A Successful Jazz Recording Session

At university last Wednesday (1/7/15) we, the red team, recorded a group of talented and experienced jazz musicians. They played four songs live, featuring drums, bass guitar, flamenco guitar and vibraphone. One notable element of this particular recording session was the location of each musician in relation to each other. The drummer (Trent) and bass guitarist (David) were in the Neve liveroom, the guitarist (Bart) was in the Neve control room with us and the vibraphonist (James) was in the Raven liveroom, directly downstairs from the Neve liveroom. A few weeks before the session, our facilitators had discovered tie lines between the Raven and Neve studios. This meant it was possible to record the band playing live (through the Neve console) but in different rooms which got rid of the issue of bleed whilst still being able to maintain contact between the Neve control room, Neve liveroom and Raven liveroom.

Headphones were my responsibility for the day. This involved making sure everyone who needed a pair of headphones had one i.e. musicians, control room members and ensuring the musicians’ headphone mix i.e. the level of each instrument being sent to them was at the desired amount. This enables them to give the best performance possible as they play along with the other instruments/musicians. After I’d set up each musician with their headphones I communicated with each one individually to adjust the levels being sent to them. A limitation of the Neve studio is that there are only two headphone outs on the Neve console (1 & 2). The Raven liveroom can only be sent signal from the second out. As is typical during a recording session, the drummer needed to be sent A LOT of the click track to play along to. I thought the other musicians may be offended by too much click track so my original thinking was to have Trent on 1 and Bart, David and James on 2, however, it proved difficult to establish a happy medium between the three of them. I then swapped to have James and Trent on 2 and Dave and Bart on 1. Again, this failed and in the end I ended up with Dave on 1 as he liked to hear a lot of his bass and a bit of the drums as well as a bit of the others. The other three guys were on 2 as it turned out they were all happy to have a lot of click track with just a bit of drums and the rest. Once I’d established final mixes between the two headphone outs, this worked fine for most of the session. There was just one notable point when James said that he didn’t have enough drums coming through his headphones. Trent had previously stated that he really dislikes hearing too much of his drumming through the headphones. As James and Trent were on the same headphone mix it was a case of compromise for one of them. Luckily Trent was happy enough to play along with a bit more of his drumming. Though we had this issue at the time, only being able to create two different headphone mixes and the four musicians picking between the two, the ability to create individual mixes for each of the musicians was brought up in class today. Alex suggested that we could have sent them mono mixes instead of stereo. This hadn’t occurred to me on the day and I believe this is mostly due to my lacking knowledge of signal flow. Another massive issue that occurred involving my job on the headphones was a point in time when Bart’s communications mic in the control room wasn’t being heard in the other musicians’ headphones. I, as well as the console operators were at a loss as to why this was occurring. The problem was solved only after Akshay popped in to see how the session was going. Due to my lacking signal flow knowledge, I can’t even recall what the right setting was but I do remember the problem was that the aux send was on the wrong setting (‘mon’). This occurrence as well as the multiple, individual mono mix issue are very good demonstrations of how much work I need to do on my understanding of signal flow. I think this is one of the biggest issues I need to work on in regards to my learning. I never fully grasped signal flow when we were introduced to the Eurodesk in trimester one and my knowledge on the matter has only increased slightly since then. Maybe it’s just the way my brain works that I can’t understand things like that so easily but I definitely need to put more work into it which obviously means more studio time and perhaps a bit of research into how it actually works. As my job on the day was so specific I didn’t have a chance to demonstrate my abilities (or inabilities) in other areas but there are a few more I’m planning to work on e.g. Pro Tools knowledge/operation. One unfortunate event that couldn’t have been foreseen by anyone that day was the failure of a headphone jack. I’d been using it for a couple of hours and upon switching to another headphone out I completely lost signal to my headphones. It was a very basic equipment failure that hindered the creative production process on the day but one that I won’t forget for future recording sessions.

Some things I did that I believe contributed to the overall success of the day was maintaining a positive attitude, even under stress, communicating to my peers and the musicians effectively and diplomatically, and working well in the team. I’ve discovered over the course of my university career that I work best in team environments especially where communication is upheld effectively. Overall, it was a successful recording session. My peers and I left with a feeling of accomplishment and the client (Bart) was happy with the product of everyone’s efforts (his four songs).

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