This is a real-time shoot of a prototypical tracking session, with no smoke or mirrors. Going from scratch to a rough mix in an hour or so with mic choices and placements, preamp choices and mic swapping for tone shaping. All steps are explained and commented.
Tracked with Avid ProTools HD|Native, full line of Royer Ribbon mics and Mojave Condenser mics, UA 4-710, UA610, Great River MP2NV, Great River EQ1-NV preamps and eqs as well as Dangerous Music Monitor ST, Dangerous Music Summing and Focal speakers.
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- 00:00 - Start
- 02:06 - Session Sheet
- 03:18 - Bass Drum
Please welcome, Fab Dupont! Thank you guys.
So what we're gonna do today is we're gonna...
track a band, we're gonna pretend this is an actual recording studio.
So basically we're doing in the worst possible conditions.
Which is great, isn't it? I'll be playing the role of the coolest producer who's supposed to hang out on the couch with the girls and the cigars.
But there's no couch, no girls and no cigars.
And Meredith McCandless is gonna play the role of the engineer who quietly makes things happen.
This is Meredith McCandless.
Meredith is the first engineer at Flux which is my studio in New York city.
We've done this a couple times before, together.
But what we're gonna is we're gonna do it for real.
Meaning that, that over there is called the drumset.
The black things in front are called microphones and we're gonna put the microphones onto the drumset to show you how we do.
The reason why we're doing this is because I get a lot of email saying: 'Who do you guys do it?' 'Why? I have the same microphones you have? Why is it that your stuff sounds better than my stuff?' What's the process? How does it work? Well, maybe I do it more often than some of you do it.
And also we have some tips and tricks I'm gonna show you and then we have the joy of working with really great musicians.
So today, the source is the key.
Today we're gonna work with a band called The Will Knox Band, and you're gonna see, they are pretty fantastic.
First thing I'm gonna show you is the way it usually works.
At the beginning of a session I say: 'Meredith, today we're gonna have 150 people in the studio, and they are all gonna play different instruments, I see you tomorrow.' The reality is, the first thing Meredith does.
When I'm the producer I say: 'Hey, the session is starting, this is the line-up'.
She puts together...
She puts a very, highly technical sheet of paper that has the number of lines, the instrument, the microphone and the preamp.
So what she does is she makes the best guess of what's gonna work.
How do you make the best guess? First you've gotta make your guess and then you have to fail a certain number of times.
Once you failed enough times you say: 'That maybe not be a good idea'.
And then you try something else. And at one point, if you're lucky you'll succeed.
The next time you will do that.
That's what we've been doing.
The first thing we're gonna do, and this is fictitious, I don't know if it's still valid or not, but that's really how we do it.
- Is it still valid? - Yes.
We write the name of the instrument.
And then she writes the microphone she wants, There's no preamps on these one.
These are the microphones we have.
'These are the instruments we have' What should we do? So let's go look at the bass drum.
After you, dear.
The band is a modern folk band.
Usually the bass drum has two heads.
And no hole in the back head, because it goes boom better if there's no hole in the back head.
In this case we have a bass drum with a hole in it so might as well just take advantage of the situation.
If you want Dylan to show us the bass drum.
So go ahead do your thing.
We've got two mikes on the bass drum.
One for the beater and one for the outside resonant head.
We've chosen the MA 100.
Mojave Audio for the beater.
That's a condenser.
Usually we put a dynamic inside.
But, why not? If we are not gonna break the microphone, I don't care.
Put it in! Do you think it's gonna break? I don't know, we'll see.
What did you put on the outside? This is the Mojave 201.
Outside kick, large diaphragm.
Are you just like...
I mean, how do you know where to put them? Are you just like throwing them there? Hmmm...
Usually a more focused mike on the inside beater that can handle the SPL.
Obviously we're using a small diaphragm condenser.
Tracy's limited edit but this is a great option.
It sounds good.
And the large diaphragm for the outside to really get the low end.
The idea is: if you use a small diaphragm condenser inside the beautiful thing about a small diaphragm condenser, for those of you who are hair dressers and are lost at Sweetwater right now, small diaphragm condensers are the small mikes that looks like a pencil.
And the large diaphragm condenser is the one that look like big lollypops, OK? The small diaphragm condenser tend to have better off-axis rejection, meaning that the bleed from other instruments in that mike, tend to not be as offensive sounding as the bleed of other instruments in a large diaphragm condenser mike.
That will actually influence your choice.
That's why a lot of people put a small diaphragm condenser inside the bass drum because well, there's a lot of stuff going on there, right? You wanna make sure that the other instruments in that microphone don't sound too bad.
Because otherwise what happens? You put your bass drum up and it sounds fine.
Then you put your snare up and it's garbage. Right? So you wanna a balance of everything, that's the difficult part.
Actually we need to bring up a drummer to play there's a special kind of human being who's able to play that stuff.
Well, I'd love to have you there but I'd like to have more of a British drummer with a dry sense of humor, which rules out a lot of people here.
Anybody from England? Alright, come on over.
This is Timur Yusef.
This man can play the bass drum like no other.
Bear in mind that...
there's a reason why they put a piece of glass between the engineer and the musicians in a studio.
Right? Enough said.
Whenever you test your drum sound, if you're gonna record a heartfelt ballad, do not let the drummer play his heaviest death metal groove.
It's not gonna help you.
The drummer will wanna play his heaviest death metal groove but that's not constructive for your environment.
What you wanna do is: 'Hey, would you be kind enough to play the groove from the actual song that we're actually gonna record please? Thank you!' We're gonna record a few bars of this, so we can figure out if we like the tone or not.
Can you play that again? I feel there's a little funniness in the middle.
There's a little something that's just not quite right.
Can you play the bass drum once? See that 'rrrrrrr' thing.
It's not there, I don't hear 'rrrrrr' in the recording.
So, my hunch is that...
like in most situation, there maybe a phase problem between the two microphones.
Because as you saw Meredith just used her best judgment and just put it in.
And now, there's no real, unless nobody ever told me about it, but if there's a rule, if you know about the rule, send me a postcard. Till then...
you just put the stuff in, record it, listen and then you have to use your judgment and your taste to decide whether or not it's a good idea to keep it that way.
In this particular case I don't think it's a good idea.
How about we flip the phase on the outside microphone? Actually, flip the polarity.
My hunch is the reason why I'm not getting the super bottom is because the two microphones are not properly in phase.
If we flip the polarity on the second one we'll be able to hear it without that potential problem. So let's record.
And, do it again.
Thank you, let's hear that.
Aha. Check it out.
Do you hear that? So what did we do? All we did is flip the polarity on the preamp.
The inside mike stayed the same and the outside mike flipped polarity 180.
180 degrees, OK? Are they in phase? I don't know.
If you do send me a postcard.
They are in phase enough for me to hear 'RRRRRR'.
So let's move on.
You've got to be careful because there's no real hardcore solution to this problem, you have to...
if you don't know...
For example, if you don't like to hang out with drummers.
I make an exception for Timur.
But in general I tend to stay away from drummers.
If you don't wanna hang out with drummers and you don't wanna go to the live room to listen to the actual sound of the actual instrument you probably will not notice that the bottom is not there.
I recommend that you force your drummers to take showers before you work with them.
So that you can go hang out with them in the live room and you listen to the actual instrument and when you come back to the control room you can tell yourself: 'Oh, this ain't what I'm hearing over there'.
And then start moving stuff around.
It's not "in phase".
It doesn't exist. It's in phase enough for what we wanna do today.
Fair enough? Right. Let's do the Overheads.
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Fab Dupont is a Grammy winning NYC based record producer, mixing/mastering engineer and co-founder of pureMix.net.
Fab has been playing, writing, producing and mixing music both live and in studios all over the world. He's worked in cities like Paris, Boston, Brussels, Stockholm, London and New York just to name a few.
He has his own studio called FLUX Studios in the East Village of New York City.
Fab has been nominated for Grammys 6 times, including two Latin Grammys and has received many other accolades around the world, including Victoires de la Musique, South African Music awards, Pan African Music Awards and US independent music awards.
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