Alonzo Pennington Live

We used the Behringer X32 Producer digital mixing console as the one and only live mixer/recording audio interface for this job. My pal Tim ran the live sound and I punched record on Logic. Here’s the rundown…

Drums: AKG D112 on bass drum; Shure SM57 on snare; Sennheiser MD 421s on toms; no overheads

Guitar Amp: Shure SM57

Bass: direct

Keys: direct

Djembe: Shure SM57

Vocal: Alonzo’s Shure 55

This event took place in Wrather Museum (across campus from where all my gear resides), and while I had a couple of extra hands available to me for an hour here or a half hour there, I was mostly on my own for moving everything back and forth. Knowing this, I planned for the most stripped down yet effective set up possible.

The PA consisted of two powered 12-inch Mackie mains, three powered QSC monitors, and one powered 15-inch Mackie subwoofer (the sub weighed a ton and I should not have been moving it by myself). I hated to deal with a big subwoofer, but twelve inch speakers were not going to have the punch I wanted. Not at all. So I made a call and talked a friend of mine into loaning me the sub. It tore a hole in my Jeep, but it made the sound for the bass drum and bass guitar.

I brought over all the speakers, mics, mic cables, PA cables, stands, video cameras, computer and mixer et cetera and hooked it all up. I knew that after setting everything up I was going to be exhausted. Tim is a great sound man and having him there in time for the show took so much of the burden off of me. I know he gave the band a better mix than I could have that night.

With the house and monitor mix taken care of by Tim, all I had to worry about was getting good levels for each track into Logic, and get the video cameras rolling. After a great concert, I had the hellacious task of returning everything to its original location.

Once back in the studio I could play with the mix. We didn’t have room mics for the crowd, so I actually flew in fake applause after songs.

I notched out a few resonances in the bass drum and applied a software compressor, used an Izotope Alloy preset on the snare, and panned the toms hard left and right (in an attempt to remove any extra mud in the middle). The guitar was basically left “as is” with only a 1-2 dB of compression on the peaks. The keys had a lot of mid-low frequencies cut out and the vocal was also treated to an Alloy preset. Izotope Ozone and ToneBoosters ReelBus on the master bus for mastering.

It was a quick and dirty mix, but I think the recording was a good representation of the live show. It was great that the digital mixer could function as the live FOH (front of house) mixer, monitor mixer AND recording interface (plugged via USB into a laptop). Even with one piece of gear killing so many birds, I am not in a rush to get myself into that much work again any time soon.

Brian Ciach Fugue

To the best of my knowledge, this is a rather unusual microphone technique for piano. Two figure-8 ribbon mics are placed equidistant from the center of the piano – one facing down from above and the other facing across the strings from the side. Mics are panned hard left and right, and because the figure-8 patterns are picking up and rejecting in opposite planes from each other the result is a very spacious stereo image. The lid must be removed for this to work well. To hear another example of this technique, listen to Todd E. Hill on iTunes.

love is the every only god – J.A.C. Redford

Here is the Murray State Concert Choir in the 2000 seat Lovett Auditorium on the campus of Murray State University. This particular project was focused mainly on video, so the audio set-up was very straight forward: two Neumann KM-184s in ORTF configuration. Because Lovett Auditorium is so large (and wide), the microphone pair could be placed at a significant distance, keeping it out of sight of all but the widest camera angle.

Third Sonata – Brian Ciach

This is a rare treat. Brian Ciach, the composer and performer of this work (and sole owner of it’s copyright), has given permission for this to be available on YouTube in it’s entirety. Brian performed his Third Sonata on the brand new Steinway B in Murray State University’s Farrell Recital Hall. It is a beautiful instrument, and Brian’s work tests everything from its delicate graces to its thunderous potential.

The microphone technique was a very traditional X-Y arrangement using two Neumann KM-184 microphones about 8 feet in front of the piano.  There was also a bit of tone tweaking. For example, at the distance of 8 feet the directional Neumanns did not have any proximity effect to help out the bass end of things. So a little EQ from Izotope’s Ozone plugin and and a “tape bounce down” with Tone Booster’s Reel Bus plugin helped round, warm and thump things up a little.

A good rule of thumb for music specific videos on YouTube: switch the resolution to HD for a much improved sonic experience. Enjoy!