The Hot Club

My giddy aunt that’s fast! Guitarist on the right actually replaces his fingers every show, they just wear down to nothing otherwise.

Mic wise it’s an ORTF and three spots. I kept the guitar mics a bit distant so they sound less present and more real. The bass is mic’d pretty close to keep the sound tight in the low end.

Kit Hawes and Aaron Catlow

If anyone ever had the devil in their fingers is these folks! If they weren’t so nice i’d be scared.

So I’m still trying for the realest most natural sound I can get and aside from the mic techniques, I think this comes from letting the players feel natural. I encourage them to ignore the mics and play to the room, and we don’t use headphones or any kind of monitor. I feel that as soon as I give a player the headphones – I’ve taken their dynamics away from them. They ask for more or less of this and that while trying not to get tangled in the headphone lead. When they just play together completely acoustically without me interfering – it’s real, they get louder and quieter naturally and pretty much mix it themselves. They are connected by the air that moves between them, not by my wires.

I mic’d the guitar and vocal with my usual vertical XY thing and the fiddle with a fairly wide mic, a bit off axis – I did this off axis as Aaron moves around a lot and it keeps the sound more consistent. Just out of camera shot is an ORTF array, I’ve blathered on about this in previous posts so I won’t do it again.

Andrew Bate – Live at Bentham

Wow, what a voice! I first heard Andrew at a festival in Wiltshire this summer. As soon as his set finished I rushed over to wave my card in his face and convince him to make this video.
Still on a mission here to capture the most real and natural sound possible. So I went for my funny vertical XY thing that nobody else seems to do (I’ll explain it if anyone asks) combined with my usual ORTF array picking up the room. Blending in the ORTF is what makes it sound real, the close mics on their own sound kind of mic’d but provide a solid base, then mixing in the ORTF gives it some natural distance. The blue mic set high up didn’t make the mix, I often put up extra mics just in case they sound nice – you never know!

Tim Gilvin – Live at Bentham

Props to Tim for enduring my gnarly old piano, I think that’s probably it’s last outing.

The Piano is mic’d with an ORTF pair on the soundboard, plus an ambient mic further back. I find this gets the natural sound of the Piano nicely without too much mechanical thunk from the pedals and hammers.

I put the vocal mic high up and slightly off axis, this keeps the sound more consistent as Tim moves around while playing. The idea being that he’s always slightly off axis so we don’t get the close sound in the middle but a roomier sound at the sides. When mic’ing like this I ask the singer to ignore the mic and just sing to the room, I think this brings a more natural performance as they don’t need to think about mic technique – just enjoy singing.

Josh Wolfsohn – Live at Bentham

I’ve created a monster! Yeah, that’s my kid.
The idea of these Live at Bentham vids is to be as natural and acoustic as possible. So nothing electrical and no monitoring, just a pure acoustic recording.
Somehow here I’ve got Josh playing a DI’d electric and wearing headphones so he can hear it, which is exactly what we’re not doing, but here it is anyway.

I Di’d the guitar with an Orchid Electronics box. As far as I can tell it’s the cleanest DI box available and always my first choice.

The vocal mic is my Oktava MKL2500, not using a pop shield as he sings very quietly and isn’t close enough to need it.

Mix wise, the guitar is just compressed a bit. Josh likes the real tone of the guitar without any amp or fx.
The vocal is slammed pretty hard through a couple of compressors to give it that close, in your head sound. This also brings up the room a bit which I like, and there are no room mics so it’s good to get a bit of room from the vocal mic.

Maybe next time I’ll manage something completely acoustic!

Fallingham Fair

Today is the release of “Songbook” by Fallingham Fair. A folk pop trio with incredible musicianship and vocal harmonies. Next week their live EP “Live at Bentham Studio” will follow.
I want to talk a bit about the two different styles of production on these records, since it’s the same band but with completely opposite recording methods.

Songbook is the “Big Production” sound. Every instrument and vocal is recorded separately, one at a time in the live room. Recording this way allows for the best possible microphone setup as there is no spill from other instruments, therefore mics can be placed further away from the source giving a more natural sound. I like to think of it as recording “a person playing an instrument in a wooden room.” Rather than just “recording an instrument.” I’ve always felt that this creates a more natural sound, like being in the room with the artist. It takes a lot longer to record this way than a live recording, depending on the arrangement it could be just one song a day recorded but the ability to get the perfect sound and perfect performance for each instrument makes it worth it.

Live at Bentham Studio is exactly the opposite, what i call a “no headphones” recording. The band played completely live together, without any monitoring or headphones, just performing together without any distractions. The session was also filmed and can be found on youtube. Recording this way involves a much more complicated setup, everything has to be mic’d up at once, positioning mics to capture their intended instrument, with a minimum of spill from the others. In this case it was made harder by filming the session, I would normally place musicians in a circle facing each other for something like this. But in order to film it they had to perform like they were on stage, using just half of the live room. So a recording like this definitely suffers a little in sound quality due to the spill between instruments and the close mic’d sound. But what it does have is honesty, and that is the beauty of a recording like this. It’s absolutely the truth of what they do (not that the produced version is fake, they played every note of it.) And often the freedom of recording this way can bring out some of the best performances. It’s also worth noting that this method costs a lot less than the big production, The three track EP was recorded and filmed in an afternoon, with another day used for mixing. Songbook took about fifteen days to complete.

So there it is, two completely different approaches to recording the same band. Each with their advantages and disadvantages and of course it’s also possible to go somewhere in between – Start with a live band recording and then add more instruments one at a time.

Listen to Songbook here
Live at Bentham Studio will be released on August 4th.