The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 All  This Thread  Reviews  Gear Database  Gear for sale     Latest  Trending
Tracking loud bands with all players in the live room with drums
Old 17th October 2013
  #1
Tracking loud bands with all players in the live room with drums

Hi Everyone

Recently I have been considering a change, or rather reverting to a previous approach when tracking bands in the recording studio. I want to go back to having all players, or as many as possible, laying down tracks with the drummer doing his parts.

I started recording bands in the early 90's and was doing it in a large house, and just naturally assumed that you have to record all the band members at once, I had enough rooms in the house to separate amps from each other and drum kits. The only thing I really overdubbed was double tracking guitars and redoing vocals. Vocalists were coming in with this expectation - they would sing a "scratch" guide track with the band tracking but would like to overdub the vocals after the music is done, to enable multiple takes and drop ins, and the ability to concentrate purely on vocal performance if they also had to play an instrument while singing.

Sometimes I would do a session where not all the band members could attend the tracking with the drummer.. and would simply overdub their parts and most of the time this sounds fine. Then the culture of "locking to the grid" started to hit some of the genres that influence the bands I record.. and these bands started to bringing in these style productions as reference sounds. I started doing a lot of drum tracking to click tracks, often with "guide tracks" for guitars and bass and vocals. I became a huge fan of this approach; I worked with a lot of young bands who play complex rock/metal songs and the sound of the drums quantized and having the ability to fly edits around in time really made the sessions go faster (depending on how much editing was required of course), made the productions sound more in line with the commercial stuff we were trying to reference, and made the clients very happy. Then I learned how to quantise drums and while I do not make everything stick to the grid, I can certainly make loose drummers sound better, which again translates into more professional sounding mixes.

But I feel it has become a bit of a crutch that I lean on, and there seems to be some bands (more recently) that I wonder if this somewhat clinical approach is not the best fit. For example, I recently recorded a great punk rock band, pretty standard 4/4 rock drumming and guitars, aggressive vocals. The kind of song that is not going to blow you away with its technical proficiency; rather it is the energy of the band and the raw punk edge that makes you excited. We did the "guide tracks to a click" thing and tracked the drums 1st, edited them and overdubbed each instrument thereafter. When I went and listened to this band play live recently, while not ultra tight it had that energy that I think the studio has not captured. In fact, the drummer struggled on a few sections playing to a click and some tricky edits were required to make it work. So part of me wonders if those things being "correct" is not what the songs want and a more live recording approach could yield a better representation of the more punk / rocknroll style bands.

So I have some questions and thoughts I'd like to share, and would love to hear from some engineers who track loud bands live in the studio for tips. The biggest thing that I find problematic with a band in the same room tracking together is spill.

Some engineers say spill is what gives recordings "air" or a realness that you struggle to fill out with overdubbing. The act of bass and guitar bleed into the drum room mics is not bad, in fact you should position amps/mics to get a good usable sound from the spill. But does this not mean if one of those instruments is not correct, EVERYONE has to do another take? Often when I was recording live bands years ago, I would have a drummer say it was the best take he will do but the bass player played a wrong note. The amount of bass in the drum mics meant you could hear the bad note - sorry drummer dude you gotta drop in and make sure the band gets it right. So does this mean you need to separate all the instruments in iso booths? I have been working in studios that do not really have many good rooms apart from the main "live space", I have tried baffles but unless you have completely separate rooms I have found the spill will always be too loud to keep bum notes that spill.

This also leads me to talk about the fact that amps in the same room as drums make the kit resonate way too much. I do not know of many guitarists that can get their amp tone without a LOT of volume, and those SPL's always make the snare buzz out. This is a fast track to a crappy demo sound IMO. Is anyone able to track all instruments in the same room without the drums resonating? An alternative I have been thinking about trying is to have all the players with amps to go through REAMP boxes or even load balancers. Emulate speaker cabs for headphone mixes and playback, but then push out these tracks to real amps after drums are done to capture amp in room tones? Is this a common approach? I am finding guitarists are more willing to explore direct recording techniques, especially if you are going to have it go through their amp at some stage.. any thoughts on this approach?

There are lots of photos I find of what looks like studio sessions with all the band in the same space. These are loud bands too - System Of A Down for example. The back cover of Toxicity is a great photo that leaves me wondering just how they got good separation.

Also one of my favourite recording engineers Steve Albini has posted lots of videos of bands tracking at his Electrical Audio studio taht seem to have the band in a circle with the drummer in the middle and all the amps firing towards the kit!

Or am i being fooled by videos that are not actually of the tracking.. but a deliberate move to show the band live in the studio but not really recording them that way?


I have enough microphones, outboard, cue send and cans to be able to deal with live recording. I realise it is more work getting monitor mixes and making sure these mixes vibe for a good performance; and also you are engineering not just the drums so have to be on top of the sound for all things being recorded both from a performance and a technical position. But I think my recordings will represent the way the band plays live better, I think in the long run it will mean more material recorded in a session as well. Plus the great feeling of playback of takes having all the instruments sounding big and close to the final product - I am good at listening to edited drums to click tracks and knowing if they will work with the overdubs or not, but sometimes magic happens that is not "mathematically correct". I want to be open to those moments.. I am still going to use click tracks for drummers that can groove to them. Just send it to the drummers cans and get the band to groove of drums. maybe even use click track count ins for other projects - I fear that no click and the band playing live will lead to tempo fluctuations.

In summary; to record bands live in the studio:
* Do I need separate rooms for the amps
* Can I REAMP amp sounds to get around too much bleed into drum mics
* Any good things to read that talks about recording bands in this fashion?

Thanks for any input, comments or anecdotes!
Adam B
Old 17th October 2013
  #2
Gear Addict
 
DSPDiva's Avatar
 

Ok so I've tracked full bands like this before. What we did was make a little apartment/cave/whatever out of baffles for the drum kit. Make sure you're close mic'ing everything and make sure you place them so they'll reject bleed (cardiod, facing away from the things that are going to cause bleed, etc)

We also made a little apartment for percussion on the other side of the room. XY for that and there was hardly no bleed at all.

We did bass DI and one guitar DI. The other guitar we had to use the amp, so we put the guitarist/singer in the room and got the longest instrument cable we could find and we put his amp in the hallway and closed the door as much as we could.

Vocals were overdubbed later. Keys were DI and we had the sax player in the live room next to them. There was a window so they could all see each other and everyone was on the same page.

What we did was just press record and let them go on for like 12 hours. They got 14 songs done because they didn't start/stop and they all knew when they had nailed it. You have to have really good players to do that part tho. And the PT file was like ridiculously huge, but for the most part, it came out a pretty awesome record.
Old 17th October 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
 
edva's Avatar
Adam, it sounds like you already have a lot of experience and are getting good results, so firstly I would encourage you to follow your instincts and use common sense, but also stay open to different ways of doing things.
To your questions, it has been my experience that there is no substitute for a well rehearsed band that knows how to play together. 99.9% of the time such a band will sound better playing together than tracking separately.
As you mentioned, sometimes a click will cause more problems than it solves. Although clicks are often used, I am not a fan, and a good drummer playing with natural feel with a good band will always trump a click track, for me.
One key to tracking live together is having a great room, with enough space, and especially, high ceilings. In such a room, the bleed is usually not a problem.
Another key is to use mics with either good rejection, or good off-axis sound. Lots of tight pattern mics and close mic'ing.
Amplifiers either need to be moderate in volume (which can ultimately sound "bigger" than big amps blasting at high volume), or put into another room, or at least gobo'd off if in the main room. Bass should be DI only in the main room, no amp unless it is isolated. Gobo's, "clouds" and "tunnels" can be very helpful in reducing drum kit bleed.
If the vocals are loud enough, you can get keepers even in a live tracking situation. Just use common sense on where everyone is located and where the mics are pointing. Many great recordings have been made this way.
This is a vast topic, and much more could be said, but ultimately, the performance is the thing, and if tracking live gets a better performance, it is worth dealing with the issues. All IMHO and YMMV, good luck to you.
Old 17th October 2013
  #4
Lives for gear
 
decocco's Avatar
 

I like to record with everyone in the same room.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamB420 View Post
In summary; to record bands live in the studio:
* Do I need separate rooms for the amps
Maybe. If you are using super loud amps, then yes. If the amps aren't really loud, you should be able to gobo them off enough that single instrument punch in's are possible.

If I am recording a band that plays really loudly, I will stick the amps in iso booths.

Likewise, I will iso the amps if the band/producer specifically wants a modern/slick/current sound, regardless of SPL.

In the System of a Down picture you can see the amp heads, but no cabinets, because they are probably in iso booths.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamB420 View Post
* Can I REAMP amp sounds to get around too much bleed into drum mics
Of course, you can do whatever you like!heh
Old 17th October 2013
  #5
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
At a conference at Webster University, Jeff Power told a story of sessions he did with Tom Dowd where they'd set up the band in line, so the front of the amps were lined up with the front of the BD. They'd put gobos between the amps and the drums. At the next evening's session myself and the other panelist/producer/engineers decided to try it. It worked out great, there was very little bleed from a guitar amp, a keyboard amp and a bass amp. They were not playing super loudly, but it wasn't quiet either. I believe Dowd recorded Cream that way, at ridiculous levels.
Old 17th October 2013
  #6
Gear Guru
 

the band playing all together at the same time is the most important factor

Having the amps all blasting in the same room is not essential to the process and rarely essential to the 'sound' either, IMO. I baffle amps off, stick them in iso rooms, even take bass and keyboards direct and reamp them later, whatever works.

The main thing is that everyone is there, reacting to each other's playing in real time. Whether they are 'wearing headphones' or not is not the critical factor to me.
Old 17th October 2013
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Bob Ross's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamB420 View Post
But does this not mean if one of those instruments is not correct, EVERYONE has to do another take?
For decades that was your only choice. ("And we liked it!")

Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamB420 View Post
Often when I was recording live bands years ago, I would have a drummer say it was the best take he will do but the bass player played a wrong note. The amount of bass in the drum mics meant you could hear the bad note - sorry drummer dude you gotta drop in and make sure the band gets it right.
Right. It's called Do Another Take, Guys. Good musicians are used to it.
Old 17th October 2013
  #8
Lives for gear
I think an important thing to remember is that some bands actually feed off of this pressure and by telling the guys, "look, there's going to be bleed so if you **** up your part you're going to **** up everyone's part!" might actually produce a better result.

Personally I like working this way; brings out the best performances.
Old 17th October 2013
  #9
Gear Nut
 

I too have experimented with multi-tracking and live setups - invariably the latter sounds best. Often I have the drummer in studio floor with all other band members so they have sight lines and feel more at ease due to similarity to rehearsals. It's NOT te same if there's a sheet of glass between them IME.

Next bass amp in corridor between control room/studio floor and guitar(s) in iso booth/other room.

Send a click to the cans but if the band struggle to nail it to the click after 5/6 takes ill bin the click and go au naturale.

It should be said that most bands I record are fairly inexperienced and want to record for as cheap as pos so don't have ages to spend looking for the "perfect" take.

Much prefer this approach to multitracking but if this is a necessity them I never track bass and drums seperately if pos........ just looses something irreplaceable.
Old 17th October 2013
  #10
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
("And we liked it!").
speak for yourself, Bob! heh
Old 17th October 2013
  #11
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by edva View Post
Adam, it sounds like you already have a lot of experience and are getting good results, so firstly I would encourage you to follow your instincts and use common sense, but also stay open to different ways of doing things.
To your questions, it has been my experience that there is no substitute for a well rehearsed band that knows how to play together. 99.9% of the time such a band will sound better playing together than tracking separately.
As you mentioned, sometimes a click will cause more problems than it solves. Although clicks are often used, I am not a fan, and a good drummer playing with natural feel with a good band will always trump a click track, for me.
One key to tracking live together is having a great room, with enough space, and especially, high ceilings. In such a room, the bleed is usually not a problem.
Another key is to use mics with either good rejection, or good off-axis sound. Lots of tight pattern mics and close mic'ing.
Amplifiers either need to be moderate in volume (which can ultimately sound "bigger" than big amps blasting at high volume), or put into another room, or at least gobo'd off if in the main room. Bass should be DI only in the main room, no amp unless it is isolated. Gobo's, "clouds" and "tunnels" can be very helpful in reducing drum kit bleed.
If the vocals are loud enough, you can get keepers even in a live tracking situation. Just use common sense on where everyone is located and where the mics are pointing. Many great recordings have been made this way.
This is a vast topic, and much more could be said, but ultimately, the performance is the thing, and if tracking live gets a better performance, it is worth dealing with the issues. All IMHO and YMMV, good luck to you.
Yep 100%
I do this everytime! Track live with the band in the room 8 times out of 10 results are better. I have the amps in other rooms though. So just the band in the main room with the drummer (good noise cancelling headphones)
Old 17th October 2013
  #12
Gear Nut
 

I always record like this and I even play guitar with two full stacks as loud as live in the same room - as long as you have a great well balanced band-sound in the room the bleed on drums shouldn`t be a big problem - I just work with it and use it in the mix, no great deal. Drums or especially cymbal-hf bleeding on guitar or bass close mics could be a bigger problem if too much though. But performance is first. And everybody in the same room, facing each other, having his right and full sound and no headphones makes a great performance easier...just make sure the band sounds great and right in studio all together and feels comfortable.
Old 17th October 2013
  #13
Gear Addict
 
danly's Avatar
 

cabs in other rooms, amp head next to the musician in the room with the drums.
If they complain about wearing headphones send the cue mix to a floor wedge... better than an amp at least.
Also take a di, or possibly speaker level di (palmer, etc) for reamping.
You can send the speaker emulation to the wedge.

They shouldn't have a PA in the recording room, but I know, most bands can't live without it. It's annoying in my opinion.
I try to plug their vocal mic into the stage box like it's any other mic... record as you would, and create a 'monitor mix' that you send TRS into a line input on the PA back out in the live room. It's fun to put a little kick drum in there too. Especially if you have subs. Michael Beinhorn talked about this in his guest moderator appearance here.

That's what I do anyway.
Also, I think it's more annoying to neighbors to have to hear the entire band than just drums. So that's another reason why I have to limit the amp volume.
Old 18th October 2013
  #14
Lives for gear
 
edva's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
. ("And we liked it!")
Yep. Kidding aside, it is actually a lot more fun to do it like this. Makes everyone better too, both muso's and engineers. IMHO.
Old 18th October 2013
  #15
Thanks for the replies.

I agree that there is something in the recordings from earlier in my career, where I was tracking everyone live, that just sounds more real. I dont know if it is spill, or the players vibe is better all together in the room, or a combination of both.

The problem I face is the two studios I am working in at the moment do not have many iso booths. One studio has a amp isolation "box" in the live room but that is it except for the drum room. The other has some iso booths that the studio owner seems to use for storage! I might need to get them cleaned out.

The SOAD pic - I did not realise they did not have cabs in that room. Another example I see a lot of plyers in the same room as the drums (and if I look closer I may not see cabs) is the Sound City documentary... it all seems to be the band in the live room together, both the footage from old school SC sessions like Fleetwood mac and The Heartbreakers.. through to the sessions Dave does in Studio 606. need to study more, probably no cabs in the drum room?

Question for you guys who are tracking the guitar amps in the same room as drums; if you want to double track the guitar part, do you need to track all the room mics from the drums? If you did not, wouldn't the double track guitar sound too different to the original that had all the drum mics getting some of the tone?

RE: using a PA in the live room - one of the studios I track at has a massive PA in the live room, and I have wondered if I dare use it in tracking. I seem to recall Soundgarden would put drums, guitars and stuff back through the PA which would then obviously go through the ambient room mics... could be cool. Putting vocals through it... wow I guess i will try that someday with a band who really wants to track EVERYTHING live including main vox, happens now and then.

Thanks again for your posts, it helps me get inspired for my next sessions coming up where I want to try some of these techniques.
Old 18th October 2013
  #16
Lives for gear
 

I recently recorded like this and I have some observations.

1. It sounds great. Definitely "real."

2. Lots of depth. Not always what you want, though. Sometimes it's better to have a horizontal 2d in your face sound.

3. It can be nice to use room mics as reverb. Bringing up your room mic is like sending a bit of everything to a verb.

4. Except overdubs, which sound out of place.

5. Without perfect isolation you lose some punch in the drums. It's harder to mix with bleed in the drums. Esp. kick and snare.

6. On the other hand, it's easy to mix guitars when there's already a little in the OH.

7. The band has really got to be tight, as mentioned. But even a little looseness can be nice.

This is the best way to get "glue." But next time (if I am so lucky) I would iso the cabs or use headphones.
Old 18th October 2013
  #17
Lives for gear
 
Spede's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamB420 View Post

The SOAD pic - I did not realise they did not have cabs in that room. Another example I see a lot of plyers in the same room as the drums (and if I look closer I may not see cabs) is the Sound City documentary... it all seems to be the band in the live room together, both the footage from old school SC sessions like Fleetwood mac and The Heartbreakers.. through to the sessions Dave does in Studio 606. need to study more, probably no cabs in the drum room?
At least in the Sound City documentary one can hear the amps blasting loud through the camera mic when a camera is in the drum room of 606. I personally think I'm also hearing it in the songs such as "Time Slowing Down" (roomy bass sound). In the doc there's also a clip of recording RATM's first album (they brought some audience to the sessions) and while there's camera in the main room, one can hear all the instruments with drums and even some vocal through PA...

Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamB420 View Post
Question for you guys who are tracking the guitar amps in the same room as drums; if you want to double track the guitar part, do you need to track all the room mics from the drums? If you did not, wouldn't the double track guitar sound too different to the original that had all the drum mics getting some of the tone?
Generally this hasn't been a problem for me personally, with adequate amount of isolation (gobo'ing the amp, facing it the other direction etc). If you're working in a really large room (=lots of space to waste), you could put the drums in the center of the room (and baffle as needed), put the amps in front of the kit and put the drum ambience mics behind the kit in order to get more drum ambience and little bit less amp ambience (=you can put the ambience mics much more louder without them cluttering the amp sounds). While a small amount of leakage can wonderfully glue the band together (no need for reverb) too much is obviously too much. I usually record the doubles only with their own mics.

On a side note: On RATM's second album Evil Empire one can hear how much of the guitar was leaked to the drum mics by listening the song "Down Rodeo"; that song has an overdubbed guitar solo but you can clearly hear original in the background.
Old 18th October 2013
  #18
Lives for gear
 
NYCruiser's Avatar
Another more subtle factor is the effect that instruments have on each other when they are in the same room.
I just mixed a live recording for a band and there was something really cool in the tracks.
When the bass guitar would hit low notes, it would make the snare drum rattle.
I thought it really added something cool to the track. Would be hard to get that effect without the instruments in the same room.

I'm looking for a clip of the mix now………..
Old 18th October 2013
  #19
Lives for gear
 
NYCruiser's Avatar
OK…bounced a clip….It would be very hard to get this dynamic on a recording without the band playing together.
About halfway thru the clip the band comes down for the piano player.
The interaction of the bass and drums is really cool.

Not the interaction of just the players…..but of the actual instruments being next to each other.
Attached Files

Suzie clip.mp3 (6.32 MB, 2005 views)

Old 18th October 2013
  #20
Gear Nut
 

Multi-tracking a band separately became a concession to the fact that the band weren't good enough to play and record 'live'.

But it also became the start of a long tedious process of editing through takes and a lazy, copy & paste mentality where 'close enough' was 'good enough' because you could make it work in the edit.

And often, weeks later, there would be the cycle of band members wanting to re-do parts using a different sound or a different approach because - as the song comes together - they have a different 'vision' for how they now heard the song.

Not to mention the spirit or soul that a live performance generates and is felt by the listener, but that is really hard to re-create tracking separately.
Old 18th October 2013
  #21
Lives for gear
 
NYCruiser's Avatar
^ Yes! Obviously the players in the clip I posted are easily able to play/record live. They are all well known NY session players that were just jamming live in a bar. The audio was for a video that was shot. No overdubs or edits that would misalign the track with the video were possible.
Old 18th October 2013
  #22
Lives for gear
 
edva's Avatar
just wanted to add that it is of course possible, and often desirable, to edit between entire live takes, like we used to do with tape and razor blades, except it is much easier with digital. Sometimes requires getting creative with crossfades on individual tracks, but can "save" a lot of good takes.
As others have mentioned, it is also very possible to edit individual notes, such as a bad bass note, either with one from another take, or with an overdub.
On the subject of click tracks, a good compromise sometimes is to use the click for a count in, then turn it off after the band comes in. Good musicians, or better yet, great ones, can stay amazingly close to tempo without a constant click, which can make cutting between different takes very do-able.
Old 18th October 2013
  #23
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mongoose View Post

And often, weeks later, there would be the cycle of band members wanting to re-do parts using a different sound or a different approach because - as the song comes together - they have a different 'vision' for how they now heard the song.
yes when you are overdubbing the communication is one-way.

the bass player overdubbing to the drums can react to what the drummer does, but the drummer can no longer "react to his reaction" unless he re-does the whole damn thing.


Quote:
Not to mention the spirit or soul that a live performance generates and is felt by the listener, but that is really hard to re-create tracking separately.
I remember one project where we tracked the rhythm section live - but with near total isolation. The bass player said he needed to punch something. Since the bass amp was in the cellar, there was no bleed, so no problem.

He said: "take me to the beginning and I will tell you when to stop" ...
he never told me to stop. Punched the whole tune top to bottom. Oh well. I still think the end result was better than if we had tracked them one at a time since the drummer, guitarist and piano player at least had a live bass playing with them - even if it was different live bass!
Old 18th October 2013
  #24
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
I think an important thing to remember is that some bands actually feed off of this pressure and by telling the guys, "look, there's going to be bleed so if you **** up your part you're going to **** up everyone's part!" might actually produce a better result.

Personally I like working this way; brings out the best performances.
This is it for me exactly.

My label is a personal passion and not for profit so I understand others not being able to do the same, but I only work with bands who want that style of recording. If they can't up their intensity rallying around each other for a common goal of creating a great song in the moment, they're not worth my time.
Old 19th October 2013
  #25
Gear Guru
 
monkeyxx's Avatar
I've never had the luxury of isolation rooms or even control rooms, so I've done this a lot.

I love the pressure to get it right, the feeling of the band playing together like a rehearsal, reacting to one another in real time, and the sound of good ambience (bleed) which have all been said. These sessions are kind of exciting to me, but you still have to work hard and pay attention.

I think you can't do it if the band is awful, at that point you need to track one instrument at a time with careful attention. Or ISO'd or DI'd like in the first post.

I always have the amps live in the room, but, I try to keep a bit of distance, or hide them from the drums using the "L" shape of some room, stairwells, etc. Amps are loud, even clipping, but not BLASTING, there's balance in the room just like on stage, you can get to stage volume. I often will use gobos around the drums for extra isolation. Vocals will be overdubbed in most cases but sometimes live into a carefully placed dynamic mic.

I always like how these mixes turn out. You've got to expect some looseness here and there but it's musical.

Yes, you have to get used to the idea that everyone needs to get it right or else, or use sections from different takes like EDVA said, more than individual punch ins, I've done that many times. But in my experience this is "get it right" commandment is doable with a moderately skilled band. I'm sure billions of records have been tracked like this.
Old 19th October 2013
  #26
Lives for gear
 

its my favorite tracking technique for full bands. Mainly because there is this energy: "magic" that comes from the musicians playing together.
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump