Aug 082012

In April, whysowhite, the Chicago-based band for which I play lead guitar, was asked to record a demo song for WaveMachine Labs’ new mobile-recording app, Auria. The goal of recording our song, “The Approach,” was to test Auria in a real-world recording situation, showcase the unique abilities that it brings to the table, as well as provide a demo project that new users could play with in order to get accustomed to the workflow of the program. Auria stood up to the challenge brilliantly and the result is the multitrack project included with every download.

This post will give an in-depth look at the recording process and equipment that was used throughout. While most of the song was recorded in a barn in Michigan, the final pieces were put in place back in Chicago.

A friend of the band offered us the use of his barn in Michigan and we jumped at the opportunity to record in such a unique environment. It also actually turned out to be a great sounding space! After setting up our equipment (and a hay bale bass-trap), we were ready to record. We also had a team document the day for a video, which can be seen here:

The Technical Details

Using the PreSonus 1818VSL and a Behringer ADA8000 (connected via the ADAT input on the PreSonus), we had up to 16 inputs to work with. The 1818VSL was connected to the iPad using the Apple Camera Connection Kit and a powered USB hub.

We started with the largest portion of the song that could be recorded simultaneously—drums, bass, and lead guitar. There was a total of seven microphones on the drum kit: an AKG D112 on the kick, a Shure SM57 on the snare, Audix D4s on both the rack and floor toms, a Shure SM81 on the hi-hat and another two SM81s as stereo overheads.

For guitar we put an SM57 on a Vox amp and also took a direct signal from a Radial DI box. For bass, we used another SM57 on a Markbass amp, which conveniently has a built-in direct out as well. Finally, we added a stereo pair of Rode NT2s to capture the room sound, which tied everything together quite nicely.

All in all, there were 13 inputs to record, which was well within the 16 input limit our set-up provided for. Since we weren’t recording to a click, no monitoring system needed to be set up. With no need for headphones, all we had to do was play to each other, and the result was a much more relaxed and natural performance. After recording a handful of run-throughs, we felt we had a keeper.

Next up were the congas, on which we used the NT2s again. We sent the outputs of the 1818VSL to a Samson Q5 headphone amp so that the conga player could track to our best take and the rest of us could listen in. We recorded a few full passes, each time onto a new stereo track, giving us the freedom to later cut-and-paste between his different takes. We weren’t even close to the 48-track limit yet, so track count was not an issue.

The last piece we recorded in Michigan was the keyboard part. We used a Korg SV-1, which was patched directly into the 1818VSL via the Korg’s XLR-outs. Again, we recorded each take to a new stereo track. After a few takes, the session was a wrap.

We left Michigan with a solid recording of the rhythm section. After comping the conga and keyboard takes into single stereo tracks, the next step was to add the rest of the layers: lead and backup vocals, auxiliary percussion, and additional guitars. These sessions were scattered around Chicago, and needless to say, Auria’s portability really shined here.

Recording the Lead Vocal

Lead vocals were recorded in the WaveMachine Labs offices using a Rode NT1000 and the RME Fireface UCX—a top-of-the-line interface with great sounding preamps and conversion quality.

Back-up vocals and auxiliary percussion were recorded in my bedroom with a PreSonus AudioBox, an affordable and portable two-channel interface, again using the Rode NT1000.

Rhythm guitar was recorded in the guitarist’s living room using the Apogee Jam. This MFi (Made for iPad/Phone/Pod) device is a dream-come-true for guitar players. The Jam plugs directly into the iPad’s 30-pin connector so no Camera Connection Kit or USB hub is necessary. Fully powered by the iPad, it is a truly portable set-up. Using OverLoud, the amp simulator from THM (available as an in-app purchase), we could dial in ultra-realistic sounding guitar amp settings, complete with numerous heads, cabinets, pedals—even microphone selection and placement.

The final piece of the puzzle was recording the guitar solo. I recorded it at my house, but I could have just as easily recorded it sitting on the beach or a bench in the park. It’s amazing how such a portable set-up can still let you become totally immersed in the music. I felt as if I had the whole band backing me up as I soloed for hours, recording what I liked and discarding what I didn’t. Eventually the right take fell into place, and the recording process was finished.

From barn to bedroom, we had certainly put Auria through its paces, and it never once dropped the beat.

Chris Miller works as the Technical Support Specialist for WaveMachine Labs, Inc. 

  2 Responses to “Recording “The Approach,” the Auria Demo Song”

  1. the RME Fireface UCX and PreSonus 1818VSL have the same function? Can I use one or the other to record my band in ipad?

    • Both the RME Fireface UCX and the PreSonus 1818VSL can be used to record into Auria on the iPad. However, they differ slightly in terms of their functionality. The PreSonus has eight built-in preamps, while the RME has only two. The PreSonus also can be expanded to 16 inputs using an eight channel preamp with ADAT (like we did with the Behringer ADA8000) while the RME is limited to its eight analog inputs. However, the RME is certainly better in terms of A/D conversion, and its two built-in preamps sound better than those on the PreSonus. When deciding between the two, it’s a balance of quality versus how many inputs/preamps one might need (and, obviously, price).

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