If you’ve followed my rants some, you may remember that in that post documenting my work on the #twitterchords submission “Saustoi!”, I had explained that that tune had nearly become a jazz trio track – if I had been able to get a trio together for recording it before the submission deadline.
The submission deadline has passed long ago, but the idea kept hold of me – so I called up two guys from my old “Eclectic Blah” project. One, Ralf Gruber, session drummer (and also bass player), and the only one of us with a mention in wikipedia, the other, Christian Klos, fretless expert, both accepted the challenge, also considering the conditions I had set: one rehearsal, one recording session, then all is done.
Prior to the rehearsal, which took place April 20th, I had sent out some written parts to allow the other players to prepare for the session (but had failed to prepare those parts myself), and while we found that we hadn’t gotten everything down in that rehearsal, we still believed it could be done in the next session – but we were also intelligent enough to decide that “if it didn’t work out we might need another session”.
Two weeks later – May 4th to be precise – was the day of the recording session. For me (who in addition to playing piano, also had to man the producer and sound engineer helm), this also meant reassembling my recording rig. I also wanted to have the session as some kind of R&D for recording drums, so I had prepared to record the drums to twelve tracks. Still, in comparison with my old “recording rig” (which I used to use for Eclectic Blah), the complete setup (including computer and mic stands and whatnot) turned out to be much more portable – and as my new car “Herbert” has great loading capabilities, also would fit in the car easily.
Even though setting up to record drums onto twelve channels took some time, we went on to be ready for playing relatively quickly, and even some short problems with my routing (the digital console, the interface and the computer all functioned as routing things in my setup, so things can get…complicated) couldn’t keep us too long. The other players, both of them with lots of professional studio experience to boot, commented positively on my approach. “Don’t mind that, it only took you a few minutes, not the usual half-hour sequences you’ll usually find. And you also tell us in advance when you’re hitting the cans with high-level pink noise!”.
Speaking of cans: with a pseudo-acoustic trio (meaning both bass guitar and piano were played with electric/electronic instruments), the only acoustic sound sources were the drums – which simplified the recording process enormously. But even though massive editing and overdubbing would have been a possibility, we decided that that just wouldn’t be right for a jazz track.
The recordings ran accordingly – we simply recorded a full go of the tune, then quickly discussed it, then did the next take. And when we reached the finishing time we had agreed on, we had just done that good take – and could start to break down the setup, which left me with the editing process.
As I said, that project already had a lot of R&D in it, namely minking the drums. I decided to put in another challenge, which was to only use effects plugins which came with my DAW software, Cubase 5. Another thing was that I had decided to record all stereo signals with a very wide (even artificially wide) A/B setup, which normally is not compatible with the “mixer stereo” of simply attenuating one or the other channel, which corresponds with X/Y coincidental microphony. I worked around this by measuring the mic distances on the drum kit and adding individual delays to the close microphones, and calculated the pan position according to distance to the microphone to get a coherent stereo picture.
For the piano, I used The Grand 3, more specifically its Yamaha C7 model, reverberated only slightly with its built-in convolution reverb. The bass guitar was Christian’s Human Bass five-string fretless, sent through his Summit amp as a DI, and in the mix the DI signal got combined with a two-amp setting (from my POD X3) incorporating both an Alembic and a Jaguar bass amp through a 18” and a 4×10” cabinet, respectively.
As for the drums, it turned out the way you may have expected: I mainly used the overhead signal and the bass drum microphone, only with slight hints of the snare and tom microphones (which via parametric EQ I tuned to the root notes of the four chords in the tune – E, A, C and F), and the room microphones used as non-artifical reverb to great effect. I also applied the usual trick of ducking the low-frequency part of the bass guitar signal with the bass drum, and with that the sound came out both naturally-sounding and punchy at the same time. Yes, you could argue if the piano solo really was the best one possible for me here, but then again, I had to stick with the “no editing, no overdubs” rule here.
As for mastering, my minimalist approach was even more radical this time: there is no mastering applied whatsoever, and although that track has a lot of macro- and microdynamics, this is just the way I had intended it.
So finally, there were a lot of interesting experiences from this second #twitterchords submission of mine.
- If you record a drumset under studio conditions for some a-la-jazz music, three microphones are all you need.
- With the right computer (Core i7-based), the right interface (RME HDSP family) and the right computer configuration, it is possible to run the computer in silent mode, at the same time record 17 audio tracks onto it, run a high-quality virtual piano and STILL get interface latency below 0.7ms.
- Jazz trios are great fun. I need to do that some more!
And so with that, please do enjoy the track – and tell me what you think!