Tuesday, June 09, 2015
A Mastering Engineer’s View On A Quality Mix
Who is really responsible for a fantastic sounding master?
Mixing is justifiably a bigger subject than mastering and would easily fill a book or two by itself.
For that reason, rather than give a tutorial on mixing, I am simply going to outline some of the most common problems I have come across when receiving mixes from clients.
I won’t go into too much detail with things like, what frequencies to boost, or cut to improve the mix, or any other mixing tricks. I’m just going to try and get across an overall concept of why some mixes produce good masters and why others don’t. In doing so, I hope to shed a new light on this massive subject.
In a perfect world, all the problematic mixes I receive will go back to the mix engineer with a report on the issues I have found, followed by a remix, and then a great sounding master. The truth is, sometimes I have no choice but to make the best of a bad situation and master, to the best of my ability, a problematic mix. Having mastered many problematic mixes I am able to give some advice on why certain mixes don’t produce the best results, and why others do.
Mixing sounds together
There’s a fundamental rule when it comes to playing different sounds together at the same time. The lower down the spectrum the sounds lie, the more difficult they are to blend together.
I use a bass guitar playing two notes simultaneously as an example. If you play two different notes way down at the bottom of the bass guitar’s range then the two sounds will not sound clear, or very musical being played at the same time. Play the same two notes a few octaves up and all of a sudden it’s not so unpleasant to the ears hearing these two notes.
It’s unlikely in any song that the bass player will be playing more than one note at one time, but there are other factors that can cause there to be more than one thing fighting for space in the bottom end of the frequency spectrum.
Occasionally, I will receive a mix where the choice of kick drum is that of the tuned category. By that I mean, will have an obvious frequency or musical note contained within the kick’s sound. These are usually synthesized kicks or sampled (a natural sounding, and correctly recorded acoustic kick should not have any obvious tuned frequency or musical note).
When a mix contains a tuned kick, problems can occur as the note usually clashes with that of the bass-line. These conflicting frequencies at the very bottom end of the spectrum cause it to sound unclear and muddy. Tuned
kicks have their place. In house styles of dance music, tuned kicks can sometimes be quite suitable so long as effort has been made to ensure the kick and bass-line work together.
Another rule is the more natural each sound is – as in how well recorded – the more easily they will mix. If when you record the sound of an acoustic guitar, the mic picks up some undesirable resonance of an untreated room causing certain frequencies to resonate, then this guitar may well be stubborn during the mixing stages.
When listening to a musical instrument in the real world, you would probably not notice room resonance unless you have a trained ear. To effectively record a musical instrument, you need to avoid placing the mic inside areas where the room is causing certain frequencies to jump out. Poor microphone placement will force the mixing process to be quite difficult.
A musical instrument itself may cause certain frequencies to jump out a little when the mic is placed close in to the body of the instrument. The resonating body of a musical instrument is how it produces sound in the first place, but there has to be some distance between a microphone and the instrument for it to sound correct. Only once the sound has travelled a certain distance away from the instrument will it form the natural sound of that particular instrument. Depending on what part of the instrument body you point the mic at, you will get a different sound. Some areas will be desirable helping you towards a nice mix, but some will not and will cause trouble.
A good mix starts here – microphone choice, microphone placement, suitable room, good musicians. If you get all this right then the mixing becomes much easier. You end up needing much less processing like EQ to persuade the mix to, well, mix.
When using the EQ technique described in my book, The Audio Mastering Blueprint (sweeping a boosted EQ across the spectrum), these undesirable resonant frequencies picked up by poor microphone technique are one of the things you are looking for. A very good mix will reveal little, or no unpleasant resonant frequencies when applying this technique – this is the best result you can hope for.
One major asset that all good mixes have in common is good separation. This is where all the many different things happening are clear and easy to pick out for the listener. So why do all the different sounds become so unclear and hard to pick out in the first place?
Resonance is one culprit. The resonating frequencies mask or blur other sounds occupying the same area in the spectrum. Also, when we hear sounds in the real world, the fact that they are all coming from different locations is one of the ways that the brain separates the sounds. When all the sounds are coming from a single set of speakers, some extra effort has to be made to allow the listener to separate all the different things going on.
This leads to an important point – depth. If effort has been made to give the mix depth then we are able to separate all the different sounds more easily. But before we get on to creating depth within a mix (not using Ultra Depth!), I’d first like to raise some awareness about the idea of separation and how it is so easily lost.
When two elements in the mix occupy very similar frequency ranges, it can become difficult for the listener to distinguish between the two. When a mix has many elements struggling to be defined, the mix may sound muddy, especially when it’s lower down in the spectrum. Throw in some unwanted resonance picked up during recording and the mix will become really rather stubborn.
Two sounds might occupy the same frequency range but have different textures, this would help them separate. Or, they might sit in different places in the stereo field which will help with separation too. Using the pan pot to separate sounds is good but you need to always ensure your mix sounds good in mono too, this is why EQ is an important tool for good separation.
Some advice I was once given was to start the mix in mono, get as good a mix as you can, then move to stereo.
It’s important to understand that it’s okay for instrument’s frequency ranges to overlap but you still need to be able to tell them apart. The tones of sounds can help with separation. Two sounds occupying similar frequency ranges could be EQ’d to have different tones or texture, one could be given warmth, the other could be brightened.
Muddiness can be the result of poor separation and is most often found in the low mids and lows, with the main culprits being the guitars and bass. A bass cab can create unwanted resonance. The room the bass cab is in can create resonance which tends to be more obvious in the lower frequencies down to the distance between the walls.
Electric guitars typically extend pretty low in the spectrum and on their own sound great, but all this low end causes trouble when adding the bass guitar to the mix as the bottom end of the electric guitar extends right down into the bass guitar’s range. Low cutting the electric guitar to allow space for the bass guitar will give much clarity to the low end. If you’re worried that doing this will make the electric guitar sound thin at times when it’s on its own, you can automate the low cut to only activate when the bass-line is present.
As mentioned in my book’s chapter on Expansion, even a little low cut to the bass to ensure the low end of the kick extends that little bit further down can help with low end clarity too. Or the application of a notch in the bass at a certain frequency can allow the kick to cut through. The very bottom of the spectrum doesn’t need much to fill. The kick and bass are plenty, and even they need to be separated from one another to some extent.
Pretty much everything in the mix, if played from a musical instrument, will have harmonics extending way up to the very top of the audible spectrum, and beyond. It’s important that you try to keep these intact as they actually help with separation. Whereas heavy handed cuts can help clarify the lows, gentle persuasion in the mids and highs should be all that is needed to achieve separation. High cuts can sound harsh and will affect important upper harmonics.
I hope I have managed to make my point… that separation is clearly of huge importance!
As just mentioned, creating depth in the mix helps with separation. Depth in a mix is when all the different instruments (vocals, guitars, drums etc) seem to have their own actual space, not just from a tonal point of view, but from a 3D point of view as well. All the sound might be coming from two speakers, but we can still give quite a good illusion that they are coming from different places in the room. Depth can be achieved in many ways – EQ, reverb, chorus, panning and delays are all tools used for moving things around the sound stage. As I said at the start of this beginning, I don’t intend to go too far into mixing techniques, I just want to get across the concept of good separation and definition.
Channel and bus compression
Some problems I come across when mastering are not always to do with muddiness or tone, sometimes it’s down to compression. Let’s start with the drums.
Compression can really change the tone or feel of the sound you are compressing and this happens mostly to percussive sounds down to their sharp attacks. Because a percussive sound happens so quickly, with quite a large amount of changing tonal information hitting you in such a small amount of time, the effect of the compressor changing the envelope (shape over time) of the percussive sound can really alter the overall tone.
Using a bus compressor for all the drums is definitely a good idea, it brings them to a whole in very much the same way as using a single-band mastering compressor across the mix. But care must be taken not to push too far. Given the chance, a compressor can really sap the life out of a percussive sound.
In general, excessive amounts of compression in a mix will not translate into a nice master. If a mix has been over-cooked, there’s very little a mastering engineer can do to put things right. Occasionally, expansion has helped in such situations but not very often.
At the opposite end of the scale, I have experienced situations where certain elements in the mix could have really done with some more compression. For instance, dynamic range is not always that favourable with the vocals; at times I find vocals to be under-compressed. A vocal’s expression (loud or soft) is translated through the way the voice sounds and doesn’t need to have huge variation in the actual level. An under-compressed vocal can suffer from certain words or syllables being lost in the mix affecting its intelligibility.
Another aspect that can sometimes be under-compressed is the bass-line. Ideally, the bass needs to be pretty levelled out, at least in its lower regions. The bass-line, along with the beat, make up the foundations of the whole mix and need to be solid. What can sometimes happen is one certain note of the bass-line will jump out, most likely due to some kind of resonance. Or there can be variation in the level of each note down to the way the musician is playing. Don’t be shy when it comes to compressing the bass. Multi-band compression can be useful to focus in on the frequencies that are jumping out.
For most other things in a mix, compression should be used lightly as not to over-cook it. It may be the case that a master can be too dynamic making it unsuitable for playing in a noisy environment, but a good master should still have a healthy amount of dynamic range overall. A piece of music’s expression comes largely from the dynamics of the mix. Squashing out all the dynamic range with excessive amounts of compression will take away the life of the mix. However, there is one situation where being bold with your mixing compression may be more favourable – when you want the final result to be loud. Another chapter covers this in more detail.
Rather than teach you how to mix your music, I have merely pointed out some rules that mixing different sounds together follow down to the way we perceive sound. Mixing is very subjective, heavily dependent on the artist’s taste. In my opinion, a nice mix is well balanced, has good separation, width, depth and punchy dynamics, which is a joint effort of recording and mixing skills. Nice mixes become nice masters, simple as that.
David S. Eley is the author of The Audio Mastering Blueprint. David owns TGM Audio Mastering and operates the website MasteringTuition.Com.
The Blasting Room Brings API 1608 To The Studio
Studio founded by punk rock band The Descendents as a personal recording studio in 1994 finally gets an API console.
When asked about their first experience with the API brand, many engineers, producers and artists can describe the session or studio in great detail.
For The Blasting Room’s co-owner and chief engineer, Jason Livermore, however, API goes hand-in-hand with his entire career.
“Pretty much immediately upon becoming interested in pursuing the recording arts,” the tone and warmth was integrated in his work.
The impact of API was strong enough that when The Blasting Room recently began looking for a console from local dealer Wind over the Earth, Livermore knew it had to be API.
Livermore describes the studio’s history, which traces back to 1994, when “members of the seminal punk rock band The Descendents built The Blasting Room as a personal recording studio, but since the first day they opened, people were banging on the door wanting to record.”
While the band is from California, they chose Ft. Collins, Colorado, to build their studio, where “it has grown into the multiple room studio that it is today, recording some of the biggest names in the industry.” As just one example, Livermore explains that almost all of Rise Against’s discography was recorded and produced there, including their American platinum single “Savior”.
The studio has also worked with Alkaline Trio, Flobots, Air Dubai, Puddle of Mudd, The Lemonheads and Train. The 1608 is currently employed by a band recording their newest album, though they have not gone public with the project yet.
Like the studio itself, the 1608 has been busy since the beginning, working across the wide-spread genres that the studio works with. While best known for their punk rock and other heavy styles of music, Livermore says they’ve also worked on everything “from folk to hip hop.” One of the more eclectic genres was brought to the studio by Japanese ska band Kemuri, who just cut their eighth record with The Blasting Room.
Livermore says the 1608 has kept up admirably. “The console is exactly what we had hoped for and expected from API. Extremely clean and sleek design, intuitive functionality, and the ability to craft our tones into exactly how we want to hear them.”
While the 1608 has made business flow more smoothly, it has also changed a few things—and Livermore says that the change is for the better. “Before, we just had an ITB setup with eight channels of summing, so now we have the ability to lay out entire sessions on the desk and mix from there, which has been a huge improvement.”
In reference to the 1608, Livermore says “it’s perfect for our room”, and is routinely used for everything from tracking drums or individual instruments to recording live bands. Before settling on API, Livermore says the studio shopped around quite a bit, but ultimately “the 1608 offered exactly what we required, on top of API’s legendary sonic stamp.”
Posted by House Editor on 06/09 at 09:12 AM
The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing Supports IMSTA FESTA L.A.
More than 500 music and audio enthusiasts were in attendance to meet with peers and exhibitors and to explore the facility.
On Saturday, May 16, 2015, the annual conference IMSTA FESTA L.A. convened at the new SAE Institute Hollywood, held by the International Music Software Trade Association with support from The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing and select pro-audio manufacturers.
More than 500 music and audio enthusiasts were in attendance to meet with peers and exhibitors and to explore the facility.
This annual conference celebrates pro-audio software and hardware manufacturers and promotes the theme “Buy the Software You Use” with a daylong program featuring demonstrations, panels and networking.
The day kicked off with a candid keynote conversation spotlighting four-time GRAMMY-winning producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins. Moderated by P&E Wing managing director Maureen Droney, the discussion had Jerkins sharing informative and inspirational anecdotes that spanned the history of his career.
The Professional Panel Series included two P&E Wing programs — “Pathway to a GRAMMY,” an overview of The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Awards process, and “Leaders of the New School,” a conversation with today’s hitmakers.
The GRAMMY panel included Recording Academy staffers Yvonne Faison, Jeriel Johnson, Joseph Langford and Sean Riley, and Leaders of the New School featured producers Rahki, Rob Knox, Sak Pase and Scoop Deville, with P&E Wing sr. project manager Deston Bennett serving as moderator.
Closing the day was an interview with GRAMMY-nominated artist/producer DJ Khalil, moderated by Jeriel Johnson, the Academy’s project manager, R&B, Rap & Reggae. Khalil also served as a guest judge of the IMSTA songwriting contest, awarding a talented music professional the opportunity to record a demo in Santorini, Greece.
The event is part of a tour, with additional 2015 conferences scheduled for Chicago (7/25/15), New York (9/26/15), and Toronto (10/17/15) later this year.
“IMSTA FESTA LA 2015 was a great opportunity to hear from top music professionals and network with the southern California recording community,” stated Droney. “The response from attendees was overwhelmingly positive, and we look forward to the upcoming events in Chicago and New York.”
The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing
IMSTA FESTA L.A.
Posted by House Editor on 06/09 at 07:06 AM
Monday, June 08, 2015
Apogee Duet, Quartet And Ensemble Now Include Waves Plugin Bundles
Customers who purchase a new Apogee Duet, Quartet or Ensemble Thunderbolt can receive a license for the Waves plugin bundle.
Apogee Electronics announces that their Duet, Quartet and Ensemble audio interfaces for Mac now include Waves plugin bundles.
Customers who purchase a new Apogee Duet for $649 USD from an authorized dealer on or after June 8, 2015 can register their product and receive a license for the Waves Silver plugin bundle (a $600 value). Similarly, customers who purchase Apogee Quartet for $1495 USD or Ensemble Thunderbolt for $2595 USD can receive a license for the Waves Gold plugin bundle (an $800 value).
Waves Silver bundle features 16 essential audio plugins for reverb, compression, equalization and more.
“We are very excited to partner with Waves,” commented Betty Bennett, ceo and co-founder of Apogee. “Waves plugins together with Apogee Duet, Quartet and Ensemble deliver incredible value to anyone building or expanding their studio.”
She continues, “We know it can be difficult to compare and understand all of the options that are out there. Bundling two premium brands like Apogee and Waves makes it easy for customers to choose an audio interface and audio plugin combination that will give them professional results when recording and mixing their music.”
Mick Olesh, Waves evp sales & marketing, comments: “Waves is delighted to be working with Apogee. This partnership is another step in keeping with our commitment to allowing our customers the freedom to use their plugin products anywhere, everywhere and to simplify their workflow in order to enhance creativity.”
Friday, June 05, 2015
Big, Bigger & Biggest Digital Consoles
Before the advent of stereo in-ear monitors and double-miking instruments, long before dedicated effects and “sweetening” tracks (and “click”), way before the B-stage and the guest inputs, consoles with 32 channels and 16 auxiliaries covered any band and most festivals.
But today, 32 x 16 desks are consigned to clubs and support acts, with today’s largest shows often requiring 100 channels and 50 mixes or more.
The digital train keeps a-rollin’: the advantages of digital consoles are so numerous we may take many for granted. And Neal Young is right: once considered a frivolous extravagance, today’s largest consoles operate at 96 kHz.
From “copy and paste” to preset libraries for EQ, effects, dynamics, entire channels and even sets of channels (like an entire drum kit), there’s a lot to work with. Presets can even be made of an auxiliary send, making monitor mix presets possible. Control groups are even larger on the biggest desks.
Engineers used to worry they wouldn’t have enough faders on digital consoles to manage high channel count shows, but the new digital workflow allows engineers to mix from DCAs, “spilling” contributing channels to the next fader bank where they can be tweaked. New designs improve workflow with custom fader layers, but control group “spill” onto adjacent fader banks is the ultimate custom layer.
Size and weight are obvious digital advantages. Analog consoles and their associated outboard racks, splitters and multi-core interconnect snakes are becoming a thing of the past. Large digital control surfaces weigh one or two hundred pounds and take far less room than analog equivalents for smaller footprints in theaters and at festivals.
Digital snakes are eliminating the hums and buzzes of yesterday, and networking a digital console’s preamps on stage shortens the path from mic to preamp. Gain-sharing means consoles don’t need a splitter, so mix engineers don’t have to listen to their inputs through transformers.
“In-the-box” mixing, where mix processing is performed entirely within a digital console, means engineers can save shows and open them on identical or similar consoles. They can email a file to the next gig’s console vendor, “cc-ing” themselves a copy as backup.
Remote control of a console from an iPad has become a standard feature and a powerful tool, allowing front of house engineers check their listening area while monitor engineers can stand beside performers – both with controls in hand.
MADI has enabled manufacturers to provide multi-track I/O for recording and playback to laptop-based DAWs providing affordable virtual sound check. This simple innovation allows engineers to easily check a previous show, test sound systems with a previous performance, practice mixing or tweak a show file, teach others to mix, and afterwards, easily mix a show down for distribution using the same console.
Another advent is simple 2-track recording and playback using USB “thumb drives,” allowing engineers to walk away from a console with a board mix they can easily listen to and then e-mail to others if they like. It also provides simple and foolproof playback of walk-in and intro music with no moving parts.
Be sure to take our Real World Gear Photo Gallery Tour of the latest large-format digital console models.
PMC Supplies Loudspeakers For A Unique Songwriting Event In France
Grammy nominated producer Greg Wells specifies PMC for the Writer's Retreat at Miles Copeland's Château, based on his own experience with the brand.
A group of song writers and record producers recently completed a two week Writer’s Retreat at Miles Copeland’s Château Marouatte in the Dordogne region of France with each writing/recording area equipped with a selection of pro audio gear, including PMC loudspeakers.
Surrounded by medieval castle walls, gothic towers and fantastic antiques, the invited guests worked in groups to write and record new compositions that, if previous events are anything to go by, could soon find their way into the US and UK charts.
With assistance from its French distributor Studio Dealers, PMC supplied six pairs of nearfield monitors, which were positioned in various rooms around the Château.
As most of the writing rooms were compact, PMC’s pro audio export sales manager Chris Allen recommended the company’s twotwo active range, which comprises three models – twotwo.5, twotwo.6 and twotwo.8.
“Our twotwo.6 speakers were perfect for most of the rooms because they are ideally suited to nearfield monitoring and deliver transparent, accurate and distortion-free audio,” Allen says.
“For the largest recording room, we installed a pair of three-way MB2S mid-field speakers. All participants enjoyed working there and having a large reference system available for finals checks. They also got the chance to hear their songs in the dining hall where we installed a pair of twotwo.8 speakers for critical late-night playback listening sessions.”
Everyone taking part in the retreat was impressed with the audio quality delivered by PMC. Miles Copeland was particularly enthralled and says that PMC are now a permanent fixture for all future events.
“At so many of my songwriter events in the past, we would get advise that we should have this speaker or that speaker system to really hear the songs as they should sound,” he says. “At this recent event with Greg Wells, PMC provided speakers for the studios and for the playback room and wow, what a difference! No more suggestions of what speakers I need. The PMC speakers delivered and all the songs sounded great. We know which brand we want to use in the future.”
His views are shared by Wells, who says: “I have a pair of PMC MB2S XBD speakers in my own studio in California and I’ve always loved the way they sound. It was a huge help to have the support of PMC in furnishing this think tank event with their speakers. All the producers were blown away and two of them have already begun talks to acquire their own PMCs. Monitors have always been a battle for me - it was always essential to listen to a mix the next morning in a car or at home. That battle has now evaporated and I can’t tell you what a helpful tool it is to hear all the music all the time.”
The Writer’s Retreats at Château Marouatte date back to the late 1990s when Miles Copeland invited artists such as Jeff Beck, Jon Bon Jovi, Belinda Carlisle and Desmond Child to participate. The tragic events of 9/11 halted the sessions for a few years, but in 2011 the Retreats were revived by multiple Grammy nominated musician, record producer and songwriter Greg Wells, in conjunction with the US songwriters organisation ASCAP.
“ASCAP still runs an annual event in September of each year, but we have also introduced a retreat in the spring, which is organised purely by Greg,” Copeland explains. “The UK’s Music Publishers Association is launching its own annual event in October, 2015 so there will soon be three separate songwriting events at the Château.”
The environment is obviously inspirational as a number of hits have been created within the château walls. These include several country N0.1s, such as Aaron Tippin’s That’s As Close As I Get To Lovin You; Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood’s No.1 hit Somethin Bad and Keith Urban’s first No.1 But For The Grace of God, which he co-wrote at Château Marouatte with Charlotte Caffe and Jane Wiedlan of the Go Go’s.
“We’ve even had some big hits in the Arab speaking world,” Copeland adds, “including Yalla Ya Shebab with Ragheb Alama.”
Those taking part in the most recent Retreat included Patrik Berger, Jason Evigan, Cathy Dennis, Sarah Hudson, Jon Bellion, Scott Hoffman, Nina Woodford, Lindy Robbins, Julia Michaels and Sean Douglas.
“They have all been involved with the Top 10 pop chart in the US over the past year, from Eminem to Katy Perry, David Guetta and Iconopop,” Wells explains. “They’re mainly younger writers and producers with lots of success that command a whole other level of talent than most people in their field of work.”
Time will tell whether any of this year’s songs make it into the charts, but should anyone create a No. 1 song that sells over 10 million units, they will have the honour of being inducted into the Grand Order des Troubadours de Marouatte.
“Greg is a Knight of Marouatte and is known as Sir Greg at the Château because he wrote a No.1 hit there,” Miles Copeland explains. “He was inducted back in the 1990s, along with Mark Hudon and Carol King who co-wrote Celine Dion’s hit The Reason.”
Layering Guitars For Maximum Impact
When it comes to layering guitars, it may be hard to believe, but often times, less is more — really.
I frequently receive songs to mix that have quadruple tracked guitars (or more) that don’t sound any bigger than the double tracks, which, incidentally, don’t sound very good to begin with.
I’m going to give you some tips on how I build bigger and better guitar parts in my productions through layering.
So, you’ve just cut the God of all rhythm guitar parts, and now you want to double track it and pan it left / right to make it even bigger — and in stereo!
Well, instead of using the same guitar with the same rig with the same settings, simply change something. Better yet, change several things. If you’ve only got one guitar, then change the pickup setting. Maybe even borrow a second guitar from a friend or try changing the amp, or at least the style of amp in your amp simulator. Spend some time dialing in the sound on the new setting and search for a tone that is complimentary to your first rhythm track, but not the same. The more variation you can put into similar sounds, the wider and bigger the stereo impact will be.
Remember: Double tracked rhythm guitars with sonic variations will sound much bigger than quadruple tracked guitars using all of the same settings. Too many tracks of similar sounds — even panned away from each other — tend to sound a bit mono as they seemingly blur together into one part. Adding tonal variations to your guitar overdubs lets the ear identify the different parts more easily.
Several years ago, I produced a rock record for MCA, and we were working on this super-heavy, wall-of-guitars-type song. The sound was already dense (using the previously mentioned layering techniques), and the band wanted to add a melodic guitar solo on top of this already formidable gang of guitars.
The guitarist dialed in an even heavier sound and proceeded to play. Ultimately, his part got completely swallowed in the mix. I suggested he try an almost clean setting for his lead. After looking at me sideways, he clicked off the distortion, just keeping a bit of edge and compression to the sound, and tried the part again. Lo and behold, the part cut through beautifully, and his sideways glance turned to a smile. All of the sonic room for distortion had been taken up, but the clean part was clear and distinct without being loud. The ear could easily identify it because it took up its own sonic space, not competing with the distorted tracks.
There’s more than one way to play an A minor chord on a guitar — there are actually a ton of ways to play an A minor chord! Next time you double track a guitar part, change where you play it on your guitar. Even the same series of notes, played in a different place on the guitar, is going to add some subtle variation for the listener’s ears. Capos can be extremely useful for this technique as well, offering you all sorts of open-string-type jangle in higher registers.
When I want super-thick guitar parts, I’ll often start by double tracking in lower registers, then I’ll find inversions of the same chords with no low notes, and double track them. Finally, I might add a single note or two higher up the neck, played in the same pattern as the main rhythms. These high notes are just for color or sparkle, and I tuck them in and let them be a part of the whole sound, or I experiment by turning them way up to see if they act as more of a melodic part.
This works just as well for rock as it does for pop or country, and is the same approach many people use in the electronica world to stack massive keyboard patches as well. Same part, different octaves, slightly different sound.
A great technique to try with acoustic guitars or clean rhythm guitars is to add variations to your strumming or picking patterns. Lock in your main part, and on the double track, try strumming a slightly different pattern. The whole thing doesn’t need to change, just mix it up a little. This will help add left and right motion to the parts, and to your mix. This works really well with single note picking patterns as well.
A double-tracked, single note picking pattern with rhythmic variations can start sounding like delay taps. Often I will play several bars of variations, find the one or two bars that feel the best, and copy / paste those over and over throughout the part, yielding a defined, even propulsive groove.
Micing Live Amps
When recording real amps, to get variation beyond the guitar, you can vary your mic set up. I almost always use at least three microphones on one amp (two close mics and one ambient mic), and I mix and match to get the tones I want. But as you pile on successive layers, try different microphone combinations — maybe kill the ambient mic for one layer and on a different layer try only using the ambient mic — the possibilities are only limited by your creativity and attention to detail.
Your guitar production will take a quantum leap if you learn how and, more importantly, when to use these techniques. It’s time to throw away your preconceived notions about what will work. Experiment, but let your ears be your guide. There is no “right” guitar sound, only the sounds that work best with your song. Good luck!
Ken Lewis is a mix engineer/producer/songwriter whose impressive list of credits range from Alicia Keys and Drake, to Lenny Kravitz and power metalers, Savatage. His resume also consists of a dozen Grammys, as well as well as over 60 gold, platinum, and number-one records. Lewis is the founder of AudioSchoolOnline.com. This article is courtesy of Universal Audio.
Thursday, June 04, 2015
Radial JDX 48 Amplifier Direct Box Now Shipping
Next generation version provides the ability to use 48-volt phantom, offers higher power amplifiers,and adds LF extension to the voicing
The new Radial Engineering JDX 48, the next generation version of the popular JDX Reactor amplifier DI, is now shipping.
Radial product specialist Jay Porter explains: “The JDX has become a staple in professional touring, clubs and houses of worship worldwide. While many engineers were initially skeptical because of previous bad experiences with different ‘red boxes’, the JDX has rapidly gained popularity thanks to its natural, consistent tone. It has also become a go-to piece for use with in-ear monitor systems, delivering a guitar tone that players love.
“As soon as we released the JDX, folks started asking us if there was any way to power the box using standard 48-volt phantom power. The included 15-volt power supply was fine for most applications, but space and power outlets are always at a premium on stage.
“Plus carrying multiple power supplies for different areas of the world is painful for our touring clients. We started looking at ways to reduce the current draw of the JDX so it would run on phantom power without sacrificing the exceptional tone, and it wasn’t easy. After several rounds of prototyping, we were finally able to reduce the current requirements of the Class-A circuitry with all of the tone intact,” he continues.
“Another request was to increase the power handling of the JDX. While the original was designed for guitar amps with a 100 watt output, many folks loved using it with higher-powered amps such as the Ampeg SVT. While this was always possible at lower volumes, extra care needed to be taken to ensure that amplitude peaks did not exceed 100 watts,” Porter concludes.
The JDX 48’s design begins with the same 100 percent discrete class-A circuitry and transformer-coupled reactive load found on the original. This captures both the sound from the amp head along with the back electromagnetic impulse from the loudspeaker, designed to provide a more realistic rendering than the usual resistive pads.
The signal is then processed via a multi-stage filter to emulate the tone of a 4 x 12 half-stack cabinet when used with guitar or an 8 x 10 cabinet when used with bass. The JDX 48 now also includes a bass extension switch for increased bottom end when desired, and a 100-watt/300-watt switch to change the input capability.
The ability to use 48-volt phantom power, higher power amplifiers, and add a low frequency extension to the voicing makes the new JDX more versatile. MAP price is $199.99 USD.
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Future Sonics Introduces Spectrum Series Model G10 Professional Personal Monitors
Offering wide-spectrum sound in a new micro-sized, more efficient and armature-free voice coil infrastructure.
Future Sonics introduces the Spectrum Series model G10 universal-fit professional personal monitors.
The Spectrum Series model G10 offers a natural listening experience for live, studio, broadcast, and worship applications. It creates a smooth wide-spectrum sound in a new micro-sized, more efficient, and armature-free voice coil infrastructure.
“We receive countless requests to return to the universal-fit platform after the success of our earlier models, but we had to go beyond anything that we – or anyone else – has done before,” reports Future Sonics founder/ceo, Marty Garcia.
“Since we design and manufacture our own proprietary miniature speaker technologies, we were successfully able to take our signature sound a step further. We created something special that’s the absolute best in its class.”
—New energy efficient miniature dynamic transducer and voice coil technologies
—New proprietary 32 Ohm 10mm system designed and manufactured by Future Sonics
—New micro-profile structure with a durable applied metallic finish for extended wear and a refined professional style
—New tactile thumb-placement guides on each earpiece indicate left and right – in even the darkest conditions
—New Future Sonics braided cable system offers sound quality, strength, and durability with minimal microphonics
—Smooth, natural, signature sound producing ultra-wide spectrum audio
—Multiple fit options include ComfortFit foam and EarFills silicone sleeves –including sizes for children – offering a more secure connection with the earpiece
—Optional upgrade to custom-fit SofterWear sleeves (at an additional cost plus ear impressions by an authorized audiologist or hearing professional)
The Power of 1
Future Sonics has unique voice coil and dynamic transducer technologies that provide a smooth, natural HD audio signature - one that is structurally moisture resistant, always in phase, and with energy that you can feel. Why count drivers when you can listen instead and spend the time being one with your music.
Spectrum Series represents an example of intelligent and thoughtful design that continues to be the Future Sonics legacy.
Unlike multi-driver armature (hearing aid-type) configurations or so-called “hybrid” earphones, there are no electronic or comb filtering artifacts, no phase issues, and no crossover dropouts to provide a perfectly balanced, natural and more realistic sound you can feel with a true sense of the audio’s energy.
Bigger Sound at Lower Volume
Future Sonics professional audio products are recognized by H.E.A.R. as offering the full range of sound and performance at even the lowest volumes. Future Sonics continues to support hearing education and conservation as they have for more than a quarter–century.
—Future Sonics proprietary 32 Ohm 10mm Dynamic Transducers
—18 Hz – 20,000 Hz Frequency Response
—Sensitivity 113 dB at 30 Hz
—Up to -29 dB Ambient Noise Reduction
—3.5mm (1/8”) Gold Stereo Mini-Plug Connector
—1.27m (50”) Cabling
Future Sonics Spectrum Series model G10 • MSRP/MAP $219.00 USD
Future Sonics products are available now via their website or from their authorized global network of dealers, distributors, authorized audiologists and hearing specialists.
Posted by House Editor on 06/03 at 03:04 PM
Creating Recordings With More Space And Depth
One major goal of most audio recording projects is to create a natural sounding product for the listener – in much the same way that video seems to look better to us, less “flat,” when it has more depth and dimension.
Note how popular it is to see movies in 3D. But even without 3D movie effects and glasses, film makers started using focus and blur, light and shadow and forced perspective to help create a more realistic space for the viewer. You can do similar things in audio.
One way this can be done, especially when recording music (since there are usually many sound sources), is to provide the listener with cues that give the audio some space – in multiple dimensions – as they are used to hearing it in real life.
Most listening devices are stereo or better (surround, for example) these days. So you should take advantage of that. Multi-track recording software (DAWs) allow you to “pan” each track to the left or right by as much as you want. So you can spread things out from left to right to make them sound to the listener like the instruments are spread out as they would be in real life.
Sometimes you might want to widen a single sound. For example, a piano almost always sounds best when it is recorded in stereo. The instrument is large and wide in real life and people typically expect to hear it that way on a recording too. But what if you only have a mono recording of a piano? How can you widen it? Well, you can use a technique that plays a trick on the listener’s brain – called the Haas Effect. You can read more detail about this in our post The Haas Effect. Basically you can make a copy of a mono track, delay it slightly in time, and then pan both versions apart.
Of course certain things may be recorded in stereo – either with two mics or a stereo mic – and others in mono. Then you space things out across the horizontal spectrum to give them a more natural feel.
Another thing people are used to is natural reverberation. You may not notice it in real life, when speaking to someone. But if somehow the voice of the person your were talking to were to suddenly lose all room reverberation (which is what happens when the sound bounces off the walls, ceilings, and everything around it), it would sound very odd. So in your recordings, in order to make something sound more natural (assuming that’s what you want – which you may not.
For example, some kinds of voice-overs intentionally sound a bit unnatural – deep and in-your-face like it’s coming from inside your brain), it helps to add some front-to-back space using reverb effects. For example, if a voice or other instrument sounds too “up-front,” you can give the illusion of pushing it back and further away by adding some reverb.
Another way to make things sound further away is by turning them down. In real life, things that are farther away have less volume than the same sound up close. This is one of the most basic things you do when mixing sounds together.
This idea may be more applicable to making a music mix sound more full, rather than more natural. But it does help to fill out a sound pallet for a listener. Try to provide sound that covers the frequency spectrum from low/deep sounds like bass guitar, kick drum, tympani, bass fiddle, etc. all the way to high sounds like cymbals, high-hats, tambourines, piccolos, guitars capo’d way up, etc. The middle frequencies can be filled with voices, guitars, pianos, violins, violas, etc.
The way we use this in our music recordings is to listen to a mix and decide if there is a hole somewhere, or if we are missing highs or lows. For example, we were working on a song that had a guitar with no capo, a bass, a bodhran hand drum and a male voice with male harmony. It was decidedly “low-heavy.” That told us we needed to add some higher frequency stuff to help balance it out. So we added a guitar with a capo on the 5th and/or 7th fret, a female harmony, and a tambourine. We might also have added a mandolin, flute, high fiddle, etc. Doing that really helped to provide a full and rich sound that was balanced.
So to sum up, you can really improve your audio recordings by adding more depth and dimension using several pretty common recording techniques.
Ken Theriot is the owner and operator of Home Brew Audio, an internet business whose goal is to help anyone and everyone to record professional sounding audio from home. Ken operates Raven Boy Music and has produced several video tutorials on home recording for voice-over actors, podcasting and musicians.
Black Lion Audio Releases The Micro Clock MkIII
The new features include an LED frequency display, six BNC outputs, AES and RCA S/PDIF outputs and an optical S/PDIF output.
Black Lion Audio announces the release of the Micro Clock MkIII, a significant redesign of its predecessor, the Micro Clock MkII.
The Micro Clock MkIII is the culmination of almost 10 years of research involving jitter-reducing, harmonic-enhancing design techniques for upgrading your existing digital audio setup, whether it’s for live, studio, or home use.
Core technological improvements include:
—Lower-jitter crystal oscillators
—Galvanic transformer isolation in the signal path
—Dedicated output drivers with better isolation
—Higher-precision signal division
—Much heavier noise filtration throughout the circuit.
All of this results in a more robust, lower-jitter clock signal than the Micro Clock MkII, with even more desirable harmonics in the clock’s spectral band that impart a musical quality to the conversion process. The feature set has expanded to include an LED frequency display, six BNC outputs capable of up to 384kHz, AES and RCA S/PDIF outputs capable of up to 192kHz, and an optical S/PDIF output capable of up to 96kHz.
“I’ve never been one who believes a particular clock is going to significantly change my world” says multi-Grammy Award winning producer/engineer Tony Maserati (Beyonce, Jason Mraz, Black Eyed Peas). “I’ve used some of the best names, and it’s comforting to know they all perform within a few degrees of one another, which is why I wasn’t dying to try a new one.”
“When Black Lion Audio sent me the Micro Clock MkIII, I waited till I had a room full of engineers and producers before plugging it in. In blind testing, the team chose the Micro Clock MkIII over our previous clock. I sat skeptical in the rear of the room. When I finally ventured to the sweet spot and A/B’d it for myself, it was clear. Black Lion Audio had surprised me. The Micro Clock MkIII produced a better depth of field and increased clarity.”
“In the world of mixing records, I’ll implement any gear into my system that brings my mixes closer to an approved master, faster. The mixes I’ve been doing with the Micro Clock MkIII have gotten better responses from my clients and make the decision-making process easier for me.”
Price: MAP US$999.00
Black Lion Audio
Posted by House Editor on 06/03 at 10:17 AM
Ocean Way Audio Appoints Rick Plushner President
Manufacturer of reference monitors for the audiophile and professional studio market sectors prepares for next round of expansion and growth.
Allen Sides, founder of Ocean Way Audio, announces the appointment of industry veteran Rick Plushner as president, adding expertise to the company’s management level with his experience in the professional audio industry.
In his new position, Plushner will be responsible for guiding the direction of Ocean Way Audio while capitalizing on his unique skill set of product development, merchandising, vendor relations, distribution, supply management and direct marketing.
Prior to joining Ocean Way Audio, Plushner held executive positions with several pro audio operations including Guitar Center’s professional division GC Pro (vice president), where he established the brand as a nationwide leading professional audio dealer; Solid State Logic (president), where he diversified the company’s operations into the post-production and broadcast markets while establishing a dealer channel for outboard equipment; Euphonix (vp of sales), where he facilitated significant sales growth to support a successful NASDAQ IPO; and AMS/Neve (general manager), where he helped bring to market a wide range of digital and analog recording and mixing consoles.
This move is part of the ongoing series of strategic decisions by Ocean Way Audio. “We are thrilled to have Rick on our team,” says Sides. “He brings an enormous amount of experience with him that will greatly benefit Ocean Way Audio and its clients worldwide.”
“I’m excited to take on this new position and look forward to working with Allen Sides, Ernie Woody and Bruce Marien.” Plushner states, “We’ll expand the ‘No Limit’ studio monitor product line, push further into the ultra-high end of the audiophile market, launch a line of professional outboard audio equipment and offer unparalleled acoustical designs with full studio integration. To accomplish the latter, Ocean Way Audio will now offer the services of Malvicino Design Group, who boasts over 300 professional studio design projects world-wide, in addition to the iconic, acclaimed expertise of Allen Sides. The company boasts a team of acclaimed, industry-reading principals and services, and I am glad to be on board for this next phase of growth for Ocean Way Audio.”
Ocean Way Audio
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
Earthworks ZDT Preamps Bring Transparency to The Killers’ Battle Born Studios
Robert Root selects Earthworks microphones and preamps for colorless and pure sound.
Recording studio engineer Robert Root has recorded artists like The Killers and their solo albums, Imagine Dragons, Motley Crue, BB King, and Elton John. Since 2008, Root has recorded all of The Killers albums at Battle Born Studios in Las Vegas.
Battle Born Studios is equipped with Earthworks ZDT Zero Distortion Technology Preamplifiers, as well as a myriad of Earthworks omni and cardioid microphones, which Root has been recording with since becoming the studio’s chief engineer in 2008.
Root explains his experience with the ZDT preamps: “We ran all sorts of mics through the ZDT preamps and I found them to be exactly as the slogan claims―‘Like Wire with Gain.’ The ZDT preamps are very transparent, like the preamps are not even in the chain, and let the mic do the work it is supposed to, and translates it beautifully. However, as many different mics as we tried using the ZDT preamps, I was never really able to get that ultra-realistic ‘being there’ sound as I was when using the Earthworks mics through the ZDT preamps.”
Root found the ZDT preamps excelled at capturing the source in an ultra-transparent way. “We also have other high-end preamps such as the Neve Porticos and Universal Audio 610s. It gives one perspective when using these other types of preamps because they are very ‘colored’ and do a lot to the signal, and many times that is not desirable,” explains Root.
“When you care so much about the source sounding good, such as tuning your drums and using the right drums, and you put an Earthworks mic in front of that, a lot of times you don’t want it to be colored through a preamp. So going through the ZDT preamps with the Earthworks mics is a perfect combination. I know a lot of people who buy high-end preamps want ‘color,’ but I am not of that frame of mind, as you can always color after the fact. You can never undo the color, once it is captured and recorded. If you want the Neve sound, you can dial in that type of color when you mix.”
EastWest Releases ProDrummer Virtual Instrument Collections
100 gigabytes of drum sounds, pre-mixed kits, and thousands of grooves by award-winning producers and drummers.
EASTWEST has released ProDrummer 1 & 2, new dedicated drum virtual instruments that combine recorded drum sounds, pre-mixed drum kits by top recording and mix engineers with drums performed by top drummers, and MIDI drum grooves.
The first two volumes of ProDrummer are brand-new additions to the catalog of EASTWEST’s newly launched subscription model Composer Cloud or can be purchased individually.
“ProDrummer 1 & 2 are the most powerful and easy to use drum virtual instruments on the market,” says producer Doug Rogers.
“Typically, you need several products to create great drum tracks. We hit the trifecta of sounds, mixes and performances in one package, giving users all the tools they need in a user friendly interface to create superb drum tracks. The producers I worked with on this project are some of the best mixers in the music industry, working with top artists every day that rely on their expertise to keep them at the top of the charts. ProDrummer is most likely the only opportunity users will have to include drum tracks recorded and mixed by them included in their songs.”
Apart from a combined 100 Gigabytes of professional drum sounds in the two volumes, ProDrummer also features 16 channels of pre-mixed drum kits from the producers using the state-of-the-art tools in the ProDrummer software. The producer’s drum mixes can be used as they are, or as starting points to customize to the users’ needs and taste with the included tools, such as Solid State Logic EQ and Dynamics, Transient Shaper, and the legendary Stereo Bus Compressor; Ohmforce’s Ohmicide multiband dynamics and distortion effects processor (perfect for creating EDM drum tracks); plus EASTWEST’s Velocity Processor, Amp Simulator with 80 presets, and Expanded Convolution Reverb with 726 Additional Reverb Pre-sets. All parameters in ProDrummer are user adjustable and can be saved as custom user pre-sets.
ProDrummer also includes over 14,000 MIDI drum grooves in many different styles which makes it easy to build the drum track of any song. The Groove Search Engine allows the user to quickly find the right grooves, create favorites, and assemble the drum track right inside ProDrummer with the built in sequencer. The drum tracks can then be exported into any DAW to add additional instruments and vocals.
Multi-award winning EASTWEST producer Doug Rogers has worked once again with the elite of the industry: The first volume in the ProDrummer series includes approximately 60 Gigabytes of drum sounds and kits produced by Grammy-winning engineer Mark “Spike” Stent (Coldplay, Muse, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Usher, U2, Madonna, Linkin Park, Björk, Depeche Mode, Maroon 5, Moby, No Doubt, Oasis and more) and Doug Rogers, with drums played by Steven Sidelnyk (Madonna, Seal, Massive Attack).
The second volume in the ProDrummer series includes approximately 40 Gigabytes of drum sounds and kits produced and pre-mixed by producer, mixer and engineer Joe Chiccarelli (U2, Beck, The Killers, The Raconteurs, The White Stripes, The Strokes, Morrissey, Jason Mraz, Elton John, My Morning Jacket, Rufus Wainwright, Cafe Tacuba and more) and Doug Rogers, with drums played by Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, etc.).
EASTWEST producer Doug Rogers co-produced both ProDrummer 1 & 2. His virtual instrument productions include ProDrummer 1 and ProDrummer 2; Steven Wilson’s Ghostwriter; Hollywood Strings, Hollywood Brass, Hollywood Orchestral Woodwinds, and Hollywood Orchestral Percussion; The Dark Side; Fab Four; Symphonic Orchestra; Symphonic Choirs; EastWest/Quantum Leap Pianos and more. His company has been the recipient of over 70 international industry awards.
Turner Studios Selects DELEC
For New Intercom System
German intercom manufacturer will deliver a 2,048-port intercom system comprised of 140 intercom panels to
facilitate enhance communication throughout complex.
DELEC, a member of the Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup organization, announces it has been selected by Atlanta, GA-based Turner Studios to replace its aging intercom system with new technology.
As the broadcast production division of Turner Entertainment Group, which provides turnkey services for film, video, and audio production for all of the Turner Entertainment Networks, Turner Studios’ new DELEC intercom system will effectively tie together the studios and offices at the facility to streamline workflow and enhance communication.
German intercom manufacturer DELEC will deliver a 2,048-port intercom system comprised of 140 intercom panels.
All 140 panels will incorporate redundant Dante audio-over-IP connectivity — a unique feature only DELEC can provide. The DELEC Dante interface supports 64 bidirectional audio channels or up to 32 DELEC Intercom Panels (or any combination of audio signals and Intercom Panels). Providing redundancy on all Dante devices, DELEC offers the first highly available audio-over-IP intercom solution.
The DELEC intercom system to be deployed at Turner Studios also includes 7 MADI interfaces to connect to the facility’s existing audio network. Further, the system will include a 128-line PBX-Gateway and several analog 4 wires for 3rd party integration.
Arnie Toshner, vice president of sales & marketing for Salzbrenner Stagetec Media Group, commented on Turner Studios’ selection of the new DELEC intercom panels, “We are both honored and delighted that Turner Studios has chosen DELEC intercom technology for their in-house communication. The new DELEC intercom panels will bring Dante interactivity and single cable connectivity convenience to Turner Studios’ production facility and, in the process, provide a new level of communication that, we’re confident, will enhance the ability of the staff to work more efficiently.”
Deployment of the new DELEC intercom system is expected to be completed by October 2015.
Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup