These sessions were originally slated for London with the London Studio Orchestra. They were scheduled for the fall of 2001. But in the wake of Sept. 11 with increased pro-American sentiment, budget cuts, and the fear of international travel, the sessions were rescheduled to be recorded in Nashville. The studio options were either Masterfonic's Tracking Room or Oceanway Nashville. The size of the group mandated a large studio. Two of the six recording sessions would involve 60 musicians, with another two sessions involving a smaller orchestra of over 40, and two more with just rhythm section and a percussionist.
The session that you will hear on this disc is from one of the large group sessions. It took place on January 9, 2002. The instrument complement on the main studio floor was 18-8-8-4 strings (violins, viola, celli, arco), three trumpets, four French horns, four trombones and tuba, three percussionists, and an electric bass player. Additional musicians in isolation booths included five woodwinds (two flutes, oboe, clarinet, bassoon), a harp (the kind with strings-not the Nashville mouth harp), piano and drums.
The mic list was as follows:
2 - Neumann M50s-Room overheads in the large room, positioned over the conductor's head
2 - Neumann U67 each on violins
2 - Neumann KM 84 on viola
2 - Neumann U67 on celli
1 - Neumann M49 on 2 arcos
1 - Telefunken 251 on 2 arcos
1 - Telefunken 251 on the harp (an additional C-800G was used for stereo harp on the smaller ensemble)
1 - AT 4060 on tuba
3 - Neumann U87 on French horns
2 - AT 4047 on trombones
1 - Neumann U87 on bass trombone
1 - Sony C800G on trumpets
2 - Neumann U87 on tympani
2 - AT 4033 on percussion
2 - AT 4041 on percussion
2 - AT 4033 on flutes
1 - SM81 on clarinet
1 - Shure SM81 on oboe
1 - Neumann U47fet on bassoon
2 - AKG C414 on acoustic piano
1 - AKG D112 on kick drum
1 - Shure SM-57 on snare
1 - AKG C-451 on hi hat
4 - AKG C-414 on toms
2 - AKG C-12 on drum overheads
I hope I didn't forget anything. All I know is that we had 47 mic inputs, 48 tape returns, and 4 echo returns on the 80 in x 48 monitor console. It was really full. And with the console being almost 22 feet long, it was a real workout of a session, or 4 sessions rather. I didn't sit down during the whole 12 hours of the recording sessions except during meals and breaks.
The pace was really fast. We cut 5 songs per session. With a three hour session, and two 10 minute union breaks for the musicians, that's 2 hours and 40 minutes (160 minutes) divided by 5 songs, so we had 32 minutes per song to record 20 songs in four sessions.
We recorded the first run through of each piece of music (the "first read" when they are sightreading) and if there were questions about notes, we would check the parts and then "roll tape" again. The cost of a session like this is enough to make you lose sleep at night. The cost per hour is about $6000 or $100 a minute. That's $1.66 each second. Needless to say, when they're ready to record, you reach for the red button quickly. The 3 seconds it takes to reach for the record button just cost the client $5!
My good friend Brian Tankersley (She Daisy, Gino Vanelli, NewSong, and more) was joking with me the other day and did the math. He said "How long does it take you to go the bathroom at Oceanway, since the bathrooms are down the hall?" I told him I wasn't sure, but probably about 4 or 5 minutes. "That's 300 seconds at almost $2 a second, or over $400 for a bathroom break for the engineer. That's one expensive bathroom break!" We both had a good laugh.
Needless to say, everything has to go smoothly on a session like this and preparation is the key to making that happen. Having a bad headphone box or a defective set of 'phones can cost hundreds of dollars. Much more than the cost of the headphones.
Having a great second engineer, or two or three, can make or break a session like this. For the Oceanway session, I had one of the best. David Bryant was the second and he and an intern (Brian, I believe) spent 13 hours setting up the room, testing the mics, popping them, and making sure the headphones all worked and connecting and testing the rental RADAR machines. For this session, I also had the assistance of my good friend George Cumbee of Classic Recording (whose name you recognize no doubt) who came to oversee the RADARs and also stepped in as the "tape op" who armed and unarmed tracks between takes, and set up projects and did the locate number entry and made sure the machine was parked where it needed to be. His help was invaluable. The time it takes to clear 48 tracks and re-arm 5 tracks, along with arming other tracks on the fly and punching in and out on the fly seems insignificant unless you are moving as fast as we were. I couldn't have done these sessions without all three second engineers and their help was invaluable.
I should also mention that the grace of God was upon this session. It was a challenging and ambitious undertaking. It doesn't always go as smoothly as these sessions did, and I've done those sessions as well. I can't take credit for that. I was privileged to be a part of something so monumental and was happy that it went so well. I thank God for that.
The take you will hear is a rough mix (monitor mix) that was done as the second pass of strings was recorded. It consists of a single performance tracked to 36 tracks, and then another immediate double of the strings on the subsequent pass. We also printed the board rough during the second pass, on the second machine, to facilitate cutting vocals the following week without running 48 tracks of audio. For vocals, I like to use a single machine with a stereo submix of the tracks, along with click and condctor on separate tracks for guides for the singers.
So one of the mixes you will hear (on the aiff tracks "Sample 1" or "Sample 2") is the first pass recorded to RADAR, then played back through the Neve and doubled with the second live pass straight to two tracks on the RADAR. One of the two cuts (I won't tell which until March 1) is the AES OUT of the RADAR machine's submix tracks straight to a Masterlink at 24-bit, 48 kHz which is the same bit-depth and SR as the tracks were recorded. The other of the first two cuts is a mix done in PT from the multitrack source tracks which were transferred digitally into PT. None of the tracks had any EQ on playback and no effects at all, other than reverb which is a 480L. The original recordings were clocked internally in RADAR. The PT mix was clocked with PT's internal clock.
I tried to match the panning and levels of the Neve mix when I was doing the PT mix, and tried to match the apparent level between the two, so as not to give any objective advantage to either cut.
See if you can hear the differences. There are some. This is not a scientific test. I made no notes of panning, levels, even reverb settings when I was recording on the Neve. The thought of doing this CD had not even occurred to me at that time. So in that respect, this is a much less than perfect comparison. But in other ways, I think you might find it very telling. Listen and then chime in here and tell me what you think. Know that I tried very hard to match up the reverbs, which was the most difficult part since there were no EQs or compression to match. Still you will hear a difference in the reverbs between the two. Try to listen beyond that and identify the other differences.
I look forward to hearing your opinions. And I will share mine as well.
Also there are pictures from the sessions (as jpegs) and also the M50 cuts, which are just the two M50s, one per track, played back from RADAR and from PT. You'll notice that the iso'd instruments are missing from the room recording.
I also included the two main samples (1 & 2) as 16/44.1 files that will play back on a Redbook player. They are ID'd as cuts two and three. Cut 1 is the data on the CD. Don't try to play it.
Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.