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The Zoom H4N and Saint Mark’s Square as a live room. Pt. 1

July 14th, 2011 | 42 Comments   « Previous  |  Episode 34  |  Next »

Part one of two: a special edition of Ronan’s Recording Show. I recently produced an album in Italy for the band, Riaffiora, that combined traditional recording with remote recording using a Zoom H4n hand held recorder. It allowed us to use Saint Marks Square in Venice as a live room, and other amazing locations.

This episode is a link to a beautiful 12 minute documentary (English and Italian with sub-titles) by Massimo Toniato about the making of the album. The next episode will be a technical walk through about how we did it (and how you can easily use these techniques). Many non recording people seem to love this video so please forward to others. I strongly recommend watching with the 720 or 1080 HD viewing option.

No download available for this episode.

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42 Comments ~ Speak your mind »
  1. Paul999

    Absolutely inspiring! Now I have to figure out how to rip that idea off in Canada where our oldest buildings are 125 years old.LOL

    This inspired me to buy the album.

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  2. JoJo

    There seems to be a life after autotune!!! love it
    Best wishes from Germany Jojo

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  3. Ronan

    Absolutely inspiring! Now I have to figure out how to rip that idea off in Canada where our oldest buildings are 125 years old.LOL


    The great thing is that its not about the places being old, but places that inspire you. The world is full of amazing spaces.

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  4. Johnny

    Great! I liked all episodes so far, but with this I immediately fell in love. Can’t wait to hear the album!

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  5. Marcello Comet

    Ronan’s great, and so is the band.

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  6. Loach678

    Terrific, I love the vocal takes in the alley ways and the old pipe organ.

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  7. Anthony C

    What an incredibly thought provoking video. You can really see the passion in the band, and how Ronan took that up another level. I am so glad there are engineers out there that seek out the truly best of a band, and try to capture new/awesome sounds!!

    side note: going to buy a zoom asap

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  8. chris

    I’ve been using my phone to record on the go. I didn’t plan to “use” it, just to get ideas out. I’ve recorded vocals and classical nylon string guitar with my dual-core android phone. It records at 16bit 44.1khz and if you use creative placement and experiment a bit, you can get a decent sound. They are actually little condenser mic’s so with a quiet vocal performance you can be up close and get some of that intimate sound, or put it half way across a med size room if you are going to sing loudly…. just play around with it on multiple takes and pay close to where it starts clipping because it will very easily…. great video and more inspiration for me to continue down this road

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  9. John Lyon

    What a great concept! The results (in the music heard in the video) were beautiful. the Zoom H4 looks to be a wonderful tool.

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  10. Damian Jolly

    The enthusiasm Ronan brought to the project is the magic! Beautiful sounds!

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  11. del Verbosanador

    Muy,Muy Impresionante..Gracias Ronan!

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  12. Arre

    Awsome. Absolutely inspiring. Modern ambient. also like the idea of recording with modernday consumergear because it`s make it contemperary with these ineractive days as well. Weavin ages of man`s struggle together in soundwaves.
    Keep it up!

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  13. Greg M

    This is so cool. I can’t wait to see part two and will definitely check out the disc.

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  14. Ed

    This has got to be the coolest thing that’s come out in the last 20 years. It’s so innovative and inspiring. I thought the level of originality has been stunted by the digital age, but in this case I was wrong. This is almost like Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys genius. Awesome work guys.

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  15. Bob Demers aka NYMorningstar

    Just incredible Ronan, your productions just keep getting better. Hats off to the musicians and your videographer too!

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  16. Joey Daddario

    inspiring…I love to see creative new approaches. Experimentation is key to forging new techniques in all the arts…not to mention that there was no shortage of smiles and fun here. Bravo!

    When Jeanie and I did our last photo shoot we went downtown to the historic district here on Amelia Island. I think the photographer was just as inspired. We got some of the best photos ever.

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  17. Steve Currington

    Ronan and team..
    Awesome.. Inspired and Inspiring..
    I love the creativity & total flexibility to find the different and unusual sound or location.. And using ancient instruments..
    WOW what a really cool idea.

    And so fabulous that the performers were willing to trust you and go along for the incredible ride.

    BTW>> that Zoom is quite amazing.. I am actually really surprised.

    Guess what I expect however from Ronan…

    You Da Man, Ronan, You Da Man!!

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  18. Dennis Zasnicoff

    Ronan, very nice documentary, video-wise you have gone a long way since your first posts and I always appreciate your blog. I carry my Zoom H4n wherever I go, you never know, and it’s been incredibly useful as an ear training tool, for practicing recording technics and for actual live recording. How did you manage to use a guide backing track? Switched to MTR mode and recorded in 16 bit? Too bad H4n does not offer clock sync, because it is great tool as an additional stereo mic (ambienece for instance) in live recordings, but it’s really hard to sync later on in the DAW. Regards!

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  19. Ronan

    How did you manage to use a guide backing track? Switched to MTR mode and recorded in 16 bit? Too bad H4n does not offer clock sync, because it is great tool as an additional stereo mic (ambienece for instance) in live recordings, but it’s really hard to sync later on in the DAW. Regards!

    Dennis, tune in for the next episode. It will be a step by step explanation of how I dealt with all the these issues.

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  20. Keith

    You and this vid are both inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  21. Kenny

    A simple, but beautiful, idea of musicians combined with incredible production and direction skills …. each participant pushing the other higher to realize and capture the full potential of the original idea. That it all was accomplished without going too far by cluttering up the mix and losing the concept is, indeed, a beautiful thing.

    This is what recorded music is supposed to do …. and you nailed it!!!!

    Be well …. Kenny

    P.S. I look forward to learning how you dealt with all the technical issues.

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  22. Jacob Tryde

    Wow – I really need to get this album! And I really, really want to learn Italian now, so I can understand the stories ;-)

    And Ronan – your site and philosophy is really, really, really inspiring !!

    Big massive thank you’s…
    Jacob ;-)

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  23. Jacob Tryde

    …Ups – I was trying to rate it ?
    It was supposed to be 5 out of 5 (not 3/5) !!!

    All the best
    Jacob

    PS. Actually this one deserves more than 5/5 :-)

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  24. Ernest Buckley

    Hi Ronan,

    Wow, that was great. I love the sound of the vocals in the square with the bells mixed in as well… really adds something you cannot get anywhere else except the real world.

    Looking forward to hearing the rest of this album.

    Peace,
    E

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  25. David

    Thanks for being awesome Ronan… Keep up the good work

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  26. Carlos

    the video was very very very well done. it pulled me in. the music sounded grand and beautiful. the amazing part is not that you recorded in Venice, or used true vintage instruments…no..the magic came from the people involved opening up to the idea that music is meant to be carried on the air…it is mystical….oh crap..it ROCKED.

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  27. Mench

    Great feature Ronan! What a fantastic roots recording experience using the handheld recorder on location! Total freedom to capture the moment! I’m sure on listening to the album you also managed to squeeze all these spaces into the mix beautifully! Congrats!

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  28. Bob

    Hi Ronan Great vid and sound
    Got to get the album

    We used the h4n on 4 track with 3mics and one track on metronome to sync with the other recording gear onsite.
    Worked well.
    I carry this machine with me always.
    Keep the episodes comming

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  29. David

    Part 2 PLEASE…

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  30. Thomas

    Fantastic!

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  31. Mike Mastrangelo

    Really great! And never any cops or a-holes to ruin a good take. I love Italy.

    Fun fact- Ronan had a 1073 in his jacket pocket the whole time. True story.

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  32. Jordan Reynolds

    Ronan: Wow..I’m speechless after watching that video. THANK YOU for bringing us such inspiration to the world of audio engineering, music, and art. That was seriously one of the most inspiring videos I’ve ever seen. I’m not going to lie, my eyes watered up on a few parts (Real men cry!). Unbelievable. Thank you.

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  33. david

    seriously disappointed theres no follow up yet…

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  34. Iain

    Can’t wait to see the next episode! Take your time, make it good! Love seeing that combo of gear, makes me want to grab two mics and my little tascam audio box and do some recording.

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  35. Jeff Dalton

    Wow. Fascinating stuff Ronan. So the mics on the Zoom were good enough for you for that outside shots?

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  36. Ronan

    Jeff, The mics were surprisingly good. They were used on a tone of the tracks.

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  37. Daniel

    Today I was out and about in Stockholm, Sweden, recording some traffic and general noise for an album I’m working on. By chance with an H4n :)

    I thought I had seen all your videos, but when randomly clicking on some bookmarks just now, before sleep, I saw “H4n” in the title and thought, “have I missed this”? Saw it from start to finish, it’s brilliant and very inspiring!

    I actually recorded a folk music album in a similar way once, in 18th century dance halls, barns, outdoors at night and in my local church here (finished in 1198). However, this was low budget and over ten years ago, so we dragged microphones, cables, a 16 channel Mackie and a Tascam TSR-8 reel to reel tape recorder from location to location, so it wasn’t a particularly easy experience. Fun, though.

    Thanks for the video, and again: brilliant! It might also have changed my plans for tomorrow’s session :)

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  38. Thanos Liberopoulos

    Great concept Ronan!
    I like that guerrilla recording approach, but how you cope with ambient noise?OK maybe it becomes a part of the spirit of the sound, but how this stands next to a track recorded properly in the studio?

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  39. Ronan

    but how you cope with ambient noise?OK maybe it becomes a part of the spirit of the sound, but how this stands next to a track recorded properly in the studio?

    Thanos, one of the great discoveries was how little of a problem that was. Small ambient noise were covered up with the drums and bass, etc, and the few parts where it was a big problem I used Izotope RX to clean it up.

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  40. Patrick

    Very inspiring, Ronan! Thanks again!

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  41. Chelo

    OMG Ronan this is by far one of the most inspiring pieces of work I’ve watched anywhere, I’m so into mobile/remote recording, from recording screams in a parking lot to recording the subway for the end of a goodbye song, but this takes the whole concept a step further, hope you don’t mind me stealing the genius of doing this kind of crazy stuff when it comes appropriate, kudos and respect for the creativity and vision.

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  42. Chelo

    I have a question for fellow readers and Ronan, does that recorder let you play something previously recorded and record over that? is that how you managed the workflow, or did you have another player?

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