Cambridge Location Recording – Day 2
Before heading back to Caxton near Cambridge for the second day of location recording, I made a detour via the studio to check through the rough mix from the day before. I find that Genelec speakers tend to make everything sound pretty good so I wanted to check the balance on my trusted Yamaha NS10s in the studio. The good news was that the mix was working well and most importantly the bass was clear and defined – something I had been worried about when using the Genelecs.
I had packed down a lot of my gear the night before and brought back a lot of the spurious equipment now that we’d finished tracking drums so setup was a simpler affair – I created a “control area” out of the way in the main music room where I could setup speakers for playback as well as have mics setup for vocals with a set of headphones and a floor wedge covering fold-back duties for the singers.
I chose a Neumann TLM103 for the main vocal mic with a metal pop shield and SE Relexion filter to try and capture as clean a recording as possible. I ended up not using the relexion filter after all due to a shortage of mic stands – I had clearly been a bit over zealous in my efforts to ensure a quick pack down and getaway the night before! I also set up an ORTF pair of Rode NT5 mics to capture a stereo recording of the group chants and gang vocals that were to be the main component of the afternoon.
The most important thing on day two was for me to be able to work quickly – the guys were going out clay pigeon shooting in two separate groups an hour or so apart so I only had a finite amount of time to get them recorded. The first group spent a while rehearsing their parts – some of which would be performed solo and some in a group so I had both the Neumann TLM 103 and Rode pair setup and sent to the monitors ready to go. I also had to make quick changes of mic gain as I went – knowing that different guys would have differing levels of bravado on the day!
Instead of changing the gains constantly or ask the guys to repeat things I might have screwed up or clipped – I chose a fairly sensible gain setting and then relied on some compression via the console to provide the level trim that might be necessary. I used a fairly smooth 2:1 setting – knowing that I might inevitably use more later on. This meant that I could move quickly between vastly different vocalists and keep most of what was recorded – I would say that around 75% of the vocals recorded were all first-take keepers – something unheard of in a normal studio environment!
Much of my mixing needed to be instinctual and quick – I wouldn’t have much time to perfect everything so had to use predictable and reliable plugins to achieve this. I had tracked everything sensibly to start with so didn’t have much trouble getting the vocal level above the backing so I just needed to go with my gut as to whether something needed to be brighter, more solid etc and paint broad brushstrokes.
The plugins that I relied upon were my usual studio tools: LA-3A, 1176 and LA-2A compressors and Pultec EQs from Waves. The ability to make quick changes and get instant results was really a benefit in the scenario. I also made about 20 vocal tracks and routed them to a group to facilitate quick balancing between the disparate parts – I didn’t want to get too bogged-down with automation. I had some bus processing on this group to further solidify the vocal tracks. I ended up with 6 main faders to make mixing even easier: Drums, Percussion, Music (including piano, bass and guitar), Vocal, BVs and Gang – meaning I could rapidly change the balance if I needed to get the vocals above the track – I could also EQ the whole music group to make more room if required.
Another group of processors that proved their worth in this recording task were the “One Knob” series by Waves. I used several instances of “Louder” as well as “Phatter” and “Brighter”. I was surprised at how useful these tools were – it’s easy to dismiss them for being simple but that’s just what I needed!
So what did the track sound like in the end? You decide and have a listen below (parental advisory – explicit lyrical content…)