Permanent Revolution - Guitar and Bass Tracking Reflection
The plan to do a full day work each Saturday to cover the main sections of the recording has gone very well Saturday 3rd of June scratch tracks done, Saturday 10th of June Drum tracking done and now Saturday 17th of June Guitar and Bass done. The band were confident they could replicate their live sound quickly in stages and our production team were confident we could capture that vibe efficiently.
The Set Up So for this session, I arrived early and after going for a walk around the markets I made my way back to SAE at 8:50 to find Paul waiting with his gear. Kaab came down and let us in a bit early just to load our stuff in, by the time we had got up the stairs Jaxon was there right on time and Jimmy was just behind him with all his gear.
Once we were all loaded in the boys from the band went for a walk to grab a coffee while Jaxon and I set up. By this time we had checked our phones and seen the msg from Adam saying he wasn’t coming because he was sick, fair enough the show go on. So we moved the drums out of the live room and into the console room to minimise any vibrations or resonance. (we always do this). Then we moved the table to the far end of the room and set the amp (Marshall Twin MG) up on it to get it off the floor due to the increased lower frequencies and undesired muddy effect of having an amp directly on a carpeted floor.
Jaxon got the DAW and deck ready to go while I set up the microphones on the amp. I did make a mistake and plugged the top and bottom C414s for the distant blumlein the wrong way round. I realised this when we were recording and I was looking back at the project plan. so it has been amended to state 3 Bottom, 4 Top. You can actually tell the difference by looking at the waveform. I think in retrospect Left and Right or top and bottom were the wrong adjectives to use because what’s really important is if it is front facing or side facing. Panning can be decided later during the mixing and even though I pictured Bottom front facing and top side facing that may not have been clear to someone else with the same sheet.
Jimmy brought the head unit for his bass cab (Gallen Kruger 700rb) and Jaxon was inspecting it. Since it had an input and a direct output we decided to use it instead of the DI. This allowed us to capture the EQ settings and the tone of the preamp on the way in. We ran it through the desk, through the DBX Compressor and then back into a new channel on the desk. We sent both signals into ProTools capturing the compressed and uncompressed signal.
The Sound Check Once the boys had returned it was time to get the right sound, so as Jimmy played his bass we got the setting on the compressor to sound tight and give some kick to the bass sound. We recorded a bit and he came in to have a listen. We all still liked the sound of the compressed bass a lot more than the uncompressed but the 2 signals together sounded even better, so we may mix it with a blend of the 2 (Parallel Compression). As soon as Paul started playing his guitar (which was quite loud) We received a knock on the door from Patrick Duck who was in the midi studio trying to record a whisper for a sample in a track, he asked if we could just give him 10 minutes and then we were fine to make as much noise as we wanted so we all went for a quick break and came back ready to go.
Jaxon and I listened to the reference tracks quickly to get a feel for how we wanted the guitar to sound. When Paul started playing our first reaction was that we loved the sound but when we checked the mics one by one the 2 C414’s sounded great but off axis SM57 sounded a little bit muddy. I ran in and moved it back less than an inch and it sounded heaps better, so much better that now the on axis one didn’t sound as good. I went back in and moved that back so they were equal distance back. Yes! Now they both sounded great, we compared the 2 SM57’s to the guitar sound on the scratch tracks (which the band were all really happy with) and it was pretty spot on. So the SM57s already have the sound we want and the C414’s are just adding a slight amount of natural reverb and some extra bite. Once we were all happy with the sound it was time to start tracking
The Tracking By 11:30 we were ready to go a bit later than we planned but with one less pair of hands and a break it’s pretty reasonable. After a few false starts on the tracking to get the headphone levels just right and then we were off. For the most part, the boys smashed it. Most of the songs were done in 1-4 takes. Something more was the one we got stuck on and it took a bit of work to get that sounding just right. It was a newer song in their set which they haven’t actually played live yet so it makes sense it would be a bit harder to nail it. But for the record, it’s my favourite song of theirs.
At the end of Pat's session, he came in to check out what we were doing and hung out with us for a bit. He was a positive guy to have around and a little while after he left Simon Audus popped in for a bit and it was quite helpful to have another pair of ears around. James (Drums also arrived around this time, it was great to have him there to be involved it the critical side of it and also for him to see how it was coming along.
The Pack Down By the end of the day, Paul and Jimmy were exhausted but we did finish tracking bass and guitar for all 10 songs. Jaxon zeroed the desk and saved everything while I very quickly packed things down. The boys did the same and were out in a flash. We had everything back the Tech team with time to spare but just had to wait until the last minute for the files to finish saving onto my external hard drive. Jaxon and I spent half an hour outside chatting and procrastinating the inevitable trip home, before parting ways.
In Conclusion The session went quite well, if but a bit rushed. We did set goals within quite a tight framework. We all put ourselves under a lot of pressure to get it done. While this may not have been necessary I think it was really good practice for real world recording scenarios, where bands just want to come in on a certain budget and capture their live sound. Everyone involved worked hard and we got it done. We will be tracking Vocals on Wednesday the 21st of June and will still need one more session to add some Gang Vocals and Backing Vocals the following week.