Studio production reflection: Ronaldo Januario – ‘So’

Day one of recording – ‘So’

 

Saturday the 30th of September started well enough with a production plan finished at 2:30am that morning, a distinct lack of sleep and a hangover. Not the best head space to occupy but I couldn’t help but feel elated. It was a beautiful spring day in Brisbane, we were recording in the Neve studio, we both arrived on time and I felt as organised as I could be. A planned production meeting for the previous Friday afternoon didn’t happen so there were some last minute facebook messages between the co-producer / electronic music producer Shlok and myself that morning. The plan was to attempt a ‘Brazilian Lounge’ sound with this recording that incorporated: electronic music production, sound design, acoustic guitar plus variations of samba and bossa nova rhythms.

Production planning

The electronic rhythm track hadn’t been finished by 9am that morning but because of some good production planning we had a contingency plan. We had asked Ronaldo our artist, to arrive at 10am, one hour after the start of our recording session. The intention was to create a relaxing environment in the studio by setting up the live room and all the microphones in our production plan, necessary to record voice and acoustic guitars, before Ronaldo arrived. We wanted to create a situation where Ronaldo could arrive, tune up, warm up and start recording. We thought that the extra time would also give us an opportunity to solve any technical issues that might arise with signal flow from the live room, getting a good mix in the headphones for Ronaldo and setting up the DAW session. We were wrong; more on that later.

Ronald arrived around 10 am, loaded in his instruments, and then I took him across the to the vibrant to the West End Markets held every Saturday. Shlok was tasked with finishing writing the midi track to trigger sampled drums while we were gone. Ronaldo and I got a coffee, he got some food, then we sat down and reviewed the pre-production plan. I had proposed a number of things that had differed from our previous recording sessions on the 5th and 23rd of September. During those sessions, Ronaldo’s intention was to record an acoustic blues EP however along the way, he also decided to play a our target track: ‘So’, that requires a classical guitar and a funky, variation on a bossa rhythm. Our intrepid electronic music producer Shlok was present on the day that Ronaldo first attempted this song and we all discussed the possibility of adding electronic production to create a Brazilian Lounge ‘vibe’.

discussed some decisions that I had made about the direction that the recording session would take and confirm the goals that we had set up for the day. elements of the production plan with Ronaldo.

Ronaldo in the neve

Microphone placement

Room mics

When we got into the studio we had some time to set up the microphones and try a different arrangement with both room microphones that I was using (Rode NT2A) and the removal of a small baffle that is roughly 2.5 metres wide by 1.5 metres high. We decided to leave in place another baffle roughly 3.5 wide by 2.5 metres high, that had been placed behind Rondaldo in the previous sessions . This effectively cuts the room in half and situates Ronaldo’s performance space directly under two curved, wooden reflective surfaces that creates a brighter sounding performance for our recording.

The room mics were previously placed in front of the smaller baffle to reduce the amount of extraneous noise being recorded by them. The room mics were raised to about one metre off the ground to reduce the amount of unwanted low frequency ‘noise’. After some initial recordings were done and reviewed, it was decided that the smaller baffle would be removed as the vocals were sounding a little too ‘boxy’.The result was that we decided to stick to a strict ‘rule-of-thirds’ which requires two room mics to be 3 times the distance away from each other if they one metre away from the sound source. This is a suggested room microphone placement technique to remove phasing issues. The result was a very useable recording from the room mics which added great ambience and natural reverb to the recording. We’ll continue this practice in our next recording session on Saturday the  07th of October.

We eventually settled on creating a ‘4 on the floor’ kick drum sound that came in on every beat of the bar. It worked surprisingly well and Ronaldo found it easier to play along to the kick drum rather than a click track.

Reflection

The only thing I would change about this session would be to actively compose an electronic rhythm track in conjunction with the artist and then record the acoustic instruments to that rather than retrospectively attempt to compose a rhythm track afterwards. This process proved to be very time consuming and while the final result is great, the road taken to getting there felt like and unnecessary detour.

In future, I would pay closer attention to aligning all the elements that are necessary for the recording, before the other musicians were brought in to record. Time needs to be given to this process and it’s important for the producer / engineer to be assertive with these decisions. Feeling pressured to record something from the session ultimately lead to further time wasting later.

A number of videos have been produced detailing the mixdown process that I undertook during this project and they can be accessed below:

Reflection – project group dynamics

My relationship with my project partner Shlok Bhattacharya also started to deteriorate when it became evident that he had lost interest in the project and started ‘goofing off’ while we were in the studio. This had occurred almost from day one when I was recording a bass part in the control room and asked him to give me more monitoring level through the studio speakers. He either didn’t hear or was too pre-occupied with his phone to be able to respond. This was happening while the artist being recorded was in the live room and I felt that an appropriate level of attention to detail or commitment or both, just wasn’t there.Our recording artist Ronaldo, also mentioned that he had noticed that I had been shouting at Shlok, which I would challenged because he was on the other side of the glass in the live room and couldn’t actually hear us talking. At various times during the session however, I became frustrated with Shlok and this became evident in the tone of my voice and the abruptness that started creeping into my communication with him.

Another perspective is the generation gap that is obvious between myself and Shlok which, may have caused problems. This age difference between myself and the other students in the course has become and increasing issue for me as I find myself becoming annoyed about these sorts of things while other students don’t seem to understand what the problem is. This is an important point of reflection for me as I’m wondering what the likelihood of success will be for me within the audio industry at my age. Despite all of this, I made a point of always being reflective as I can when communicating with project partners and pride myself on my ability to ‘own’ any issues that may have arisen with my communication. Ultimately, it’s better to not have to ‘mend’ situations that could have been avoided by taking a few deep breaths and attempt to retain some perspective.

Here’s  a reflective video that we made after one very long session in the Audient 8024 studio:

Research and acting on feedback

A lot of work has gone into the production of this track and the amount of time spent programming the drums was possibly a little too long. One thing that can be said about this project is that it was a massive learning experience and the ability to be able to spend many, many hours in the studio trying to tweak the sound, enhance the bass e.t.c. was time well spent. Sometimes the results don’t always display the amount of time that has gone into the project and this may have been one of those times.

I’ve included below ‘diary entry’ that I made regarding the high hat samples and rim shot samples used in the production of the electronic drum part. The document is in .pdf format and will open in a new tab.

Acting on feedback_So_Tuesday 24 Oct_2017

I would endeavour to do further research on many of the techniques that I attempted to achieve with this project as I adopted an outcome based approach of producing a mixdown and then reflecting upon it. I corresponded with a number of musicians and producers over the course of this project and the feedback was universal: more bass!

Feedback from Sam McNally_So by Ronaldo Januario

Feedback from Kym Ambrose_So – Ronaldo Januario

The demands of my studies required me to move on from this project and there hasn’t been the time made available, due to documents such as these that need to be completed and could have been completed earlier in the semester. Once again, the amount of time that has gone into creating the drum track in Ableton has been intense and I effectively produced two drum tracks after the first one was rejected by one musician / producer stated that he wouldn’t listen to it until I had removed the rim shot sound that had been chosen for the track. That’s the sort of reality check that I needed.

 

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