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We've been fortunate enough to be able to rent a Ceriatone head and cabinet to be used for Season 6. This is a Malaysian-made guitar amp, and is centered around a DIY culture. It's a custom tube amp with a great sound. 

Close-miked with a Shure SM57, on-axis and slightly off of the center.

On a couple of acts, we also used the Audio Technica AT2020 instead of the SM57.

 

Gear gear gear

02/28/2012

 
For The Wknd Sessions season 6, we're fortunate to have some of our own gear. It's a big step up from the past seasons, where a lot of the equipment was rented/borrowed. It definitely feels much better when you know the equipment you're working with.

Here's a breakdown of the stuff we used:

Recording backline
Microphones
So far, the results are pretty impressive. The Focusrite interfaces performed flawlessly and was a godsend in terms of monitoring and routing options. The Beta 52A gave me an awesome punchy kick tone, and the AT2020s surpassed all expectations as a vocal mic (I was pretty blown away by what it could do).

Wishlist for next season: in-ear monitors for the performers.
 
 
Today we recorded six acts in total, and at the end of it I think season 6 will carry the most diverse range of acts to date. Definitely something worth watching out for.

We had two acts today that tested our gear to its limits - all 16 channels were used and the dynamic nature of the music they played meant a lot of problems with the monitors. Tried hard to minimize the bleed from monitors to the mics, but sometimes there's a tradeoff between getting a good sonic signal and getting a good performance. At the end of the day, The Wknd Sessions is visual first and foremost. Which means we sometimes have to bend over backwards to make sure the artists can perform well.

Also had a chance encounter with a Roland Space Echo (but forgot to snap a photo, drat!) from sometime around 1973. That's a unit that was built close to 40 years ago. FORTY YEARS! Back then, things were definitely built to last.

I also had the chance to mic up a fantastic Marshall stack using our Audio Technica AT2020. That mic is built to withstand up to 144dB SPL so it was a good mic choice. Will write about that particular experience in another post later.

All in all, over the the course of the weekend we capture a grand total of thirty songs from ten acts. That's enough material to release THREE albums. Now begins the exciting part - mixdown.
 
 
Today we recorded four acts, covering a wide range of musical styles: folk, punk, indie and even post-dance-PinkFloydesque-electronica-mishmash. That last one is not a joke.

We were fortunate that no major technical glitches happened - just one, in fact: one of the XLRs in our snake was faulty. The only other major incident was a delay in the shoot due to a camera not yet arriving on location.

Gear-wise, everything held up pretty well. Our DAW of choice - Ardour - held up really well. I don't remember seeing the CPU usage going higher than 50%, even when we were tracking 15 simultaneous tracks.

The Focusrite gear also performed like a champ. Coupled with their superb mix control software, it definitely came into play when one of the acts required a separate monitor mix for the lead singer. Having two monitor outs on the Saffire Pro 40 is definitely a good thing - although I wished there were more! I'll definitely write a separate entry about using these devices.

All our mics were flawless. The beauty of the Audio Technica AT2020 really came to the fore on the folk act. I definitely heard a vast improvement in sound quality compared to singer-songwriters we covered in past season (those we did with whatever mics were handy, usually a Shure Beta or SM57). Clear and crisp with a very warm bottom end. Definitely looking forward to mixing that.

Overall, it was a good day. And tomorrow we'll be tracking another 6 bands.
 

Acoustic treatment

02/25/2012

 
The location we're using was just recently renovated. They had new laminate flooring put in, and on first inspection last night I encountered a couple of problems.

Firstly, the floor is resonating badly - I can literally feel the drums under my feet! There may be problems with the resonance leaking up into the mic stands and wreaking all kinds of audio havoc. That may be easily treated though - just decouple the mic stands from the floor with some kind of damping material. The other problem is not so easily treated though.

The room is fairly big and rectangular, around 20 feet by 70 feet. Already that's not a good start - there's bound to be a lot of standing waves in there once we get going with the bands. To make things worse, the concrete walls are pretty much bare and the room is devoid of any furniture. And along one of the walls, starting from the middle of the room to the end, are panels of mirrors. Basically - the room is reflecting sound like crazy. There was about three seconds of echo in there!

Even though we're going to be close-miking everything, I'm somewhat worried about all those reflections ending coming through in the vocals and drum mics. And coupled with the inherent reverberation in the room - there's a lot of potential for sonic (and mixdown) nightmare. So what can we do about it?

1. Angle the performance area by a couple of degrees, instead of parallel along the room length. This may help reduce the obvious standing wave scenarios, but perhaps not by much.

2. Apply some DIY acoustic treatment, such as those suggested in this post on Ginny's Audio Blog. Some cool ideas there, but since we're shooting in a couple of hours I won't have time to make my own gobos, screens or bass traps.

Most likely the only thing we can do now (due to lack of time and resources) is to throw some carpeting on the floor and hopefully have some reduction in the reflections - whatever we can get is much better than nothing at all.
 
 
So tonight we set up the location for this weekend's shoot. Gear's in, set looks awesome. Retro, in fact! But I didn't manage to finish the cabling work, only managed to get the drums and bass amp wired up. Tomorrow will continue the rest of the amps and vocal mics.

Need to remember to angle the amps upwards and not perpendicular to the floor - to reduce reflections off of the floor. The floor's carpeted, but I think it's still going to help. Need to get some really good guitar tones this time round. Inspiration: Foo Fighters' Wasting Light - some awesome guitar tones there.

Will write more tomorrow about the sessions!
 

Hello world

02/24/2012

 
Posts will generally revolve around the work I do for The Wknd. It'll be things like recording techniques, mixdown hints etc. that would be helpful to capture on this blog for posterity.