Keeping It Simple For Singer/Songwriter Sessions

Sometimes a simple approach is what it takes to make a great recording. By stripping down excessive instrumentation, the listener can focus on the emotion in a performance, especially when the musicians and performers are particularly expressive. One great example of this in action is our session with Shivum Sharma, which we recorded with a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 and Pro Tools on a MacBook Pro in a church near Focusrite’s HQ in Buckinghamshire, UK.

The lineup was Shivum on vocal, accompanied by Rhodes piano and electric bass, which provides this recording with a focused, raw and almost hypnotic vibe. The vocal mic was a Shure SM7B, which is beloved by engineers for capturing subtle nuances in male voices, among other things. The SM7B is a dynamic mic that demands a reasonable amount of gain, and some mic preamps are not capable of delivering this. However, with the Scarlett 6i6’s great-sounding and powerful mic preamps, ample gain was available, with no hiss or distortion on the incoming vocal signal, even with plenty of gain applied. The Rhodes and bass were both DI’ed, then processed after the recording using plugins, including the Focusrite Red 2 and Red 3 EQ and compressor that come bundled with the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6.

Plenty of gain was available from the Scarlett 6i6’s preamp to power the notoriously insensitive Shure SM7B microphone.

With such a simple recording setup, the engineers focussed on ensuring the cleanest sound was captured and that the musicians could hear themselves and their fellow players. The Scarlett 6i6 features two headphones outputs, each with a dedicated level control. This allowed the engineer to create one mix for Shivum, with the vocal more present in the mix, and split a second, more balanced, mix three ways for the keys and bass players, and for engineer foldback. Though a conventional multi-track recording studio may have the capability to create custom mixes for every player as well as the engineer, the functionality afforded by the Scarlett 6i6 is exceptional considering its portability and size, which lends itself to location recordings such as this. For this session, it was carried to the venue in a backpack!

The Shivum Sharma session shows that, with a good song, great performers, an acoustically pleasing room, excellent quality recordings can be made on a very reasonable budget, with minimal equipment.