Beyond its impracticalities and overall detriment to sound, there’s a romanticism that surrounds the idea of live recording an album in a single room. Capturing the vibe of the room on record, hearing the immediacy and propulsion of a live performance drip off each track, infusing instinct and energy into every note; it encompasses many of the elements that musicians strive for when putting together an album, let alone the fact that it can be a significant money saver for bands operating on a tight budget. The challenge then is to harness each of these benefits while minimising issues such as bleed, stress and frustration; a feat that isn’t insurmountable with a few savvy tips and an imaginative approach.
A key roadblock to successfully recording a live band in a single room is the unwanted bleed that can enter mics from different instruments – it’s not desirable to have drum mics picking up copious amounts of guitar and bass.
Close Miking a Snare Drum
The simplest method to minimise bleed from entering the drum mics is by moving the overheads closer to the drums, which will in turn amplify the presence of the drum kit. Close miking the snare and kick drum is a sure way to isolate the signal from other instruments.
Getting creative is essential to fine-tuning your setup once the basics are in place. By encasing the drum kit with barriers to the left and right – made from blankets and cushions – you can further minimise bleed.
Isolating guitars and basses can be a straightforward process with use of Dis. However, this approach can quite often be a hindrance to capturing the live sound and energy that sits at the very core of this entire operation.
Behringer DI20 Ultra-DI 2 Channel DI Box/Splitter
An alternate option is to use both an amp and a DI by splitting the signal. This can be achieved with a multitude of different DI boxes, and will provide you with two completely separate tracks from one performance. With the option to also blend these two tracks together, this method is as much a form of insurance as it is a way to open up creative doors when mixing.
Isolation cabinets that house a single speaker and a mounted mic can be built or purchased in order to cut down external noise created by other instruments. Reflection filters and sound panels (gobos) – typically used for recording vocals – are a viable means for creating separation between instruments when tracking.
An Isolation Cabinet For Recording Guitar
A creative, much more cost-effective option is the repurposing of clothes closets into isolations booths. With this type of recording, using the room to your advantage is a must. In this sense, even the positioning of couches and furniture can absorb sound and act to create sonic barriers.
For the recording of vocals, hyper-cardioid dynamic mics such as SM57s or SM58s will reduce bleed and fit the bill as far versatility and cost are concerned. With the positioning of two room mics above the vocalist, both angled away from other sounds, there’s the option to blend multiple mics and, in turn, achieve a more well-rounded and consistent vocal track.
Shure SM57 & SM58
When miking up instruments, it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid using omnidirectional microphones without the ability to distinguish between intended and unwanted sounds.
With the use of cardioid and hyper-cardioid mics, purposeful positioning is key. Clearly they need to point towards what you intend to capture, but in doing so, it’s also important to position the rejection point of the microphone towards the central point of the room or where other musicians are set up.