Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Don't read this.

Unless you're a drummer or you have a vague interest in photography.

I spent most of the weekend ensconced in a studio with Mimosa, that most funky of bands. We had finally managed to synchronise the diaries of all seven of us and the recording of our first proper demo was booked in. We had decided on the songs we would do (always useful) and we had even chosen an extra one just in case we found ourselves with some extra time. The last band practice was spent on polishing up our parts (ooeerrr Missus!) and getting as ready as we could.

On Sunday evening I left the studio with a CD in my hand. The CD had the three tracks in a rough unmixed form because the final mixing will be done this week.

Yesterday, in between sporadic bursts of the mother of all headaches, I did a lot of listening to it and a fair bit of reflection on the studio experience. I think it's a valuable asset to be able to learn from everything and I try to treat any mistake as a positive thing that I can gain from. Trust me here, you won't be interested unless you're quite into music or have a passing interest in photography, but this is what I learnt:

  • Lesson 1 - I should have been a bit more thoughtful about the mix in my headphones. After the set up it is common that the drum parts are put down first. This gives the foundation for all the others to record over. The engineer was a nice and helpful guy but I should have asked him for more drums in my mix. Headphones have to be worn so that the drummer can hear the click and I just didn't have the volume of the drums up loudly enough. The result was that I was playing very much by feel, without hearing all the nuances of exactly what I was playing. The end result was good but I think I could have made it better with that one simple modification.

  • Lesson 2 - I should have listened to my takes with a more critical ear before I said I was happy. I'm totally chuffed with two of the songs, but not so much with the third one. Of course it's the easiest one too. After a few listens to it I definitely think I could have played it better. I was a fraction behind the beat and should have played it with more urgency. I put myself under pressure as I was the first to record and there were six others waiting for me so that they could do their bits. My sense of pride made me want to get done as quickly as possible but I should have listened more carefully and asked to do the one song again.

  • Lesson 3 - I should have put new heads on my toms. Last week whilst tuning my kit I decided that the heads were just about ok for the recording session. They weren't, particularly on one tom. I should have erred the other way and replaced them anyway.

  • Lesson 4 - Have more self confidence. I'm actually a decent player! I made friends with the click and played with it rather than fought with it. So much of my practice is with a metronome that I really am ok with it. Now I have to master the art of pushing and pulling the feel whilst still playing good time.

  • Lesson 5 - I really like my new EOS 400D, but I'm not so sure about the 18-200 lens. On the Saturday I took them along and got a bit frustrated with the lens. The maximum aperture at the 200mm end is only F6.3 and that's often not enough to get a decent shutter speed, even on 1600 ISO, particularly indoors. It's a nice little all round lens, to be kept on the camera and taken out for general purpose stuff, but that's it. On the Saturday I took along my Sigma 70-200 F2.8 and the experience was totally different. The fast aperture gave me a different perspective on things and I got some decent shots of people in the studio. If you look on my flickr account you can see them, the mistiness was purely because I was shooting through a rather grubby window.

Those were the lessons I learnt. All good, all positive and I am really proud of the results.

Oh yeah, we've got a gig tonight, come and have a listen if you're free.


Theena said...

How much time did you have for the recording session?

Sounds like you had fun though and thats the most important thing. Upload the tracks once you've mastered it, man.

Weird coincidence that you posted about your recording session because I was just reading Jack Endino's website on recording techniques. Like most producers he seems to have a headache micing the drums.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Theena - We had all weekend to get the parts down and the final mixing is going to be done soon. It's a 7 piece band, lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, sax and trumpet so we are quite pleased to have got it all down in 2 days. I'll get you a copy of it once it's complete. I suspect it's not your type of music, but I'd like you to hear it.