Part of KMJ Recordings’ ongoing commitment to recording Brass Bands is to be open to questions before, during and after the recordings. Quite often, the nature of the questions is similar from session to session and Band to Band. The following is a list of FAQs – they’re real questions that have been asked by real Bands (in no particular order) – in the hope that sharing the answers in this way is useful to people who are in the process of thinking about or are arranging recordings. If you’ve got a question you’d like to see answered here, please feel free to either post here or send me a PM and we’ll answer it as soon as we can. Happy recording! Q) Why do we have to play the same thing again? (The first time sounded good enough to me) A) Listening from within the Band may sound very different to how it’s being heard in the control room – the Production Team may hear something you didn’t. This could be anything from split notes, bad ensemble, poor intonation or things like noises that shouldn’t be there (for example mute noise, drum stick clicks, coughs etc). Additionally, it’s always safer to have at least two copies of everything – just in case something is missed. Q) It's all gone quiet. What are you doing in there? A) Most likely checking through the score to see which parts need to be repeated or listening back to something you’ve just recorded. It’s important at this time to keep instruments warm – it may be several minutes – but don’t tire yourselves out. Q) Will the drummer/percussion be screened off/in a booth? Why? A) It depends who you’re recording with. Acoustic screens can be used to achieve more isolation of the drums from the main microphones which may be needed to facilitate the balance. Ideally, you’d like the performers to be self balancing which, to an extent, negates the need for the screens. Q) I've read that adjustments can be made to individuals in the mix. Is that true? A) Only if you’ve got a microphone pointing at each of those individuals. Some Companies do employ such multimicing techniques and manufacture the balance of the Band later. Others employ zonal microphone techniques in which you can adjust particular regions of the Band, and the rest record just in stereo and solely rely on the Band to be self balancing. Q) How many takes for each piece? A) It depends entirely on the piece, how long it is and how well you play it. Q) Do you ever do overdubs? Why? A) Not on the sessions. As the performance is compiled from the best sections of multiple takes after the session you’d have to overdub the required part on all of the takes of a particular section. Adding parts to a completed edit after a session isn’t entirely unknown. Q) We did it a different way with _____________. Why was this? A) Different Companies have different ways of reaching the same endpoint – the final product is the thing that’s really important. It’s up to you to decide which you prefer. Q) How sensitive are those microphones really? A) In general, they’re very sensitive. They pick up everything you’re playing, saying and anything else that goes on in the room such as mute noise, shuffling feet and rustling music. It’s for this reason that you’re asked to be quiet at all times during the recording, regardless of whether you’re playing or not – a stray noise can ruin an otherwise fabulous take. Q) Do I have to blow towards the microphones? A) No – don’t do anything other than play naturally (unless you’re asked to do otherwise). Q) Why are you using X number of microphones? A) The balance and sound of the final recording is determined by the number and type of microphones used. Each Company will have a preferred way of working, which may vary with the Band, the venue and the material that’s being recorded. Q) Can I have a quick look at the gear? A) We’re quite happy for you to…..just don’t touch anything Q) Will we hear something we have recorded today? A) Usually. The MD may be frequently asked to listen to sections, and soloists will normally be asked to comment on the balance of their feature. Q) What happens to the recordings between the session and final CD? A) The Producer of the recording generates an edit plot – this is like a map that says which take to use where in the piece. The takes are then edited or ‘spliced’ together and the edit listened to. Incremental improvements are then made before a preview CD is sent to the Band for comment. Q) What does the production team actually do? A) It depends on which Company you use. Broadly speaking, the team will be separated into two halves – one half engineers the recording (so put the microphones in the right place and operates the equipment) and the other half ‘Produces’. Amongst other things, the Producer(s) will run the sessions (in collaboration with the MD) by deciding the order of recording, which sections of music you need to record multiple times etc and then generate the edit plots for the editor to compile from all the material that’s recorded. Some Companies combine the role of engineer and Producer. Q) We did a recording ages ago. They used a tape recorder. Do you still use tape? A) KMJ Recordings doesn’t use tape – we record digitally. Other Companies may still use tape, but it’s becoming increasingly rare. Q) Is the artwork really something that holds up manufacture? A) It can be. It’s a good idea to have an idea of what you’re going to require for your artwork up front and – if you’re designing your own covers etc – make sure you get the specifications and open direct channels of communication with the repro house as soon as is reasonably practicable. Q) The sound check took up about 30 minutes of recording time. Why so long? A) Sound checks can occasionally take up this amount of time, particularly if the venue have chosen is problematic. It’s always better to get a recording right at source rather than trying to ‘”fix it in the mix”, so in our experience this time is just as important as time spent recording. Q) What is meant by “inconsistency between takes” and why is it problem? A) It could be anything from playing the same part of the music at differing dynamics or tempi, or a percussionist deciding to change from a cowbell to a woodblock when something is repeated (or even hit a ride cymbal in a different place). If an edit is required between these takes, it can’t be made as the music is different. Dynamics (to an extent) and tempi (to an extent) can be manipulated – but the former can’t. Q) What is a “splice”? A) It’s an edit between two different takes. It’s more usually applied to tape editing. Q) Is it possible to play too loud for the microphones? A) It depends what they are. In principle it is, but in practice it’s quite difficult. Q) The microphones are different shapes and sizes. Why? A) Different microphones have different sonic characteristics. They’re chosen on the basis of how you want them to sound when you’re recording a particular instrument or group. They may be either large or small, might contain valves or be solid state and you might point the end or the side at the instrument and they might pick up sound from all around, just the front or just the sides. Even two microphones that look identical might be vastly different. Q) Why does my mobile phone have to be off rather than silent? A) Any form of electromagnetic interference may affect a piece of equipment – such as when the mobile network searches for connected devices – so it’s safer to turn them off. Q) Why didn't we start with “take 1”? A) This is Company dependent. For instance the take numbers used by KMJ Recordings correlate with the playlists on one of our backup stereo recorders. Q) I messed up yesterday. Can we just quickly do that bit again today? A) Generally it’s not advisable to split pieces over multiple days, particularly if a reset has been forced. Q) I can hear traffic noise outside. Will that be picked up? A) If you can hear it, so can the microphones. It may be possible to filter some of it out, but not always. The same applies to aeroplanes, birdsong, football match cheering and so on. It’s something to be aware of when selecting your venue. Q) Why are some CDs louder than others? A) Real life acoustic performances can contain lots of changes in dynamic levels – fortissimo is loud and pianissimo is very quiet. Some CDs have the extremes of dynamic range removed so to an extent the recording becomes an ‘all purpose mezzoforte’. These CDs will appear ‘louder’ than those which contain a fuller dynamic range as the average (RMS) level is higher. KMJ Recordings’ preference is to leave dynamic range intact – if you play with dynamic contrast it’s nice to hear it. Similarly all material that is played on the radio is similarly dynamically ‘squashed’ (or compressed and limited) – so comparing a CD to a radio broadcast is not always a good thing to do. Q) We want 1000 CDs. How long will they take to “burn”? A) Quantities this big are much better suited to being made by replication – being stamped from a glass master. Usual plant turn around is between 10 and 15 working days. Q) Duplication or Replication. Eh? A) Duplication is being burnt onto CDRs, replication is being stamped from a glass master CD. The latter is a technically superior process and the longevity of the product is generally perceived as better. It also eliminates the possibility of incompatibility with older CD players. Q) What is the MCPS? (I see it on other CDs) A) The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society. They administer the charges for recording copyrighted material and distribute royalties to composers and arrangers on your behalf. Q) Do we need a licence for our CD? A) Generally, yes. The exceptions to this are where you’re recording all your own material (that either isn’t registered with the MCPS or you’ve got an exclusion for various uses) or material that’s in the public domain. Both these circumstances will still need a notification of no claim. Q) What does this licence cost? A) The up to date costs can be obtained from the MCPS-PRS Alliance Website. As a ballpark figure, the fee is currently around £325 for 500 CDs sold at £10. Q) What parts are there to the artwork? A) It depends entirely on your artwork specification. Brass Band CDs are usually released in standard jewel cases – in which case, you’ll have a booklet and a traycard (that goes in the back of the box) and you’ll have either text or a design to print on the CD itself. Q) Can I help you set up/break down? A) No – for insurance reasons – but thanks! Q) My son plays in a rock band. They “compress” their stuff. What does it mean? A) Compression reduces dynamic range. This can have the effect of making things seem louder, but it can have undesirable side effects, particularly where acoustic recordings are concerned. Q) Is reverberation the same as echo? A) No – but they are sometimes used as equivalents in layman’s terms. Q) How do some companies get stereo with only one microphone? A) Some microphones are stereo, or they could be using a Soundfield microphone which contains multiple capsules which you can get stereo from later. Q) Do we have to record in the order of the CD? A) No. You may find you do some that way, but it’s more likely that the session will be structure with lip fatigue / soloists / difficulty taken into consideration. It’s for this reason that the use of an experienced Producer is advantageous. Q) Can we go back and do things again if there's a mistake? A) Absolutely (unless it’s a live performance!) Q) What is the red light for? A) When the light is on, it means that you’re being recorded. Everyone should be as quiet as possible (apart from the playing!) when it’s on – you’re still part of the recording and any noise you make may spoil a fantastic take. Q) Why are you in another room? A) It’s easier to make sure the microphones are in the right place and balance the recording when you’re acoustically isolated from the Band. If we were in the same room it’d be very difficult to get this right. Other people’s opinions differ. Q) Are we allowed a drink during the session? A) Absolutely. Room temperature water is a good thing to have handy. Trips to the pub at lunch may be detrimental. Q) Will there be comfort breaks during the day? A) Yes. Regardless of who you’re working with the day should be structured such that the Production Team get the best quality playing – it’s much easier to work with well played material than to try to fix something that was recorded when you need a break. Q) How is the day mapped out? A) There’ll be a nominal maximum day length. In our experience, each session is different as each Band is different and the recording company should work with to your strengths. Q) Why do you need so many (at least 2) scores? A) During the session, each Producer needs a copy. At least one will be marked up fully with edit plots. Another copy is required for the editor. Q) What do you do with the out takes? A) The entire session is archived, but nothing is done with the out takes. Q) There's a radio / mobile phone mast within a few hundred yards of our chosen venue - will it affect your recording equipment? A) It depends on the equipment and wiring that's in use. A properly grounded and balanced rig should be OK - the transmitter power should be low enough that it doesn't affect anything...but if there's a possible alternative venue it's worth considering just to avoid any potential complications.