Playlist

Tracks listed below represent some of the many recordings made under the banner of Ladybird Studios. Each has a short description of where and when it was made, and described below the playlist are the equipment set-ups used for the type of recordings made at the time.

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  1. Cassette (1976)
  2. Digital Audio Tape (1996)
  3. Minidisc (2005)
  4. MP3 / WAV stereo recorder (2010 - )
  5. Zoom R16 multitrack recorder (2013 - )
  6. Direct DAW multitrack recording (2017 - )

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Cassette
Progressing from a Sony Reel to Reel recorder in the early 1970s (no examples here) we used a JVC 'portable' stereo cassette recorder - more like 'transportable' in that it was physically about the size of an A4 sheet of paper and 3 inches thick. It was state of the art in its day, and still the best despite the overpriced 'audiophile' Japanese named versions that followed it some years later. We had a pair of Philips electret microphones on long low-noise balanced extension leads to get distance between the disco equipment where we operated the recorder and the microphones positioned either side of the audience. It was recorded on Chrome tape with ANRS noise reduction.

DAT
Our first venture into digital recording was with Digital Audio Tape. In this recording it was multi-tracked in a studio environment using a Cakewalk MIDI sequencer to provide the backing. The guitar was DI'd via an effects pedal when it was used live.

Minidisc
Very few recordings were made with minidisc. This was captured on a Sony minidisc recorder fed from a JBL PA mixing desk. The vocal microphones were JBL and Shure with the guitars being DI'd into the desk. The minidisc was attached to the monitor output of the mixer.

MP3
In about 2010 we acquired a Walkman sized Sony digital recorder capable of high quality MP3 and WAV format audio capture in stereo and coupled this with a Sony stereo condenser microphone. This was primarily used for monitoring 'band practice' but did have the occasional outing in its own right. In the example track the recorder was set up on a tall pole next to the control tent at Cudham 2012 and left to get on with it while we videoed the event.

Zoom R16 multitrack
With the exception of some experimental studio recordings using a four track high speed cassette deck (no examples here) our first real venture into multitrack recording was in 2013. We coupled a Zoom R16 multitrack recorder to the sound desk at the Cudham Craic music festival. The desk only allowed five tracks to be recorded off the aux busses, however with good grouping of instruments prior to recording, and a steep learning curve using Logic Pro in post production surprisingly good results were obtained.

Direct DAW recording
Following the good results from Cudham 2013, and the demise of the mixer used there - replaced by a Behringer X32 - we ventured into direct audio capture of up to 32 tracks of raw data from the desk at Knockstock in 2017. An 8 track version can be emulated in our studio using a Focusrite 8 channel audio interface and is that is where we are with recording now. Our last big venture was at this year's Cudham Craic which is awaiting post production.

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LESSONS LEARNED
  • Positioning and quality of microphones is critical to getting a good recording
  • Ditto pre-amp and mixing equipment. Unwanted sounds in recordings are unfortunate - equipment generated noise is unforgivable.
  • 'DI' instruments wherever possible. Overlay sound effects in post production.
  • Simple 'live' recordings with good quality capture and well placed microphones can be as good as multitrack
  • What sounds good out of the PA (usually mono) won't necessarily work in recording. Capture as much as you can from source.
  • When mixing multitrack, treat each track individually and make it sound as good as it can, then mix it with the other tracks, grouping them as you go.
  • Turn off tracks when they are not being used. Sound bleed is the major enemy in live recordings, yet makes little difference to mixing for the PA.
  • Don't over complicate things. The more stages in production, in general, the worse it sounds.

THE FUTURE
We have acquired a Behringer control surface for Logic Pro to make post production easier and look forward to the next mix down. The next big challenge on the audio front is multi-channel output for both sound recording and video. Surround sound video should be fairly easy, concentrating on effects for the surround rather than main dialogue. Of most interest however is to create surround sound live music for general publication purposes, and to experiment with multi-channel front speaker presentation so that different instruments and vocals are presented to the listener from dedicated channels.

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