Jazz Recording with Bart Stenhouse – Evaluation / Participation & Influence

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Hey all,

So last week was a very busy week for our little group of AUS230-ers, as we had been given the opportunity to record a brilliant group of Jazz musicians! Bart Stenhouse, who I had the pleasure of observing in the studio just last trimester, made a comeback this trimester with eight new jazz tracks utilising the drums, bass guitar, electric guitar, flamenco guitar and vibraphone. Our class was divided into two groups, the red team and the blue team, and then set off to record four tracks each over the period of two days. I was placed in the blue team, who was scheduled to record over the second day and with the electric guitar in place of the flamenco. We were then further divided into the following roles for the recording session:

  • Project Manager
  • Bump in / Out / Observation
  • Console Operator
  • ProTools Operator
  • Microphones
  • Headphones
  • Hospitality

These roles were given to assist in the flow of our recording sessions, time management, communication and understanding were really important parts of our preproduction plan for the project. The red team on day one, and the blue on day two, both had two people participating in each role. I had been given the role of microphones for the day alongside Matthew in the blue team, then Francis and Patrick for the red team. Initially, one would assume the communication would be strongest between those participating on the same recording day, but soon enough we realised that wasn’t necessarily the case. If we had ignored the red team and simply stepped into our session a day later, how could we possibly know of any hiccups or changes that may need to be made? And if so, how much time would we waste trying to figure out the issues without having been present the day before? A little app called “Slack” really helped bridge the communication between the red team and blue team once everyone had signed up. As I was attending the second session, I found myself checking in with Francis and Patrick after their session to make sure there wasn’t anything I needed to be wary of that they had encountered that day. I also needed to be sure that the musicians were happy with how things had worked in the first session, and if not, what could I possibly do to fix that during my time in the studio. A little complication that arose prior to the sessions was that of attendance for the project. With roles being swapped around at the last minute, it was vital that our communication was strong enough to keep on top of everything there.

Pre-production is essential, and for my role, a microphone and channel list was vital! A google-doc spreadsheet was set up and shared on the app “slack” for all of the microphone guys to view. Below is a screenshot listing the microphones we used for the sessions, this was printed out onto an A3 sheet but I made sure to keep it saved on my iPad to view on the day, just incase!

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After all the pre-production had been established, it was time to head into the studio! As the red microphone team had the first session, they’d also been the ones to assist in each microphone set up for the day. Once I arrived I took some time to observe the mic techniques, as well as assist in the set up of Bart’s electric guitar, as he had been using the flamenco the day before. The highlight for me was definitely the ‘drum tunnel’ on the kick and witnessing the Blumlien technique on the Vibraphone!

Below is a picture of the drum setup, displaying the ‘drum tunnel’. This was achieved by placing a microphone about one kick drum length away from the kick itself, and then creating the ‘tunnel-like-shape’ using a blanket and mic stands to prop it up!

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The Blumlien technique was established on the Vibraphone using two C414’s. Another awesome feature to the recording of the Vibraphone was that it was done in a completely separate studio from the rest of the band! The electric guitar (Bart), Drums (Trent), and Bass guitar (David) were situated in the Neve, whilst the vibraphone (James) was placed in the Raven studio! Here’s a shot of the Blumlien in action, one level below the rest of the band:

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During my observation and participation, I was lucky enough not to encounter any issues in my own department (microphones) aside from acquiring sturdier microphone stands and an extra power board for the electric guitar set up. The day ran quite smoothly for Matthew and I, and although we missed out on setting up the microphones, I definitely had a chance to observe the intricacy of it all whilst packing up the drum set up alone! This being said, I feel that a lot of my learning came from the observational side of things, especially when I could hear the Blumlien technique first hand along with how amazing the kick sounded with it’s tunnel going on! These are definitely some techniques I will be carrying on to my own future recordings, that’s for sure!

Although I may not have felt extremely active when it came to the participation of this project, I believe the communication with my peers and musicians and attendance was really what helped the day run smoothly in my own department. Bart was able to talk easily with me about how his electric guitar and talkback mic should be set up for his comfort, and by listening to some of the chatter in the live room I was able to duck out and retrieve any extra items needed without having to be approached. I believe this is a very important factor when it comes to a recording session. Being attentive and not dazing off or playing on your phone, not only saves time (money!), but also displays respect and interest!

Overall I believe the day ran very smoothly and credit this to our teams cooperation, communication and attitude throughout the day! Whenever Bart stepped into the control room for a listen, he was very pleased with the product and we also managed to finish a little ahead of time! It was a great experience with some fantastic musicians and I hope to experience something similar again soon! 🙂

**Thanks to those who took pictures on the day!!

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