Session Notes | Media

Dunning Kruger: Rock Band Location Recording

Published in SOS October 2012
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Technique : Mixing

Mike Senior

The audio files available on this page accompany my article about recording the band Dunning Kruger in SOS October 2012. The filenames are hopefully 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 mics in question.

In addition to these demonstration files, you can also download the complete raw multitrack files for all three songs we recorded (including all additional overdubs) from the 'Mixing Secrets' Free Multitrack Download Library at http://www.cambridge-mt.com/ms-mtk.htm#DunningKruger.

Room01_EnDance

The room mics were set up very differently for each of the three songs on this session. For 'EnDance', they were spaced about three feet apart on the opposite side of the room to the drums, tilting the ambient balance in favour of the guitars. The mics were pointed upwards, such that their cardioid nulls reduced the level of the bass amp located directly beneath them.

Room02_JapanSong

For 'Japan Song', the room mics were positioned about ten feet apart and six feet from the ground, using an adapted lighting stand positioned directly behind the drum kit. The mics were in cardioid mode, pointing upwards and away from the kit — the idea being to attenuate the kit's direct sound in and capture primarily reflected sound from the attic room's sloping ceiling.

Room03_Sascha

The room mics were moved again to provide a tighter drum ambience for 'Sascha'. The mic fixings were moved closer together, to give a gap of around five feet between the mics, and this array was then arranged above the kit roughly nine feet in the air, taking advantage of the extra height of the lighting stand. The mics were again in cardioid mode, but this time were pointed directly towards the centre of the kit to create a drier, more direct ambience signal with an emphasis on the snare.

Kick01_EnDance

This example showcases the kick-drum close-mic sound for the song 'EnDance'. The mic was positioned about nine inches outside the drum's resonant-head hole, which is a position I usually find delivers a usable sound more reliably than most positions inside the drum itself. To keep spill from other instruments manageable, I built a 'tunnel' around the microphone using two padded armchairs and a bunch of blankets. A very similar setup was used for 'Japan Song' too.

Kick02_Sascha

For 'Sascha' I decided to go for a much more rolling low end on the kick-drum sound, removing some of the drum's internal damping and switching in the bass-boost setting for the BLUE Kickball close mic. Anticipating that I would want to compress this signal to death, I also made a point of reinforcing the isolation tunnel with as much extra padding as I could find, as well as baffling the guitars with additional carpets and mattresses.

Snare01_EnDance

This is a section of the close-miked snare signal for 'EnDance'. The disco-inspired sound was created by gaffer-taping several sheets of paper directly to the drum head, and it was captured using a Shure KSM137 small-diaphragm condenser mic positioned about six inches from the side of the drum. An improvised acoustic shield made from half a plastic bucket and some acoustic foam served to reduce the level of hi-hat spill — particularly important in this case because the severe damping of the snare drum decreased its overall volume.

Snare02_JapanSong

A change of snare drum immediately gave 'Japan Song' a different snare sound, and this was only damped slightly using a couple of loops of gaffer tape stuck to the top head. Switching to an AKG C414B XLS large-diaphragm condenser mic gave the sound more beef into the bargain, positioned around nine inches from the side of the drum with my DIY acoustic shield reducing the hi-hat spill a little.

Snare03_Sascha

There was another change of snare drum for 'Sascha', and here all damping was abandoned to give a twangier sustain that would respond well to heavy compression come mixdown time — even an internal damping ring inside the drum itself was removed. The mic was once again the AKG C414B XLS six inches from the side of the drum, with the DIY acoustic shield around it.

Mix01a_EnDance_TrackingRough

Here's my rough mix of the first song we recorded ('EnDance'), taken directly from the outputs of the Roland VS2480 hardware multitracker I used for the session. Very little mix processing was used: the bass was compressed at 2:1, and the guitars at 1.4:1 and 1.6:1 respectively; the master buss featured an emulated Universal Audio 1176 compressor working at 4:1; the only EQ was a couple of decibels of low shelving cut on one of the guitar mics; and there were no send effects active at all. This rough mix in particular suffered from my not familiarising myself adequately with the monitoring system we were using (some borrowed Samson Rubicons) — the tonality of the other songs is a bit better balanced, if still slightly muffled at the high end.

Mix01b_EnDance_FullMix

A full mix of the final version of 'EnDance', complete with guitar, synth, and vocal overdubs. All the final mixes were carried out in Cockos Reaper, and of the three songs we recorded for the EP, this final version is probably furthest from the rough tracking-session balance. In particular, the drums were heavily gated and layered with samples for the verse sections to achieve an extremely dry disco-influenced sound.

Mix02a_JapanSong_TrackingRough

This is the rough mix for 'Japan Song', the second song we recorded. Again, the mix was taken directly from the outputs of the Roland VS2480 recorder we used, and the mix processing was almost as light as on 'EnDance', the only additions being 1.5dB if 2kHz emphasis on one of the guitars, 1.6:1 compression on the snare, and 1.8:1 compression on the overheads.

Mix02b_JapanSong_FullMix

As you can hear, the full mix of Japan sound in this audio example is heavily reliant on the live-band take. There are a couple of additional guitar parts, vocals, and a few bits of cello, but the character of the track is essentially unchanged.

Mix03a_Sascha_TrackingRough

This audio example contains the rough mix of the third and final song we recorded on the session: 'Sascha', and once again was taken directly from the outputs of the Roland VS2480 used for recording. There were a few more bits of mix processing in this case, most notably heavy compression of both the kick and snare close mics, and a light dustings of mid-range boost, ambience reverb, and tempo delay on a few of the guitar overdubs.

Mix03b_Sascha_FullMix

This is the final mix I did of 'Sascha', which is again very dependent on the sound we captured during the initial tracking session, despite a few guitar and vocal overdubs. The kick-drum recording turned out to be too resonant for the rockier sound of the choruses, so that was gated and layered with a sample for those sections.  .


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