Album recording update--phase one!

We just finished the bulk of our tracking in the studio!!! We wanted to give you a guided tour of the experience and show you the steps that are going into recording the album! For most people, maybe there is this vague idea of a console composed of hundreds of slide-y things and knobs that creates an imposing horizon in front of a black leather swivel chair, or someone wearing a pair of headphones while singing passionately with their eyes closed, or a series of magical moments when everyone just looks at each other and says "that's it!" or something. These are all true, but there is a lot of hard work that goes into capturing the sounds that are so effortlessly created when you are all standing next to each other in the same room.​

(Engineering console with our audio tracks on the screen)
 
(Studio rules)
(Studio rules)

Our studio, Sound Temple, has a main room where Stig and his bass are stationed and three smaller adjoining rooms that house Aaron, Anya and Jed respectively. All the rooms are completely sound proofed and we can only hear each other through headphones. We each have at least two mics aimed at our instruments as well as vocal mics. The sound that goes into each mic is transferred into a digital file that appears on a monitor at our engineer Chris Rosser's computer screen. 

(Banjo time in Jed's booth)
(Banjo time in Jed's booth)
(Anya's booth-whaa?)
(Anya's booth-whaa?)
(Aaron's booth-happy camper)
(Aaron's booth-happy camper)
(The boom room-Stig needs an entire room to contain him)
(The boom room-Stig needs an entire room to contain him)

Because we are all completely isolated from each other, we use the "tick tock" of a click track in our headphones to keep us in time with each other, which also acts kind of like a measuring tape so that all the tracks and takes line up on the computer. Learning how to make music that vibes in this arrangement is tricky and it usually take a few passes through each song to get a base track that has the right feel that we can then use to build the rest of the song on. Some songs come together more quickly than others, and  we are arranging some things for the first time in the studio, which is exciting.  At this point there is only a "scratch" vocal track recorded, one that just marks the vocal parts, which will be replaced by a final version later on. From there, we choose the best feeling take and are able to add or recut any of the instrumental breaks and fills over that. 

(Listening back in the control room)
(Listening back in the control room)
(Takin' notes. The artwork behind is functional--to break up sound and reduce echo when listening in the control room. Note Himalayan salt crystal in the foreground keeping things cool.)
(Takin' notes. The artwork behind is functional--to break up sound and reduce echo when listening in the control room. Note Himalayan salt crystal in the foreground keeping things cool.)

Although the image us of playing all our instruments alone, holed up in our own sound chambers, while intensely listening to a metronome doesn't sound very inspiring, it get's really cool when we can put it all back together and listen back, taking time to get the breaks and special elements really dialed in in a way that is worthy of a studio recording. That's why it's important that each instrument has a "clean" audio track with no bleed from any other instruments, so that the volume levels and tones can be adjusted and mixed together correctly. If we all just stood in front of one mic and hit "record" we wouldn't have much control over the recording or performance quality of any one individual element. 

(yeah, less coma in the mix please)
(yeah, less coma in the mix please)

The studio recording experience is really made possible by the talents of three people: Jon Stickley, our producer; Chris Rosser, our engineer; and Robert George, the studio owner. Jon is an exceptional guitar player with Jon Stickley Trio. Jon listens as we are laying down our tracks and gives us feedback on the feel and quality of performance and helps us make decisions about all aspects of the song arrangements, how to get the best recording and and what sort of editing is required. He provides an outside ear and compass for our process, facilitates discussions, and just generally keeps us positive and psyched! He also joins us for a few cameos on the album.

(Jon listening, with Ringo. Yes, definitely less coma.)
(Jon listening, with Ringo. Yes, definitely less coma.)
(Jon's Zen moment recording with his 1956 Martin)
(Jon's Zen moment recording with his 1956 Martin)

Our sound engineer, Chris Rosser, is a talented pianist and multi-instrumentalist in the jazz and world music genres and tours as far away as China with various ensembles. In addition to knowing how to run the soundboard, he has an amazing ability to remember "the feel of that take two before last," to know what we mean when we say, "you know that place where it goes 'dum dum de DAH," and to keep a smile on his face even after eight hours of sitting virtually immobile while staring at the digital renderings of all our efforts. Chris is a truly remarkable person and a joy to work with. 

(Chris (L) and Robert (R) still smiling after day four)
(Chris (L) and Robert (R) still smiling after day four)
(Deep breaths, deep breaths)
(Deep breaths, deep breaths)

Robert George is the owner who designed this beautiful studio with excellent sound proofing, noise-free ventilation management, big windows connecting booths, and lots of spiritual artwork and inspirational accessories, including a polished stone that fits perfectly in the palm of your hand and a deck of cards with Thich Nhat Hanh quotes that several of us shuffled and reshuffled obsessively during playback. Robert has an arsenal of high-quality mics that he swapped in and out, measured precisely and hooked up to a beautifully organized tangle of wires that exited into the control room. Robert also brought us lunch. Which was awesome.

(Robert put three mics on the fiddle!)
(Robert put three mics on the fiddle!)

These first 5 days in the big studio is where we track out the songs as a band before moving to Chris's smaller one room studio to record vocals, harmonies and a few more instrumental overdubs and effects. We will be doing that in February. It will be hard to leave these tracks for almost a month before getting back to work, but during that time we will be able to focus on getting some band photos, album artwork and backer rewards fulfilled! 

More soon!

The team
The team

AAJS

4 comments

  • Larry Kearns

    Larry Kearns Warner Robins, Ga

    Y'all are looking great and seem to be very much at home doing what you are so good at doing. Wishing only the best for all of you. Simply an appreciative listener and admirer.

    Y'all are looking great and seem to be very much at home doing what you are so good at doing. Wishing only the best for all of you. Simply an appreciative listener and admirer.

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    Cane Centurian

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