notes from the shore

Adventures in Home Recording

Summer Tales

I enjoy helping people record their music, especially when they have no other route. Family friends Nicole and Kayley White fall into that category. Nicole is a young writer, poet, and songwriter. She has written more songs than she can count, including one for my daughter to sing at a competition.

I offered to help her record some of her songs, and she chose her lullabies, many of which she has written for her six siblings. This is our second recording session, the first was rough and I was never happy with the mix, so I never published about it. This time went much better, however.

Instead of borrowing my friend’s microphones, we borrowed my friend’s basement, and were able to use his AKG C414 and Reflexion Filter in the recording. He then burned the tracks to a CD and I brought them home to mix.

original-recording1The recording went smoothly. Nicole laid down a guide track with voice and guitar. Then we set up to record her guitar for real. We tracked takes in both standard stereo and M/S, and took another stereo take with the mic inside the Reflexion set in Omni, to see if that really made a difference in the sound.

For the record, I never took the time to mess with the M/S recording, and I didn’t notice a difference with the C414 in omni. In fact, I ended up comping the two tracks (omni vs. cardioid) because the first note of the one I wanted to use had an annoying ringing and buzzing to it.

comping-nicole-and-kayley1Once the guitar was set up, the main step was comping the vocals. In this screen shot you can see the three main sets of vocals we recorded. We set Nicole up in front of the AKG with the Reflexion, and Kayley several feet to her left on a Behringer B-2 Pro. Nicole sang a solo on the verses and harmony to Kayley’s melody on the choruses. There was a really nice bleed between the mics, which was most obvious on the verses. I liked the sound, so I left Kayley’s mic open during the verses.

I ultimately didn’t use anything from the first take, because is was too hot compared to the other two takes. But, I got a nice mix comping the other two takes together. I had forgotten that during one of the takes, Nicole sang a harmony to her third verse. I found that pulling in Kayley’s mic for that bit was the perfect balance.

The last bit of vocal magic was the opening, a capella line. The difficulty was in matching the timing of her guide track. In retrospect, we should have recorded the opening line first, and then tied the timing into it. As it was, there was no way to cue Nicole that it was time to sing. So, we recorded a few takes of it separately, and I flew them into the beginning of the song digitally. 

final-with-automation1With the comping and mixing complete, the song looked like the screen shot to the left. The one location in the fourth track where two layers are playing simultaineously is that verse harmony I mentioned earlier. The blue track is a third harmony that comes in for a single line at the end of each verse.

guitar-eq1While mixing I also applied the various effects, including EQ. The screen shot is the EQ curve for the guitar channels (subbed to a single bus). The dip at 165 Hz took out a mid-range dumpiness in the guitar. It was especially obvious when the guitar was playing by itself. The shallow bump at 3800 Hz brought out the pluck of the strings nicely. I’m actually rather proud of myself for this curve.

For the vocals I explored a piece of kit that came with Sonar that I hadn’t tried yet, the VC-64 Vintage Channel, which is a re-skinned Golden Channel by Kjaerhus Audio. Basically it combines a gate, de-esser, two compressors and two EQ’s into one piece of kit with a relatively low CPU overhead, and you can route the signal bewteen these various parts in a number of different ways.

I hate to say that in the end I used one of the presets, but I liked the results I was getting. And, I didn’t have the time to really experiment to get a better one. I used it on each of the vocal lines, and was quite happy with the results. I also used the Sonitus Compressor on the guitar tracks to even the sustain out a bit.

mixer-screenFor the first time the SIR convolution reverb failed me. I used my favorite live room response from Noisevault, and had a high-pitched ringing whenever the signal got too hot. I’ve never had that happen before. I tried to EQ it out, but was unsuccessful. So, I switched over the the Perfect Space reverb that came with Sonar and plugged in the same impulse. The result was clean and beautiful. Note that Perfect Space is a scaled-down version of Voxengo’s Pristine Space.

Some mix buss compression courtesy of Sonar’s Compressor, and slap on Boost11 to handle any accidental overs, and we’re done. Have a listen here.


January 24, 2009 - Posted by | Production Diary | , , , ,


  1. The MP3 link leads to “page not found”

    Comment by a | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. Sorry about that. The link is fixed.

    Comment by robntweber | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  3. […] (his is mostly nicer than mine) and borrowed his services as an engineer while I played at being a producer. I see this work I’m doing with him as some level of payback for all the kindness he has […]

    Pingback by Recording Session « playing in peoria | May 3, 2009 | Reply

  4. […] I’m also working on some other people’s music. The son of a friend wrote a suite of symphonic band pieces while in high school, but has never heard them played by mature musicians. I’m working on renderings of them. I also infrequently record a friend who has written, well, a ton of music. We’re recording her lullubies. […]

    Pingback by The Agenda « playing in peoria | March 31, 2010 | Reply

  5. Nice, Rob! 🙂 It’s interesting reading about the whole process… someday I may find it very cool to learn how to do it myself, and when that happens I’ll just probably ask you a bunch of questions. (btw, tell everyone hi for me… see ya!)

    Comment by Nichole White | April 13, 2010 | Reply

  6. […] of vocals and instruments through it at my good friend’s studio. You can hear some examples here. All in all, it’s a solid contender and my first choice. There is also an optional A/D […]

    Pingback by Project Studio Upgrades, Pt. 2 « notes from the shore | May 22, 2011 | Reply

  7. […] of vocals and instruments through it at my good friend’s studio. You can hear some examples here. All in all, it’s a solid contender and my first choice. There is also an optional A/D […]

    Pingback by Project Studio Upgrades, Pt. 2 – Preamps and Channel Strips | notes from the shore | February 20, 2012 | Reply

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