The purpose of this blog is to document and reflect on my involvement in the Jazz Recording session with Dave Galea and fellow musicians.
The project began in class with a pre-session management consultation, where my classmates and I organized our duties and roles for the recording session. I decided to play towards my strengths and volunteered for the roles of Live Room Organization and DAW Operation, although I would have been more than happy to take on any of the other responsibilities.
The session had began as I arrived, with all of the equipment pre-booked and a brief meet and greet with Dave Galea, Liam and I began setting up the Live Room. Our game plan was a little different than usual, we utilized both the Neve and Raven Live Rooms using the Neve studio as our hub for both rooms. It was important for us and the band to make sure that all four musicians were comfortably situated in the same room as their improvisational styles relied on discreet and instant communication, the use of individual headphone sends and talkback mic’s would have slowed down this process and eliminated the possibility for eye-to-eye contact. Dave and his bass guitar was set up in the furthest right corner of the room along with the Keyboardist on the left hand side, Toby and his guitar closer to the control room window and the drummer and his kit on the left of him. Although the space wasn’t the biggest, our live room set up made use of each an every inch of space but still managed to keep it comfortable for the musicians.
Our aims for this project was to record the cleanest possible sound with minimal bleed from other instruments especially the drums, in order to achieve this we used DI’s on the bass guitar and keyboard. The guitar amp was relocated to the Raven Live room downstairs with a line out feeding from the junction box upstairs, through the Neve console and back into Toby’s guitar pedal board. To capture the guitar amp we used a combination of an SM57 and C414 and blended those two signals together through the Neve. The only microphones used in the Neve Live room were the talkback and drum mic’s.
The session proved to be a success as we managed to track four complete songs including overdubs. Under the supervision of Guy Grey and Akshay, our experience with working with Dave Galea and his band was very smooth and efficient. Although we encountered some minimal hiccups overall I would have to say that we managed to complete the tasks set out for us and the musicians and fellow students were thoroughly satisfied with our efforts.
In my personal experience (live room operations) there were three small challenges that we faced;
In our pre-production process we wrongly assumed that the kick drum would have a sound hole in the front skin, therefore, we chose specific microphones that would compliment this mic’ing technique. As it turns out, the drum kit did NOT have a sound hole so we ran into a road block in setting up the drum kit. Alternatively, I referred to Guy to see what other options he would present us which meant that we lost 10 minutes of our set up time trying to find another solution. On the bright side, we created a drum tunnel using a small frame extending from the kick drum shell with a thick blanket covering the plate and condenser microphones, this technique sounded amazing and I manage to learn a new way to record a kick drum.
The second challenge that we faced in setting up was addressing the snare drum, due to the tight nature of this particular drum kit and the large size of the sm7B microphone, we had some difficulties maneuvering the microphone in between the Hi-Hat and snare drum skin. After a few failed attempts we decided to swap out the SM7b for the C1000 which allowed us to comfortably set up the microphone without interfering and potentially undermining the drummer’s performance.
The third challenge was setting up our room microphones, ideally, we planned to have two U87’s in a M/S configuration only a few feet in front of the drum kit. Unfortunately due to the position of musicians and the physical size of the room we couldn’t find a way to place the microphones without being in the way of the main path in the studio. In the pre-production stage we didn’t foresee this becoming a problem as we didn’t realize how much room the drum kit was going to take up, the cost of this mistake meant that we did not end up using the M/S technique. An alternative approach would have been to set up the drum kit first so that we we could move and reposition it in a way where there was adequate room for the other musicians.
In reflection, these issues were not too dramatic that we couldn’t handle them but did cost us some precious time in the setting up process. As an alternative approach in the pre-production stage, we should have developed a detailed contingency plan for these common situations so that Liam and myself would have been ready to handle them. In saying this, I learnt a lot about the importance of a contingency plan as studio sessions are bound to be problematic and back-up procedures are always helpful in minimizing risk. Another solution to these problems, specifically the kick drum, is if we had a greater understanding of what to expect in terms of instrumentation and style and types of equipment used by the musicians. In future I’ll be sure to try and get a greater understanding of the exact scope of the project and possibly meet with the artists prior to jumping in the studio with them, this may seem rather logical but I learnt that it’s always better to be prepared especially when dealing with gear and equipment I’m not too familiar with.