Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Get Serious About Your Studio: Create a Patch Bay

If you have a Home Studio and you are running a lot of outboard equipment, then you need to invest in a patch bay. Think of the trouble you probably go through unplugging one piece of equipment and snaking out the cord and then running it to another piece of equipment. Think of the spaghetti mess of cords and knots that you have to fight with and trip over on a consistent basic.

With a patch bay this could all be avoided. Quick and easy access to all of your equipment will help take the stress off of you as the engineer and can help you and your studio look professional.

You will also find that if you have a signal flow problem, finding where the problem is at will be a lot easier with a patch bay. With one patch wire, you can stand or sit in the same place and check everything one plug at a time, it's that simple.

Unfortunately, I wish I could tell you this project is cheap, but I can't. I would say you should expect to pay about a minimum of 200 hundred dollars. The bay itself will cost money and the chords will not be cheap either, but in my opinion money well spent.

So basically, you can keep wasting your time on your hands and knees under your studio desk trying to blindly connect to the back of each component, or you can set up a patch bay and run everything one time and one time only.

Head over to this site for great patch bay advice "patch bay"


Saturday, March 16, 2013

M-S Miking for a Change of Pace

Have you ever been in that position when you record an instrument or a vocal and it seems to sound like just what you want when recording but during play back you just can't seem to get that sound back? Then maybe it is time to try a different Miking technique.

Mid-Side miking (M-S) is a great way to try to pick up a good sound from all the way around the sound source. Even better, after you have recorded, you will be able to in theory change the way the microphones are picking up the sound without rerecording it. This could really help when your stressed for time and going back into the studio just can't be accommodated; this miking technique can really help open up some options.

Now, you do need two particular type of microphones for mid-side miking. A cardioid pattern microphone and a microphone set at a bi-directional pattern. The Cardioid will be facing straight at the source capturing the direct sound, and the bi-directional microphone will be placed perpendicular to the diaphragm of the cardioid microphone. This should give you a nice stereo sound with options to play with later when mixing.

Obviously, everyone is going to have their own opinion and not everyone is going to like this miking method. But (M-S) miking is the oldest form of stereo miking technique you can use. The best thing to me about this system is if you do not get the sound you are looking for, it shouldn't be a big deal, it's not like it takes 5 hours to set it up, five minutes is more like it, and if it does not work it takes five minutes to take down. But if it does work, that is five minutes well spent time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

9 Quick Tips to Improve Your Vocal Tracks

Since vocals are usually the most important part to a song, they are obviously the most frustrating tracks to mix because you do not want to fall short on quality. You can spend a long time fixing and mixing and just simply not getting the sound that you really want. Here are 10 tips that might help make your life a little easier when recording and mixing vocals.

1. Boosting the EQ around the upper mid range (around 3-4 kHz) can add some more explosiveness, but be modest as this can go a long way.

2. This is the easiest way to help your vocals out. Place the vocalist in the right place. Unlike an instrument, instead of moving the mic around, you can just have the vocalist move forward, backward and side-to-side. Have them lay down some sample tracks with them positioned differently and use the position that sounds best. This is an easy process for getting great vocals. The better the initial recorded sound, the less effects will have to be applied later.

3. When deciding if you need to use a hard knee or a soft knee compressor, you really need to listen to how the singer is singing. If the singer is really powerful on the mic, you want to use a hard knee so that the vocal can be compressed right away. If the vocalist is a little less explosive, by all means use the soft knee to let the vocalist's vocals build up before it is compressed.

4. Check out your gain reduction meter. By almost all accounts, you do not want more than -6 db of reduction on the vocals. If there is more than -6 db of gain reduction, change some of the other parameters to help you get closer to this target number.

5. Unnatural sounding vocals can be caused by too much compression. If this is the case, what you want to do is to lower the compression ratio to (1.2:1 to 3:1).

6. Here is another great way to try to do some tricky stuff. Doubling up on vocals is a great way to bring some debt to the track, but what if the vocalist is not there? You can make a duplicate track and use a pitch shift plug-in. About a -15 to -30 percent pitch shift mixed properly with the main vocal could give you that fat vocal sound you are looking for.


7. If you are looking to clamp down on the peaks of the vocals, but you're not really looking to affect the rest of the vocal dynamics, here are some compression parameters you should go with. Choose a high ratio -  something close to 10:1 or higher and a somewhat high threshold - somewhere around -1 to -6 db. This should help you clamp any peaks, but it should be high enough not to affect the average level of the vocals and dynamics.

8. If you have a noise problem due to a noises pre-amp, which can happen, try this little trick to help prevent it. Try using a gate program with a fast attack and a modest decay. But don't do too much of this for it can cause an unnatural sound to the vocals, you want just enough to keep the buzz away when there is not a lot going on in the mix. And make sure you use the bypass function to make sure you're not affecting the vocals in any way.

9. One last thing a lot of engineers may have to ponder: Should they use a popper in front of the mic? There is only one way to answer this question and that is simply just listen to the artist perform and make a decision from there, if you need it, you need it, if you don't, even better.

Using effects to help make vocals sound better is a great way to help an engineer get a great sounding vocal for their clients. But remember, when it comes to compression, reverb, delay, etc., it can make a vocal sound great or it can squeeze the life out of it, and there is nothing worse than an uneventful or an unnatural sounding vocal.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Importance of Using AUX Channels for Your Vocal Tracks

A common mistake made by many amateur Recording Engineers is putting effects directly on to the vocal tracks. When I first started recording and did not have a lot of experience, I mixed vocals in a way that I'm sure a lot of other beginners mixed vocals, putting effects directly on the vocal tracks. I still managed to come out with some pretty decent sounding vocals but after working with others, reading and schooling I dropped this bad habit along with a lot of others.

Using AUX channels is not always necessary when mixing instruments, but mixing vocals with AUX channels is crucial. What makes it so crucial? When you start adding effects to the vocals, you still want to have a track with the vocals that is completely dry that you can work with. This just helps you have a lot more control over the natural sound of the vocals, and if there is anything in the mix that you want to sound as real as possible, that would be your vocals. For instance, if you have a reverb effect on the aux plug-in that you feel has the perfect parameters for what you are looking for, but the natural sound is a little too distant, you can bring up the volume of the vocal track without affecting the parameters of your reverb.

Another great advantage to AUX channels every engineer should know and if you don't, read it, write it down, remember it: If you have more than one vocal track you can run each track to the same AUX channel, this will ensure each vocal will be affected by the same amount giving the allusion that each set of vocals was recorded in the same place. When I first started recording, I listened to a lot of local music recorded in garages and basements. This is where I notice the problem, mainly hip-hop and rap had this problem. A lot of neighborhood artist would get together and produce a track. But with four or five different artist and someone mixing it that was far from professional, all of the artist would sound like they had recorded in different rooms and in some cases they did; and having a different amount of effects placed on each track did not make things any better.

The same effects placed on each vocal will help give the allusion that the vocals were recorded in the same place at the same time even if they were not. Even if you have five vocal tracks recorded in five different rooms, running them through one or more main AUX channel is your best bet to making them sound like they all came from the same room. You can still set up different effects for each track, such as EQ or delay, but you want at least have one or main effect that ever channel is affected by.