Being a Microphone Technician

In our first recording session for the sound-alike project I had the role of microphone technician. My responsibilities were choosing the microphones for the session and microphone placement. I also played the role of producer and DAW operator at various times.

In taking on this role, I had to do a lot of research on the microphones available and how I could use them to achieve a similar sound to the original track. Some of this information was easy to find (i.e. it was well documented Paramore uses MD 421s on toms) however in choosing many of the other microphones I had to rely on sparse fragments of information on forums and simply critically listening to the track.

Some of the conclusions I made while listening to the track were: that the drums were spacey, so we used high overhead microphones and room microphones; the kick had a lot of 'click' or attack noise so we used a mic inside the shell close to the skin; and the cymbals were quite 'dark' sounding so we used Neumann TLM 102s for the overheads which have a darker sound as opposed to the AKG C414s.

Initially everyone stuck to their assigned roles, but over time not ever role needed constant attention so we all took on a few different roles. For instance, once the microphones were set up and we started recording, I did some DAW operation, became the artist liaison and generally assisted others.

One of the issues we had in the session was the microphone we used for the drummer to communicate with us was being intensely compressed so that we could hear him clearly, however every time he started playing the drums we would have to mute the talkback mic otherwise the drums would come through it and be very loud on the monitors. Then of course when hes finished the take, we had to remember to un-mute it. This situation could have been fixed with some better compression settings, possibly faster attack and release times so the compressor caught the loud drum transients better and less makeup gain.

Another problem was getting his headphone mix right. Understandably, he was very particular about foldback mix, and it was at times hard to achieve the levels he wanted as we began to run out of headroom on the aux trims. We could have avoided this by having a better gain structure of the headphone mix before the drummer arrived. Also it would have been a good idea to have another pair of headphones in the studio to plug into the headphone amp and listen to what he was hearing, giving us a better understanding of what he needed.

Overall the session went well and we achieved the sound we desired, but there was significant room for improvement. Communication between the control room and the artist could have been better, but the barrier of talkback was difficult to overcome.

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