11/20/06

The recording process so far...

Tomorrow I go back into the studio to record for the last time before we start mixing. We'll be in our engineer's the project studio instead of the studio that we recorded the bulk of the tracks in. The first two days of recording at Supernatural Sound cost $900, plus $840 for our engineer. This of course does not include musicians, two of whom we flew in for the session. For the piano tracking we went into Randy Porter's Heavy wood Studio, where Randy tracked his Steinway on five tunes (for $350). Next, at Casa Valdez we had Dan Gaynor play my Casio tone to trigger B4 virtual organ sounds with a PowerBook on four more tunes. Then late one night, after my dogs had gone to sleep, my buddy Damien Mastersen recorded some killer chromatic harmonica on two tracks. Since I want to be right in the same room with the engineer to track my solos (for better communication) we can save some bread by not going back to Supernatural Sound until the final mix. I have to say we got a really great sound at Supernatural, very warm for a digital studio. So far Pere Soto and I have spent almost $4k on this project. The final mixing and mastering will cost another $1420, then the manufacturing costs.

Shit, this had better be good, right?! The CD is something I would have never done had I not co-produced it with Pere. We both are kind of balls-to-the-wall players usually, but this project turned out totally different. It's mostly dreamy romantic Latin music, with a Samba and a Rock-Funk tune thrown in. My grandmother would have even liked it! After years of going to my concerts she once told my mother,"You know, I think that I don't really like Jazz."

One thing I discovered during this recording was that a Royer ribbon mic combined with my clip on SD Systems condenser mic sounds incredible. I've never gotten a better sound in the studio in my life. Each mic compliments the other for a complete full and rich sound. Our engineer Sean Flora has been very easy to work with and really knows what he's doing. He's got great ears, which is crucial. Just being a gear geek doesn't make anyone a good engineer.

Before you choose your engineer make sure he/she has recorded the type of music that you're going to be playing, that they are familiar with the studio that you'll be working in, that they are clear about what their role will be (producer or just engineer), listen to some of the CDs that they have already recorded, give them some CDs that you would like your project to sound like, and have a long talk before the session about how you would like the session to go (schedule, breaks, communication, payment, ect).
Be musically prepared! Don't get too distracted by the fact that the clock is ticking and your wallet is draining. Once you start recording think about how you would like your own playing to sound.

One more thing! Always double check to make sure that the piano has been tuned. Not last month either, it's got to be done right before your session. Most of the time the studio will at least split this with you, but not always so be prepared for this extra expense. If you're going to be playing it hard for more than one day you should probably consider getting it touched up before the session is over.

SD Systems sax bell mic
Royer R-121 ribbon mic
Supernatural Sound Studios
Sean Flora Engineer

6 comments:

john said...

thanks for posting all the details of the recording stuff. it's pretty rare to get information like that.

Az Samad said...

Thanks for blogging about the recording experience. I learned a lot from reading this post! =)

Anonymous said...

This blog is really quite a thing. Thank you!

Do you also use the SD systems mic in the 'live' setting?

Have you ever used the Barcus Berry sax mic's that actually affix to the horn? I think it's the 'C5200' or something like that...

Mic-ing the saxophone live has always perplexed me. Do you have a favorite set up?

Thanks again for all the effort you put into this blog. We are all the richer!

David Valdez said...

The SD Systems mic is really the only clip on that I tried for any length of time. Usually clip-on condensers sound tinny. I now use the SD for all my gigs. The sound is quite natural.

I've heard that the SD clarinet mics are great also. The clarinet setup has one mic at the bell and one above the middle of the horn.

I tend to move around when I play so the clip on mic is good for me.
In the studio the SD worked well as a bell mic, but wasn't good enough alone. I'm always tempted to put as many mics on the horn as I can and then blend them later.

Thanks for the encouragement. It really does help keep me motivated to write.

Sean said...

Hi David- I came across this while self-googling. Thanks for the kind words. I very much enjoyed working on this project with you top-notch musicians. Keep up the great work!

The blog is really well put-together also. I'm quite impressed.

Cheers
Sean

David Valdez said...

Sean,
Caught you auto-googling, eh?

Glad you enjoyed the blog. Hopefully we can do some more work together soon.