Motorcity Stringband are a four piece bluegrass band, based in the West Midlands (Birmingham/Coventry). They describe themselves as ‘keen to deliver a rampaging set of live music at a venue near you‘. I approached them when I saw them performing a packed out set at The Old Windmill pub in Coventry and asked if they would like to come into the studio to make some recordings. Being primarily focused as a live band, this was the first time they had all recorded music together and we all had a great time recording. Over the course of the evening the band recorded a mixture of their own original songs, Bluegrass Classics and Bluegrass renditions of well known pop songs.
The Motorcity Stringband are:
Andrew Friesen- Banjo and Vocals
Paul Ceney- Mandolin and Vocals
Pete Ainsworth- Bass and Vocals
Paul Elliker- Guitar and Vocals
If you would like to get in touch with the band their contact number is 07811947639 or click the links below for Motorcity Stringband’s:
Vocals: Every member of the band sings. They take turns singing lead and produce four part vocal harmonies together. To record their vocals I used four AKG C414 condenser microphones with pop filters on each of their voices.
Mandolin: On the mandolin I placed a pair of Rode NT55 small diaphragm condenser microphones on the left and right to produce a stereo image. One mike was placed below the mandolin to the left pointing in at the bottom f hole designed to capture the mandolin ‘chop’ and the other mike on the right caught all the detailed sound from the strings.
The 3 To 1 Rule When double miking acoustic instruments like this it is important to take into account the ‘3 to 1 miking rule’. If you place two or more mikes on a source the distance between the two should be at least three times the distance between the mikes and the sound source in-order to prevent phase issues. To read more on phase click the link for my blog post on Fighting Phase.
Acoustic Guitar: To record the guitar I used an Audio Technica AE300 condenser on the body of the guitar and a AKG C451B on the neck. I also took a clean signal from the guitars transducer into a D.I. box and then straight into the desk.
Acoustic Bass: The bass player Pete uses an acoustic ukulele bass. To record this I used an Ash-down bass amp in the room so the band could hear the bass without headphones and miked the amp speaker with a Shure SM58. I also took a clean D.I. signal straight from the bass into the desk.
Capturing Live Energy
Prior to recording I had discussed with the band’s banjo player Andy the way in which we would approach the recording session. We both decided that the best way to track the session was to get the whole band in the live room at the same time and record everything live in whole takes. This way the band could approach recording much like performing a gig and play off the energy of one another. When recording in this way there is always the inevitable problem of bleed between microphones but by placing the band in a circle with cardioid microphones facing away from the other members and by taking direct signals from the bass and the guitar I managed to minimize this. However, in my opinion with a setup like this some spill between microphones can be a good thing, it creates a more realistic picture of the band in the room.
The band had headphones that they could use for monitoring but they felt most comfortable just listening to each other in the room and used the headphones for talk-back communication. We would tend to record two or three full takes of each song and then the band would listen back in the control room and choose their best take. Over two separate recording sessions we managed to record twelve tracks for an album.
A big thanks to Motorcity Stringband