RECORD­ING TECH­NIQUES WITH FRASER MONT­GOMERY

FILL­ING OUT VO­CALS CAN BE TRICKY, BUT FRASER MONT­GOMERY HAS A FEW TRICKS TO PLUG EV­ERY INCH OF YOUR MIX. WORDS BY PETER ZALUZNY.

Australian Guitar - - Producer Profile -

Whether it’s a ten‑piece out­fit or a singer‑song­writer with noth­ing but their voice and an acous­tic, Fraser Mont­gomery can make any track sound full‑bod­ied and beau­ti­fully bal­anced. In fact, he’s got a par­tic­u­larly good ear for get­ting vo­cal tracks in just the right place, then build­ing them into ev­ery un­oc­cu­pied cor­ner of the mix. That, and he knows how to build a track, reach that ex­plo­sive peak and in­ject the per­fect at­tack when it’s time for an in­stru­ment to punch in. In other words, if you take a visit to Aviary Stu­dios in Mel­bourne, Mont­gomery can turn your takes into state­ments. One thing that char­ac­terises your work is a con­sis­tent, full-bod­ied sound, par­tic­u­larly in the vo­cals. How do you bring that across af­ter the artist nails their per­for­mance?

Mi­cro­phone choice, and how the singer uses it – such as us­ing prox­im­ity ef­fects – has a huge in­flu­ence on how much space the vo­cal takes up. I love our Rus­sian tube Soyuz‑017 LDC on most oc­ca­sions, but to be hon­est, get­ting up close on an SM7b can be per­fect. The right com­pres­sion also helps.

I use the Retro Dou­blewide vari‑mu com­pres­sor to gain some ex­tra weight – with 10‑20 deci­bel gain re­duc­tion on the me­tres, it re­ally owns it. For an up‑tempo vo­cal, the Hair­ball Blue‑strip 1176 is amaz­ing. Cou­pled with a Pul­tec‑style EQ and a Neve 1073‑style preamp, such as our Au­rora Au­dio or Her­itage Au­dio units, they’re the go‑to chain for lead vo­cals. None of these things are as im­por­tant as the per­for­mance and the lyrics, but they all help. How do you fill out a vo­cal-ori­ented track when there are only a cou­ple of other in­stru­ments in­volved?

Of­ten­times, the most min­i­mal ar­range­ments are the eas­i­est to make sound big. When ev­ery el­e­ment is recorded well, has its own un­com­pro­mised tonal char­ac­ter, and isn’t fight­ing to be heard, the whole song can sound ‘big­ger’. It’s de­pen­dent on the song, of course, but some­times hav­ing no re­verb can have the big­gest im­pact. Either way, I like to vi­su­alise the vo­cal be­ing wrapped up in a warm blan­ket, and it has to com­pli­ment the vo­cal at all times. Where does the re­verb sit in a track?

That de­pends on the mood of the song and the day that it is mixed, but au­to­ma­tion is king. I record with ana­logue re­verbs and de­lays. I’ll al­ways have my spring unit, Roland 301 and 501 run­ning when record­ing. I end up with a large count, but also with ef­fects that are unique to many el­e­ments. These can then be blended, panned and fur­ther ma­nip­u­lated for a rich ta­pes­try of sounds. I also use the UAD EMT 140 and AKG Spring for global re­verbs. Sim­i­larly, you’ve worked with a few artists who cre­ate songs that grad­u­ally build to an ex­plo­sive end­ing, and yet that full-bod­ied sound is still present through­out. How do you work a track like that?

The key is in­creas­ing in­ten­sity in per­for­mances, rather than pure vol­ume. A gui­tar player that grad­u­ally digs in harder, let­ting the amp break up more and more as the song goes on, is far more ef­fec­tive than just turn­ing it up, for ex­am­ple.

Once you have the core el­e­ments do­ing that, adding ex­tra in­stru­ments ef­fec­tively is a bonus, along with de­tailed au­to­ma­tion in the mix. Then the del­i­cate dance be­gins. The trick is to make the in­tro sound as loud and full as it can, and en­gage the lis­tener as if it were not go­ing to get any big­ger. Once you have them, you can hit them with the ex­plo­sion. That phi­los­o­phy is pretty prom­i­nent on “Drive” by Gretta Ray, which you en­gi­neered drums on. In that case, the gear played a small part in pulling the sound we were look­ing for, es­pe­cially in shap­ing the kick and snare. We did that mostly with Neve preamps and lit­tle com­pres­sion.

I re­mem­ber heav­ily shap­ing the kick with a Kush Elec­tra EQ, which re­ally al­lowed me to find the sweet spots, boost­ing them heav­ily with the Pro­por­tional Q. Hav­ing said that, the drums were played by Josh Bar­ber, who also pro­duced the song. You can ba­si­cally at­tribute the build and swell to his play­ing. At the same time, you also know how to give in­stru­ments a lot of punch if re­quired, with­out al­low­ing them to take over from the oth­er­wise bal­anced mixed. Your work with pizzi­cato strings is a good ex­am­ple. How do you get that strong, but not over­bear­ing pluck?

I gen­er­ally start with a rib­bon mic, like a Coles 4038 or AEA 44, then find a place­ment so as not to get too much at­tack. How­ever, tone is key so they don’t sound too thin. In the mix, I use the Fab Fil­ter Multi‑band Com­pres­sor a lot, where you can com­press cer­tain fre­quen­cies and get a touch of the at­tack, but not let it dom­i­nate. Then it’s a bit of a dance with re­verb. The pre‑de­lay has a big in­flu­ence on how much pres­ence and at­tack you let through, as does us­ing a short plate.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.