To the Strongest (EP) Production Process

To start pre-production I discussed what type of production the band wanted from the tracks, which they wanted to sound as professional as possible, yet still capturing the rawness of their punk sound, similar to a band called The Story So Far.

For the recording process, I started by finding a good room sound. I used 3 mono room mics at different positions and distances from the kit. This was because it would let me choose the best sounding one when mixing, or use a mixture of all of them to benefit the kit as a whole. I used a ribbon mic at waste height 4 feet away from the kit because this would pick up the body of the kit, as well as the mic having a lo-fi quality to it popular within punk music. The other two mics were large diaphragm condensers at head height (one at the other end of the room, and one in the hall outside the studio). I used these because they pick up a large frequency pattern, which would capture the different sections of the kit clearly. As for the positions, the hall mic would have a longer delay to the drum sound which could be used for a big drum sound, whilst the room mic would be used to pick up a more live sounding drum sound. I would decide on which one, or, use a combination of them in post-production.

I used SM57’s on the top and bottom/inside and outside of the snare and kick, whilst only single micing the toms with a similar sounding mic. This was because they are clear sounding dynamic mics, which are also versatile and have a high SPL needed for the hard hitting punk drum style of To The Strongest’s drummer.

Finally I used C451’s for the overheads, in an ORTF technique. I chose to do this because them mics give a very crisp high end tone to the cymbals which I felt was needed when thinking of the other mics used, mostly which were dark sounding mics. Secondly I used the ORTF technique because I was planning on hard panning the guitars; therefore the ORTF technique offers a narrower stereo sound, whilst giving a representation of what the drummer would hear. This would give a personal character to the sound, which I felt was necessary to the style of music it was.

For the bass, I used a common technique of using a dynamic mic (D112) on the edge of the cone and a small diaphragm condenser (C451) in the centre. I did this because the mics would pick up the low end and high end of the bass, which I would then blend together in post-production. I used the exact same technique for the rhythm guitar (swapping the D112 for a 57) because this guitar had some parts where it needed a thick sounding tone to it.

For the lead guitar I used an Albini technique, using a ribbon (Coles mic) and small condenser (C451) placed towards the centre of the cone, which I would then blend as well in post-production. I used this technique because it captures a very natural sound, which would represent the vintage, mid-frequency present, amp the guitarist had. Using these two techniques for the guitar would be useful in post-production as the technique for the rhythm guitar would create a mid-scooped sound, contrasting with the lead guitar technique. This would therefore make each guitar distinguishable, reducing the need to EQ.

Finally, for the vocals I used a 57 with a small diaphragm condenser (C451), this creates a lo-fi sound from the 57, because of its frequency pattern, whilst the condenser picks up the wide frequency range of the voice, which then can be used to back up the 57 so it still creates a professional and usable sound. I used this technique as I thought the lo-fi sound would work well with the style of music this was. Lastly this song included ‘gang vocals’. I used two large diaphragm condensers (panned left and right) and doubled it. This resulted in the perfect sound I was going for as it sounded like a big crowd.

For the mixing stage, regarding the drums, I heavily compressed the room mics, along with slightly compressing the overheads and the close mic’d drums. Doing this created a punchy yet live/room prevalent sound, which benefitted the track as it would follow the genres themes. I also used side-chain compression on the room mics (using the snare and kick), which in turn made the drums sound even bigger. I did not gate the kick and snare, leading to a natural full sound from them, reducing the ‘robotic’ gated sound that can happen when gating. I EQ’d the drums going in using an analog EQ because It creates a warm tone to the drums. However I did have to increase some low end to the kick as It was lacking when played with the other instruments.

For the bass I raised the low mids and reduced the sub low end because it was clashing with the kick. I heavily compressed the bass because of it being a very dynamic bass guitar, which for this music genre is not useful, as it needs to be powerful throughout. Lastly I side-chained the bass with the kick so the kick could still be punchy whilst the bass was still prevalent. As mentioned before, I did not have to process the guitars because of my recording techniques. I did however hard pan them, minus some lead parts, to create space in the mix.

For the vocals I compressed because of the dynamic vocalist, leading to a strong performance throughout. I slightly distorted the dynamic mic to add to the lo-fi effect mentioned earlier, whilst EQ’ing the condenser mic around it, creating warmness in the vocals. Lastly I only slightly compressed the gang vocals to keep their dynamics needed to create the affect, of being in the same room, I wanted. Overall I added slight delay and reverb to the vocals to help them sit in the mix, whilst still being dry enough to fit into the genres style.

When Mastering, I added sub low end and reduced high end because I believed the mix to sound too harsh at points as well as lacking sub needed for contemporary music in similar genres. I compressed the low and low mids to tame some frequencies creating muddiness and creating a messy overall sound. Lastly I heavily maximised the track because many music in this genre do have a consistently loudness to them.

Overall I believed this EP lived up to the expectations of the artists whilst sounding as professional as other songs in the same genre. All the instruments remained their clarity, whilst the drums and bass still sounding punchy. The vocals sat well in the mix without standing out too much. If I recorded this track again I would take more time getting the right bass tone as I had to heavily EQ it to make it sit in the mix right.

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