I have been playing in a cover band for the past 10 years… The infamous PPBoys!
A five piece band, with singer, lead and rythm guitars, bass and drums (yours truely).
At first, we reheased in commercial rehearsing spaces, in town.
When my family unit moved into a house in the suburbs, a room in the basement was dedicated to the band. Twice a month, from 8 to 11PM, it turns into a lively space (some would say “loud”… It’s a good thing my two kids are two stories up, well asleep).
More recently, I decided to gear up.
There were two main goals to this expenditure:
1/ enable my personal composition projects
2/ record the band’s rehearsals and make quick band demos (in one evening max)
On this second goal, the results are pleasing.
To illustrate, here is a take of Pavement’s “Grounded” that is warm out of the oven… Fresh from last night’s rehearsal.
This is a rough diagram of our setup:
As you can see, it is composed of two separate rooms. One “live room”, where we do the playing. One “control room”, where we do the recording and mixing.
The two are connected “sonically” by a 10 meter snake. I could not make holes in the wall between the two rooms. it is a large stone wall that holds the house together. No matter!
- 6 channel headphone amp – We now play with headphones, off of the mix return from the audio interface (via the snake)
- For the drums,
- 2 Neumann KM184 for the overheads
- 1 Shure D112 for the kick drum
- 1 AKG precision for the snare
- For the 2 guitar amps, 2 Shure SM57s
- For the bass amp, 1 AKG 414XLS
- For the singer, a Shure SM58 when recording live, the AKG 414XLS for subsequent recording of the clean vocal track
- A large couch to attempt to seperate the amps from the drums. Note the placement of the power amps. I carefully devised a strategy that minimizes bleed from one amp to another amp’s microphone.
- Audient ASP880 (into…)
- UAD Apollo Twin Duo (via ADAT, into…)
- iMac (via Thunderbolt)
- Logic Pro X (via UAD’s virtual console)
- Event 20/20Bas active monitor speakers
We do not have the luxury of having an in-house recording engineer. I therefore set up the space before the PPBoys arrive.
- Turn on the recording gear
- Install the Neumans and the AKG 414XLS as I dare not leave them out in between sessions. The Shure SM58 and SM57s stay on their stands always.
- In UAD’s console, I call up the saved PPBoys configuration… 8 tracks of recording:
- overhead L
- overhead R
- rythm guitar
- lead guitar
- In Logic Pro X, same thing. I call up a pre-configured project… and activate record on all tracks.
Once we are comfortable and warmed up on a given song, I will get up, go to the “control room”, press record, make it back to the live room and give the go.
We do not play to a click track. We could as we play with headphones. But we don’t… yet.
We usually record two to three takes of the song (without me turning off the recording).
Once that is done, we all move to the “control room”. After a quick listen, we select our favorite take. I then scratch the singer’s live take which is unusable for a mix, there being so much bleed from all the other instruments. I switch the AKG 414XLS from the bass amp to the vocal position and we record a take of our singer singing alone in the “live room” to our instrumental tracks.
Mixing is a long process.
I do it alone once the band has dispersed.
Last night’s final mix of “Grounded” was done at 2AM.
Yes, I know… That is late. You don’t have to do it right there and then. You could schedule a mixing session in-between this rehearsal and the next.
The value of doing it right there and then is that the task becomes self-contained. I can chalk it off as “Done”. There is risk to that, naturally. My ears are probably tired from the rehearsing…
I hope this experience helps you in recording your band.
Please share in the comments below.