Monthly Songwriting Hangout With Guest Speaker Ron Angus
We had a very inspiring Monthly Songwriting Hangout this week with the brilliant Ron Angus who shared some rich insights into music production!
Ron Angus is a recording engineer and owner of Studio One in County Durham. He has worked mainly in the acoustic genres and his clients include many high profile artists from the world of folk and beyond from both the UK and the USA. Lindisfarne’s Rod Clements (writer of Meet Me On The Corner), Kathryn Tickell, Jez Lowe, Bob Fox and even a Bay City Roller have recorded at the studio as well as Citizen Songwriters own Sam Slatcher and The Stories Of Sanctuary choir.
Ron was surrounded by music from an early age and started on guitar at eleven. Influenced by the guitar groups of the 60’s. First The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and their contemporaries, then the early rock bands like Cream and Free where he first heard their versions of the blues, a genre which he later became heavily involved in, even hosting a weekly three hour blues radio show for five years.
Although playing guitar in both acoustic and electric bands, Ron had little ambition to “make it” as an artist but was fascinated by the technicality of recording the sound and always had some form of recording device around, firstly the family reel to reel and then cassette recorders in the 70s and 80s. During the 90s he was drawn to the Celtic finger-style guitar technique which was not a million miles away from the blues and ragtime styles he had been playing for many years and a friend suggested he should visit the local Davy Lamp Folk Club and play some of his arrangements. After becoming a regular, Ron suggested that he may be able to help with the new PA system they were looking to get for the club and he was quickly installed as the resident sound engineer to operate the new system.
It was during this time that he started to gather some professional recording equipment with a view to open some sort of studio maybe to work in his spare time. During his time operating the sound system at the Davy Lamp, he met and worked with some of the biggest names on the folk scene both from home and abroad and it was this that gave him the idea to specialise in the acoustic genres. It wasn’t long before many of these artists were beating a path to his door. It’s now over 20 years and he still looks forward to the long days recording and mixing and making the clients ideas become reality.
Ron went on to give some great advice for those who might be thinking of doing some home recording. “My biggest tip would be to have some reference tracks at hand, songs that you like the sound of, songs that have a similar arrangement or are in a similar musical genre to yours. These will be especially useful when it’s time to start mixing your song, the idea is to quickly flick between listening to your mix and the reference track and adjust the levels of the instruments and voices and the tonal sound to match that of the reference track or tracks. It isn’t easy but you will learn to listen in a new way and hear the subtle differences”. “Another tip would be when recording vocals, try not to be too close to your microphone, 8 or 10, even 12 inches is close enough for recording. It’s not about how the voice or the instruments sound on their own but how they fit together and sound in the mix”. “Very often you will see people very close to the mic in music videos but that’s not how they made the recording”. Another gem was to think about the positioning of the elements in your mix, “remember you can use panning, left or right, to place instruments and add width to the mix, also you can add reverb or delay effects to send an element of your mix into the distance and add depth and then there’s tone or EQ controls to add brightness or darkness as in treble and bass”.
“For those interested in doing a bit of home recording, there are many decent quality USB recording interfaces on the market from as little as £40 and microphones from around £50, plus lots of free recording software. Buy the best you can afford and have fun”.