Tag Archives: live recording

Mixing a Big Band CD – Part 1

Back in August of 2007 and January of 2008, a Big Band that I play in recorded two live performances for a “Demo CD”. Well, in the 2 some years since we made the two recordings, the project has become a full-blown album that is currently playing on Jazz Radio stations and available on the iTunes store. This is the multipart story of how I mixed 8 of the 17 songs on the CD.

The original idea was that we wanted more gigs, and that a lot of people wanted to hear the band before booking it, so we needed a “Demo CD”. At the time we had live recordings that I was making using my Rode NT 4, but a lot of them suffered from crowd noise, wind noise, etc. We wanted something a little bit better. So, we hired someone to do a live recording of the band. Each person individually mic’d, etc, etc. The first concert was in August of 2007, part of a Jazz thing the area puts on (though I don’t think they did it this year…..darn economy). It was held at the Blackhawk Auto Museum.

If you have been to the museum, or look at the pictures…..it is a recording person’s nightmare. Marble floors, surfaces where things bounce off of (cars, pillars, people), plus crowd noise. The crowd was there for a night of socializing and stuff, and as the evening went on, the noise became louder and louder (more on that in later). Anyhow, we had the concert, I made a live recording using my gear, and listened to it. Lots of noise, people talking, eating, dropping glasses, etc. Lots of reverb from the room (more like a Batcave to me).

The mix engineer pretty much decided that the session wasn’t going to yield a lot of material. I think he looked at 3 tracks or so. The project pretty much sat in limbo until the next concert where the scene was totally different. An actual performing arts center. A quiet audience. Acoustic grand piano (the Blackhawk gig the piano player used a keyboard). Different lead alto. Different microphones. Pretty much totally the opposite of the first recording session.

In the interval between the two concerts, I won a contest. Yeah. It DOES happen to people. So, suddenly I had stuff that was like…..pro level. Stuff I didn’t now how to use (I was a Digital Performer person since…..forever). And in January of 2008, my trusty old PowerMac Quicksilver 2002 (or my hackintosh, since I upgraded it to dual processor, etc etc) died and I replaced it with a 2008 MacPro Dual Quad-Core. The stars were aligning. In I believe March of 2008 I got to go to a mixing session. I had mentioned to the engineer that I had recently come into a ProTools setup (M-Powered), and if I could maybe get the tracks to the first concert to mess around with to get my feet wet in ProTools and whatnot. He agreed, and during that session in March, I brought a portable drive with me, and he loaded up a blank session (with like 3 edits he did) that was the Blackhawk concert. Something like 18 tracks totaling over 20 gigs of data……

Part two (what I got…..what a mess!) Coming soon.