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  • Léo Chupin

The April Music Incident: Recording Rock the old-fashioned way!

The best jams are made in old jars! Today, recording "A l'ancienne": five musicians in the same room, eight microphones and that's it!

April 2023, contact a few days earlier, I pack all my gear (microphones, mic stands, etc.) into two large bags. Off to a rehearsal studio in Paris. We'll have to record everyone at the same time, in the same room, in one day.

The April Musical Incident are old classmates. Their first rehearsals date back to 1975. After graduation, life took over. Now, 40 years on, they're back at it again.

On today's menu, two covers: Mary Jane Last Dance (Tom Petty) and Behind Blue Eyes (The Who). They didn't even have time to rehearse beforehand; they learned the songs right there in front of me, while I set up the microphones.

Minimal Set-Up / Maximum Impact!

No time, no space, no separation. It's all about going for solid values, for microphones that work! No fuss: efficiency, but with style!

  • For the drum overhead, two Ehrlund EHR-Ms, the best way to get the whole drum kit, rich, full & natural.

  • For the bass drum, it'll be the Ehrlund EHR-D, a static dedicated to drums with beautiful low notes.

  • For the snare drum, my pickup of choice is the Ehrlund EHR-C: you get all the attack and richness of the drum. An SM57 could have done the trick, but the Ehrlund offers much more depth and possibilities.

  • For the bass amp, an Electrovoice RE20 (not even time for a DI!) A tender, groovy sound!

  • For each guitar amp (Fender & Vox) a vintage Sennheiser MD421, a little less aggressive than an SM57 but with a nice, precise midrange. Great raw material!

  • For the acoustic guitar, the Ehrlund transducer. My Neumann KM84s would have been perfect, but we ran out of time and the pickup allows us to play standing up and moving around.

  • For vocals and harmonica, it'll be the indestructible Shure SM58!

  • All in my Antelope Zen and straight into pro tools!

And that's it! And frankly, it sounds great!

The Magic of yesteryear

Diaphony is when an instrument is heard in a place where it shouldn't be (e.g. hearing the guitar in the vocal mic). It's often due to a lack of isolation between musicians. We try to avoid this as much as possible, as it makes mixing more complicated.

Here, it's impossible: there's guitar in the vocals, vocals in the bass and everyone in the drums! But it sounds great! Of course, I've positioned everyone as best I can. This is still the most effective way of controlling crosstalk. This crosstalk creates a "glue", a common space, a sonic cohesion, an inimitable natural depth (The Beatles, Motown recordings, Stax, etc.). A natural result difficult to achieve otherwise.

These days, there's a tendency - and I'm no exception - to use lots and lots of microphones! You gain in rich tone, but you lose in transparency and precision. The more mics you have, the messier it gets, and you can "lose the sound". There's nothing like old pots and old recipes! Sometimes one microphone is better than three.

Of course, I would have liked to do more. In other circumstances, I would have done much better, but given the constraints, I'm pretty proud: I have an honest and representative recording of what happened that day. The recording sounds beyond its constraints. And that's beautiful!

Spring-cleaning !

Before starting the mix, I put it through Izotop RX to limit the amount of feedback, especially on the vocals. Music Rebalance works incredibly well, albeit sparingly.

Synchronization of all tracks to avoid phase problems: the basis! Always essential! Auto-Align is perfect for this (now Auto Align 2 is even better).

Mixing In The Box, The Old-Fashioned Way !

One must use constraints to one's advantage. The aim from the outset of the recording was to record the rehearsal as if it were live in the studio.

So I tried to create a coherent, realistic musical scene : if you close your eyes, you hear that the drummer is at the back of the room, with the bass, the guitars on either side and the vocals as close as possible, just opposite.

So, contrary to what we're used to hearing, the drums aren't very wide, which is the most realistic perception for the situation.

I also placed the voices of each musician's heart in the same place as their instrument.

To reinforce the feeling of live performance, a trick that works very effectively is to put everyone in the same reverb but with different predelays, simulating the distance between the musicians and the listener. The higher the predelay, the farther away the instrument seemed.

For this session, I used UAD's Room from Capitol Studios.

All these little things help to create an immersion and a "realistic" perception of the music scene.

To give a vintage feel, certain plug-ins are indispensable: Acustica Audio's Brown and Rust, UAD's Studer A800 Tape Simulator and Helios EQ are good examples.

This is followed by a heavy dose of compression (in small doses), saturation and, above all, automation!

Mastering With Care

My mixes are already very loud, so mastering is mostly about polishing and harmonizing levels.

Small boost of 0.5-1db on the Acustica Audio's "GML" Green

Check This Out !

What they say

"Our recording session went perfectly. Léo was perfectly integrated and totally involved in our project, which he handled in a way that was both highly professional and totally participative. Communication was perfect with all band members. His professional expertise as a sound engineer added to his initial training as a musician matched the project perfectly. Léo provided invaluable technical and artistic advice. What's more, Léo is extremely friendly and knows how to put everyone involved in the project at ease".

"The sound result blew us away. The experience made us want to take on another project with Léo (one of the band members has already decided to order a session with Léo with another band...). In short, we have no hesitation in recommending Léo for your next recording and mixing projects". Olivier

Your turn !

You've got a band and you're wondering if you're ready to take the next step?

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