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Everything posted by Anderton

  1. Apologies for not seeing this sooner, MP.com is keeping me busy. Did you try the "forgot password" option using the same user name?
  2. <<“The fact that a lullaby, healing song or dance song from the British Isles or anywhere else in the world has many musical features in common with the same kind of song from hunter-gatherers in Australia or horticulturalists in Africa is remarkable,” Glowacki said. >> Seriously? I don't think it's remarkable at all, because music speaks to biology, which all humans have in common. Language and societal norms are constructs, which is why Eskimos have a zillion different words for snow and Ethiopians don't. But they both have similar body chemistry.
  3. I tend to avoid electronic drums, the Chris McHugh drum loops from Discrete Drums (sadly, no longer available) are beyond wonderful. Actual drummers are convinced I hired a drummer, because in a way, I did. But I also know how to work with loops to make them come alive. Just rolling out a loop does not work. That said, electronic drums are a different instrument with a different purpose. There are some genres of music that almost demand it. However, I have to say that my whole attitude about "click tracks" changed 180 degrees when I figured out how to add tempo changes to make a song "breathe" after the fact, on the two-track mix. I wrote about this in the last Sweetnotes, I can't find it online anywhere but I wrote something similar for my web site.
  4. Aha! So the fact that you couldn't tell there was pitch correction proves that it works Your vocals are fine, I've heard them isolated and they're even okay then.
  5. Bach would agree...so would John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix!
  6. Well, the good news is that the link for HC Confidential 148 is now fixed on both the home page and the listing of articles. The bad news is that, unfortunately, what you're experiencing is not a rare occurrence. The editors who put these articles together often open the article to do some editing and find some, uh, "surprises" - of which images not loading (but then loading the next time it's opened) is one of them. Sometimes font colors are dropped, sometimes articles disappear completely, and sometimes audio examples can't be loaded in the article - for the Ravish Sitar review, the audio example had to be loaded as a separate file, and couldn't even be linked to from the article for some reason. The bottom line is as editors, we are aware of and frustrated by these problems, and are actively seeking a solution. Hopefully the code fixes to be implemented the first week of January will help considerably.
  7. Doesn't sound stupid at all, I use the "reduce peaks" technique all the time...I call it "micro-mastering." One of the great features in Wavelab is that it will find those "rogue peaks" for you. I often reduce the gain on an individual half-cycle in 10-20 spots, and find I can raise the level 3-4dB without any apparent effects of dynamics changes, or artifacts from compression. Thanks very much for adding info about that technique!
  8. Or at the very least, a humanoid biped Thanks for the props!
  9. Thanks for catching that! I fixed the text. Some non-breaking dashes were broken when the articles were transferred from the previous platform to the new one.
  10. ...and if you aren't a good listener, doing lots of mixes will definitely train your ears
  11. I'm not Phil, but that's a good question. For guitar, I think close miking with room mics is a good combination. Bass is a little trickier because the low frequencies will often interact with a room to a much great extent, unless the room is treated acoustically. So, you can end up with dips and peaks that are a hassle to deal with when mixing. Getting a room mic into the picture isn't a bad idea, though, providing you can "tame" it and keep more of the amp sound in the overall mix.
  12. MIDI plug-ins work like audio plug-ins, except they process MIDI data. Steinberg Cubase, Cakewalk Sonar, and MOTU Digital Performer are probably the best examples of programs that take advantage of this feature. For example, a MIDI plug-in might restrict velocity values to a certain range, or transpose data.
  13. The more harmonically-rich and complex the carrier, the more you'll hear the effects of the vocoder. For example, modulating something like a distorted power chord with drums will give really obvious results. A violin is a pretty rich sound, so it should be effective as a carrier if vocoded with something that has variations of energy all over the frequency spectrum. That's why drums make good modulators...flutes, not so much, although you could at least get amplitude-based gating effects.
  14. As you may have noticed, I've haven't been participating much around here lately, for a variety of reasons. However, there have been some changes in "forum world." The Musicplayer.com forums, where SSS went after being booted off AOL for being too successful (long story), have been acquired by Dave Bryce, who has kept the Keyboard Corner forum alive over there while pretty much everything else atrophied. In addition to the forums, Dave owns the domain name and the content. He's invited me to pick up SSS where it left off before I went over to Harmony Central, after the people who had acquired the Musicplayer forums (along with the associated magazines, like EQ, Guitar Player, Keyboard, etc.) didn't really want to pursue forums any more. Future Music bought those magazines a while ago, and the forums were part of the deal. But with a display of Doing the Right Thing so rare in today's corporate world, they recognized the tremendous effort that had been put in over the year by Dave and the Keyboard Corner community, and let him have Musicplayer.com. So, major kudos to Future Music. Y'all are certainly welcome to hang out here, but I'll be spending most of my time over in the Sound, Studio, and Stage forum over at Musicplayer.com. Dave & Co. have invited me to participate in shaping the overall direction of the site, and yes, I have some ideas about next steps . Already, Stephen Fortner, the former Editor of Keyboard Magazine, has set up shop and is essentially doing an online version of what he did for many years. This is all quite new, but it looks like he won't be the last to sign on and start breaking new ground. I'd like to thank Henry Juszkiewicz for keeping Harmony Central alive after the GC days. His motivations were noble; he never interfered with our editorial mission, or exerted any kind of editorial control. Unfortunately, the timing was not optimum, because shortly thereafter Gibson was having to navigate rocky financial waters that ultimately led to the company's bankruptcy. But that's in the past. Gibson is turning around, Harmony Central is moving to a better platform, Dendy/Phil/Chris retained their positions at Gibson after I was let go, and I suspect everything will work out well here. At to me, it's time for another adventure! Yes...change is good.
  15. Good-bye CDs, hello the future! Streaming is effing awesome—not just for listeners, but look at all the incredible benefits for musicians! Royalties will be accounted for truthfully and honestly. No longer will you be at the mercy of record companies doing shady practices, with their dual sets of books and accountants named “Junior.” As we all know, digital data stored in the clouds is totally secure—it’s technologically impossible to hack or alter it! You can play music over your smartphone’s speakers. After the horrible fidelity of cassettes, the surface noise of vinyl, and the st-st-st-st-stuttering of CDs left for too long in a hot car, we can enjoy the luxurious sound of music, coming through speakers about the size of a mosquito and with approximately the same frequency response. Face it—no one listens to bass players anyway. It helps third world countries achieve a higher standard of living. Need to build up more likes for your latest musical masterpiece? No problem—the click farms of Bengladesh await! For a mere $1, you can get 1,000 likes—so pony up a grand, and there’s your million likes Bonus coolness: Those who remember the old days of immoral and unethical business practices in the record industry can enjoy a moment of nostalgia. There will be no physical record of pop music for future historians to snicker at. Streaming music is truly as evanescent as the clouds, and when all the servers go up in smoke after an X-Class solar flare, we can console ourselves by knowing that those in future will never be subjected to Kenny G’s apotheotic command of sappiness, or Neil Diamond’s cringe-worthy, faux-reggae version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” (Although to be fair, they sadly won’t get to hear Diamond’s “Cherry, Cherry,” either. Oh well.) You’ll be able to buy a house with the money you make. That’s right—with YouTube paying about $740 for 1,000,000 streams, it won’t be long before you’ll be able to buy a house! That is, as long as it’s cardboard, and fits under an overpass. ___________________________________________
  16. by Craig Anderton (During a recent time machine experiment , I traveled back to the 1980s. Apparently I wrote this Craig’s List while I was there, because I just found the text today on a Mac 3.5” floppy disk when I was cleaning up.) 1 There are tons of computer options for music. Atari, Mac, Amiga, PC, Yamaha’s CX5M, and if you’re on a budget, even the Commodore-64 or Timex Sinclair 1000 will do the job. So don’t worry! You’re never going to be forced to choose solely between a boring PC, or an overpriced Mac. 2 Zero problems. Strings break, pianos always go out of tune, tape stretches, recorders need biasing—ugh. But computers are digital so they run on tidy little ones and zeroes, not prissy analog circuitry. Forget about maintenance: Boot your computer, open your program, and start recording—nothing can go wrong! 3 Software will cost next to nothing. Today’s unbreakable copy protection schemes will put a stop to the digital copying that plagued the early days of computers. Because software developers will be paid fairly for their efforts, they’ll be able to keep prices waaaay down and make your wallet happy happy happy. 4 Computers are great investments. Computers are extremely reliable, so when you buy a computer and software, they’ll keep doing what they do—just like a guitar. Ten years from now, you’ll still be able to run your favorite software on your favorite computer. Talk about value! 5 Computers are not dictators. We’re not talking about HAL—computers won’t change your drummer’s timing, re-tune your vocals into something weird and soulless, repeat the same sections of music over and over and over again, or kill your dynamics. Computers are your faithful servants, and will do exactly what you tell them to do. Hmmm...well actually, that could be a problem. ___________________________________________
  17. by Craig Anderton Photo Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images 1 - Vinyl is a word that just plain sounds cool. Don’t believe me? Then why do so many songs incorporate it—like Roxette (“God I know, it's final...decided to release my love on vinyl”), The Plain White T's (“Kiss me goodbye and I knew it was final, got in her daddy's car and she was gone like vinyl”), Public Enemy (“From a rebel, it's final on black vinyl”), Black Sheep (“Back in '86, first, foremost and final, rhyming on the corner, all I want to be's on vinyl”)? I mean, they could have chosen lyrics to rhyme with “spinal,” “rhinal,” or even “vaginal.” But they chose vinyl because obviously, it just plain sounds cool. I rest my case. 2 - Thankfully, cryogenics works! Unfortunately, all the people who knew how to master for vinyl died years ago. But there's good news: some were preserved cryogenically, and they’ve since been revived to teach a whole new generation of engineers that no, you really don’t want out-of-phase bass in the left and right channels. Score one for science! 3 - The Recording Industry Association of America needs something to do. Someone has to make sure the infamous RIAA curve stays nice and curvy so that all those phono preamps can go through insane amounts of EQ in an attempt to have vinyl not sound horrible. As Protectors of the Curve, the RIAA can branch out beyond their traditional role of making sure that the music industry remains behind the curve. The technology curve, that is. 4 - Ground post manufacturers have a powerful Washington lobby. Remember those ground posts on turntables with the screw terminals where you could attach a ground wire to keep hum at bay? Have you ever seen ground posts on anything else? Of course not! So when vinyl records started their decline, the Ground Post Manufacturers Trade Association saw the handwriting on the wall, bought themselves a few senators...and the rest is history. 5 - Fear of a music industry recession. Let’s face it, the band playing your local bar making $27.14 from the tip jar isn’t keeping the music industry going—it’s DJs getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do big festivals and private parties held by giant multinational entities, like the Ground Post Manufacturers Trade Association. Take away the DJ’s vinyl? Not a good idea. ___________________________________________
  18. Yes, we’ve become dependent on our little pet brains called computers, and the operating system updates that keep them in tippy-top shape. What’s that? You don’t like those constant updates? Sad! There are tons of reasons to love operating system updates! 1 You’ll sharpen your search skills. Knowing how to work a search engine with the focus of an escort service at CES is a fundamental skill in today’s world—and operating system updates let you hone your skills. Who hasn’t searched on “does latest Mac OS work on my computer that’s more than a week old” and “how to re-install driver I forgot even existed after Windows update, assuming it’s still compatible maybe I hope”? 2 They add excitement to your life! Downloading an update and waiting nervously while some little beach ball goes spinning around like it mixed methedrine with the sun tan lotion is a lot like when you come home and find a package at your door. Is it that long-awaited horse head mask from Amazon, or a box of dog poop from your disgruntled and slightly unhinged ex? You’ll find out when the computer boots! Assuming it boots, of course. 3 They teach patience. When Windows says “just a moment,” does it mean a “moment” like going to the bathroom, or a “moment” like “now’s your chance to do dinner and movie, and maybe go bar crawling after that. Or take that Florida vacation you’ve always dreamed about.” 4 They increase your vocabulary. Seriously, how many of you knew what “deprecated” meant until you searched on “why does this update not include my favorite feature any more” and the search result tells you it’s been “deprecated” (Windows translation: it never really worked right anyway, no big deal). Or that something is “legacy,” which is a fancy high-tech word for “old crap” (Mac translation: Anything you haven’t bought in the last 90 days is “legacy”). 5 They keep software engineers employed. When authors write a book, at some point the book is done. When you record an album, eventually the album is finished. When a mechanic fixes car, the car runs and that’s the end of it. But software is the ideal gig...it’s never done! And in the process of doing more, you introduce new bugs that need to be fixed. Job security? Yeah, baby! ___________________________________________
  19. Anderton

    Top 10 Mixing Tips

    by Craig Anderton We all want a good mix where the instruments stick together like glue, with drama and clarity. Toward that end, it would be great to be able to say "add this amount of compression, this type of EQ on these instruments, and you're done!" But if it were that easy, every recording would sound great. Instead, we'll have to be more general. It's also important to remember that tips are not rules. For example, most producers say that mixes should have space, and I agree. But then there's the Stones' Exile on Main Street, whose cluttered, chaotic mixes are a thing of beauty. Which brings us to tip #1: 1 Let the music tell you what it wants. This is something engineer Bruce Swedien (Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, too many others to list!) emphasizes in his master classes. The music will tell you what it wants, but you have to listen. Rather than sound like something else, bring out what's unique in what you have. The fewer preconceived notions you bring to music of how it should sound, the better the odds of coming up with something innovative. 2 Pay attention to the details. Listen to every track, in isolation (and preferably on headphones), before you start mixing. With hard disk recording/editing, you can massage each track to eliminate any little pops, clicks, hisses, etc. Cut the spaces between phrases to eliminate any residual hiss or noise, add a fade-in to over-enthusiastic breath inhales on vocals, run the bass through Melodyne if there are tuning problems...all these little improvements will add up to make a big difference in the overall sound. 3 Always consider the context. A common mistake among newbie recordists is to solo a track and add EQ and effects to make it sound fantastic. Then they solo the next track and do the same thing. But there's only so much bandwidth and dynamic range: Mixing all these "rich" sounds together can result in a mess. Each track is a piece of the puzzle, and needs to fit with the other tracks. 4 Differentiate instruments with EQ, not just panning. I always start mixing with all tracks panned to center, then use EQ to carve out frequencies so tracks don't "step on" each other (Fig. 1). For example, in a dance mix where the kick should hit hard, I'll shave some low end off the bass while emphasizing its pick or filter attack. But with something that's more old school R&B, I'll keep the bass full, and instead accent the kick drum's mid and beater. Once you can clearly differentiate all the instruments in mono, then bring on the panning. Fig. 1: In this screen shot from PreSonus Studio One 4 , the bass (left fader) has a 2.4 dB shelf to fill out the low end. The drums (right fader) have a 4 dB boost, (with a fairly sharp Q) at 160 Hz to bring out the kick's lower-mid sound. This lets the bass have more low-end prominence, but the kick drum is still very present. 5 Be brutal when you edit. I'm ruthless about cutting out whole sections of songs if they don't work. Keep the pace moving, while of course respecting the dynamic flow. Recommended listening: "Shhh/Peaceful" from In a Silent Way, by Miles Davis. It was edited down from far more material to create a beautiful, concise listening experience. And don't fall in love with parts; if a part doesn't support the music as a whole, that's why the "delete" key was invented. 6 Automatable EQ is your friend. Drop some of the piano midrange during the vocals so they don't compete with the piano. Increase the upper mids a bit on the acoustic rhythm guitar part so it "cuts" through the mix, then drop it back when the part reverts to rhythm guitar. Even changes of one or two dB affect the overall sound, and most hosts allow EQ automation (Fig. 2). Fig. 2: Here's how to automate EQ in Cakewalk by BandLab. The acoustic rhythm guitar is about to open an automation lane for the High Mid Frequency EQ from the four-band, QuadCurve parametric EQ. You can then draw an envelope, vary controls with automation write selected, or create automation "moves" using a control surface. 7 Remember dynamics - ride the faders. When recording, there's a tendency to use the maximum available headroom. You can restore a sense of dynamics by playing the faders as you mix - subtle changes in dynamics can make a mix "breathe." And while mixing with a mouse is great for editing and touching up, it's lousy for performing. Spring the bucks for a hardware controller (Fig. 3) to add some human feel. Fig. 3: The FaderPort 8 from PreSonus is a cost-effective, ergonomic, Mackie Control-compatible fader box for adding real-time control to a mix. 8 Always be in "record automation" mode. As soon as you start mixing, enable automation recording. Sometimes your gut hears music better than your head, and your initial emotional reaction toward a song might be what the music wants. 9 Don't try to master while you mix. A lot of people will slap a multiband compressor across the final output bus and go "okay, it's mastered now!" Wrong. A good mastering engineer can make a good mix sound great, and a great mix sound transcendent. Although I'll switch in some compression on occasion to get a rough idea of how mastering will influence the sound, when it's time for the final rendering to stereo or surround, compression is outta there. Although not everyone agrees - and there can be valid reasons for mastering while you mix - to me, mastering is a different discipline than mixing. 10 Optimize your room acoustics. This is the foundation of a good mix: Mixing great music in a room with poor acoustics is like trying to make a great dinner in a cockroach-infested kitchen with a mis-calibrated food thermometer and mislabelled measuring cups. If your mixes sound great in your studio and not-so-great everywhere else, you definitely need an acoustics makeover. -HC- ___________________________________________
  20. Sound Effects with Guitar Think sound effects are solely the domain of keyboards? Think again by Craig Anderton Samplers and keyboards make it easy to come up with FX: load a file, punch up a preset, and hit a key. Yet electric guitar, in conjunction with a good multi effects processor or amp sim, can make sounds that are more organic and complex than what you can obtain from a bunch of canned samples. No, you can’t generate car crashes and door slams—but for ethereal pads, suspense music, industrial noises, alien backgrounds, and much more, consider using guitar as your instrument of choice. Why let keyboard players do all the cool sound effects? Here are my Top 10 tips for creating truly weird guitar sounds. Just remember Rule #1: extreme effects settings produce extreme sounds. Generally, you’re looking for the boundaries of what an effect can do; all those +99 and -99 settings you’ve been avoiding are fair game for producing truly novel effects. 1. Is everything in order? If you’re using hardware instead of amp sims, it’s essential to be able to change the order of effects by repatching individual effects boxes or using a multi effects with customizable algorithms. For example, a compressor generally goes early in the chain, with chorusing added later on so that the effect processes the compressed signal. However, suppose the chorus has a ton of resonance to create some really metallic sounds. This could produce such drastic peaks with some notes that in order to tame them, you would need the compressor later in the chain. 2. Industrial reverb For a really rude sound, play a power chord through a reverb set for a fairly long time delay, then add distortion after the reverb (Fig. 1). The resulting sound has the added bonus of being able to rid you of any unwanted house guests. Fig. 1: Following Guitar Rig’s Reflektor reverb with distortion produces a dreamy sound—assuming your dreams tend toward the nightmarish. 3. Wet is good It’s usually best to set the effects mix for wet sound only. Having any straight guitar sound can blow your cover because a guitar attack is such a distinctive sound. 4. Attack of the pedal pushers Add a pedal before your effects, not after (Fig. 2). You can cut off the guitar attack by fading in the pedal at the note’s beginning; with effects like long delays and reverbs, you can fade out the source signal while the “tail” continues on. Fig. 2: Choosing when effects will receive input can have a huge effect on the sound, especially with long delays and reverb. 5. Found sounds The guitar itself can generate noises other than those created by plucking strings—here are a few options. Hold a smartphone, calculator, or other portable microprocessor-controlled device up next to the pickups, and you’ll hear a bunch of science fiction sounds worthy of the bridge of the Enterprise. Feed a high-gain effect (such as compression or distortion) and tap the back of the neck with your fingertips. While your high-gain effect is set up, drag the edge of a metallic object (like a screwdriver or butter knife) along wound strings. Use extreme amounts of whammy, and transpose the strings down as low as they’ll go. Tap the guitar body smartly with your knuckles to create percussive effects. These will sound even more interesting through looooong reverb. 6. Turn up the heet The Heet Sound EBow (Fig. 3) is a very cool sustaining device for individual strings. Fig. 3: For many guitarists, the EBow is their “secret weapon” for sustaining single-note lines. This hand-held device picks up vibrations from the string, amplifies them, then drives the string with those vibrations to create a feedback loop. The EBow rests on the strings adjacent to the string being “e-bowed”; moving the EBow further away from, or closer to, the string can create all kinds of interesting harmonic effects. If you want to approximate that famous blissed-out “Frippertronics” tape loop sound, use the EBow to drive a delay set for long echoes (greater than 500 ms) with lots of feedback (more than 80%). 7. Shifty pitches Pitch shifters are a treasure trove of weird sounds. With hardware pitch shifters, add a mixer at the input, then split the pitch shifter’s output so one split feeds into the mixer through a delay (Fig. 4 shows how to patch stand-alone boxes to do this; with a multieffects, a pitch shifter will often include pre-delay and feedback parameters, which accomplish the same result). Fig, 4: How to patch a pitch shifter hardware effect for bizarre “bell tree” effects. Suppose there’s a 100ms delay and pitch shift is set to -1 semitone. The first time the input reaches the output, it comes out 1 semitone lower. It then travels back through the delay, hits the shifter input 100 ms later, and comes out transposed down another semitone. This then goes through the delay again, gets transposed down another semitone, etc. So, the sound spirals down in pitch (of course, with an upward transposition, it spirals up). With short delays, the pitch change sounds more or less continuous while with longer delays, there’s more of a stepped effect. The delay’s level control sets the amount of feedback; more feedback allows the spiraling to go on longer. However, if the delay level produces gain, then you could get nasty oscillations (which come to think of it, have their own uses). 8. Lord of the ring modulators Don’t have a ring modulator? If a tremolo or autopan rate extends into the audio range, the audio modulation “slices” the signal in a way similar to a ring modulator. 9. Fun with flangers Like pitch shifters, chorus/flangers are extremely versatile if you test their limits (Fig. 5). Fig. 5: Waves’ MetaFlanger is set up as described for a strange, morphing effect. Start off with the slowest possible LFO rate short of it being stopped, so that any pitch modulation is extremely slow. Then set the depth to a relatively low setting so there’s not a huge amount of modulation, and feedback to the maximum possible, short of distortion. Edit the output for wet signal only, and try a relatively long initial delay time (at least 20ms). You’ll get metallic, morphing sounds that sound like, for lack of a better description, ghost robots—an unearthly, mechanical effect. If I was doing effects for a movie and building tension for the part where the psycho killer is stalking his next victim, this sound would get first crack at the scene. 10. Parallel universe Some advanced multieffects let you put effects in parallel. One example of how to use this is to create ultra-resonant sounds. Most guitarists know that you can take a flanger, boost the resonance to max, turn the LFO speed to zero, and end up with a very metallic, zingy sound. But you can go one step further with parallel effects: patch a stereo delay in parallel with the flanger, set each channel for a short (but different) delay (e.g., 3 and 7ms), feedback for each channel to as high as possible short of uncontrolled feedback, and output to (of course!) wet only. You’ll now have three resonant peaks going on at the same time. And there are the 10 Tips. Until next time, may your computers never crash and your strings never break. ___________________________________________ Craig Anderton is a Senior Contributing Editor at Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  21. Anderton

    5 Mastering Tips

    5 Mastering Tips Getting into mastering? Then heed these five tips by Craig Anderton Save all of a song’s plug-in processor settings as presets. After listening to the mastered version for a while, if you decide to make “just one more” slight tweak—and the odds are you will—it will be a lot easier if you can return to where you left off (Fig. 1). For analog processors, take a photo of the panel knob positions. After all, that's why smart phones were invented. Fig. 1: Steinberg WaveLab has multiple ways to manage presets. If you use loudness maximizers, don’t set the maximum level to 0 dB. Some CD pressing plants will reject CDs if they consistently hit 0dB for more than a certain number of consecutive samples, as it’s assumed that indicates clipping. Furthermore, any additional editing—even just crossfading the song with another during the assembly process—could increase the level above 0. Don’t go above -0.1dB; -0.3dB is safer (Fig. 2). Fig. 2: Waves' L3 Multimaximizer has its output ceiling set to -0.3 dB. Halve that change. Even small changes can have a major impact—add one dB of boost to a stereo mix, and you’ve effectively added one dB of boost to every single track in that mix. If you’re fairly new to mastering, after making a change that sounds right, cut it in half. For example, if you boost 3 dB at 5 kHz, change it to 1.5 dB. Live with the setting for a while to determine if you actually need more. Bass management for the vinyl revival. With vinyl, low frequencies must be centered and mono. iZotope Ozone has a multiband image widener, but pulling the bass range width fully negative collapses it to mono (Fig. 3). Another option is to use a crossover to split off the bass range, convert it to mono, then mix it back with the other split. Fig. 3: Ozone's image widener can also narrow signals to mono with negative number settings for a band. The “magic” EQ frequencies. While there are no rules, problems involving the following frequencies crop up fairly regularly. Below 25 Hz: Cut it—subsonics live there, and virtually no consumer playback system can reproduce those frequencies anyway. 300-500 Hz: So many instruments have energy in this range that there can be a build-up; a slight, broad cut helps reduce potential “muddiness.” 3-5 kHz: A subtle lift increases definition and intelligibility. Be sparing, as the ear is very sensitive in this range. 15-18 kHz: A steep cut above these frequencies can impart a warmer, less “brittle” sound to digital recordings. -HC- ___________________________________________ Craig Anderton is a Senior Contributing Editor at Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  22. Using Color in the Studio Use color to improve your studio workflow by Craig Anderton In seminars, I’ve often mentioned the importance of staying in your “right” brain (the hemisphere that processes intuitive and artistic thinking) while recording. When your “left,” analytical brain gets involved, it diverts attention away from the creative process, and it’s hard to return to "right brain" mode. Ideally, you wouldn’t have to think at all while recording. It used to be this way: You had an engineer and producer to take care of the analytic tasks. But if you’re producing or engineering yourself, the best way to stay in creative mode is make your work flow as smooth and intuitive as possible. WHY COLOR MATTERS Your right brain parses non-verbal media (such as music and color) well. When dealing with words, your brain has to recognize the symbols first, then process the information. Color is like a “direct memory access” process that has a more direct pipeline into your “personal CPU.” Stoplights use colors rather than signs that say “Stop,” “Go,” and “Caution” because you react instantly to that red light. Here’s one example of using color: Check out a modern TV or DVR remote, and you’ll see that several of the buttons have different colors. Once you know what the colors mean, it’s a lot easier to see “red” or “blue” than parse the different labels on the keys. If you have remotes that don’t have colors, adding self-adhesive removable labels to buttons will make it a lot easier to pick out important buttons. VARIOUS APPLICATIONS Here are some tips about using color in the studio. For patch cords, buy a selection of enamel paints (model and craft supply shops are a good source) and put a dab on the same color on each end of a patch cord. Ideally, each cord would have a different color. This simplifies tracing a cable’s patching. If you use a hardware mixer, you likely have a “scribble strip” to write down which instruments are on which channels. But try taking this one step further; use some small, round or square colored labels to color-code certain types of tracks. For example, use red for all the drum channels, orange for percussion, etc. This “visual grouping” helps you locate instruments faster. The Mac makes it easy to color-code labels by letting you tag files with colored highlights (Fig. 1). For exmaple, with a sample library you can highlight different types of instruments or sounds (as well as favorites) with different colors, or assign different colors to different project folders. Fig. 1: The tags at the bottom of the context menu let you highlight file and folder names with various colors. SOFTWARE COLOR CUSTOMIZING Today’s software programs often let you tweak the UI colors. There are two, sometimes conflicting, goals: Choosing colors that minimize eyestrain, yet provide enough contrast to emphasize a program’s most important aspects. One issue is readability—yellow type on a black background is considered highly readable. But a black background can be less restful than muted gray or dark blue. As a result, consider using yellow-on-black for important graphic elements that don’t involve lots of background area. For program elements that are less important than others, choose a typeface color that doesn’t contrast as much with the background. Your eye will be drawn first to the important parameters, which have greater contrast. A PRACTICAL EXAMPLE SONAR allows significant color customization, and the Platinum version includes a Theme Editor for extensive customization. The default "Mercury" and "Tungsten" color themes tend toward the “restful on the eyes” philosophy, which makes sense for the greatest number of users. However, different work methods suggest different colorization. I tend to use the Console View for final mixing and fader automation, and the Track View for recording and editing. As a result, I need to see parameters fast and unambiguously in Track View. With the Console View, I’m more interested in something that I can stare at for hours on end. The upper half of Fig. 2 shows that the Track View name text was changed to yellow for tracks, while retaining blue for folders. Fig. 2: Cakewalk SONAR has had a couple color tweaks to make the interface better-suited to my preferences. This makes it very easy to see the track names and differentiate them from folders . The lower half shows colors in the console channel strings, but the meters have also been modified to more of a lime green to make them stand out, with a white instead of orange "you're about to hit red" zone. FUN WITH SATURATION I often have multiple tracks of the same instrument like lead and background vocals, harmony voices, lead and rhythm guitars, and the like. I not only color these the same, but will increase the saturation on the track that's the current focus of my attention. This makes it easy to pick out a specific track from a group of tracks. COLOR MY WORLD Once you become aware of color’s importance, try using it to improve your workflow. It will make a difference! -HC- ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  23. 10 Questions with Super Producer Michael Wagener The maven of metal talks tech by Craig Anderton Michael Wagener is the premier mixer/engineer/producer for metal, with a resumé of work that includes Metallica, Poison, Dokken, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Accept, Motley Crue, Great White, Plasmatics, X, Extreme, Megadeth, and many others—but his versatility also extends to artists like Janet Jackson and Muriel Anderson. We spent a relaxed afternoon in his WireWorld Studios, and after drooling over his recording gear and fabulous guitar collection, asked a few questions. Why are you selling some of your amps? I use the Kemper Profiler for almost everything. I have so many profiles…there are amps I haven’t turned on in over two years. I just don’t need them anymore. The main control room at WireWorld studios Do you get nostalgic for tape? Roger Nichols and I sat down once and recorded a kick with different adjustments for bias, azimuth, different tape types, and different tape machines. Nothing ever came back with the same punch as digital. Some people say digital stresses the body more, but I don’t know if that’s true. I wouldn't want to go back to tape. Do you think 96 kHz makes a difference on playback? Once I compared a variety of digital systems, and actually thought that 48 kHz sounded best for a sampling rate for the type of music I normally record. But that could have been due to converter design or some other factor. For playback, I don’t know anyone who can hear the difference consistently between 44.1 and 96 kHz. What about DSD? DSD really does sound better to me or let’s say: it feels better to me. There’s something special about it, but the problem is you can’t do any kind of editing—as soon as you want to edit, it has to go back to PCM. How has production changed over the years? Producers used to do just about everything—sometimes even figure out transportation and accommodations for a group, not just musical considerations. Now it can mean anything. Someone creating beats on a laptop by himself can call himself a producer. Oh, and record companies don't give advances to producers any more [laughs]. Because many of the acts Michael produces are international, he maintains an incredible collection of guitars so artists needn't have their instruments suffer at the hands of the airlines What’s your DAW of choice? Yamaha’s Nuendo. It feels right and makes sense to me. I use both Windows and Mac, but my recording is all done with a custom Windows machine running Windows 7. Why haven’t you upgraded to Windows 10? Everything’s working! My SSL AWS 900+ SE mixer talks to the computer, which talks to Nuendo, and everything talks to a bunch of devices in my patch bay. It’s all working, so I don’t see any need to change it. I suppose applying the security patches might be a good idea, but I connect only to sites I know, and only when needed. Has your background in electronics come in handy? Yes, I can do a lot of the maintenance on my analog gear. I really can’t do anything with digital, though. I also don't understand some decisions companies make, like soldering in batteries for memory backup [laughs]. Michael with a member of the Finnish metal band Lordi Are you a “leave your gear on” kinda guy? I leave the computer on so I don’t have to waste time booting up, and leave on the SSL and preamps but turn off most of the outboard equipment. Where do you see the record business going? Sessions in big studios continue to decrease. I think of all those schools turning out engineers…the jobs just won’t be there for most of them. Then again, there’s also a need for ongoing, continuing education for people who are engineers, or getting started in recording—that’s why I still do workshops for beginners and experts at my or their studio. That way people can benefit from what I’ve learned, without having to take the time to discover it for themselves. -HC- _____________________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
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