Today is the release of “Songbook” by Fallingham Fair. A folk pop trio with incredible musicianship and vocal harmonies. Next week their live EP “Live at Bentham Studio” will follow.
I want to talk a bit about the two different styles of production on these records, since it’s the same band but with completely opposite recording methods.
Songbook is the “Big Production” sound. Every instrument and vocal is recorded separately, one at a time in the live room. Recording this way allows for the best possible microphone setup as there is no spill from other instruments, therefore mics can be placed further away from the source giving a more natural sound. I like to think of it as recording “a person playing an instrument in a wooden room.” Rather than just “recording an instrument.” I’ve always felt that this creates a more natural sound, like being in the room with the artist. It takes a lot longer to record this way than a live recording, depending on the arrangement it could be just one song a day recorded but the ability to get the perfect sound and perfect performance for each instrument makes it worth it.
Live at Bentham Studio is exactly the opposite, what i call a “no headphones” recording. The band played completely live together, without any monitoring or headphones, just performing together without any distractions. The session was also filmed and can be found on youtube. Recording this way involves a much more complicated setup, everything has to be mic’d up at once, positioning mics to capture their intended instrument, with a minimum of spill from the others. In this case it was made harder by filming the session, I would normally place musicians in a circle facing each other for something like this. But in order to film it they had to perform like they were on stage, using just half of the live room. So a recording like this definitely suffers a little in sound quality due to the spill between instruments and the close mic’d sound. But what it does have is honesty, and that is the beauty of a recording like this. It’s absolutely the truth of what they do (not that the produced version is fake, they played every note of it.) And often the freedom of recording this way can bring out some of the best performances. It’s also worth noting that this method costs a lot less than the big production, The three track EP was recorded and filmed in an afternoon, with another day used for mixing. Songbook took about fifteen days to complete.
So there it is, two completely different approaches to recording the same band. Each with their advantages and disadvantages and of course it’s also possible to go somewhere in between – Start with a live band recording and then add more instruments one at a time.
Listen to Songbook here https://fallinghamfair.bandcamp.com/album/songbook
Live at Bentham Studio will be released on August 4th.