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This is from a little while ago, but seems particularly needed right now.

And it’s important to note that the every single person appearing in this video is actual real life living & breathing trans person. As is the audio engineer. As is the director (Silas Howard). As is the audio engineer (Ada Douglass). As is the writer (me!).

I think it’s really important for us to be taking the lead in the conversations happening right now, so I’d really appreciate you watching and sharing and liking and leaving positive comments.

Thanks all.

Today’s Best Tips on Music Production

10 essential tips… 20 mistakes… 30 production secrets and so on, such lists seem to be really popular these days. Although many of them are just full of crap. Especially forget about the longer checklists – even if you could find some good advices there, most tips are just nonsense, like “don’t mix bass with headphones”.

Anyway, to you aspiring producer, here’s a few things I think you should care about:

  • Limiting yourself can help drive creativity. Don’t use all of your instrumental arsenal at once, don’t try to cover all music styles in one track.
  • Listen to different styles of music and try to identify what you like and what you dislike.
  • Analyze your favorite artists’ work in great detail. Theorize with both feet on the ground.
  • Go ahead and copy other artists, but don’t settle there – tweak and add your own style and flavor.
  • Cover, remix and remake your favorite tracks, it’s a good and fun way to learn about music.
  • Use reference tracks, compare your shit to others, but don’t get paralyzed when your track doesn’t bang as loud as them.
  • Learn about synthesis and learn how to sound design different kind of instruments, e.g. strings, plucks, percussion (make synthetic drums using waveforms, a noise generator, filters, envelopes and such).
  • Check your music productions on several systems; from high-end studio monitor speakers to iPhone earbuds.
  • Sleep on it. Let your track mature over night and return to it with fresh ears.
  • Go hardware, get tactile if you are growing tired of a software-based environment. To actually play an instrument or to turn a real knob is really something else.
  • Get inspiration from collaborations with other artists. Just reach out to people you admire – this is globalization, this is the time of teh internetz.
  • Try to keep passionate about creating music, but don’t be afraid to make some demands of yourself, just to push things forward.
About Drum EQ

Firstly everybody would tell you to have a minimalistic approach towards EQ-ing and to cut rather than to boost. They would say that subtractive EQ avoids adding unnecessary gain to the signal and such. But by doing so, you might need to increase the volume of the instrument you’re working on, because cuttings are essentially lowering the gain.

That was the first tip, and now there are a few frequency ranges that you should pay attention to.

Kick Drum

Usually you’d like the kick drum to have both a thick bass thump from the low-end and a driving click from the mids. So to add some extra weight (that is low-end punch or bottom depth), boost at 50-150 Hz. Don’t overdo it as it can clutter up the low-end. And don’t boost the extremely low frequencies as this will mostly cause a muddy sound. If possible, use bell mode on the EQ to better isolate the frequencies.

To reduce boom, or tighten and clean up the low-end in general, set a high-pass filter around 50-60 Hz. (20 Hz and below only adds unnecessary energy to the total sound.)

If the kick drum needs more body, boost some in the 90-120 Hz range.

Apply cut somewhere in the 150-600 Hz range to treat muddiness, while boxiness is most prominent near 400 Hz. Also apply a notch filter at 250 Hz, that can add thump or slap attack to the kick drum.

Push between 2-4 kHz to add attack, and also boost a bit between 4-7 kHz to make the kick drum snappy.

Remove extreme high (for a kick drum you shouldn’t need anything over 10 kHz) and low frequencies (at least kill everything below 20 Hz) with a high- and a low-pass filter.

Snare

You can, more or less, use the the same tips as for the kick drum above with a few changes and additions.

Cut at 80 Hz to remove rumble.

If the snare sounds thin, boost at 125-150Hz for a little weight and a full snare sound. And to give the snare some punch, boost around 250 Hz.

The body of the snare should be around 500 Hz, adding there will give a rounder sound.

Boost around 2 kHz for some crispy edge and add at 2.5 kHz for extra snap and attack. Also add clarity and even more punch by boosting around the 3 kHz area.

You might want to give the snare some air and presence by raising somewhere between 6-15 kHz, like at 10 kHz.

Hand claps and rim shots can mostly be treated as snares.

Toms

For the floor tom that needs low-end fulness, add some at 80-100 Hz, and for the smaller rack tom lift somewhere closer to 250 Hz.

Increase thump and add attack around 250 Hz.

Cut the mids around 400 Hz to reduce boxiness.

Add attack by boosting between 4-7 kHz (depending on the size of the tom).

Hihats and Cymbals

When you’re done mixing the volume level of the hihats, you usually don’t really have to boost or cut anything. Still, the clank or gong sound is around 200 Hz, but if you want definition, then roll off everything below 500-600 Hz using a high-pass filter. By doing so, you clear out low-end information that is nonessential for the hihat.

If the hihat is sounding thin, boost around 400-800 Hz.

Cut at 1 kHz to remove jangling, and treat clangy sounds by cutting between 1-4 kHz.

A small boost with a wide Q at the 3 kHz range will add presents to the hihat.

Add brightness and get sizzle by lifting at 10 kHz. And if the sound is too harsh, then make a high-shelf cut around 16 kHz.

That’s it. Next time I’ll guide you through the creation of synthesized drums.

Note: processing sampled sounds can turn hihats pretty harsh, therefore use a de-esser to affect the problem frequencies without messing with the overall volume or clarity.

Straight Outta Bedroom

So I’ve had this blog for a year and a half now – yay! I’ve primarily focused on music production methods and tips. If you’re into that, making music, then here are a few (not all) old posts that could interest you. Now, did you ever wonder… 

You’re welcome.

Recording and Mixing Vocals at Home

This post is about recording and mixing vocal in your bedroom. As always, I’m not a pro, but neither are you reading this, I figure, and as an aspiring producer you could find this guide helpful.

With that outta the way let’s start. In most cases, the vocal is the focal point of a song, so it has to be properly heard in the mix and sound natural (if heavy effect isn’t an end in itself).

Now, the bedroom home studio might actually be a corner in a larger room or a noisy space – with no respect for your musical/scientific practice. When recording, try to eliminate reflections or at least minimize the room’s acoustic and ambient influences on your sound. The microphone not only picks up the voice but also its reflection and noises from the room and interior. Try to isolate the mic – keeping away from the walls if possible. Be creative, there are several DIY solutions with pillows and blankets and such to sound proof your room.

A Good Mic Setup

The standard of today’s professional studios are large diaphragm condenser mics. And cardioid-pattern (or unidirectional) capacitors are the most common for voice recordings. However a dynamic mic – connected to a good preamp – should work just fine. Beside that we’re not in a real studio, we’re at your make-shift little joint and we don’t have room nor money to get everything we want. Moreover, most of us bedroom producers don’t have a pool of different mic types, so we just have to do the best we can with what we’ve got.

If you’re getting a new mic, bear in mind that a condenser mic is sensitive and requires 48 volt phantom power on the preamp/mixer in order to power the mic. Whilst a dynamic mic is less sensitive, but offer a more rounded sound and doesn’t need phantom power.

It’s usually preferred to mount the microphone on a stand. (If you don’t have space for that, then keep your hands clear of the rear of the mic’s basket to avoid affecting the capturing.) Use a pop shield if you got one. If not, you need to carefully attend to unnatural pops on plosive sounds while recording, which might take your focus off-target. And if you got a shock-mount, use it to stop low end vibrations coming in to the mic.

Of course the singer ought to wear monitor headphones while recording so that the instrumental doesn’t beed into the mic.

Mic Placement

Place the mic at the right distance, 8 inches or so should be okay. You wanna capture what the voice sounds like, and capture the whole tone of the voice. If you’re too close there’s a bass response – a proximity effect – rendering more low end. There’s also an increased risk of plosives, and the level will change more noticeably when you sway. But don’t go too far away from the mic either, because it will pick up reflections of your voice in the room and color the sound.

In brief, the mounting, positioning, distance and the angle of the mic all weigh on how the recorded vocal sounds.

Gain Staging

Don’t record too hot (loud), have some headroom. Optimize your input signal levels in order to maximize signal strength while minimizing noise. Record quietly but not danger close to the noise floor, try to find a good signal-to-noise ratio. A peak record level of -10 dBFS should do it if you record at 24-bit resolution.

Some people uses a subtle compression while recording. It’s not necessary, but if you go for a that, use a compressor with neutral characteristics and aim to achieve 5-8 dB of gain reduction on the loudest signal peaks.

Never gate the vocal while recording, instead do this at the mixing stage if needed, i.e. if you use a lot of compression on the vocal (once it has been recorded), it’s possible that you’d want to gate the vocal track beforehand; this would prevent noise build-up in the pauses between phrases.

Comping and Editing

Record multiple takes of the lead vocal part, then comp (short for compositing) together different takes, that is, copy and paste different sequences from multiple takes, and assemble them to one continuos lead vocal track.

At this stage you could do some basic cleaning (editing) by removing the noises et cetera, but don’t overdo it, or it would sound unnatural. Also make some performance correction such as timing and pitch.

Get rid of excess low end using a high-pass filter; roll of the bottom end below 80 Hz. (Too much low end makes the mix sound muddy.)

EQ-ing

Use EQ as a subtractive tool rather than an additive tool; cuts are generally more effective.

However, try boost some around 2-4 kHz for presence on the vocal track. If the vocal sounds boomy, cut between 250-350 Hz, and if it sounds boxy, cut around 400-500 Hz. If the vocal sounds nasal, cut somewhere between 1 kHz and 4 kHz. To give the vocal some air, boost some over 10 kHz. If there are too sharp consonants, like s, t, p sound, try to de-ess ‘em; compress sounds of a certain frequency (usually around 4-9 kHz).

Doubling and Parallel Processing

Vocals should be in the center of attention and in the mix. To make sure of this, first turn down the other instruments/buses, strive for a good overall mix balance.

To make your vocal pop out from the mix, try doubling. That means recording the same vocals again, to make it thicker. You could treat the new vocal track differently from the original. E.g. emphasize different frequencies to shape a new combined sound. And perhaps it sounds better if the second vocal is a bit lower, well just try shit out.

You could also try copy the original vocal track to a parallel channel and process it differently (compression, distortion and so on) and then blend ‘em both together. This could add some character to the sound while keeping the clarity.

Leveling and Compression

Level the vocal to sit correctly in the mix throughout the song. To even out the dynamics, compress the vocal track. Remember to EQ before compression, roll of the bottom end so that the compressor could behave more naturally.

For strict, consistent level control, set the compressor with a threshold just below the loudest portions. Use a ratio like 4:1. Keep the attack under 10 ms. Try to get an even sounding gain reduction.

Reverb

Reverb is really all about personal taste. That being said, many popular productions of today leave the vocal fairly dry. So use reverb moderately. Still, a small amount of reverb adds some depth and a sense of space and reality to a vocal recorded in a dry acoustic environment. Some say that busy songs need less reverb than slower ones with lots of space in the arrangement.

Watch on neotrotsky.tumblr.com

(via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kM2aWb4aK4Q)

Not to be left out, Soundblr is throwing a holiday party of their own to answer the questions of those who want to get into the music and theatre industry on the audio engineering and sound design side! Once you’ve opened those Christmas Gifts and if another game of Dreidel with the family just doesn’t sound like a good time, just send your questions on to us!

Join @mermaidqueen @darthzeus @radical-technical and @queenpenelope (by either chat or voice..depends on what moves her) and @underwatermess later in the session and get the dirt on what it is REALLY like to make noise for a living! Be it on tour, in the studio with grammy award winning musicians, in the booth on a play or even in school or on a cruise ship, we have all the angles!

And, you can totally get drunk in front of this family! So, get those questions in now!!!!! We go live Monday, December 26th! Boxing day for Western Christians not in America, the 3rd day of Hanukkah for our Jewish techs out there and National Gift Receipt day for America