Even if I don’t have the ultimate resources for making an album, at least I have some equipment to record my music. It’s mainly stuff that’s co-owned with my former band members in Hanif, with who we once made a full length album on our own (click here to listen if you’re curious).
I know it’s not any high end studio inventories with loads of microphones and endless amount of channels and effects, but I know what they’re capable of, and I know how to use them. If you also add the fact that I have a quite clear view of how I want the music to sound, I think, at least from a creative point of view, this is a good start.
I wouldn’t classify myself as an audio nerd, even if I’m truly more than average interested in the art of recording music. I know what a specific microphone or instrument can do for the sound – and that the mixing can make an ordinary song a world hit. But I also know that a chain ain’t stronger than it’s weakest link. And that’s why I have focused more on getting a recording chain with an OK quality overall, rather than buying an expensive mixing console to mix an already spoiled sound recorded by cheap microphones, for instance.
However, the importance of sound quality, good music is made by stories and the expression of them. The recording equipment should be used only to support those two things – at least how I see it. In that way, my recording equipment reflects my view of the sound on my forthcoming album.
Some of my recording equipment. From left: Mbox, two SC1:s, Oktava and the ribbon mic.
The main microphone for my recordings is an Oktava MK319, a large diaphragm condenser microphone, giving a great register and a clear sound for any acoustic instrument or vocals. It doesn’t requrie any advanced mic pre-amps to sound good, and that’s a plus since my only quality preamps, the ones inside my Tascam M308 mixer, don’t have phantom power feeding.
Another great microphone, yet not that much all-round, is my ADK GR8. That’s a ribbon microphone, the very sensitive kind of microphones that would break if you dropped it once. It works good for stronger sounds, and I plan to use it for recording kick drum and might use it for electric guitar, but it also works for dobro and banjo. Ribbon mics don’t need phantom power, but the only pre-amps I have that can make it sound good are the ones in my mixer console. This sensitive opposit to the Oktava has, when used properly, much more character and warmth in its sound.
Another key to my sound is a pair of ADK SC1:s, small diaphragm condensers that I’m going to use for recording drums. And if I would have had room inside my wardrobe under the stairs, I might have used one of them as an additional microphone when recording the acoustic guitar. When recording drums, the SC1:s are ideally placed a bit away from the drums to get the stereo sound image, and to get the main character for the drum sound. When this is done with a drum set with a great acoustic sound you don’t need the close up microphones to more than stabilize the drum beat a bit.
And that’s good since I’m running out of microphones now. As mentioned I’m using the ribbon mic for kick drum, and the Oktava isn’t ideal as a close up drum mic. The close ups should be robust and capable to pick up fast sounds with high transients without ending up in distortion. That’s why I’m using a Sure SM58 as a close up for the snare drum. The SM58, which is a dynamic rough worker and maybe the most sold microphone in the world, is an outstanding mic for live music. It is designed to perform on a high level even under treatment of unforced rockstar violence. When it comes to studio recordings The SM58 has a good reputation around the world and you can find it (or its thinner brother, the SM57) in most studios, in front of a guitar amp. So don’t be surprised if you find it in front of my VOX AC30 amplifier as well when time comes for that,
The recording itself is done digitally. I have two soundcards with generally the same technique inside. One is an Mbox, with two channels simultaneous in/out channels. It is the first generation of Mboxes that was released by Digidesign some ten to fifteen years ago. It’s easy to use because of the usb power supply, few buttons and light weight. The other sound card is also by Digidesign: a Digi002 in rack version. It has eight simultaneous in and outs (scalable up to 18 in/outs with extra AD/DA converters), and connects to the computer through firewire. That card is perfect for drums, and for mixing.
Both sound cards fuction as keys for the hardware lock on Protools LEv8, the sequenser application to receive and process my music in my computer. I use two computers, mainly a ten years old mac book pro an a stationary power mac G5 in the same age, both operated with OSX 10.6 something. Yet again, I’m trying to keep the links in the chain on the same level. The sound cards, the computers and operative systems are pretty much the same age. They work well together and digitalzes the music registered from my OK microphones into 24 bits and a 48k sample rate ones and zeros.
What more? If I should have missed something, I’m sure the stuff somehow will end up in this blog, sooner or later. Otherwise, just ask me if you’re curious.