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Session Notes: Recording Steel Drums

The Practical Craft Of Recording
Published June 2017
By Neil Rogers

Recorded this month: The Cambridge University Steel Pan Society were established in 2010 and have been supported by Lucy Cavendish College ever since. They teach complete beginners how to play and, predominantly, play their own arrangements of contemporary songs. They often perform at events such as May Balls and garden parties.Recorded this month: The Cambridge University Steel Pan Society were established in 2010 and have been supported by Lucy Cavendish College ever since. They teach complete beginners how to play and, predominantly, play their own arrangements of contemporary songs. They often perform at events such as May Balls and garden parties.

Recording Steel Drums: Our engineer rises to the unfamiliar challenge of capturing a loud steel band in their octagonal rehearsal building.

Amongst the many things I enjoy about being a recording engineer is the variety of people you meet and the unusual situations you can sometimes find yourself in. This past month alone, I’ve recorded a few different guitar bands and singer-songwriters, a brass section, audio for an English exam paper, and a hurdy-gurdy player. For this month’s session write-up, though, a personal first: recording a steel band.

When I was initially contacted by the Cambridge University Steel Pan Society, to see if I was able to accommodate their 14-piece steel band at my studio, I had to politely decline on the grounds that they wouldn’t all be able to fit in my studio’s live room at the same time — and I couldn’t see much merit in attempting to record a band like this in a modular overdubbed fashion. But I did ask them if they had a good room that they rehearsed in. If they did and it was suitable, I reasoned, I could take my little mobile rig along and record them at their place. They seemed to quite like the idea, but before committing to the gig, I thought it sensible just to pop out and take a look at the venue, to listen, and figure out more broadly what I’d be dealing with.

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The band’s rehearsal room is rather an unconventional recording location, but Neil felt that the familiarity should help with the performance, and there were risks associated with the larger-space options nearby. The band’s rehearsal room is rather an unconventional recording location, but Neil felt that the...

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Published June 2017