How you print sound to tracks is the one of the first stages of the actual ‘recording’ process. There are millions of ways to go about doing this. This part of the recording process can be broken down to two overall categories to start with: do you record the sounds ‘clean’ to the tracks and do the sonic production on the tracks during mixing or or do you print EQ, dynamics and effects to the tracks during the recording process?
As always, there is no right or wrong answers. When I began my recording journey I took note of what happened in studios where I was recording and spent a lot of time reading articles (today you can include watching videos) by people considered the masters of engineering and mixing.
I’ve always loved the work of Eddie Kramer, considering the roll call of famous musicians he worked with and the fact that he is still active and working on new techniques today. He was a ‘print to track’ engineer (compression, EQ, FX printed to the track) and a lot of what I do follows that format. I do add to tracks while mixing, but I try to get the essence of the sound while I’m tracking. One quote from him about sonics when tracking:
“To start with I’m a great believer in getting the sound right then and there, put it on tape and don’t think about it anymore. I’ll print with effects, I’ll print with dynamics processing. The bottom line is if I hear a sound in my head, I’m going to go for it – I’m going to print it to tape”.
Every session will have different requirements, so experiment whenever possible. But if you haven’t tried ‘print to tape’ give it a go.
Here’s a little Eddie Kramer clip you might enjoy:
We’ve covered many different avenues of the recording process in previous posts. I’ve come across two different items that present an inside look at recording before the ‘digital revolution’. The first is a recording of the Queen song ‘Under Pressure’. Most people have probably heard the song before. What’s recently been released is the vocals of the song minus all the music. The amazing factor in this is how crisp and ‘real’ the vocals sound. No digital manipulation, no ‘autotune’ (maybe an effect here and there). Just listen to Freddie Mercury and David Bowie give life to the vocal sound. Clean, clear, amazing. A big treat is Mercury’s vocal in the middle of the song where he holds a note then keeps raising it higher. If you listen in the background you can sometimes hear the music bleeding through their headphones.
The second clip shows The Rolling Stones mixing the song ‘Little Queenie’ from the live ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’ album. Some stuff to watch in this: The mixing booth is pretty small and plain – function is more important than looks. No automated faders – at times it takes three people working the board to test the changes they want. Finally, they’re mixing by sound, not over concerned with watching meters – eyes closed and listening – the band was very involved in the mixing process. Also enjoy the sound of two inch analog tape being rewound when they go back to certain parts of the song.
There are many great things about today’s recording tech, but the simplicity of the past also had some advantages.
When you begin to work on recording in your personal or project studio, what do you think is the most difficult instrument to record? All instruments (including voice) have their challenges. I think many people have found that recording live drums presented the greatest challenge. There are so many microphones, placements and techniques that it can seem a bit overwhelming at first. As with many parts of the recording process, there is not necessarily one correct way to record. You can use two room mics or multiple room and direct mics. As the recording capacity of ChurchHouse increased, I’ve used as many as thirteen mics to get the sound I want. I don’t necessarily use all the tracks in the final mix, but it’s nice to have options.
There’s a lot to consider. What type of mic is best for each piece of the kit? Where do want to place them? The drums need to be tuned correctly for recording, which will probably be different than tuning for a live show. Then there’s the ‘800 pound gorilla’ of the process – the room you record in. The room can make all the difference. In fact it can make THE difference. Some studios are known just for their drum rooms. We’re lucky enough to have both a small, ‘tight’ room that absorbs sound and a large open room with lots of natural reverb.
I’ve included a few articles about basic drum recording that I thought were a pretty good starting point. The bottom line in recording drums is taking the time and experimenting to see what works best for your drum set, equipment and recording room.
I wanted to pass along an interesting article I read concerning some of the pitfalls you can encounter running a small studio. One of the major problems concerns the fact that a small project studio often does not have multiple people handling the work that comes in. As a result, one person may do the recording, mixing and mastering as well as filling the role of the producer. There are positives to this: less long discussions or arguments over how to proceed as well as a consistent vision for the project. But the downside is the tunnel vision you may incur working by yourself and the project burnout you can encounter as you progress through all the steps.
This article speaks specifically to ‘ear burnout’ and steps you can take to avoid it. One thing the article doesn’t discuss is the positives you have when more than one person works on a project. At ChurchHouse Studios we have taken this to heart and try to have several people working on different parts of the project, especially mixing and mastering. It has produced very positive results for us. Another tip I would give is being aware of who is mixing your music. I’ve found out the hard way that mixing engineers who were in very loud bands and never used ear protection may have lost much of the top end of the hearing and will mix accordingly (also a tip to use ear protection if you’re still playing and don’t have the headphones too loud in the studio).
I want to share a recording technique that I read about when I started studio work and have used during sessions over the last several years. The idea is to track one guitar performance and end up with multiple tracks with different sound qualities.
To do this we have the guitar running in to two separate amplifiers – to get the best variety use amps with different sound qualities. For the example in the photo we’re using a Peavey amp on one side and a Mesa on the other side. Make sure the amps are separated so there is no bleed over between them. Each amp’s sound will be captured by three microphones. In our example we are using two dynamic mics close to the amp and one condenser mic slightly farther away on each side.
Each mic will go to a separate track in the recording software as seen in the photo below. You now have six unique guitar sounds you can use throughout the song. In our example we split the guitar signal going to the amps with a stereo chorus effect to allow for a greater stereo field when panning tracks left and right.
In the final photo below you can see how we used the diverse sounds throughout the song, bringing in different mics during verses, choruses and breaks. You can now accent different parts of the song with unique sonic signatures while maintaining a consistent guitar performance.
If you have enough tracks on your mixing console you can enhance these changes further using different settings of EQ, dynamics and effects on each track. This simple set up will provide you with multiple guitar sounds to make your track sonically interesting.
Discussing re-tuning monitors, pink noise, and frequencies.
Sorry it is late… having to now deal with another tech issue – more fodder for In the Studio.
Another episode for the masses – sorry it is late but have been doing studio stuff. I had to make some equipment adjustments, purchases, and reconfigurations so it has been kind of busy.
Just uploaded another episode of what’s going on in the studio.
This wasn’t as hard as I thought for getting the camera set up on a ladder, then having it take the photos without Barett or I having to do it. Not bad – cannot wait to get these four songs finished up. Got other projects that I need to get to at this point.