Things have been quiet on baconworks for some time. I feel moderately guilty about that. Especially since there has been a lot of good music in the past year.
For example, in April I spent two evenings with my good friends Mustachio and the White Rabbit recording in a chapel at Framingham State College. They were casual evenings that resulted in a set of recordings that I very much enjoy. One track that I was immediately enamored with was the Rabbit’s version of Amazing Grace.
The night this was recorded I came home and played the track for my wife through a set of headphones. She fell asleep listening to it before the track was finished playing. I then took the headphones off her sleeping head, and put them on mine, hit play… was hypnotized by droniness of the concertina, and fell asleep.
The next evening, being inspired by the recording, I sang Amazing Grace to my boys as I was tucking them into bed. They both fell asleep before I was done singing. I can assure you, this never happens and is a small miracle of sorts. Usually I can’t get them to quit the yackin’.
In the morning I was telling my Wife and children that I thought it was funny, not to mention a bit odd, that all four of us fell asleep to Amazing Grace. My animated son quickly replied, ‘Dad, That’s why it’s amazing’.
So, what does it all mean? I have no idea. But sometimes events happen that just mystify you a bit, you’re not sure why and you can’t let them go.
He was right, it is amazing. This popular song was originally published over two hundred thirty years ago and still has the power to move us. Quite amazing.
With my new Neumann’s in hand, I headed on down the road to the Heineman Ecumenical and Cultural Center, otherwise known as the stone chapel at Framingham State College, for a casual evening of tunes and recording. It has been sort of a personal goal to record with as many of the Stone’s session players as possible. To date I have recorded with Sally the hammered dulcimer goddess, Eamon the accordion acrobat, and of course, my good friend Mustachio the bouzouki bad ass. To the list I wanted to add Mark, sometimes known the White Rabbit, though I don’t really know where that name came from…and am somewhat afraid to ask…but I digress. Anyhow, Mark has both an incredible voice and nice touch on the button accordion. In addition, Mark has the keys to the stone chapel, which we thought would lend itself nicely to some recording. In addition to Mark and I, we also convinced Mustachio to come along.
After a tasty dinner at a local Indian restaurant – musicians don’t play well on empty stomachs – we headed over to the chapel to set up the mics.
Like most chapels, there was lots of natural reverb, which sounds great when playing but adds additional challenges when recording. From a recording engineering perspective it is nice to have well isolated tracks that can be individual tweaked after the recording. Playing live in a reverberant room introduces a bleed of the other instruments onto each mic as well as potentially slathering the tracks in reverb.
We had no real plan and just played tunes that we thought would be fun to try. Sometimes we played them twice, sometimes we didn’t. We played all the instruments at once and there were no overdubs.
After spending a few days listening to the tracks, we decided to do an additional session. Out of this second session came the track included with this post called Banish Misfortune / Sliabh Russell.
In some cases I had two recorded versions to work with and it was possible to take the best bits from both versions and merge them together. That is the case with Banish Misfortune. The first eight measures are from our first take, while the remainder of the track was from our second take. I mixed the two because Mustachio and I were subtly more in sync on the pickup measures in the first take.
Lastly, for recording geeks only, here is an interesting mixing technique the I tried with the concertina:
1. I made two identical copies of the original concertina track.
2. I shifted the first copy 17 milliseconds to the right, thereby creating a delaying of 17 milliseconds.
3. I shifted the second copy 19 milliseconds to the right, creating a delay of 19 milliseconds.
4. I panned copy one hard left and panned copy two hard right.
5. I then brought the volume of both copies to zero.
6. I then slowly brought up the levels of both copies until the delays were barely noticeable.
This gave the concertina a slightly fuller feel and makes it sound like it is in a nice room. With enough mics and good mic placement I should have been able to get a similar effect naturally from the chapel. But I did not have extra mics to work with.
Anyhow, it was lots of fun and I think we did a nice job of capturing three friends just playing music together. Also, I’m looking forward to posting lots of other tracks from The Chapel Sessions including a killer version of Amazing Grace sung by the White Rabbit. Banish Misfortune / Sliabh Russell by baconworks