Let’s face it: home studio recording can be a pretty expensive endeavour, whether it’s just a hobby or you’re doing it professionally. It’s also true that it doesn’t actually take very much equipment to make a pretty decent recording. It really comes down to skill, attention to detail, and practice.
I’m constantly being bombarded with advertising for the latest gadget, software plug-in, or instrument that promises to deliver “that sound.” Temptations are high to freshen things up, try something new, and lay down the cash to make it happen. I’ve resolved, however, to learn to work well with what I have, and only invest when I’ve really reached the limits of what I can do in the studio.
Case in point, I recently purchased a clip-on boom mic stand, and a new condenser mic. This allows me to record guitar and vocals at the same time, which I could not do before. It changes a fundamental aspect of the recording process.
OK, so I also splurged on an upgrade to my drum machine software, but man, it sounds good. And I deserve it.
Today I attended another roundtable session of my favourite meetup.com group – Songwriter’s Cafe Toronto. The group normally meets once a month where members present a song they have written, either live or recorded. The group then engages in friendly, constructive feedback for the writer. Some members come only to listen, which is welcomed. Criticism is generally positive, with many suggestions for improvement. Genres vary widely from pop, folk, rock, electronic, rap, instrumental, spoken word, and others.
This round I presented an instrumental piece in which my objective was to keep things simple and restrained without being boring. The feedback was very positive, and as often is the case with my instrumental pieces, members say how it evokes a very particular scene in an imagined movie.
It’s truly amazing to be in a group of such talented musicians and writers, and be able to discuss the creative process in a critical and respectful manner.
I worked closely with a solo singer-songwriter Erica McLachlan (aka Hello Time Travel) to produce, record, and perform on her independent CD release. I also provided photography, video and layout services. The CD included a music video that I shot, directed, and edited.
A happy accident occurred on our first recording session. For Erica’s first song (and single) Underground, I accidentally had my Apex 430 microphone pointing backwards (i.e. the back was facing the singer). Frankly, with some of these large-diaphragm condenser mics, they look almost identical on the front and the back. Here’s both sides of my Apex 430:
Which side is the front? Unless you know what those little icons mean, it’s hard to tell. The front side has a cardioid microphone pattern on it, indicating that on this side, the mic picks up sound in this pattern. On the back, the icon indicates that it rejects sound from this side. This is hard to tell for a beginner. Since then, I’ve put a piece of coloured tape on the front, just in case.
I didn’t figure out why her vocal sounded a little distant and weird until after the recording session was over. I told Erica we had to re-record the vocals, but as it turned out, she actually liked the lo-fi sound of the “improper” recording. We decided to go with it and turned the whole track lo-fi, including the video.