Tips, tricks and other habitual tendencies

20 posts (showing 1-20)
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts

I get quite a bit of email, messages, etc. looking for production/recording/mixing/mastering advice so I figured it might be good if we had a place to share little tid-bits of info. Especially since sometimes the things we think are obvious aren't necessarily so.

I'll start with two.

1. Prototype with scratch tracks. With our deadlines and workload we don't get the luxury of a proper pre-pro period, so make do with what you have. Lining up a solid direction ensures that any last minute additions are for artistic or sweeting purposes and not for trying to fix the crap you wrote or the poor execution of the performance. Writing and playing time is usually faster and more productive than editing time.

2. Filters. High pass filters are your friend, learn them well. Seriously. Band pass can work wonders for focusing. The next time you think you need to EQ something, try filtering it first.

posted 2012-04-21T20:47:26-07:00
DVGmusic

Market Level 3Community Level 8
425 posts
good thread idea!

Parallel Compression.  I find it wild that so many people don't know what this is. It's the practice of using a wet/dry (mix to taste) of the source signal and a heavily compressed signal.  Like all things audio, use it when it sounds good, but I tend to use it mostly on drums to fatten them up and make them hit harder without losing too much dynamic range.  protip: If you are having issues with the tracks being out of sync, make sure you have the same plugs on your source channel as the compression channel.
Mid-Side EQ. This is the practice of EQing on the stereo field.  Basically, you use this to help widen or flatten frequencies.  I tend to use this largely to keep the sub frequencies out of the sides, but if you play around you can really widen out your mixes and give it a sense of space.
posted 2012-04-21T22:50:32-07:00
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts

Parallel compression is also referred to a lot as "NY compression". Here's a deeper trick with it on the drums.. only  send the room mics to the compressed channel(s) and then slam the living hell out of them. Go for an in-time pumping and breathing. This adds life to the drums.

M/S is a good tip. When recording it's actually a mic set-up, accomplished with a cardiod mic directed at the source with a figure of eight mic placed with the null point at the source. Once the two tracks are recorded, you take the figure-8 mic track, duplicate it, then invert the phase. This leaves you with a center, a left and a right channel. In mastering, an encoder and a decoder are needed to translate the stereo and mono signals into a M/S configuration. Brainworx makes some really great plug-ins for M/S processing.

posted 2012-04-21T23:25:04-07:00
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts

DVGmusic said:

protip: If you are having issues with the tracks being out of sync, make sure you have the same plugs on your source channel as the compression channel.

Or just make sure your ADC is engaged :P

posted 2012-04-21T23:26:39-07:00
Symphony of Specters

Market Level 2Community Level 4
107 posts

So one thing that I get asked quite a bit is "how do you make an epic sound?". And while the question is as vague and umbrella termish as you can get there are a few basic elements I find I can tell people to get them started. For this example I will be focusing on the whole slow motion sad epic stuff that seems to be so popular. 

The way I see it, there are two ways to create an epic sound. The first is you start with a melody, and make chords to fit that. The second is you start with the chords, and write a melody on top of that

Both ways are perfectly acceptable, however I found that starting with chords generally provides an easier starting point (especially for those who are not very theory savvy. Not that you CAN'T, but there is much more room to fiddle safely this way).

Basically you take your chords (good mix between minor/major. Usually minors), put them down and then have nice drawn out notes that fit in those chords with quick notes at the end to jump to the next chord. 

It's hard to define with just words, so here is an example.

http://www.mediafire.com/?wwy8mb8cmow3yb4

Let me explain what you're listening to.

The first 19 seconds is me randomly without thinking throwing down 8 chords. You're going to hear these chords a lot.

After that is the first melody, then a second, and then a third. Remember that these melodies are formed purely off jumping between the notes of the chord that is currently being played. There's really no wrong way to do this lol!

To prove that it's not just about the samples I then basically repeat these segments with some basic ass 3xOSC channels. Utilizing tri and square waves to give distinctive tones.

The last half of this trick is the reverb. Reverb makes the cake delicious. Here I have reverb on EVERYTHING (maybe too much, like I said I spent nearly no time on this and just wanted to show the thinking). For the lead I also gave it a short delay. This gives it a distant zomg so awe inspiring sensation.

And then because I thought it would be fun we repeat the entire thing BUT WITH A BASIC PERCUSSION LOOP! Because that's pretty cool.

Okay, and that's my needlessly large rant of the day. Hope that helped somebody. Here's the midi file in case anybody is interested

EDIT:

PROTIP: Don't forget to provide link to examples
http://www.mediafire.com/?iscn6vuh4u8yvv1 

posted 2012-04-22T04:00:56-07:00 | edited 2012-04-22T22:30:13-07:00
The Tao of Chris

Market Level 0Community Level 3
249 posts

I honestly don't have any tricks or tips. I do have advice for those who are learning... Listen and pay attention to everything that someone with experience has to offer. Recording for Dummies can not help you like experience can.

posted 2012-04-22T12:14:39-07:00
Soundtasy

Market Level 3Community Level 1
30 posts

And remember, never kill the transients too much just to reach the loudest volume you can, there is no really a standard about compressing with a limiter, but some people say is a good idea to put transient peaks something between 0dbFS and -3dbFS, and RMS volume between -12dbFS and -20dbFS so you would keep the dynamic range, but if you kill the transients, you'll get more loud but you're going to loose punch and definition so it will going to sound squeezed and over compressed.

But well, supposedly it depends on the kind of music you make of course, some music is more dynamic than other, like for example orchestral music use to have more dynamics than a pop/rock tune, so just use    dynamic processing wisely and all is going to be fine.

posted 2012-04-23T13:04:26-07:00
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts

On Apr 23, 2012, MilesInDaHat said:

 just use dynamic processing wisely and all is going to be fine.

I'm guessing were talking about limiting during mastering here, please correct me if I'm wrong.

I find myself using limiting much more liberally on video game music than I ever would even contemplate for a music release.

Developers seem to want control of overall volume rather quickly and dynamics can be set up by arrangement. I remember hearing something years ago about the intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit being only 3dB lower than when it kicks in. I've never tested that, but you get the point.

posted 2012-04-24T22:44:41-07:00
Soundtasy

Market Level 3Community Level 1
30 posts

On Apr 24, 2012, JHII said:

On Apr 23, 2012, MilesInDaHat said:

 just use dynamic processing wisely and all is going to be fine.

I'm guessing were talking about limiting during mastering here...

Yeah, you're right. Mastering nowadays use to have a very narrow dynamic range and apparently so many listeners feel annoyed with wide changes in volume, unless you are looking for an orchestral cinematic effect in wich case would be the desirable. But still, is not necessary to overinflate the volume so that it looks saturated like a square wave, but anyway, in any case the best is to get some information about mastering process and use it consciously and with time will get the experience.

posted 2012-04-25T07:01:12-07:00
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts
posted 2012-04-25T07:33:31-07:00
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts

Instead of buying cheap LD condensers, buy good dynamic mics. You get much more "bang for your buck" in both quality of sound and quality of build.

Here are some pretty great options:
Shure SM7
Shure SM57
EV RE20
Heil Sound PR-30
Heil Sound PR-40 

posted 2012-06-08T17:22:15-07:00
turna

Market Level 5Community Level 4
264 posts

Wow, after listening the sample music and read your step-by-step explanation, it seems so simple. I straight away fire up my Guitar Pro and came close to replicate that epic feeling.

Btw, I'm just hobbyist that sometimes tinkering with my piano/Guitar Pro. Thanks SoS for this beginner mini-tutorial! :D

On Apr 23, 2012, Symphony of Specters said:

So one thing that I get asked quite a bit is "how do you make an epic sound?". And while the question is as vague and umbrella termish as you can get there are a few basic elements I find I can tell people to get them started. For this example I will be focusing on the whole slow motion sad epic stuff that seems to be so popular. 

The way I see it, there are two ways to create an epic sound. The first is you start with a melody, and make chords to fit that. The second is you start with the chords, and write a melody on top of that

Both ways are perfectly acceptable, however I found that starting with chords generally provides an easier starting point (especially for those who are not very theory savvy. Not that you CAN'T, but there is much more room to fiddle safely this way).

Basically you take your chords (good mix between minor/major. Usually minors), put them down and then have nice drawn out notes that fit in those chords with quick notes at the end to jump to the next chord. 

It's hard to define with just words, so here is an example.

http://www.mediafire.com/?wwy8mb8cmow3yb4

Let me explain what you're listening to.

The first 19 seconds is me randomly without thinking throwing down 8 chords. You're going to hear these chords a lot.

After that is the first melody, then a second, and then a third. Remember that these melodies are formed purely off jumping between the notes of the chord that is currently being played. There's really no wrong way to do this lol!

To prove that it's not just about the samples I then basically repeat these segments with some basic ass 3xOSC channels. Utilizing tri and square waves to give distinctive tones.

The last half of this trick is the reverb. Reverb makes the cake delicious. Here I have reverb on EVERYTHING (maybe too much, like I said I spent nearly no time on this and just wanted to show the thinking). For the lead I also gave it a short delay. This gives it a distant zomg so awe inspiring sensation.

And then because I thought it would be fun we repeat the entire thing BUT WITH A BASIC PERCUSSION LOOP! Because that's pretty cool.

Okay, and that's my needlessly large rant of the day. Hope that helped somebody. Here's the midi file in case anybody is interested

EDIT:

PROTIP: Don't forget to provide link to examples
http://www.mediafire.com/?iscn6vuh4u8yvv1 

posted 2012-06-10T13:45:42-07:00
The Tao of Chris

Market Level 0Community Level 3
249 posts

I don't think this thread should die. Asides from how you would perform in a studio setting, a lot of us now have shifted or started in their homes, making a bedroom or garage studio without the luxury of a "room". What tips or tricks do you have that can help the newbies (like me) to achieve space and depth in their recordings without having any space at all?

How many of you have a drumset fully mic'd in your bedroom studios or a mic'd grand piano.

The rules seem to have changed a lot with the parameters we are dealt with.

Thanks guys.

posted 2013-02-15T15:08:44-08:00
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts

"The rules seem to have changed a lot". Understatement of the year.

This is a topic that could spin wildly down the rabbit hole for sure, but it's like Brad Blackwood said to me a few months back, "If people aren't, right now, learning to make great records in pre-defined spaces and not worrying about things like plates rattling, they won't be making records in 10 years". I think that's a little over-the-top, but I agree with the sentiment. The venue has shifted and we all need to figure out the new methods.

To the point of depth..

It's really tough to create depth with VIs. All the pre-defined variables don't fit together nicely a lot of times. Recording in a small, untreated space is not all that helpful either. Here's a few basic things I've picked up:

Don't be afraid of your room. Find or create places where the flutter echoes and standing waves aren't killing the recording and roll. Deadening the room is safe, sure, but it's also boring.. there's no life, no jump to the recordings.

Artificially create a space for the instruments. When working with VIs, a lot of them come with reverb controls built in.. take that stuff off. Set up a return with a room (or whatever) reverb and send all of your instruments to it. Balance your sends to taste, but in the end, you should have a passable facsimile of an actual space things were recorded in.

Movement. I'm finding this to be key. Hard panned mono delays, source on one channel it's verb on the other, compression tricks, automated filters, dynamics.. anything that gives a sense of movement to the sound. We're not so much creating depth-of-field here, but depth-of-interest. Do note that you have to use restraint and have a deft hand while adding all of these things on top of each other.

Distortion. From subtle to not subtle on a track by track basis.. try it.

Obviously, these aren't catch-all problem solvers, but these things have worked for me in various situations.

posted 2013-02-15T19:36:31-08:00
The Tao of Chris

Market Level 0Community Level 3
249 posts

Im starting to experiment now. Trying to really get some definition. Right now, there are some things that sound great in the monitors or headphones, but not so great in normal pc speakers or mini pc speaker systems.

At least I am aware of my noob status and know there are plenty things out there I don't know.

posted 2013-02-25T22:34:24-08:00
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts

Label your sessions in an intelligent fashion. Notate anything that could be useful. Organize your tracks.

Use the NARAS PT guidelines if you don't know how to label: http://www2.grammy.com/PDFs/Recording_Academy/Producers_And_Engineers/PTGuidelines.pdf

It's a tiny bit outdated with the release of PT 10, but you should get the idea.

posted 2013-06-08T06:16:36-07:00
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts

Thought of an old one that I used to do as an assistant after or between sessions. I'd do it on a console, but it will work fine ITB.

Set up a tone generator one one track. What frequency doesn't really matter as you'll want to explore different combinations anyway. Strap a gate across that channel.

Now set up a click track, once again, you'll want to experiment with different settings, so the first one doesn't matter. Maybe start out with the usual 120bpm that most sessions default to.

Now put the click track into the side chain of the gate. Ahh, now were getting somewhere. Should be a pulse of whatever frequency you selected going on.

Take all of that out of the stereo buss (assigning to an unused output should work or simply muting and setting the send to pre fader). Then we get to the fun.

Set up an aux with a verb, send the pulsing waveform to it. Take that out of the stereo buss. Set up another aux with a delay, send the reverb to it.. take that out of the buss. Now set up a phaser on yet another aux track, send the delay track to that. Keep repeating this process with different (or the same) time based fx until you catch something that speaks to you.

What you can wind up with is everything from subtle slowly moving landscapes to quick paced insanity. It's all in what you use, how you use it, how much of each effect is pushing the next one and in what order. Even play with the attack, hold and release times of the gate to mess with the final sound.

It's actually a pretty cool exercise that teaches you routing, signal flow, gain staging (somewhat) and gate settings while also giving you something that you can use for a project.

posted 2014-02-06T06:10:10-08:00 | edited 2014-02-06T06:14:03-08:00
JHII

Market Level 5Community Level 6
716 posts

Have had some people express their concerns to me about mixing lately, so thought I'd address a couple of things along those lines:

Monitoring volume. Change it, often. An old studio trick is when you want the clients to vibe with the track is simply turn it up really loud.. don't fall for this yourself. Your ears will always, and I mean always, comprehend 'louder' as 'better.'

I've known for a long time the 85dB 'sweet spot', but I feel this is really a relative number. Play your mix very low and you can make sweeping decisions better ('that bass needs to come up in the chorus'). Play your mix at 85dB and you can make the more finite decisions ('the bass needs to come up 2dB in the chorus'). Play it really loud and it all sounds a lot better anyway. (I'm speaking specifically of 85dB, C weighted)

Not to say you shouldn't monitor your mix at a high amplitude at points, because you should make sure it kicks.. just don't rely on that for changes.

A simple sound measuring app should be sufficient to get you on the right track (such as Skypaw's Multimeasures) but you, of course, could opt for a dedicated loudness meter that is more accurate.

Checking your mix. No you didn't waste money on your brand new ADAM, Neumann, JBL, Dynaudio, Focal or Blue Sky monitors. You need those! But you should also check on headphones; one good pair (like the Sennheiser HD 600) and a consumer pair (Apple earbuds are perfect for games). Also needed are checks on consumer computer speakers and laptop speakers. If you know what platform(s) the game is destined for, check on those device's internal speakers as well.

Response to low end (especially) varies wildly across all of these and you'll have to make some decisions accordingly.

posted 2014-09-24T06:40:20-07:00
The Tao of Chris

Market Level 0Community Level 3
249 posts

Thats a good one.  Its often frustrating to have a nice sounding mix sound like poo in the cheap earbuds or pc speakers.

You'll definitely have to suck it up and make changes that you may not want to to find that sweet spot between all of your monitors, but its not about you, its about the client.

Good post.

posted 2014-09-24T13:13:21-07:00
The Tao of Chris

Market Level 0Community Level 3
249 posts

So here is something.  I don't know if this is a trick really.  I also don't know how I JUST found this.

 We are prolly all working with more virtual drums than ever, something like EZDrummer or BFD.  Even if you don't want to admit it, they are getting A LOT better.  

 One thing that always kills me is when creating a new beat.  I usually take a stock loop and edit it in the midi editor. No problem.  But now I have an electronic kit and have been actually playing the drum parts.  This allows me to play as I "feel" not as I "program".

Problem: Im not a great drummer / There is alway going to be some latency / I don't want to grid out the part.

Typically, using a pre made EZX pattern, I can move the kick and snare, no problem, but it gets snapped to the grid.

When I go in to clean up my drum part I can do the same, but it snaps to the grid.

Well to get to my point, I looked up and saw that I can go into SLIP mode in the midi editor.  HOLY CRAP.... I felt like an idiot.  I never saw that there.  NEVER.

So now, I can make my edits and move some off hits close to where they need to be without snapping it down.  This works great for flams and tom fills.  Even cymbal hits feel more natural this way.

I guess in the end, this post is a TIP.

Look at the tools you have on your screen.

.....smh

posted 2014-11-10T15:46:33-08:00