For the latest musical offering from the Concord, NC-based folk-rock band The Avett Brothers, engineer/mixer/producer Ryan Hewitt made extensive use of both his Mojave Audio MA-300 Multi Pattern Vacuum Tube Condenser Microphones as well as his MA-200 Vacuum Tube Condenser Microphones.
In addition to his work with The Avett Brothers, Grammy Award winning Ryan Hewitt has worked with numerous high profile artists, including recent projects with Matchbox 20, Joe Cocker, and Sheryl Crow. With credits like these, Hewitt knows how to capture the right sound. For The Avett Brothers new recording—named The Carpenter (on the American Record label)—Hewitt used his Mojave MA-300 to capture performances of guitarist and vocalist Seth Avett. He also used both his MA-300’s to capture room sound for the drums. Hewitt reports his MA-200’s are now his ‘go-to’ mics for recording the piano.
“Most of the sessions for The Carpenter took place at Echo Mountain Recording in Ashville, NC, which was built in an old church,” Hewitt said. “I found that my MA-300 was the ideal solution for capturing Seth Avett’s performances. When recording a person playing acoustic guitar and singing simultaneously, it’s impossible to have complete isolation between the instrument and voice. With that said, it’s important to use the mic’s polar pattern to your advantage so that you can minimize bleed in order to achieve a modern, isolated sound. When you’re working with a producer like Rick Ruben, you really can’t have an excuse as to why there is so much bleed. You need to have an answer for that—and my answer was the MA-300.”
“To gain as much isolation between the voice and guitar as possible,” he said, “I took advantage of the MA-300’s figure 8 polar pattern. By aiming the top of the MA-300 at Seth’s mouth, the mic’s null (a point in the sound field where the field quantity is zero) rejected as much of the vocal as possible, enabling me to capture the guitar performance with minimal bleed so that I’d have maximum control over the track during the mix.”
Hewitt also used his pair of MA-300’s to capture room sound for the drums. “While at Echo Mountain Recording, we did some drum tracking and it was here where I used my MA-300’s with the drums,” Hewitt said. “The mics were placed about 15 feet from the drums to capture the fullness of the space. The result was really nice, true sound of the room.”
For recording piano, Hewitt’s pair of MA-200’s has become his favorite miking solution. “The MA-200’s are great on piano,” he said. “In addition to using them with The Avett Brothers, I also used these mics to record British singer/songwriter/pianist Jamie Cullum. While placement of the two mics varies—depending upon the nature of the song— for a softer natured song, I put one MA-200 over the foot of the piano and the other in the curve looking over the hammers. This positioning gave a really warm sound, a nice stereo spread, and very little phase issue. Greg Wells was producing Cullum’s album and he was so blown away with the sound, he went out and bought his own pair of Mojave mics.”
“The goal of doing another record with any band is to take it up a notch from the previous endeavor. One of the goals I had for this second effort with The Avett Brothers was to achieve a better acoustic guitar and vocal sound," said Hewitt. "With the MA-300, I feel I achieved that. Everyone in the band was really pleased with the acoustic guitar sound and the separation of the vocal.”
Reflecting on The Avett Brothers project, Hewitt said, “It turned out great. I barely used any EQ on either the guitar or piano in the mix to get what I wanted out of those tracks. Both on input and during the mix, the fact that I used very little EQ was a win-win situation in terms of achieving the most natural sound. After hearing the results, Seth Avett went out and bought some Mojave MA-100’s for his own use. I think that pretty much says it all.”