One Of Us: The Recording Session

Day One:

It’s Sunday morning and we leave for Paul’s studio, about an hour’s drive from NYC. We have the studio booked for 2 days. Paul’s an engineer who has been around the NY scene awhile – he was the engineer at the famous Skyline studio for many years. We meet him at the studio and he shows us around. It’s a moderately sized set up on the first floor of a house, with a large room housing the piano and 3 iso-booths. The the mixing console and gear are set up upstairs accessible via a staircase. Paul communicates via talkback with the artists downstairs. I talk shop with him awhile, discuss the project and what we will be doing the first day, while Ramona goes warms up and checks out the piano. I’ve already corresponded with Paul earlier so he has most of what we need set up already. I give him my firewire hard disk that he will use to track the session on and then head downstairs to set up my amp and gear. I have my Acoustic Image amp that I brought to the session. The amp has a downfiring woofer and we take direct out from my FX as well as a mic feed from the amp. The engineer sets up the mic off axis from the amp speaker, standard micing for a normal amp, but not recommended for a downfiring woofer – a costly mistake I only learned later after the recording. Don’t ever record such amps this way since you don’t get enough low end or midrange!

Johannes, Ingrid and Adam arrive soon after and start setting up. Drums and bass take the two far iso-booths and I take the third. Trumpet shares the same room as the piano. There is going to be some mic bleed but we figured that having trumpet and piano in the same room was the best compromise we could make, since there isn’t a 4’th booth. We run through the usual checks to get levels and do a brief sound check before we get started. We all have sub mixes so we can dial in the right amount of each instrument in the cans.

By the time we start recording it is past noon. We have a lot of music to record over the next couple of days and Ramona and I are already concerned that we won’t be able to finish all the tracking in the time we have. We start with Who’s Your Mama. The first tune in any recording session is typically the hardest since you need to dig in, zone in and get over the record-button-itis. I write recording software for a living but I still hate that damn record button 🙂 We do two full takes. The second one sounds like it has more energy in it and has some great solos from Ingrid and Ramona. Ramona isn’t happy with it just yet, but we decide to move on and return to it fresh later.

The session goes on. Ramona makes a few spontaneous changes to the charts during the session as we grow into the music more. On Chinese Whispers Ingrid suggests that we try blowing through her solo in 7/4. We try it and it sounds great so we go for it. We have a few other happy accidents like that and some not so happy ones as well 🙂 Its a busy session with the only relaxation when we break for pizza. We end the day with about six tunes tracked – not too bad.

Its 6:30PM – Paul gives us a rough mix CD and Ramona and I head back to the hotel. We’re spent, but our day is not done. We need to review the takes and mark all the overdubs we have to finish this tomorrow. It takes a couple of hours to go through all the takes and check them out, making notes. If there is one thing we both hate, its listening back to a raw recording immediately after making it, since its very hard to be objective. Your mind plays tricks on you and small flaws get exaggerated making it sound worse than it is.  Sometimes it works the other way around but so far it hasn’t for me – I have patience though, still waiting 🙂 Anyway, the toll of the previous weeks is telling on Ramona and she is freaking out a bit, and I try to convince her that it’s all good. We grab some take out and get some shut eye – Another long day ahead.

Day Two:

We head out early to the studio. We’d made arrangements with Paul to get there an hour before the others to do a few overdubs. We finish that and start up with the rest of the music. We also revisit a couple of tunes from the previous day. By lunchtime I finish all the tunes I am playing on and move upstairs to the mixing room so I can be more of a “producer”. This feels good – next time I’m not going to play on Ramona’s projects. Just sit in the control room. It sounds better that way 🙂 The band records Eight Winds, Gaia and the trio performance of One Of Us. Eight Winds is perhaps my favourite song on the album. The music floats and Ingrid does a soaring solo over those lovely changes. One Of Us sounds great too from up there too. We are done with the core tunes!

Its 5:o0PM – Adam and Johannes leave but Ingrid stays back to do some overdubs for extra parts that Ramona wants. She also records a whole bunch of cool sounds and FX that we plan on using later while mixing.  Check out the start of Gaia for a couple that we ended up using. Paul makes a backup of the session files on my disk, we pack up and leave. We are both exhausted. We head to a friends place in NJ where we spend the night, before driving back home to Boston the next day. It’s been a long journey!

One Of Us: Production → [next]

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