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D8 Skills #23 & D9 | Unit E | Recording JayTay | Session #1

D8 Skills #23 & D9 | Unit E | Recording JayTay | Session #1

Today, we were set a formative assignment which is to hand in 3 pieces of music recorded at college using the college's equipment by 25th November. Since this is only 21 days away and we have other assigments due in before this date, we began work right away. From Loft's track we've been recording, there are only the vocals left to record. We were hoping to do that today however the only band member to turn up was the bassist, so we decided to start work on a different piece of music by forming a small new band consisting of the bassist and some of us in the tech group. I could do piano, Flo could do vocals, Taylor could do drums, and Jamie on bass and guitar. We decided today that we'd record a great drum take of a cover, with Jamie doing a demo guitar recording.

JayTay (Jamie and Taylor) went into a rehearsal room to learn the track, while Flo, Harvey and I set up the drums in the main recording room, and miked it up. We decided to use 8 mics:

AKG D112 on the Kick Drum's Batter Head: This is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern, and an audio frequency bandwidth of 20Hz-17kHz. It also has an ideal frequency response for a kick drum as it boosts the bass, leaves the mids, and boosts the highs. You want the bass to be boosted because that’s where you feel the thump of a kick and you want the highs to be boosted because that’s where the audible transient lies for that punch. The mids can sometimes muddy up the kick so it’s good that these are left. This microphone also has a very high maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level) which is ideal for use on a kick drum because the microphone is positioned right inside the drum meaning it’ll be very loud: it can handle 160dB SPL without distorting. They’ll also be that shock of air coming at the mic from the batter head.

CAD M179 on the Kick Drum's Resonant Head: This is a double diaphragm multimode condenser microphone. It has a continuously variable polar pattern, a 20dB pad, and a high pass filter at 100Hz. It has a max SPL of 143dB (including pad) which makes it a good candidate for a loud kick drum. It had a flat frequency response with a slight boost in the highs at around 10kHz. This is ideal because the resonant head will be extremely bass heavy meaning we don't need the bass boost the D112 gives.

2x Shure SM57 on the Top & Bottom of the snare: This is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern, and a frequency response of 40-15000Hz. Its frequency response is perfect for a snare, as the bottom end rolls off from 200Hz to compensate for proximity effect as the mic is positioned very close to the drum, and the highs have a boost at around 6kHz which adds a nice presence to the snare. Proximity effect is the increase of bass frequencies as a directional microphone comes closer to the sound source.

2x AKG C1000S on the Left & Right Over Head: This is a small-diagram condenser microphone “designed to capture every nuance and characteristic” (Samson Unknown Date) of the sound, with a cardioid polar pattern to capture what’s in front of the mic and to minimise pick up from the sides and back. We have chosen to use a condenser microphone for the overhead because it is a lot more sensitive than dynamics, so is ideal for capturing the the drum kit as a whole, positioned a little far back from the kit (not right up against a particular part of the drum like the other dynamic mics). They have a flat frequency response with a slight boost at around 9000Hz which is ideal for the overhead as they’re responsible for capturing the cymbals, hi-hat and ride which all have important high frequency content in them.

2x Sontronics STC-2 on the Front and Back Room Mics: These are large-diaphragm condenser microphones with a cardioid polar pattern. Condenser microphones are more sensitive than dynamics therefore they're a good candidate for room mics. They have an extremely flat frequency response with a boost of 5dB at around 9kHz. Since I don't particularly want much bass frequency build up in these two tracks (as we're miking up the kick individually) these are mostly for mids and highs. Later in the mix, I will heavily compress these two tracks to achieve the sound I want.

After all was setup, and plugged in following our input list that was created right at the beginning, we set up the Pro Tools project. We also made sure to turn phantom power on all channels that needed it, and flipped the phase on channel A3 (Bottom Snare) because we're recording the Top Snare at the same time. Otherwise, the two signals would cancel each other out after being summed together.

We had the drums in the main recording studio, and the guitar in the drum booth. This is because we wanted to get the final drum recording this time, and later overdub the guitar on top. This guitar take is really just a tool for the drummer.

While setting gain for the drums, I noticed that the microphone on the kick's resonant head was distorting like crazy. The drummer went to the toilet, and the bassist offered to tap the kick drum for me while I figured it out. When the bassist was doing this, the signal sounded perfectly fine, and that's when I realised what the issue was. The bassist was tapping the kick lighter than how the drummer was so I figured the amplitude must have exceeded 143dB which is the microphone's maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level) before distorting. I switched on the 20dB pad on the microphone, and this solved the issue completely.

Here's a video demonstrating the drummer playing, and then the bassist before I had switched on the 20dB pad:

We ended up the session with a great drum track.