Ok, here’s a posting for those of you out there who want some behind the scenes recording info. I’ve been doing it long enough to forget how interesting it can be. Practically everything today is done digitally, because it’s so darn easy.
Audiophiles can tell you how cold and flat and dead digital recording sounds, but with the right gear and ears, it doesn’t have to sound that way. Plus, the mind blasting advances of the last decade allow you to do most of what the million dollar studios of the 70s and 80s could do, but now it costs less than $2k and fits in a backpack (not counting mic stands).
We bought my setup about 4 years ago (172.4 in computer years) largely to be able to do remote recording, in particular for a trip to Hungary. It’s a Mac laptop (iBook G-4), with maxed-out memory (barely enough these days) and an updated hard-drive (always full!). I’m running the new Logic Studio (8.0), which my computer is hanging on to by its fingernails, so to speak, but hey, it does the job.
I’m also using an M-Audio Firewire 1814 interface (8 ins, 4 outs), which converts sound into 1s and 0s and puts them nicely on my hard-drive, and a Mackie 1202 mixer, largely for its preamps, which sound better than they have a right to. I’ve got a Shure KSM 27 large diaphragm condenser microphone and an M-Audio Luna mic which I use for stereo imaging on guitars, plus a couple of SM58s. It’s basically enough to record guitars, strings and perc, which conveniently is all I’m recording.
The heavy lifting of the studio world is vocals, and I’m happy to defer to an amazing professional for that, namely Mike Demus. It’s unfair that $5000 worth of mic and mic pre sound so good, but that’s reality for you. Add to that years and years of expertise with compression, reverb, delay and eq, plus a pair of golden ears and a musical genius between them and you have a compelling reason to spend some money with Mike.
Anyway, so yesterday I packed my rig into a couple of backpacks and headed to Javier’s to record the percussion tracks for Time Machine #13. It takes about 30 minutes to set up the ‘studio,’ which is everything you see in the picture plus mics, stands, cords and headphones.
The first thing to record was Javi’s wooden djembe. We ran through the song a couple of times to make sure Javi could hear everything, talked about the feel of the song, then recorded a pretty good take. Javi wanted to do another one, and even though I thought it was just fine, I figured what’s another 4 minutes? I’m glad we did, because that was THE take. Amazing. We added some shaker and a layer of ‘the box,’ a groovy cube shaped perc piece that sounds a bit like a snare drum that Javi sits on and plays with his hands, and then we were done! Two hours total with set-up and tear down.
All that’s left on that one is glockenspiel and vocals, so depending on Mike’s schedule, we could have it done in a week. We’ll let you know when it’s finished!