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Recording with, despite or without air? - sunday thoughts
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
Recording with, despite or without air? - sunday thoughts

I record acoustic music, mostly gutiar and mandolin, and I always hesitate where to post. Most of the time I find myself looking through these pages, at Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music & Location Recording, but it isn't always I find myself really comfortable posting here since I rarley do "location recording" och "remote recording".

I record at home, or in a home studio setting, but am reaching for a, may I call it, "natural" sound in the scence of "life is good enough and hard enough to capturde, I'm not reaching for 'larger than or better than' life."

Maybe the word I'm reaching for is "honesty". Although I admit that comes with many different price tags. A cheap dictaphone in a horrible room might be "honesty" in one way, but that's not what I'm after, although I think I prefer it to a cheap dictaphone in a horrible room drowned with heaps of chours and reverb.

The downside of calling it "honest" recording is that everything else becomes dishonest - which isn't particulary nice, and in alot of ways dishonest in itself as "honest" music still chooses microphones, preamps etc to influence the sound. Sometimes I've seen the expression "true" but that has the same downsides. What do we call it?

Maybe this gets a little bit too theoretical but I've been thinking in terms of "source recording" and "target recording", with the former trying to be as true to the source as possible, and the latter as more target-oriented, aiming for a particular (enhanced?) sound?

Or maybe it is as simple as "acoustic", as even a electric guitar through a cabinet can be recorded in an acoustic way, with a source, a mic and some between them air? Is it time for a big division in the form of three subforums: "recording with air", "recording despite air" and "recording without air"? Regardless of dedicated or not dedicated recording space?

But that probably wouldn't be gearslutz but rather recordingslutz?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

It might not be a bad idea to choose several recordings of the genre of music you record, and which recordings you think are not only good musically speaking but also good in the sound captured/mixed, and then try to mimic these in how you record. Over time you'll arrive at what you like, and you'll adjust to suit your taste.

As to air or no air etc. a lot of this can depend on the equipment used, and sometimes mics/preamps can sound airy even in a pretty dry room. I do not like to add reverb in mixes and what I said in the prior sentence was a pleasant surprise to me.

At minimum, this approach may free you from thinking too much in terms of theory or exacting technique.

And posting in this sub-forum is probably fine, but I am not a moderator.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

I'm not a moderator either, far from it. But...

IMHO, the current "split" between studio recording and Acoustic Music & Location Recording is the correct split to make.

The difference isn't so much about honesty or intent, it's about technique. While one can close mic just about anything, most acoustic instruments need some space between themselves and microphones in order for the sound to develop. It takes some space for the various parts of a violin to coalesce into a coherent sound. The same is true for most acoustic instruments.

If you back off the mics to let the instruments breathe, you end up recording more of the environment. Can't be helped, which makes the sound of the environment part of the recording. Thus the emphasis on location recording -- most studios, and in particular most home studios, just lack the space, the shear volume, the distance between walls, high enough ceilings, to begin to sound good. I'm just saying that not many of us live in old converted stone churches (although there's a local guy near me who does -- sadly, he doesn't record, or rent it out for recording, he just wants to live there ).

Put those realities together and you get the reason for the existence of this Gearslutz subforum I think.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
I sort of agree with Bruce. I think that what we think an instrument "should sound like" will vary with the genre of music. I think if I mic an acoustic instrument at 4-6 feet, I'm capturing the sound made by the instrument, where if I mike it at 8 inches I'm not capturing all of the sound (and yes, where I place the microphone in the sphere surrounding the instrument matters). I think that when we talk about micing for classical music, we go even farther because the room is part of what the instrument "should sound like" for classical. If we're micing for a solo jazz performance, probably closer in. If we're micing for a big band session, probably still closer in.

To me, the difference between what we talk about here in this forum and the studio forums is more about the fact that we're dealing with a wider range of instruments and the art of using microphones to capture them so that they "sound right" for the production we're making. In a pop/rock studio setting, frequently all you are miking are amplifiers (if you do) and the vocals, and the vocals are the area where the debate about gear comes forward - what sort of mic works best for what voice, where do you place it, etc.

To the OPs point - there is NO "truth" in recording. There is only the goal of the person doing the recording, and how he uses the tools he has to meet that goal. Sometimes the goal is to make the listener feel as if he was in the room with the musician(s). Sometimes it's to put the musicians in a completely different space. The fact that there's no "right" also means that "wrong" is a matter of taste as well.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

I always found the origins and history of electro-acoustic music helpful in conceptualizing the abstract aesthetic of modern studio practice, vis-à-vis that of performance and location recording. Before the war, many composers were discussing and writing about what form music would take if it was composed for the "gramophone" (Henry Cowell comes to mind). I see Pierre Schaffer's work in France after the war (developing into "musique concrete") as being examinations of these aesthetics.

While I'm not saying that musique concrete is a necessarily much of a direct influence on modern studio practice (Les Paul's work is a better corollary) . . . most of what we hear these days it is still fundamentally music that can only "exist on tape", in the same way as musique concrete was first described. This is true even in classical studio recording, and perhaps even some classical recordings that are done on location - after all, if a symphonic work is performed in a whole bunch of little snippets and edited together, where does the whole piece actually exist, but on a hard-drive? Sure, the same performers can perform the same composition straight through and in performance, but by approaching the recording process in small chunks, they're consciously making a choice to do something else, and this is part of the very nature of the music they're presenting.

Perhaps what you're after in your small studio work . . . is to make music that does indeed exist in a place and time, and capture it in a recording? Exactly what that means is of course very individual, and I don't think necessarily excludes the practice of overdubbing, but it something fundamental to your mental place when you engage in the process.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Addressing the difference between "capturing a musical performance" VxS "creating a musical performance" is the index to reason that we need to employ. It is entirely possible to capture a musical performance of a guitar playing vocalist in a studio setting: however when we choose to layer the vocal track after the guitar track is in place we are creating a musical project. The notion of "intelectual honesty" in the recording process is a bit preposterous given the fact most all ensemble performance is preceded with individual and sectional rehearsal in preparation for a given performance. A & R input to an artist and their producer leads to detailed trial and error in the studio to refine the best way to sell a given lyric with instrumental and vocal harmony embelishment of the same following. Is this dishonest: hardly! By the time a big time performance hits the stage a chain of creative input has always occured well in advance. Transparency is not a magic elixir for the recording process however we continue to beat it to death with few, if any, gems of wisdom advanced.
Hugh
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Here for the gear
 

I mostly listen to field recordings of traditional music, made either with poor equipment or made so long ago and copied from tape to tape so many times that the sound quality's pretty poor. But what I've observed about these recordings is that the environment is part of the music; the environment is part of the context. One of my favorite recordings is of a couple of traditional Irish musicians, Lucy Farr and Chris Ferguson, playing at Lucy's flat in London, talking and laughing between tunes and at one point you hear someone light a match and you can hear the sound of the flames as it caught fire. To me, those details are as much of the experience as the sound of the instruments and the performance. I have another old home recording of an Irish fiddler, Tommy Potts, playing an air while the young son of the woman recording him starts banging on a toy xylophone. The Irish composer and musician Peadar O'Riada has put out CDs recorded at his house where you can hear the peat fire in his fireplace and the peacocks crowing outside while he plays a melody on the piano.

These are the kinds of things I want to capture in field recordings myself, because they put the music within its natural context -- in people's homes, in the kitchens usually, or nowadays in pubs. For that reason I tend to use a stereo pair of omni mics placed fairly far from the instruments so I can pick up not just "the sound of the room" but everything going on in the room...people talking, dishes clattering, the refrigerator humming, all the kinds of things that people usually want to leave out of recordings but to me are part of the package.

Edited to add: Those sounds are usually only a distraction if you're not used to hearing them. I had a friend years ago whose job was to go through digital recordings of live classical performances and clean them up -- removing coughs, sneezes, the inadvertent taps of the conductor's baton on the music stand, shuffling of sheet music, etc. She could no longer enjoy actual live performances because all she could hear was the noises she was used to removing from the recordings. I think it's too bad we've sanitized recordings to the extent that those "distractions" have to be edited out, although I can understand how they can detract from the listening experience.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by bradh View Post
I mostly listen to field recordings of traditional music, made either with poor equipment or made so long ago and copied from tape to tape so many times that the sound quality's pretty poor. But what I've observed about these recordings is that the environment is part of the music; the environment is part of the context. One of my favorite recordings is of a couple of traditional Irish musicians, Lucy Farr and Chris Ferguson, playing at Lucy's flat in London, talking and laughing between tunes and at one point you hear someone light a match and you can hear the sound of the flames as it caught fire. To me, those details are as much of the experience as the sound of the instruments and the performance. I have another old home recording of an Irish fiddler, Tommy Potts, playing an air while the young son of the woman recording him starts banging on a toy xylophone. The Irish composer and musician Peadar O'Riada has put out CDs recorded at his house where you can hear the peat fire in his fireplace and the peacocks crowing outside while he plays a melody on the piano.

These are the kinds of things I want to capture in field recordings myself, because they put the music within its natural context -- in people's homes, in the kitchens usually, or nowadays in pubs. For that reason I tend to use a stereo pair of omni mics placed fairly far from the instruments so I can pick up not just "the sound of the room" but everything going on in the room...people talking, dishes clattering, the refrigerator humming, all the kinds of things that people usually want to leave out of recordings but to me are part of the package.

Edited to add: Those sounds are usually only a distraction if you're not used to hearing them. I had a friend years ago whose job was to go through digital recordings of live classical performances and clean them up -- removing coughs, sneezes, the inadvertent taps of the conductor's baton on the music stand, shuffling of sheet music, etc. She could no longer enjoy actual live performances because all she could hear was the noises she was used to removing from the recordings. I think it's too bad we've sanitized recordings to the extent that those "distractions" have to be edited out, although I can understand how they can detract from the listening experience.
There seems to be a move afoot back toward these more 'naturalistic' recordings, where there's a deliberate attempt to reverse the isolation afforded by even modest recording situations...claiming it sucks some of the life out of the music (or rather, removes it from the recording location).

For example, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry's latest offering...recording American train songs in American railway stations or trackside, replete with all the background 'context' you'd expect from such an approach...before hopping back on board bound for the next stop !

A review runs thus: "Recorded While Travelling Across America By Train 'Shine A Light' Features Songs Originally Made Famous By Hank Williams, Lead Belly, The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Glen Campbell, Gordon Lightfoot & More!

Like many a British musician before him, Billy Bragg, bard of Barking, singer songwriter, political activist, and musical historian has made no secret of his obsession with the songs and the mythology of the Americas, not least those of his artistic and philosophical forebear Woody Guthrie.

With his friend and collaborator, US singer songwriter Joe Henry, he has made an album that focuses on the transformative part the railroad played in disseminating the songs that gave birth to the rock'n'roll era. 'Shine A Light – Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad' by Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, released via Cooking Vinyl, is a collection of railway-themed classic songs recorded in the course of a 65 hour journey across the US on the Texas Eagle railroad service.

Featuring thirteen songs originally recorded by legendary singers such as Lead Belly, Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Glen Campbell and more, the album is an atmospheric travelogue, a gripping lesson in musicology, but most importantly it is a beautifully recorded collection of wonderful tunes.

In March 2016 Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, guitars in hand, boarded a Los Angeles-bound train at Chicago's Union Station. Winding along 2,728 miles of track, the pair recorded songs while the train paused to pick up passengers. In waiting rooms and at the track side in St Louis, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Alpine TX, El Paso and Tucson they set up their recording equipment, and performed classic railroad songs while keeping half an eye on the train and jumping back on board just before pulling out for the next town. After four days crossing the country, they pulled into Los Angeles at 4:30am, recording their final song in Union Station accompanied by the first chirpings of the dawn chorus.

The resulting album 'Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad' features the perfectly matched voices of Bragg and Henry and captures the varied atmospheres of the environments in which they recorded—from the close proximity of soft-furnished sleeping cars to the cathedral-like ambience of historic railway stations.

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry most recently worked together when Henry produced Bragg's acclaimed 2013 album Tooth & Nail."
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
There seems to be a move afoot back toward these more 'naturalistic' recordings, where there's a deliberate attempt to reverse the isolation afforded by even modest recording situations...claiming it sucks some of the life out of the music (or rather, removes it from the recording location).

For example, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry's latest offering...recording American train songs in American railway stations or trackside, replete with all the background 'context' you'd expect from such an approach...before hopping back on board bound for the next stop !

. . .
Thanks much for this reference to Bragg and Henry. That reminds me a bit of Alan Lomax' folk recordings, not all of which were of American folk song.
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