Recording a band separately vs all together (same room)

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LupineSound
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Recording a band separately vs all together (same room)

Post by LupineSound » Tue Nov 04, 2014 9:11 am

I'm interested to know what you guys think about recording bands separately versus all together in the same room. Personally, I feel there are pretty big pros and cons on both sides. So far, it has been my experience that I get a much better performance--and that's where the magic is--when recording all together, but the recording quality suffers--and mixing options become limited, if not a downright headache. I can get really great sounds when recording all the instruments separately, but it seems there are few amateurs who can record this way and not lose the vibe. I find it's mostly dependent on the drummer.

The compromise I've settled on is creative uses of baffling and I'm fortunate that I'm in a huge room so I can minimize bleed, but I imagine the ideal scenario would be for everyone to be in their own isolated room with good sightlines/windows between each performer. That's not an option for me and I'm wondering what other project studios are doing.

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Post by JWL » Tue Nov 04, 2014 9:29 am

Tough call, it really depends on the band. If the band is good and tight then recording at once is a great option. If the band is not so tight then overdubbing is pretty much the only option.

For some styles of music (heavy rock or progressive-y rock, for instance) overdubbing is a must anyway.

I do like having all the performers in the same room though. Often what I will do is set up performers in the room with the drummer, but either have them record through DIs (using something like a Pod for guitarists), or have their amps isolated in a different room. This way gives the best of both worlds. If the take is magical, then you can always re-amp the DI signals to get a better tone.

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Post by kslight » Tue Nov 04, 2014 10:20 am

The decision really depends on the size and configuration of the room(s) and the band.


In a perfect world I would prefer to put either the drums or the guitar amps in separate rooms, bass and keys direct.

Guitar amps are pretty easy to contain with placement and gobos, however drums in the same room have a tendency to get into everything even with gobos.

Not all bands are gonna be good enough, but even for good bands I like to have some control over bleed...if you can get it down to the amount of bleed you get when recording a live band from an average stage you can make it work (with a rock band anyway).

To help keep some vibe you can record the band in sections, for example bass and drums, then if there are 2 guitars you can record both at the same time in the same room for example...

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Post by vvv » Tue Nov 04, 2014 3:22 pm

kslight wrote:
To help keep some vibe you can record the band in sections, for example bass and drums, then if there are 2 guitars you can record both at the same time in the same room for example...
This is what I've been doing, either guitar or bass with drums to start, sometimes with a scratch voc. I usually have the song's writer play with the drummer ...

If I do the guitar first, I usually (9/10 times) dump it after I get some other rhythm tracks going. If the bass is DI'd, I usually end up keeping that (esp. if I played it :twisted: ), and then build on the bass/drums tracks.
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Post by standup » Tue Nov 04, 2014 7:29 pm

I always try to record a band in a room playing together when possible. Then overdub parts as needed, so strive for separation. The drums will be in every mic. The vocal will be a scratch, unless you have an iso room.

In a big studio, I've seen the engineer build a guitar amp cave out of acoustic panels -- 4 sides plus one on top. Open one of the panels a crack so the guitarist can hear a little, and use headphones. The bass amp, in that situation, was in an iso booth and the vocalist in another iso booth, but we could all see each other and had a headphone mix.

I've also recorded in a smaller room with one or two gobos, everything live, and it turned out great.

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Post by GooberNumber9 » Wed Nov 05, 2014 5:57 am

JWL wrote:Often what I will do is set up performers in the room with the drummer, but either have them record through DIs (using something like a Pod for guitarists), or have their amps isolated in a different room. This way gives the best of both worlds. If the take is magical, then you can always re-amp the DI signals to get a better tone.
This is what I do. I actually kept a DI track for magical solo that happened while making scratch tracks. With shared reverb and a little EQ and what-not, it sounded like it belonged in the mix with the overdubs.

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Post by honkyjonk » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:14 am

You guys ever listen to Dead Moon?

I'll listen to sloppy bands all day long that recorded a good song all together at the same moment. I don't give a fuck about the room, the bleed or the slop,unless it's so ridiculous that they're flipping the beat or something.

There are so many great sloppy bands that would sound like total monochromatic half ass vanilla garbage if recorded in overdub fashion.

You don't have to be Aretha or Frank Sinatra to record live. You just have to be patient.

And take the headphones off too!
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Post by banana brains » Wed Nov 05, 2014 5:26 pm

I agree with post above. In my opinion we are way to worried about the sound to the point where it becomes a distraction and a road block a lot of the times. Now, I should state that applies mostly to the artists. Let the engineer do his thing unless he is creating a situation where you feel like you can't properly perform.

If you are the engineer and the artist, be careful to focus on what's important, and it ain't the sound (within reason of course).

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Post by banana brains » Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:05 pm

I guess I should restate that that is just my opinion. I know lots of guys and gals like things to be real tight. An engineer told me that its a must if you want to have a hit these days. I disagree, and its certainly not the only kind of music I like to listen to or even a majority of what I listen to, but that's just me and I'm no kid. I don't know what those folks want. Don't really care either.

But I get it if you want things to be real tight. Good luck!

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Post by standup » Wed Nov 05, 2014 7:09 pm

Here's a thing my band did a couple of months ago -- one room recording, all live with a small audience in the studio. Mono drums, vocals were live, we had headphones so we could hear the vocals, but we were playing live in the room. It's a little ragged here and there, but it was fun. Room is maybe 20x30, no gobos, pretty well treated.

https://nprecordingco.bandcamp.com/albu ... episode-06

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Re: Recording a band separately vs all together (same room)

Post by Nick Sevilla » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:58 pm

LupineSound wrote:I'm interested to know what you guys think about recording bands separately versus all together in the same room. Personally, I feel there are pretty big pros and cons on both sides. So far, it has been my experience that I get a much better performance--and that's where the magic is--when recording all together, but the recording quality suffers--and mixing options become limited, if not a downright headache. I can get really great sounds when recording all the instruments separately, but it seems there are few amateurs who can record this way and not lose the vibe. I find it's mostly dependent on the drummer.

The compromise I've settled on is creative uses of baffling and I'm fortunate that I'm in a huge room so I can minimize bleed, but I imagine the ideal scenario would be for everyone to be in their own isolated room with good sightlines/windows between each performer. That's not an option for me and I'm wondering what other project studios are doing.

Some of the best albums I have recorded are when you have people in the same room together.

The only and best way to do this, in order to minimize the bleed issues, is like this:

1.a- KNOW your ROOM. Walk around your room while banging different drums. Make a map of what drum sounds best and mark an x on your map. Place your guitar amplifier in different places, and make a map for that too. Place your bass amp and do the same. Same goes for the singer, etc. Once you know where each instrument will sound best in your room, you can plan out the setup much much better.

1.b- MAP the NODES and PEAKS of your recording room. I have one, made on 1 square = 1 foot paper, and I mapped 5 frequencies : 100, 1000, 5000, and 10,000 Hz. As well as pink and white noise plots. You will need : Your DAW that can send out tones and pink and white noise (Pro Tools has a tone generator). One sound pressure level meter. about 1 to 2 hours of free time. Colored pencils and graph paper.

2.- Once you KNOW your ROOM and your SETUP, you can now best place each microphone in the BEST place to capture each instrument while minimizing BAD bleed. BAD bleed is bleed that sounds fucked up in the other microphones. IF you did steps 1 and 2, this BAD bleed should pretty much not exist, since every instrument will already fill the room with its best sound and the room will be reacting the best way to each instrument. you can USE the PEAKS and NODES of the room, to better place each microphone so it ONLY captures the desired instrument, and the NODES can be used to deflect other sound sources naturally.

3.- AFTER you have placed the microphones in their BEST place, THEN you will consider using gobos and isolation walls in order to further control your bleed.

To best do this, be prepared to test record a few things, check phase relationships between microphones, amounts of bleed, etc.

Play around with the mic positions. One inch closer / further / left / right / up / down can make a HUMONGOUS difference. SPEND TIME DOING THIS.

Once you have this setup, feel free to keep it in place. And, if any musician knocks stuff over, feel free to kill them with fire. ;)

Cheers
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Re: Recording a band separately vs all together (same room)

Post by Flight Feathers » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:02 pm

LupineSound wrote:--when recording all together, but the recording quality suffers--and mixing options become limited, if not a downright headache..
Why do you find that to be the case? What are the symptoms?

I record live in a small garage- 9'x18', with a loud drummer, 2 guitars and bass. When I solo the guitar amp mics, I can barely hear the drums in them at all. I use ribbons on the amps, and have them perpendicular to the drums, so the null is pointing at the drums.

The other thing that rules is a stereo mic right in the middle of the room, I usually use M/S pattern, with the mid towards the drums. Bringing up that mic in the mix is like going from 2D to 3D.
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Post by banana brains » Thu Nov 06, 2014 4:53 pm

standup wrote:Here's a thing my band did a couple of months ago -- one room recording, all live with a small audience in the studio. Mono drums, vocals were live, we had headphones so we could hear the vocals, but we were playing live in the room. It's a little ragged here and there, but it was fun. Room is maybe 20x30, no gobos, pretty well treated.

https://nprecordingco.bandcamp.com/albu ... episode-06
this is really great!

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Re: Recording a band separately vs all together (same room)

Post by JWL » Thu Nov 06, 2014 8:05 pm

Great post as usual Nick. But allow me to respectfully nitpick with one thing you wrote:
Nick Sevilla wrote: 1.b- MAP the NODES and PEAKS of your recording room. I have one, made on 1 square = 1 foot paper, and I mapped 5 frequencies : 100, 1000, 5000, and 10,000 Hz. As well as pink and white noise plots. You will need : Your DAW that can send out tones and pink and white noise (Pro Tools has a tone generator). One sound pressure level meter. about 1 to 2 hours of free time. Colored pencils and graph paper.
3 things cause me to question the utility of this exercise.

First, the location of peaks and nulls will be, at least in part, relative to the position of the sound source in the room. This is particularly true with low frequencies (fundamentals). So the modal behavior you measure will change if the sound source (ie, an amp or whatever) is not in the same position as your monitor speakers. There will be some similarities but also some important differences.

Second, testing 100Hz and then 1000Hz is painting in very broad strokes. Peaks and nulls are often very close together; I've seen (for instance) a 10dB peak at 80Hz, and a -20dB null at 85Hz, with another 15dB peak at 95Hz.

Third, I generally don't bother measuring a room above like 400-500Hz, because the wavelengths (actually 1/4 wavelengths) involved here are so short that moving the measuring mic even an inch or two gives you a totally different curve. Even if you listen by ear, often the left ear and the right ear are hearing totally different things throughout the midrange and treble.

After these nitpicks, I do agree that spending time in your room to learn it is crucial, both in terms of learning how to best record in it, AND in terms of learning how best to treat the room to maximize your sound potential.

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Post by LupineSound » Fri Nov 07, 2014 6:32 am

Nick, all very good points. I have, in fact, done the walk-around-the-room-hitting-the-floor-tom thing. I definitely found the best spot for my the tubs that way.

I think what I neglected to do was the whole pink noise mode/node mapping. I did some half-assed calculations on the back of a napkin so I have a rough idea, but the slight asymmetry of the room probably means that I'd benefit greatly with the assistance of software. It just seems like it will be such a chore! haha

I remember when I first moved into the space I set up my mix station right in the middle, for no particular reason at all. When I could never seem to get the bass right, I did some research and calculated that I was attempting to mix in a node. So then I moved the monitors to 38% away from the far wall. Holy fuck what a difference!

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