A Welcome Addition

There are no words...

Look at that thing. Just look at it.

Do you know what this little piece of kit means for me? Allow me to describe…

For many years now I have been attempting to record, arrange and produce my own songs, and throughout that time I have come to roadblock after roadblock.

I first started recording tracks when I was 18. I had a headset microphone that I used to record everything: vocals, guitar, bass… My microphone technique extended to ‘not overloading the mic’, and I suppose that was all I needed to know at the time. I also liked to pilfer drum samples from various sources on the internet, some with terribly low bit rates, but I could barely tell the difference between a 128kbps MP3 and a .wav file. Such young ears!

Not long before the start of my ‘YouTube era’ I made use of a cheap dynamic microphone (bought cautiously with student loan!) that I had to plug directly into my PC using a 1/4 inch jack to mini jack adapter. It made for an unpredictable sound. It wasn’t a very stable connection so if I shuffled too much it’d come out in the recording as big old spikes of static.  I’m not even sure if it improved a great deal on the range of frequencies I had with the headset mic, but it was progress.

It took me some time to work out that my ears weren’t very discerning. I thought EQ-ing was just a case of boosting the last two ‘faders’ on my audio editing software and leaving it at that. Granted, that was probably a reasonably good option considering my lack of high frequencies… But I didn’t really understand the art of it. And then once I did, I found my tools to be frustratingly limited. Some evenings I would listen so hard to a mix, trying to work out how to reach my sonic ideal, but feeling as though I had become deaf to music and hearing only noise.

With that ‘deafness’ I felt the desire to grant myself the title ‘producer’ was far too lofty an ambition. I figured I just didn’t have ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ was. The Golden Ear, the genius of sonic craft. I would listen to mixes created by my ever so talented musician friends and felt like banging my head against my laptop keyboard. What was I doing wrong? I read up on production techniques online, and although I was then equipped to shave off tiny parts of the rock I was trying to sculpt, it really did feel like I was doing so with a butter knife rather than a hammer and chisel.

And then, equally as suddenly as my journey to that point had been gradual, my circumstances changed. My husband, lovely and supportive as he is, bought me a mixing desk for Christmas 2010 (not to mention a sustain pedal for my keyboard!). It meant I didn’t have to plug my mic into my poor laptop any more… and the sound was so much clearer than it had been, but I still felt frustrated.

I still needed one more thing: a new microphone. A good microphone. One designed to pick up the subtleties of the voice and the tiniest pattering of the fingers on the body of an acoustic guitar. I wanted my mixes to sound the way my ears hear. I wanted to capture the music of the natural and the ordinary in all its shimmering detail and guttural rumblings. There was just so much beauty in sound, but I had no means to chase it down and tame it.

But today? Today I have claimed my prize. Three prizes, to be precise. Household budget now factors in my terribly expensive career choice (hobby..? obsession..?). I got a new XLR lead (F to M this time, as opposed to ending in a jack), a shock mount, and to go with it the most beautiful piece of equipment I’ve probably ever owned: a condenser mic. One manufactured for the main purpose of recording vocals, acoustic instruments, and the overhead sounds of a drum kit (not that I think I’ll be using it for the last one…).

I tried it out this afternoon, just messing about with some guitar bits and humming a little, and it seemed to intuitively know which sounds I wanted it to pick up and which ones I’d rather it sweep under the recording rug. I still needed to fiddle with the EQ afterwards since I haven’t worked out the best positioning, but the response I got out of the recording when I did was incredible.

I’ve decided it must be alive, and it likes me. It is my pet mic-ie and I love it. I shall name it.

I’m calling it Patience.


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