Music for Sound and Moving Image

Here is my summary for my approach to designing the sound for flat 1

Editing Techniques – Crossfades are added at the beginning at ending of ech audio clip, to avoid popping noises, I added markers at the start of the session, these allow me to then paste the audio into the marker locations later on making the process very quick. When inserting audio some of it will benefit from being a frame early or late depending on the effect. Panning plays an important role as my flat is to the left different audio is panned this way but never hard left or right to try and mimic an audiences perspective.

Thinking of the environment of the sounds (large space, small, wood floor, metal floor) I kept the sounds very dry as the room is rather small and it is unlikely there will be much reverberations going on. In some places I automated a low pass filter whenever the camera shows the outside of the apartment, giving the impression the audio is coming from inside the flat. I added a limiter on the master fader at the end of the session to prevent the audio from clipping and to raise the overall level of my stereo track.

Foley – Half of the Foley work is done using a portable Alesis Palm track, it is best done in a quiet environment, with the video in front of you so you can reference the visuals anytime to see if your sounds fit the scene. The other half of Foley sounds were collected through various royalty free websites (crucial for legal use of sounds).

Choosing the sounds – To me the man in flat one seems like a dull man, this is shown through his artwork (the same vase paintings are in every flat!) therefore, I chose sounds that would suit his personality and at the same time, due to several sounds going on with four flats, it is important the audio doesn’t thread on those other flats. Because of the non-comedic audio in some scenes I made it as if the man lets out gas several times for humour but also could be an indication to why he lives on his own.

Voice acting – Again should be done in a quiet environment, I decided to mumble gibberish into the Palm Track trying out various voices (male, female, young, old), in the end I decided everyone in the apartment complex has the same master yoda-esque voice keeping things humorous.

Music – The music is neither sad nor overly cheerful, and somewhat comments on all of the characters within the flat, I.E. when flat 1 man’s painting keeps dropping. Thus supporting the movement and personality of the characters, and influencing the audiences emotions at times.

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Evaluating my FMP tracks

Hole in the Earth by Collisional – This is a great way to kick start and grab audiences attention with its big loud guitar riffs at the beginning and energetic drums and bass underneath. It is then followed by a calm clean guitar tone played a lot throughout, I worked hard on the recording process of this album as I myself am a huge Deftones fan, let alone the producer ‘Terry Date’ whom did not engineer this song in particular but past ones, there is not much info on Terry’s style floating around the net and much of it remains a secret so it was a great chance for me to really listen and decipher his style and take what was useful and apply to this and many other recordings that I may produce in future.

Realistically the cover would be hard/expensive to publish as it’s a cover and there would be royalties to be collected by the composers and labels, it would make a great show reel for me as well as the band themselves in future to show to potential employers my engineering skills. Should they have written a song in this style of music would have been better I the long run as an opportunity to sell it in future should the band stay together. the success would have been down to publishing and general interest by members of the public as Nu Metal isn’t the trendiest of genres at the moment but should bring a loyal fan base which, the Deftones certainly have attained.

Down to Dusk by The Motion – to carry on the flow of the album some soul was needed after all the cymbal bashing and guitar chugging from the precious track, the song is off to a pretty slow start and is somewhat on the verge of the short attention span of listeners today to reach for the fast forward button, which is why I didn’t use this as the opening track. The vocals and a definite selling point for this song, which is why I’m glad I automated most of this instead of slamming this with compression. The only downside is on my part, which is the overall sonic imprint of the track, due to rushing on the day of recording.

As an engineer my ‘Yin Yang’ or balance is very off as you noticed, the majority of outside recordings I am accustomed to tend to involve a lot of screaming, double bass, monster riffs etc. So have the tendency to make everything sound punchy. It is refreshing to have been able to produce such talent and would’ve never thought It’d be a soul band, which has taught me not everything needs to sound aggressive, not everything needs heavy compression, sugical EQ moves. Obviously I have much to learn but nonetheless, this band does have the potential to be somewhere in a number of years,with some minor tweaks to production and arrangement improvements should be able to produce a big hit that could top the soul charts should the band stay together.

Dont you Pity by Finder (Glen, Lindsay) – The song is off to a strong start this time for a difference from the last song, the tempo has a little less variation than the last, but with a different kind of vibe with it’s drum and bass influenced by some bluesy/jazz aspects. we are treated with a duo of singers this time and do somewhat match together, tuning issues were a huge problem here with snare drums so getting them to sound in tune with all the bleed of the overheads and other instruments were tricky. Some vocal tracks needed to be removed due to the material just not working so well. But overall the song is well balanced with some refreshing piano and bass lead sections.

The band were very well prepared for recording on the day and had a good idea of what they wanted to sound like, recording vocals were rather easy, with minimal guidance on what works with the song and some hints on tuning. The song does drag on for a bit but nothing a few new sections couldn’t fix, the band could potentially be well known for their indifference in musical style, they are easy on the ears and a majority of audiences could possibly enjoy the material.

Love me like you do by Ellie and Evie – Another cover and this time a recent hit song by Ellie Goulding, a lot of copyright issues would be the main issue here which is preventing the band from publishing the track overall, it would however make an excellent way to show off to A&R staff, which I’m sure will consider one of the singers in future. Although the song is only recorded with three mics in total the track has brought a lot of life to the entire song as the duo were recorded in the same room thus playing off each other.

The song needed a lot of attention to it however in the timing and arrangement department, as originally it was only the duo without any of the midi instruments which does help make the song seem like its progressing which is what I thought it didn’t before and seemed to drag on a little. They will both probably need great producers in future should they wish to take this to a professional level, some compositional skills and arrangement tweaking should push one of them to be able to produce their own single one day which could possibly be a hit or influence a small cult following.

Mother by Dan Loh – This was essentially a replacement of the song ‘Sorry you’re not a winner’ as I didn’t want there to be more than one instrumental track on the album, let alone another Metal track. The problem would be copyright issues again as this is a cover of a really huge hit by John Lennon, the royalties to pay would not be worth the amount of time and money that would have went into the production of the song. I chose to remove a lot of other element to this mix as the rest of the instruments in the end were just out fighting so decided to make it into a stripped down version of the song that would act as the ending to the FMP album thanks to the line in the song ‘goodbye!!……’ Glen did a great job on vocals on this track and would make a fantastic show reel in future.

Similar roles in the music industry

Along the way while recording the FMP these were some of the roles that I had to partake in, what I’m about to list will be true but consideration is to be taken for the individual, so not everything be spot on correct based on the fact that experience, knowledge and interest does have an impact on each of the roles listed below.

Producer – These are on one of the many driving forces of a musical project, producers will have in some way knowledge of composition, arranging, musician or songwriting to help guide and shape a sound or concept for an album/song. They will usually be responsible for ensuring the success of the band/artist by bringing out the absolute best in them and suggesting several ideas that will be successful in the real world, i.e. rearranging a section of a song should it not have enough impact on potential audiences. Not to be mistaken as an executive producer who’s job is mostly dealing with financial aspects while the producer deals with the creation of the music.

Producers can make great recording engineers, with their vast knowledge of microphones, miking techniques, studio wizardry, bringing out the desired sonic aspects of an album. Take Alan Parsons whom is well know for his production in Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the moon’ which is one of the influential and well known albums of our time, Parsons is also known for the ‘Alan Parson’s Project’ and is known to produce and engineer most of his own albums himself. Producers don’t necessarily have to even have knowledge of engineering at all throughout their entire  career and may not even lay a hand on a mix console ever such as Rick Rubin (Jay-Z, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers) or Tim Armstrong whom produced hits like Rancid, Pink and has probably touched a mix console a handful of times in their life.

These producers will usually work closely with recording and mastering engineers to ensure the creative vision of the musical process runs smoothly and on point as can be. Now we have the modern ‘bedroom producer’ who is usually an all round producer, engineer and musician, they are known to posses the talent and knowledge of creating their music as well as mixing and mastering their own album to shape and suit their sonic visions and desires. Bedroom Producers usually work from the comfort of their home only using minimal amount of recording gear, usually in a untreated and mildly treated acoustic environment and are able to achieve near hit worthy results. During my mother recording it was down to me to make arrangements, compositions of the entire project, arranging for several musicians to step in to play what I’ve written.

Recording engineer – It is a recording engineers job to meet the bands/producers/A&R etc. needs and ultimately create the album. A recording will require knowledge of recording gear such as a mixing console, microphones, mic preamps, headphone mixes and possibly outboard gear that can be inserted at a moments notice. They will understand frequency responses, polar pickup patterns and acoustics to their best advantage to manipulate microphone placements into achieving the tone needed for the type of album in question, whilst understanding the phase relationships between all sources to prevent any cancellation or sonic limitations from occurring. It is also sometimes the recording engineers job (if you own your own studio) to ensure the studio and its equipment is kept well, cables wrapped around mic stands to prevent people stepping or damaging them, and ensure clients dont damage any of the equipment in any way and that they dispose of beer bottles before leaving the studio.

A recording engineer can make a great mixing engineer as their sensitivity and attention to subtle details of sound will achieve a mix to that of a polished album (experience dependant), they possess the knowledge of audio trickery to achieve the type of sound/tone an instrument might need due to time spent experimenting with different gear, to manipulate audio to their advantage. A recording engineer can sometimes offer suggestions to producers/band members to guide them in their search for the sound they desire, or to prevent any limitations that may be inflicted due to bad ideas for an album. In most cases they do not need to be involved in the creative process at all, and just concentrate on recording and meeting producer/band desires.

When I was recording Mother it was job to set up a Pro-Tools session with my choice of sample rate, bit depth and file format, it’s also down to me where I save and backup the files for all sessions and how I organise each track of every session to navigate. Gain staging into the interface and Pro-Tools is my responsibility and choice, I also had the option of using outboard gear such as compressors or adjust EQ movements on the mix console on the way in.

Mixing engineer – Once an album gets recorded everything will be summed from several mono track into one stereo output, now imagine the issues there will be with several instruments fighting over space and need to for everything to be heard and presented in a musical way to an audience. The mix engineer’s sensitive and careful attention to every frequency of the album will be cleaned up with knowledge of audio editing skills, equalisation, compression, use of effects and presenting the album in a polished and clean manner, taking the load off several HI-FI or regular audiences playback systems and not having to listen to a big wall of sound fighting over precious frequency space or headroom. For reasons mentioned in the recording engineer section, mixing engineers make excellant recording engineers, due to them being able to achieve the tone at recording stage which will allow them to foresee how a particular mix needs to be processed in order to achieve the desired sound requested by producers.

A mix engineer can also be a mastering engineer but usually (experience dependant) not after years of fine tuning and understanding the knowledge needed to ultimately create a masterpiece that will be published to members of the public. With knowledge of RMS and basic understanding of headroom can prevent common mistakes or side effects that occur at the mastering stage i.e. not being able to achieve a loud enough mix without the low end of the frequency spectrum suffering from over compression of limiting. My visions of how I want the song to sound like in my head is all down to every move I make in the mixing stage of Mother, at the time I had to take the style of Jeff Lynne into mind and transform the song with his examples, it was mostly the recording stage that made the mixing process a lot more realistic in terms o achieving a Jeff Lynne style production.

Mastering engineer – The final line of offence in an album production before being published to thousand/millions of potential audiences, a musical engineer will achieve that final album ‘polished’ sound we are used to on every album, with their objective and creative perspective of how an album should be presented. A mastering engineer listens to a lot of music everyday compared to the recording or mix engineer who works on crafting one song each day, they will be used to a perfectly balanced and professionally mixed and mastered album from all their days of listening from one track to the other. Becoming a mastering engineer can take years of practise before finally being considered a ‘master’, of being able to identify what an album needs to capture the attention of audiences.

The most notable role of a mastering engineer will be to achieve consistent volume between each track on an album, preventing people from getting out their seats to compensate for volume loss/gain every time a new song is played. They translate pretty well into any aspect of audio engineering due to their trained ear and experience of listening and mastering hit worthy albums. (depends how long it was they mixed, recorded or track)

Live sound engineer – they will no doubt posses the knowledge of recording and some mixing, live sound engineers are quick thinkers and adapt to their situation and environment quickly (again it depends), should a live engineer travel a lot with a band in particular will need to quickly identify best setups for the best possible sound and to ensure gear is placed in sensible locations to prevent damage. A typical scenario will be dealing with venue size and dimensions so will need to identify how PA’s need to be placed to prevent feedback as well as a good position for audiences, and a location that has the least amount of room resonances etc.

The live engineer will create a mix as quickly and efficiently as possible so that rehearsals can be kept to a minimum and to allow audience’s to get the best balance and experience the band as best as possible. A live mix will be different to an album mix so some aspects of the craft will need to be adjusted as the live engineer will be used to the live low end rumble and loudness that is involved in a live setup so a mix may sound a little less like an album. Live sound engineers usually arent required to provide any creative input at all for a band due to it being a live performance (time is of the essence) and normally the band will have a recording engineer or producer offering this advice in advance.

Financial Aspects for recording project

Enter Shikari Cover (Metalcore)

Members: Luis, Connor, Shaun and Laurence

Engineers: Daniel Loh

Studio: one (North Road Music Department)

Instruments Hours Rate Total
DrumsBassGuitars 09:30 – 13:30 £15 per engineer per hour + Studio Hire £20 £80

Mixing: £20 per track (8 hour session) + £5 for every hour over

Mastering: £10 per track

 

The recording costs is based on how many engineers are required on the day depending on how fast the band need their material recorded and the amount of setup needed. This is based on Absolute Music’s charge and my own engineering experiences/knowledge, the cost also includes microphone hire and insurance charges in advance. How I worked this out to find the total cost of all mic’s and divide this into a sensible number of sessions that would pay off the cost of the microphone inventory.

Microphone Description Cost (Gear 4 Music)
Audix D6 Kick £175
Shure SM57 x2 Snare, guitars £170
Samson C02 x2 Overheads £85 for a pair
Audio Technica Pro25 x2 Toms £220
CAD m179 Room £130
Sub Total £780

All the microphones in this session costs £780 to purchase, so If I would divide this into six sessions would be £130, this would pay back for all the expenses allowing me to return to making a profit. This doesn’t include mixing console, studio acoustic treatment (labour and planning approval costs to build this), studio instruments, stands, cabling, outboard gear. Which would cost thousands of pounds and a years of debt to repay, so will not include the costs as I’m using the college’s anyway.

With mixing costs, the standard 8 hours I spend will cost £20, some jobs do need more attention (timing edits etc.) should it exceed the 8 hour mark an additional £5 per hour will be charged with the clients knowledge, this will be included in the invoice. Below is the list of gear I use at home to mix with, the total being £450, If I mix an EP of 4 tracks for the next 6 sessions will earn £480 which pays back everything and will be able to start making a profit.

Item Description Cost
Laptop Operating system to run the digital audio workstation £250 (2.4Ghz i5, 8Gb Ram)
DAW (Pro Tools) Used to edit and manipulate audio to be mixed £200 (student)

Mastering is a fixed rate with no hourly charge rate due to inexperience in this area, so is charged on the number of tracks i.e. 6 tracks at £10 per track will be £60 in total. The same gear used for mixing is used for mastering so I will be able to use this money to pay back for recording, mixing gear and eventually earn a profit.

Invoice example

To: (Band or Client name)                                                         From: Daniel Loh

Address line 1                                                                               Address line 1

Address line 2                                                                              Address line 2

Town                                                                                              Town

County                                                                                           County

Invoice to (Band or client name)
Date Hours Rate Description Total
31/3/2015 09:30 – 13:30 Studio Hire £20 +Engineer x1£15 per hour Recording + Studio hire £80
1/4/2015 Within 8 hour cap Track x1£20 Mixing £20
3/4/2015 (Fixed Rate) Track x1£10 Mastering £10
Sub Total (exc. VAT) £110
Total + VAT 20% £132

Make payable to MR D A LOH

HSBC Bank Account number: 123456789

Sort Code: 12-34-56

Payment is due within 14 days, should you wish to pay via cheque or cash please post to as asasasas, Poole Dorset.

Thank you for using our services, we hope to see you soon!

 

Like us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @sdasdasdasd

Contact: 07777 777777

Email: myemail@emailhost.co.uk

VAT – or Value Added Tax – is charged by businesses at the point of sale of goods and services sold in the UK. Basically tax on business transactions. http://www.vatcalculator.co.uk/

 The invoice covers all my expenses for recording, mixing and mastering and is worked exactly as shown on the invoice, it includes my bank details and other methods of payment which is why I added contact details should any queries arise in the process, a deadline is issued and followed by a thank you as basic manners for the client showing gratitude. Social media is also on their as advertisement for future income.

Expenses

Description Amount
Travel to studio via bus -£3.00
Food Expenses -£3.00
Electricity bill used for mixing & mastering -£5.00
VAT -£12.00
Miscellaneous -£2.00
Gross income £132.00
Total Reduction £25.00
Net Income £107.00

Writing a contract – Contracts can be very useful should any legal issues arise in future, it can be proof of what roles and services you and the client agreed to, but mostly to ensure you get paid should anything go wrong during or after the recording process. Below is an example of a simple agreement between two parties.

Audio Services Agreement

Address line 1                                                                                                                                    Address line 1

Address line 2                                                                                                                                    Address line 2

Town                                                                                                                                                     Town

County                                                                                                                                                 County

Postcode                                                                                                                                             Postcode

This recording agreement is made this day of 31/03/15 until 03/04/15 between party (Band/client Name) and (my name/company).

Explanatory Statement

The (client) hereto agree and desire to pay for the services of recording, mixing and mastering provided by (me) to (client) until the deadline of 03/04/15 and no later.

the client agrees to follow the direction given by (me) to allow best possible flow of operation and the project, the band to respect and not damage/destroy any of the studio gear or miscellaneous items within on the premises even after the deadline has passes, the band agrees to attend all session on time and arrive prepared, the band agrees to pay for the services should any cancellations of session occur, post deadline (my company) shall not be held responsible or liable for any of the following:

  • overall success of the product
  • Is not obligated to amend the contract or the product after said date
  • Overall Quality of the product
  • Public image, reputation
  • Any economic losses (including without limitation, loss of revenues, profits, contracts, business or anticipated savings)
  • Acts of god/Force Majeure

 

On behalf of (Company name)

Signed…………………………………….

Print   …………………………………….

Date   …………………………………….

On behalf of (Client/Band name)

Signed…………………………………….

Print   …………………………………….

Date   …………………………………….

Absolute Music Price comparison

Instruments Hours Rate Description Total
DrumsBassGuitars 09:30 – 13:30 £30 (includes engineer + studio) recording £120
(within 8 hours) £ 80 Mixing £80
Quote Dependant Mastering Based on quote
Sub Total (exc. VAT) £200 ++
Total + VAT 20% £240 ++

 

Mixing: Standard £80 or £40 per hour (depending on session complications)

Mastering: No fixed rate

 from the Absolute Music example we can see they are over £100 more, but they also have more experience and slightly better equipment than what I used, so I’d say is a pretty fair price.

Outsource Professional Mastering engineer price quotes:

It is worth noting some mastering companies will charge differently depending on whether you are with a signed or unsigned with a label.

Brighton Mastering http://brightonmastering.co.uk/rates/Files are delivered as CD quality WAV – 44.1kHz, 16 bit – as standard. Other formats available on request, with extras charged at the rates below.

1-4 tracks £30 per track

5-9 tracks £28 per track

10+ tracks £25 per track

Instrumental & alternate versions £5 per track

Production ready CDR master £10 + £2 p&p

DDP image £5

mp3 mastering £5 per track

Vinyl mastering £10 per track

 

 

 

 

 

Mastering FMP

Mastering

By Dan Loh

Routines

Objective – Achieve a loud enough track (0dBFS peak) with not much increase/decrease in volume between songs on an album, no digital clipping, no overly reducing dynamic range and altering the balance too much with EQ.

References – I would’ve already started using this at mixing to check my overall mix competes with commercial mixes to some extent and to recalibrate my ears, I check that I’m not overdoing something in my mix i.e. reverb, frequency imbalances, weird stereo imaging and to check if my song sounds as good as I thought it was.

At mastering this is the final line of offence, being objective to see if the song is missing something and or something that completely crossed my mind (that’s why I prefer to send my mixes to mastering engineers as they will have be listening to the song for the first time, and will capture something deadly obvious to them). We see frequency masking at its absolute best here, what I did is drag a .wav file into a session (.mp3s are compressed so quality will be lower), some plugins include a ‘mid side’ function, this allows you to only affect the mid or left & right channels, A technique Glen Martin uses is to send these to mono aux tracks and flip the phase relationship on one of the speakers with any plugin (in PT), send these to mono aux’s but on a different bus and flip the inverted channel back again before finally arriving at your mix bus, each fader you bring up will cancel the phase on either the mid or sides. Insert an EQ and create a band pass, PT’s stock EQ includes a frequency solo option by holding down SHIFT SHIFT + WIN, SHIFT + CMD/CTRL.

Doing so allows us to directly listen to what sounds occupy the frequency spectrum so that everything can be heard without clouding the mix, when referencing I check how the instruments are well separated and have their own space, most commercial mixes will have bass frequencies in the mid channel so both monitors share the load of bass, and mid – high end on the sides, this reveals a lot of panning pockets that allows space for other things like effects to fit in.

This is gold for those with a limited monitoring system (what I suffer from), investing in a pair of revealing monitors and room treatment (if not HIGH QUALITY headphones are a better solution), regular changes of each system but still use references as they are like mix/master tutors.

References should be similar to my own mix in some way, or can be used for its specific characteristic i.e. ‘Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn’ is known for its very prominent mid-range, and sibilance. I will use this as a threshold guide, so if my mix has more sibilance or mid than the track, I know I should probably tone it down.

RMS – Route, Mean, Square or ‘Crest Factor’ as it’s known, is the difference between the loudest peaks and its average level. There is a school of thought that suggests all music should be a certain RMS level, while others believe that some styles should have a shorter dynamic range than others. You don’t want the dynamic range so large that people have to constantly reach for the volume (imagine the car incidents, should a sudden loud chorus frighten motorists). You want it loud enough to compete against other music, so there’s not much of a volume change in between songs on radio and on the album.

Loudness Wars – It is most important, that none of these mixes are ‘squashed’ dynamically to achieve maximum loudness for every part of the song, this means that snares, kicks, vocals, cymbals are so similar in volume it bores and fatigues the ear. “Ahem” Death Magnetic “cough”, what happens is the peaks of the song have been pushed beyond 0dBFS and essentially the waveform information above this is ‘chopped’ off creating a ‘flat top’. Kicks and snares are main victims, where the punchy/snappy info is lost and digital clipping occurs.

Ian Shepherd at Production advice produced the graph below as an example of how the less dynamic range music can impact sales and overall success of the album.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

The benefit of dynamic range other than not clipping the audio thus riddance of good info above 0dB threshold, also the build-up of the song that naturally occurs, you don’t want the final chorus to be the same level as the first, you want sections jumping out at you (not like Albini) and music to impact all of our human senses not just hearing. Engineers work hard to ride faders, sculpt tones that will impact listeners, don’t let loudness be the main solution to grab audiences by the……ears.

Red Book Standard – dither will create noise under the recording; you have the option to EQ this (typically a choice of harmonics i.e. triangle, rectangle etc.) Also a method used when lowering the resolution of bit depth (I.E. 24bit to 16bit). When lowering the value of bit depth you lower the values available for measuring amplitude with audio samples, this leads to quantisation errors (aka. Truncation distortion). We use this when converting higher bit files into 44.1 KHz/16bit which, is the format used for CD.

iTunes – In our era the majority of music will eventually make its way on iTunes, which uses the same format as CD however, the quality standards of sample rate conversion are very specific on iTunes in order for your music to make it on there. Image below shows how a sample rate conversion should look, the one below (with all the colours) is how it shouldn’t.

Sample Rate Conversion

The latest version of Apple’s AAC encoder works better for sample rate conversion, iTunes recommends that none of the files should have any clipping (good practice for all mastering). The requirements are at least 24bit format and original sampling format, -0.1dB of peak limiting. Avoiding clipping isn’t as simple as it sounds, take Apple’s Roundtrip AAC which is a live encoder to check compatibility before loading it on iTunes. The image below detects inter-sample peaks even though it won’t necessarily show up in your DAW’s own master meter.

RountripAAC

Because of digital audio, the DAC may sometimes produce an analogue signal momentarily exceeding the digital peak 0dBFS, this is known as an ‘inter-sample peak (image below: http://www.hometracked.com/2007/11/08/prevent-intersample-peaks/) red = digital, the blue line is the analogue signal which briefly overlapped the 0dBFS threshold.

intersampled peak

The side-effects could result in audible digital clipping should it cross the 0dbFS mark a lot further. And that’s why I average my own signals at -18dBFS way before mixing which is plenty of headroom to avoid this without use of special gear.

EQ for loudness – In most cases the bottom end is the first to suffer at the hands of limiting, due to the high energy and headroom it occupies, an EQ carve at this region allows for the overall level to be boosted without clipping, the same will be true for any frequency that is hitting the ceiling before you can get the rest of your mix up to 0dB. A linear phase EQ is a better choice here for bigger cuts and boosts as they won’t alter the phase that a regular EQ induces.

Multiband compression – Are frequency bands that split the signal so that only that particular frequency range can be compressed, it is common for a particular frequency to get excited and resonate during a part of a song, by using just an EQ this might affect all the other sections of the song i.e. if you cut a high frequency to tame one part of the song, the rest may sound dull, a multiband compressor with only compress the assigned frequency when it crosses the threshold allowing for the rest of the track to maintain its balance.

Key points

I dragged all songs into a blank session to help me get even levels between each track. A limiter was inserted on my master fader with the ceiling at –0.1dB to prevent any clipping.

MasteringMaxim Limiter

Down to Dusk – Again a band pass filter, this time a cut at 1.85KHz as some of Kaia’s vocals were a little too strong in this mix. The song’s most narrow RMS was -14dBFS, the cymbals caused clipping to occur in some sections which is why the max peaks were around -0.3dBFS.

Down to Dusk EQ

DTD RMS

Love me like you do – The room noise is audible due to majority of mics being room mics. -1dB at 400Hz with a narrow Q and -1dB at 750Hz rid of some weird resonance in this area but made track sound less open, so skipped that and cut some 3.1KHz by -0.9dB as this area was to harsh but still being careful not to rid the presence of the vocals in the process. finishinf the song with peaks of -0.1dBFS and an RMS of -13dBFS at busiest sections.

EE Comp EE EQ EE RMS

Don’t you pity – the balance here was best left alone here, as it sounded decent across many playback systems, a high and low pass was all it needed to tame the extreme highs and lows. some compression just to bring down peaks from the snare to bring the rest of the track up, leaving the most narrow RMS at -10dBFS

Dont you Pity EQ Dont you Pity RMS

Hole in the Earth – High and low pass filters to cut the extreme lows and highs that most people cant hear anyway, a -0.9dB cut at 750Hz as I felt this frequency was a little over resonant and prominent in the mix. My theory as to why my mid-range seems to be drowning may be due to the hours I spend making critical EQ moves (normally 2-3 hours into a mix), my monitoring levels aren’t loud but my perception does lose track rather quickly in that amount of time.

Hole in the Earth Comp Hole in the Earth RMS

Mother –  finishing weak a max peak of -0.1dBFS and an RMS of -12dBFS at busy sections.

Mixing FMP Recordings

Mixing Techniques

By Dan Loh

Routines –

I usually follow a certain workflow and mixing habits I’ll do for most mixes, the following is all done in the box without any help from external hardware. Short guide on Acoustic Treatment here: https://danntheman.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/acoustic-treatment/ Routing & saving Processing power – To save as much CPU as possible I’ll send all audio tracks to a group aux as well as all effects, these then get routed to my Sub Master which goes into my Mix Bus, and finally into my Main Master Fader which I then hear through my monitors. I’ll further commit some of my settings to my audio tracks by recording internally in Pro-Tools or rendering in Audio-Suite option, so typically amp simulators will be printed onto tracks permanently as they require a lot of CPU and RAM, not without duplicating the track first of course! or I’ll just send all tracks to the same group channel if I don’t feel like making a decision.Signal Routing 1 Signal Routing Gain Staging Part II – Again it is important every instrument is recorded at a strong signal level to widen the gap in signal to noise ratio, I will want the signal to Pro-Tools averaging around -20dBFS (see Recording Techniques). When I get to the mix stage again I will check that every audio does not exceed -10dBFS, beyond this point begins to sound brittle and dry. What I’ll do in PT is either use a TRIM plugin and lower the input or on the individual audio track there is a little fader on the bottom left known as clip gain, lowering this is the same as the trim plugin as they alter the input gain. If everything but one section of the song is too hot I’ll split the clip and just turn down that specific section, so I won’t affect the entire audio track. Housekeeping – Strip silence, fade ins/outs, cuts, comping will take place at after getting the right levels, with X amount of tracks going on noise in between parts of audio just adds to headroom and clutter of sound, checking through everything in solo and clearing the garbage out can make a difference to a clean sounding track. Phase Part II – Double check everything again and go through the song, inverting the polarity to allow best phase cohesion and using comb filtering to my advantage, listening out for loss of bottom end is a quick tell-tale, but mostly waveforms give it away, if they both aren’t in the +/- axis at the same time, I’ll manually drag them so they align perfectly, but still listening for the most pleasant tone i.e. sometimes aligning two kick drum mikes because sound hits one of the mics earlier I’ll align them however, although they are more in phase could reveal a boxy resonant frequency so I’ll let it cancel out on purpose. Time Editing – beat detective, quantisation are an option but will kill the groove/life of the music, some parts will be edited for a tighter performance whilst others are left a little loose. Warping (Elastic audio in PT) slows down the waveform without affecting much of the audio pitch, when done wrong however, can lead to burping or glitch sounds in audio. I will usually separate the part in need of shifting to align them, what will normally happen is the audio will crossover with the existing waveform, what I do is zoom in and get the waveforms to meet each other perfectly to create a continuous waveform. Another thing that will happen is silences in-between shifted audio will induce audible pop/clicks due to sudden spikes in amplitude from silence into audio clips, crossfades will solve the majority of this issue. Timing Edit Mixing – The most important and hardest section in my opinion, getting a balance of all instruments and being able to identify the main elements of a song I find can be tricky. Before even slapping on any plugins I’ll spend a good couple tries getting the volume of each instrument to sit well in the mix, use of panning to separate an instrument. If it sounds good without even using plugins, the less tricky everything will be for me later on. The goal is to achieve a ‘tall, wide and deep mix’ the image below (pardon the drawing) shows a visual representation of a mix, increasing the amplitude acts as a way of bringing the sound forward and panning can work to your advantage for a nice stereo spread of instruments, allowing separation and ease of picking them out in a song. Most my mixes mimic a live setup where the drummer will typically be in the middle (assuming you get the best view at the gig), guitar players left and right, singer in the middle (usually running around psychotically). Stereo Image Using EQ – The majority of the time will be spent subtracting unnecessary mud, which is ‘masking’ other instruments in the mix, this means dividing the spectrum up and thinking in terms of bass, mid and highs. It is common for several instruments to occupy the same space in the mix and am too familiar with cymbals, distorted guitars fighting with the vocals in a mix as these occupy the 2KHZ – 4 KHZ range which ironically is what the ear is most sensitive to, with all these battling it out will result in ear fatigue and reach for the mute button. It’s down to a decision to pick which one of these get subtracted the most to allow the other to shine, while carving out space for the other instruments to sit in the mix, this is my main use of EQ other than general ‘tone shaping’. High pass filters are frequently used to rid everything residing below the filter, and opposite for low pass filters, these also have the best chance of drastically changing the phase relationship (true for all EQ moves) of the track and need to be used in moderation. Narrow cuts are mostly used to keep all the good stuff whilst ridding junk around it. As I don’t own any outboard gear, the harshness from stock digital EQ’s when boosting is a last resort for me, with more ‘refined’ plugins/hardware will have sweet spots in EQ boosts and cuts with more ‘character’ such as a Neve 1073 Mic pre & EQ. Using Compression – In short is like automated volume control but not quite, compression allows us to control the dynamics (loud & soft volumes) of a signal i.e. when setting fader levels you may feel like raising it on some sections and lowering on others, compression evens out the performance for a more stable fader position. Say a vocalist mumbles a phrase but screams the next, setting the threshold so a compressor kicks in those peaks turning them down and bring the volume back up with makeup gain, make up gain also brings up the level in the room and not just the signal, so when compressing a signal hard when levelling out will hear some ugly room sounds as well as artefacts produced by a compressor. We can shape the envelope of a signal with the attack (the time it takes for the compressor, after overshooting the threshold, to arrive at said percentage (ratio dependant) of its final gain reduction value) and release (determines how long it takes the compressor after the input has dropped below the threshold to return to its original gain value). Too fast an attack will stomp on your transients and make the audio appear further back in the mix, while a slow attack will bring something forward in a mix, allowing more transient energy to slip through, preserving the punch of the material. Too fast a release will stop compression as soon as the signal drops below threshold thus, compressing less of the signal but allowing more ‘recovery’ time before the next transient arrives which is what too slow a release does, but will increase the sustain on said signal. The ratio determines how much of the signal beyond threshold is reduced, the higher the threshold the more loss of dynamics but with more evenness. Ratios over 20:1 are generally considered ‘limiting’, acting as a ceiling for the signal, a brick wall limiter 100:1 is where the signal hits this ceiling and no further increase in volume is allowed. EQ before or after dynamics processing? – Compressors respond differently when EQ-ing into them, boosts will be turned down and cuts back up, but driving the boosts into compressors results in a different kind of sound, saturation isn’t the best way to describe it but close, the dynamics of the boosts will react according to the threshold settings which can be interesting and a way to ‘colour’ the sound of the signal, for transparency EQ after the compression will achieve a ‘cleaner’ result without the compression affecting the tonality. Mix Buss Compression – To reap the benefits of mix bus compression, at the start of a mix I’ll have a compressor on my mix buss, NOT later as this will just throw the levels out of balance, this works as a ‘glue’ for the overall song I’m working on, by narrowing the dynamics it gives the impression of a bigger/tighter sound. Being extremely cautious on my settings here I don’t want the compressor eating my transients so will set the Attack as slow as needed typically 15ms – 30ms. With the release being in time with the song. I’ll aim for about 2dB – 3dB of gain reduction, preventing an over squashed sounding mix. Distortion & Saturation (mild) – As a guitarist I approve and love the sound of tape saturation, several Lo-Fi/Massey Tape head plugins can be found throughout my mixes, I find it smooth’s out transients from the added harmonics, and fattens up bass and kick drums in particular. I may add it to a snare occasionally to fatten it up. Another benefit is adding to frequency ‘deprived’ audio to cut through a mix better, by creating new frequency components in fills in the ‘gaps’ affecting the tone to some extent. Distortion Pre Distortion Artefacts Parallel Processing – A serious addiction, by sending a copy of the same track to an auxiliary that runs parallel i.e. drums, guitars and vocals, allows for me to enhance the sound to a further degree without directly affecting the dry sound, so for instance I’d like some distortion on the vocals but I only want to affect the ‘air’ frequencies so run an aux parallel with the vocals, now you should have two of the same vocals but louder, on the parallel chain add an EQ cut out all the body and mid-range until you’re affecting all the frequencies you want to affect, add your distortion to you hearts content, you can now choose the amount of distortion by turning the parallel aux up or down in the mix. Do note a rise in amplitude and some fader adjustments will be necessary. Another technique used today is parallel compression, to do this do on drums for example, slap a compressor of your choice (FET or VCA is a preferred if you’re about to HULK SMASH those dynamics) and then get the signal to pump and breathe in time with the music, squash the dynamics to taste and pick a ratio of your choice (all buttons for a dirtier sound and lower ratios if you’re looking to keep it under control). It should sound destroyed, now play the dry signal and sneak the parallel aux in, what we’ve is done made the signal more present due to its flat dynamics and thickening of audio (depending on what frequencies were there to begin with those can be used to boost the low, mid high end of a sound in particular), but at the same time kept the dynamics of the dry signal, when done right it should make the track more alive and exciting. Feel free to explode with evil laughter at this point and admire the monster of a creation you’ve conjured. Creating Depth – Sometimes sounds will just sound dead in a mix due to the close-micing, separation and acoustically treated space they were recorded in. Using artificial reverb and delay and help re-produce the atmosphere they were originally in or meant to be and actually create space, it can also help to make something sound less harsh as the wetness from the wash of reverb is prolonging the sustain of those less harsh frequencies. If you’re grown up unlike me… you’ll use a sensible amount to try achieve something like the image below (despite looking like a silly face), where the effect has been sent further back in the mix to avoid clouding up the sounds in front. A starting point with reverb is if you can hear it you’re using too much, if you can’t but you can feel it, you found a happy medium. Depth When setting reverb times you’ll want the decay time or T60 to finish by the next phrase/note or it’ll muddy up the rest of the track. Pre-delays will start the reverb a little after the dry signal so it doesn’t cloud up the signal, also giving the impression of a further sounding reverb as it mimics sound travelling across a room which then reflects back, allowing for shorter decay settings. I EQ these and often to achieve a better tone with the stock reverb I use and to minimise unwanted sounds poking out here and there, be aware of strange comb filtering that will affect the dry sound as well. A gate can be added after (old 80’s trick, don’t shy away from this) that is triggered by the snare, allowing you to get away with larger reverbs and catch less of the tail end of the reverb, the more the reverb however, the less modern it’ll sound. Delays are a cleaner more surgical approach for controlled space that won’t steal the spotlight, to benefit from this I usually have it in time with the song, plugins these days work it out for you but what if you had a beautiful piece of analogue hardware sitting around that didn’t? The formula, take 60,000 (milliseconds) and divide this by the bpm of the song, you’ll now have a ¼ note delay time, for 1/8 halve it, 16th halve that and so on. Don’t know the bpm of your song? No excuse modern DAW’s have built in tap tempo function, tempo maps and all sorts of sorcery at aid.

Pop 2 Mixes – Key Points

Track – Down to Dusk by The Motion

Intro – The intro begins with a rhythm guitar that plays for 4 bars, this obviously loses the attention of many audiences and the short attention span of youngsters today. So I added the drum verse from the beginning and automated a low pass filter down to 500Hz for a nice variation from the rest of the song, adding a close mic to each new bar and then automating the volume to rise as the song opens up. Kick EQ Automation Vocals – While tracking vocals I had my hand on the pre-amp, turning it down during chorus sections as it was constantly peaking. This squashed a lot of dynamics, further compression will just kill the life and energy of Kaia’s vocals, so I did live fader rides as the song plays by setting the track view to ‘Volume’ and the automation from ‘read’ to ‘write’, pushing the faders up as she sings louder and vice versa. Several re-attempts were made necessary to get the levels to also match the energy of the music. Kaia Vocals Before this I compressed gently to nudge back peaks into place and to bring up mumbles, fast attack to catch those peaks, fast release (BF76’s fastest release time is around 0.6 seconds). Lead Vox Compression A high pass filter (12dB octave) at 125Hz to rid low end rumble Lead Vox EQ Guitars – A similar approach is taken on the rhythm guitars, whilst tracking the slaps were peaking on the desk, compression/limiting to tame these just won’t cut it as the gain make up brought out the dryness of the room and ugliness from the amp. I want to be able to compress gently without the compressor working overtime, I manually separated each slap and turned down the clip gain which in effect is turning down the input gain of the signal. Now compression sounds smoother and produces less artefacts. Attack 721.1us, release 333ms, no gain make up as I don’t want to bring up messy room noise this instrument has. GTR Compression 6dB octave HPF as some of the guitar rumble was pleasant, -2dB at 340Hz narrow 3.5Q ridding ugly low end, -3dB at 674Hz narrow 3.5 Q, ridding room muddiness, -2.5dB at 2.52Khz broad Q, space for vocals and cymbals. GTR EQ Backing Vocals – A telephone like effect was added for variation and to match the energy the song, band pass filter to rid everything below 400Hz and 6Khz, followed by some Lo-Fi saturation to further enhance telephone effect. Back Vox Telephone Back Vox Telephone LoFi Lead Guitar – I didn’t want this to stick out so much so some gentle filters worked nice to blend the rhythm and lead sounds together. Lead GTR EQ Drums – kick EQ, HPF at 44Hz (18dB octave), -8.9dB at 349Hz cutting ‘pillow’ sounds, -1.5dB at 1.27Khz cutting cardboard characteristics. Kick EQ Snare –  Compressed with 5:1 ratio, gain reduction of 4-5dB, 15.5ms attack for transients to slip through, release 333ms, in context with rest of kit. EQ HPF 12dB octave at 85Hz, LPF at 10Khz reducing cymbal bleed, -5Db at 450Hz cutting chunkiness and ringing. Lo-Fi saturation to increase fullness in low mid and overall snap. Snare Compression Snare EQ Snare LoFi Overheads – Side chain compression key’ing snare close mic as ducking source, GR of 4dB max, faster release to allow snare sustain to slide through, 721us attack (snare takes longer to travel in overheads). HPF at 44Hz, -3dB at 400Hz cutting mud, -2.2dB at 800Hz cutting weird plastic characteristics, -2dB at 4.11Khz for less abrasive cymbals, +1dB at 9.77Khz for shine to make up for cut at 4Khz. Overhead Compression SideChain Overhead EQ Bass – Side chain compression to duck when kick and snare strikes for low end intelligibility, fast attack, 83ms release in time with kick and snare thump. 4:1 ratio compression, fastest release, medium attack for bass ‘boom’ to slide through, GR of 8dB, HPF at 33Hz (this is a damaging and hard to reproduce for most playback systems), -3.6dB at 802Hz cutting honkiness, wide scoop at 100Hz freeing space for kick drum low end. Bass SideChain Bass Compression Bass EQ Effects – A delay was added pre-reverb to give the impression of a large space and to not thread over other instruments, a reverb was inserted post delay to wash it and further enhance the large space with a decay of 1.6ms, pre-delay of 20ms, LPF at 7.5Khz. And a separate reverb was used for the drums. A chorus was added to the lead vocals, guitars to enhance the sound and make it cut through better with it’s doubled pitch. Long Verb Delay Chorus Drum Verb Track – Sorry you’re not a winner Cover by Luis, Connor, Laurence and Shaun Drums – No knowledge of tuning a snare, I blindly recorded the snare that was in studio one at the time, this was still salvageable with some pitch adjustment by increasing it by a few keys. But the snare had a lack of snap from the 2 KHz – 6 KHz region, so shamefully added…… a snare sample with plenty of ‘crack’ and no body so it wont compete with the natural snare’s thump in the 100Hz – 200Hz region. Massey DRT identifies the transients in the snare track, by sliding the sensitivity and loudness knobs allows for proper control over what gets triggered, some hits will get triggered due to bleed so it may be wise to use a drum trigger in future to avoid double triggering. Next phase aligning is crucial for the two to work like bread and butter, the sample naturally has more higher frequencies so the waveform had a slight transient in the front, I aligned this so it was slightly before the natural snare for a more ‘realistic’ sound and so the mid frequencies don’t cancel each other out. Kick – an expander gate was inserted pre-compression (the compressor’s make up gain will bring up the softer sounds that you don’t want the gate to expand on) to shape the envelope to taste and to stop the resonant frequency from… resonating. then I compressed to even out the kick strikes with a slow attack to allow snappy transients through, a 77ms release and a ratio of 5:1. -10dB at 191Hz cutting pillow characteristics, -6.6dB at 500Hz ridding room mud. Kick EQ Kick Gate Kick Compression Snare – compressed with a 4:1 ratio, medium attack, 100ms release for just the right amount of sustain, HPF at 75Hz (18dB oct) still being in phase with the rest of the kit, -5dB at 216Hz reducing body, 3.6dB at 410Hz reducing mud,  -9dB at 729Hz freeing space for the second snare sample which is used for the snap, enhancing (not replacing) the snare. The second snare if high passed up to 371Hz still maintaining good phase cohesion. Finished up with Lo-Fi saturation on both snares making them sound fuller. Snare Compression Snare EQ Snare LoFiSnare 2 EQ Overheads – I used the snare and kick close mics again! as the compression side-chain input, this is to clean up the muddiness that the snare and kick bleed does to the close mics.  I followed this by de-essing the cymbals as 8KHz in some sections got over excited and need some compression above this threshold. A 6dB oct HPF at 225Hz, -2.5dB at 450Hz cutting room mess, -1.5dB at 900Hz to lessen snare plastic characteristics and -3dB at 3.34KHz for less harshness from cymbals. I automated a width plugin so during verses the width would collapse to 20% and then back to 100% and then 110% on the final chorus. Overhead SidechainOverhead De-esser Overhead EQOverhead Width Parallel Compression – Finish this off with parallel compression using a FET with all buttons in mode, on the slowest attack and fastest release to punch listeners in the face. Drum Parallel Compression Effects – Finally a chorus effect (high passed at 500Hz only affect the mid and high end) was added to the guitars as the original did have this and sounded exciting, a church reverb with a decay of 778ms and pre-delay of 14ms is sent to all guitars and  drums to gel all sounds together this is band passed after to let the low and high end have more space for the mix. Mix parallel compression – Thats right! no your eye sights fine! all guitars and bass instruments are sent to this separate parallel aux which I then squash, this enhances the thickness of the guitars and creates an interesting pumping and breathing effect on the bass which is appealing. Chorus EQ ChorusMix Verb Verb EQMix Compression Guitars vs Bass – ‘Battle of the lower mids’, my goal was to lock the two together thus creating the impression of one instrument. The guitars were tracked with a 4×12 so the body has been shifted to a lower register in the spectrum, bass has a superior bass sound (DUH!) so jogging a high pass 96dB oct) up to around 130Hz on the guitars lets the bass shine in this area, the battle continues in the 100Hz – 250Hz region, because its Metal it’s very common for the mids to be scooped out from guitars and a fair bit from bass too, Guitars were EQ’s with a narrow Q and surgical cut at 348Hz by -5dB rids some cab mud. GTR EQ Bass Compression/limiting and side-chain – Just like mowing the lawn processing bass is somewhat the same (sort of), you get naughty dynamic peaks from slaps (weeds) and the low end eating headroom on the master fader and taking up all the low end space, this amount processing isn’t for the weak heart so brace yourself, I side chain the bass with the kick and snare being it’s key input, ducking 6db of GR. I added a limiter to shave off peaks of 1 – 2db (light trimming) before compression (using an FET like the BF76 for punch) of 4:1 aiming for 7-8dB of GR with a medium attack and fastest release to really unleash the apocalypse on those dynamics (smooth grass). A second compressor with a very soft knee is inserted after for smooth compression, nudging peaks back into place. In future, riding of the fader with aid of a RMS meter will achieve a cleaner/smoother result as the gain make up does bring up mess. This is followed by corrective EQ with -4dB at 388Hz frees the space allowing the guitars to sound less muddy and fat, -2.5dB at 75Hz for the low of the kick to breathe, -4dB at 166Hz with a narrow Q cutting the over resonant peak. If you think we’re done, you’re wrong multi-band compression can come in handy here and make the bass even tighter but in the end I thought no need as it already vibes well with the rest of the mix. By the end we should have a waveform that looks like a huge chunky block, now you’re thinking am I mad? there no more dynamics or life to the bass, probably and YES! now automation becomes a lot more simple and does exactly as I want it to, i.e. should I want the chorus louder than verses a wide selection and boost in the chorus and I’m set to go. Bass SideChainBass LimiterBass CompressionBass Compression SoftBass EQ Effects – I used a reverb for the drums and guitars and a chorus sent to guitars with a 50% dry to wet signal, Track – Hole in the Earth Cover by Collisional Drums – This is the same setup used for the track ‘sorry you’re not’, but an uninvited bass frequency showed up to loosen the kick drum performance. Kick – A narrow cut around 70Hz proved not enough as the sustain of the kick dragged on , an expander gate was inserted pre-compression (the compressor’s make up gain will bring up the softer sounds that you don’t want the gate to expand on) to shape the envelope to taste and to decrease over resonance in the low end. Next I couldn’t hear the kick on smaller systems so, sent the kick drum to an aux running parallel with the main kick, I used this as the kick beater volume control by high passing everything up to 1.5 KHz and annihilated this with an BF76. This was automated to not poke out in verse sections. Compressing for evenness 6:1 ratio as the kicks were very inconsistent in this case, 54ms release as the sustain of the kick was too long, aiming for GR of 6dB +. HPF at 55Hz and LPF at 9KHz to reduce cymbal bleed. broad cut -12.5dB at 180Hz freeing up space for guitars and bass. -6dB at 450Hz ridding pillow character Kick Gate Kick Compression Kick EQ Drum Room – were muddying up the whole mix, but were also a major contribution to the spread of the snare mics, I used the snare mic to trigger the side-chain gate on the room mic, allowing it only to open when the snare hits, the snare takes a few micro seconds to travel to the room mic so a somewhat fast attack was used, the hold settings were adjusted to prolong audibility of the snare. A 6dB oct HPF at 278Hz leaving behind a warm and punchy room sound without muddying the low end, believe it or not I did not compress this at all! a reverb was inserted last on a hall setting and a very short 872ms decay, pre delay at 25ms and a LPF at 8KHz. Room SideChain Gate Room EQRoom Verb Overheads – the snare bleed in the overheads were overpowering the snare mic (which I want to use for the main thump and snap of the tone), so using the close snare mic as the compressor’s side chain input function, so essentially ‘ducking’ the snare in the overheads every time the snare hits, only 4dB of reduction was enough as I do want some overhead bleed adding to the snap of the snare. I automated a width plugin for a nice variation on the overheads, so chorus sections really do sound different to verses and have a bigger impact on audiences. Overhead SideChain Overhead Width Automation Overhead Width The close mic’d snare was perfect as it was, some Lo-Fi saturation was added to increase the richness of the snare thump in the 150Hz range without needing EQ, a hall reverb was used on the snare and the rest of the kit to blend the tone together, jogging a high pass up to 40Hz to cut down on sub bass rumble. The pre-delay on the reverb was set to 25ms so the reverb could occur after the fact, this brings the reverb further back in the mix as well as further nasty comb filtering side effects (see creating depth in the previous section if you missed it), allowing for use of shorter reverb times. Snare EQ Snare LoFi Drum Verb Drum Verb EQ Parallel Compression (drums) – I finished this off with parallel compression to pump steroids into the overall drum sound, whilst keeping the dynamics. Drum Parallel Compression Guitars – The guitars on the left channel are the Marshall 4×12, while the right was the DI signal (due to timing issues had to result to this), I re-amped with Avid’s Eleven Free plugin using the modern distortion channel for it’s Metal tone. A 6dB per octave High pass was inserted on both guitars, as I wanted to keep some of the musical sounding rumble the 4×12 produced jogging the filter up to 140Hz, essentially blending the bass and guitars sounds together, a low pass was essential in the DI signal as the nasty highs in this spectrum just weren’t natural and too harsh in the mid range, a wide cut in the 2Khz – 3Khz regions were needed to allow cymbals and guitars to occupy similar spaces. The second guitar (DI) needed some extra crunch so added a dB of 2Khz followed by some tape saturation to smooth out the harshness of the digital sounding guitar. The guitar has it’s own reverb return using Wave’s Rverb (which was on sale when I got it). These reverb are a lot less ‘Lo-Fi’ and depending on preference can enhance or make something sound weird and cheap. GTR Verb EQ GTR Verb GTR 1 EQ GTR 2 Amp Sim GTR 2 EQ GTR 2 Tape Saturation Bass – Hopefully you’ve built the courage to read  on if you’re familiar with my approach to bass processing, so far the only time I’ve not been so heavy is with Down to Dusk, where a dynamic and energetic bass vibes very well with that type of music, so I begin with a limiter getting 1-2dB of GR before adding my favourite 1176 PT’s stock compressor aiming for 7dB of GR. Next what I want is a smooth compression characteristic, opto compressors are a popular choice for many due to its warming characteristics and the recovery on the release setting (Fast recovery on the deepest parts of GR and slow on the last dB’s of GR). Another nice choice would be a Vari-MU (dynamically variable ratio compressor) style compressor for it’s smooth silky compression characteristics, neither of which I used so added the stock compressor setting a soft knee so compression gradually kicks in smoothly. Stacking compressors is key to heavy compression with minimal lumpiness along the way, essentially you’re compressing the already compressed signal taking the load off of one compressor, this can add an interesting dynamic to the sound level if the attack and release parameters were at different settings. The BF76’s fastest release is 0.6 seconds http://akmedia.digidesign.com/support/docs/Bomb_Factory_Plug-Ins_v70_26682.pdf so if I were to add a compressor after with a 400ms sec release time, the compressor will release roughly 200ms (attack plays a key role here too) before the BF76. If this isn’t your style feel free to automate the bass to your hearts content (with less casualties from the make up gain), also use an RMS plugin to aid in automation (if getting flat dynamics is what you’re after) but life’s too short for all that so improve your Comp-FU for better results in future. Track – Don’t you pity by Glen, Mike, Lindsey and Kenny Vocals – Sibilance and consonants were an issue in this track, I used automation to reduce the level of the letter K, and sibilance while I was at it. This gave me the smoothest possible vocals I’d ever achieved, de-essers tend to kick in when anything that sounds the slightest like sss or shhh, due to the signal’s sidechain input reading frequencies of around that region. The vocals share the same delay return bus, with a ping pong effect (one channel is slower/faster than the other), this then gets washed with a short 500ms reverb acting as gel for delay to blend better with the mix as everything here was recorded in the same room. Vocal Automation Lindsay’s Vocals – Because I’ve automated all vocals, some compression is used to bring up mumbles or to tame peaks, only aiming for 3dB’s of GR, a 378ms release to allow time for her voice to sustain naturally. There is some noticeable harshness (like two voices but one scratchy and overly breathy) around the 8 – 9Khz area a broad cut helped, I followed this with some tape saturation hoping to fill the’ gaps’ in the frequency spectrum of her voice, lastly a stereo width plugin last to spread the vocals out giving the impression of a thicker vocal while also getting out the way of the kick, snare, bass which all in the middle. Lindsay Vox EQ Lindsay Vox Comp Lindsay Vox Width Lindsay Vox Tape Saturation Glen’s Vocals – During Glen’s vocal section they sounded rather dull, a boost at 12KHz by + 2dB to bring in some ‘sparkle’ to his voice, this inevitably threw the balance out making his voice sound tinny, so I compensate this with a boost at 450Hz to bring out more of his chest voice. -2dB at 1.58Khz to reduce the honky/nasalness in his voice. Drums –  snare – was out of tune, so a little pitch correction by about 45 keys sounded somewhat right, the overheads needed the same treatment as the snare bleed would have been out of tune with the close mics. The kick drum sustain was too long, a gate was inserted pre-compression again, adjusting the release parameters to achieve a sensible sustain the the kick drum, using the hold setting to adjust this further. compression of a 3:1 ratio aiming for 4db of GR nudging the kick into a more consistent performance, without slamming on transients with a 25ms attack, 93ms release. -12dB of 235Hz using a 3.25 Q to leave space for bass and the piano body. Snare GAteKick Gate Kick Comp Kick EQOverheads – A high pass up to 125Hz (18dB/oct) as the build up of lower frequencies in this mix is more, due to the band being tracked together, a cut at 684Hz to nudge the snare back into place without need to side chain, a broad cut of -1.9dB at 2.9KHz reducing harshness from cymbals + space for vocals and piano. Overhead EQ Piano – The book as the lid’s stand worked very well here, any bleed that snuck in was very pleasant to the ears, so added the same delay to the piano and automated this so towards the very end of the song creates a very interesting effect on the drum bleed. A gentle high pass to rid some unwanted rumble, the right and left channels are EQ’d differently to allow for a realistic listening experience, mimicking a piano’s note definition, by cutting the higher frequencies in the righ channel and then boosting this in the left, and then cutting the low mids and vice versa, this separates the piano a little and gives a ‘wider’ sounding effect to the piano overall. Piano Right EQ Piano Left EQ Bass – The last one of this blog so straddle up! Glen and Lindsay were making comments how the bass sounded a little too 90’s slap bass (think Seinfeld intro), I didn’t want to affect the low end so I separated the low end from mid, so used the DI as the bass’s low end and the amp as the mid. on the low end channel, a 3rd order HPF up to 44Hz and LPF at 250Hz (no phase cancelations occur as I moved the filter around), with the mid channel a 24dB/oct HPF at 500Hz and LPF at 2Khz. Leaving a big gap from 250Hz – 500Hz, we wont miss it, the piano, snare thump, kick will make better use of this area. on the Bass group channel, I side chained using the kick as the key input, then you guessed it a limiter to keep things in control, followed by a BF76 for fattening and control getting 5dB of GR here, then finished off with soft knee compression with little GR. frequencies at 70Hz and 189Hz were being over resonant and ugly so a cuts were made there, finally cuts at 1Khz and 622Khz to rid of the ‘Seinfeld’ frequency. Bass Limiter Bass SideChain Bass 1 EQ 2 Bass 1 EQ Bass 2 EQ Bass Comp 1 Bass Comp 2 Track – Love me like you do cover by Ellie & Evie Instruments – Originally the song recorded was acoustic, with vocals so I added MIDI instruments to this mix as sections lost audiences attention pretty fast. The key was to fill up the space left in the frequency spectrum so I added a bass, piano, synth, and an orchestra to support and not over power the main vocals and rhythm guitar. A very slow vibe approach is what is needed to match the energy/pace of the song, so I didn’t bother imitating the original version with it’s big drums and synth sounds. Once done I recorded the track by routing the instruments channels outputs to audio tracks, saving me a lot of CPU. Xpand2 MIDI MIDI MIDI EQ – 1st order HPF are key here for sounds to blend nicely and to give back some low end to the mix which was cut a lot on room and acoustic guitar mics. On piano 780Hz was being a ‘honky western’ piano zone so -3.6dB cuts here, on strings 362Hz was adding to the build up of muddiness in this mix so a narrow Q and -6.6dB cut to clean this up, a wide cut at 978Hz to take a step back in the mix. The pads weren’t cutting through so +6dB at 1Khz made up for this. Piano EQ Strings EQ Bass EQ Pad EQ MIDI Piano compression – For sustain and some realism, I compressed heavily with about 8dB of GR trying to bring up the room and warmth from the piano. Piano Compression Room and Vocals – First order HPF at 220Hz, keeping guitar body and thump to a minimum, compressing slightly as we don’t want room mud to add again from gain make up. On the solo vocal track, a low shelf starting at 204Hz rids of some ‘phlegm’ noise. this is then controlled with a de-esser to cut down on sibilance and guitar pick harshness. Room EQ Vox Compression Vox EQ De-Esser reverb – The reverb is automated so that the gap after the verse leading into chorus gets a big wash of echo, adding more emotion and feel to the vocals. The decay time can be a lot longer than I normally use as the song tempo is very slow. Reverb Vox Reverb Automation Sonic Limitations – The whole song is recorded with 3 mics, one is a room that picks up the lead singer and singing guitar player, the other is for guitars, to the author of the ‘The Mammoth Phase Handout’ I salute you, phase becomes a big issue in this case as there are two sources (three if you count the guitar and singing) hitting one microphone at once, so same frequencies inevitably arrive at the mic at different times and some will ‘lag behind’ in phase, resulting in some weird comb filtering. This also makes timing and mistake edits very difficult as the main source (lead vocals) is in the same mic that the mistake would have occurred in, so removing or shifting them would have been very obvious. Nonetheless in a pop song clean editing is a must but has prevented me to some extent. Unleashing the Apocalypse upon audio clips by deleting silences, sibilance reduction, crossfades, consonant control for clean audio was a necessity. EE Editing

FMP Recordings

Production – 5 Recordings in 5 weeks

By Dan Loh

Session 1 – Studio 3 Sorry you’re not a winner

Engineers – Dan Loh (Miking, ProTools)

  • Liam Flower (Miking, Mix Console)
  • Ryan Hornsby (Miking, Live Room)

31/03/15 – 9:30am – 10:00am mic setup

10:00am – 10:05am gain stage and rehearsal

10:05am – 10:20am re adjusting mic placements

10:20am – 11:20am Drums

11:20am – 12:00pm Bass

12:00pm – 1:00pm guitars

1:00pm – 1:15pm pack down, save and backup session

Input Microphone Technique Instrument
1 Audix D6 At sound hole (Inside) Kick Drum
2 Shure SM57 45 degrees at centre of snare Snare
3 Samson C02 Spaced Pair Overheads Left
4 Samson C02 Spaced Pair Overheads Right
5 AKG D112 On Axis (6 inches from speaker cone) Bass
6 DI Signal Bass
7 Shure SM57 On Axis 2 inches first speaker cone Guitar
8 Shure SM 57 Off Axis 45′, 2nd speaker cone Guitar
 9  CAD M179p  7 feet from centre of kit  Room
 10/11  Audio Technica Pro25  4 inches from Toms at centre of toms  Toms

During the session we recorded the whole band in the room at the same time for a feel of the track, we then overdubbed vocals later however, we were not impressed with the performance due to the amount of bleed in microphones which limits us from processing as we are prone to phase issues and nasty comb filtering effects should we change anything around, the guitar and bass volumes had to be loud enough in the live room for the band to be audible over the drums as two of the aux’s on the multicore were unstable, this means only the drummer and one other musician could hear themselves. The decision was made to re-record the band at a later date and with complete separation of all instruments.

After a month I recorded the band in studio one for the next 4 hours, we started with the drums and this time we had the double bass pedals necessary to fit the song, I used Samson C02’s as a spaced pair of overheads using the bass drum as the centre of the kit, this means the snare is now off to one side of the stereo image, that’s ok I love panning them to one side anyway since bass, kick, vocals and other junk are already occupying the middle, this gives me total freedom over how wide the kit will sound and easy modification of the tone, these were pointed straight down at the floor as opposed to angling them, thus keeping ceiling and wall reflections to a minimum. The C02s gentle increase from 3Khz peaking at 9KHz by +4dB, this gives the necessary bite and air I’m looking for in the cymbals. The image below shows the position of the overheads mics (red dots) and where the snare is positioned in the stereo field of the overheads (darker grey shades) you can click on the images to zoom in.

c02 freq respsonse

Snare Image

Overhead Space Pair

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On Axis Shure SM57 on the snare capturing the snap of the snare by aiming it in the centre, the proximity effect when the positioning of the mic is close to the snare produces a nice low end boost that the SM58 doen’t produce as well. The +6dB peak at 6Khz captures the crack from the snare chains and drum sticks when struck.

SM57 Freq Response

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The almighty Audix D6 inside the kick drum (the scooped mids and +10dB boost around 100HZ is ideal for Metal) which really rids boxy and dull characteristics in the low mid and mid sections. The huge boosts of +15dB captures serious snap from the attack of the beater head and a healthy balance of low end.

audix_d6_polar

I also planted a room mic facing the centre of the kit around 6 – 7 feet away, this can be used as a low end boost for the drums as well as a layer of density and ‘glue’ because of the near flat response from 40Hz up to 3.5Khz which is ideal when capturing sources from metres away. The CAD M179 has different polar pickup patterns available at the twist of a knob, doing so changes the high end response slightly, I kept this at cardioid again for simplicity and to not capture the rooms weird reflections which I don’t particular find pleasing.

m179

A pair of Pro25’s for toms, the frequency response is somewhat similar but bot as exaggerated as the Audix D6, giving priority to the kick drum in the mix, so the toms dont sound as punchy as the kick, but when combined sound like they were recorded in a similar environment and sound like one kit.

Pro25

I used a DI for bass running parallel with an amped (plugin) for the bassist to listen to, this allows him to achieve the amount of not definition that he was looking for, and allows me complete freedom late on to re-amp the clean signal with amp simulators or with real amps.

Guitars were recorded with a beautiful Marshall 4×12 cab modelled after a JCM800 I believe, The cabinet is placed on a built in stand which reduces vibrations/rattle that travel along the amp itself and around the room. I placed a 57 on axis on the first cone for the initial attack and mid of the tone and a second 57 45′ off axis on cone 2 for more body and chunkiness. Again the proximity effect comes handy to capture low end cabinet rumble, with larger 4×12 cabinets the muddy resonance in the low mids (250Hz – 500Hz) are shifted low in the frequency spectrum which  is more pleasant to listen to, it is down to the mixing stage to control how much of this slips through, both bass and guitars cannot be dominant in this area unless a muddy mix is what you’re after. The boosts in 6Khz range from the SM57 can be too ‘scratchy’ in some cases, but a low pass is usually inserted to reduce this.

Headphone Mixes – In studio one the first two faders of the TLAudio M4 desk have the ability to switch to pre-fade, meaning the signal gets sent out to an individual headphone mix that is unaffected by the volume changes of the M4’s individual channel faders. Now band members are able to have their own mix in their headphones while I can adjust level using the M4’s Pre Fade Listen (PFL) to monitor the signal gain.

Session 2 – Studio 4 Down to Dusk by The Motion

Engineers – Dan Loh (Miking, ProTools)

  • Liam Flower (Miking, Mix Console)
  • Ryan Hornsby (Miking, Live Room)
Input Microphone Technique Instrument
1 Shure PG 52 At sound hole (outside) Kick Drum
2 Shure SM57 On Axis at centre of snare Snare
3 Samson C02 XY Coincident (90 degree angle) Overheads Left
4 Samson C02 XY Coincident (90 degree angle) Overheads Right
5 DI Signal in control room Bass
6 Rode NT2A On Axis w/ pop filter Vocals
7 Shure SM57 On Axis 2 inches from speaker cone Guitar 1
8 DI Signal (different take) Guitar 2
9 Shure SM57 (Deleted) Off Axis 2 inches to right of speaker cone (different take) Guitar 2

the first step was recording Kaia’s vocals and guitars as a guide track for the rest of the band, So didnt bother with a guitar DI this time and miked the amp with a SM57 and vocals using a RODE NT2A. The small boosts in the 2Khz, 4Khz and 15Khz areas brings out intelligible mid range clarity, and air in Kaia’s vocals, there is a slight attenuation in the 7Khz – 8Khz after the peaks that can capture less sibilance from her voice, but is dependant on which frequency spectrum her sibilance resides.

NT2-A_Technical_Graph

The song included a lot of string slapping which peaked heavily on the desk, so we had to allow about 20++dBFS of headroom for the peaks. This caused the main rhythm to have a weak signal of around -25dBFS on average. We then tracked bass using a DI and drums together using XY as overheads with the snare being the centre of the kit, the issue with this technique was it captured the room’s overtones and awkward cardboard characteristics as it was tracked in a smaller room  so is more prone to weird reflections, the phase cohesion is easily achieved as audio hits both mics at the same time sure, but at ruined by it’s tone. Again C02’s on this recording, but brought out a lot of clean snap from the snare.

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Lead guitar was tracked on a DI and an SM57 off axis for a less mid focused tone allowing the rhythm to dominate the main mix.

Headphone mix – The vocals were tracked two days later in studio 5 which uses the Pro-Fire 2626 as it’s main interface, this means headphone mixes have to be sent within Pro-Tools itself using sends as the interface has no dedicated aux mix faders/knobs, it does however have dual headphone outputs so I am still able to have my own mix without affecting Kaia’s personal headphone mix. To actually do this, under the sends menu in either the edit or mix window view simply sent the individual tracks/group tracks to output 1/2 enabling pre-fade. It is worth remembering that muting individual channels in Pro-Tools doesn’t affect the headphone mix (which I forgot on numerous occasions, which led me to the same request ‘can you turn the click down please?’), you will have to return to the send menu in edit/window view and select the little fader from there.

Create+a+Headphone+Send+In+Pro+Tools[1]

Session 3 – Pop Studio 5 Love me like you do by Ellie and Evie

Engineers – Dan Loh (Miking, Mix Console)

  • Liam Flower (Miking, Pro Tools)
Input Microphone Technique Instrument
1 RODE NT2A (Fig 8) In between singer and guitar player Room
2 Samson C02 XY Coincident (90 degree angle) Acoustic Guitar
3 Samson C02 XY Coincident (90 degree angle) Acoustic Guitar
1 RODE NT2A (cardioid) On Axis w/ pop filter (different take) Vocals Dub
1 RODE NT2A (cardioid) On Axis w/ pop filter (different take) Vocals Dub and lead

A Rode NT2A was used as a room mic and to capture both singers on the figure of eight setting, we set this in between the two and duplicate the track and pan each hard left and right, inverting the polarity on one of them, a popular way is to also add a cardioid mic in the middle of the figure of eight called mid side miking or ‘fake stereo’.

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The guitar player sat on the opposite side and was miked with two Samson C02’s with XY coincident at 90 degrees. The first C02 was pointed at the sound hole, this captures the fundamental frequencies of the guitar and the body and warmth in the low mids. The second C02 faced the guitar frets, allow for more note definition and high end ‘sparkle’ that the first C02 isn’t capture as well. Some attenuation or de-essing may be used at mixing to reduce the fret squeaks and overbearing bite.

Session 4 – Post Metal/Experimental Hole in the Earth by Collisional

Engineers – Dan Loh (Miking, Mix Console, Pro Tools)

Input Microphone Technique Instrument
1 Audix D6 Inside sound hole, off axis 2 inches to right of beater head, 4 inches away Kick Drum
2 Shure SM57 45 degrees at centre of snare Snare
3 Samson C02 Spaced pair, using centre of kick drum as guide, both same height. Overheads Left
4 Samson C02 Spaced pair, using centre of kick drum as guide, both same height. Overheads Right
1 DI Signal (different take) Bass
7 Shure SM57 On Axis(4×12 cabinet) Guitar
8 Shure SM57 On Axis(4×12 cabinet) Guitar 2
9  Shure SM57 Off Axis at speaker 2, 45 degrees pointed at centre of speaker cone Guitar 2

Bleed from other microphones were a key role in this recording for the drums, the spread of the snare and crack is mostly from the overheads and room mic, I used a spaced pair as my overheads with C02’s for its bright high end and response to transients, again the kick drum being the centre so I can pan the snare off to one side in my mix. The idea behind this is that the drummer is playing from an audience perspective so his snare and hi-hat would be on the right while kick in the middle. To avoid resonant nodes and awkward room mud, I used a DI which can be re-amped later, I find miking bass in odd shaped and untreated rooms to always contain resonant mud around the 80HZ – 160HZ range, and sloppy sounds at 250HZ – 500HZ, or maybe I’m just unlucky. The guitars were miked on axis on the first speaker cone, another 45′ off at the second for the body and thump around 250HZ. The same setup is used for the previous song ‘Sorry you’re not a winner’ so please check that for more info.

Session 5 – Jazz/Blues Don’t you Pity by Finder

Engineers – Dan Loh (Miking, Mix Console, Pro Tools)

  • Liam Flower (Miking, Pro Tools)
Input Microphone Technique Instrument
1 Audix D6 Inside sound hole, off axis 2 inches to left of beater head, 2 inches away Kick Drum
2 AKG D112 At resonant Head 2 inches away Kick Drum
3 Shure SM57 45 degrees at centre of snare Snare
4 STC 1000 Glynn Johns, 1 meter from centre of snare, positioned near floor tom Overheads Left
5 STC 1000 Glynn Johns, 1 meter from centre of snare Overheads Right
6 DI Signal Bass
7 AKG D112 On Axis 3 inches away Bass
8 Used a thick book to semi close lid to limit bleed, Positioned pianist left view, on axis to strings 3 inches. Piano L
9 Position pianist, right view, on axis to strings 3 inches. Piano R

The whole band played in the same room with the piano being miked with clip on mics, we then kept the piano lid ajar using a thick book, as the piano stand was to long and would receive more bleed from everything else. We Di’d the bass, miked it with a D112 should the bassist use any effects we will be able to replicate this in mixing.

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Glynn Johns was used for the overheads with both mics being equal distant from the snare for best phase cohesion and stereo imaging. There is slight attenuation in the 2Khz range Compared with Samson C02’s which is smooth all the way till the higher frequencies.

stc-1_frequencygraph

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Two kick and snare mics were used which I could then audition and rid one in the mix. The vocals were overdubbed the next week in studio one, using an Avantone CK6 for its tidy high end boost and smooth mid range somewhat similar to a vintage U87 but still not the same thing of course! A pop filter was used to avoid plosives and to protect the condenser, pro longing its life and condition from moisture and SPL’s from the vocalists. the Avantone’s rich high frequency boost is much richer compared to the NT2A’s, but a little too much as it did increase the scratchiness in one of the vocalist’s mic’s around the 14 Khz area which is where to boost is.

avantone ck6

Piano – We used two AKGC518M’s as they were brilliant clip on mics with a grip that was able to attach onto the inside of the piano, one was facing the bass strings of the piano while the other faces the higher end of the spectrum, allowing for it to be panned to stereo in a mix giving the impression of a real piano playing infront of the audience. The C518m has a nice roll starting at 1Khz which really helps to ot capture the mess from the low end of the piano allowing space for the lower frequencies from other instruments.

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C518-freq

Mother Cover

Engineer – Dan loh

Musicians – Dan loh, Charlie Draper, Glen Salmon

https://danntheman.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/mother-by-john-lennon-cover-recording-process/

I decided to drop the Jeff Lynne style in the end as I am just not worthy of such greatness, I kept the bass, piano, vocals and lead guitars as the main elements of this song.

Recording Techniques –

Gain Staging – Every instrument is recorded at a strong signal level to expand the gap in signal to noise ratio, to avoid raising the gain later thus bringing up the accompanied noise floor as a consequence however, it is also important not to allow any clipping (especially digital) to occur at all during the process and allow some headroom for sudden spikes in dynamics.

Typically averaging at 0dBVU on an analogue desk and then when the signal gets to Pro-Tools will want it averaging -20dBFS, not only does this allow more headroom (0dVU = -20dBFS) but a lot of digital plugins have been tested and programmed to run best around this level. I will allow peaks of up to -10dBFS in PT, depending on how good it sounds (kicks, Snares).

pt gain

Bleed – When recording a whole band together, it’s important to minimise bleed in each microphone, this can sometimes be a burden later on in mixing, turning the guitars could mean turning up the piano bleed too. It isn’t always a bad thing as this makes everything sound more live and together, working as ‘glue’ for the overall mix.

Microphone Choice – There’s no right or wrong when it comes to mic choices or is there? Depending on the style of music may want to consider the frequency response, pickup pattern and type of mic it is (dynamic, condenser, ribbon). It would be unwise to place a condenser mic right in front of the beater head of a kick drum considering their general sensitivity in SPL’s. The pickup pattern means I can limit bleed in a mic (cardioid = picks up sound in front of it).

Most microphones pickup patterns capture the mid and higher frequencies from directly in the middle of the capsule therefore, angling them off axis will start to capture less of the high/mid and more lower frequencies until eventually rejecting the sound altogether, so angles of mics will be essential from minimising bleed, but repositioning of sources and dividing instruments will offer best isolation of the source.

Phase – Eventually all tracks will be summed into two mono speakers or Stereo, compression and rarefaction will occur in the diaphragm of microphones due to sound pressures, the same is true for speakers where the cone gets pulled and pushed, so phase will be an issue when one or more microphones is in question, different frequencies will arrive at the microphone at different times, sometimes masking or even cancelling out completely, this can be used to advantage i.e. a ring in snare mics can be cancelled out but MUST be cautious and always achieve best phase cohesion meaning the waveforms are all in aligned, going in the +/- polarity at same times, polarity inversion is where the phase is rotated a complete 180′ so if a wave at it’s + phase is being pulled by a – polarity will cancel or sound like your ears are being sucked out. These will be flipped several times during recording listening for best phase cohesion, particular paying attention to the lower end as bass frequencies are more likely to cancel.

PhaseIn

Source – The sound from the source accounts for probably 50% of a recording so I avoid the ‘fix it in the mix mindset, I’ll always make sure the musicians tune their instruments before takes and that drum kits aren’t over ‘ringy’, to fix this I’ll grab some tape and a soft piece of cloth or tissues and tape it to the tom/snare etc., I’ll make sure that I capture the performance of the band as they would sound in a live setting, so If what I hear in the control room sounds nothing as good compared to how it sounds in the live room, I’ll move around mics (change them), change the settings from the source (guitar, bass amp) etc.

Context – Before laying down any mics I will plan how I want it sounding sonically, and how everything will sit in the mix beforehand, some of these questions I ask myself include depth of instruments, balance, main elements of song etc. So if I’m recording a rock band, I typically want the vocals to be very up front as well as the guitars, and the kick to cut through the bass guitar more often than not.

I.E If you’re familiar with the difference of a rock/metal kick drum to a jazz/blues kick drum, you’ll hear that with rock/metal there is some sort of contour in the mid range and more beater from the kick drum, as opposed to jazz/blues which has more thump and woody sounding. So typically I would choose a mic with a frequency response that matches what I’m searching for frequency wise. I’d probably go for Audix D6 for a metal.rock style whilst sticking to a AKG D112 for other less agressive styles.

Etiquette –  Psychological skills do come in handy here sometimes in ensuring the best take for a song, so positive feedback and constructive criticism for musicians when recording a take is vital, Using clean language and politeness towards colleagues and musicians ensures a professional atmosphere that takes the pressure of everyone allowing for ease of the recording process.

A neat and tidy studio lets musicians know we care, and ensures a safe environment for everyone at the studio so we will wrap cables around mic stands and sweep cables under carpets when possible preventing accidents which could potential ruin a take later on.

Acoustic Treatment

Acoustic Treatment

No I’m not just talking about elaborate million pound studios where there are floating floors (floor on top of another), walls within walls, that’ll limit the sound coming in and going out of the room. But having a room that has taken into consideration some of it’s over exaggeration of frequencies, reverberations, strtange dispersions of sounds etc. Good sound proofing will limit the sounds outside of the room leaking in your studio i.e. your neighbour playing his stereo out loud, cars driving pass or that aeroplane you’re convinced is coming from your snare track. So when you are mixing your track you won’t be doing things to it that aren’t actually coming from the track itself such as overuse of reverb because it sounds dry, or trying to cut certain frequencies with an EQ. Great sound proofing also means you can playback your track louder than usual, anytime of day and possibly yell and take out your frustrations on certain occasions. Below is a coefficient absorption graph of how materials can absorb different frequencies, 0 indicates perfect reflection while 1perfect absorption.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 15.23.21

Fewer reflections can be solved using acoustic absorbers, different materials of flooring, walls, roof, and sometimes furniture with certain fabrics like tapestry, this means you will be able to hear your mix as is recorded without audio coming out of your monitors reflecting off walls that results in standing waves at certain frequencies. Bear in mind creating a mix in a overly dry room will lose the proper representation of the track resulting in emphasising or disquising other frequencies. Most of your audience aren’t going to be listening to the track in a sound proofed, isolated environment like a studio therefore, you want a balanced room that so you dont mix with false information, so that your mix will sound great in everyday environments. first find the first reflections of where sound is going to bounce off the wall to your ears first, then you place acoustic absorbers and choose the right thickness, the thicker the absorber the more you control the lower frequencies of the audio bouncing back.

Equally important, a good pair of monitors with a flat frequency response with a clear representation of your track is crucial, you don’t want to boost a load of bottom end due to your monitors poor bass response, this will result in your mix sounding over ‘boomy’ and add ’mudiness’ to the rest of the track when people are listening to it on their stereo etc. Speaker positioning is equally as important, you’ll want a equilateral triangle with the tweeters pointing at you ears, it’s  no use buying a great pair of monitors if you’re just going to place them anywhere and slouch on your couch and mix. Also take advantage of the symmetry of your room, so you don’t want your station to close to one side of the wall vice versa.

Mother by John Lennon cover – Recording Process

Session 1 – Bass

Now that my pre-production and arrangements are done I begin with the bass, in my previous post I mentioned recording drums first however, the drummer wasn’t in on that day therefore, took the opportunity to record bass whilst there were studios available. I recorded this in Studio 2 which is a medium size room so it will capture a lot of natural reverb that Jeff Lynne does and with little waveforms being reflected.

I chose an AKG D112, this dynamic microphone is able to handle sound pressures of up to 160dB without distorting the audio which, is excellent for achieving a clean sound as well as being able to pick up a frequency response of 100Hz and its total being 20Hz – 17Khz, this is good as it picks up the frequency range of the bass guitar and its accompanied harmonics i.e. low E string on bass fundamental 41Hz. http://www.akg.com/pro/p/d112 This is a cardioid mic meaning it picks up sound from the front of mic only so anything to behind isn’t picked up during recording. I set it on axis with the bass amplifier to pick up more attack from the pectrum, higher frequencies. And roughly 4 inches from the amp so as to get a little bit of the room ambience in there. The amp settings were clean and the master was at roughly speech level to get the tone without getting muddy. I also sent the bass through a direct input signal to the desk to capture the bass on its own without room noise.

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I ensured there was a strong signal from the mic to the mixing desk to avoid background noise known as signal to noise ratio through any normalisation or compressing during the mixing procedure . http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/definition/signal-to-noise-ratio this can be noise from the bass amp, microphone or even the mixing desk itself, by giving a strong signal from its source you can hear more of the signal compared to its noise accompanied with it so, getting it strong from the start avoids me normalising the signal along with its background noise as well.

My session was recorded with Pro-Tools with a sample rate of 44.1 KHz, bit depth of 16bit. I then imported my MIDI pre-production arrangement of the song so my bass player could play along with. I then added a click track and muted the unnecessary tracks the bassist didn’t need. I sent this playback signal through AUX1 to the bassist’s headphone mix as well as the 2 mono channels of bass mic and DI signal.

Channel List – Studio 2 Bass recording
Equipment/Source I/O Comments
AKG D112 Input 3, output ADAT 7/8
DI Signal Input 4, output ADAT 7/8  Scrapped later
Playback L/R Channel 15/16 ADAT 7/8Sends AUX1 Sent to bassist headphones aux1

 

During the recording I encountered some distorted noise audible through the monitors, I checked if the source was the jack lead or the channel on the mixing desk itself. This problem was solved by changing the inputs on the multicore itself from Input 1&2 to 3&4.

Just to recap here was the intended MIDI version

https://soundcloud.com/dtheman-1/mother-midi-version

 

Session 2 – Acoustic Guitars

Thinking about where the acoustic guitar will go in the mix, I knew I would need to stick to simple miking techniques however, due to my adventurous and ignorance I decided to experiment with multiple microphones, so I could then choose the best sounding and suitable one during my mixing stage. I wanted a bright tone so chose The Rode NT2A condenser microphone, offers a frequency range of 20Hz to 20Khz, cardioid, figure eight and Omni polar patterns with a SPL of up to 147dB at 1Khz, will be able to pick up the full range of frequencies of the guitar as well being able to handle the sudden increase in amplitude from chords and hard picked strings. Recorded in cardioid has a near flat response in the mid range which is where I want my guitars in my mix.

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The Shure PG52 (dynamic)was placed off axis, roughly a foot away from the sound hole to pick up some of the body (200 – 800Hz) of the guitar, I combined this with the Samson C02 (small diaphragm condenser – reacts well to transients/sound changes) off axis at the 12th fret same distance as the PG52 to avoid any phase issues (soundwaves arriving at mic same time with same polarities ‘compression/rarefaction). When I combined all three mics it gave the impression of being dubbed. I ended up scrapping the NT2A from my mix later as I already achieved great tone from the C02 and PG52.

I recorded the normal chords to the song and added a layer of octave chords using a capo, this really gave the guitars a full and rich tone, happy with my results no further dubbing was needed.

Session 3 – Electric Guitars

Jeff Lynne doesn’t use too much distortion in most of his songs; I decided I would record a clean guitar that would fill in the blank areas of the song hooking the audience’s attention longer. I chose a ‘Schecter’ equipped with humbuckers our college had bought that week (which had new strings and proper intonation which will help with octaves and lead/solo sections in the song) plugged into a Peavey Bandit 112 amp, recorded through the clean channel, I varied different parts of the song using the bridge (more bass ) as well as neck pickups (more “twang” < technical term, treble).

Once again an NT2A – Off axis from the speaker cone, roughly 6 inches away and a Shure SM57 (dynamic) same as the NT2A but on the right hand side of the amp. The session was tracked in the control room through sending the amps input signal through Aux A on the multicore, coming out Aux A on the ProFire 2626 interface, plugged into my guitar.

After setting enough input gain I listened in playback some of the other tracks coming in and out of solo, checking for phase that may cause other tracks to lose tone/characteristics. The polarity switch as well as several movements was then made with the two mics to keep in phase with the rest of the track.

Session 4 – Drums

Due to neglect and poor planning, I failed to send my drummer a demo of the song, this lead to 2 hours of re-takes of sections to keep in time with the track. On the bright side I managed to closely replicate the sound of Jeff’s double tracked, fat snared, emasculated kick, luscious drum sound. Another Rode NT2A was chosen not once but twice!, one pointed at the shell (for body 100Hz) of the snare although looking at the specs being able to handle SPL’s of up to 147dB, moved it roughly 3 inches away from the snare just to be sure it won’t damage or peak as well not getting too bright (harshness around 7 – 10 KHz). The second NT2A was pointed outside of the kick drum approx a foot and a half away so it blends with the rest of the kit, picking less attack (1 – 3 KHz) and boominess (Fundamental around 40 – 80 Hz).

I placed a Samson C02 (small diaghram condensor – more directional, more accurate off-axis response) on axis with the high-hat, Listening to Lynne’s music the overheads tend not to be too wide in the mix so, for my overhead used one Avantone CK-6 (Large diaghram condensor mic) pointed at the centre of the drum kit positioned behind the drummer.  The CK-6 offers a HPF at 80Hz (to rid rumble) and a -10 pad available to avoid overloading electronics. picks up about +5 dB at the 10 – 12 KHz and +2 and more around 6 – 10 KHz (ideal for cymbals).

CK-6 Frequency Response

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Mother by John Lennon Assignment

Mother Arrangement

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In this assignment I had to match the original tempo recording of Mother by John Lennon with my MIDI files. I began by renumbering the first bar to bar negative one this will allow me some room at the begining of the song and allow for better manipulation of the tempo map, also no errors can go wrong when I edit each individual bar later.

To find the tempo of the original song I used the “tap tempo” option available to me in P-T, this means I wont have to create a click track and adjust the settings till they are correct or just guess the tempo. However, this function isn’t completely accurate as it is down to the users ear and sense of timing as this requires me to tap the “T” key whilst the original song plays in the background. Due to the song being recorded in “free time” meaning no click track, the song isn’t fixed to one tempo and changes at different parts of the song, which meant I will have to create my own Tempo map and is where my use of the Bar Edit came to play. I also set the view to Bars and Beats to allow easier editing for myself and to ensure the edit bar tool was to what I set it to. I also set a Sync point at the very beginning of the track right after the bells were played, this let P-T know that this is where the first bar is located.

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To use the tap tempo function I brought up the transport bar, I did this with the CMD+1 shortcut key, and then enlarged it to view the other options. Next I turned off conductor so I had control over the tempo map. My goal with creating the tempo map is so when the midi tracks are added later they will follow the exact tempo of the song once I complete editing the bars and beats.

The process for identifying each beat is with my knowledge of the song being in 4/4, I simply played the song and stopped it once 4 beats had been played I then used the CMD+i shortcut to change the number of the bar. Whilst editing I had the “pre roll” function activated aswell as the insertion follows playback, this means I was able to start the song from the previous bar So I would have time to prepare for the next bar and discards the need to manually click the previous bar myself.

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I did use the shortcut “Tab to transient” on, this helped me in locating the transients by tapping the tab key on the keyboard. By doing this it enabled me ensure my timing was correct however, I didn’t rely on this option completely due to the fact that the transient isn’t neccesarily where the start of the beat is due to there being several other waveforms present i.e piano, vocals etc. I also added markers into different sections of the song, this helped me later on whilst editing the midi parts as I could jump to different sections of the song without having to remember the time or bar. I did this with the “markers” option next to the tempo map and named each section in an order that would benenfit myself i.e father verse, drum fills etc. Once the process was complete I now saved my progress in a different P-T File so that I’ll always have a backup of my recent save. P-T allows you to import session data into new projects, I did this in a new project file then added markers and tempo map to my fresh project file.

Production Techniques & Producer choice

My choice for a producer I would like to almost replicate will be Jeff Lynne due to his style of production being clean and reasonable enough for myself to reproduce in this recording. Jeff’s microphone setups are usually basic and nothing complicated however, a common technique Jeff uses is layering of tracks to bring a more energetic and bigger sound such as strings in the majority of his recordings, another technique that is instantly noticeable would be the equalisation of instruments such as the strings, vocals. With the strings it is common that he will follow the frequency range of the instrument for this instance the mid range and high mid range, he will then EQ out the bottom end out giving the strings a very resonant and clean sound, this is a very good way of cleaning up the sound of the recording due to boosts in certain frequencies and thus allowing more headroom for other instruments to stand out and sound clearer. It is also because of the way it is EQ-d makes it sound like the era Mother was recorded. When possible Jeff takes advantage of the natural reverb of a large rooms rather than resort to added reverb as mentioned in an interview which can be view here: http://mixonline.com/recording/artists_engineers_producers/jeff_lynne/

From my research of Jeff Lynne I will be using several techniques of his in my project, a very noticeable thing I will do is to replace the keyboard with guitars and layer this later on. Another thing also will be to experiment with different yet simple microphone positions that will not capture too much of the bottom end to keep the overall mix clean and allow headroom for the other instruments. I will keep the original arrangement of the song but slowly amp up the intensity later on in the song.

Schedule for recording

Talent Search – I have decided I will first decide on who I shall use for my recordings and how I want my vocals to sound, I will also get someone who is able to reach the vocal range of the song.

Setup ideas – My idea is to record the artist in a large – medium sized room such as Studio 1 to capture the natural reverb just as Lynne does. I may mic the artist with a simple on axis position and maybe add a room mic that will further capture the room noise and add a compressor on the room mic. The instruments in this song are very simple so finding a musician should be fairly simple, a simple on axis mic on the bass will capture the tone I prefer and not too much bottom end which will end up making the overall mix muddy. For the guitar I will record in a medium sized room to allow natural yet not too overdone reverb, I will use two microphones as this will be where the majority of the songs bite comes I will also pan each mic left and right for the stereo effect. The drums I will again use a simple technique such as the Glyn Johns method and maybe try a small sized room as well as a large room.

Recruiting process – Once decided on how I want it to sound I will allow some time for my selected musicians/artist to practice the song. I will recruit musicians from my college this will include my classmates as well as the music group, I could also recruit my ex band members which were great musicians and some whom thoroughly enjoyed The Beatles and John Lennon but may be overkill just for a simple chord progression.

Studio Time lapse – I plan on getting each musician to play to my midi file as well as the original song to make the editing process easier for myself, This will also prepare on recording day when playing to the Free time click track. If the drummer were accurate enough I may just get the band to play to him instead of the click but I won’t take this chance. I will reserve most my time for the drums as the setup and pack down process takes longest (and drummers are usually late), the bass or guitars will be for the next session and depending on their preferences could choose to both play at the same time. Vocals and the final mix I feel may be able to be done in the same session.

How it’ll sound – My goal is to make it sound clean/crisp just like Jeff Lynne’s productions but not too overly energetic, whilst keeping the same structure and feel of the song.

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I then imported the midi files into my new project file along with the previously added tempo map and markers, in the tempo map I was able to drag the arrows of the bars into place to fine tune the timing and allow the midi to follow the original recording more accurately as my previous tempo was slightly off time so when the midi and audio tracks play there was a delay in beats certain parts of the song, the mistakes were miniscule but the result meant that If the bar I edit in time this would lead to the next bar being slightly off too.

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With the MIDI tracks I routed their outputs Structure Free 1 port 1, Structure Free 2 port 1, Structure Free 3 port 1, the reason for having three different instrument tracks was so I could edit each individual Instrument without affecting the entire track if it was only on one instrument track.

With the MIDI tracks I rearranged parts in MIDI editor assigning the correct bass notes/drum beats for different sections. I simply copied the already recorded parts and pasted them (keeping in mind the bars and beats in time) into the positions I found most correct. With the drum fills that occur later on in the song I rid the parts and added the notes into MIDI editor to fit with the original songs fills However, whilst trying to make the drum fills they weren’t in time with the original recording so I switched the time signature to 1/64 and then drag my parts into time. The song structure I kep the same to stay true to the song.

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The different drum parts that I copied and pasted…

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Once the editing process was complete I added a fade out using automation in P-T by switching clip view to volume and slowly decrease the amplitude. I then added a master fader and routed all my instrument tracks to the master fader, this will help me in checking for peaking of the master fader. Finally I bounced my project as a 44.1KHz 16bit Interleaved .wav file