With a band citing a particularly broad range of influences, our engineer came up with a plan for capturing a bit of them all. Find out how he fared...
The audio files available on this page accompany my article about recording the band Impossible Colours in SOS April 2013 (www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr13/articles/session-notes-0413.htm). 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 five 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 one of the songs (including all additional overdubs) from the ‘Mixing Secrets’ Free Multitrack Download Library at www.cambridge-mt.com/ms-mtk.htm#ImpossibleColours.
This is what the spaced pair of KSM141 cardioid overhead mics sounded like, with the stereo image laid out from the drummer’s perspective. Notice the wide spacing of the cymbals, and how they suffer a little both in tone and level if you switch your monitoring to mono, whereas the snare remains fairly solid on account of the phase-matched microphone placement. The snare and toms are also fairly focused-sounding because of the comparatively close drummer’s-side mic placement.
This is the sound of the Avantone CK1 crossed pair of hypercardioid overheads, again with the stereo image laid out from the drummer’s perspective. Because I deliberately used a fairly narrow mutual angle, the overall image isn’t too wide, and the mono-compatibility it much better than that of the spaced pair as far as the cymbals are concerned. The balance is much heavier on the cymbals, of course, because the mics are placed much closer to them, and for the same reason the snare and toms sound rather more distant than those in the spaced pair. It’s also worth listening carefully to the hi-hat here, because its imaging isn’t very stable. Some kind of HF reflection or off-axis pickup is giving a ghost image on the opposite side of the stereo picture, almost as if two instruments were playing at once — a good reason to increase the definition with a hi-hat close mic.
Here’s the kick-drum signal, capture with a BLUE Kickball microphone with its default frequency-contour switch setting. The resonant head had been taken off the drum, and padding placed inside the shell, resting on the batter head from the inside. Although it sounds plenty punchy in solo, I actually rounded off the transient too much with my mic positioning, so I had to give it a bit more spike to cut through in the mix. The low end also proved a bit shy for the final mix context, and would probably have been better suited to its final purpose had I switched in the mic’s internal bass boost facility.
This is the snare close-mic signal, captured using a Shure SM7B dynamic mic with both frequency contour switches set flat. There was acoustic foam wrapped around the sides of the mix to reduce hi-hat spill, and although there’s still a fair bit in there, it’s not out of proportion compared with the other drums and cymbals, and was very easy to reduce further in level with some limited-range gating at mixdown.
The hi-hat close mic, an Avantone CK1. By virtue of the hypercardioid capsule’s strong off-axis rejection, I was able to back off the cymbals by about nine inches without incurring much in the way of spill, so the sound ended up being fairly well-balanced and meaty.
Here’s the sound of the bass amp recorded in the live room alongside the drums, recorded with an ADK A6 large-diaphragm condenser microphone a few inches in front of the cab. The cab was about six feet away from the front of the kit, and although there’s significant spill, that spill isn’t badly balanced, so doesn’t really compromise the overall rhythm-section sound in practice. It’s only a problem when the drummer’s doing count-ins over the bass playing, which was why I made sure to record a spill-free DI signal from the bass as well.
This file shows how the drums mix sounded during the tracking session. The only processing on this mix is some high-pass filtering; polarity reversal of the ride-cymbal and kick-drum channels; a 3dB EQ peak on the kick channel at 70Hz; a -5dB EQ shelf on the snare channel at 500Hz; and some master-buss compression from a digitally modelled Universal Audio 1178. Notice how little bass spill remains on this mix, despite the bass cab being only around six feet from the kit.
Here’s the same section of the music you heard in the TrackingRough_Drums example, but this time with the live bass part and the amp-modelled scratch guitar part also both in the mix — no additional mix processing was used for those beyond high-pass filtering. If you compare this with the final full mix of this song (the FinalMix audio file), you can hear how much of the sound of the record was already coming straight out of the mics.
Here’s the final mix (including all later overdubs) of ‘Dune Rider’, one of the three songs I recorded for the band impossible c o l o u r s on this session. If you’d like to examine the full multitrack for this project, check out www.cambridge-mt.com/ms-mtk.htm#ImpossibleColours.