Last summer I was camping in the mountains when Checco came to me and said: “Have you ever listened to Mumford and Sons?” – I didn’t even know who they were. With a big amount of excitement, Checco got his mp3 player, passed me the headphones and turned it on, at the highest volume possible. “Are you crazy?” – I said. His answer was something like: “Trust me, it will pay off!”. The shivers down my spine, while the words “Love it will not betray, dismay or enslave you. It will set you free.” were playing, are the right explanation of why we decided to record it. We simply love this song.
The video was shot and edited by Toma from IamToma.com. You can talk to him about it if you have any questions, because I have no idea of what’s going on there. He’s the pro here, it would take me ages to shoot such a masterpiece.
Our version of “Sigh no more” is not very different from the original by “Mumford & Sons” (regarding the amount of instruments and the structure of the song). Ours has one main vocal, three different vocal harmonies, an acoustic guitar, a banjo, a kick drum, a tambourine, a digital organ and a synthesizer.
The main vocal is centered throughout the entire song and was recorded with a Shure SM7B. For the last part of the song, after all the instruments come in, I decided to double the vocals to give them more energy.
The harmonies flow through 3 very different frequency ranges or tonalities, as you prefer to call it: highs, mids and lows. Each one of the three harmonies was doubled and each singular harmony had one track panned hard right and the other panned hard left. I tried to record the harmonies in stereo to avoid having to double them while trying to make them wider. Useless, when harmonies need to be wide, nothing better then doubles panned left and right. Just like guitars.
The acoustic guitar was actually recorded two times. When we started recording ‘Sigh no more’, I didn’t have my Oktava Mk-012 stereo pair. So, I had to take the challenge of recording the acoustic guitar with the SM7B. Really, a good mic for vocals but it sucks for acoustic guitars: not enough volume for recording picking patterns and a lot of proximity effect, the more you try to make it louder by getting it closer to the guitar, the more low frequencies you’ll end up with. It’s very hard to get it right and I’m not proud to say that I had to mask the low quality acoustic guitar I recorded by doubling it and using a lot of EQ and effects. It worked just fine, but it could have been a lot better if I had the right microphone.
The kick drum is from a VST plug-in called ‘Superior Drummer’ I can’t imagine how it would have been trying to record it with the Shure SM7B. I didn’t even wasted my time trying to record it, jumped directly to the plug-in. I’m not a huge plug-in fan, specially for virtual instruments, but sometimes that’s all we’ve got.
The tambourine was recorded using the Oktava MK-012 in stereo. These microphones are highly recommended for overheads and cymbals and worked perfectly for the tambourine. They were a last moment additional track. I only recorded them after almost finishing the mix. I thought something rhythmical was missing and the tambourines suit the job perfectly, specially because they’re able to fill your chorus when they come in.
The synths (the low hammond kind frequency that plays throughout the entire song) and the organ sounds were recorded with a Nord Electro. The low frequencies in mono and the high frequencies from the organ in stereo. In both cases the keyboard was connected directly to the Mbox2.
Of all the things we had to record for ‘Sigh no more’, definitely, the hardest was the banjo. I’m very sad and disappointed to say that I still have NO idea of how a banjo has to be recorded. I tried to read books, looked for tutorials on the internet, but the result was: Nothing! – just a sad memory of the hundreds of tracks and mic positions I tried to use.
Banjos have a totally different acoustic when compared to acoustic guitars, the ‘sound’ of a banjo doesn’t come from a hole just like in an acoustic guitar. And I still don’t know exactly from where that good banjo sound comes from: from the head? From the resonator? From the rim? Sometimes I think it’s the entire body that is vibrating and propagating the sound. I tried thousand of different mic placements and non of them would work, even those from books. At first I thought that it was the microphone, tried to change it, in vain. I still don’t know what went wrong, all I know is that I don’t like it’s sound in our recordings. Reasons may be: wrong mic placement, wrong microphone, bad banjo, bad banjo strings. Hope I can find out what was the problem and get back to you someday.
That’s it for now.
Thanks for reading,