the Sara Ashleigh Band

I recently recorded this demo for a blues band I play in.

It was something of a challenge as we tracked everything together live and my space is very, very small. 8’ x 17’, which is not a ton of room for a drum set, bass amp, guitar amp, and vocalist(and mixer, computer, and couch/corner bass trap). It’s reasonably well treated acoustically, and on the dead side, so with careful positioning of microphones and the use of some movable baffles I was able to mostly get the separation I wanted. The only really difficult exception to that was cymbal spill in the vocal mic. I spent a lot of the time mixing trying to dial that out without killing the sound of the drums or the vocals.

Here’s the details:

Tracked with Ardour3 (I know, I know. It’s working for me here and has never crashed and cost me a session.)

Mixed with Mixbus 32C, the EQ10Q parametric EQ, and the LADSPA Calf reverb.

The hardware was a Soundcraft Spirit LX7 feeding an M Audio Delta 1010LT.

I used 7 inputs, recording the drums in a Glyn Johns style setup:

drums floor tom side: Oktava 219
drums over the kit: Oktava 219
snare drum: SM57
kick drum: D112
guitar amp: SM57
bass amp: AT4033
vocals: Beyer M69

Everything was tracked live. We did a warm up take and then the keeper for each song. Whole session took maybe 3 hours from when the musicians arrived until we packed it in. There are no overdubs, punches, edits, click tracks, software instruments, time stretching, pitch correction or other hijinks. This is what we actually played that evening, for better or worse.


First, great performances and songs! As someone who also enjoys tracking live ‘warts and all’ I tip my hat to how well you’ve done given the space constraints and cranking it live, you obviously know your room very well, I always have enjoyed your production with the thumbknuckle trio stuff.

I completely understand these are demos and don’t represent a complete vision of a track by track finished product, here are some impressions I’ve had sitting enjoying and listening, take them with a grain of salt…

-Great band! The drums sound great, bass tone is the perfect blend of punch and round to sit well in the mix, great in the pocket playing.
-Snare is a bit low in pitch IMHO, but that is a totally stylistic thing and a matter of opinion.
-I’m guessing the guitarist had to rein in the amp a bit, it kinda shows, I wish the tone was 15% browner and brighter (maybe not so much neck pickup). Nice tones in general though especially on the ballads
-Vocalist has a nice soulful timbre to her voice, she seems to trend toward keeping it in a middle to lower register which must be a huge challenge when tracking live with drums and guitars, On some songs I’d like to hear a little more presence and a teeny touch touch of tube (possibly TAP Tubewarmth sparingly) I’m not talking about browning it up a la The Black keys, just a touch of tube to define her in the mix and get it to sit on top of the round guitar tone. I would wonder if ‘You need to be with me’ could maybe be done up a tone or semi-tone just to move her into a little higher vocal range with more definition…

All in all a great demo! I know having a few beers and listening to this all night would be a great time!
Thanks for sharing, always enjoy great playing and great live recordings.

Thanks for giving it such an attentive listen! I think your notes are totally on point.

The vocals are a little more dull than I’d like as a result of trying to navigate around all the cymbal bleed I ended up with in the mic. The cymbals are trashier than I’d like for the same reason. Some songs I was able to thread that needle better than others, ‘Further On Up The Road’ is probably the worst of them. We were playing on the loud side for that one and she was singing on the quiet side. There are some phase-y artifacts in the cymbals and the vocals have less presence than I’d like as a result.

The guitar player just tends to sound like that, he was playing about at the level he usually does. It’s already been EQ’d more aggressive than what I started with but I don’t like to push someone’s sound too far from the way they have it sounding naturally. Dude sounds like that on purpose because he likes that sound. It’s a nice setup (Fender Custom Shop strat in to a boutique Fender Deluxe clone made by a company called Clark), just a little on the ‘polite’ sounding end of the spectrum. It wouldn’t break my heart if he spent less time on the neck pickup.

I’m the bass player, so that’s easy. I’ve pretty much got my rig sounding the way I want it to and it never changes so I mic’d my amp instead of going DI and it worked great. There is no EQ or compression or anything on the bass, outside of what it’s getting with everything else on the master bus. Drums were similarly straightforward because our drummer has a great sounding kit (Noble and Cooley). Instead of struggling with my cheap house drum kit I pointed four mics at his and did a little EQ-ing. Were it not for the issues with spill in the vocal mic they really would have sounded great.

Thanks again for listening!

also: there is some new Thumbknuckle stuff in the works, the members of that group are scattered all around the Northeast US. So it’s click tracks and overdubs and email. Much less fun and immediately gratifying way to work. Here’s a clip of a drum session from this past summer. Different drummer and kit and mic setup than the blues band.



Hi again :),

I understand completely the dilemma of producing things and needing to let people have ‘their’ sound when you may hear it differently yourself. As a blues-based guitarist myself I probably also unconsciously tend to want to hear what tones I like when listening to others play. I know minimalist guitarists that have the most lugubrious molasses-sweet tones which really sell their economic playing style and I know super-shredders who ask me how they should set the amp controls because they are 90% focused on technique and not on how they sound. I think for both bassists and guitarists your tone and knowledge of how to use the volume, tone, pickups and amp controls is almost as important as technique…

That thumbknuckle clip sounds amazing! Can’t wait to hear the full project! Please share it when it’s done.

Hi Sara,nice song and mix . w the blues music :slight_smile: