon after, Jaxon and Adam were not far behind. I handed everyone a copy of the production plan, they both went into the console room, Adam played Jaxon some Sex Pistols (for a drum reference), they got the desk and DAW ready while I started to set up in the live room. With Mathew no longer involved we all chipped in to cover the live room engineer role (which for a large job like micing up drums we probably all would have anyway). So as James set his Drums up, we got all the mics attached to stands ready to patch in. We did consider where the best position for the drums would be, Jaxon suggested the spot that we set up based on previous experience in that room. Once we set up we had a good listen to the drums in the room and all agreed they sounded pretty good. We were set up by 10:30 by which point Paul (Singer/guitarist had arrived)
The Sound Check
We checked the drums one by one for gain and overall tone and colour. We moved the Mic on the Bass Drum Beater side to minimise the sound of the pedal creaking and we flipped the phase on the Bass Drum Front, which tightened the sound up. The snare had quite an annoying ring to it we moved the bottom mic horizontally inward towards the centre which cut the ring and gave us a really nice dry rattle from the snare. We moved the top mic upward and slightly inwards which got a bit less of the ring and a bit more of the smack. When combined together they sounded pretty good. We checked the phase and they did not need to be flipped. The Floor Tom sounded great just how it was. The Tom sounded a bit boomy and was coming in really hot even with the gain down really low, it was pretty close to the drum and just sliding it back in the clip a little bit made a big difference to the tone and the volume. The Overhead sounded great and was very similar to The Sex Pistols - Nevermind the bollocks which I was listening to in the car on the way in. When we played all the drums together there was no noticeable phasing. I feel the Royer R121 Ribbon darkened the sound of the symbols and had a great distant sound of the whole kit. And when that was blended with the prominent Bass, Snare and Floor Tom. I did consider top and bottom on the Floor Tom also but I think for the genre we didn’t want too much of the residual boom if we were recording a metal band I definitely would have miced the toms top and bottom and I look forward to doing this in the future. But for this project, we did what was appropriate for the genre. We were ready to start tracking by 11:30
Once we were ready to track we started recording we did one take and the both the Bass Drum mics were coming in a lot hotter that the sound check after the first take I turned them down a bit. Jaxon was very concerned that I had altered the tone coming in. He advised against blindly touching anything without listening to it, But I believe all he heard was a change in amplitude and not in tone because when I pulled the faders up it sounded exactly the same. I stand by bringing the gain pot down because recording it into ProTools at -4db is not an option and even though I just touched the pot blindly it was then coming in at -15db which is much safer. I have learnt from that though and I do think he had a point. If you are going to move a gain pot, do it while the sound is coming in, so you can hear the sound as you adjust it. I should have said “can you just play the start of the song for a minute so I can check the levels and then adjusted it as he was playing. To be even fairer I should have stepped back and let Adam adjust it as he was the designated desk engineer. It’s just one of those reactionary things.
Jaxon did an absolutely fantastic job operating the DAW and was 100% on the ball with all elements of DAW management. He made sure we were monitoring the headphone send by actually putting on a set of headphones and checking what the artist was getting rather than just soloing the headphones through the speaker. I believe this is definitely the way to do it.
After the first good take on the first song ProTools randomly shut down, we lost the take and had to do it again. Establishing the fact that we should hit Command-S as often as possible. Thankfully he nailed it after that. James was an absolute champion who not only smashed out great takes but was critical of his own takes. Everyone in the room listened closely to the takes to ensure we got tight drum takes to build the songs on. It can be tricky for everyone to stay 100% focused on this but we were pretty honest if we’d got distracted and would listen back and check the takes thoroughly. The whole production team have a good sense of rhythm and we were all drumming along on the desk to ensure the timing was on point. I was glad we had Paul there for his feedback on the vibe the takes had. We progressed through the songs relatively quickly and we had tracked tight, sturdy drums for 10 songs by 3:30.
The Pack Down
We all chipped in and packed down with no rush or pressure, casually having a chat because we knew we had achieved our goals for the day. The vibe was positive and celebratory.
I think overall everything went extremely well, The band and production team alike showed a high level of professionalism and work ethic. We all worked hard and we got it done. There was still a lot learnt I always learn a lot from Jaxon when I work with him because he thinks a level deeper about sound. He seemed concerned about us not closely checking the reference track against what we had coming into the desk. I felt that we had a goal of how we wanted it to sound and we got a sound that we all liked, (band members included). We did agree to listen closely to some tracks next week to get the Guitar and Bass tone just right.
I feel that the main area we could improve as a group would be to communicate a bit better and to stick to our roles. I am very keen for next week's session.