Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

How come Matt Molloy’s sound is so good. I am not talking about his impeccable tone "in the room", but the audio production and engineering , makes his CD’s and old Vinyl sound out of this world.

Anyone know how the studios achieve that ?
Shadow’s on Stone, Heathery Breeze especially, its an awesome flute sound, IMO outstripping other great flute records, for its audio . A brightness , a sheen…….

Am I the only anorak , that wants to understand this ?

Pat

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

Looking through my Molloy CDs, I’m only missing Shadows on Stone (which I had and lost!), most were produced by Donal Lunny and engineered by Brian Masterson. I think that is why these albums sound so good! The internet says he self produced Shadows on Stone (although Steve Cooney plays on it so he likely had a hand in the production) so I would think he learned the ropes of production from the people mentioned previously (or Cooney produced it which would also explain the sound quality!).

So in a nutshell, he has worked with and learned from some of the best, most experienced producers and engineers in ITM, if you wanted more specifics I think you would have to ask said producers and engineers!

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Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

When Matt Molloy has spoken about good(great) flute tone, he uses a phrase like ‘knocking sparks off the instrument.’ It always helps the engineer to have something to work with.

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

The studio sound of Donal Lunny’s albums always tends to be very ‘present’ and hyper-detailed. I was listening last night to the Frank Harte and Donal Lunny albums, and they are very much ‘you are in the room with the musicians’ type of albums.

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

I’ve tried to search liner notes on these iconic albums from the 1970s and can’t find any useful information on who produced them and how they did it. Obviously these are all recorded before any of the modern compression techniques were developed, so really it’s all about the microphone they used and the room’s natural acoustics to give character to the recording. Another one who seemed to have a signature sound to their recordings is Kevin Burke’s solo albums where it sounds like they bounced the tracks and doubled them up to give more thickness to the tone of his fiddle. There is one track in particular - Maudabawn Chapel - where it really stands out to the point where the two tracks are almost out of phase. A very interesting affect and one that seems exclusive to Burke’s recordings.

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

Thanks for the comments. JNE, I recall Matt Molloy double-tracked the Ship in Full Sail, and maybe Jimmy Wards ( Can’t remember for sure ). But I’m thinking more about the monumental in your face no-hiss tone and subtle reverb of particularly Heathery Breeze, and Stony Steps.

There’s an excellent intimate recording of Matt playing in his pub, and then there’s the recorded sound.
Anyway……..

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

Some have suggested that the classic Molloy/Peoples/Brady album was sped up, thus creating a ‘brighter’ sound…

Source:
https://www.belfasttrad.com/blog/2016/8/11/getting-to-know-the-classics-with-conor-caldwell-fiddle-tutor

Donal Lunny strikes me as the kind of producer who wouldn’t be afraid to get creative with whatever studio resources are available. Possibly adapting recording and production techniques from the pop/rock world such as close mic’ing and multi-tracking, which creates a very intimate, ‘upfront’ sound and gives the producer a lot of freedom to place the melody at the front of the mix and give consideration to the stereo image.

I am pretty sure audio compression would have been a fairly standard technique in a 1970’s recording studio, although Matt Molloy’s tone is so amazing he probably wouldn’t need much.

For brightness and sheen you could try a gentle EQ boost @16khz or so.

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound ( Getting of topic now…. )

Thanks Jan
I found when I recorded myself on flute, in front of my ( only ) vocal mic Rode ( NT1 ), I was dismayed by the hiss. The mic is not filtering like a human brain does and was depicting what it heard, whereas I/we might filter out the hiss and listen to the tones.

So then I found recommendations for mics like a Neumann TLM 193, which has a subtle cut ( -2dB ) around 2-8 Khz. I could try and EQ the signal to match the 193’s frequency, response, but that is after the fact ( rubbish in rubbish out ).
( I realise I am drifting off topic… ). So like a lot of life the answer is likely a combination of several things. I find my tone is sparkling after a good session and I and the flute are well warmed up ( I mean to the point where the barrel is warm to the touch.) Perhaps it would sound better if I was well warmed up and using a different mic , and positioning it differently, and compressing the signal on the way in.

Its helpful to think about this, all makes sense. A combination of a top practitioner producing the sparkle, and a bit of studio magic on top. The contrast between the results I got when recording singing to flute, makes me realise I am a better singer than a flute player. It also makes me realise how much work goes in to being able to play so well , at such a speed and maintain such excellent breath control and tone. New respect for the masters.

Thanks I’ve gone on long enough.
Pat

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

Nuemann produce some of the top mic’s around but you should be able to make a hiss free recording with the Rode. And as you pointed out, much better to record without hiss rather than trying to remove it after the fact.

For hiss free recordings you need to maximise the signal/noise ratio, which is done with the gain control on whatever you are using as mic pre-amp. Generally, you would only compress the foldback signal during recording, so that what you hear is compressed but what you record is dry, this means you can apply the compression afterward, (or not!), this is also true of EQ and reverb. Mic position, polar pattern and room acoustics also make huge difference to the quality of recording and should be given a lot of consideration.

If you are using compression remember the high threshold/low ratio rule of thumb, with the signal going below the threshold several times per bar.

You will definitely sound better when you are well warmed up, some producers keep the musicians up and playing like crazy for days before going into the studio.

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

Its so good because he is a fantastic player …. who uses the very best purpose built studios, best engineers, producers and also some of the very best accompanists.

I think Stoney Steps sounds the best, getting that sound would be very difficult from home no matter what type of flute you buy, … unless of course like the boys from Lunasa you spend 90 grand on equipment.

K

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Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

Thanks Jan
Thats useful.
I’m using a Focusrite interface, for me they are pretty good pre’s. The signal is up around -10dB. going in. I have been too close to the mic though AND and this seems to be the key, "playing like crazy for days ……."
Yup got it.

But now I have another Q. When you say foldback, do you mean what the musician is hearing in the headphones ? Why would you compress that ?

Thanks
P

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

Moving closer to your mic should allow you to turn down the gain, which in turn will make your pre-amps less noisey/hissy

The fancy term is "optimising the gain structure" - https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-how-should-i-optimise-my-gain-structure

You would provide the artist with a nice mix of themselves because if they sound good in their own earphones they are more likely to give a good performance. A little bit of reverb will help a lot with intonation for example, compressing the dynamic range will allow the artist to explore dynamics in their playing more comfortably, eq’ing out frequencies that their instrument can’t produce, below 290 or so Hz for a flute, helps clean up the signal.

http://obiaudio.com/eq-chart/

Re: Matt Molloy’s Studio sound

Thanks for all that.
P