Recording

Nick’s Recording Notes:

Our debut album ‘A.J Moore & Nick Rundall’ was written and recorded over a 2 year period in my home studio. During this time I moved, so there are actually two different locations on the record. In the beginning we tried recording in a large sports hall that I had access to, which had an epic reverb. But the ambient noise from outside coupled with the increasingly cold winter temperatures put a swift end to that.

From the sports hall we relocated to my main space which was a large open plan area (14m x 7m) which sounded great. ‘Beautiful Eyes’, ‘Stripped Back to Beautiful’ and ‘The Wave’ were recorded here.

After I moved, it became necessary to build a new studio. I had a large L shaped space in a disused office block next to the Thames so A.J and I put the guitars back in their cases for a few days and built a wall across the ‘horizontal bit’ and walled over the windows to create a space 5.7m wide, 7.2m deep, 2.8m high. After installing the necessary acoustic treatment the new room was big enough to not sound boxy and acoustically controlled enough to double as a mix room, which was essential for my other production work. This was where we recorded the rest of the album.

Our approach was to record both guitars simultaneously, choose the best takes and then overdub the vocals. This way there would be no headphones involved and our playing would be more natural. From a production point of view I wanted to get as close as possible to what it would be like to sit in front of us as we play. This is easier said than done from an engineering perspective, as most microphones don’t pick up sound in the same way our ears do, and so it never ends up sounding quite the same. The end result usually sounds biased in one way or another – either too compressed and larger than life, with exaggerated stereo imaging or an overhyped top end and tone that just doesn’t sound ‘acoustic’. I don’t want to feel like I can hear the electronics colouring the sound. A more ‘classical’ approach is needed. I wanted to try using ribbon microphones instead of condensers as I’d heard they have a very natural sound, so we borrowed a pair of Coles 4038’s and bought a couple of Shinybox 46MXL’s which I’d heard in a ribbon mic shootout. It’s fair to say the ribbons were a bit of a revelation.

After the first two songs were recorded we begrudgingly returned the Coles and splashed out on some more ribbon mic’s. This time from an amazing mic builder called Open Plan Recording in Australia. The mic set up used for the rest of the album was a pair of Open Plan U-Mod Rockets, a pair of Open Plan U-Mod Grills and a pair of Shinybox 46MXL’s. The Rockets on Nick’s guitar, the Shinybox’s on A.J’s guitar and the Grills as relatively close room mic’s. The guitar pairs were arranged as Blumlein stereo pairs and the Grills were a spaced pair. The Blumlein pairs were key to getting a reasonable spread on each guitar whilst avoiding phasing issues across the set up. Instead of the usual 90º angle between each fig. 8 pattern mic in the Blumlien pair, I narrowed it to around 45º as this produced a better guitar tone. Also, the width of each guitar’s image didn’t need to be very wide in the duo context. A Shinybox 46MXL was used for all of the vocals. All the mic’s went into Apogee pre amps and converters and were recorded into Logic at 96 Khz.

Mix processing was kept as pure and simple as possible. I used as few plugins as I could get away with and used them as subtly as possible. The following signal chains are typical for the whole album:

Guitars: DMG Equilibrium eq > DMG Essence de-esser (to tame the occasional lower mid bumps – note the absence of a traditional compressor in this signal chain).

Vocals: DMG Equilibrium eq > DMG Essence de-esser > Slate Digital FG-401 (2nd circuit, no transformer) or FG-Red compressor.

Reverb was all Exponential Audio Phoenixverb.

Mastering processing chain was Slate Digital FG-Grey compressor > Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machine > DMG Equilibrium eq > DMG Limitless limiter.