You are currently browsing the category archive for the 'Technique' category.

The easiest way to move a track “back” in a mix is to lower its volume. This works because in our everyday lives, sounds get quieter as they recede from us, so we’re accustomed to the effect. But our brains also use other cues to determine distance. For example, human hearing excels at matching a […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , , ,

This tip arises in most discussions of good equalizer technique: “Use narrow adjustments when cutting frequencies, and wide adjustments when boosting.” There are some great reasons to heed this advice. But they’re not immediately obvious, especially if you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with parametric EQs, and they’re rarely fully explained. I’ll explain and demonstrate below, and […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

From Gearslutz: How can I treat nasty snare drum ringing? usually a “ring” isnt in one frequency…it’s a complex combination of frequencies. so you may need to eq out 2-3 different places. if you find a resonance, and eq it out, but still hear a ring, then repeat the process till all rings are gone. […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

To play sound our ears and brain understand, a digital audio system must emit an analog signal. The switch from digital to analog is handled by the digital-to-analog converter, usually just called a DAC. Under specific conditions, which I describe below, the DAC can produce an analog signal that momentarily exceeds the level of the […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

“Reference tracks for better drum mixes” included a few drum-only passages captured from commercial recordings. The ideal drum reference tracks feature few other instruments, as musical instruments tend to mask frequencies in the snare and kick drums. But since drums aren’t often featured solo in pop and rock recordings, it can be tricky to find […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

I spend as much time as any guitar player tweaking knobs to find great tones. Here are some links that have helped me in the quest: First, the effect of pickups on guitar tone: Even though we each have different ideas about our ultimate tone, I think we’re all looking for a rich sound – […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

I previously discussed the best bit rate for the MP3s you distribute. (Short answer: Probably 128KBps or 160KBps, but test your own music to be sure.) There’s a more important bitrate for most home recordists, however: The number of bits you use to record raw tracks. In all likelihood, your recording system gives you two […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

In audio, a transient is commonly defined as “an abrupt or sudden change in level.” We associate transients with sharp, harsh sounds: Think of cymbal crashes, hard-strummed acoustic guitar, and a singer’s T’s and CH’s. A microphone’s ability to accurately capture these transients is known as transient response, and it’s an important property to consider […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

From homerecording.com, a collection of approaches to mixing: First thing is to do the faders up listening. If you’re a member of the band, or the engineer, or even worse both (as well as the song writer and the overall aranger of the songs….like I am), then TRY REALLY HARD to forget that. You have […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

I’ve been away from Hometracked for the last week because I had a chance to record in a great space: A Muskoka cottage with 14-foot cathedral ceilings and all-pine interior. Perfect for recording drums! I was certain the space would yield a better drum sound. Still, I thought it would be interesting to hear how […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

For a sales video, this “recording guitar” primer from Presonus is surprisingly effective, especially if you struggle to get a usable tone from acoustic or electric guitar:

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

I ask most people I talk to where they listen to music: On a home stereo system? Through headphones? In the car? While I haven’t tracked the answers scientifically, I’d say the breakdown looks roughly like: Headphones or earphones: 60% PC speakers: 20% Car speakers: 10% HiFi speakers: 10% A recent CEA study adds that […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Characteristics of Musical Keys: Composers through history have associated various moods and colours with each of the 24 major and minor keys in Western music. From the link “This document contains a selection of information from the Internet about the emotion or mood associated with musical keys. It is not complete nor does it include […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Butch Vig discusses mixing Smells Like Teen Spirit, and Cobain with his “vocal cords … starting to come right out of his throat.”

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Some instruments, guitars especially, sound great when double-tracked and separated in the stereo image. Hard-panned electric guitars are a standard in modern rock mixes, and engineers have used the technique on acoustic guitars too for decades. Double-tracking is straightforward: Record a part twice, both takes as similar as possible, and pan one take hard left […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , , ,

Linkin Park’s singles often inspire the question “haven’t they already written this song?” An mp3 that does the rounds from time to time mixes Numb (on the left) and Pushing Me Away (on the right) to illustrate this with almost comical effect: All Linken Park Songs Sound Exactly The Same. As shown below, and forgive […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

As an amateur recording engineer, you’ll likely run into the name Recorderman when learning how to mic a drum kit. Recorderman’s approach to placing overhead drum microphones is recommended for beginners because it’s easy to set up, and yields good, sometimes great, results in practically every situation. The name “Recorderman” comes from a user on […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Electronic Musician just added an old interview with Bob Clearmountain to their web site. Clearmountain is one of my idols (his work with Radiohead notwithstanding.) And while he’s arguably the most famous mixing engineer on the planet, he doesn’t mind sharing advice with us amateurs on how to mix: I mix at various monitoring levels, […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

Whether via search or link from a web forum, every few months I find myself back at the fantastic Sound On Sound article Using Equalisation. And as with Equal Time, the Electronic Musician I linked to before, I get something new from the Sound on Sound piece every time I read it. The article covers […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

The EMI/iTunes

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

Most often, we use compressors to tame the dynamics of a recording. Like all recording tools, though, compressors have less-obvious uses for shaping sound. A compressor raises the level of quieter elements in a signal. This tends to “fatten” the recorded sound, which can add a lot of character, especially on drums and vocals. However, […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Gearwire has a 3-part interview with Dave Huizenga, who scores and records the music for Cold Case Files (part 2, part 3.) Dave discusses his equipment, techniques, and philosophies, offering lots of great behind-the-scenes details, especially for those who dream of adding Music Director for National TV Show to their resume. (It could happen! Dave […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

From Mix Magazine, here’s a great interview with Andy Wallace, the engineer who essentially defined the modern rock mix (with bands like Nirvana, Linkin Park, and System of a Down.) The Pro Tools thing is a mixed blessing. The younger guys who have never had to cut tape or edit by bouncing on analog have […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

Here, Stevie Wonder takes us through the recording of I Wish. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process (and on a much grander scale than my experience with Gert.) However, it also illustrates the importance of talent in a creating a great record. The lesson for amateur producers: Capture a top-notch performance, and […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Digital equipment simplifies most aspects of recording, yet high profile studios still work in analog, often recording to magnetic tape. Why stick with the older, more expensive technology (especially with the panic over Quantegy’s decision to stop making tape?) Ethan Winer offers some thoughts on the matter in his article Gaining an Edge with Subtle […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , , ,

The optimal sample rate at which to record is a matter of considerable debate. Proponents of recording at sample rates above 44.1 KHz typically claim that the higher frequencies yield greater detail. And while there’s a tradeoff – tracks recorded at 96 KHz need more than twice the storage space of those captured at 44 […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

Here’s a tutorial on grabbing your own samples, and building a beat in Acid:

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

Vocal recording and effects chains include, depending on the performance, a de-esser, a noise gate, an equalizer, and a compressor. Frequently, engineers also add effects like chorus, delay, tape saturation (unless recording to tape, of course,) and reverb, to enhance the sound. In a pro studio, most of this treatment is handled by expensive hardware […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

Lars Ulrich & crew discuss some of the techniques used when tracking his drums on Metallica (i.e. The Black Album) The secret to Lars’ sound? Cut’n’paste … and plywood.

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

Digidesign (makers of Pro Tools software) published an extended special on recording vocals in 2004. The series focuses on using Pro Tools to produce polished vocal tracks, but 2 of the articles deal with plugin effects, and the techniques are much more generally applicable. You can use the advice from these articles with any DAW […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , , ,

While a cheap reverb can hurt your recordings, some of the best-loved reverb sounds in history were happy accidents. Electronic Musician has a great article on finding your own distinct reverb sound in the space around you: … for all its wonders, digital reverb is not indispensable, nor is it always the best way to […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

If you made your first recordings on a 4-track tape machine before migrating to a computer-based DAW, chances are you have dozens of old cassette tapes lying around. These tapes won’t last forever … Magnetic tape degrades over time, and if you keep them long enough, those old 4-track masters, and the mixed tapes you […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

Paul White (the editor of Sound On Sound) gives us the A Concise Guide to Compression and Limiting, a great introduction to the subject. When it comes to individual tracks, it is pretty much routine to compress vocals, bass guitars, acoustic guitars and occasionally electric guitars, though overdriven guitar sounds tend to be self compressing […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

Here are a couple of great articles on recording better vocal tracks. Successful Techniques for Recording Vocals from Electronic Musician covers the entire process, from preparing the singer, and microphone selection, to compressing the final track. The 10 tips on page 6 also make a handy reference. I want to dispel the myth that large-diaphragm […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

Regardless of your comfort level with EQ, it’s worth setting aside 15 minutes to read this fantastic article in Electronic Musician: Equalizers: Equal time “The Bonham kick drum is the quintessential rock drum sound,” Martin explains. “I usually obtain it by boosting the frequencies between 120 and 240 Hz by about 4 dB or more. […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

A few weeks ago, I discussed Gert’s experience collaborating online. Peter Wolf offers another perspective on virtual collaboration in his article The Care and Feeding of a Virtual Band. You all know how difficult it is to find the time to get together and rehearse, write, record and produce, but, nevertheless, it usually works out […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

Many of us learned the basics of compression from books and magazines, but compression can be difficult to grasp this way, especially for hands-on or visual learners. If you’re in that category, you might find enlightenment in these videos (with minimal sales pitch) from t.c. electronics. Straightforward overviews of compression, expansion, limiting, and parallel compression.

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

The DAT-Heads Microphone FAQ, while no longer actively maintained, is a great repository of information on microphones. Much of the information targets DAT recording, but the descriptions of mic selection based on venue, microphone response patterns, and stereo miking techniques apply to all mediums.

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

From the Muse’s Muse: “Singing and playing a great song is almost as good as getting a lesson from the person who wrote it.” With recording and mixing, lessons from experts come even easier when the engineers and producers volunteer to share their knowledge. Michael Tretow, the engineer for all of Abba’s studio albums, offers […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , , ,

In the age of DAWs and firepods and CD burners, it’s easy to forget how good we have it:

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

From Gibraltar Hardware, this page on drum maintenance and repair is handy for addressing annoyances that pop up while tracking drums. If nothing else, the page advances the maxim that drummers (and the engineers who record them) should always carry duct tape. Excessive Footboard Movement If your bass or hi-hat pedal footboard suddenly begins moving […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

I’m a member of the band Gert. Until we played together in person this summer, our year-long collaboration was entirely virtual. 6 song writers, a continent apart, connected by musical tastes and the Internet. We’re still a band in the general sense, but in place of schedule conflicts, angry neighbours, and ego clashes, we deal […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Practical Mixing – from sound On Sound magazine. This article focuses on tracking and mixing via console (with an aside to address the importance of checking a reference CD while mixing.) But Sound On Sound caters to the masses, so the information in this article is broad and still generally useful. It is important to […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , , ,

Ryan Hewitt contributed to the tracking and mixing of the Red Hot Chili Peppers album Stadium Arcadium, and is happy to share his engineering experiences: In an interview with EQ Magazine: “What makes mixing this band so hard is that you have three musicians who are all laying down serious stuff, and the balance between […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

In this clip from the Nevermind edition of the Classic Albums DVD series, Butch Vig discusses the track Drain You, which had more guitar overdubs than any other track on NeverMind: … a clean sound on the intro with Kurt’s vocal, as well as 1-2-3-4-5 guitars, 2 tracks of the Mesa Boogie, 2 tracks of […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

What happens to your recording when it’s played on the radio? Add this to the list of reasons to avoid crushing the dynamics out of your mixes: Hypercompressed material does not sound louder on the air. It sounds more distorted, making the radio sound broken in extreme cases. It sounds small, busy, and flat. It […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Mixing, from a producer’s perspective – On the Humbucker Music web site. As the article states, many of the mixing tutorials on the web are engineer-centric, focused on tips an engineer can use to create the perfect mix. But more often than not, a great mix starts before the first track has been recorded. If […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

After reading the importance of checking a reference while mixing, an obvious question is: “What are some decent reference mixes?” John Vestman answers the question with his list of commercial reference CDs. Bob Katz also provides a CD Honor Roll Previously: The importance of checking a reference while mixing

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Basic Mixing Method – from the Department of Music at Columbia University. This page outlines a straightforward approach to mixing rock tracks: Start with the drums and bass as a foundation, and build on that. Once the fundamental groove is established the vocals or lead instrument should be added. We work with these two elements […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Bruce Bartlett’s article on stereo microphone techniques describes 4 methods of capturing a sound source in stereo. The article focuses on recording ensembles, but the techniques he details can be used anywhere a stereo recording is desired. One goal is accurate localization. That is, the reproduced instruments should appear in the same relative locations as […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

Habituation is the name for our tendency to respond less to something the more we’re exposed to it. While the concept is academically important to psychologists and biologists, it also has enormous significance for anyone serious about mixing or mastering music. We likely come by this tendency through evolution. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors relied on habituation […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

This “ambience clinic” from Electronic Musician has some food for thought about creating sonically interesting spaces with reverb and delay: Another way to save CPU resources is to use two instances of a power-efficient mono reverb plug-in to create a unique stereo effect … That approach offers interesting sonic possibilities and also works with hardware […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Some details on the recording of Ryan Adams’ album Rock And Roll. Candiloro used Neumann U47s on all vocals … For guitars, Candiloro always settles on two Shure SM57s, positioned on the amp right where the cone and paper meet. For bass, the L.A.-based engineer miked an Ampeg B15 cabinet with a Sennheiser 421. Drums […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,

Terry Manning (yes, that Terry Manning,) posted a great breakdown of his vocal tracking and mixing technique on ProSoundWeb: I like to build a special area for the singer, moving tall baffles into a “squared-off U shape” behind and to the sides of the singing area, not only for the purpose of controlling unwanted reflections, […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: , ,

This article from Sound on Sound magazine dissects James Brown’s I Feel Good to learn how we can add real feel to programmed drum beats. … the timing of each instrument in a live performance constantly changes from section to section, so a fixed one- or two-bar groove template will only ever provide a certain […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

If you record live drums in your home studio, proper setup of your drum kit plays an important role in capturing a good sound. Clearly, a poorly configured kit is harder to play which will affect the quality of your recordings. However, there are some less obvious issues to consider: Mic placement: A well arranged […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

While he’s got a vested interest in assuring you that mastering at home is a good idea, Dave Moulton’s Tips ‘n’ Tricks for Mastering article is still a great resource for those learning the craft. I’ve taken you through this brief review because I believe it is essential to get and keep in your head […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: 

The Web contains dozens of pages written for amateurs learning to mix. Some pages are simple collections of tips, while others are in-depth walkthroughs, containing advice of benefit to even seasoned engineers. I collect the best pages here, updating as I find tutorials with something of value. If you’re new to the science (and art) […]

Read the full post ...

Tags: ,