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  • Tool Meets the AKG C roooTHE BIRTH OF A NEW VOCAL MIC}

    I Uow manytimes havewe set up a fire hazard of Mexican prayercandles and tapestries to give an anxious vocalist just the right"vibe" to spit out a decent vocal performancel Making the singeras comfortable (or as uncomfortable) as possible in the studio isone ofthe secrets to getting a great vocal take. As much as I lovethem all, singers are ofien overly sensitive characters that need tobe coddled. Forget the fact that we are going to comp the hell outofthem later and tweak them with a dozen digital processors andtuners, you still have to treat those singers like an important partof the project-l meanthe most important part. Ahem.

    The recording studio can often be intimidating to a singer,

    "This mic's not genenallu

    Tool play in local clubs many times. lt was obvious that these firststudio vocal takes lacked the fire of Maynard's stage performances,so we looked for other options to harness that intense stage energy.I knew we needed to use a handheld but felt cheated that I couldn,tuse the most expensive mic in Crandmaster Studio's arsenal for thetask (which was the U57 at the time). I wanted quality vocals thatwere crystal-clear. I wanted the listener to experience every ounce ofpain this singer could deliver.

    The handheld dynamic mics we tried seemed dull and un-wieldy, but Maynard immediately sang better into them. The Crooo was actually Maynard's suggestion. This mic's not gener-ally meant to be handheld, but after wrapping it in foam and ducttape to reduce the handling noise, it performed surprisingly wellon his vocals. Because it was a condenser. it retained most ofthe sparkle of the U57 and Maynard co;ld grab it in his fist andsmack the mic around. Ultimately. the C rooo was the workhorseon the sessions, but we did use tl"e \e:mann U57 for theintimate passages with a UREI t:ii co':rrressor cranked wayto expose all the little details i: In'a.-:rd's voice.

    meantto be handheld, butafter- uJnappjng itrn foam and IIffii$&" ,l- .,,-.Faltabnstn.akirlg

    rhe vocar *s=i"nu tu" uidcl"t"J:.ff ;il-te- -*-;11T;duct tape to r-educe the

    handLing noise, it penfonmed 'qffi!ry#'*ry1{*:li}}}'*?f #'*#T#''sunpnisingLU LUeLL "

    so occasionally it's necessary to try techniques and equipmentnot traditionally used for vocal recording-just to stop the singerfrom feeling self-conscious. That's where the AKC C rooo micro-phone came in on the Tool sessions. lt was not my first choice.It was not even on the list ofchoices because I had never used itfor vocals-ever.

    I was looking for the sound of a Neumann U67 on MaynardJames Keenan's voice, but because the little troll squats and shoutsinto the floor when he sings, it was difficult to suspend a

    Tool's Undertop albumscreams, like on the sore

    ' ec r'lh blood-vessel-poppi

    Neumann U67 in the right position for a vocal takeWe tried it, spending several hours adjustingthe mic so it was a foot offthe floor fac-ing upward to capture Maynard'sverbal regurgitation. But ul-timately it failed. Thiswas r993, andI'd seen The AKG * 16*$

    co*denser, withduct tape resin, is stiR inu$e at ll6dioStar $tudios.

    MD( JANUARy 2010 | www.MlxoNLtNE.cot\,4

    :.q lr,3l." l had heard them i

  • rehearsals, I heard them onstage. But in thestudio, Maynard's screams were lackluster,even with the perfect complement of the Crooo. After several attempts at one ofthosero-second screams without a good take, andwith his voice obviously wearing thin, I finallyasked him to go outside and run around theblock five times. This would make him furious,but after doing it he nailed those screams. Hewas pissed and you could hear it in his voice.The lesson herel Sometirnes it's necessaryto make the singer as un-comfortable as pos-sible to get the right performance!

    Handheld condenser mics were mainlydeveloped for live performance applications,yet they are fantastic additions to a record-ing studio's collection. Today, there are manyoptions for crystal-clear vocal recording withhandheld condensers. I am most impressedwith Audio-Technica's AE33oo, the handheldversion of its AT4o33, a popular mid-pricedvocal mic in many commercial studios. TheAE33oo has an extra level of warmth on a malevocal and it adds a measure ofdepth on a fe-male vocal without sacrificing the clean top of

    a good str-rdio condenser.AKC also currently has two

    excellent handheld condensers,the C5 and the D5. And a thoughnot really meant to be handheld,AKC's C tooo is a good, relativeiyinexpensive condenser thar'spowered by a g-volt battery wlthan on/off switch. The main com-plaint about it is the mic batteryalways seems to be dead be-cause someone always leavesthe switch on. Hmpf! Luckily,it runs on phantom power, too.l've heard how well a pair ofthese C rooos do as overheadmics on drums, especially when the drummeris hi-hat- and cymbal-happy, because they area little bit darker than other condensers. l-heyalso do well on acoustic guitars, in pairs orsol o.

    My AKC C tooo is still as decent as evertoday, even with all the scars and war woundsfrom its intense studio history. lt wasn't myfirst choice, but lt is vastly more important to

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    give the singer what he needs to give you :blistering vocal performance. lll

    Sylvia Messy is the unconventional produce,engineer oi afirsts including Tool, System of a L: "lohnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Peti.Prince. She is a member of the NARAS PqESteeringCommittee and Adilsory Boards, and is : ".dent producer at RadioStar Studios in Weed, Cc

    .: " :... .r1r.

    y.;.d::'[email protected]

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    Mojave microBhones, from the mind of renowned designer David Royer, helpartists and engineers transform inspiration into reality in studios alloverthev/0rld. 0ur secret? Painstaking attenti0n to detail0n every mic we build.You put yr)ur heaft and soul into your art .. and s0 do we!

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