Since January this year my brother (Alfie) and I have been putting together a new album. We have had some songs for a few months that have needed recording anyway but the album is mostly made up of new material which we are very excited to be releasing so quickly!
"Arift" has presented, just as our last album (No Measure) did, some interesting challenges regarding production. Most of the album is 5-string Violin (that's a normal violin plus a C string on below the G), Double Bass and Vocals but their are some extra's in their like the Balafon (a Ghanaian sort of xylophone) and the Shaky Egg and of course Alfie's "Trumpet". I think it is fair to say a significant reason I prefer the sound of Adrift to No Measure is simply down to the sound card we used. No measure was recorded on a M-Audio Profire interface which is very accurate but to my ear lacked warmth and didn't do the acoustic Violin and Bass justice. Adrift however, was recorded on a tiny Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 and it has produced the most wonderful warmth for the Bass and provides the Violin with clarity but not scratchiness. The vocals also benefited from the new interface but the improvement was most marked by the Fiddle and Bass.
One of the main difficulties when dealing with the Double Bass is how to go about giving it clarity with out making it to clicky. This is mostly a problem for Alfie because he includes so many percussive patterns in his bass parts. Your friend here (when the click is too strong) is a de-esser. It is traditionally of course a vocal plugin but basically it acts as a tough and quick compressor for any harsh slaps. As with any compression (especially banded compressors like the C4) you have to be careful and not too heavy handed but a de-esser can be used to excellent effect and is very useful at reducing buzzing too. I actually very occasionally use this for the fiddle as well, to reduce the problem of harsh E-string sounds but that has been much less of an issue with the Focusrite preamps.
Why not just use EQ for softening high frequencies?
Well basically when you knock off your the high end of an instrument it loses its clarity and space and I like to hear space in my mix. The De-esser allows those high frequencies through for the most part but subdues them only the moment they become too much.
My other tools for this album have remained pretty much the same. Everything was recorded using an AKG C414 mic and at the other end, good old Logic; the only difference their being a move from Logic 9 to (bit predictable) Logic X. While I have heard vague rumours from friends that Logic X "sounds better", initial tests didn't really turn up anything conclusive for me. That being said I do prefer it and I don't feel it has suffered as the forum pessimists predicted and it is certainly not a "Garageband Pro".
I hope I will find time to release a more detailed discussion of the recording process here but in the mean time please have a listen and comment!
You can also download the album and listen in full on the Ben & Alfie Bandcamp page.