Help! Trying to make a practice recording

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?
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ElephantDNA
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Help! Trying to make a practice recording

Post by ElephantDNA » Mon Apr 12, 2021 1:43 pm

I'm trying to make just a live practice recording and it's been pretty tough. I think I'm capturing pretty much what I can with what I've got - a bunch of 57s and a pretty basic mixer. It's a very small room and I have limited inputs. It might just be an expectations vs reality thing I need to bring up with my bandmates - it's not abby road here I have limited tools. But these are some of the issues I'm running into with the live recording. Wondering if there is anything obvious I'm overlooking here.

Drums: I have basically the option of doing GJ technique or some close miking. Drummer wasn't happy with overhead (not enough snare) but is also unhappy that when we switched to close mics we're getting some phasing on cymbals. I might just have to speak up and tell him that you kind of can have one or the other. There's some amount of phasing issues built in to this live practice type of recording. To be honest I don't care that much about phasing though maybe that's my detriment. It's just not something I think is reasonable to expect to get it completely out of a practice recording.

This one I think I can solve with some different mic placements perhaps.

Vocals: complaint is too thin

I think I can do something here as well. I'm going to try and double track the vocals with a couple of different mics and then probably end up squashing it a bit more than I have been (been using 2:1 and small amount of reverb).

Bass: more presence

This is a bit tough. My bass player is insanely loud, so he will just blow out a close mic like crazy. Plus we've been doing this live in room so I've been placing more room mics anyways to pick up everything. This one I think best course is going to be to close mic the cab and just be very aware of levels and clipping. And maybe ask him to turn down.

Anyways here's my plan: Instead of trying to capture guitar live, I'll expend all my mics on drums/bass for the live part of the recording. This should allow me to get my 4 inputs as: snare, kick, overhead for drums and a close mic on bass. Then I'll overdub my guitar part instead of trying to capture it live. And then try and get the singer to double his vocal takes on a couple of different mics and I can play with the compression to fatten it up as much as I can without making it sound crazy.

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jorri
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Re: Help! Trying to make a practice recording

Post by jorri » Mon Apr 12, 2021 2:52 pm

Couple of suggestions. By no means perfect, but came out with a good live thing a while back. But it was a 12 track so i think the guitar overdub (or bass?) suggestion is essential and you can still play along live for 'cues'.

-the bassist really just needs to turn down. This is problem of monitoring (get everyone on headphones even if a cheap cable splitter) and you can't really use the same levels as a live performance as a recording. Similarly too on stage and if instruments go through the PA that could equally be an issue to live engineers but they'd ensure that the audience could hear it and a similar approach in order. Second option is just going for a D.I. as bass is so often recorded now, then you'd basically have a drum recording as the only 'room recording' but that may be the way to go.

In some ways a guitar will interact with the room/bleed better but i expect there's no easy way to monitor bass without recording it with limited inputs. Finding another mixer to run into the mixer?

-Glyn Jones is good. Some variations exist as well, like recorderman which forgoes toms a little. I can guess you may be using measurements but they are still somewhat adaptable if you try varying the distance. For a modern sound i'd say its a bear minimum for backing them up with kick and snare.

-if you can baffle between instruments even if its a spare piece of furniture in this instance, do it!

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Re: Help! Trying to make a practice recording

Post by ElephantDNA » Mon Apr 12, 2021 4:10 pm

jorri wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 2:52 pm
Couple of suggestions. By no means perfect, but came out with a good live thing a while back. But it was a 12 track so i think the guitar overdub (or bass?) suggestion is essential and you can still play along live for 'cues'.

-the bassist really just needs to turn down. This is problem of monitoring (get everyone on headphones even if a cheap cable splitter) and you can't really use the same levels as a live performance as a recording. Similarly too on stage and if instruments go through the PA that could equally be an issue to live engineers but they'd ensure that the audience could hear it and a similar approach in order. Second option is just going for a D.I. as bass is so often recorded now, then you'd basically have a drum recording as the only 'room recording' but that may be the way to go.

In some ways a guitar will interact with the room/bleed better but i expect there's no easy way to monitor bass without recording it with limited inputs. Finding another mixer to run into the mixer?

-Glyn Jones is good. Some variations exist as well, like recorderman which forgoes toms a little. I can guess you may be using measurements but they are still somewhat adaptable if you try varying the distance. For a modern sound i'd say its a bear minimum for backing them up with kick and snare.

-if you can baffle between instruments even if its a spare piece of furniture in this instance, do it!
That's pretty good advice. Yeah I think he needs to turn down. I haven't tried DI-ing it yet but that very well could be a better solution than mic for sure. At the other end of the spectrum I think I also might just be too nice. If I were an engineer on this project I would suggest a bunch of changes but since I'm a bandmate I'm a bit hesitant. Like, if I was just producing/engineering this I would say you turn down, you need to deal with the fact that a tiny practice space has phasing and you need to sing louder. But I don't want to frazzle nerves. I think you're ultimately right though. I know all of those things will lead to a better recording, so I probably just need to bring it up that way.

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Re: Help! Trying to make a practice recording

Post by Severed Hand » Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:11 pm

You could record his bass and and run a DI then blend the two tracks.

Listen to the Glynn Johns tape op podcast he explains his technique and it’s way less technical then led to believe.

Less mics helps with phasing and keep an eye on placement as this is the most important aspect of live recording and reducing phase.

I’d do three drum mics one mono over head, snare and kick. Maybe a fourth if you want stereo overheads.

For guitars I’d stick a 57 in front of the best sounding speaker in the cabs you’re using and call it a day. I’d close mic them. Maybe use sound blankets if you want less bleed.

A good room mic that I don’t hear getting a lot of love are those realistic PZM microphones which are a cheap alternative to a room mic. You can also tape a 58 to the floor which is something Albini does more or less and play around with placement in room

Vocals you could tape two microphones together add a single slap back delay with a short repeat and short decay with a dry microphone and essentially beef the vocal up. Or try a bit of compression with a longer attack and shorter ratio to give the vocal consistency.

And lastly is the room treated? A few pieces of foam could help with unwanted reflections and buildup of bass frequencies that are creeping into your recording.

I think it helps to pay close attention to the sweet spots of said instruments. Try to figure out what your microphones patterns are. Think about what the mic sees and where the source sounds best.

Also a lot depends on your bands style too are you a loud rock band? Americana, Metal, shoegaze?

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Re: Help! Trying to make a practice recording

Post by ElephantDNA » Tue Apr 13, 2021 8:03 am

Severed Hand wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:11 pm
You could record his bass and and run a DI then blend the two tracks.

Listen to the Glynn Johns tape op podcast he explains his technique and it’s way less technical then led to believe.

Less mics helps with phasing and keep an eye on placement as this is the most important aspect of live recording and reducing phase.

I’d do three drum mics one mono over head, snare and kick. Maybe a fourth if you want stereo overheads.

For guitars I’d stick a 57 in front of the best sounding speaker in the cabs you’re using and call it a day. I’d close mic them. Maybe use sound blankets if you want less bleed.

A good room mic that I don’t hear getting a lot of love are those realistic PZM microphones which are a cheap alternative to a room mic. You can also tape a 58 to the floor which is something Albini does more or less and play around with placement in room

Vocals you could tape two microphones together add a single slap back delay with a short repeat and short decay with a dry microphone and essentially beef the vocal up. Or try a bit of compression with a longer attack and shorter ratio to give the vocal consistency.

And lastly is the room treated? A few pieces of foam could help with unwanted reflections and buildup of bass frequencies that are creeping into your recording.

I think it helps to pay close attention to the sweet spots of said instruments. Try to figure out what your microphones patterns are. Think about what the mic sees and where the source sounds best.

Also a lot depends on your bands style too are you a loud rock band? Americana, Metal, shoegaze?
It's kind of 80's punk it's pretty loud. It's funny I've been using that floor technique and it confuses the hell out of my band members. PZM is interesting certainly something to look into. We just moved to a new practice room, so I don't have a lot of experience with this room. Our old room was treated really well when we got it and I didn't have a lot of bleed/phase issues there. This room has a high ceiling and more bare walls, so likely some amount of treatment would help. We just moved in recently though, so I haven't had a chance to really hear what it sounds like. Just some first stabs at recording over the weekend. The high ceiling will be a challenge I think though so the close mics seem like a good idea.

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Re: Help! Trying to make a practice recording

Post by DeathJag » Tue Apr 13, 2021 8:31 am

If, in an alternate reality, you only used a nice stereo pair of room mics like Neumann or Schoeps, placed in the best spot - would the bass overpower everyone? If so, he must turn down, period.

For practice recording in a non-ideal room, I recommend starting without any mics, just your earplugged ears. Everyone adjust their levels to the drums. In a punk band that’s plenty loud. Make levels so that one can stand in the “sweet spot” and hear everyone. You really can’t skip this step.

Once the room has a decent mix, make everyone stand where they want to in order to hear what they want. Don’t change amp setting for this. Now you stand a chance with a stereo room mic. I have a pair of Schoeps but I also really like the much cheaper AT 825.

Once you have that, a “decent room mix,” you can start adding your 57s close to where they are needed. Kick is better with a bigger diaphragm than a 57. Shure beta 52a is a great one. Drum mics work excellent to close mic bass and guitar cabs. The AKG D112 sounds awesome on my 215 guitar cabs. I do not think a 57 will work well for a bass cab. (You will never get Minor Threat or Adolescents Blue sound from any practice, but you might get Flipper.)

Glyn Johns sounds just brilliant, but those mics will also pick up your room like crazy. In my opinion that mic setup works best without other instruments in the room.

Baffles between drums and cabs are great, but can also ruin the experience. You can spend time changing the “reflections” of the room, but I like sound bouncing off stuff.

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Re: Help! Trying to make a practice recording

Post by ElephantDNA » Tue Apr 13, 2021 3:14 pm

DeathJag wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 8:31 am
If, in an alternate reality, you only used a nice stereo pair of room mics like Neumann or Schoeps, placed in the best spot - would the bass overpower everyone? If so, he must turn down, period.

For practice recording in a non-ideal room, I recommend starting without any mics, just your earplugged ears. Everyone adjust their levels to the drums. In a punk band that’s plenty loud. Make levels so that one can stand in the “sweet spot” and hear everyone. You really can’t skip this step.

Once the room has a decent mix, make everyone stand where they want to in order to hear what they want. Don’t change amp setting for this. Now you stand a chance with a stereo room mic. I have a pair of Schoeps but I also really like the much cheaper AT 825.

Once you have that, a “decent room mix,” you can start adding your 57s close to where they are needed. Kick is better with a bigger diaphragm than a 57. Shure beta 52a is a great one. Drum mics work excellent to close mic bass and guitar cabs. The AKG D112 sounds awesome on my 215 guitar cabs. I do not think a 57 will work well for a bass cab. (You will never get Minor Threat or Adolescents Blue sound from any practice, but you might get Flipper.)

Glyn Johns sounds just brilliant, but those mics will also pick up your room like crazy. In my opinion that mic setup works best without other instruments in the room.

Baffles between drums and cabs are great, but can also ruin the experience. You can spend time changing the “reflections” of the room, but I like sound bouncing off stuff.
I think you're right on all of that. Very good points for sure and definitely a good approach/option. Probably will try some of that this weekend.

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Re: Help! Trying to make a practice recording

Post by marqueemoon » Tue Apr 13, 2021 8:33 pm

What's the goal of the recording? Is it just for your own reference or for putting out into the world in some form?

Nothing wrong with overdubbing stuff if you want to get good isolation and minimize phase problems if your timing is good (I assume not tracking to a click here). For a release of some kind that may be the way to go.

For basic reference recordings I like to keep things simple. In our new practice space what this is probably going to look like is:

kick mic
mono drum overhead placed as low as the drummer can stand (will also capture bleed from the room/help glue everything together)
direct bass (via an amp sim pedal or speaker sim output of amp head)
close mics on amps
feed from the vocal PA (a little room is gonna bleed in here too)

Hopefully that will make it easy enough to quickly set levels for going live to 2 track and minimize phase problems. Since these are just reference recordings I don't really want the "homework" of mixing them just to have something shareable.

If people are too loud tell them to turn down/chill out. You are going to have the same problem at a venue.

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