There have been many “best things” about recording this new project. One of the most powerful aspects of this for me has been the new excuse to reach out to my heroes in the music world to ask about collaborating and ask questions about how they record.
When we went to Ace Studio in Austin to record with the legendary Rich Brotherton (I was talking to a friend of mine, also in Austin, who won a Grammy and he said “yeah he’s a badass”). Anyway, when Frances and Wolf and I went to Rich’s studio we got to spend a little time doing research on microphones. I took a couple of hours with the pipes warmed up while Rich put mic after mic in front, behind, down the hall, and we tried out different combinations from the $8000 vintage tube mic, to the $1800 classic ribbon mic, to the $400 dynamic mic supposedly of the same type that Michael Jackson used for the vocals on Thriller. All this to get the best possible bagpipe sound.
Yesterday I put up a couple of clips of me playing the same passage into two completely different types of mics and took a vote. The results have been coming in and it looks like my piper friends and non-piper friends might be on different lines because the pipers like one thing, the non pipers like another. I suggested to Rich that this might be because pipers are listening for a certain “attack” that non-pipers would just as soon filter out. A certain engineer friend of mine suggested-helpfully- that this was because the pipers in the mic-voting public may also have hearing damage. I can tell you the phone got quiet when he supposed that…
In any case, there is one type of microphone we did not try, and I am going to try it (them) out tomorrow. The process of searching for the best possible sound on different instruments (all bagpipes) has been very engaging and I am hoping to find out soon for the sake of all my piping friends, the best mic placement for a very difficult instrument.