Category Archives: Technique

Interesting article – working on Alt-J’s “An Awesome “Wave”

The folks at Universal Audio send us through links to artists using their kit occasionally – I know they function as self-serving promotional material, but some of the non-gear related stuff in here is interesting, particularly related to preproduction and song structure.

Anyway, jump on over here to have a read.


Mastering Avril Whelehan

Last week I was in with the incredibly talented [and incredibly sound] Fergal Davis, a mastering engineer based in Dublin. It is fascinating to watch him at work, I’ve known him for nearly 15 years now(!) and he really is at the top of his game. The techniques he uses are fascinating, particularly the Mid-Side splitting of the mix for varying compression and EQ tasks on the Centre and Edges of the mix respectively.

Fergal was also showing me a very cool dynamic EQ that he uses in a very surgical manner for taming spikes in narrow frequency bands – the Brainworx bx_DynEQ. Definitely on the shopping list.

Of course, the only thing that matters is the finished product and I am really pleased with what we have come away with. I’ll post some snippets this week if I get a chance.

Here is the link to his site:

And his Facebook Page:

Next up: Recording acoustic guitars with Barry from Darken The Distance this week, then mixing some more Fiach tracks. More on those later.

Darken The Distance – drum/bass tracking

So last week I was tracking drums and bass [final takes, not scratch on the bass] for the first time in the studio. We had the kit in the Live Room, and a selection of bass amps in the Dead Room, allowing the guys to play simultaneously while retaining isolation between the instruments. It was a great test of our isolation, headphone mix capabilities, and the Apollo’s latency free plugins, all of which worked out great 😀


Unless the band have a direction in mind that demands a super-dry drum sound, I like to base the final drum kit sound on what is happening in the room. Ben and I took a good bit of time during setup to try out different crash cymbal combinations – he’s got quite the collection! We eventually settled on a pair that seemed be about a minor third apart, giving nice drama to the left/right crashes.

I’ve had good results before positioning an omni mic (either a 414 on omni or the DPA 4090) right by the drummer’s head, but this time I felt it was missing out on the low end coming off the kick – the mic was repositioned in front of the kit, as high as the top of the kick drum hoop, the same distance from the snare as the overheads. Here it sounded huge, plenty low end, so we settled on that.

Overheads – I have this thing where I like to keep both the kick and snare at the centre of the stereo image as created by the overheads, so I try to keep the mics equidistant from both kick centre and snare centre – it ends up looking a little odd, but really does make a difference.

As for spots, nothing out of the ordinary was done really – I like AKG C1000’s on hats, and I like to not mix condensers and dynamics on snare top/snare bottom, so 57/E609 is the way I go. Trusty Blue Kickball on kick, and Audix/Audio Technica dynamics on the toms. I tend to end up using little to none of these tom mics as the overheads and front mic should get them.

Finally, I had a 414 in omni way up toward the ceiling, about 3/3.5 meters. popped it through an 1176 for squish, and viola – nice boomy room sound.


After much experimentation we went with the Hiwatt/Ampeg 4×10 combination, with a 414 on the cab. No compression.

Tape Emulation

Every mic went through the Studer A800 Tape Emulation on our Apollo – it is truly stunning what it can do, I had it running Ampeg 456 tape at 30ips, driving the ins ever so slightly. The end result is that less compression is required in the mix, and that thing that tape does to low-end sounds fantastic on the pushed room mic.