This one will be slightly different from the other posts I published. I used this medium as more of a web presence tool rather than actually expressing my thoughts and feelings. Instead, I briefly explained the project I was part of and moved on. It is another form of an easy dopamine reward, so it worked well. But this post is different because I wanted to reflect on my personality and work this time more thoroughly. I usually stayed almost completely transparent in my earlier posts; however, I find these posts quite dull now. I guess I was thinking in Turkish and writing in English. Otherwise, the extreme humbleness can’t be explained. Now, I’m switching gears, and I want to reflect on the work in the light of my thought process. Recording a band, live!
I moved to Japan a few months ago. Not because I’m an anime fan or realize Japanese studies. My wife, Ilgın, works here as a researcher, and I’m a resident here. Thanks to her connection with Mr. Takeshima, her host father and an English teacher, I discovered that a Buddhist monk turned his temple into a recording studio/concert hall and organized concerts there. I wasn’t expecting this as Okayama is a medium-sized city and not as open as big cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka. I was surprised, but also, I understand how sound people can be unusual. Of course, I know this from myself; no offense here. So, we met at the temple, Inryoji (蔭凉寺). I visited the temple, and Shinohara-san (篠原 真祐) was one of the most enthusiastic sound persons I have ever met. He has shown extreme hospitality and brought up his microphones like a kid brings his toys. It was so nice to finally meet someone in this city with similar interests. Also, he had much more life experience than I had, as he has been organizing concerts and recording music in the temple since 1999. His equipment wasn’t recent, but they were kept in fantastic condition and were handy items.
One of the takings from this meeting was that whenever I had something to say, I felt like I distorted his integrity. As a sound person, I usually say, “I’m here as a pair of ears, not as a mouth.” during studio/recording work. It was an important meeting that my practice had a place in real life, not for everyone, but for people with similar minds.
Ilgın was working as an interpreter during this meeting and was probably overwhelmed with technical stuff as her field is unrelated to sound practices. But with her support, I managed to ask if I could record one of the concerts that are taking place at the Inryoji. Shinohara-san mentioned a pop concert that will take place in a week, and we can record it! He said he was pretty busy and had to take care of everything: organization, the layout of the venue, setup of the stage, lighting… He said a recording engineer would be beneficial, as he didn’t have 42 hands. This is where now I’m part of the story.
The band was Akaikutsu (赤い靴), a Japanese Pop band from Tokyo. I don’t understand Japanese, so I didn’t understand the lyrics. But there were times that I felt completely immersed in the music and venue. They were a five-piece band: vocals & piano, drums, bass, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar & pedal steel. Also, everyone had a back vocal microphone. Shinohara-san usually records the performance with two mics hung up on the ceiling as the main pair. These microphones are pointing out to the main speakers, so this pair captures a blend of the stage and the live mix coming out of the speakers. An interesting idea, I said at first. When I heard the results, the capture was like a natural stage, a similar approach to placing the main pair above the conductor. The main pair was an Earthworks SR30 (cardioid), and it was in an XY/ORTF setting. Not as a coincident pair, the distance was around 17 cm, but the intersection angle was 90 degrees. An important lesson of the day for me: intuition comes before almost everything except the sound itself.
I can’t stop giving technical details. There were about 16 tracks on the mixer, MIDAS. I can’t recall the exact number and the effects as I wasn’t on the board. We decreased the total count to 12 channels by combining back-vocal microphones into a single track. These channels were recorded through RME Fireface UFX. 8 channels were first run through Aphex 1788A, then line inputs. I learned Fireface’s inbuilt recording interface, which wasn’t so difficult. I recorded the pair that was hung up: 14 tracks in total. I blended 12 channels with 2 channels that I recorded with my own equipment in the mix that I delivered.
A few insights
During the editing and mixing, I had five essential lessons:
- try not to create major timbral shifts when muting tracks and sections,
- filter out almost everything (you can filter highs too if there are too much of them; however, shelf usually works better so that there are no holes in the spectrum),
- be careful with low mids in every track as they can buildup very quickly if the stage is not huge,
- clean the noisy channels at some point with noise reduction,
- the stage layout is fundamental and can be imitated but usually it sounds like Beatles so avoid it unless it was planned beforehand.
The last point was the most important one, as I had struggled the most. The stage layout was (from left to right) VO & P, AG, EG & PS, B, and DR. Having the piano and voice on the extreme left and the drums on the extreme right was not common in modern pop music. In fact, probably something that is not desired. But this was what we had, and the vocals were coming from the middle mostly due to main speakers. Also, the band’s principal members consist of the pianist and drummer, so it makes sense to have P on the left and DR on the right as a foundation of the mix. I had to use the main pair for overall balance and as a reverb, but it wasn’t enough for the reverb. I had to add some reverb to give some liveness. You can see a few pictures of the concert below.
I also met with the drummer: Kamiya-san. He was dealing with the technical aspects of their last album, Open the Door, and it was nice to meet with a colleague! He said he was listening to Turkish music before the show and stated explicitly that he was listening to Dilber Ay. He also said he wants to learn to play zurna at some point in his life. The world is small.
That’s pretty much what I wanted to say about this event and process. I recorded my first live concert, and it was in Japan with the help of a Buddhist monk who is a sound artist! It is a gem that I can work on my profession in this part of the world with great talents, and it is also a co-operation with my beloved. I feel blessed that all these are happening, and I can’t wait for more concerts at Inryoji Temple! I will talk about the history of this temple in my next concert post.
You can find the recordings I made at Inryoji Temple on my Home page.