Session Notes: Dunning Kruger | Media

Writing & Recording Cello Overdubs

Published in SOS February 2013
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Technique : Recording / Mixing

Mike Senior

The resources on this page accompany my article in SOS February 2013 about recording cello overdubs for indie-band Dunning Kruger's song 'Japan Song'.

Further Reading

If you'd like more information about recording and arranging string instruments on a budget, check out the following articles available in the Sound On Sound on-line archive:

Great String Parts On A Budget, And In A Hurry!


Recording A String Section: Theory & Practice


Arranging For Strings — Four-part Series





Download | MP3s 6.6 Mb
Download | WAVs 33.1 Mb

Audio Examples

The filenames of the following audio examples should hopefully be fairly self-explanatory, but the descriptions below should help you understand a little more about what you're hearing. Bear in mind that no EQ or other processing was applied to the mic signals during recording, so for the first eight example files what you're hearing is what came directly out of the Avantone Pro CK1 small-diaphragm condenser mics I used.


I initially set up one of the two CK1s about six feet from the instrument, about three feet from the floor, and about 30 degrees off axis to the 'firing line' of the instrument. Compared with the other CK1, which you can hear in the Pos1_2_OnAxis audio file, I found this mic to be a much more promising starting position, because it seemed to have more body in the low midrange in particular and I liked the slightly more 'woody' tone — it sounded more like a cello!


The second CK1 was initially set up at the same distance from the instrument and from the floor, but was positioned directly on axis to the firing line of the instrument. I didn't like this nearly as much as the other CK1 position off-axis, as heard in the Pos1_1_OffAxis audio file, compared with which it seemed reedy and nasal, without the same appealing midrange density.


The CK1 position you hear in the Pos1_1_OffAxis audio file was left unchanged for this recording.


For this recording, the second CK1 was placed off-axis just like the first, but about 18 inches closer to the cello. If you compare this with the Pos2_1_OffAxisFar file, you can hear that it's slightly more focused, as you'd expect given the greater proportion of direct versus reflected sound reaching the mic. However, it also feels more present and solid, which is why I preferred it.


For this recording the more distant off-axis CK1 heard in the Pos2_1_OffAxis audio file was repositioned to match the closer positioning in relation to the cello of the other CK1, but then shifted another foot further off-axis. This resulted in slightly mellower tone, but one which felt no less appealing, as you can hear if you compare this demonstration with the following Pos3_2_OffAxisCloser example.


The CK1 position you hear in the Pos2_2_OffAxisCloser audio file was left unchanged for this recording.


Here's one of the proper raw solo-line takes using the mic position heard in the Pos3_1_OffAxisCloser file.


Here's one of the proper raw solo-line takes using the mic position heard in the Pos3_2_OffAxisCloserAlt file.


Here's the final comped solo cello part, edited together from four different takes. It's been processed as in the final mix, but I've isolated it and bypassed its send effects so that you can hear its details more clearly. To hear the part in its final mix context, have a listen to the SoloFinalMix audio file.


This audio example isolates the layered cello arrangement during the song's outro section, as it appears in the final mix. At first you just get an octave-up doubling of the song's bass line, but then the main harmony enters for the second sub-section at 0:16 and the high melody enters for the third sub-section at 0:31. Again, these parts are processed as in the final mix, but without send effects so that you can hear all the lines clearly. To hear the part in its final mix context, check out the OutroFinalMix audio file.


This is the solo section of my final mix of Dunning Kruger's 'Japan Song', featuring the solo cello line you heard isolated in the SoloCompDry audio file.


This is the ending of my final mix of Dunning Kruger's 'Japan Song', which features the layered cello arrangement spotlighted in the OutroLayersDry audio file.


In addition to these demonstration files, you can also download the complete raw multitrack files for Dunning Kruger's 'Japan Song' (and indeed both the other songs I recorded and mixed for their EP project) from the 'Mixing Secrets' Free Multitrack Download Library at There are freely downloadable for educational use, so go ahead and experiment with them all you like!  

DAW Techniques


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