Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

A lot of what makes the "Lunasa Sound" is their use tightly woven flute/whistle lines. I can tell they are great musicians, but can anyone explain how much their skills are being "enhanced" by acoustic engineers via reverb, digital effects, doubling/remixing?

Lunasa’s sound is really pleasant, although for my taste, I normally prefer a more straight-ahead sound like the old Bothy band recordings.

In the worst excesses you get into that Celtic New Age dreck. Sorry, but all that reverb makes me gag! And it doesn’t take much roll-off to make a whistle sound more like a recorder.

To be clear, I feel that Lunasa does a good job staying (barely) within the line.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Tom,

To which Lúnasa albums are you referring? Have you not noticed the presence of uilleann pipes? Should I tell Seán Smyth that he needs to give up the fiddle to fit in with your hearing range?

Posted by .

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

In a lot of ways, they’re recorded and mixed a lot like Rock and Roll, and I think a lot of the "Lunasa Sound" can be attributed to having Trevor as the Producer. Trevor has worked with a lot of other music, and I get the feeling that a lot of the recording and mixing magic can be attributed to him. But they have recorded in different ways on different albums, from completely live, to studio unison, to layered tracks, etc. It’s hard to point at one aspect and say "that’s where they get their sound". Really, I think their sound has more to do with the meticulous work that they put together as musicians, to intricately weave the fabric of the music, and keep their groove so tight.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

I once listened to Lunasa in concert - about 5 years ago, and was struck how close their sound was to the one of their records. Incredibly brilliant. So "Lunasa sound" is mainly due to their musicality, technical skill and tight playing as one band. Besides, there’s definitely much work on arrangements of the pieces they play - their sound is very exquisite and worked out everywhere - they seem to pay a lot of attention to the combining different instruments in different moments of their music. Maybe it is not as evident on records as it is alive. Actually, this thing is really based on the greatness of sound of each of them - what I especially was amazed by is Kevin Craword’s sound on flute and Trevor Hutchinson’s on double bass. In the process this all merges and the whole sound comes out. After that there’s not much to work on for a sound ingeneer.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

From my very occasional reading of "Sound on Sound" magazine I’d expect an answer to take about five pages of fine print, that’s leaving aside the ability of the players.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Thanks for the responses.

For Scutcher: the fiddle and pipes have more distinct voices compared with say flute & whistle or low-whistle. So, even played in unison, you can pick out the fiddle & pipes.

My question has to do with how tightly the flute & whistle are playing together. So tight that I’ve wondered it they are layered or remixed. I don’t know enough about modern recording technology to have the right terminology.

Years ago I saw Pierre Bensusan play with a digital loop. He’d play a section, hit repeat and then play with himself. It was a small, beautiful cancert.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

I’ve heard Lunasa play live, and going again to see them in a couple of months. There are no tricks in the recording related to how tightly the flute and whistle player in unison, other than the usual ones of selecting the best takes from several. They play like that live.

They might be replacing a flubbed note here or there on a studio recording, which is also standard these days. But as far as the tightness of the playing goes, that’s just what they sound like. Most of these guys have been together for a while, you know.
🙂

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Listening to the soundcloud tracks on their website, they are extremely well recorded, but I’d say the post-processing has been kept to an absolute minimum. Unlike rock and pop where the producer can ‘build a sound’, with this music post-processing is generally only used to correct defects in the original recording or sonic environment.

Sorry to disappoint you, but if you want to sound like Lunasa you are just going to have to keep practicing! There is no plugin or production trick that will do it for you. Check their live recordings, they are every bit as tight as the studio stuff.

For the separation of the flute and whistle there is a simple technique that is used both live and in the studio, known as ‘mirror EQ’ - you take a section of the frequency spectrum and boost it a few dB for one instrument, and cut the other by the same amount, then an octave or two higher you cut the one and boost the other. Once each instrument has a bit of the spectrum where it is clearly dominant your ear and brain perceives them as two distinct instruments, even if they are playing in unison.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Hah! I’m not going to sound like Lunasa.

There must be some acoustic roll-off on the whistle, or else they are using a whistle with a soft-round sound. I’ll have to go back and listen, but I’m not hearing the over-tones and crispness you would get from a Generation, for example. Modern mics and acoustic chains can certainly capture the chiff if they want to.

Likewise, the flute doesn’t have a phat sound like Matt Malloy.

None of that is criticism; just wondering.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Mr. Stermitz, w/all due respect, your questions and comments read mostly as criticism.

Posted by .

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Fair play Ab. I should be clearer.

In sloppy usage, the word criticism can mean being negative, so to be clear, I have to admit being critical, and admit to having opinions, but I don’t mean to be negative.

First, I have wanted to understand the role of recording technology in creating the lush, Lunasa sound.

I have also been taking the role of a critic, and as a critic there is nothing wrong with having opinions. (Wouldn’t it be strange to be a critic pretending not to have opinions.)

My critical opinion is that Lunasa is made up of exceptional musicians. Also, that the "lush" Lunasa sound is very nice and stays within my comfort level in not straying over the line into New Age Celtic. I don’t begrudge musicians seeking a market and a living, but I don’t personally like that genre.

That said, I normally prefer a more raw sound, represented for example by the old Bothy band.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

I think part of the flute and whistle tone (in addition to no small measure of skill and musicianship) has to do with their choice of instruments. I believe Kevin plays mostly wooden whistles from Grinter, which are going to have some tonal differences from Generation whistles, or other metal whistles. He also plays Grinter flutes, and I think Molloy is currently playing an Olwell. Certainly, a huge part of the sound is from the player, and I don’t think there would be any danger of mistaking them even if they swapped flutes, but there are some inherent sonic and overtone distinctions between instruments. But, as has been said, they are great musicians who have been playing together for years, and I suspect that’s a huge part of how they get their sound.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

>>"but I’m not hearing the over-tones and crispness you would get from a Generation, for example. Modern mics and acoustic chains can certainly capture the chiff if they want to.
Likewise, the flute doesn’t have a phat sound like Matt Malloy."

That all comes down to microphone placement, and to a lesser degree choice of mics. Knob-twiddling is a last resort. The reason they have a great sound is that they have a great sound engineer, who knows how to capture sound accurately, as he wants it to sound. It isn’t about processing.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Having heard the members unplugged, individually and in combination, I’d have to say that they sound like what you hear on the recordings. They’re just bloody good players. That’s how they get their ‘sound’. The recordings just capture this. For example, the Kinnity Sessions was essentially a capture of a live show. Instruments - mikes - desk. The only magic was the magic that arrived in shoes.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

There’s no tricks in the studio.

That’s exactly how they sound live.

It’s just painstaking practice and natural brilliance.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

There is a saying amongst recording engineers that "you can’t polish a turd but sometimes you can add a bit of glitter".

Lunasa is just good shit!

Pls pardon the expressions.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

This kinda reminds me of a girlfriend I had a long time ago. (we were both near 40 by the way, not kids). She really wanted to be a rock-star guitar player. She bought everything should find, every gadget, device, whatever, to "improve" her "sound". Nothing seemed to satisfy her. In a moment of frustration I blurted out something about "maybe it’s time to learn to play".

I haven’t seen her in 30 years.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Tom, you still haven’t answered my question. To which Lúnasa albums have you been listening?

Posted by .

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Thanks for all the comments. Yes. They are pretty darned good.

Re: Recording Engineers: How does Lunasa get their sound?

Does Scutcher have inside information???
Will Tom tell him the albums he has been listening to???
Is everybody having Lunasa listening revivals just to determine how good Lunasa really are??????
Stay tuned………
or at least stay in tune. Speaking of which (Lunasa included) I’ve sometimes found it easier to tweek the speed of the record rather than retuning the guitar. Thanks for reminding me to listen to them.