Zoom H2 digital recorder

December 18, 2008

Wow, what a sweet piece of technological goodness. The Zoom H2 has been reviewed extensively elsewhere, so I’ll just say how it meets my needs. 

It has the best recording quality I’ve heard from a low-end digital recorder (I got mine for $180). I’ve been using the Olympus D-10 for years and have been really happy with it. Then I heard the H2 at a recording session with Lara and Kevin and fell in love. I did a side-by-side comparison recording of Kaia and the sound on the H2 completely blew the D-10 away.

In the Kaia recording, both recorders were on the ground at the center of our semi-circle. The H2 made us sound like we were in a cathedral (I think I need to try a 90 degree recording pattern instead of 120 degree) plus was clear enough to pick up each individual voice. I was stunned and amazed to discover that a few singers were singing the wrong note on a piece we’ve been working on for some time. I listen to all the recordings repeatedly from the D-10 but had never heard this small dissonance. The H2 made it pop right out.

The one thing lacking from the H2 is speakers, no matter how tinny. Instant playback to check levels or even just to ensure you got the start of a piece has to happen through the (included) earbuds or by jacking into an amp. This was a bit tedious in our recording session because Kevin had to keep switching cords; one while we recorded and another for playback.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the amazing things the H2 is capable of, but I look forward to exploring. Check out more info:

CNET’s online review
Portland Music Company website
Where to buy: Sweetwater!

Speedy crawdads

December 6, 2008

Today we started recording Lara Weaver‘s children’s songs album. She, (her husband) Kevin MacDowell (AKA Kid Kazooey), and I clustered around a righteous handheld digital recorder and learned/ran “Fishin’ Medley” 3 times.

In the meantime, I’ll say what a treat it is to work with Lara. She is so open and vibrant and ready for anything. She has a vision for each piece but also allows it to grow organically as others give input. I have no idea how she so graciously makes it seem like everyone’s piece equally when it’s really hers, but it’s truly a gift.

For all his clowning elsewhere, Kevin is a professional when it comes to studio work. He wastes no time in fluffy conversation. He gets his equipment tuned and ready to go, and stays focused throughout the session. He’s there to make music, and it really makes you want to step up and give your best.

For my part, I felt a bit unprepared and tried to get into the groove as quickly as possible. Lara handed me a new (solo) verse when I walked in and then let me completely change the tune — indeed, I changed it every time I sang it, since I had no idea what I was doing! I love singing with Lara — we have a very similar New Orleans jazz feel on some pieces — but I admit I am stymied by the word “crawdad.” She has a particular pronunciation that I haven’t quite nailed yet. “Crawdad.” Hm.

It’s fun singing backup with the lyric sheet right in your hand. There’s lots of repetition and little pressure. The worst part every time is listening to the playback, since all you do is pick apart every slightly off-pitch note and brain yourself for being an utter loser in the face of this other talent. 🙂 

We got a pretty good recording last time through but the balance was a little off on “my” verse, so next week we’ll record once more before going on to the next song. I’m doing some Leon Redbone-sounding trumpet sound effects on one piece in the medley and I hope to perfect the lip-buzz so I’m not spitting quite so much. This is quite the groovin’ sound, unlike any kids music I’ve heard before, and I’m looking forward to continuing the journey. Apparently Lara’s already got us a gig with Sophia Travis in February, so maybe I’ll need to learn the words by then!