Category: Music Tech

Ride The Pink Noise

We recently changed the placement set up for monitoring with our Yamaha NS10M Studio monitors. They were placed further away from the listening point and sound panels were placed at equal distances beside and behind the monitors. The idea was to get a wider stereo feel and to equalize the reflection surfaces around the speakers.

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We do use other monitors during the mixing process but I like using the Yamahas for the initial mixing. For quite a while you couldn’t see a picture of a recording studio without seeing a pair of NS10s by the mixing console. Some people love them and some hate them. I like them but you have to know their strengths and weaknesses and use them accordingly. If you’re interested in more of their history, here’s an article from Sound On Sound that has a good discussion of their background:

http://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/yamaha-ns10-story

Since the placement was changed, that meant it was time to redo the room tuning for them. Ahhhh yes, the joy of a night of listening to pink noise. So I broke out the real time analyzer and got to work. Make sure that the mic for the analyzer is positioned in the spot where you’ll be sitting – near field monitors have a tight listening field and accuracy matters. The sound from pink noise will fluctuate, so you have to study the levels while it is running then review the peak capture when you turn it off. Here’s the running sound and peak capture when the EQ going in to the monitors is flat:

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NS10Ms tend to be weak at the low end, so the EQ is adjusted accordingly. The process takes a while since when you adjust one frequency it effects the frequencies around it. The final EQ setting looks like this:

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Here’s the running sound afterwards (remember running sound fluctuates, so a snap shot at a particular time will not look flat):

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The final shot of the peak captures gives a good representation of where we ended up:

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I’m pretty comfortable with the flatter EQ at the end of the process. One other tip is to make sure you are hearing equal levels from both speakers so you don’t overload one side when you’re mixing. The real time analyzer should let you get actual equal volumes for both sides. I have some volume hearing loss in one ear – the result of playing in bands for a lot of years (fortunately it is not frequency loss). To check on this take one channel of the song you’re mixing and run it straight down the center of your stereo field while sitting in your perfect center listening spot. If it sounds like it’s coming more from one channel or the other, make the adjustment on the volume of your reference amp. It’s at the end of the sound chain so it equalizes volume for your ears without effecting the balance in your actual mix. I also check the final mix of songs through the Real Time Analyzer so I’m using sight as well as sound to get the frequencies where I want them.

After the NS10 mixing is completed we’ll make any mix adjustments and also do the mastering through the higher end monitors set up in a different listening station. It’s always important to take your time, ‘put the mix down’ and come back to it later for review to get the best results possible. A great song will shine through no matter what, but a great mix will always improve your song.

And because I like to leave a little music for you……..

Father John Misty – “Ballad of The Dying Man”

 

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Speaking Of Vocals Follow Up

After I finished writing the last post I sat down to read through it and listened to ‘Heroes’ again. And again. Beyond the beauty of the song itself I was intrigued by a lot of the recording technique in it. I did a little searching on the internet and came across an article on the recording of ‘Heroes’ in Sound On Sound where they cover the recording of different ‘classic’ tracks. I really recommend reading the entire article. It’s not just nuts and bolts tech info; they cover the production of the song and how the recording ideas came about. I won’t rehash the whole article as I’ve attached a link to it. But since we were speaking of vocals the info on them was pretty amazing. The entire vocal part was written and recorded in five hours. The main vocal was recorded on a single track in one take (with a few splice ins here and there). For the main vocal there were three mics: one close, one about 15 feet away and a third at the other end of the very large room they were recording in. The close mic had heavy compression; the other two mics were gated and only opened up as the volume hit a certain level. As the vocal gets louder another mic in the room would open. So towards the end when the vocals are almost ‘shouted’ all three mics have opened up and all the reverb is natural from the room – and all three mics were recorded to the same track. Truly Amazing. Genius always finds a way.

Also check out how Robert Fripp got those high guitar feedback parts (they almost sound like a synth) by measuring the distance he stood from the amp to get the perfect feedback sound on each individual note.

Here’s the link to the Sound On Sound article:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/oct04/articles/classictracks.htm

Here’s another link to ‘Heroes’ sound you don’t have to go back to the last post to hear it:

 

Speaking Of Vocals

This winter seems like a good time to lock myself in the studio and start to get some work done again. We’ve spent a good deal of time working on song ideas and turning some of them in to song demos. Now it’s time to focus in and work on the production tracks. Which in turn allows me to focus on the recording process from both technical and artistic points of view. As always finding a way to nail the vocal recording process is a high priority.

The first article I’ve attached is a quick and simple overview of some different methods of recording vocals. This really speaks to the performance aspect of recording as compared to the nuts and bolts tech of mics, mic placement, preamps etc.

http://blog.sonicbids.com/full-takes-or-section-by-section-which-vocal-recording-approach-is-better

Personally I like to record takes all the way through. It gives the singer a chance to have the full feel of the song and decide how to vocally connect the song together. But I’ve also worked parts of the song separately, maybe verses separate from chorus or separating vocal parts after an instrumental break. I think it really depends on the song and the vocalist. You have to be open to trying different approaches on different songs.

The next article discusses comping, which is mentioned in the first article (I don’t know if I’d call it a ‘little known’ recording trick) .

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-little-known-recording-trick-that-makes-singers-sound-perfect

I think there are things to consider if you’re going to do a lot of cut and paste comping on a vocal track. If I’m going to put together smaller pieces of the vocal tracks I’d like to get them recorded in the same session. A person’s voice may change slightly from day to day. It’s not like setting up a guitar amp and then leaving the settings stand for another session. That’s not as much of an issue if you’re putting together larger pieces of the song. It’s also not as much of an issue if you’re going to multi-layer several vocal tracks on top of each other. Again, work with the vocalist and see what brings the best out of them. I think we’ll be putting down a lot more vocal tracks then usual in our upcoming sessions for both layering and comping.

Finally, I couldn’t let the passing of David Bowie go by without comment. For many of us music is much more than something we listen to. I grew up from a young age playing music and living music. It informed my life and many life choices. For those of us who grew up in that era, Bowie melded music with life and style. And showed that you could stop on a dime and change styles if you wanted to. Be fearless in your ability and right to change to whatever moved you. I picked the song ‘Heroes’ to put here because it shows the most important part of vocals – emotion. I feel the build in emotion created by the vocals in this song every time I listen to it. If you do it right it’s captured forever.

 

 

 

 

A Good Place To Start

Well, I’ve certainly been AWOL the last couple of months. A lot has been going on, some good, some bad, some blah, blah, blah. Thought I’d throw a couple of things up for you to peruse.
First, for anyone who is interested in starting out in recording music there’s a site that shows you the basics of mixing and listening….and you get to play around with Peter Gabriel’s music..and post your own mixes in SoundCloud. I’ve only touched some of the basic parts (pretty hard to pull my butt out of my own studio) but what I’ve seen is pretty interesting.

http://www.playwithyourmusic.org/

On another note, recently spent a night with the legendary Reverend Horton Heat. Totally ass-kicking (and I so want that guitar). Here’s a live video for your enjoyment. Hope to post some pictures from the show soon.

The March Of Progress Can Be Frightening

Music making technology continues to evolve. I ran across this in my internet travels and since Monday is always a happy day, I decided to share it with you. The tech is custom designed metal and computer ummm….stuff….I’ve attached the article which can explain it better.

So, if you’re going to make music with computers and metal, what would it sound like? It would be happy, of course, although I’m starting to wonder if my idea of happiness is a bit askewwww….

Here’s the article:

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2014/02/tristan-shone-mechanical-masks/

…and another video under the band name, Author & Punisher:

OK, you’re still happy, right? After you consume something, you should cleanse your palette. So, before you return to the land of doom, here’s a video extra. I realize you may see the band name, The Obits, and go, well I’m not sure this fits the idea of lightening up. But it’s my kind of sound, guitar rock, nice sound separation, cool running bass line. I also really like the sound they got for the guitars, tight and crisp. The video looks like it was shot at one of the many practice spaces I enjoyed back in the day.

If you’re not happy yet, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do for you.