Making Black Beans: The Studio (Part 1)
We have some serious luck on our side. I’m not sure how we were able to finagle such an amazing opportunity, but we landed an extremely professional studio.
The studio belongs to the church Adam and I attend, located in the Melrose neighborhood of Nashville. It’s no Abbey Road, but it allowed us to record everything with pristine quality without paying away our souls to the studio. We also cut some corners in the fact that we engineered the whole thing ourselves. From placing microphones to “rolling tape”, we figured everything out, both producing and engineering the EP.
Now to the fun stuff: let’s talk gear.
|Note: All audio files in this blog article are property of Temple Wildlife and may not be reused without permission.|
The studio is equipped with a Pro Tools 12 HD license, using two Digiracks as IO and Yamaha NS10s as studio monitors – which I love. The mastering engineer (and a good friend of mine), Blake La Grange, once said, “NS10s are the awful speakers. That’s why they’re the best. If you can get something to sound great on these, it’ll sound great anywhere.” Armed with 16 different preamps, the patch bay took a little getting used to. But once we figured out the schematic it was fairly smooth sailing.
The preamps are really where we got to have the most fun. It was insane how different the sounds were when A-B various instruments through different preamps. I have tons of experience recording at home using my Apogee Duet, and a fair amount of recording in studios, but none where I’m in control of different pres. It quickly became a fun puzzle to discover which preamps gave the right coloring for the sounds we wanted.
Here are the preamps we had available to us:
We used this on both kick and snare, as well as some of the keys, and bass. It has a really nice low-mid resonance that gives some fat oomf while keeping from becoming muddy.
Here's a basic mix of the kick and snare using the Burl Audio B1D. This is from the bridge of Walking In My Sleep.
This was a very straightforward preamp. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a “blah” preamp, but the Classic VP26 was definitely more neutral in its coloration. We used this pre for both toms and some keys parts.
This mic pre was magic. Pure magic. It made everything have this wonderful shimmery pop to it. Using it sounded like taking an old picture with years of dust and wiping it with a cloth. It brought a new light and sheen to the sound of almost any instrument. In most cases, that was amazing. We used it on the drum room mic, on most of the vocals, as well as electric guitars, keys, and acoustic instruments like strings, horns, acoustic guitar, ukulele – it just sounds so damn good. But sometimes almost too good. We tried going through the Chandler pre for some of the keys tracks, but they ended up too bright when we wanted a warm sound.
Armed with a tube inside, the LaChapell 583S had remarkable character. Anything we passed through it instantly warmed up, adding slight overdriven sound quality and unique distinction. This pre was used a ton for keyboards. All of our very “digital” sounding software synths (from Logic) were instantly warmed by the LaChapell. There were some occasions where we really wanted the synth to cut through the mix, so we sent it through something a bit cleaner like the Chandler preamps, but for the most part the LaChapell pre was gold when it came to keys.
The final preamps we were very fortunate to use were Millennias. These pres had almost no coloration to them at all. Everything we ran through them was very clear and natural sounding. These were used for drum overheads and some of the keyboards.
While our studio dreams would have held dozens of vintage preamps, EQs, and compressors, we only had 2 compressors to pair with these 5 preamp types. Taking a cue from our idols, Mutemath, we picked up an Empirical Labs Distressor to process mostly the snare (more on drums later). We also grabbed a Warm Audio 1176 remake for kick, vocals, and acoustic guitars.
Both compressors were key in getting the sounds we wanted. Future blogs will cover how we set up the signal path for individual instruments. So for now, I’ll wrap it up here: we were incredibly stoked to have the gear we had. With access to such high-end gear, we felt extremely confident we’d be able to create professional audio quality all on our own.
Sense of autonomy
The sense of autonomy we had from access to such great gear has never felt so good. As a musician, the feel of knowing you’re not compromising quality for your budget is incredibly freeing. The fact that we were able to produce everything ourselves also meant we didn’t have to sacrifice quality of our playing. No one was sitting there on the clock, which meant we could experiment with different sounds and techniques, as well as feel free to take time and perfect everything before moving on.
You can hear the audio quality and attention to detail in almost every song on Black Beans EP. Right when the bridge hits on Porcelain Animals, you can hear a slightly laid back guitar pattern, as Adam played through this part multiple times to really make sure a sense of relief or peace was felt upon listening. Or the sounds of guitar feedback in Prides after the intro hook, which we approached a dozen times in efforts to get the exact tone and cadence that fit the song.
Recording Black Beans EP was a memory Adam and I will have for a lifetime. More on that coming up. For now, feel free to listen for yourself.