Mike Propst User Experience

Recording process journal, Day 1

I often do recording and usually don't spend a lot of time documenting what we did, what worked, and what is worth improving. So I wanted to actually do that this time around.

Goals

Given that we're back down to a two-piece but we have songs written by the trio, the goals here are to document the last set that the previous lineup ever played and to neatly pinch off this phase of the band.

Process

By necessity, our process is different from the last two albums, but it's informed by both of them.

  • Since there are two of us, we're recording bass and drums, then overdubbing guitar. I also don't own a bass cabinet, just a rackmount amp. This means we're doing those initial tracks with headphones, which can create a real microscope effect (especially for the drummer).
  • Since these songs have more changes, we're not playing to a click. This means drum takes have to be more or less perfect, because editing is really difficult. It also means that overdubbing a guitar is probably not going to be possible in one take.

Equipment

  • I rented two SM81s (with the -10dB pad switch on) for the overhead mics, mostly because I've lost one of my cheapo CAD SDCs. This really made the cymbals shine.
  • I pointed my MXL V67 LDCs (which are cheap and really medium-diaphragm when you get down to it) at the toms, since that got us a good result last time. I don't feel that I got as good a sound, but I'm not sure why.
  • The old standby SM57 wound up on the snare, but not before the Sennheiser e609 and an SM7B were tried. The SM7B's large whackable size wasn't worth the tiny sonic improvement, and the e609 just didn't work.
  • The kick and snare went into a separate preamp and then the dbx compressor.
  • For a quiet part played with mallets, I wanted a more whole-kit sound. I moved one V67 to about a foot and a half out from the kit at kick rim height, and pointed another sideways and the kick and snare from kind of under the hat. Another band playing downstairs made that second one more or less worthless, but the front mic might get a shot in the mix.
  • For the bass, I used a DI to split the signal into direct and amplified signals. The amplified side went into the Fuzzlord Drone Master (essentially a doom-tuned Rat pedal) and then my BBE rackmount bass amp where it was EQ'd and compressed just a little. The bass, whose strings are really not big enough for the low tuning, is floppy and lacks sustain without distortion so the mix might be tricky.
  • As of Today I currently plan to use a SM57 and e609 on my own guitar cabinet, maybe from two different distances, and see if I can pan those. If it doesn't work, then I'll do two takes.
  • For vocals I hope to try an SM7B. I kind of wasted my money renting one too early.