Recently we spent a weekend recording with Half Cut, a covers/function band from Nottinghamshire. We had a great time recording with them and we’re excited to get stuck in to the mixes! The band wanted to capture some of the feel of how they play live, but with the benefit of the added separation and clarity that recording to a click and multi tracking can provide. So we cut the drums to click with bass and keys DI’ed in the control room playing along with the drummer (with bass set up for later re-amping in the live room.) Originally we were also going to track guitar at the same time in our second tracking room, but the band ended up deciding that it would be better to track guitar separately (as due to effect and tone changes throughout each song, the flexibility of tracking in multiple takes would work better), so we just cut a guide DI guitar in the control room.
For drums – a great sounding Gretsch kit owned by the band’s drummer – we used a home made sub kick mic on the kick drum, alongside a Shure beta 91 boundary mic inside the kick drum, and a Shure PG series placed just inside the front skin hole. The drum mics were run through a combination of GAP Pre73’s, ART Pro MPAII and the Behringer X32’s preamps. The outer kick Shure mic captured the ‘knock’ and ‘thud’ of the kick drum nicely, the Beta 91 the ‘click’, presence and low end, with the sub kick mic helping fill out the low/sub 120hz frequencies. For snare we used a Telefunken M80 on snare top, and a Shure Unidyne III on snare bottom. The M80 captures a very natural sound on the snare, and the Unidyne III acts as a great snare bottom mic (similar to a SM57 but with more of an upper mid bump.) On floor and rack toms we used Shure SM7B’s, hi hat was a Sontronics STC10 small diaphragm condenser, and overhead a pair of AKG c414’s in cardioid pattern. We also complemented the captured drum sound with a pair of room mics, which are custom made omni small diaphragm condensers. Our live room is fairly small, and with a low ceiling and a lot of acoustic treatment it is fairly ‘dead’ sounding. This works well for us and gets the best out of the room acoustics, but it means getting a ‘large’ sound out of room mics often requires a few tricks. We found placing the room mics either side of the room, facing the wall to capture the immediate reflections of the room worked nicely. In addition to this, we used a ‘tin can’ mic (literally a mic inside a tin can) placed just under the drum seat, pointed upwards towards the snare. This mic is great for filling out the snare sound, and helping flesh out the stereo image of the kit, as it really helps centre the snare drum in a mix.
Bass was DI’ed through a Radial J48 DI, and later reamped through the bassist’s Aguilar cab and head. We miked this up with an AKG c414 and sm7b. This captured the low end but also the mid presence of the bass tone nicely.
Guitar was played through a Marshall cab and head, captured with an AKG C414 and Shure beta 57 – the C414 was in cardioid, on axis on the bottom right speaker, and the beta 57 off axis on the bottom left speaker. The C414 sounded particularly great in this application!
For vocals we did a shootout of several mics – AKG c414, Neumann TLM102, Shure SM7B and Aston Spirit. We are yet to finish tracking vocals, but for the song we did finish vocals on we found the TLM102 worked best, alongside the SM7B for backup vocals.
We loved working with this band – great players and lovely people – and enjoyed the challenge due to the songs being covers. We wanted to capture some of the spirit of the original song’s recordings, employing similar recording techniques and production, whilst also capturing the band’s unique takes on some classic songs, as well as trying to showcase what they do as a live function band.