YIDDISH REPUBLIK MAKES RECORDING AT FREMONT RECORDING STUDIO
On September 18, we (all six members of Yiddish Republik, plus a truckload of equipment, 3 clarinets, 3 guitars, 4 music stands, food, drink, etc.) went into Fremont Recording Studio in Portland and recorded our FIRST CD!
We started at 10 a.m. Brud Giles, the sound engineer and owner of Fremont Recording, started to set us up with individual microphones as well as headsets that we could wear as we played our music. Every member of the band took time to get comfortable, get used to the strange conditions (a much more crowded space that we are used to) and get acquainted with the equipment. Brud told us that we have the record for the most musicians at one time ever in his basement studio. I took photos that I will post here soon.
The reason for the use of individual headsets is so that you can hear a precisely mixed blend of what the other musicians are playing, in real time, as you are playing or singing. I tried the headset on, and at first, didn’t like it (I’m not used to wearing this heavy thing on my head as I sing). However, the advantages quickly became apparent to me. First of all, the combined sound of our band was so different in this space that it was shocking. The reason is that Brud has installed a padded ceiling, and various baffles to absorb or soften sound waves all over on the walls and in between the musicians (often just rigid boards with special padding attached and covered with decorative fabric). In other words, the band sounded “dead” or very muffled, with none of the brightness we are used to hearing in our unfinished basement, with all of the hard walls and ceiling. When I put the headset on my head, I could hear all the other musicians very clearly and brightly. I ended up wearing one side of the headset on one ear only and pushed the other side onto the back of my head. A lot of the first hour was spent with Brud asking each band member to choose the “mix” for their headset. So I asked for less tuba, less clarinet, more guitar, more violin and viola. I needed to hear the guitar more clearly, because Joe keeps the rhythm going in most of our songs — I need to listen to him to make sure we are staying in synch and start up together in the various sections of each song. And Jim’s tuba is just too plain loud, and not something I need to pay much attention to as a singer. So Brud asked each band member how they wanted their headset mixed and he adjusted the controls at his console. Brud sat in a separate room, apart from everybody, with the door closed when we were actually recording.
I stood inside of an enclosure at one end of the room that was created by two doors with glass windows in each door. Also, there were padded baffles leaning against each door. I could only be seen from the waist up through the glass windows so I felt a little cut off from everybody else. I also had to stand the entire time to be able to see the rest of the band through the glass windows of my enclosure. Dana was at the other end of the room, with a waist high baffle in front of him to absorb some of the clarinet’s volume. Joe, on guitar, was next door to me, and across the room were Erica and Nat on violin and viola. John, on accordion, was next to Dana at the far end of the room near the exit door to the stairs, and Jim, on tuba was near my end of the room. In other words, the loudest instruments were placed at the respective ends of the long rectangular basement room, and the softer instruments were placed towards the center of the room.
At the end of the long 7 hours of hard work we asked Brud questions about the equipment. He showed us the newest gems of his collection, two Beyer ribbon microphones in use, very slender and compact. There were a LOT of mics in the room. The strings were recorded by two large microphones which were wreathed with a ring of red, contoured metal frames that I was curious about. Brud explained that these red frames are part of an assembly that is designed to absorb sound waves coming from without (i.e., from other instruments) and that in effect create a shock absorber, allowing the microphone in the center to rock, or gently oscillate instead of being jolted. I took a photo of those mics:
We started with one of our most uptempo songs, Abi Gezunt (as long as you have your health), did 4 or 5 takes, and then went on to Lomir Zich Iberbetn (let’s make up) which is our crazy Klezmer dance tune, and then Voz Geven is Geven un Nichto (What once was, was, and is no more), Misery and The Blues (our one Amurrican jazz number so far), then Zog Es Mir Noch Amol (Tell me again) which leads directly into a klezmer tune, a hora. We gamely pressed on with each song to do 4 or 5 takes so that we would to get the best take, no overdubs or digital studio tricks. We took from 10 to 11:30 a.m. to set up, then recorded until 1:00 when we stopped for lunch, and continued at 1:40 until 5:10. We accomplished much more that we thought we would in that time! We now have a CD with 6 complete songs that will be an excellent, we hope, promotional tool.
To say that this experience is exhausting doesn’t convey how deeply bone tired we felt by the end of the day. Each second of each song you are aware that it is being permanently recorded so you are putting everything you have into it. I was thinking about the phrasing, the color and pace of each word, and then, wincing inside when I felt I had flubbed it. For instance, at one point I had some excess saliva (a problem for all singers, really, you usually don’t have time, especially in fast paced songs to swallow), in one song, that made a slight “schlurrp” sound that I beat myself over (you can’t hear it)…Joe missed a few guitar notes, and swore a bit, we started over, then he dropped his pick midway through the next take, some more colorful swearing ensued, then we started again. Dana, when playing clarinet, had a few unplanned shrieks or shrill notes (Dana calls this “throwing up a clam”, an expression we use a lot). Through all this, Brud was an absolute paragon of calm, genial helpfulness; a patient techno-therapist who would emerge, smiling, from his sound room, fix the boo boo, encourage all of us with praise, and get us to soldier on. Obviously, he is very used to musical temper tantrums, thank goodness our little crotchets didn’t quite attain the level of those, but still, he was always so calm and encouraging.
The level of technology now available for a small studio of this type is truly astonishing… Even 15 years ago this would have been far more expensive — 25 years ago when Dana reserved a studio for recording with his rock and roll bands it was far more expensive and yet, far less sophisticated as far as the tools available to instantly manipulate and reshape recorded sound. State of the art back then, reel to reel tape recorders, required great expertise and patience — and time and skill was involved in cutting and splicing. Now it’s all done on the computer. I enjoyed watching Brud’s keen concentration as he watched the computer monitor screen and adjusted the many small “sliders”, the on screen controls that increase or decrease levels for each microphone.
To get a warm, analog, old-fashioned sound we elected to play and sing all at once, and record all the elements at once, although everyone had a separate microphone. But still, there is “bleed” in the room, created by the blending of all of the instruments, and this got recorded as well. I believe this is more natural, as this is the way we hear a musical group under normal performing conditions — the human ear picks up everything, not each instrument on a separate track, and the colliding and bouncing sound waves give every band a distinctive sound, whether it is classical music, big band, or rock and roll.
Since Sunday, everyone in Yiddish Republik has been listening to the recordings from Brud’s studio with great elation — and exchanging phone calls expressing both delight and relief.
We will add links to this website where you can listen to the finished products.
What an incredible experience !!! I don’t regret a minute of the angst and stress that we have undergone so far, when I see what we have created together now in the very tangible achievement of this little disc of plastic. Ultimately, it was all worth it. Nothing much may come of it in the future but that is OK. This process has been so much fun.
Barbara, Vocalist for Yiddish Republik