Today I got the chance to hang out with Nick Kirk at 12stone church. We've been trading emails for a few months and it finally worked out for us to get together. I was really excited to check out their setup because 12stone has a full recording studio inside their church. We have been building up our studio at Student Life for a little over a year but I thought it would be helpful to check out someone who is a few steps further down the road.
At 12stone they are using Apogee converters to track into Logic. They also use an Mbox mini to edit drums in Pro Tools. They have an incredible selection of outboard mic pres (API 512c's, Focusrite ISA 428, etc), compressors, and EQ's. There is a dedicated control room, vocal booth and instrument recording room. It is truly an amazing setup and from what I heard they are getting impressive recordings.
Here are a few of the highlights I picked up:
Approaching a studio recording is completely different from making a studio album. It might be cool to perform an 8-minute song in a live worship context but that same song will bore someone to tears on an album. Tighten, shorten, consolidate - find the most important elements and eliminate everything else. Nick showed me an example where they shortened a 32-bar instrumental to just 8-bars (dramatic improvement!).
When recording drums the essential elements are good drums, a good player and good equipment (mics, pres, compressors, eq's). A studio drummer has to have a special set of skills that emphasizes to a few things really well. Locking into the groove, no too-fancy fills, clear articulation (example: snare hits). We talked about how most drum recordings are done on just a basic 4 or 5 piece kit (even though toms don't get used that much). Steven Jordan (of John Mayer Trio) was mentioned as a great example of solid studio drumming.
We discussed some options for drum replacement/reinforcement. Steven Slate came highly recommended along with BFD. We talked about options for using V-drums or a velocity-sensitive keyboard to trigger these.
One mic I keep hearing recommended over and over came up again today. The Shure SM7 is a great dynamic mic for a great price. Originally intended for broadcast use it's becoming a standard vocal mic having been used by Springsteen, Manchester Orchestra and a ton of others to capture both vocals and instruments. I've gotta pick one of these up before we start the next Student Life CD.
Speaking of mics, we also talked briefly about the AT4030 - another affordable mic used with great results by Sufjan Stevens.
For plugins, Nick recommended the Waves Mercury bundle and a bundle that included the API, SSL and Neve plugins. He also uses Massey plugins and the URS channel strip pro. We talked about how the plugins and virtual instruments that are included with Logic actually sound good and are very usable in comparison to what Pro Tools comes with.
We checked out Vintage King Audio, which looks like a great source for pro gear. I'm going to have to dig into it more.
SFLogicNinja's youtube videos are a great source for logic tutorials. I've got to watch these!
Another great youtube resource: hillsong tutorials for guitar!
Great presets to get a starting point for plugins or outboard gear: search google images for Chris Lord-Alge presets.
We talked about the next step for our studio being building 2 solid channels of outboard preamps, compressors, and EQ's and adding a couple of great mics like the SM7 and AT4030. I'm excited about the possibilities this could give our studio for the next album.
Finally, we talked a little bit about sample rate. For CD's, 24 bit, 44.1 was recommended. Nick ususally uses 24 bit/48 because they do a lot of video work but for our purposes, 44.1 should be fine.
All in all, I'm ecstatic about the information Nick shared with me. My head is kinda spinning trying to process it all but I know our next record is going to sound so much better as a result of implementing what I learned today. Thanks again, Nick!