Cambridge Location Recording
When I was asked to take basically my whole studio up to Caxton near Cambridge to do some location recording for a couple of days my reaction was “sure thing, but why don’t you come here?” – the answer being “there’ll be over 20 of us on the stag…..”
The penny dropped – I was being asked to essentially provide a recording studio service on location to a bunch of drunken reprobates for a couple of days….why not! Jonas – the organiser and best man had tried to find a residential studio but the sheer number of guys meant that it was proving difficult as they were all descending on the venue gradually over 2 days, bringing an assortment of instruments with them and they sought a more relaxed feel afforded by the 15th century manse that would serve as our HQ for the weekend which belongs to the groom’s parents – who were mercifully away!
The plan was to record a 7-8 minute medley of songs that all members of the party would perform on in some way – either instrumental or vocal duties and day one would be used to lay down the backing track and record the majority of the instruments with day two reserved for vocals in between bouts of clay pigeon shooting and copious amounts of drinking!
The Gear List
The first thing I had to decide on this job was what to take with me – I essentially needed to track a full band (albeit separately) over a weekend and would probably need to work fast and mix as I went along so needed tools and equipment that I could rely on.
I took along a pair of active Genelec 8040a monitor speakers on Quiklok speaker stands for my monitoring, as well as several pairs of Beyerdynamic headphones and my single channel Peavey headphone amp. I also took along a floor wedge monitor speaker for foldback when recording the gang-style vocals. A Sansamp Para Driver was used to record bass guitar, which was my Fender Squier Jazz/Precision hybrid.
The main consideration for me was which mics to use – I wanted to take the best ones I had which were all predictable and wouldn’t necessarily exhibit the “cheap Chinese brightness” when used on multiple vocal takes for example. For the drums I decided on an AKG D112 and ElectroVoice RE-20 for kick drum depending on the sound, a Sennhesier MD-441 for Snare, SM57s for Toms and a pair of AKG c451EB for overheads. I also used a pair of Golden Age Projects Ribbon mics for room mics on the kit which was being recorded in a long parquet-floored music room.
My main instrument mic was the absolutely lovely Neumann TLM193 which I can’t get enough of – it is very neutral and takes EQ well when necessary meaning that recording many of the solo instruments such as organ and acoustic guitar, not to mention the percussion was fairly straightforward without the need for corrective surgery to get instrument to fit in the mix – most times a HPF and slight compression was all that was needed.
I also had with me my trusty pair of AKG c414s which I used on the Steinway grand piano, a pair of Rode NT5s for ORTF stereo gang vocals and a Neumann TLM103 for solo vocals. I also took an Edirol R-09 portable recorder to record the exhaust of the Aston Martin Vanquish in the car park!
One of the groomsmen, Adam, happened to work in artist development from Paul Epworth’s old London base which was handy as he was keen to take over as MD for the weekend and also played several of the instruments such as guitar, organ and lap steel which really helped keep the session on track and meant that something actually got recorded! Adam was joined by Ali on drums and the two had been up until 4am the night before arranging the track which would start with Whitesnake, AC/DC and Lynrd Skynrd before neatly segueing into Bugsy Malone!
The first half of day one involved the setup in the morning before getting the drums setup in the music room as well as a guitar amp, mic’d with the obligatory SM57. The guys had already decided they wouldn’t use a click as the track took in many different songs so we set things going fairly quickly meaning that I could set levels and tweak mic positions while the guys worked through the arrangement. This also meant that we could have a tentative listen through to check the sound we were getting before concentrate on getting the best take upon which to build.
Much of the rest of day one was spent recording a wide variety of instruments to fill out the arrangement. More electric guitar was added – via DI this time and an amp simulator was used in Logic. Acoustic guitars were also recorded.
The house contained a lovely Steinway grand piano that simply HAD to be recorded as well as an old double-action organ which featured in several places. The piano was mic’d with a stereo pair of AKG 414s and most of the other instruments saw the Neumann TLM 193. Several percussion instruments were tracked such as tambourines, shakers and a rain stick and mouth organ was recorded using a hand-held SM57. Bass was tracked via DI with a Sansamp Para Driver set for an SVT preset. A lap steel had been brought to our attention in the afternoon and this was DI’d as well.
Stay tuned for day two including all vocal tracking and more on mixing as you go…..