It used to be that recording a guitar part set its sound in stone. Sure, you could add various processors while mixing, but they provided variations on a theme, not an entirely different theme. Nowadays, if you wish you’d recorded through a Marshall stack instead of a Vox AC30—no problem: you can change your sound after the fact with traditional hardware re-amping, or virtual re-amping with software plug-ins...here's how.
A spectrum analyzer is a tool that can help analyze a track or mix, and reveal frequency or dynamics anomalies in an easy-to-grasp, visual format. This feedback can be invaluable in training you to correlate what you hear with your ears to hard data about frequency response and amplitude.
The importance of bass in modern recordings can't be overstated. The instrument can cover so much sonic territory that it's impossible to provide the stylistic and tonal recipe for every type of sound in a single article, but what we can do is cover the basics to help you capture your sound.
Yes, you can use a digital audio editor for digital audio editing. But why not use it to create a beatbox? Or emulate variable tape speed controls? Or to find more tax deductions?
Okay, so it doesn't really do the bit about taxes. But today's software often does a lot more than advertised. Want proof? Keep reading.
Whoa! That was some bad note. So naturally, you re-record the part. But are you paying attention to the other mistakes—the ones that involve the recording process itself? The following mistakes can tear your tone in two, so here's a word to the wise: Avoid them.
Mic placement isn't just a science, it's an art. And if you want to get involved in the art of mic placement, you want your ears to be the final arbiter of proper placement.
When mixing, the usual way to make an instrument stand out is to raise its level. But there are other ways to make an instrument leap out at you, or settle demurely into the background, that don’t involve level in the usual sense - and these helpful options give you additional control over a mix.
You wouldn't build your studio each day starting with an empty room, and you shouldn't have to start your virtual studio from scratch every day either. Two highly important, time-saving features that many musicians overlook is the ability to create template projects and save particular sets of window layouts.Templates let you open your programs to a familiar, productive environment that gives your studio time a kick start, while window layouts optimize your working environment for specific tasks.
If your speakers aren’t set up properly, you won’t be able to really hear what you’re doing. As the most popular kind of speaker for home studios is the near-field monitor, let’s look at some tips on how to set them up.
Being able to directly compare the sonic differences between different microphones and microphone preamps can help you make better decisions about what sounds best in each situation and for each vocal or instrument, and that can really make a difference in the overall quality of your recordings. In this article, we look into ways to make those instant, side-by-side comparisons.
That vintage hardware reverb that sounds so good…the tube compressor that cost a week’s salary, but was worth every penny…are they all eBay candidates now that you’re working in the DAW’s digital domain? No way! All you need is a hardware interface with multiple ins and outs that can interface with your hardware (digital and/or analog, depending on what gear you want to connect), and a little know-how of to tweak tracks.
Recording music is supposed to be fun, not stressful - and any way you can simplify your studio setup (and recording procedures) will help you have a more enjoyable, and more efficient, studio experience. So, here are some tips on how to save both time and stress in the studio.
We know them when we hear them: wide, spacious mixes that sound larger than life and higher than fi. A great mix translates well over different systems, and lets you hear each instrument clearly and distinctly. Yet judging by a lot of project studio demos that pass across my desk, achieving the perfect mix is not easy…in fact, it's very hard.
Yes, you already know about equalizing voice, and how to choose the right mic to flatter a singer. But you're an esteemed visitor to Harmony Central...you want more, better, bigger, and further. This baker's dozen of tips will help take your vocals up one more notch.
In the days of four-track tape recorders, one of the tricks that made decent multitracking possible was bouncing, where you’d mix three of the tracks down into the fourth. You could then erase the three original tracks, and record three more in their place. Noise? Distortion? Yes, but it was all we had. While bouncing’s legacy lives on in track “freezing,” bouncing has other uses, too — and that’s what this article is about.
The art of mastering is the process of taking your mixes, adding any final polish (e.g., altering the tone, doing dynamics control, making sure levels are consistent, etc.) and in the case of an album, assembling the various cuts so they create a cohesive listening experience. You may even do things like shorten intros or solos, add reverb, or other more drastic changes—whatever it takes to produce a great-sounding recording. Here's how to get started.
Using a mouse to mix with can be a real time drain, and not a lot of fun. While the mouse and keyboard are essential mixing tools, using the mouse to manipulate control values is not very intuitive, nor is it very fast. It's great for precise, detail oriented tasks, but music is as much about feel and emotion as it is about precision, and those who like to "play" the mixing console like an instrument will find that using a control surface of some kind adds considerably to their mixing enjoyment, and may even result in more real-time input from the person mixing the project, which can translate to better sounding, more musical and more human feeling mixes.
Determining an album's song order is never easy, partly because if you want to know for sure whether the order works or not, you need to listen to the entire project from start to finish. Only then do you realize there are some minor problems - like the first four songs all end in fadeouts, or you have three consecutive songs that feature the same vocalist. So you try another order, and listen again...but there's a way to simplify the process.
Reverb and vocals were made for each other; few recordings put the voice totally out front, with no ambience. However, there’s much more to getting the right vocal reverb sound that just dialing up a preset and crossing your fingers - find out the details in this helpful article.
Suppose you want to add some distortion to a mono bass recording, but when you insert a distortion as an inline plugin, the bottom of the mix gets muddy, or the fuzz plugin causes the lows to practically disappear. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to add the "dirt" just to the bass's upper frequencies, without having to process and mess up the bottom end? Crossovers can help you achieve that, as well as other great effects. Read on to find out how!
Noise gates aren't as relevant as they were back in the analog days, when hiss was an uninvited intruder on anything you recorded. But noise gates can do some really cool special effects that have nothing to do with reducing hiss. This article shows how to make them a lot more interesting, and throws in a bunch of fun audio examples, too. We'll start off with some noise gate basics for the uninitiated.
With digital recording, tape hiss isn’t an issue. But our standards are now more stringent, too. We expect 24-bit resolution, and noise floors that hit theoretical minimums. As a result, every little extra dB of noise, distortion, or coloration adds up; the solution is to carve away noise wherever possible to keep all those little noise bits out of the picture - so here are some proven techniques to help in your quest for quiet recordings.
The virtual studio broke the human/gear physical connection, as more musicians used mice and keyboards to control DAWs. While people debate the importance of that physical connection, to me having a direct, physical link between a sound you’re trying to create and the method of creating that sound is vital—for several reasons. Find out what type of controllers are available, pros and cons, and how physical controls reconcile with virtual controls.
If you listen to a lot of mixes coming out of home and project studios, after a while you notice a definite dividing line between the people who know what they’re doing, and the people who commit one of more of the Seven Deadly Sins of Mixing. You don’t want to be a mixing sinner, do you? Of course not! So, check out these tips.
Dithering is an often-misunderstood process, but knowing how, when, and what to dither can make an audible improvement in high-resolution recordings as they work they way down to CD-type resolution. Find out how dithering works and how to apply it, as well as hear some audio examples of the difference between dithered and undithered audio—you might be shocked.
Stereo mic techniques are great for capturing and creating a natural, or even a hyper-natural sense of width and space. Probably the two most common techniques are the XY coincident arrangement, and a spaced pair. But the lesser-known Mid-Side (“M-S”) mic technique has its advantages too . . . let’s investigate.
I'm a stereo freak. I just can't seem to get enough of it, and I love it when things move, spin and fly around the stereo sound field - that is, as long as it is musically appropriate; but that's a subject for another day. Let's look at stereo placement and various ways to position sounds within the stereo field.
Looking for something new and different in signal processing? Applying delay or reverb to a “shadow” guitar part can give the guitar a more atmospheric, and even animated, effect.
You play guitar, and you want to record what you're doing . . . but as both your hands are busy, you sure wish you had an assistant engineer.
While this article won't tell you how to clone yourself or build a robot, it will tell you how some simple, readily available tools can greatly simplify the recording process when you're trying to record yourself.
Many of you will already be familiar with the common recommendation of setting up your nearfield monitors in an equilateral triangle arrangement. In such a setup, toe-in, or angling the speakers inwards towards the listening position so that the listener is more on-axis with the speakers, is an often-recommended monitor setup technique. But it can be a little tricky making sure the two monitors are angled exactly the same way; here's one option.
Compressors are some of the most used, and most misunderstood, signal processors. Besides, compression was supposed to become an antique when the digital age, with its wide dynamic range, appeared.
Yet the compressor is more popular than ever, with more variations on the basic concept than ever before. Let's look at what's available, pros and cons of the different types, and applications.
Lately, there’s been considerable controversy about mixing “inside the box” (ITB)—the process where all your processing, fader moves, and automation are done in the digital domain, inside your computer. While I don’t agree with the extreme view that ITB mixing sounds just plain bad, doing a good ITB mix involves some techniques that aren’t relevant with analog. Such as . . .
Granted, DC offset isn't a particularly sexy topic. But it can be the culprit behind problems such as lowered headroom, mastering oddities, pops and clicks, effects that don't process properly, and other sonic problems. Find out what causes DC offset, how to deal with it, and some other offset-related gremlines unique to the world of digital audio.
This article is loaded with tips and tricks for getting different tones when recording multiple guitarists, or overdubbing multiple guitar parts. Find out how to avoid common issues, give each guitar its own distinctive identity when using multiple guitar parts on a recording, and get overall better recordings.
Mixing is not only an art, it’s the crucial step that turns a collection of tracks into a finished piece of music. A good mix can bring out the best in your music—it spotlights a composition’s most important elements, adds a few surprises to excite the listener, and sounds good on anything from a portable MP3 player with crappy earbuds to an audiophile’s dream setup. Here are 12 practical steps you can take to creating a better mix.
Phase shifters create frequency response peaks and notches, then sweepi those notches across the frequency spectrum. But you don't always need a phase shifter to produce that particular effect However, you don’t always need a phase shifter—a multi-stage parametric EQ can create not only standard phase shifter effects, but useful variations as well.
Some dance music tracks feature a pumping, dynamic dance mix drum sound that almost sounds like the drums are breathing. This is the result of applying extreme amounts of compression to mixed drums, then triggering the compressor with an individual drum (typicaly snare) via sidechaining. It's a pretty cool effect, and this article tells you how to achieve it.
One of the really cool features of most DAW software is a customizable virtual mixer, where you can create layouts and templates for recall at a later date. But in terms of customization, I’m also a huge fan of being able to add auxiliary channels to the mixer for functions such as effects sends and returns.
Dynamics are an essential component of a tune's overall emotional impact. Yet some engineers kill those dynamics, because "everyone else does it," and they don't want their songs to sound "weak" compared to others. The solution? Compromise—find that sweet spot where you preserve dynamics, but also have a master that's "loud enough." The following tips will help you do just that.
The critics are right: pitch correction can suck all the life out of vocals. But the critics are also wrong, because pitch correction—if applied selectively—can enhance vocals tremendously, without adding a robotic quality or stealing the vocalist’s soul. And sometimes, pitch correction can even add the kind of imperfections that make a vocal sound more “alive.” Want to know how to do this? Keep reading.
Layering vocals is a common technique to thicken a vocal part, whether applied to a solo voice or to a massed group of backing vocals. However, there are some considerations with layered vocals that don’t apply to single vocals - for example words can’t start or end at different times, unless you’re going for a certain looseness. For tight vocals, though, several DAW techniques can give the kind of feel you want.
Back when I first became interested in recording, most projects required two tape machines - a multitrack deck for capturing the performances and production, and a second two track recorder for capturing the stereo mix. Even well into the digital era, a second machine has remained popular with many engineers. However, most modern DAW programs can render a stereo mix from the internal tracks and mixer.
Your songs are superbly mixed, expertly mastered, and ready to be unleashed on a public thirsting for the soul-stirring slices of artistic triumph that only you can deliver. But before you start thinking about trading in your Toyota Corolla for a Lamborghini, don’t forget the final step of the recording process—assembly.
Mastering is a specialized skill; but if you want to be able to master your own material, the only way you’ll get good at it is to do it as much as possible. While we’d need a book to truly cover desktop mastering (I like Steve Turnidge’s Desktop Mastering book so much I endorsed it), these five essential tips will make your life a lot easier, regardless of your level of expertise.
Most people start their mixes by working on the drums, bass, and the other foundational instruments. It's usually only after they get all of that done, along with the guitars, keyboards, and all the other instrumental parts that they even consider bringing in the vocals. But maybe it’s time to try a different approach to mixing that places a priority on the song element people relate to the most.
As interfaces get less expensive and smaller, and more recording setups take on mobile roles, you'll often find yourself mixing and matching your computer (desktop vs. laptop), DAW, and your front end (interface or audio converter) in various combinations. But having multiple interfaces means you run the risk of launching your DAW—or a project within a DAW—without the right interface connected, giving an error screen. You don't want that, so here's how to avoid it.
Compared to using clip mounts and ring mounts to fasten your microphones to their stands, shock mounts tend to be a bit more complicated. While it can take a bit more time and effort to insert the mic into the shock mount when you're setting up, and to remove it when you're tearing down, the advantages far outweigh the extra effort involved—keep reading to find out why.
One of the questions I'm often asked by neophyte recording enthusiasts is "how hot should I record?" The amount of signal you record per track can have an effect on not only the sound of that individual track, but on the overall mix as well. There are definitely some misconceptions floating around out there in terms of just how high recording levels should be, so let's dig in and have a look at how to set things up just right for the best results.
One of the most commonly used, basic, and useful stereo mic techniques is the A-B Stereo pair, which is known by a couple of other names (like Spaced Pairs and Time Difference Stereo). However, there are two different approaches to A-B Stereo that are often genre dependent. We'll dig in to those differences a bit later - first, let's look at the classic approach to A-B Stereo.
Camcorder audio is rarely any good, but there's an easy solution: When recording video involving anything to do with music—whether recording a concert from row ZZZ, or capturing your buddy’s acoustic fingerpicking patterns at close range—always use a handheld recorder. This article describes why "flying in" audio is the way to go if you want good sound.
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