Recording Diary: Morello radio recordings

Originally published on the Things You're Missing website.

Recording diary: Morello radio recordings
by Alex

This is the diary of a three days live recording which can give you an idea of the process and some good tips, enjoy!

Despite we would start working on a full length album in a few weeks time, we decided to record three tunes live as we needed them to be included in a radio interview. The recording took place in M o r e l l o studio over three days, with sound engineer David Dubh Black and Pete of Playground Psychotic helping us out.

In the studio there are a big sound-proof room we use for rehearsals, a control room and a live room. Due to some troubles with the suppliers, the last shipments of recording gear were delayed therefore we've got to do with what we had and what Pete was so kind as to lend us.

08.02.2003

Alessandro, Dubh and Pete met in town early in the morning, had a brief chat about the available equipment and soon realised they were going to need an awful lot of leads: at least 8 x XLR-XLR to go from the microphones to the mixing desk and 8 x 1/4" jacks to connect the latter with the Digi001 interface and the Mac, plus all the usual ones for guitars, bass, etc.

Bought the mentioned extra leads for a painful €100, the three went pick up the desk at home and then straight to the studio. Mac, mixing desk, compressor and two stage monitors (the proper studio ones were on their way) were set up in the control room and an 8 channels multi-core lead was used to link this with the rehearsal room (where drums, bass and guitars would be recorded).

With 8 channels available, 4 were assigned to the drums mics: Bassdrum (AKG D112), Snare/Hi-hat (Sennheiser e604) and two cool Oktava MC012 overheads provided by Pete. Dubh placed the latter as per a configuration known as X-Y: the two mics overlapped in a V position, the tip pointing exactly to the snare mic. The purpose is to give a stereo image of the drumkit, with the mics being panned left and right X-Y.

Pete then found an ingenious way to tie the bassdrum mic to the bottom of the right overhead's stand, so we managed to set up the whole kit with just four mics and two basic boom-stands: this was good since, due to the delayed shipments, that was most of what we had!

The bass amp was placed in the middle of the room, facing the wall opposite the drum and, again, aligned to the snare and overhead mics, in order to take advantage of the leaking. The output was taken from the DI output of a Line 6 Bass Pod. The two guitar amps were instead placed in the corners opposite the drum kit and miked with two SM 57 LC. The eighth channel was used to record the backing tracks from the left channel of the minidisk player while the right channel would provide the drummer Mark with a click track in his headphones.

It took Dubh no more than half an hour to get the sounds sorted, then we went trough the whole set once in order to warm up and record it (music only) so that Stephen could use it to practice his lines and work on the lyrics in the future.

During this 40 minutes take Dubh made a few adjustments and then we started recording the three songs we picked for the radio: Alarm, Watch me leave and Out of Sight. The latter took a few takes as it was our most recent song and we hadn't practice it a lot but the first two were good at the second take: total recording time about 30 minutes!

Next, the vocals: these were recorded in the live room which, despite being not too big, turned out to have a great acoustic and an excellent natural reverb due to the "total absence of flat frequencies"… what does this mean? We don't have a clue, ask Dubh 🙂 but apparently it's a very good thing.

We pot a board of the ones we used to sound proof the practice room at about 6 feet from one wall to help the acoustic, one Shure SM Beta 58A for Stephen in one corner facing the wall and Pete's condenser mic at the opposite side of the room. This recorded the room sound providing a very nice natural reverb and the effect of the two mics together was absolutely brilliant! Stephen delivered a great performance with all of the songs good at the first take and this was the end of our first day.

08.02.2003 (6.30 to 10 pm)

Monday… after 8 hours spent in the absolute boredom of our day jobs (with all that we have to do!), we rushed to the studio to continue our work. Darren and Dave recorded their backing vocals and then Dubh did a bit of editing. The songs were basically finished and ready to be mixed.

At that stage we did need proper monitors therefore we decided to continue the following Saturday as we should have received them by then.

Burned a couple of CDs and listened to them on a good stereo at home: despite being not finished the songs sound CLASS already, fair play to Dubh.

15.02.2003 (12am to 7pm)

Alessandro and Dubh met in town at 11.00 am and went straight to the studio for the final mixing session. Pete (Playground Psychotic), Dave, Mark and Stephen would join us later. Darren wouldn't attend as on holiday in Lapland (!!!)

Spent the first couple of hours setting up the studio: the monitors and all the rest of the equipment had arrived on the previous day so we could finally experience that sweet "all sorted" feeling… everything works fine.

No more editing was required so we started mixing at about 3pm after a much needed lunch break. It took us a couple of hours to set all the levels right: this sometimes turned out to be quite tricky because raising the guitars would bury the vocals in the music and vice versa.
The only big changes made were the levels of bassdrum, snare and Darren's guitar. Besides, some bits were too compressed and didn't sound BIG enough but Dubh managed to sort this out very quickly.

In a few cases cases we just watched while Dubh was messing up with thousands of Plug-ins, most of which apparently did absolutely nothing 🙂 but made the songs sound great in the end.

Eventually, we were totally happy with everything so we burned a few copies (included of course the one for Spin 1038 FM) and made some MP3s

This has been a very positive experience indeed: we found the songs are ready and we're able to perform them well, everything in the studio works perfectly and working with Dubh is a great pleasure. Many special thanks to Peter for all his help and support.

Having a studio of your own is priceless, we're totally satisfied with our choice and investments: feeling "at home" while recording without the stress of a limited time allows to create the perfect atmosphere and ensures the best results.

We’ll start recording our full length album on March the 1st

For your reference here's a list of the gear we used:

     * Mac G4 + Digidesign Digi001 Interface and Pro-Tools 5.1 LE with several plug-ins
     * 1 x AKG D112 bassdrum mic
     * 2 x Overheads condenser mics
     * 2 x Shure SM57
     * 1 x 8 CH Multicore cable
     * 2 x Tannoy Reveal Monitors
     * 3 x Mic Stands
     * MANY assorted leads

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