AIRTO'S STORIES  
 
Musical Childhood Stories
5000 Hippies Dancing
How I Record
With The Kodo Drummers
My Wonderful Tour of Brazil
Europe 2003 Part 1
Europe 2003 Part 2
Brazilian Honor
Egypt
Meeting Miles Davis
Working with Miles
Isle Of Wight
Jaco Pastorius
Toots Thielemans
Russia
 

How I Record

The way that I like to record is kind of a mix of the old with the new technology. Which means analog mixed with digital.  In my lectures and clinics I explain about 1st and 2nd generation sound. My example is how right now, if you and I are talking, the sound goes from me to you, this is 1st generation. Now if I talk into a microphone on stage and the people hear my voice through the speakers, that is 2nd generation sound. It could sound great and be the greatest sound system in the world, but the speed is not the same and the quality is not the same. 1st generation will always be the most powerful because it is natural. Music and sound are pure energy, and when we record I like to record analog, using 2 inch tape on an old "Neve" board. Those are really great boards that everyone recorded on. They have a really natural sound, and you can get the very low sounds. If you record hitting a large drum you can hear the impact and the sound that the impact produces. The Beetles recorded on Neve boards.

Anyway, so after I do the main recording on the 2 inch analog tape, then I can go to a digital studio and download everything into a computer. Once it is in the computer I do little things like overdubs and I even mix it there. When it is finished I run the whole thing through the "Neve" again, and we do a final mix in analog. It finally ends up on a reel to reel tape with all the richness of analog, but also all the power and "clean" sound, of digital. From there it gets put on a disk and sent out for a final mastering. After the person who does the final mastering tweaks it, they send it back and I let them know what I don't like so that they can make those changes. We do this until it is as good as it can, be to my ears. 

That's the way I like to work, so I can't just walk into a digital studio and start chanting and playing, and expect to get a good recording. Percussion is like a voice. What I do needs that natural 1st generation sound. Now, of course there are lots of types of music that don't need a natural sound. Things like Hip-hop and dance music started in the digital era and sound like they should in 2nd generation.

Think of a camera, a digital camera takes good pictures, but if you want a great picture, something sharp, with depth and full of life, everyone uses a 35 mm. The analog.

I'm not "Old Fashion", but in my percussion I don't use any electronics, only a microphone that goes through the speakers and that is it. I don't need electronic things to make electronic sounds, because I can already make electronic sounds (Airto hits the table and then makes a bizarre sound that replicates the sound of "Static")

I used to record on the big Brazilian drum "Surdo" which is used for the main street samba in Brazil. It's a big metal drum about two or three feet high. This drum vibrates so much that the way you place the microphones and how far away you place them is a huge task. Usually the sound of the vibration gets lost and you only hear one shade of the instruments sound. You could hear it a little if you turned the sound way up, but then it would too much. The best way I ever found to record this drum was in a bathroom. I would just standup on top of the toilet and they would place three microphones. One at the bottom about five inches from the instrument and another at the top about five inches from the drum head and a third was two or three feet away to get the overtones. It was the best sound I ever got, it had all the reverb and all that "stuff". The two closer microphones recorded the impact and the resonance while the one farther away got the overtones. From there we could play with the levels of each mic.

Nowadays I play very soft with a light mallet, I don't hit hard like I used to. I just bring the microphone really close and have it very open with lots of volume this makes it so that when I play soft it is very powerful.

Well that is it for this story! I hope you found it interesting.