In Acoustic Magic (part 1), we talked about techniques for getting great sounds from players in an indie rock band that plays with a horn trio. Now it is time to turn our attention to Hindugrass, a band that brings together Sarod, Tablas, guitar, cajone, percussion, and a string quartet. Some of the approaches will be strikingly familiar, others will be more novel.
Our goal in any tracking sessions is to get the best performance from the artist and the best sounds from the instruments. This begins with an understanding of how the musicians like to play together, how they like to hear other instruments and the click, and how the instruments, the rooms, and the microphones all interact.
String quartet players have a way of listening to each other and playing with each other to make the sound of the quartet greater than the sum of its parts. And it’s almost impossible to achieve that dynamic balance and synergy when recording one instrument at a time. Booths A and B are each large enough to record four string players, but Ian decided to use the Music Room for that purpose because the other, more delicate instruments in the ensemble would actually sound better in the smaller acoustic environments of the Booths. Ian again took advantage of the large space and numerous gobos to provide separation for each instrument, yet retaining the sound of the ensemble in the room. Here’s Ian getting things rolling on Day 1:
And here’s an overview of the gobo arrangement:
In previous blog postings, I previewed that we would have a very busy spring at the studio, and this has indeed come to pass. We’ve done a lot of tracking, a lot of mixing, and not–unfortunately–a whole lot of blogging in the process. Let’s work on that, shall we?
There are many approaches to making a record, and even a few good ones. The ones that get me the most excited are the ones that include the capture of great audio. We are very proud of the acoustic quality of the Music Room and our Booths. We also have an extensive collection of high-end microphones. The art of the tracking engineer is using the microphones and the room acoustics to get the best performance from the artist and the best sounds from the instruments. Here are some photos of recent tracking sessions that demonstrate the flexibility of our environment and the creativity of Ian Schreier, our chief engineer.
Here Ian sets a pair of close mics for a trombone:
How Long Is This Gonna Take? asks and answers one of the most important questions that any artist must consider before embarking on a recording project. The summary is pretty simple: while recording technology has dramatically lowered the cost of recording audio, there’s a lot more that goes into making a record that just getting bits onto a disk. In the end, not much has changed in terms of overall time and cost. What has changed is the many new ways that digital technology allow you to spend your time and your money, which is not necessarily a good thing.
Definitely worth a read!
Before the studio opened, I had to content myself with taking photos of the construction progress and using Blender to visualize what the final studio might look like. The five years it took to open the studio gave me plenty of time to organize my photos and write stories about them. After we got the studio running, I essentially stopped taking pictures, mainly because I was busy doing too many other things. I’ve finally gotten back into the rhythm of taking photos during sessions, but haven’t had the time to write the posts that do them justice. Indeed, I still don’t really have that time. But with hundreds of photos that are begging to be posted, I have to find a way…
The first batch are from the sessions we did with Matt Phillips. Matt used Kickstarter to raise money for the recording project, a growing trend among artists who record here. In this photo, Matt’s face tells you just how satisfied he is with the sounds he is hearing in the Control Room:
See if you can hear the music in these photos:
Hindugrass will be recording next week, and they are kicking off their session with a performance on Friday night, April 12th at 8pm. If you have always wanted to be a fly on the wall of a real recording session, the band is inviting a very limited number of people to be their guests in the studio via this Eventbrite link.
Why perform before recording? Béla Fleck answers that question in this video from last year:
We live in a paradoxical age: believe nothing unless you have seen it, yet trust outside experts more than the leaders of one’s own community. All my life I have heard the quote “nobody is a hero in their home town” only to discover it’s a paraphrase of a verse from the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus says “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in their own hometown.” Doubtless Plato complained about the same problem hundreds of years earlier. I believe this is due to our tendency to confuse the familiar with the ordinary. Since moving to Chapel Hill and becoming familiar with many of the great people in the region, I have come to appreciate just how extraordinary so many of them are. Including those with a musical inclination.
That is not to say that we don’t appreciate talent from other states or countries. As a board member of Carolina Performing Arts, I’m rightfully proud of the world-class roster of international talents that perform at Memorial Hall each academic year. But the greatness that comes from afar does not preclude the possibility of greatness living amongst us as well. The INDY week article is a great case in point. Yes, it may seem like bragging to use my own studio as an example of a world-class music and post-production facility in our community, but it’s true. Equally true, and perhaps more important because of the network effect, is that the local community is able to come together and celebrate that fact. Today, artists both local and global are willing to give us the nod over more established facilities in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, and even London, which is now leading to greater opportunities for all in our growing community. That is wonderful!
When I decided to leave the certainty of multiple steady paychecks to start a new company, everybody I briefed thought there was no possible way it could succeed, and that gave me the confidence that I’d have no competition. The rest, as they say is history. But since that time, I have also come to appreciate that sometimes it is more valuable to have at least some competition proving that the business idea has at least some merit. Some percentage of a provable market is worth more than 100% of a market that simply does not exist. Enter GrooveBox Studios.
GrooveBox Studios was born of a frustration that is nearly universal among all artists I’ve encountered: bands spend too much of their own money on projects and tours that generally enrich everybody else before the band earns a dollar. Which is not sustainable. The founders of GrooveBox Studios hit the business reset button and came up with a model that is really quite analogous to what we, too derived: the co-production model. For starters, both GrooveBox and The Miraverse® promote the idea that instead of being an up-front cost that the artist must bear, the recording process is something that delivers cash and profit directly to the artist, up-front. (more…)
When an artist makes a recording at a studio, there is always a coincidence–two things happening at the same time and place. One is the interpretation and the performance of the artist, the other is the creative capture of that ephemeral performance so that it can be replicated and experienced across time and space, perhaps by people not yet even alive when the recording was made. But the coincidences we shared with pianist Frederic Chiu this past week went far beyond that.
At the Dōjō where I train, the black belts begin every class by saying “Shiken Haramitsu Daikoumyo,” reminding themselves that “every moment is an opportunity for enlightenment.” I have been training for a year, making good progress, and if I keep it up, I might earn my black belt in 3-4 more years. There’s a lot to learn and a lot know, and these Black Belts, who know so much more than I do, are constantly prepared to learn even more.
Earlier this month we hosted Béla Fleck and Brooklyn Rider, high-degree black belts of their respective instruments for sure, and I was struck by not only how much they knew, but how prepared they were–every moment–to receive new enlightenment. Shiken Haramitsu Daikoumyo!!
“Manifold must be one of the finest music-dedicated studios built in the world in the last decade. ” — Alex Oana, Manifold Recording: Inside the Miraverse
Manifold Recording is honored to have been nominated for a TEC Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in the Studio Design Project category. We congratulate and thank Wes Lachot Design, and especially Wes Lachot, who succeeded brilliantly in helping to realize this ambitious project. If a picture is worth a thousand words, and then the 10,000 pictures I have taken of this project during its four years of construction suggest just how much could be said about what he conceived, drew, detailed, and then argued for in its implementation. But there is much more to this creative achievement than meets the eye, or the ear for that matter.
“we wanted to reboot the music industry by reinventing the role of the recording studio”
When I first sat down with Wes, he asked the question that every studio designer must ask: what do you want to do? I told him that we wanted to reboot the music industry by reinventing the role of the recording studio. We agreed that we would need to honor the laws of physics (especially acoustics), but in all other ways we would seek to be the change we wanted to see in the world. We would be a model for acoustic and technological excellence, but we would also be a model of transparency and collaboration. We would be an ideal environment for musical performance, but we would also be a model for entrepreneurial innovation and economic sustainability. We would honor the great teachings of organic architecture and sacred geometry by becoming the best example of those teachings we could be. All of this was discussed before Wes put pencil to paper and began drawing the lines that ultimately became footings, walls, structures, buildings, and operating commercial facilities. In accepting this commission, Wes accepted the whole of the project, and he delivered brilliantly, even when certain aspects seemed to be in irreconcilable conflict. Such is the nature of an outstanding creative achievement.