Recording Swing 41

Swing 41 was recorded in a very basic way, This is the approach I try and take whenever I record Jazz, and it’s even more appropriate in this setting with acoustic guitars, violin and double bass. I wanted to capture what the band actually sounded like and avoid the polished flat sound that one often hears today, because of this everything you hear on the CD was a first take with no overdubs giving a slightly raw and very natural sound.

I studied sound engineering and reenforcement in Liverpool, my teachers were very experienced and gave me lot’s of advice about how to capture sound for recording and for concerts. This of course was back in the days when digital recording had not yet taken over the industry, but the principles of how sound travels and how to capture an image of it have not changed. You can study for years on end but there is no substitute for experience and experimentation. From time to time you just get lucky with a recording, all the study, science and preperation helps, but there’s no substitute for putting the microphone in the right place and just playing from the heart.

7 of the 9 tunes on Swing 41 were recorded at rehearsal using SM58 microphones on all instruments at fairly standard distances from the instruments directed to pick up sound from the instrument belly and some string noise. Remember the sound comes from all over the instrument, apart from the sound holes!

Amazingly, two of the tracks, including the one used in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, were recorded in concert on a portable MP3 recorder. It was the Zoom H4. I did not use any built in effects or signal processing. I just put the device on a camera stand about 1 metre from the ground and 2 or 3 metres in front and slightly to the side of the stage. I made no sound check, I had been using this recorder at concerts I’d played in Copenhagen over the previous month so the gain had been optimised beforehand.

Once I had made the recordings the hard work began. Mixing, producing, publishing and promoting. I’ll cover those in another post.

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