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Sound Advice

Something New Or The Same Old Thing? by Simon King

Being a recording engineer these days can be boring. I think the era of affordable,
disruptive technologies has blunted peoples’ artistic and creative energies. In addition, the user is overwhelmed by so many choices. Our industry is awash in poorly-designed gear, with terrible user-interfaces. As a result, an inordinate amount of time
is wasted on “learning curves” as opposed to making music. Even worse, the gear in question may be destined for obsolescence.

Most professional studio engineers are schooled in the “tried and tested” industry
standards, but the convenience of recording and mixing inside the box is leading to terminal brain laziness. Consequently, the music charts are littered with recordings that have been tooled, based, looped, cut, pasted, and edited to death. The aural art of music recording has been replaced with mouse-driven video games.

Anyhow, in my neck of the woods, creativity, artistry, and innovation still rule. Here are some of my “mad” studio experiments:

Take 0
First, I thoroughly revised everything I knew about mono and stereo mic techniques. I then stepped out of my comfort zone, and embraced more exotic techniques like Ambisonics (Soundfield), the Decca Tree, the Fukada Tree, etc. (thanks DPA). It became clear to me that the overused standbys are not enough anymore.

Take 1 – Drums
Instead of the usual set-up, I have successfully deployed Crown GLM-200s on the kit, and Crown SASS models stuck on walls to capture room ambience. With artistic liberty, I have added MIDI triggers to the drums, and recorded the data to a sequencer. Under MPTE/MTC control, drum machines like the TR-909 and Korg ER-1 can be added to the acoustic kit with great results. Sometimes, an electronic kit with some insane “treatment” is what Dr. Drums ordered.

Take 2 – Acoustic Guitars
I usually position the stereo condensers at the sweet spots when tracking. If the guitar is pickup-equipped, the line output goes into a Roland JC-120 Chorus amp for further recording and sonic manipulation.

Take 3 – Electric Guitars
I normally make modeled amps (Line-6, Vox, Roland) part of the picture. Distorted digital amps sound horrible, but usable. For more fun and sonic assault, the vintage Roland GR-100 guitar synth (and G-series guitar) is hauled into the fray. With its hex fuzz/distortion, chorus, and filter (read HUGE wah), this old-timer loves to hang with Marshalls and Boogies; furthermore, the Supa-Fuzz and Supa-Wah pedals by Marshall may be added for more mayhem.

Take 4 – Electric Bass
First, I try to convince the bassist to think like a musician, and then plead with him to try the 6-string bass. Tuned to B-E-A-D-F#-B, the 6-stringer is a powerful musical tool. Now, our newly-forged bassist suddenly becomes creative; he’s thinking about how he can use the studio’s Boss GT-10B, Roland V-Bass, and the Moog Taurus Bass pedal.

Take 5 – Vocals
OMNIS are cool vocal microphones; however, I am always eager to see what DPA, Sanken, Schoeps, and Pearl can bring to the table. I might eventually settle on the Fostex M88-RP or the Milab VIP-50.

As Joe Meek once said… “If it sounds right, then it is right.”

Simon King is a producer/engineer based in Edmonton. He has recorded Moe Berg, Neo-A4, and other Alberta-based bands. He currently works as a composer in his private studio, Leo Project-Techworks.

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