David Yorath is one of those fortunate people who have turned their hobby of recording into a career. Paul White caught up with him at his studio.
David Yorath is typical of many of our readers in that he has turned his interest in recording into a career. Solo Sound is David's well equipped 8-track studio catering for the needs of both the songwriter and the electronic musician.
Though given piano lessons early in life, David turned to the guitar at the age of thirteen and began writing songs. By the age of sixteen his band Blitzkrieg had released an album entitled 'Survival' that reached number twelve in the independent record charts. Soon after this, the recording bug got it's teeth into David and he bought one of the first Teac 144 Portastudios available in this country and reverted to keyboards to continue his writing. Now, at 23 years of age, he is producing music for documentaries and is interested in moving into film and TV work, though his ultimate aim is to be recognised as a performer in his own right.
The idea of Solo Sound was born a couple of years ago when David's car was evicted from its garage to enable work to begin on the conversion.
Sound proofing was the first problem to be overcome and this was successfully solved by using a rockwool and plasterboard sandwich technique, a double layer being applied over the original doors. Using six inch rockwool combined with a three inch air gap proved very effective and the plasterboard surface was covered throughout with very short pile carpet which has resulted in an extremely dead acoustic environment whilst still looking tasteful. The ceiling was treated in a similar way and was apparently quite tricky to do but the results would appear to have been worth the effort. A double door affords adequate sound insulation and the interior door is filled with rockwool and cement which provides the mass required to attenuate low frequencies.
For maintenance purposes, a conventional fluorescent strip light has been fitted, but this is normally switched off when anything creative is in the offing.
In order to create the right atmosphere for working, tracked spot lights have been installed, all wired via off-the-shelf dimmer switches, and though this would seem to be a sure way to attract interference problems, this particular breed of studio gremlin has seen fit to give Solo Sound a miss. In order to dispel the air of stark functionality, vases of dried flowers are installed in illuminated alcoves below the monitor speakers which look a lot better in real life than they sound on paper.
Of course an acoustically treated room does not constitute a successful studio unless the other two vital ingredients are supplied.
One of course is the right choice of equipment and the other is an engineer who has the talent and knowhow to fully exploit it.
On the equipment front, David's system is based around a much revered Tascam 80-8, a half inch eight track machine that was the forerunner of the current Tascam 38. This is plumbed into an RSD 24-8 mixer and monitoring is provided by a pair of Gale speakers with dual bass drivers and that stalwart of industry, a Quad 405 power amplifier; Auratones are used for nearfield monitoring. Such room equalisation as was considered necessary is supplied by a Cutec dual 10-band graphic equaliser which incorporates a spectrum analyser. The equaliser gets David's full approval but the analyser was described as excremental - or something very similar but more concise.
Mastering is handled by a Tascam A3300X and a pair of Trio KK77 cassette decks take care of any cassette playing or copying that needs to be done. Of course it is useful to be able to hear how your system performs with commercial recordings and to this end a Marantz record deck is permanently patched in so that if you start to lose touch with reality, you can just pop on a familiar record and put everything back into perspective.
David has a choice of two digital delay units, an Ibanez DM1000 and a Korg SD1000 which has a triggerable sampling facility. This latter device is often used to store and replay percussive sounds, which may even be taken from records, and this offers a welcome alternative to the range of sounds provided by the drum machine.
The Ibanez Harmonics delay is used only for special pitch shifting treatments and whilst it is not a particularly sophisticated device, it does generate some interesting special effects.
For reverb, a Vesta Fire RV1 spring reverb unit is permanently connected to an Aria analogue delay unit which provides a short pre-delay. An MXR flanger/doubler takes pride of place as favourite effect, its main application being to ADT vocals which it does very efficiently.
Obviously David wants to upgrade the effects rack when fiscal considerations permit but from here on in, the studio has to pay its own way. One piece of equipment that David does want to get hold of soon however is the Akai 612 sound sampler, even if he has to sell all his relatives to do so.
As previously intimated, this is a studio aimed squarely at the musician playing electronic music, indeed size considerations would make recording a full band very difficult, but the combined studio/control room format is ideal for one or two musicians working with keyboards and drum machines.
In order to expand the facilities offered by an 8-track set-up, David is using a Sequential Circuits CBM64 package which syncs to tape via his Drumtraks rhythm machine and this means that any programmable keyboard parts may be handled by the computer in real time both during recording and mixdown. In exchange for sacrificing one tape track to carry the sync code, several keyboard parts may be synchronised to the recording which not only increases the effective number of channels at your disposal (by doing away with the need for them) but also avoids one generation of tape noise and signal degradation.
The Drumtraks locks to tape via its built-in sync code generator and subsequently controls the SCI64 tempo by means of its clock output (not MIDI). Additionally a disk drive (which is rather slow) allows permanent storage of compositions and David intends to use this set-up live at a future date when he gets back into gigging. A choice of chips is available for the Drumtraks which gives a useful choice of percussive voicings.
By way of synthesisers, there is an SCI Six-Trak which is used mainly for bass lines and special effects, a Pro One which is also good for bass lines and a Siel DK600 which is the main keyboard instrument. The Pro One is due for a MIDI retrofit.
Additionally a Crumar electronic baby grand is used for its piano voicings and an ageing Hohner Pianet 2 is available if anyone wants to use it.
Of course there is more to music than drum machines and synths and David has a Vintage Telecaster, a copy Gibson-style bass and a Columbus Hummingbird acoustic guitar which, like the keyboards, are available to visitors at no extra cost. The guitars may be DI'd or played via the house 50W Marshall combo and subsequently miked up and there is a small but well chosen selection of mics including an AKG C451EB condenser mic with a CK1 head and an AKG D190.
Generally a sync code goes down onto tape first, usually channel one of the Tascam with the bass line on track eight. Next, the keyboards and guitar parts go down, that's if the keyboards are not being played from the SCI64 sequencing system. Track bouncing is very rarely necessary and so high quality recordings can be produced without recourse to noise reduction with its attendant side effects.
David knows what he wants to do and the fine job that he has made of his studio shows that he has the capacity to do it.
In order to attract custom and build up a clientele, Solo Sound is keeping its costs down to £5 per hour for the first year and this figure includes free use of the available instruments.
The only extra is the cost of recording tape so this must represent a bargain when you consider the calibre of the instruments that are there for the using.
David's story is not by any means unique as many of HSR's readers have built up their studios into going concerns and the hope is that others will follow suit. At one time, you could only become a recording engineer by starting at the bottom with a commercial studio but now you can go it alone and end up with your own studio into the bargain.
Feature by Paul White
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