Bass & Drums with The Callum Chenowyth Band

I spent today recording drums and bass with the Callum Chenowyth Band for an upcoming album. The band had recorded guide tracks in their home studio and brought stereo music mixes to import into Pro tools. 

Tom, the drummer set up his Pearl Reference kit. It sounded great in the room right away so we started to set up microphones. The bass drum had an interesting configuration of ports - there were 3 small holes rather than one large one. Usually I like to get the mic inside the drum quite close to the beater but with the smaller hole it wasn't possible. I angled a Sennheiser 421 up inside pointing to where the beater makes contact with the batter head. It actually sounded great right off the bat running through the Neve 8024 channel strip. I boosted a little at 50Hz and cut a little at 300Hz et voila! 

We ended up with SE RN17's as overheads in a spaced pair, SM57 snare top and Beyerdynamic M201 on snare bottom. AGK 414's went on the toms with the Audix D6 on the outside of the kick.

For the room microphones I've been using a mid-side stereo pair. Today we used the Peluso 2247 in figure 8 mode for the sides and a Shure KSM141 as the 'mid'. The advantage of this technique is that there are no phase issues between the mics and you can vary the width of the stereo image by blending more or less of the side mic into the mix.


Ways to skin a cat... ***

...or, how are we going to record this thing?

As the title of this post suggests there are a few different ways to go about recording a song. 

  • The band records all instruments and vocals together in one take. Song finished, ready to mix!
  • The band records each part one-by-one, usually starting with the drummer recording to a click track. Each successive part (bass, guitar, vox, keys, etc.) is then recorded as an overdub.

The reality is that in most cases the process will be a hybrid of these two methods. I would say that the majority of bands I work with would record drums, bass, guitars and a scratch vocal** at the same time. They will do anywhere between one and ten takes of the song and then choose the best one. The idea is that this gives the song an energy that is not present when using the overdub method. With that said, I have no prejudice against working instrument by instrument; in some cases it may serve the song better to work this way, as it allows every player the ability to focus in on each of their parts.

Once these basic takes are completed we will then go back and overdub other parts, including the final vocal. We may also fix small inconsistencies in the basic takes with 'drop ins'.

At Everland we have the capacity to record drums, bass, two guitars, keys and a scratch vocal at the same time. 

Call us and come in to see the studio and we'll work out the best way for you to record.

**This is not a reference to the aforementioned cat, a scratch vocal is a place-holder vocal used to cue other musicians and is re-recorded towards the end of the process.

***No cats were harmed in the writing of this post

Tick, tick, tick... Do we have to use a click track?

In a word... no. The use of a click track during the recording process is entirely optional and should be decided in terms of what best serves the performance of each song. Some songs may benefit from a metronomic feel, while others will need the natural push and pull of a band playing 'free time'. 

Another thing to bear in mind is that some drummers are entirely comfortable playing with a click while others have never done it before. The recording studio is definitely not the place to learn this skill but it is a very useful ability to have, so I would encourage all drummers to practice playing to a metronome at least some of the time.

It's worth discussing this and other aspects of the session beforehand, so feel free to call or email and we'll be happy to talk about the logistics of the recording process and make recommendations as to the best approach for your band.

Do you do mastering?

One of the most common question I get asked is, "Can you mix and master our music?"

The answer is: "Yes, I can definitely mix your music, but I don't do mastering."

"Why is that?", I hear you ask.

Well, there's a few reasons:

1. Mixing and mastering are two separate but equally important aspects of creating a polished, professional sound and both mixing and mastering engineers spend years learning and perfecting their craft. Perhaps this is not the perfect analogy, but think of your song as a photo. The choice of camera, lenses, location, lighting and subject, along with the actual photo shoot are analogous to the recording process. The development of the photo in the dark room would be the mixing phase. Mastering is taking that photo and giving it to someone who is highly skilled with photoshop to put the finishing touches on it!

2. The mastering engineer should always bring a fresh set of ears to the song/project. The mix engineer will likely have spent 8 or more hours listening to each song while mixing it. It's almost impossible to then take that song and master it; you simply don't have the distance and fresh perspective required. It also begs the question, if a mixing engineer offers to master your song and they hear a tonal imbalance as they are mastering, why did they not fix it in mixing stage?

3. Mastering should always be done in a different room to mixing. This is because no matter how much acoustic treatment a room has, it will always have some slight imperfections in frequency response. Having your mix mastered in a different room will highlight any minor frequency issues within the mix and allow the mastering engineer to correct these with EQ.

So, the upshot is this: Always be suspicious of anyone who tells you that they can mix AND master your music. In my mind they obviously do not have a clear understanding of the processes involved.

Anyone can throw a brick-wall limiter on your tracks and make them LOUD, and hey, if that's all you need then I'm happy to do that for you… just please don't call it mastering!