George Adams Audio

Music Technology

Recording: Alex Starkey

At the beginning of December I approached Alex Starkey whilst he was busking outside in the centre of Coventry. I offered him the chance to come into the University Studios and record some songs for free so I could get more experience recording and mixing. We arranged to meet and he came into the studio one evening. For this session I had booked out the Universities ‘SSL’ Studio. This studio houses a Solid State Logic AWS 900 Mixing Console.

Recording

When we got into the studio and set up we established that it would just be him singing and playing acoustic guitar live and that we would record in whole unedited takes.

I setup five audio channels:

A single large diaphragm AKG C414 microphone on his vocals with a pop shield.

Another AKG C414 on the body of his guitar and an AKG C451B on the guitar’s neck.

His acoustic guitar also had a built in transducer so I took a signal from this via a D.I. box which was an EMO passive D.I.

Finally I set up a Neumann TLM103 as a room microphone pointing in at Alex from the corner of the live room, hoping to capture as much as the rooms natural reverberation as possible.

So we recorded 5 songs in total and nearly all of the songs he got down in just one take.

Alex Busker (Heart Shaped Box) Screenshot

Mixing-
Although the room mic did have quite a nice natural sound I didn’t end up using it in any of the mixes. I decided to use the Pro Tools D-Verb reverb plug-in as a send effect because i wanted the recordings to sound as if they were in a larger acoustic space than the studio’s live room. I wanted something like the reverb of a live venue, a large hall, so i used the ‘Church’ setting.

(D-Verb) plug-in screenshot

 D.I.finetly Worth It

Apologies for the awful pun, I couldn’t resist. For those who don’t know D.I. stands for direct input or direct injection. D.I. boxes are used to take a clean unbalanced audio signal from something like an electric guitar or a keyboard and connect it to a balanced input like a mixer or audio interface. These days lots of new acoustic guitars come with a transducer or pick up of some kind built-in as standard. Although transducers can be useful for live sound work, on their own their quality for recording is very poor. However, the most useful part of a D.I. signal is its low end, it’s deep and rich bass frequencies, which is often ruined by the unnatural crunchy characteristic of it’s middle and treble range which appears useless for recording. If you EQ out some of this harshness then when you combine this sound with the clear, crisp sparkle you can get from a well placed microphone you will usually get a nice, full and complete sound.

Bearing all this in mind however, it would not always be necessary to use so many tracks on a single instrument. In a song that contained a full band and lots of instruments the bass frequencies that the D.I. provides would probably be unnecessary as it is usually provided for by the Bass guitar in the overall mix. In a scenario like this though where the instrumentation is so sparse, it can be extremely useful.

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