The Blacktop Symphony

The Blacktop Symphony - Birdview Sessions - White Noise Studio
The Blacktop Symphony - Birdview Sessions - White Noise Studio

The BlackTop Symphony returned to the White Noise Studio as a trio. We recorded 4 tracks, with video A blog about the process of recording and the mixing.

The Blacktop Symphony - Birdsview Sessions

Website: http://theblacktopsymphony.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Theblacktopsymphony/

by Marlon Wolterink

The Blacktop Symphony returned to the White Noise Studio to record 4 tracks with video.
The biggest change since last time they visited  is they are now a trio and Frank switched from Hammond  to guitar. The band is now Arjan Paijers on drums, Frank Baks on guitar and Marjo Berentzen on Hammond Organ.

We set out to record everything as if was a White Noise Session, with the exception that we allowed ourselves multiple takes per song.
Since video was also part of the recording session we made sure the angles we got on video looked good.
Everything was played and recorded live, with some overdubs to be added later.  We came up with some great vocal doubling parts.

Check out all the videos on this page which will let you hear what I describe in this blog.

The Blacktop Symphony Microphone Setup:

We kept everything pretty simple. Drums were recorded with close mics on the top heads and 2 overheads. We swapped out the sennheiser e602 for a sm58 on the bassdrum. That's right, just a simple sm58. That gave a much more oldskool vibe and an open sound to the bassdrum. I must note that the sm58 we used has the transformer removed which opens up the sound a lot. the removal of the transformer reduces the output volume of the mic. But with recording a bassdrum, that's no problem at all.

Frank's guitaramp was recorded with the sennheiser md409. A great, broad, sounding microphone.
The organ played through a Leslie rotating speaker amplifier. After some experimenting we ended up recording the Leslie with 4 mics. 2 microphones for the top horn en 2 for the bottom horn. This was done to capture that trademark rotating Leslie sound.

All three bandmembers got a vocal microphone.
Frank and Marjo did the bulk of the lead and backing vocals vocals and Arjan did backingvocals.

The Birdview Sessions Mix:

The vibe we were after was an oldskool 70s vibe. For drums we definitely listened to Led Zeppelin for a roomy drumsound. A big and open sound, but not necesseray thick.

We can name the Leppelin song "When the Levee Breaks" as an inspiration for the drumsound. It has a typical delay on the drums, which we used to add vibe. Some tracks it's less mixed in and on soem a bit more.

For modern sounds, often the 350-450Hz range in the drums is geting reduces, but not here.

The band preferred a reverby sound on the guitars, so we went with that. It definitely added to a large sound for this session!

The mix was done to match what you see on the video.
So nothing fancy is going on with panning and adding effect. Pretty much one sound for all songs, with slight changes according to the song.

The organ was layed out the most stereo of the entire mix.
So for the stereo image it's like this:
the organ is widest of the direct microphones, about 60 degrees to the left and right.
Drums are a tad smaller and the guitar is a bit on the left.
The delay and reverb on the guitar are fully wide, 90 degrees in both directions. The vocals are in the middle.

This gives a great stereo image which corresponds with the video image.

The Blacktop Symphony Birdview Sessions Video:

A few words about the video. We used a video recording setup which we also use with the White Noise Sessions. 3 small compact camera's in steadyshot which are edited afterwards in Adobe Premiere Pro.
The small form factor cameras don't distract the band too much from playing naturally and can be put easily in the right place.
For the look of the video, we went for a more oldskool look, a bit VHS tape like quality.
We didn't do a seventies type of video, the video vibe has to match the footage.

All in all a very fun recording session! The band will perform live more often in the coming months, go check them out!