Posts Tagged ‘hobby’

John Wiley Nelson (a.k.a. “The Rev”) is a folk and bluegrass songwriter residing in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He was the manager of WOMR, the local public broadcasting station there form some years, and still acts as DJ for a regular bluegrass show. He has recorded several CDs here at Jonymac Studio. Over the years, he has focused more and more attention on hiring the finest award-winning musicians for his CDs: Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Adam Steffey on mandolin, Randy Kohrs on resonator (dobro), Ron Stewart on banjo, and most recently Kenny Smith on acoustic rhythm and lead guitars. He also brings in Kenny and Amanda Smith to produce and perform his vocals. Due to the busy schedules of all of these musicians, it is impossible to get them all together at one time to record. We have to multi-track, working around their schedules. Here’s the process:

  • The Rev records a rough vocal and rhythm guitar track to click for all songs (I accompany him on guitar)
  • The Rev creates an arrangement sheet, identifying clearly who plays rhythm, fills, or leads during each song.
  • Kenny Smith comes in and records a rhythm track for all songs, replacing my scratch guitar track.
  • Kenny then records any lead acoustic guitar work needed
  • I record an acoustic bass track
  • This improved rough mix is sent to:
    • Adam Steffey who records his mandolin tracks at his preferred studio (sometimes Ron Stewart’s Sleepy Valley Barn in Paoli, Indiana)
    • Randy Kohrs who records his resonator tracks at his studio (Slack Key Studios, Nashville, TN)
    • Ron Stewart records his tracks at his studio: Sleepy Valley Barn in Paoli, Indiana
  • These artists send their stems to me digitally to put into the mix
  • The Rev comes back into the studio and records his final vocal tracks
  • Kenny and Amanda come in to do background harmony vocals
  • Stuart Duncan comes in to the studio here and records his fiddle tracks which provide the “glue” on the CD.
  • The Rev and I do a good early mix for each song
  • I finish the mixing and mastering

Because of the quality of musicianship, this process works wonderfully.

One final thing that really helped this new CD. I’ve been less than happy with the basic sound palette when recording and mixing acoustic music such as bluegrass “in the box” in Logic (Pro Tools is not better), so I added an instantiation of Slate Virtual Mix Channel’s Neve console emulation on each bus, and on the Mixbus, and it made an amazing difference. I strongly recommend this! The sound is warmer, rounder, more listenable. The CD will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Napster, CD Baby, etc. soon. To hear a sneak preview, go here!

As I mentioned in the “About” page, I have four reasons for posting this blog.

First, in the section entitled Recent Projects, to (gently) advertise my project studio. I try to record 5-6 projects annually, and would be glad to discuss whether what I do is appropriate for your project. From time to time, therefore, I’ll post links to music recorded in the studio so that you can get an idea of what I can do.

Second, in the section entitled Philosophy, to share my philosophy of recording.

Third, in the section entitled Tricks of the Trade, to share ideas that I have about improving both the workflow and quality of project studio recordings.

Fourth, in the section entitled Gear, to discuss gear I have used or found useful in studio production.

For over thirty years now I’ve been recording and mixing music. No, it’s not my “day job.” I teach at Vanderbilt Divinity School. I write books on all kinds of topics. I’ve also been known to blog on a range of topics – in particular preaching and worship, and popular religion. My passion for recording music intersects with my other interests – which focus on the philosophy and impact of sound and words in the public arena.

My life in recording began in my teenage and college age years, in Birmingham, Alabama. I worked for a film company (Metcalf Productions), writing soundtracks (mostly music) for commercial films and television spots. I hung around the studio as much as I could, learning the basics of microphone placement, mixing and editing.

Studio Engineering was not how I wanted to make a living. I had other interests oriented toward scholarship and teaching. But music performance and recording remained my primary hobbies – and soon became a bit more than that, as computers began to make recording more accessible for hobbyists.

In the Control Room

With the advent of computer-based digital sequencing in the 80’s and then the full-blown marketing of digital audio workstations (DAWs) in the 90’s, home recording leapt to new levels, and became more accessible to hobbyists. I began editing on the German based software Emagic Logic in the mid-90s and stuck with it when Apple bought the company and morphed it into Logic Pro. I have stayed with Logic, and have found it to be more than adequate for most forms of studio production.

Moving to Nashville in 2004 changed the whole game for me. Nashville is filled with commercial and boutique studios, and hundreds of project studios (good and bad). At the same time, hundreds of artists move to Nashville each year in order to try to make it in the music industry as either songwriters or performers. The number of people needing good quality demo recordings or affordable project recordings is many times what it is in most cities. And there is a small niche for those of us who can provide a product that is less expensive yet well recorded and mixed. I’ve steadily increased the number of projects I take on. My connections with excellent musicians (for hire), gear rental and other music resources has sky-rocketed in the past three years.

Although gear is important, as you will see in later posts, I believe that the key to recording and mixing is the ear, not the gear. Some of my favorite recordings were made on an old Tascam cassette Portastudio I owned in the late 80s, using mostly dynamic microphones. Training one’s ear to create a good sound and mix is the key to recording at any level. More on this, and other aspects of the game, later.

Welcome to the blog. Hope you enjoy it and get something out of it.