Back in 2017, engineer/producer Vance Powell joined us for a special Q+A - courtesy of our pals at Universal Audio. For two weeks he answered GS forumites questions, covering general recording and production topics and specific questions about his work with Jack White, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Chris Stapleton, The Dead Weather, Tyler Bryant, and more. This article contains the contents of that Q+A at-a-glance, so put the coffee on, load up your UAD plugins and get your notepad handy!

[top]Have you found you are comfortable using plugins to substitute for hardware? - Szyam

Analog processing is better to get your hands dirty with.. turning knobs, correctly or more fun, incorrectly. But there are things that are hard to pull off Out Of The Box.

I am a fan of recording the way I want it, and then refining while mixing.. that stuff is usually in the box with plugins. So a healthy mix of both?

Hmm. most music is in some way analog, in at least it needs to be analog for you to hear it come out the speaker.. so let's get it right in the real world before burrowing into a virtual one.

[top]Do you like using any kind of eq in your mix bus? What is your favourite 2 track format? Tape (machine?), or digital (sample rate-converters?) - American

API 2500, and sometimes the SSL 6k Buss comp.. sometimes. I also have a Nitepro (Maag) EQ-3D on the output of my 2500.. in the insert loop.

I have a ATR 104 1/2" 2 Track. I use a UA 2192 as my 2 mix conversion and a Burl B2 DA for Playback. Thats it!

[top]Hi Vance, can you explain how your gain stage is between the output of the preamps, the A/D converter and Pro Tools. For example in the puremix tutorial your kick and snare are almost at 0dbfs but the other tracks are not that hot. What were you looking at in those tracks? - Torquemada

Well, I'm not afraid of pushing those tracks because the convertors have a sound at that level..the transformers get gooey and cool.. But I use the meters on my desk to set levels coming in.. so +4.. or -18dbfs? (if -18dbfs is +4).. I use PT like a tape machine.

[top]What's your favourite BBQ in Nashville!? I mean how do you manage your time on a daily schedule in the studio with or without the client and find the time for a beer and Ribs? - Laperlestudio

Martins for Ribs, and Jacks for brisket. It's tough.. but a man's (or woman's) got to eat, right?

[top]I absolutely adored "Another Way To Die", the James Bond movie theme for Quantum of Solace sung by Alicia Keys' Jack White. I thought it re-energised things quite a bit and still paid homage to earlier themes. Jack’s guitar sound right from the hop is epic - would love to know about the recording chain for that. In general, what’s it like to do a Bond theme? - Whitecat

That's a crazy one.. Jack called me one day at 3pm and asked if I could record something at Sputnik for him.. so at 5pm he came over with LJ (Jack Lawrence) and they started with this riff.. Then Jack played Piano and sang it with LJ playing along.. I hooked up my TR77 (Rhythm Arranger) so they would have a click of sorts and it made the record! We finished at 6am..

That demo went off and then a few weeks later he called and we asked if I could start the next day. It's a long story why, too long..

So the went into Blackbird where I transferred the Demo (Pro Tools) to 16 track tape at 30ips, (Sputnik didn't have a working machine on short notice at the time) and we started by adding some chorus parts which required me going and getting the TR77 and striping a few minutes of tape with that beat (at not quite the same tempo, although we marked it..) and Jack and LJ played to that. I cut them into the master take of the demo and we started editing and overdubbing. There are hundreds of edits (the beginning is edited about every 2 bars..) the middle part was an edit, the end has 10-15 edits.. it was quite a spectacle passing over the heads..

Once we got the arrangement done, Jack played drums over it. Then he flew out to do a session in NY with some guy named Keith. When he got back the next day we had edited the drum track a bit and had made a Slave reel.

First thing we did (on the slave reel) was add the piano, Jack's assistant Laura Matula played the piano part and if you listen closely at the very end she hits a wrong note(which we fixed) and yells "aaahhh!" We left that in..

Then it was more guitar and the chorus double drums.

Oh, and then Alicia keys showed up.. it was not a firm deal until about noon as she had an evening personal appearance at 10pm so Jack flew her private and when she came in she was thinking at she would just sing the chorus with Jack as she loved his take.. but they wanted a female singer (another long story..) so Jack said "Lets do it together.." and the only Bond duet was made. Just like that.

She was awesome, friendly and so good. Wow. She was done in an hour or so and out to NY..

Then we had strings come in, 2 Violins and a Cello.. One of the Violins had a 5 string violin that did the Viola parts and then we stacked them a few times.. but with only 15 tracks we had to bounce back and forth with passes.. ( I mixed them to one track at a time) so take 1 would become take 1+2.. Then 3 would become 3+4, then 1-2 and 3-4 would become 1 again. And the whole process would repeat till we had 4 tracks.. 16 passes. Then we went home.

The next morning we had the Memphis horns at 10, they were finished by 12:30 and we had a Double bass player come in.. we blew his mind by varispeed-ing the tape up a step or 2 so that he could play a lower note than his bass was able to play. You can hear it in the very end orchestral part. Gooey bass part I called it..

Then we added the cool tremolo Tele part in the Chorus's and got set up to mix.

The signature guitar sound of the intro was an accident, and on purpose...

Jack wanted to hook up two whammy pedals to get a two octave spread on that guitar, I offered the H3000.. I set it up +12(L) and -12(R) for pitch and sent the Guitar track to it almost wide open on the send... that's when the accident happened.. it was set up with tons of gain so I totally over-drove the front end.. and that glorious sound that you hear came out. I never touched it again! There's more.. but I've gotta jet..

[top]Do you import tracks into a template session and already know that you are going to try XYZ compressor and XYZ EQ on the bass first? Etc...What are some of your current favorite compressors, EQs and effects to use when mixing a record that you didn't record? - GearGuy

SSL 6000E Series Console

I don't do anything really different.. First of all I mix on my SSL, so it's kinda set up the way I want it.. I have things all pre-patched so it's easy to try things.. Almost all the eq will be added on the desk, but sometimes I want a certain thing and I'll use a UAD 1073, or the MDW EQ or the Fabfilter EQ...Just depends on what I need. Here's my setup: I have a 48 input desk, but I mix in 1-32 only and leave the last 16 channels (33-48) for FX returns and the Parallel's (In the 33-48 small fader returns).

L=(large fader)
  • 33 L Black Fulltone Tube Tape Echo fed from AUX 1
  • 34 L White Fulltone Tube Tape Echo fed from AUX 1
  • 35 L PCM 80 L Fed from the Stereo Cue L
  • 36 L PCM 80 R Fed from the Stereo Cue R
  • 37 L Echo Plate Right Fed from AUX 2 thru Roland SDE 1000 Delay (pre delay)
  • 38 L Echo Plate Left Fed from AUX 2 thru Roland SDE 1000 Delay (pre delay)
  • 39 L Fulltone Solid State Tape Echo 1 Fed From BUSS 15
  • 40 L Fulltone Solid State Tape Echo 2 Fed From BUSS 16
  • 41 L Pedal Loop 1 Fed from AUX 4
  • 42 L Pedal Loop 2 Fed from AUX 4
  • 43 L DN780 Left Fed from AUX 3
  • 44 L DN780 Right Fed from AUX 3
  • 45 L RAT>DM100 Fed from BUSS 23
  • 46 L Grampian 666 Fed from BUSS 20
  • 47 L EMI/Chandler TG-1 Left Fed from BUSS 27
  • 48 L EMI/Chandler TG-1 Left Fed from BUSS 28
S=(small fader)
  • 33 S (Small Fader) Aphex Exciter Fed from BUSS 32
  • 34 S DBX 500 Sub Synth fed from Buss 11
  • 35 S Culture Vulture L Fed From BUSS 29
  • 36 S Culture Vulture R Fed From BUSS 30
  • 37 S Retro Sta-Level Fed from BUSS 13
  • 38 S ACME OPTICON Fed from BUSS 12
  • 39 S TRANSIENT DESIGNER 1 Fed From Buss 9
  • 40 S TRANSIENT DESIGNER 2 Fed From Buss 10
  • 41 S 33609 L Drum Parallel Fed from BUSS 1
  • 42 S 33609 R Drum Parallel Fed from BUSS 2
  • 43 S Fatso L Drum Crush Parallel Fed from BUSS 3
  • 44 S Fatso R Drum Crush Parallel Fed from BUSS 4
  • 45 S 33609 Band L Parallel fed from BUSS 5
  • 46 S 33609 Band R Parallel fed from BUSS 6
  • 47 S GML 8900 Vocal L Parallel Fed from BUSS 7
  • 48 S GML 8900 Vocal R Parallel Fed from BUSS 8
Then there is 4 Stereo FX Returns,
  • 1 Nothing currently.. (noisey maybe..)
  • 2 Eventide H3000 Fed from BUSS 17-18
  • 3 Bedini B.A.S.E. Fed from BUSS 21-22
  • 4 PMC 90 Fed from BUSS 23-24 (i think...)
I only have 5 inserts on the desk all the time.. Things come and go but these stay..
  • 3-KICK (Insert) Distressor>API 550B
  • 4-SNARE (Insert) Distressor>API 550B
  • 15-16 (Insert) Manley VariMu (Piano-B3 Keys...)
  • 32 (Insert) Vocal Chandler RS124>Pultec EQP1A
And there's more...But you get the idea. (;-)>

[top]You mentioned in another thread that you have the Neotek in your B room. What console (if any) are you using in the A room? - Joao B

I have a SSL 6048 E in my main room (A). I just wrote a long answer* tonight about the setup.. go hunting for it!!

*Editor's note: see answer above

[top]How does a Nashville guy known for aggressive indie rock, end up having Beyonce on his Discography? I actually thought you were trying to punk by putting that on your list. - Drumsound

A song I cut with Jack White for a movie soundtrack 5 years ago gets chopped up and pitched to Queen Bey.. history... (;-)>

[top]I'd love to hear your favorite gear/techniques for capturing the singing, acoustic guitar player. - Americanbison

There's a pretty good description of my ACO/VOC mic setup for Chris Stapleton (lower down on this page) He's a perfect client as he sings and plays at exactly the right level to make this work.. Sometimes it's a bit tougher, but this or something close would be where I would start.

[top]Do you use any specific plugin or hardware metering (other than your console) to deliver your songs at any certain loudness scale for particular genres? Do you use any RMS targets for any particular genres? Additionally, do you pre-master refs when you send out your initial mixes to your clients? Thanks! - Schuerman

I work in a very "analog" way, ie I mix where the meters average 0 dbu. I say between the 3's.. (-3 to +3vu)

That said, I use an L2 (or PSP Vintagewarmer) very lightly (-7, .01) to elevate mixes for artists/labels as refs. But I print "Heated"(L2) and normal (Masters) simultaneously. But no other changes for a genre..

[top]I've heard you talk a bit before about microphones and outboard gear that is inherently hot, meaning little to no gain is needed before going to tape/DAW/wire recorder/etc. What are some of your favorites in this department? - AntillesSound

Neumann U47 Condenser Microphone

U47 on Kick, no need for a pre.. U67 on GTR Amps, no need for a pre.. It's just a thing that you can get away with on the old vintage Mic's ..

[top]Hi Vance, you are known for using guitar pedals while mixing, be it distortion or delays etc.. What is your thought process for impedance matching? How do you send and return those fx, line lvl or instrument lvl? Do you use reamp boxes for that purpose? - Zzzyxa

I use three things, 2 Radial XTC's in a two space API rack(for pedals), A TK Audio Transceiver (a 4 in 4 out 1 space rack, really nice for pedals and my 2 Fulltone SSE's) and a Little Lab's PCP driving my 2 Fulltone TTE's and my DM100.. which returns thru a complicated arrangement of ART Tube MP's and Drawmer Gates and Ampex Meters.

I have a 1/4" patch bay above the Transceiver so I can patch all my weird stuff (Sansui Reverb, Univox Leslie Sim, Hawk Spring and Open Reel tape delay..etc..)
Tons of fun!

[top]Out of the Radial XTC and TK Transceiver, which do you prefer and why? - REGGAE

The TK has a lot going for it, as does the Radial.. the big difference is that one is a 500 slot piece with a blend knob.. and single input/output.. while the Transceiver has no blend and it's 4 I/O in one box.

I'll leave it at that, but I use both all the time.. for different jobs, sorta..

[top]What would you say are your strengths as both producer and mixer and what helped you to develop those? Would you say it is more important to work on your strengths or weaknesses? - JulianFernandez

Well first thing is I'm a terrible player of any instrument. That's a weakness.

I'm a lover of how "sounds" can bring someone "into" a record.. that's a strength.

As for the rest of it, I just let my instincts guide me.. sometimes I'm wrong, but.. most times I've been right-ish.

I'm also a great BS'er.. so when in doubt I figure it out.. Even if I don't know what I'm doing.

[top]I really love the tone of Alison Mosshart's vocals on the Dead Weather records, loads of character, sultry and raw. I was wondering if you remember the chains and techniques used on her vocals during the recording and mixing phases ? (and what about those crazy harmonizer vocals on Blue Blood Blues ?) - lioonel_dg

Alison is by far one of my favorites.. the "dead weather" vocal sound came about because I brought my Ampex H-1390 (as a "scratch vocal sound.. ha!)and plugged it into Jack's Deluxe Reverb mic'ed with a 57, into a 1073, add liberal amounts of 1176 and record.. She is in the room with the band so all that bleed is part of her sound..

Blue Blood Blues is about 12 vocal takes, track bounced back and forth between tracks 1 and 8 on Jacks 8 track.. no harmonizer, but possibly a bit of varispeed.. it's a little foggy now..

[top]What is your favorite converter/interface for mixing/mastering? - Thundercastle

BURL. I have a 24x32 Mother ship and a B2 D-A for playback. Best investment ever. Ever!

I also still use my UA 2192 (I have 3, just in case..) for 2 mix printing. It's just different enough from the BURL...But I still print through the Mothership quite often...

BURL B2 Digital-To-Analog Converter

[top]I was wondering how you keep yourself fresh when mixing music when you've heard the tracks countless times during producing and/or recording them? - justjoo

Strangely, I'm in the midst of that at the moment.. I produced a record that I think I can't mix.. too inside it.. so it's on pause for now.. luckily the artist is in no hurry..

If I record it, I record to the mix, ie I put all the faders at 0 and never move them either on my desk or in PT's. That way I'm always moving in the right direction, towards mix day.

But, I've zero'd a mix more times than I care to admit. It's just a part of the process. A good walk around the cemetery out back helps sometimes. A serious perspective adjuster.. if you get my drift. (;-)>

[top]Hello Vance, could you share about your relationship/friendship with Mitch Dane and Sputnik? What have friendships and communities like that meant to you and your work over your career? - Plunderpot

Well first of all, I would be so screwed without Mitch Dane.. he's been the best friend a guy could have and the best business partner ever.. I doubt he would say the same for me! (I'm a pain in the ass..) He has floated me rent, loaned me gear, put up with my loud ass tracking dates and he still puts up with me!

Mitch is a great Producer and he does great work.. I'm so happy to be in the same building with him every day.

The Nashville recording community is the best in the world I think.. we all work together and really I feel no pressure from competition or ego's or anything..

But don't move here, it's getting crowded...

[top]With so many people going all ITB mixing, do you think you'll ever be one of them? Oh, and I'll help you move your console over to my place for storage if you ever decide to do that... - Quint

Well, I mixed in the box for years.. but I just felt so disconnected from the music.. so when I got the chance to get a desk again (my Neotek) it was the best decision ever for me..

Now, do I get screwed sometimes by recalls? Of course. Just did. And it's because "everyone just mixes in the box, don't you" thinking by artists, producers and record wanks. I need it now, and I want it now.

This is the only artistic endeavor where people decide what tools the artist uses based on $$.

No one tells the guitar player to play a Squire because it would be better for the budget.. right?

SO maybe I'll go back someday.. maybe no one will come to me for mixes because I'm a Luddite and just won't get with the march of progress.. Ok, time to get a gig at Walmart as a greeter... And I do believe I can drop fries still..

Now, if someone came up with a real controller that connected to PT (or something else) and it looked, worked and sounded like an analog console, maybe (Harrison Series 12.. Euphonix Series 5..)

And I don't consider the Raven a console.. (But Steven does have good taste when it comes to grooming products and Bacon...)

[top]I was wondering what is your balance between being inspired by the band to do something great and unique and how much you inspire the band to go all the way with your knowledge. - Laperlestudio

Well, in a perfect world we inspire each other.. artist and engineer.. But sometimes something will move me in some way, and I'll try and remember it later.. maybe it's reverb, or a killer drum fill.. or a.. insert thing here...

I'm not someone that listens to a lot of current music, but I have been inspired recently by a couple artists and the production of their records.

Lianna LaHavas "Blood" and the new LCD Soundsystem "American Dream".

I love the sound of both of these records.. The songs and performance are of course amazing. Check out the track on the Lianna record "Never Be Enough" I love the hard left turn.. Also, "Tokyo" is my check out the speakers jam. And the kick ass Talking Heads-ish "change yr mind" on American Dream. fcuk yea..

[top]I constantly find myself fighting musicians to keep things simpler, less track and stripped back. Do you have any advice on navigating that sort of thing? - andersmv

Well, this is a tough one. You need to be on the same team with the artist. That's a tough one because they all have fragile egos. Mostly.

It's probably an earlier rather than later conversation.

If you try and make the recording sound as big as possible first, then it's easy. But if they want to put a bunch of stuff on it, let them, then show them how much better it is without it.. make a mix with just the most basic elements, then slowly add parts until it's too much.. Like salt in soup...

Hopefully the artist sees the light. If not, well… suck it up and do what they want because it's their record not yours.

[top]You've mentioned the Empirical Labs Fatso - can you share what you think it does well, what you hear/want to hear that makes you reach for that piece? I've long been interested but haven't been able to give it a whirl. - Plunderpot

UAD Empirical Labs Fatso Plug-In
I use it for an acoustic gtr comp all the time.. I use it in my parallel buss for kit and I use it on every lead vocal I mix.. it would be a piece I would have a hard time doing without.. And the UA version is fantastic!

[top]I'm very curious about the vocal reverb/ambience on Chris Stapleton' 'Tennessee whiskey'. If you could describe how it was created that would be amazing. The depth and space it creates is just gorgeous. Nice work! - c0rtland

Thanks! I think that is the EMT 140 at Blackbird being driven by my Fulltone Tube Tape Echo.. And a fair bit of Room sound from RCA A.

[top]I was curious if you have any particular philosophy or approach you use, or even a unique story you could share on how you go about getting inspired takes from a performer? - RaygunRS

I do everything I can to try and make them feel safe and comfortable. Safe enough to fail, and comfortable enough to reach deep and succeed. Sounds like corporate BS, but it's the most important thing..

Richard Dodd told me a good trick once.. make sure you always set the lead vocalist' mic a bit too low.. that way you have to come out and raise it up to them.. makes them feel "bigger" that you thought they were shorter..

And, never stop tape (PT..) while a female (or male in fact) vocalist is singing, as in mid sentence. No one likes to hear themselves suddenly out in space...

[top]You used to have a Neotek Elan, what made you switch as I’ve considered both, amongst others for my new mix room. - Wiggy Neve Slut

I still have my Elan' 2.. it's in my B room.. I love it. Just not quite big enough for some of the mixes coming my way and a real bitch to recall...

[top]Is there any chance you could share any further information you can recall about the mixing of Consolers of the Lonely? It's one of my favourite albums and apart from the other threads that you've appeared in over the years where you talk specifically about that album there isn't too much information out there about it. - wineredno1

Studer 827 Tape Machine

So, where to start here..I guess a few technical things...

The record was recorded (masterfully) by Joe Chiccarelli on 2 locked Studer 827 16 tracks at 30 ips, no noise reduction.

He used RMGI 900 tape which sounded great but had some serious issues later in the process..

I transferred each song (locked to tape) into PT's to facilitate mixing faster as waiting for the machines to lock up was not the most efficient way of working. We transferred locked so that we could easily stitch back to the tape to see what it sounded like and the Flying Fader automation was still valid.

Tape was always better. Always.

Blackbird has Elco Patch's for the tape machine connection to the desk so it was easy to move them around to transfer. After we transferred we would hook the PT out to the Tape machine inputs and then mix thru the machine on input.

It's a long story about how I got involved but I'll leave that story till after the statute of limitations elapses and the bodies are good and cold.

I walked in a day early to finish horns (The Memphis Horns) on "The Switch and the Spur". We got the first half done (they had been there all day and were tired!), then finished in the morning.

First song I mixed was "Consoler's". I started at about 2pm and finished an approved mix by 9pm with some dinner in the middle. From there it became a two song a day whirlwind until I had all 15 songs done. It took 14 days total to do all the mixes and recalls. Two songs were left off to be included in a Vault package later..
more later...

[top]Do you have any suggestions for getting kick, snare, overhead all in phase with one another? I can usually get kick and overhead, or kick and snare, but I find getting the three to play nicely much more tricky. - bwb011

Phase buttons and mic placement are the key. Drums will never, ever, be in perfect phase (and don't ever use something to do that.. bad idea) because they are so far apart. But that's what makes a great Drum sound, the space between them.

What's the loudest drum in the arrangement? Is it the Kick? Ok, try and get everything to be as close to in phase with that.. It's normally the snare, so I try and get things to make sense with the snare more often than not..

Overheads(OHDS) almost always out of phase. Floor and Rack, sometimes. Sometimes the kick is better flipped to be in phase with the bottom snare which makes the OHDS out of phase sometimes.. just start small, KICK/SNARE/OHDS and make that sound good, then the toms and then the room mics. I start my drum sounds with the OHDS.. Then Kick, Then Snare..

Shameless self-promotion here but in my Puremix Tutorials I go over this in real time.. They actually made me sound smart.. (I still look a bit the dufus..)

[top]Are you still able to listen to music and just enjoy it, anytime or are you always thinking like "why do they record the drums like this ?" - EBMusic

Good question. Yes, and no. I've become very selective about what NEW music I listen to. I never read mags or whatnot to find what I should be listening to, but I hear things from my friends and peers about so and so and then I'll listen.

I never check other people's work. Ever. I try to just enjoy the music as it is without criticism.

Notice I said try? Sometimes it's hard to do that. That said,I never reference other peoples work while mixing.. that's a hole I am not wanting to go down... even if the client wants me to do it, I defer as long as I can.

After work, I listen to NPR. Weekends I've got a couple favorite streams we will put on in the house (Sonos) and if something comes up that catches my ear I'll look it up.
I love the new LCD Soundsystem record. BTW.

[top]At Sputnik Sound I was wondering if the wooden fence surrounding the live room was for acoustic treatment or just for aesthetics / vibe. Also, would you mind sharing the overall dimensions of the live room? - Scorpiwoman

It's a combination of both.. The "fence" is from a 100+ year old barn from Kentucky.. I wanted the room to have an old Nashville and Memphis feel, therefore the fence and the punched out acoustic tiles..

There are some ideas behind the fence as it's a labyrinth behind the fence.. there is about 2 1/2' inches of space there and you can see that there are spaces between the fence slats.. I wanted sound to go in and then "slow down" before coming back out.. Diffusion, basically. The room is 23' by 19" by 16.5 High at the apex of the Vault.. but it's quite a bit more complicated than that, as there is a loft, and doors on the ceiling and windows (facade) up high..

[top]Just wondering how you approach recording the bass. Are you a di guy? Mic’d amp? Combination? And what’s your favorite chain/processing. Thanks so much! - nick8801

RCA 44 Ribbon Microphone

Always a DI (Acme Wolf Box or Rupert Neve DI) and an amp.. either my Ampeg B15 or Fender Bassman into a RCA 44 about a foot away.. Retro StaLevel on the DI. And that's it.. For Pre's I would probably use my Skibbe Flickengers or CAPI VP26's. NO processing on the DI.. any Fuzz/Flange etc. only on the amp..

[top]I was greatly inspired by your UA session and loved to hear you speak in the clip about mic leakage as a natural thing in band recordings. What are the main challenges, engineering wise, setting up the recording this way (amp levels, room sound, vox monitoring, and so on)? - mr jkn


I'm an old FOH guy, so I always see the band as if they are on stage.. Never drummer's perspective, guitar hard left and hard right, if there is a piano and a b3 one more to the left one more to the right.. etc..I'm kinda a L/C/R guy 99% of the time.

I steal the Glynn Johns setup where I put everyone in a line with the kick drum, and then we just tweak amp levels so that the room feels right, a good amount of music in with the drums...

Vocal monitoring is the tricky one, I've put a small powered speaker in front of the singer to just get a little back in their face.. I've used floor monitors (usually they are too loud.. inverse square law and stuff..) but I'm not a big fan of that.. and I've put the singer in the CR with me.

And sometimes everyone uses headphones and well, normal day at the office.

[top]Before I knew your name, I was blown away with the drums on The Deadweather's Horehound album. In particular the kick and snare. The sound is huge and present from ear buds to subwoofers. I'd love to hear your recollections of recording that record and your thoughts on mixing drums and more specifically, Getting a deep low kick that translates well on most playback systems. - Beatsnblunts

Well, it starts with Jack white and how he plays, and his weird drum kit..
  • 26x 16"" Bass drum, solid head no hole
  • 16"x6" Snare
  • 14"x14" Marching Snare
  • 16"x6" Rack Tom
3 Floor toms
  • 14"x14"
  • 16"x14"
  • 16"x16"
7 Mics
  • D12 Kick (track 2)
  • 2x57 Snare(top/Bottom) (track 3)
  • Coles 4033 Out Front to the left looking from the kit.. think in front of the Rack/Snare/Kick about 2 feet out. (track 3)
  • Coles 4033 peeking over the Floor toms.(track 3)
  • AEA R88 Over head summed to mono.(track 3)
2" 8 track at 7.5ips.
  • NEVE 8014 Desk
  • 1176 on the output of buss 2 to tape.
  • Modded Neve 2254 on the output go buss 3 to tape.
As for mixing that, it was pretty easy.. it was kinda mixed as I recorded it. thanks!

[top]What methods did you use for Blunderbuss? Jack White is known for his love of vintage methods of songwriting/producing. As a third party, how did you know what was needed? - Vintagetones

Well, as an engineer you go into a record kinda knowing what the artist is thinking he wants, but with Jack on Blunderbuss we had been working together for years at that point so I was pretty ready for the thing..

2" 8track at 7.5ips.
NEVE 8014 desk
Great players, all live.
No ProTools.

[top]I'm working on getting better at recording a vocal with more (or, better selection of) processing on the way in to make the artist and mix feel better during recording. What is your typical method to get the vocal sounds you use during tracking? What effects do you tend to have on a vocal to get the artist to perform their best? I realize this is very general, but any insight into your workflow would be incredible! - Garnettstudios

I'm still trying to get the foolproof vocal sound!

This is a tough one.. because sometimes I'll set up an amp in the room with the singer so that they get a bit of an overdriven "push" in the room with them, sometimes I've tracked vocals in the control room with the bigs on tons of delay and verb on the vocals so that when I stop tape it will start feeding back.. makes for a powerful vocal take, that's full of noise.. sometimes that's good!

With Stapleton, he sings every take live, so he's out there with the bass and his guitar. Drums are behind a door in a booth right next to him.. With JackWhite, sometimes I would put all the fx on top of a gobo in front of him and let him manipulate them in real time (Cut's Like a Buffalo). We should have no rules, just do whatever works. And be prepared to fail.. it's ok.

[top]If you have the band in one room and you're tracking without Headphones, how do you make sure that everyone can hear the vocalist? Seems like running the vocals through monitors into the live room would create bleed that's impossible to work with come mix time. - katbox

It's a volume thing.. things don't have to be loud to sound loud.. So I would use the pattern of the mic to get the rejection I needed and then move things around until it sounded right.. I just did a video thing with Bradi Carlile, (she's awesome!) and we just put a small amount of her in a floor wedge, but she didn't need it, but the band did..

Couldn't really hear it in any of the tracks.

[top]If you were thrown into an empty church and tasked to make a record, what are the recording and mixing tools that you would absolutely require to make a recording of the highest caliber? - Limbs

A functioning console (any) and a way to record.. Tape/PT/Whatever.. and my ProAc Studio 100's. A few good and a few not so good mics.
  • FET 47
  • 5-10 SM57's
  • A SM58 or 3
  • Coles 4033 or 2
  • My black 77Dx
  • Ampex 1101
  • Copperphone
  • D12
Strangely, I'm kinda doing this in Dec...

Shure SM57 Dynamic Microphone

[top]Do you have "go to" uses for each of these mics, or are they just the ones you reach for most often? - bwb01

  • Fet-Kick
  • 57's everything else..
  • 77 vocals
  • 58' vocals (and an ok kick mic if there is nothing else)
  • D12 bass
and a few good DI's..

And of course Stands/Cables and some sort of monitoring for the band..

[top]I really like the video you did that showed you mixing Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown. I was wondering how you use distortion? - Rockinrob

Distortion bass is tricky.. I ALWAYS use a clean DI signal without The Fuzz, then send The Fuzz to the bass amp (B15 or Fender Bassman). I then make sure the Bass amp sound is thick and beefy before we record.

UAD Little Labs IBP is the savior for that after we record as the amp will always be a bit behind and maybe in phase.. use the time adjust and the phase flip and phase adjust to get it as big as possible. And then, and only then add eq.

And then there's the DBX 500 "Disco" Boom Box subharmonic synth.. I use it when tracking, sometimes.. and I ALWAYS use it when mixing.

[top]Question 1: I noticed at mix time you didn't use much eq. High passed the BGVs and a few tweaks here and there. Did you eq on the way in? Or was it more about mic placement?

Question 2: The kick drum sound on that. I remember you used an external muffler. Could you talk about how you set that up ( with song tempo if I remember correctly). Also what mics, placement, and processing was used. I love the sound you got on that. - Robby in WA

I try to go for the sound of the mix while recording.. so if it needs eq, it gets it.. Compression, gating reverb, delay etc.. I make a point to try to never move the faders, either in PT's or on my desk while recording.. that way the mix is pretty easy to recreate! Set at 0db and mix..

The kick is an old 47 Leedy with a calfskin-like head on the front, so I dampened it with a Temperpedic (Sp?) pillow resting on end against the front head.. This makes a cool sound because when the drummer hit the drums it comes off the head, then falls back on it.. if you mess with the angle you can change the timing.. making the drum longer or shorter..

[top]When you’re not using outboard gear for that, which UAD plugins are your favorites for shaping and creating that colored, gritty sound and vibe that is part of your signature? - DrSax

I'm a huge huge fan of the '55 Fender plugin.. it's so so good.. But, the Black 1176 and the 1073 (Legacy) are the plugs that get the most use from me.. they just work and sound right every time.

That said, what do I really dig..
  • Ottobiscuit
  • Cooper Time Cube
  • Oceanway
  • Summit TLA100
  • LA2 (old grey one)
  • H910
Some non UAD plugs
  • Valhalla DSP-All of them
  • HD-CART (new, 480 emulation)
  • PhoenixVerb
  • Lo-Fi
  • All the Soundtoys..
I could go on and on..

[top]Do you often print UAD plugins on tracks when you record artists, or do you prefer to use plugins only when you mix? - Kangasm

No, never. Only in mix. Latency is too weird. I'll make the sound I want with my outboard.

[top]Do you have go-to’s in the UAD world? - Mischultz

UAD Neve 1073 Legacy Plug-In

UAD Legacy 1073 10k. Perfect on everything and small on DSP.

[top]Do you find yourself using the 55 Fender on any other sources aside from guitars? Be interesting to have any insight you have - Fredouli

I rarely use it FOR guitar! Bass, B3, Vocals Wurly... Drums!

[top]I can't help but admire Chris Stapleton's talent. What a killer voice. I was wondering specifically about the song "Either Way". It's such a minimalist track that showcases the vocals so well. What was your approach to recording this? Can you share anything about the setup, the chain, and what working with Chris in general is like? - Bambamboom

Well, that's a basic "one mic" recording that was 4 mics! I use 2 for Chris's vocal (a Coles 4038 and a U47) and then a stereo Aco Gtr setup with a RCA 77 near the bridge and a Gefel 582 near the neck at 90's to each other. The Coles and 47 are locked together and the Aco mic's are directly under them making a (close) equilateral triangle.. the legs of the triangle are exactly the same length i.e. the distance from the 77 to the Gefel is the same as the 4038/47 are from the 77...

Now, my goal on that song was to just use the 47, as we had done on "Whiskey and you" from Traveller.. but, he sang it so dynamically that it was impossible.. very quiet in the verses and loud loud loud in the chorus's, so it took all 4 to do it.

Here's the chain's.
  • U47 > 1073 > Fairchild 660
  • 4038 > 1073 > Chandler RS124
  • 77 > UA610 > FATSO LEFT SIDE
  • 582 > UA610 > FATSO RIGHT SIDE
There is a AEA R88 in the room, but I ended up not using it.


[top]May I ask about your Apollo Session for the Universal Audio video series:
1) Was there anything Except the Apollo(s) used for this session, external mic preamps, Eq's, Comps, etc??

2) Was the video done after the recording ?? as i see some Headphones hanging on a music stand and no in-ears or wedges.

3) Monitoring & Monitoring Control .. was the Physical Console used in the recording for HeadPhone mixes, or for running Apollo(s) back through for either Mixing or using the Physical Console for it's Volume Knob ??? and i see you using the Talkback but hard to tell what else was being used.j - wh1192

Universal Audio Apollo 8P Audio Interface

1) No, I only used the APOLLO 8P preamps.

2) It is the take, we decided to use no Headphones..

3) We used one of the 9k external returns to monitor and the 9k master volume pot only. The talkback you heard was the studio talkback as we used no Headphones!

Couple other things.. This session was very different from most of the UA sessions for a few reasons..
  • 1. It was presented during Music Expo San Francisco and from setup to finished recording we only had 1.5 hours to track the song.
  • 2. It was a partnership with Mojave and Royer Microphones so their mic's were all we used (except for one I brought.. special sauce).
  • 3. We did 3 takes, the track is a comp of mostly take 3 with 2 small edits of take 1 and then the very last 4 bars from a couple of takes of just the tag.
  • 4. I did a couple passes of the strings in one section to try and make it a bit bigger. Eh, sorta worked..
  • 5. There were about 30-40 people in the tracking room and control room..
  • 6. The original plan was to do this tracking session, then move the control room into the tracking room and mix it in front of the live audience. Well, that went wrong badly. When we booted the computer to start mixing, somehow the drive was corrupted and we lost the session. UA got it back after getting it to their shop and doing whatever they did to it.
  • 7. I spent the next hour completely BS-ing with the Audience.. kinda fun..
  • 8. I then mixed it in the box at my studio in Nashville.

[top]One thing that I really think sets your mixes apart for me is the drums. They have the impact and presence of being behind the kit, but they serve as an anchor for the huge front to back depth of your mixes. Can you share some of your thoughts on drums and depth of field? - The Oh

Well, thanks for the kind words....

I'm weird when it comes to drums as I want it to sound like the drums are in front of me, not me behind them.. I never ever use drummer's perspective... (if the drummer is left handed I pan the drums as if I am looking at them.. floor on the right hat on the left.. that really ****s me up..)

Also I love the room.. I try to make the room as much a part of the sound as possible. And I love echo.. short analog delays and distortion boxes on certain parts of the kit always make me happy.. I want it to feel more complicated than it was played, somehow..?


[top]Hey Vance! Really dig how you treat Vocals, especially your work with Tyler Bryant. How do you decide on delay times and mono/stereo for the effect? - hw2nw

I wish I had a good, clinical answer for you.. but.. I just move the slider on the Fulltone TTEs until it sounds right to me.. I'm not a tap tempo kinda guy (except for certain things that HAVE to be on tempo) but it's more of a feel.. like it has to make you want to really hear the vocal.

As for stereo.. always.. Sometimes hard pan, sometimes 3 and 9 o'clock.. If there is space in the middle and I want it more focused, then closer.. if I want it to be wide then hard pan and then a wide box... Gut feelings..

[top]What's your experience with self-engineered artists/bands? - americanbison

Well, some of it is good, and most of it is bad. If the band is good, bad gear can't hide it.. A competent mixer can make it work. But ****ty is still ****ty no matter what it sounds like.

I had 3 experiences in the last year or so where a band recorded themselves and thought it was the greatest recording known to man.. two of the records sucked and one was passable because they were so talented.. but they still made stupid decisions because they didn't think going to a "real" studio would help them.

The gear never makes the record.. The musicians do.