Huw M

Bilingual blurts on music // Eang yw'r byd i bawb

The sound of silence

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[Mae’r blog yma hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg]

One of the joys of spending time in the studio, especially with producer Frank Naughton, is the space and freedom to experiment with sound. Apologies if that sounds a little self indulgent and pretentious, but I guess self indulging in one’s sound is an integral part of the recording process!

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that the new album will have a more live, raw feel compared to my other two albums, so we’ve been experimenting with ways of capturing that sound on record.

Strangely enough, one of the most important instruments in any studio is one that makes no sound whatsoever – the microphone. I’ve been intrigued by Frank’s use of some older microphones to record our live sessions. One of these is a Reslo Ribbon Mic, popular in the 1960s, pictured here:

The Reslo Ribbon Mic

The Reslo Ribbon Mic

The same mic is seen in this video of the Beatles playing ‘Some Other Guy’ live at the Cavern in 1962:

 

Another mic that I’ve fallen in love with is this beauty from the 1950s:

Grampian dynamic mic

Grampian dynamic mic

The Grampian dynamic mic looks wonderful, and it sounds hoarse and unrefined – like a transistor radio – capturing that raw edge I was referring to. Here’s a clip of how one of our songs, A house by the sea, performed at the studio sounds using the Grampian mic:

 

And here’s how it sounds using more modern microphones:

 

What do you reckon? I quite like the rawness of the Grampian, but we may end up using a mix of old and new microphones when we come to the final mix. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a brilliant recording by a musicologist who mastered the art of capturing the essence of performances using only one or two microphones. Alan Lomax (1915-2002) was “one of the great American field collectors of folk music of the 20th century“, and he journeyed across the globe to record hundreds of musicians – famous and unknown.

This recording of Viola James singing I’m Going Home to Live with Jesus comes from Alan Lomax’s Southern Journey of 1959-1960, using an Ampex 602-2 “Suitcase Model” tape machine:

You can check out more of Alan Lomax’s work via the Association for Cultural Equity website. I’m particularly fond of the recordings of Welsh miners from Treorchy in south Wales singing folk songs such as Yr Eneth Gadd ei Gwrthod (The Rejected Maiden).

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Author: Huw M

Cerddor o Gymru // Welsh Musician

One thought on “The sound of silence

  1. Pingback: Yn ddistaw bach | Huw M

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