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Inspired by “engineering screw-ups” on Gearslutz, here’s a list of recording and mixing bloopers that made it past the mixing room onto the final release.
These aren’t performance missteps, where the band missed a cue, or the singer came in too soon. There are certainly countless examples of those but most were included intentionally, to add character or realism. Rather, the flubs below highlight mistakes in recording or mixing that could have been corrected before the track was released.
Some of the mistakes probably went unnoticed. Some, I’m sure, were noticed and begrudgingly accepted because of a deadline. But reassuringly for us amateurs, they all prove that even the pros aren’t perfect.
Most importantly: Every voice is different, and every song is different. That advice bears remembering, even if you’ve heard it dozens of times. When you find yourself approaching a vocal mix on auto-pilot, applying effects “because they worked last time,” consider disabling the EQ altogether to gauge just how badly the adjustments are needed.
Reasons to EQ: The 3 main reasons to filter a vocal with EQ are
1) to help the voice sit better in the mix,
2) to correct a specific problem, and
3) to create a deliberate effect, like “A.M. radio voice.”
If you’ve EQ’d a vocal track for some other reason, be sure the result is improving the mix.
Gentle boosts: The “cut narrow, boost wide” guideline applies to vocals perhaps more than any instrument. Our ears have evolved remarkable sensitivity to the sound of human speech. (Consider how easily we pick up a single conversation in a crowded noisy room.) So we’re immediately, instinctively aware when a voice has been processed unnaturally.
High-pass: Most vocals – though of course not all – benefit from a low cut filter. The average fundamental frequency in an adult male voice is 125Hz, and often you can roll off up to 180Hz without affecting the sound. (If your mic or preamp has a low-cut filter, consider engaging it when recording vocals, as most subsonic audio in a vocal track consists of mic-stand noise, breath rumble, popping, and other undesirable sounds.)
Bypass: Especially with high-pass filters, it’s easy to remove too much body from a vocal, as our ears adjust so quickly to new sounds when mixing. If your EQ has a bypass option, use it periodically to make sure you haven’t gone too far with an adjustment.
Read More At: http://www.hometracked.com/2008/02/07/vocal-eq-tips/
Original Post http://forum.recordingreview.com
Tracking Live Benefits
More Fun / A Social Event
When a band can play live and sound great, recording is a lot of fun. They grab their guitars and drum sticks. You hit record and away we go. There are at least four guys involved, generally. Sometimes they bring their girlfriends. It becomes a bit of a party. Most drummers I know turn it into exactly a party. (I counted 16 empty beer cans next to shards of drum sticks after one session. He sounded great.) There is something fun about a full-band going for it, hitting stop, and listening back to a completed recording.
I recorded an album in an afternoon one time. It was a band kinda doing a classic rock thing. They just went for it. The recording turned out great. Because the band had the chops and the tones, all I had to do was toss up some mics, play with some faders, and call it a day. There’s something about being able to record an album Saturday day and then still have the time to have a social life Saturday night that is very pleasing. A military General may use the word “sustainability”. When you spend 18 hours nitpicking over bs like editing bass tracks or tuning vocals day in and day out (often for no real musical benefit and for 7 fans to show up to the cd release party), you become unbalanced. You will wear yourself out no matter how tough you are. This matter gets more complicated when toss in having a family. (Something I’ll have to figure out very soon.)
In some circles there is some implication that in order to do it “for real” you have to put in 18 hour days. I’ve found this to be a viscous lie. There’s nothing legitimate about throwing your life away. The results speak for themselves. There’s no reason to think a live take isn’t “for real” unless it sounds like it’s not “for real”.
When you listen to solo’d drums, you wear yourself out quickly. It’s not fun. It doesn’t even really feel all that musical. It’s similar to doing you taxes. The idea of having to plan ahead to imagine how a future guitar track would groove on top of those drums can be stressful. If you don’t hear it now, it can be your ass a week or month later.
With live tracking, there is no guessing. The band says yes or not and that’s the end of it. The microscopes, tax forms, and straining go by the wayside. In truth, I’d argue that listening in his fashion is closest to how the average fan listens….if you can get the band to shut up. A useless term to describe certain equalizers, the word “musical” comes up to describe this way of working.
There are times when we need to take 3 hours per song for bass tracks. This is the crappy part of the gig. It’s when this gig becomes a job. For those of you who record for fun, I’d fight to the death to maintain the fun. If not, what’s the point?
It Just Feels Right….When It Feels Right
When you record a band live and the tracks on playback feel like a mixed record (give or take), there’s this relaxing something in your gut with an umbrella in your drink that says, “Ahhhh. This is the way life is supposed to be.” When the tracks don’t go down in that way, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
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Before you begin…
The first thing to keep in mind is your budget. Keep this simple saying in mind, even before you set your budget: the better the source, the better the recording. If you’re recording a decent-sounding instrument or voice, you can probably bet that even a cheaper microphone will sound acceptable. Learn to tune your instrument well, and take some of our advice on treating the acoustics in your room. You’ll find that the added trouble to make your recording circumstances perfect will reflect in your recording!
Unless you have limitless resources, budget should be a concern of yours on your mic purchase. Budget at least 25% of your budget for a studio for microphones, more if you can. You don’t have to spend the best to get “the best” sound. A lot of microphones are considered “homages” — microphones that replicate a certain characteristic of a historic microphone. These are generally sold by small manufacturers, and carry a much lower price than the original. Also, don’t be tempted to overspend; with maintained instruments, you’ll have no problem getting the sounds you want.
Dynamic or Condenser: What’s the Difference?
Dynamic microphones generally sound best on guitar cabinets and close-miced drums; you’ll also find some exceptional dynamics that sound best on voice in studio. There’s also condenser microphones; these sound best on vocals (in the studio)aaa, acoustic instruments, and room/drum overhead micing. If you can only afford one microphone, consider a high-quality condenser. You can find many within the $100-300 price range. If you can afford it, a great “utility” condenser along with a great dynamic microphone will cover almost all of your recording bases. If you can only afford one, a good condenser microphone will do.
Does your mixer or interface offer phantom power?
If you choose a condenser microphone, you’ll require a 48volt phantom power source on your mixer or recording interface. If you don’t have this, it’ll be an extra cost you have to incur on your purchase. Many companies manufacture 48volt phantom power supplies; these will cost you between $100 (for plug-in models), to $250-300 (for elaborate battery-powered solutions). It simply depends on your resources; if you don’t have built-in phantom, and can’t afford to add the capability to your system, chances are a dynamic microphone is best for you.
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Quite a few bands have a HUGE fear of being over-produced. The idea is some sleazy producer is going to turn their Motorhead-esque sludge into something that could be played at praise and worship featuring Boyz To Men and Mariah Carey.
Watch Def Leppard’s Hysteria Classic Albums. If anyone is going to make an argument for or against big-time production, that album certainly has to be up there. They used two reels of analog tape for every single harmony and we are talking multiple harmonies. Very few bands imagine that they’ll be spending the entire day on one single harmony on one single song.
More importantly, who can afford this? The documentary says that Def Leppard had to sell 5,000,000 copies to break even. Obviously, they came out of this adventure alive (and then some) or there would be no article or documentary discussing it. What band has that kind of coin lying around? Adele is the biggest thing we’ve seen in some time (pun optional) and she sold 4.6 million copies in 2011. (Just a few years ago Disney On Ice was the best selling album of the year.) That means she would have been in the red if she used Def Leppard’s budget. Obviously times have changed. The point is very few people are moving enough units for the big time production treatment even if studio costs are plummeted.
With this fear of overproduction comes the disdain for new tools. There are tools out now that can save you time, money, or simply improve the intensity of your recordings. (This has always been the case, but a compressor from the 60s doesn’t scare as many people as snare drum replacement or Autotune.) Never advocate that an engineer automatically start meddling with the sound of a band, particularly if that band has a definable sound. However, there’s no reason to ignore technology that helps a band get THEIR sound when maybe the mics aren’t picking up the sound in their head.
Quite a few bands who are dead-set against Autotune and sample layering (but almost never against brickwall limiting). They’ll site how they, “Don’t want the T-pain sound”. Really? You don’t want your Iron Maiden-esque band to sound like a hip hop artist from 2009? I had no idea! These bands dig up examples of a tool being pushed to the extreme and then judge it.. “I don’t want to ride your children crusher. I think I’ll walk to the studio.” It doesn’t make sense to judge studio tools based on times when they’ve been intentionally abused.
The real issue here is trusting the engineer. If you are working with an engineer you don’t trust….WHY???? If you can’t listen to their previous work, sit down and have a chat, and not say to yourself, “Yeah, this is a guy we want on our team” then you shouldn’t be working with that engineer. It’s as simple as that. There are enough good recording guys out there who will do your music justice to settle for anyone who won’t.
When you tie an engineer’s hand behind his back, you are simply asking for trouble. Asking a handyman to ditch the screwdriver just because you read some whackjob article in Guitar World is absurd. What the hell do you care! You don’t tell him how to do his job. You just need to make sure the engineer knows exactly what you want. (They should be the most adamant about finding that!)
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Great sound quality is MUCH MORE about understanding a few key principles of audio, and MUCH LESS about the cost of the equipment than most people think. And here’s better news: The few key principles are easy to learn…IF you have the right teacher. That’s where we come in. You’ll learn all you need to know with our video tutorials, home recording articles, and tons of other resources on the site. There are a lot of people out there who thought home recording was the realm of tech geeks and audio engineers with lots of school and tons of expensive gear. It turns out….it’s not!
In this day of ubiquitous (cool word huh?) computers and widely-available digital tech and amazingly affordable home recording software, just about anyone who has a computer and an internet connection (or not!) can produce professional quality audio with tools you already have! You may have to shell out $5.00 for a microphone if you don’t already have one, but that is all you need to get started.
Our motto at Home Brew Audio is “Knowledge Trumps Gear.” And we are here to provide that knowledge. We are not about using any specific programs, effects, microphones, etc. Our goal is to teach the basics that will apply to audio regardless of what gear you use! Fun, fun, fun!
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Recording the rhythm track is where the ability to record 3 or 4 tracks at once is a HUGE benefit. The ability to record the drums in stereo by using two channels, recording the bass into a third channel, and the rhythm guitar playing a “dummy track” into a fourth makes the recording sound tight and clean.
Miking the drums and mixing them to two tracks (left and right) is what to spend your energy to get sounding just right, because drums are very hard to fix once recorded. After that, the bass guitar can be run directly into the multitracker so it will come over the headphones, but, not be picked up by the drum mics. Then, finally, the guitar can be run directly also. Even if the sound is not that good, just to complete the rhythm section, then the guitar can be re-recorded over the first take by miking the speaker cabinet to get the sound you want.
In the event you are using a 4-track, the 4 tracks you just recorded will have to be mixed and recorded to a regular stereo deck to get it down to two tracks. This will bring your recording to the regular deck speed, which is a drawback, but, it will free up 2 tracks for vocals, guitar solos, sound effects, or whatever your music needs.
When mixing down the rhythm track, keep in mind that when it is mixed to the 2 tracks, it is permanently mixed, so be sure to get it right, the only way to change it after this is in the premastering (which will be discussed later) and the changes that can be made at that point is minimal.
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Condenser microphones capture sound using a conductive diaphragm with a capacitative charged plate behind it. The charge is supplied by a DC voltage source from a battery or from the 48 volt ‘phantom power’ supply present in most mixers and mic preamps. Air pressure changes meeting the conductive diaphragm cause it to move, which causes an analogous AC voltage to be formed in the charged plate. These tiny AC voltages are sent to a tiny preamp built into the microphone, which brings the signal level up to where it can drive a typical micrpphone preamp. The signal leaves the microphone through the cable and on to the microphone preamplifier stage of the mixer. Because the diaphragm of a condenser mic can be made very thin and light, condenser mics tend to be more accurate and ‘faster’ than dynamic mics, especially in the midrange and treble frequencies. However, condenser mics tend to be more physically delicate than dynamic mics, so they are more commonly used for studio recording than for live sound and P.A.
Since condenser mics need a tiny amplifier built into the mic casing (called the “head amp”), the quality of its electronics will influence the sound of the mic. Some condenser mics use a small vacuum-tube circuit for their head amp, along with an external power supply box for the electronics. This is what is referred to as a “tube mic.”
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Distortion can sound great, we all love distorted guitar sounds, however there is a big audible difference between overdriving valves in a guitar amp and overdriving semi pro recording equipment.The following explains how to reduce harsh unpleasant distortion during recording and mixing.
All current digital audio workstations can operate at 24 bit resolution so what does this actually mean and how will it help your music sound better? One of the most important factors of improvement by using 24 resolution in recording and mixing is being able to set your recording and mix gain structure up for lower distortion.