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Recording and Mixing the Rhodes Fest

Aug 30, 2016

Audio engineers Dave Hampton (Prince, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis) and Dave Rideau (Janet Jackson, Sting, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, TLC) share how they mixed and recorded the First Annual Rhodes Fest, celebrating the classic sounds of the Fender Rhodes electric piano.

“We had great music and outstanding musicians to work with,” says Dave Hampton of the concert, which took place at Oxnard College in California in August 2015. “There were unforgettable moments from many keyboard greats – Earth Wind & Fire’s Larry Dunn, Greg Phillinganes, Patrice Rushen, Jeff Lorber – as well as the vocal stylings of Take 6, Robert Glasper, Lalah Hathaway, and Butterscotch.”

Audio engineer Dave Hampton

At the concert, the team’s main goal was to create a studio-quality live FOH mix, while also capturing high-fidelity recordings that would eventually be mixed by Rideau for a DVD of the concert. To help the final DVD mix capture the excitement of the live FOH mix as experienced by the audience at the actual concert, Hampton and Rideau took advantage of DiGiGrid and other SoundGrid hardware, allowing them to work together seamlessly and easily exchange ideas on how to use Waves plugins for both mixes.

Mixing the Live Show

“The main artistic challenge of mixing this concert was that the Fender Rhodes was the star of the show,” Hampton says. “We needed to create a powerful overall mix, like in every other show; but we also needed to highlight the Fender and let it shine.”

A DiGiCo SD8 console along with a SoundGrid Extreme Server gave Hampton and FOH engineer Jon LeBlanc plenty of processing power with which to achieve this goal.

“We used various Waves plugins to mix at FOH,” says Hampton, “for example TrueVerb for the keys, but also for drums, horns, and vocals, V-EQ3 for lead vocals, DeEsser for backing vocals, Doubler for backing vocals and again horns, and S1 Stereo Imager for electronic keys. These plugins helped us create a live FOH mix that was exciting and spontaneous while also maintaining the quality and clarity of a high-grade studio mix.”

Recording the Live Show

“In the past,” Hampton recalls, “you would have to either use a large recording rig or a mobile recording truck. But now there are breakthrough solutions available to us that make life much easier.”

For Dave Rideau, recording all the inputs from stage ended up being incredibly simple once he decided to use a DiGiGrid MGB interface connected over Ethernet to his laptop with the Waves Tracks Live recording software. In addition, Rideau connected a second laptop to the SoundGrid Ethernet network and sent the MADI inputs to Logic as a backup recording, making the rig simple, flexible and powerful.

1. Stage
2. DiGiCo SD-Rack
3. DiGiCo SD8 mixing console for stage monitors
4. DiGiCo SD8 mixing console for FOH
5. DiGiGrid MGB MADI-to-SoundGrid audio interface
6. SoundGrid-compatible Ethernet switch
7. Computer running the Waves Tracks Live recording software
8. Computer running additional recording software for backup

Mixing the DVD

Once the show was over, Dave Rideau again relied on a variety of Waves tools for mixing the DVD release. “I took the files to my studio – over four continuous hours! – in order to start the rough mixes for the producer to evaluate. We then created a final edit that could be sent out to the video editor to start that process. I then proceeded to create final stereo mixes.

Audio engineer Dave Rideau

“To begin with,” Rideau says, “I kept things simple using the Waves L1 Ultramaximizer on most channels. I employed it the same way I used to use compressors in an in-line console (lightly!), relying more on automation. I then mixed the entire show in one continuous session.

“My go-to plugs for mixing the recording were the Renaissance DeEsser, Renaissance Compressor (mostly for side-chaining), H-Delay Hybrid Delay, C1 Compressor, L2 Ultramaximizer and L3 Multimaximizer. For acute unwanted noise, the WNS Noise Suppressor works wonders. For metering, I used both the Dorrough Stereo and the WLM Plus Loudness Meter.

“After printing stems and moving on to surround, it was all about the Waves 360° Surround Tools bundle to process all the surround stems for the DVD. The M360 Surround Manager plugin was indispensable for achieving the perfect placement, balance and spread, and the Waves MV360 to control surround sound dynamics. The stereo and surround audio for the DVD will eventually be sent out to be mastered when we finalize the mix. I’m staying in the box (video sync), but I occasionally listen through the Waves MaxxBCL, which is helpful in previewing how mastering might affect my final mix.

“Thanks to these crucial Waves tools and DiGiGrid networking solutions, the task of mixing the Rhodes DVD went as smoothly as possible. It left us worry-free, and we were able to focus on getting the best-sounding mix.”