Back in July, I wrote a series of posts about recording drums. Now that it’s practically September, I thought I’d compile a list of these posts here, as an easy access “table of contents” of sorts. The idea behind each one of these “recording drums” posts is to share my simplistic, quick, phase-accurate, and easy to mix approach. Less is more.
Bonus: I actually wrote this post in August, but as it’s about percussion, I threw it in with this list. Using Household Objects As Percussion Instruments
Recording can get over-complicated way too fast. Especially recording drums. That’s when fidelity and performance captured in those recordings suffers. By keeping your recording setup as simple as possible, in a kind of ironic way, is usually when you create an environment where things actually end up sound big, punchy, full of life – creating a soundscape that is made up of multiple complex layers. Less is more.
Thanks for reading. Hope you’ve not only gotten something out of Producer Notes this August, but also enjoyed reading the blog.
Making records is more about interacting with people than it is about anything else. Great people skills can take you the distance in a career in recording, even when you may not be the most knowledgeable or the definitively most talented person to ever step into the studio. On top of that, it’s very likely that if you have great people skills, clients will choose you over someone else who may know more, or be more “talented” than you.
When I got my first studio job as an intern, there was an assistant engineer who was a huge jerk. He knew everything there was to ever know about being an audio engineer – all the nuances and ultra technical particulars of how every piece of gear worked, the science behind capturing great sounds, how to repair broken gear – everything. But he was a jerk, and a loudmouth with poor work ethic. Clients constantly asked for him to be replaced with someone – anyone! – else.
If you’re cold and stale, do the bare minimum to get the job done, and run you mouth off every minute of the day, you’re going to be asked to leave.
If you treat people kindly, if you’re authentic, honest, and genuine, people will enjoy the work they do with you, and feel good about what you’ve created together.
Technical knowledge and production skills are important. But not nearly as important as treating people right. Of all the skills it’s important to have in the studio, none of them will provide a secure, long-term path to success like having good people skills will.
Last week I posted that my friends in the band o, don piano were running a kickstarter campaign to raise money for their upcoming LP, Hearts from the Songland.
Well, I’m happy to announce that they did indeed successfully get their project funded, and will be soon entering the studio with producer/engineer Jeremy Ferguson. I wanted to follow last week’s post with an update to let everyone know, and to say thanks to any of my readers who may have contributed.
Congrats to the band, glad the fundraising was a success, and look forward to hearing the results of yours and Jeremy’s magic in the studio. Have fun. Perhaps I’ll get the chance to drop by and hang on a session or two, and share in a little of that fun with you :)
While the band has reached their goal, and this project is officially funded, there are still
11 days left to make a contribution [Update 8/22/11: Oops! when I published this post, I meant to say 11 hours. In any case, this campaign is gonna be over by the end of the day today, so if you wanna pledge, do so by clicking the link at the end of this post]. If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a site put together specifically for creators to raise money for their projects. But the people who contribute don’t walk away empty handed. The creators offer items in return for the money people choose to pledge. There are nine different tiers involved with the o, don piano campaign, so at the very least you’re essentially “pre-ordering” the finished record. Which is more than worth it. As I mentioned before, this is brilliant music that creates meaning in a rare way.
About six or seven years ago I was fortunate, as we sometimes are, to work along side a very talented individual who would end up becoming one of my dearest friends. At the time we were both working as assistant engineers for the same producer, and through this experience we discovered how much we had in common-both personally, and from a music/art standpoint.
Working with Josh on these projects, I came to realize how talented of a musician he was, and later decided to hire him to play drums on a couple projects I produced. All this was around 2007-2009.
And somewhere in the middle of all that Josh put together his own band-o, don piano.
Josh and o, don piano are now embarking on the journey of making their first LP, Hearts from the Songland, and are six days away from concluding a fundraising campaign through Kickstarter. [Update 8/19/11: This campaign only has mere days left at this point, as it ends on Tuesday, August 23rd.]
[Update 8/22/11: I'm happy to announce that o, don piano have reached their fundraising goals for this project. Congrats, guys!]
Crossing paths with Josh those handful of years ago was literally nothing short of a miracle, as he has opened my mind to so many new ways to think about music and production, as well as turned me on to a selection of bands, musicians, and producers that have had significant influence throughout my quest as record maker. It genuinely improved my career.
All this to say that the music Josh has created with o, don piano is the real thing-brilliant-and worth your contribution.
Which is exactly why I’ve written this blog post today. To candidly ask you to consider making a contribution to the realization of Hearts from the Songland.
Yes, I am close friends with Josh, which perhaps does make my credibility subject to a questionable bias. But as someone who works daily in the music business, I inevitably make friends with a lot of people who are in bands. Nevertheless, not everyone I’m friends with makes the same caliber of music Josh does. Which is the caliber of music that needs to be heard, the caliber of music that creates meaning, and the caliber of music that tells an honest story people resonate with.
So please take a few minutes to check out o, don piano, and if you like what you hear, consider contributing a few dollars to help them fund their Hearts from the Songland project.
Lastly, I do want to assure everyone that my motivation is pure. I in no way benefit from the making or promoting of this project. While I may end up working with the band on a future project sometime, my current motivation is to simply see this project succeed, and do my part in helping authentic music resonate with others as it has with me.
Doubling a vocal (singer sings a second pass in unison with themselves) is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways you can bring up the intensity to a section of a song in which you’re trying elevate the energy (typically the chorus). The end result is often very subtle to the listener. Most of the time, a doubled vocal is rarely an effect that music fans consciously are aware of-they simply feel the emotional shift of a raised energy level.
A little while back I came across some video interviews on YouTube of Butch Vig breaking down some of the production techniques used to record Nirvana’s Nevermind record.
In one of the videos Butch dissects the song “In Bloom”, and how they doubled Kurt Cobain’s lead vocal, as well as Dave Grohl’s harmony vocal in the choruses. Butch pulls up each part one at a time, so you can clearly hear how this technique filled out the arrangement in a powerful way.
I’m currently in the studio with the band Kink Ador. On Monday we singled out one of the songs we’re working on, and focused on recording some background vocal and additional guitar parts for it. One of the first things we did was double the lead vocal in all the choruses.
But in the middle of recording the vocal double, I began to think back to that Butch Vig interview, and I got inspired with another idea. I liked the approach Butch took of having a different voice sing and double the harmony vocals. So I basically copied the essence of that idea, but with a bit of a spin on it.
Kink Ador is a band made up of one female lead vocalist-Sharon. The rest of the band is guys. Nick, the lead guitar player, also sings background vocals. In the middle of tracking Sharon’s lead vocal double, I got the wild idea to go back and triple the lead vocal in the choruses-but with Nick singing the tripled part.
I was a bit hesitant with the idea, but we tried it and it turned out awesome. It added another layer of just the right amount of texture and intensity to Sharon’s vocal in the choruses. The end result is very subtle-you can’t tell that there’s a male vocal layered underneath. In the end, it simply imparts a sort of gruffness to Sharon’s lead vocal, which is perfect for adding energy to the choruses.
So next time you’re looking for ways to add intensity to certain sections of a song, it may be as simple as doubling the lead vocal, or even tripling the part with another member of the band.
Here’s the Butch Vig interview that inspired this idea in the first place:
Since I just finished up a series of posts on recording drums, I thought it would be fitting to follow all that up with a post on recording percussion. Percussion is one of the most fun things to record. But if you’re like me, you don’t own too many percussion instruments. Since I’m not a percussionist, I can’t justify the expense of owning too many percussion instruments. But that does not stop me from finding ways to put percussion parts in recordings.
All you have to do is get a little creative with household objects-pots, pans, spoons, etc. I’ve used all kinds of items around the house and studio as percussion instruments to create sounds and textures of a wide variation. With a little creativity, you really can use almost any item from around your house to create that sound you have in your head.
Here’s some examples of the types of things I’ve used around the house to get some wild percussion sounds:
Next time you’re thinking of a percussion part for one of your recordings, look around the house and/or studio for some common items that you may be able to use to get the job done. It will be a lot quicker and cheaper than buying a percussion instrument, and chances are you will get something a lot more unique and inspiring.