Recording Live to Tape at Soundpark Studios
On Wednesday August 22nd we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit SoundPark Studios in Northcote, Victoria. The aim of this session was to experience a live studio recording experience in which we would be recording the band, Redspencer, directly to tape using the Studer A80 VU MKIV Master Recoder.
TThis experience was a blend of nostalgia with the history of the studio, its what-seemed-to-be-endless collection of retro equipment (from compressors to mics to foot pedals and all in between), and a vision to the future, using first-class recording equipment in a professional environment working with a client to achieve their goal. The spectrum of equipment and the character of the studio is an experience in itself. Thankfully, we brought our iPhones and took a few million pictures, here is what transpired.
We start by getting a tour of the studio and obtaining a feel for each recording space. Comparing just our natural speech and the intricacies of each room, from the main space to the small vocal booths. Just as interesting is the visuals of each room and how they reflect the creativity and inspiration each room inspires- be it the Elvis poster with a rip over the crutch, the Scarface poster in the hall to the toilet and of course the thing that grabs my attention perhaps more than others, the basketball ting at full size and the appropriate room available to actually shoot a natural jumpshot. This took my attention to the ceiling and the level of bass traps and the acoustic design of the room, the manually constructed wood blocks nailed to the side and rear walls for diffusion and the various patterns for each section, to the deadening matresses at the ceiling in the deadening room.
It was great to go through the set-up process in such a large and diverse room. Having the band want to play together also made having such a large space (compared to my past experiences at SAE) valuable, as we could get a great feel for the room mics in various locations of the room. I also hadn't mic'd up a kit since Trimester 3, so it was great to refresh myself through this process. As the bassist wanted to be able to see and communicate the drummer, we used various room furniture to seperate the bass amp from the other mics to minimise spill. We
We had an array of vintage and modern mics to work with, and had to using a padding device on the 121 to avoid clipping. We used an M88 on the Kick in, Fet 47 on Kick Out, 441 on Snare Top and 221 on the bottom, 4038 and U47 as the overheads, U67 as the rooms and a 4038 as the room mono.
Simple blips in electronics also occured, with basic troubleshooting of powerboards not being compatible with powered microphone plugs and faulty chords needing to be changed, standard solutions to what initially feel like potentially major issues or problems.
Our signal flow went from the tracking room, to pre-amp, to compressor/outbboard gear then finally to the tape, whilst also splitting off directly into Pro Tools. Using the tape machine was a fascinating experience in time travel in itself. We listen back to it pre-tape as due to the 3-inches distance in the pre-post tape reel, this equates to approx 100 ms of lag, hence why we monitor pre.
Whilst loving the feel of the snare, the band wanted a slight mix upon playback after the first record, mildly boosting the bass whilst leaving heaps of bottom for the kick. The first take also had a ‘laziness’ feel that Executive Producer Dave Turner really liked, a term I hadn't heard before in that context but accuratelt reflected the feel and vibe when listening. What blew me away the most about this entire session was the history of the venue, and also that not everything does go 100 % smoothly in the setup and record process, but with appropriate planning and knowledge of your equipment and troubleshooting techniques, a quality production can be achieved within hours.
The sounds and history of this building, gee if these walls could talk (and even playback all the magic they have heard recorded).