Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Capturing The Bass In A Live Performance

Capturing The Bass In A Live Performance - (these tips can also be used in the studio)

1. The Performance
It all starts with the performance. This is ultimately what matters the most. You want a good player who knows the songs well. Otherwise you will end up spending more money to fix things after the fact.

2. The Instrument
The next step to a great bass recording is the Instrument. You want to use a quality bass that is in good condition (no fret buzz, bad jacks or pots, well intonated, etc.) It is also important to keep the bass in tune between songs. Fresh strings can be important as well but it is recommended to change them a few days before the show since they can be too bright and noisy when first changed. Also, planning ahead and having a backup instrument can save a show from disaster.

3. Di or Amp?
Should you use a direct box or mic the bass amp? It is recommended to always use a direct box in live situations so you can have a bass signal free of bleed. If the bass amp is well isolated from the stage and you have the ability to mic it in addition to the direct box, go for it. Just be aware that if you are mixing a bass amp and direct box together, there will most likely be a slight timing difference between the two tracks. The Direct box will be very slightly ahead of the amp since it has a shorter path to travel. This can cause phase issues and cancel out the low end of the bass. You will have to phase align the two tracks in your Digital Audio Workstation after the fact. You can also always apply a bass amp plugin or send the direct recording to a bass amp and record that in post production.

4. EQ and Compression
Subtle EQ and compression can help bring out the dynamics of the performance. If not done properly however, it can also hinder the recording. If in doubt, bypass any such effects. From experience I’ve encountered bass recordings that sound very thin even though they sounded fat on stage. This could be caused by many factors. Sometimes a bassist is misled by the sound coming from the bass amp. As a result they tend to drop the low frequencies on the instrument thinking there’s enough low end from the bass amp only to realize that the recording had little to no low end. Again, If in doubt, capture the recording with no processing.

5. Monitoring
Always keep an eye on the input signal. Even if the signal was not clipping during soundcheck, there is a good chance the player will be playing harder during the performance. In the digital domain, you want to avoid clipping as it can ruin a recording. Recording too low is preferred to clipping in the DAW, so leave yourself plenty of headroom. One way to help prevent this is to make sure that the player has enough of themselves in their monitors while they are playing at a reasonable volume during soundcheck so that once the band starts they don’t struggle to hear themselves and start playing louder. The bass player could also be clipping his amp/direct box before it gets to the engineer, so use your ears as well to tell you if there is a problem. One issue often overlooked, is the proximity of the bass player to their amp. Low frequencies are heard best from a distance since they have long wavelengths. Standing too close to the amp can actually give the impression that there is not enough low end. If possible have the bass player move farther away from the amp until they can hear the true tone of the amp.

In conclusion, meters are crucial but let your ears be your ultimate guide.

by Daniel Ayittah

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Capturing Drums in A Live Performance

Capturing Drums in A Live Performance
-by Daniel Ayittah

1. The Drum Kit.
Your choice of the drum kit or instrument for that matter will greatly influence your recording. This is because each instrument sounds different sonically depending on the material used to build it. The choice of kit is as critical as the microphones used. If your drums are cheap you should expect a cheap sound in your recordings.

2. Performance
The first step to getting a good drum recording is to use a good drummer. A bad performance cannot be fixed later in post production. If you’re willing to invest in a live recording you might as well invest in a good drummer.

3. Tuning and Changing heads.
Second on the checklist is to make sure your drums sound good using your ears first. The drums have to be tuned appropriately to achieve this. Tuning your drums properly will help them to blend in the mix properly. It’s also preferable to change your drum heads prior to a recording. You should also have spare heads available. If you don’t know how to get your drums to sound good, get a drum technician or a professional drummer to help. You can’t expect to record a bad snare with a good mic and expect the microphone to do the magic. Many a time I find people making the mistake of using the “we’ll fix it in the mix” path. That’s a trap for failure. Check drum parts for unnecessary noises which can affect the recording. An example is the rattling of snare wires. These can be silence by adjusting the lever on the side of the snare else you can place a towel or cloth in between the wire and the bottom of the snare. It is also advisable to have spare snares available. Squeaking drum thrones can be dealt with by applying some oil to the joints.
Cymbals cannot be tuned unfortunately so you may have to replace them if they don’t sound good.
Dampen your drum heads where appropriate to avoid unwanted resonance. You can put a small cushion or padding at the bottom of the kick mic to deal with too much sustain. However don’t stuff your whole laundry into it. Padding it too much will change the sound of the kick drum into a less interesting thud.

4. Placing microphones
Proper mic placement will help you to get a good signal from your drums. This is a wide topic but a rule of thumb is to have the mics for the snare and toms pointing to the Center of the drum heads instead of the sides. Overhead mics should not be too close to the cymbals as well. It is also advisable to do a test recording of the kit and adjust mic positions till you get the right sound. There are several resources online about drum miking techniques which you can check out if you’re not sure of what you’re doing.

Using good microphones is crucial to the fidelity of your recording. If you use cheap mics you should not expect a pro sounding recording.
There are many mics to choose from hence we’ll not dwell on that. However it goes without saying that a shure sm57 has been an all time favorite for snares. Speaking of snares it’s always preferable to record the top and bottom of the snare. You can get away with using a single mic for the kick but make sure you’re doing it right. If in doubt consult a professional recording engineer. Your FOH(Front of House) engineer would be the best place to start.

5. Drum Enclosures
There's usually a debate about whether to use enclosures or not, also popularly known as a drum cage. I would suggest that if you have a lot going on the stage, it may be advisable to use an enclosure. Same goes if your stage space is too small. The enclosure not only helps to isolate the drums but also prevents the drum sound from bleeding into other sources on stage. That's worth taking note of. 

See you in the next episode...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Classical Piano Recording: Update

A couple years ago, in honor of my late brother, Frank (an avid Chopin fan), we did a short series on piano miking.  A big thanks to my good friends and excellent engineers Randy Poole (Anita Baker, Michael W. Smith, CeCe Winans) and Kevin Edlin (Nashville Symphony, Kings Singers) for contributing their techniques and tips to the GetYoshed blog!

The project Kevin was recording while writing this blog was a solo piano album for acclaimed pianist Agnes Wan (  This album has recently been released and we wanted to share it with you to listen to while you're reading Kevin's post and thinking about your own piano recordings. The album can be found on Soundset here or iTunes here. Here's what Kevin wrote:
"Thanks for having me, I really appreciate it. As far as classical piano recording techniques go, here are some of my thoughts. The first thing to consider is the type of piece you're going to record - whether it's a work for solo classical piano, or rather a piano concerto (a piece written for piano and orchestra) with the pianist as the featured soloist. Further consideration needs to be given to the approach of the recording, i.e. a live concert as opposed to a closed session. As you may know, in classical music the aesthetic is generally for recordings to be made in somewhat of an audience/listener's position, but yet having more clarity and detail than seated patrons can observe.  
For purposes of this discussion, I'll leave out anything related to recording a piano as only a part of the orchestra, where it is only an element of the music and not a featured instrument. I'll also only include non-studio techniques, as most classical recordings are made on location in different concert halls and performing arts venues.  
For a solo classical piano piece, the first thing one should do is make sure the instrument is in a good spot on the stage. The sound of the piano as it resonates in the hall it's played in can change greatly if moved from the front to the back of the stage. Generally, you'll want to have the instrument somewhat in the center. This however can vary slightly though, as some performers like to have the center of the sound board directly in the middle of the stage, while other prefer to have the hammers and action in the middle, thereby putting the keys and the performer in the center as well. Sometimes this is done for acoustic reasons, and sometimes it may be done like this just for the sake of appearances. After this has been decided upon, it's a good idea to talk with the performer about past experiences he or she might have had playing in that hall (if they ever have before) to gain any insight from them, and just to make sure they're comfortable. It's also paramount to do a little moving of the instrument from upstage (closer to the back wall) to downstage (closer to the audience) - and a lot of critical listening while the performer plays through a few excerpts of the material at hand. I can't emphasise this enough. Sometimes, just a few feet in either direction can make a big difference in finding a particular spot on the stage where the sound blooms.  
When it comes to equipment, I would normally start with a spaced pair of omnidirectional microphones positioned 4 to 5 feet over the opening of the lid at full stick, with the angles of the mics generally at the same degree as that of the open lid. This would be used as the main pair of mics, and for the most part be responsible for capturing the instrument and the overall sound of the recording. For this, my preference would generally be the DPA 4006. I have however had good results using a pair of high quality cardiod or sub-cardiod microphones, such as Schoeps or Neumann, in an ORTF position or something similar. I also try and use the cleanest, quietest, and most neutral preamplifiers available, typically by manufacturers such as Millennia, Grace, or Lavry. The Millennia HV-3D 8 channel unit is very commonplace for this application. For a solo piano, I might also put up a pair of flanking omnidirectional microphones, with each one being 6 to 8 feet or so to the left and right of the main pair. This is primarily to capture the reflections of the stage and to allow for a greater width to the recording. Lastly, I almost always have some sort of ambient hall pair of mics. These are usually omnidirectional as well, and could be anything ranging from the DPA compact series to some sort of high quality large diaphragm condensers. Using these allows one to capture the natural reverberation of the hall. They can be placed anywhere from the far left/right corners of the very back of the hall and high up near the rear ceiling, to mid-way down the isles near the stage and fairly close together - or anywhere in between. The exact position can depend on the size the room, whether it's a small recital hall or a large concert venue, and the given rooms acoustics.  
Another major factor involved in classical mic technique that I have yet to mention is whether or not an audience is involved. This can be much greater factor than most people first imagine. In live concert recordings, microphones are often times not allowed to be placed on stands on the stage during performances! Depending on the venue management, the performer and/or music director, and what the audiences of that venue are accustomed to seeing, equipment such as mics, stands, and cables on stage can be thought of as cluttering and unsightly. It can therefor be necessary to suspend them in the air somehow from the ceiling, rafters, or architecture of the building. This could mean hanging them from the overhead grid or catwalk railing of a performing arts center, or even through the rafters and attic of a church. Naturally, this can pose some problems. The ways and means of doing this could be the subject of an entirely different essay, and would well go beyond the scope of this one. Suffice to say, in a live audience situation, a good classical recording engineer must be able to get the microphones in the best spot available despite the possible adversities. So, whatever mic placements you have decided are best from your acoustic experiments and critical listening, you may now have to suspend in mid air and secure properly so that all performers, patrons, and backstage personnel are safe from any falling equipment! The placement of ambient hall mics are a good illustration of this. While in some occasions no one will care if the main or flanking pairs of mics are attached to stands on stage or not, it will always be against fire codes to put equipment in the isles or seating area of a hall during a performance. Mic stands, cables, or anything that could be a trip hazard will always be completely off limits when a live audience is present. This however becomes a non issue during a closed session! One then has the freedom to choose to narrow the focus of the ambient pair, as opposed to hanging them from the one accessible beam found in the back of the hall. This however can even affect the mic choice of the main pairs as well. For instance it is usually easy to hang a pair of small diaphragm  condensers on a stereo bar in front of an audience, while it may be nearly impossible to suspend a pair of Neumann M 50's or M 150's (with their accompanying tube power supplies) safely in the same hall.  
This concludes many of my thoughts on recording a solo classical piano piece. I'll leave the topic of recording a piano concerto to another essay. And while I know that I have recored Chopin pieces before, I can't recall which ones, or exactly when or where. I'm sure I've recorded the Nashville symphony performing the music of Chopin in concert, and probably also the Aspen Festival Orchestra as well. And while I have never recorded an album of his music, I am never the less both humbled and thrilled to be included in your blog."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Best Sounds Ever

My good friend, Ed Wyborski, recently wrote to me, posing the question of the “best ever” sounds.  What is the best snare sound, trumpet sound, mandolin sound, etc.  Of course, “best” is always subjective, but so many great sounds are very distinct or unique.  Here’s what Ed wrote; please add to the list and comment on your favorite sounds and, if you know, how they were created. We will be at the AES booth at NAMM this weekend asking people for their input as well.

The Question - What is the best ever use of an instrument (or close to an instrument) in songs we know at this point in time, if you believe in a linear timeline.  What is the thing that gets your attention when you hear a song that makes you say “I know that song – it has a great…?).  You can pound to it, dance, and jump or just yell out.  “Ya baby – I remember when this came out – it was soooo cool”

So, I open for debate, to honor all those great musicians, recording engineers and producers that have captured these incredible sounds. What is the best ever – What, Who, When, Where and now the hard part “How?”

The virtual phone is now open.  Please add and expand in every direction.

      - Hand claps – Buffalo Springfield,  For what it worth
      - Leslie speaker with organ – Devil with the blue dress?
      - Leslie speaker with guitar – John Jaszcz, Detroit 1977, hot night, cool drinks, great song – no idea what    it was but it was cool (note: This speaker got me a “A” at Wayne State in the Psychoacoustics of physics class 500 level)
      - Leslie speaker with other – Good Question
      - Cow Bell – Mitch Rider and the Detroit Wheels? – Little Susie was only 5 years old – rock and roll? 
      - Bongo -  must be Santana – Soul sacrifice – a long time ago (extra points for the place)
7    - Something cool – Ride with me  - some kind of sound at start
8    - Best “hey hey hey” - Don’t you forget me Simple minds?
      - Saxophone – Deacon Blues?
      - Talk Box – Rocky Mountain Way 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kirk Franklin: Hello Fear

Kirk Franklin is a phenomenal producer and choir director, and together with his production team, incredibly talented singers, and Fo Yo Soul Records, he created a masterpiece entitled Hello Fear, that Yosh had the distinct honor of contributing mixes.  

Certainly congratulations to Kirk are in order after a huge first week, selling nearly 90,000 copies (making it the 4th best selling gospel album of all time) and debuting No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel Chart as well as No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and appearing in top spots of several other charts as well.  Even amidst all this success, however, what makes Kirk Franklin Kirk Franklin is his heart.  As he told, "I am just humbled.  It is a blessing to know, that after all these years of making music, God continues to give me songs that people want to hear. I knew going into this project that God was not as concerned about what I do in the process of this album but what I become in the process of this album. I am hopeful that Hello Fear reaches the hearts of everyone who purchased the CD and helps them along their process of becoming who God would have them become." 

If you haven't heard the album yet, it is available in any record store, or Walmart, Amazon,
as well as iTunes.  He is also on tour with Steve Harvey - a show definitely worth seeing.

Check out one of the single's "I Am"