Clifford Henricksen / New Kind of Recording

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Fountain Pen

This article is an editorial and expresses the opinion and experience of Clifford Henricksen the author. Please post comments in the discussion page.
Thank you.

Cliff Henricksen Band - Just a Heartbeat Away 256kbs

The Cliff Henricksen Band

Recorded June 27, 2008 at the Bose Corporate Center auditorium.

Each member of the band is using a Bose L1® system.

Two microphones located over the audience captured the audio you are about to hear.

There is no overdubbing. No equalization. No processing of any kind.

The Cliff Henricksen Band "Just a Heartbeat Away"

We have three versions of the recordings. Please use the highest bit rate that will work with your internet connection.

Listen with great speakers or headphones.

Please enjoy these. Warning - these are big files, not a good idea if you are on a metered connection.


Cliff Henricksen Introduces the Video

This is a sort-of preamble for this topic. It's a description of events leading to what I think is a new kind of recording technique for amplified L1-powered ensembles.

Our band (Cliff Henricksen Band) was invited to play one of the "Cornucopia" concerts our company presents on random Friday afternoons, depending on who is available when. The "who" part is basically high-quality acts, many of them local, that can put on a good show. They are all done in our own Corporate Center Auditorium, known for its excellent acoustics and comfy red seats. The L1 is used a lot for these shows. I played one of these shows about a year ago with the Linemen and it was a real treat, including a crew to help out and a pretty full house of music lovers. "rjw" and "oldghm" on the forum did a lovely duet/concert here also.

Our band did a free show this spring in our live music theater, just as a means to get us playingj in front of an audience and basically r&d for our live show. This theater is in a different building from the Auditorium, where the L1 was born and where we have done many great shows of all kinds and even had "band camp" in the L1-launch days. The band really played well here and so we were invited to do a Cornucopia concert, to our great pleasure.

So we did the show this summer and, sort of as a "by the way" request, I asked if they could turn on the camera (located up at the top of the theater seating) and make a video. They did, framed the band as you will see, and fed a pair of good house mics hanging down from the ceiling. The four L1's we used were tilted up to reach the sloped seating area and I thought the mics would pick it all up. You can see this clearly on the video.

When I heard the first playback of the show, transferred to DVD, my jaw hit the floor. It just sounded so unexpectedly great, and it took as long to make this recording as it did to play the tune. All my lights went on. See, we just finished our first CD "Fourteen4You" using pretty standard multitrack-mixing studio methods and, to be honest, it leaves me cold, seeing as there is all this overdubbing forever and diddling with tracks. Almost because you can. But all this, in my opinion, really takes you away from the music. You all know what I'm talking about. When I heard the audio from what I thought would be a less-than-ideal mic setup, I was stunned. Not only did it sound amazing, but there was this "organic" quality to the mix that you really can't create using dry tracks, reverb and mixing. It was sort-of molecular air-mixing of the music. Also, we had been experimenting with 2-mic recording of live shows using the L1 for some time now and I posted some of this earlier ("Who sez musicians can't mix themselves?"). MikeZ-at-Bose also has been experimenting with this with his own band and we have been steadily comparing notes.

All this was the real inspiration for how to record our next series of songs, which we have been vibrating strongly about recently. I wanted to forget the multitrack method and record using the same basic thing. I thought it might really sound great and I thought we are good enough players together that we could achieve a "perfect" mix by simply playing right. What a concept. Talking about it with the band, we decided we really wanted to do the recording in steps: First concentrate on recording the music tracks only, where we could all concentrate on our ensemble blend only and not be distracted by vocal responsibilities. Then we would do the rest in a small series of overdubs (chorus, lead vocals and lead instrument solos). A description of all this and recordings of the results is what's coming. But first, check out this video. Listen in stereo on something you trust. The song itself is one of the new songs we are working on and the video is actually of its first public performance ever, fresh out of rehearsal.

The Fantastic ST set all this video wiki posting up. Ken Jacob put the whole video together, took the stills you will see and did all the titles and editing. Alan Bruss in our AV department and on staff for the show did the recording. He had a compressor in line with the mic signals just to catch the odd peak. Not sure what the mics are but I'm sure "high quality" is a safe category to put them in. Go to this part of the wiki, enjoy yourself and stay tuned for a series of posts on this subject as the project evolves and approaches completion:

...join the discussion

Part 2: Muzik trax

Continuing on with "Just A Heartbeat Away", we decided to record the music tracks as a separate stereo track, just so we could concentrate on making this really right. I know we could do the vocals at the same time, but this is a compromise in recording this new way.

1. If you record vocals at the same time, you lose control of vocal balance. If you record lead vocal and lead instruments too, you get the music-of-the-moment mojo but you lose the chance to do a really good solo that you can concentrate on.]

2. If you record vocals (like the "ensemble" vocal harmonies, heretofore "background vocals", which is a real misnomer as these are as important and as in-your-face as the instrument and the lead vocal solos, in our band anyway) at the same time, you might instinctively make more room for the other parts as a natural part of good ensemble playing. We talked about this and decided that, at this point, we know where everything is to take place and that we would be confident in simply doing the instrumental part of the recording by itself.

So here's how we did it:

We set our L1's up the normal way we would do a show. From the audience this is, starting at the left and working to the right, guitar, drums, bass and keys. This is done in a mild semicircle, with guitar and keys coming forward a bit. Drums are miked-up normally using the cancelling-pair (we use a pair of AT clip-on condensers, below the cymbals and above the top heads) and an Audix D6 in the kick and using the kick gate. I put the keys in the center facing the drums and Tom Yates sat to my left facing the whole rig, GW to my left playing his Synapse bass. Tom uses a Digitech RP50 pedal/processor (uses 2 models, period) and a Seymour Duncan "Twin Tube" tube preamp ahead of this direct into a flat input on the T1 (electric guitar tone is all in the fingers anyway, right?). So essentially what we did is set up normally and turn around 180 degrees and "play" the big soundstage face-to-face. Only Tom Beier played the same way, but it, of course, sounded "normal" to him. This setup also gave us a great sense of eye contact and, to tell the truth, it was a unique and highly empowering setup. All I can say is that you simply have to try it yourself to get a sense of what it is.

We set up two Shure KSM series uni condenser mics, $150 each or so according to MikeZ, about 12 feet each from the snare and about +/- 45 degrees, both pointing at the drums. MikeZ did some experimenting with this, bringing the mics closer in than we did at our first recorded show ("Life of Crime" elsewhere in this forum). It's like this: Bring them too close and you get too much drums, too far and you get too much room. I simply used Mike's results and was happy.

Here's a sketch I did (Google "Sketchup") of our setup. Keys are still coming out of the far right system:

CHB recording music trax.jpg

Listen to our results (coming soon on this post). This is the recording as it came off the mics, no EQ. I know we'll eq it later in the final mix, but here it is, pure amplified ensemble music tracks for the eventual finished production of "Just A Heartbeat Away" © 2008 Clifford Henricksen


Warning - big files, not a good idea if you are on a metered connection.

Track Notes

Some details of the recording: I'm using my old version of Cakewalk9 for this whole project, which, tho not as hip as you-name-it, works just fine. (Pour epoxy all over the computer and don't touch it). I used a very straight-forward MAudio usb front end with phantom into an IBM laptop computer and then imported the .wav file into a stereo channel of CW for the project. What you hear is the original recording that came right off the microphones. In the final mix, I'm guessing I'll have to do some eq of some kind, maybe some LF warmup. We'll see how it sounds with all the singing and solos on it. But right now, play that sucker (the .wav one) nice and loud and see if your monitor's cones can take it. The track is smacking with Nitro. I don't think I've ever been involved in a track that has that much punch. Also, there is this air-integrated mix that I'll defy you to replicate with multitrack, unless maybe you get Tom Dowd or someone like that in for the session. Last, like the instrument balance? That's how we all heard it and it recorded that way. We might feel different on the mix, but I'm thinking "not".

We recorded, as I remember, three takes of this tune and this one is the keeper. I think we really connected on the take you hear and everyone in the band said it's good. I listened to the track breifly over Mighty Boy and was stunned, even tho it is in the middle of a serious make-over. At the same session, we recorded 5 keeper music tracks as a nice start to the project, as of yet unnamed.

Recording Ensemble Vocals

We've already finished ensemble vocals on the song but it may be next week before I can get them processed. We have two takes of each and I'm not sure which will make it and which won't. On a quick listen over cans, it seems like they are all ok and in fact playing them together sounds pretty spectacular.

We basically want our recordings to sound like the band sounds live. This includes all the amplified instruments, including "amplified voice". If someone likes the recording, they'll love the live show; that kind of thing. So we basically just left the recording setup the way it was for the music tracks (L1's and recording mics) and set the vocal mics up so we could, again, turn and face the 4-L1 system and "play the soundstage". Again, it was a lot of fun and inspiring to hear us together, amplified. We used Audix OM5 mics up close with the right ToneMatch setting. Everything was the same as we use it for the show except I pulled some bass off my voice, which is a baritone and midbass-heavy for a good blend. We all heard it and could easily adjust for balance.

We put a fifth L1 on its side (horizontal) without bass as a monitor, playing the finished music tracks through it to sing to. We used a B1 bass simply as a support to hold up the unsupported end of the L1 line array. We could have used a little wedge monitor or something but the L1 cuts off so sharply top and bottom so it truly did minimize bleed into the recording mics. Bass is usually the worse bleeder so not powering the B1 worked great. Why didn't we use cans (I know you're about to do a reply/post on this)? I got away from this a few years ago, at the suggestion of Todd Urbonas. You really have a much better time of it and get intonation so much better when you hear your own voice in the air. The bleed you get if you do it right (dump the bass, watch the level) is so small and can easily be edited out if you want to be picky. But doing it this way allowed us to hear each other and especially our own particular performance.

I'll get to play with all this over the weekend and I should be able to put up some more tracks for you. I'm very happy with our performance but I'm equally happy with the recordings. Same organic, molecular mixing we got with the instruments (thus complete sonic compatibility with the same) and a great blend that we all heard and corrected easily. Here's a drawing of the setup:

CHB recording vocal trax2.jpg

See the live post and ensuing discussion


#datemp3 versionraw wav file (big, best quality)
1 2008/07/29 Just a Heartbeat Away - the Video, wmv format 14 megabytes
2 2008/07/31 JustAHeatbeatAwayTracks320.mp3 JustAHeatbeatAwayTracks.wav
3 2008/08/25 Just a Heartbeat Away ruffCHB2.mp3 Just a Heartbeat Away ruffCHB2.wav
4 2008/08/25 heartbeat solo bkv.mp3 heartbeat solo bkv.wav