Frank Ocean In The Studio
Frank Ocean In The Studio
Almost half a million album sales in the US and a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary album make Frank Ocean one of the biggest names in urban music at the moment. No fly-by-night, talent show chancer either, Frank had to hold down 11 jobs (including Subway, he makes a mean sandwich) in support of his music making craft. Furthermore 'Channel Orange' is a critical success too, as loved by the Guardian as it is by Spin Magazine.
Writing Channel OrangeThere's some classic synth, drum machine and guitar tones on 'Channel Orange' but it is mixed very contemporaneously with a full, lush and quite dry sound. Frank worked with producer Malay who describes them working as equal partners, rather than putting his own imprint on it.
Frank Ocean's MicrophoneIt's not a big surprise to find a Neumann U47 and Telefunken 251 being used, unfortunately they're out of production and these vintage mics command a hefty price on the second hand market (when they turn up!). Malay does also say that an M149 was used, one of Neumanns flagship microphones, a real work of art and perfect gear for capturing a talent like Frank. Apparently an SM58 was used too, best known as the world's favourite live vocal mic the 58 turns up in the studio more than you might think.
Bono is known for recording using a handheld 58, singing in front of the studio monitors rather than on headphones. Quite possibly the 58 was used at the same time as one of the tube condensers to give a little grit and mid-range punch in the mix. The trick is to get the capsules of the SM58 and the other mic lined up perfectly to avoid any phase issues.
Our guess for where the SM58 was used would be Forrest Gump, with a layered quality to the vocal and mid range bump it may well be blended in there.
The bass setup was also pretty consistent over the course of creating the album. When using the DI it was a Trace Elliot run through an Avalon 737 for mild EQ and compressing it with a Universal Audio 1176 compressor. When recording the amp itself an Ampeg B15 was used in combination with an RE-20 microphone. All absolute classic bass tracking gear with rounded Ampeg tones, full range microphone and a nice fast 1176 compressor. The cherry on top is everyone's favourite Fender Precision Bass, the bass heard on more great records than any other (probably).
However it's not all glitzy high end in the Frank Ocean bass sound, on 'Pink Matter' Malay used his old Yamaha bass that he bought when he was in high school for around $100! That might well make it one of Yamaha's early BB300 basses, now discontinued but the RBX170 is made in a very similar style and will no doubt fill in nicely for your smash RnB/Hip Hop album.
Here's Pink Matter, featuring the guest vocals of the one and only André 3000.