Sometimes I like to setup false limitations when recording or mixing to push my creativity. My band’s most recent recording was such an experiment. I purposely wanted to record us all live, at one time. This of course would be opposed to recording each band member, one at a time, overdubbing our way to a final product.

Use Nothing But My Interface

The challenge was this: record all four of us using nothing more than my laptop and an 8 channel audio interface. To make this even more “realistic” for the home studio user, we set up shop in a living/dining room of a house. No treated studio space. Just laminate floors, glass windows, and dry wall. Yay!

We miked up the drum kit using the recorderman technique with addition of a kick drum mic. This took up 3 inputs on my interface. The bass guitar was run direct. The electric guitar amp was miked up in the kitchen down the hall. The acoustic guitar was both miked AND run direct (taking two channels), and my vocals took up the final channel. The reasoning behind recording both the miked and direct guitar sound was mostly to help the mixing process. If I needed more acoustic in the mix but didn’t  want to also inadvertently turn up the vocals and drums (bleeding into the mic) I could simply turn up some of the direct guitar signal. It’s not a perfect system, but that’s the whole point of this stripped down setup.

Things Went Pretty Quickly

We took an entire morning to setup, get levels, and experiment with mic placement for optimal sound and minimal bleed. Coming back from a lunch break, we were ready to rehearse one final time, tweak our headphone mixes, and then record two takes of each song. We then laid down a few “gang vocals” and clap tracks to fill things out a bit. That was it!

When it came time to mix, things went pretty quick as you can imagine. I literally listened through to both takes of a song, picked our strongest performance, fixed any glaring performance issues (some basic comping as it were), and then laid down some additional vocals back at the studio. I knew I wanted some doubles and harmonies so I overdubbed as necessary as well as re-recording any vocal parts where the drum bleed was overly annoying or destructive to the mix. I also laid down a few quick organ parts and percussion loops to sweeten the mixes a bit.

What I Learned

I learned a few things in this experiment: that you can get a monster drum sound out of 3 mics, that the simpler you record the faster you’ll mix, and that drums are really loud when you have to stand next to them in a small room. But likely the biggest thing I took away from it was this: there’s just something magical about getting some guys together in room with instruments and some mics, pressing record and letting things rip!