Login    Forum    Search    FAQ

Board index » Funk Nation » In The University




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 11 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:39 am 
Offline

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:44 pm
Posts: 161
Location: Perth, Australia
Okay, let's stop talking about it and do it.

YOUR MISSION

I am going to begin like Mr Miyagi by setting you a task without explaning its purpose. The goal is not to compose something great. Just provide yourself with something to mix. Record two identical songs ('Wax on' and 'Wax off') by two methods as outlined below. Anyone who joins this project late I recommend to complete this task before reading past this post.

Make them about a minute long. ABAB pattern. Use any speed that's comfortable and any chord progression, I suggest 120bpm and CFG (just like your first lesson with a music teacher). It shouldn't take much longer than an hour to do both. It may if you are fighting your DAW but don't let it be because you are messing around with settings and techniques. Just get it done. With a good workflow in place this should be achievable in half an hour or less.

-Use a simple rockbeat for pattern A, four to the floor for pattern B.
-For bass play straight eighths in pattern A and the singer/songwriter riff for pattern B (below).
-For guitar play the singer/songwriter riff for pattern A and quarter notes for pattern B.

Feel free to add some fills but don't get carried away, that's not what we're here for. I don't want you dwelling on getting everything good and in time. Just get it down in a couple of takes and get yourself something to mix. We're looking for a bad to average recording here.

|| x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- || Straight Eighths riff
|| x-----x-x-----x- || Singer/Songwriter riff
|| x---x---x---x--- || Quarter note riff

Lyrics

Intro (A)
I'm waxing on -OR- I'm waxing off (x2)

Chorsus (B)
La la la la la chorus yeah
La la la la la chorus yeah

Verse (A)
The verse goes here
It goes right here
Here goes the verse
Good Lord I want a beer

Chorus (B)
La la la la la chorus yeah
La la la la la chorus yeah


WAX ON

Record 4 tracks featuring:
- a drum track from a drum machine or sample recorded to one mono channel
- a bass track DI'd to one mono channel
- a guitar track DI'd to one mono channel
- a vocal track recorded with a microphone (obviously) recorded to one mono channel

WAX OFF

Record 4 tracks featuring:
- a drum track recorded with a microphone recorded to one mono channel
- a bass track recorded with a microphone recorded to one mono channel
- a guitar track recorded with a microphone recorded to one mono channel
- a vocal track recorded with a microphone recorded to on mono channel

Terms:

Whatever your medium I will begin to refer to all DAWs, workstations and other recording devices as recorder. Where the difference matters I will endeavour to mention it. Ask a question if you're not sure.

Source is a generic term for input. It might be a microphone through an XLR, a direct line in from guitar or even in the case of a DAW an imported .wav file or similar.

The term track can have several meanings. It can be used interchangeable with channel, may be either mono or stereo. It may also refer generically to the finished song (derived from the days of records - the 'track' would be cut into the vinyl).

Each channel will be attached to a volume slider. Hence a track can be mono or stereo. I believe the original of the term is from 'channel strip' from a mixing desk but it could be the other way round.

DI or 'direct input' simply refers to an electrical input bypassing audio. That is to say without a microphone. When you plug your guitar lead directly into your recorder that is DI. A more expensive option is using a DI box but we won't get into that here.


Here are the rules:

1. Only 4 mono tracks are to be used. Two recordings will be done - if you have 8 tracks or more available then feel free to record both to the same project but keep them separate.

2. Only 1 source at a time will be recorded to 1 track. This is called sequential.

3. If you're new to this, then place microphones any way that feels right. If you know what you're doing just plonk 'em down and hit record. Don't adjust them or try to find a good place.

4. Sing, speak whatever. But do a vocal no matter how bad you are. No one is going to hear this. I'm not going to ask you to submit it. These recordings are not going to be shared. They are for your personal use only and it is useful to get used to the sound of your own voice.

5. In case anyones confused by two identical songs I mean the same song twice, not that you have to duplicate them exactly.

6. If you don't have access to drums just mic up a speaker and record a drum machine 'through air'. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are using a drum machine through your monitor speakers for the love of god mute the channel you are recording to. Otherwise you are going to be hit by monster feedback.


INTERESTING FACTOID

Recording started in mono, a whole band recorded live around a single microphone that was directly cut to vinyl. Much later on it was a veritable revolution (and key to their bass driven sound) when Motown upgraded their equipment at great expense from 2 to 3 channels of recording (generally James Jameson got his own track, vocals got a track, rest of the band one track). Bass energy would overdrive a channel and so had to be turned down to the point of not being there before this. When bass was first heard on a recording people were like, whoa - what's that? Well I wasn't there but I'm guessing that's what happened. So even with these limitations I am giving you more power than some of the greatest music of all time.


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:21 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jun 09, 2010 11:11 pm
Posts: 177
Location: PARIS
Assignment taken :) printed your post for detailed review in the metro!


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:46 am 
Offline

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:44 pm
Posts: 161
Location: Perth, Australia
DISCUSSION POINT: WHY LEARN TO MIX? WHY LEARN THE LINGO?

Aside from the obvious, what are other advantages to knowing your way around the console? Well, you know those guys at the back at a gig and behind the glass in the studio. They are the ones who have the power to make or break you. Ever heard the term "supporting band mix". I saw one on Tuesday at the Portishead gig. Mercury Rev, the supporting act (never heard of them and the only song I thought I recognised was a cover but I'm told they're pretty big) sucked big time and they never had a chance. The quality of the sound and lights combined with a wankerish performance by the singer was so bad it had me seriously worried about the main act (unfounded fears as it turned out - best lights/sound/performance of recent memory).

These strange creatures are known as live sound reinforcement and recording engineers respectively. With a genuine interest in recording and mixing and a respectful attitude you can be sure to get the best out of them. Understand that they see artists come and go. It is a job and their interest can wax and wane. You can get a long way towards getting them engaged by making yourself a client they want to work with. By demonstrating a basic understanding and genuine interest in their trade you can pass the first barrier. Respect for their abilities, role and contribution will get you past the second. Being able to communicate with them both in the language of your art and the language of the studio should get you further. And of course playing music that gets them excited will seal the deal.

At the amateur level you are likely to encounter engineers who perform both roles. They will often have their own gear (in various states of repair), operate out of their home or van. A lot of these guys can be likened to IT tech support (as opposed to IT gurus), comparable arrogance (may or may not be justified) are likely to be fickle, possibly insecure, possibly lazy and once you've got their hackles up you've got no chance. Some will be future professionals or artists just enjoying what they do and being involved with the scene. These are good guys. They can be likened to IT gurus. When you find a good one try and get them regularly. Once you can afford it, it is worth paying for your own sound guy. You will get a consistent and reliable live sound. Future professionals will be easy to work with.

Professionals tend to specialise in one field or the other, generally use other people's gear (with scheduled maintenance), behave professionally even if you don't (but may choose not to work for you again) and will try to help you - but if you insist, they will let you ruin your mix. You are after all, the client. Be honest and upfront in your financial dealings. Pay them when you say you will. If you are working with less funds than you would like be honest, they will suggest savings you can make to get the best result. Don't play them for a fool - they don't need to bank on your future. If you can get them engaged in your project you will be impressed by the results. Their sole motivation is to present your work in the best possible light. They know what will sell better than you do but may not share your artistic vision. Professionals will not always be suited to what you want but they will generally tell you upfront, insist on a pre-session meeting to address potential issues and won't take it personally if you want to take your recording elsewhere. If you're not sure how much time to book ask them. They're not looking to fleece you (that's producers, managers, studio and venue owners).

If you are conversant with the trade lingo, you are a whole step closer to getting the best out of these guys (but don't sling buzz words about if you don't fully understand them - you'll look a fool). If you actually understand a thing or two about mixing, are honest about your limitations, be respectful and show genuine interest you will quickly gain their respect. They have spent a long time learning their trade and there are very few people in their lives who can appreciate the intricacies of what they do. They also work with many different bands, all thinking they are unique and destined for greatness. Stand out. Appreciate what they bring to the party. Respect their opinions. Respect their equipment.

Even better: if you book enough studio time to work at a relaxed pace and you have their respect, then you can offer to assist them. This means you will be their bitch and grateful for it. Moving mics this way and that. Hauling amps around to find the best spot while they listen through headphones. Helping to setup and pack down. You can learn a lot just by doing this. Not just tips and tricks (which they will begin to share naturally if you don't pressure) but also less sexy but important things like workflow. Ask the occasional question but don't be demanding. Be useful. You will learn stuff. They will be glad to work with you again. They may even forgive the guitarist for that thing he did. Working with the engineer will impress your bandmates. You will gain more control and be able to translate the bands vision better. And once you are deemed reliable, your sessions will become more efficient - saving time and money.


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 10:16 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:49 pm
Posts: 124
Location: PA, USA
Ever think of writing an article series on recording?? I think you would do extremely well! Maybe go for a book deal!!!!! Lots of good info!!!


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 11:49 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:44 pm
Posts: 161
Location: Perth, Australia
Hi Mark, you flatter me. I guess that's what I'm doing here. I couldn't be published anywhere else, I have no credibility. I'm just a guy in his bedroom (well, not really - I have a home studio - benefits of living alone atm :), could get used to this...) sharing what he's learnt and what he's figured out. But I am very studious, I research for FUN (and tend to get distracted from finishing projects in favour of testing and experiments). I both seek out and pay attention to both those who know more than me and a much rarer trait - keeping an eye out for the nuggets that those who know less can inadvertantly provide. Truth is truth no matter where you find it. Respect everyone and everything. Doubt everyone and everything. I put everything I come across through my bullshit detector. If you get a tip don't just believe it, test it.

I've never been able to find a place in a band with like-minded musicians who take things seriously enough to do things like, oh I don't know - maybe showing up would be a good start... I've got one work-colleague I formed a band with when I was in training. In fact it was he who re-ignited my passon for music and the bass that had lived under the bed for almost 10 years. But he is too much into the rock 'lifestyle', so we just jam. We've got a couple of songs (when he can stop soloing for 2 minutes) but I can't be seen publicly with him due to his uncontrolled racism. It's a problem on both sides of the fence but I can't say I've ever understood it, just that I can't be around it when the tone isn't light-hearted (some people are too sensitive, others not sensitive enough).

The main reason I'm sharing is because I've never finished a recording of my own (well, maybe a couple - as in 2 total...) that could stand toe to toe with any of the competition submissions. But I still think I have knowledge and sensibilities that could make some recordings better. I've already made most the mistakes, I want to guide you guys into making them too because that is where the learning happens. But hopefully by virtue of guidance the learning process will be accelerated. Also given that a unique work situation and opportunity is happening in my industry at the moment I don't have a lot of time (at the right hours in the day anyway) to practice lately. The whole country is being upgraded to optic fibre, but the elephant in the room is that 90% of the industry will be looking for a job when its completed. I'm trying to position myself favourably and the hours are killing me. I can't take instruments to work but I can cruise forums. And finally - if you don't use it you lose it. So by sharing my hard-earned knowledge I am both retaining and continuing to grow it, even without a lot of current practical application.

...and I guess a little bit for my ego ;)

Basically this is my way of going to Vegas while circumstances don't permit me to do what I really want to do. By putting so much of myself out there I risk coming across like a pretentious know-it-all keyboard warrior (not entirely untrue) opinionated and blindly regurgitating other peoples forum posts (definitely NOT true). It's mostly off the top of my head because I never owned most the books I read and if I checked all my facts it would be very slow process. If there is any wisdom in the things I say it is for the reader to find. Sometimes good lessons and breakthroughs can be gleaned even from bad advice and misinformation. Which is why I say be practical: test, test, test.

There are some here such as BassDbler (who achieves always amazing balances and not necessarily from the standard moulds) who, through discussions on these forums we have learnt a thing or two from each other and firmed up some partially understood ideas. Others like LittleStar are either peddling false modesty or more likely (based on his total spiritual commitment to the pursuit of music) has cultivated an exceptional pair of ears, which are far more valuable than any gear and part of what I am trying to engender in you all. If he is looking to learn something from me then either he is achieving his results by listening alone or (more likely) is simply humble and dedicated enough to be open to expanding knowledge (probably somewhere in between - but excellent traits all). I say this because his competition entry was beautifully balanced and served the material very well.

Remember that results are what matter, a lot of my favourite songs of all time are mixed wrong to the conventional sense. Listen to how flavioncio's entry has a very raw mix and how that suits the material. Mixing is far more than a technical pursuit, it must be balanced with artistic sensibility. Like a painter learning strokes, enhancing your knowledge can only help you translate your vision. And even if you think, like the famous sculptor quote (michael angelo?) that you are merely 'discovering the figure in the marble', at some point along the way that sculptor begins to fully envisage that figure as more and more stone is chipped away.


:shock: Why can't I do a short response to anything? :?


I'll put up the second part of the tasks (mixing) for Project #1 inside of the next 24 hrs.

Just to reiterate though, this is self paced - no deadline. But you might gain more benefit by finishing the recording task before reading further. Enjoy your weekend people! I am - moved my entire setup into the backyard under shadecloth. Beautiful day in the southern hemisphere!


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 9:03 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:44 pm
Posts: 161
Location: Perth, Australia
Okay, enough rambling. You're not here because you want to hear about my life - we want to MIX!

MIXING TASKS

Task 1:

Just make a baseline take of each version of the song. Push all the track faders up to 0dB (if both recordings are in the same project do one at a time, mute the other 4 channels) and use the master fader to bring the tracks down so that the master is not clipping. Make sure all pan settings are centred and either bounce the result to a stereo track or a master file (whatever is easiest for playback). Compare the two masters.

NOTE: if you are able to bounce to a stereo track, comparison will be easier and you will definitely be able to complete the optional task at the end. Not sure about master files (will depend on your setup).

- note that individual tracks may be clipping, this doesn't matter for this task if the master is okay (for those using DAWs please let me know if this is seriously bad, you may be wanting to target -20dB as suggested by BassDblr)
- when performing this basic mixing task listen to the different qualities of the DI and microphone recordings.
- note the relative positions of the master volume control (write it down for each).


Task 2: WAX ON

For the following tasks use the Wax On recording. For extra credit repeat these for Wax Off but we've already listened to the key differences we're looking for in Task 1. Bounce to a stereo track or master file.

Now we will perform a balance using the pan controls only (move the sound left and right through stereo speakers). Set all the volume sliders to 0dB (or the same as you did in Task 1). Now balance the stereo, pan each instrument either left or right while the track is playing.

- We're not looking for a great mix here (vocals, bass and drums would usually be centred). Play with moving the energy around between the speakers.
- Once you have set the pan adjust the master volume once more and note the new value.

Now centre all the pan settings and repeat the exercise balancing the levels instead.

- Once you have set the levels adjust the master volume and note the level.
- Compare with the results from task 1 and the panning task about.


Task 3: WAX OFF

Use the Wax Off recording for these next tasks, feel free to apply these exercises to Wax On as well.

Once again centre all the pan settings and return levels to baseline (0dB or whatever level you have used so far). Again this task is in two parts. You allow yourself to be a little more creative here but that said there's not a whole lot you can do with 4 tracks. This time target 0dB (or -20dB, be consistent) on the Master level.

The first part is to balance the levels first, then lock the levels (no further adjustments) and alter the pan settings. Bounce. If you are unhappy then if you want you can try playing with the volume some more and bounce an extra track.

- Note the final position of the levels (individual tracks) and compare to the original take of Wax Off.

Centre pan and return to baseline levels. Adjust the pan settings first, lock and adjust the levels. Bounce. If you're not happy, play with the pan some more and bounce an extra track.

- Note the final position of the levels (individual tracks) and compare audio to the other Wax Off takes.


Optional exercise:

Make a final recording of each that cycles through each mix variation every 10-20 seconds or so. This will help you to easily identify the differences between each mix.


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:20 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:49 pm
Posts: 124
Location: PA, USA
Steelhard!!! I got this in my email and thought of you straight away!!! What do you think of this...

https://www.berkleemusic.com/welcome/mu ... COuZeYU%3d


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:53 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:44 pm
Posts: 161
Location: Perth, Australia
It's been a busy week and barely had time to log on (congrats to all competition winners) but I've had the weekend to myself. Spent yesterday working on a scratch built solar power project with my neighbour but today is all for me!

If you haven't yet completed the above tasks and want to do this properly then stop reading now and do the exercises.

For those of you who have completed the exercises and those who have no intention of doing them but are interested to know what it was all about - read on.


REVIEW

Task 1:

All I was wanting you to get out of this exercise was to note the different sound of the DI and microphone recordings. The DI track should have sounded comparatively clean and sterile where the microphone recorded track should have sounded warm and noisy. Depending on how well you set up the microphones (remember the point was not be too meticulous with this) there may have been a notable difference in the relative volumes of the two tracks.

For a supplementary task try adding some reverb to your favourite version of the DI track (Wax On) to add some of the missing ambience back in. Just use presets, don't get too bogged down at this stage. For extra credit try adding different reverb to individual tracks and then group some tracks or the whole recording with the same reverb. Note how reverb can glue tracks together filling in the space with ambience. If you get carried away you can even try the same thing with the 'Wax Off' track and see how reverb interacts with the existing ambience (which is the sound of the room you recorded in - the exact thing reverb tries to emulate).

Task 2: WAX ON

Hopefully this worked for you. The exercise where you panned tracks left or right should have allowed you to raise the overall volume (now the energy is spread between two speakers). This is in spite of the fact you did not alter the volume of the individual tracks, only the master. If you also pushed sources that share frequencies apart this should have helped too (although we didn't pick the best instruments for this - guitar/vocals, drums/bass would probably be the most effective pairings).

The exercise where you manipulated only the volume levels should have allowed you to raise the overall (master) volume by reducing the energy of the instruments that were driving the levels too high. Probably the guitar if you recorded electric. A distorted guitar in particular can always be turned down without losing the effect (because the distortion makes it sound loud even when turned down). If you were recording to an analogue medium then the bass would have undoubtedly been the major culprit. Note whichever instrument was causing the meters to peg the most and pay attention to this every time you record. It will almost always be the same offenders so you can begin to plan for it in advance.

Task 3: WAX OFF

Finally we are almost doing some real mixing with this one. I was hoping on the one hand to find that adjusting the stereo balance (pan) before the level balance (volume) requires less fiddling around. At least I usually find that if I do the levels first, then the stereo balance I usually need to return to the levels. Secondly that it doesn't really matter, there is no set way to approach a mix. It is a creative enterprise and while many of my tips will result in faster more efficient workflows, good results can come from any approach. Just make up your own rules as you go along. A mix approached with a plan will usually be more cohesive (even if you deviate from it) but if you are in a rut just break your rules and see what happens. As long as you don't delete your sources you can always start again.


So. That was basically all you needed to get out of this. You may have noticed other things from this simple exercise. Those with more experience may have never done anything as basic as this and noticed something they hadn't before. Some of you, expecting something harder to spot may have noticed something that wasn't there. That's not a bad thing. Your mind will make shit up, especially when you're tired so it is useful to be able to spot when it's happening. Or maybe it was there so keep an eye out for it in future. Quirky little things only you notice can become individual markers to your own style.

Well, this one was pretty boring but hopefully it was illuminating. Especially to those more advanced. This was a real nuts and bolts first step exercise. The goal was to remove all the distractions and tools available and to isolate the level and stereo elements of mixing. Hopefully now when you are mixing you will have a greater understanding of exactly what effect these controls are having. We still have to learn how these elements mix with all the other options and effective use of them but maybe now your ears have opened a little to these elements.


I'll make the next exercise a bit more fun. Inspired in part by Cedupin's competition entry and in part by an early Florence and the Machine single I'm thinking we will make a percussion track using found objects. I'll put the exercise together and try and get it up during the week.


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2011 6:34 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:44 pm
Posts: 161
Location: Perth, Australia
DISCUSSION POINT - Resting and Fatigue management

Okay, you must be sick of this song by now. Let's talk about resting and taking breaks.

Having been able to listen to all the competition entries for a week now without judging, it is worth noting that some of these tracks sound very different with a different headspace and in different listening environments (out of the studio). A couple I feel very differently about (although in the context of the competition brief I stand by most my comments and scores). For example, passively listening to Qunk! I'm 50/50 about the fake fade now, with a small tweak maybe it works. Still not quite ready to change my mind though. BassLaC's song I gave an extra 0.5 to. Now that I'm not so focussed on critical listening the harder section that was the basis of my original lowered score has been working a lot better for me. Of course now I'm no longer listening with a judging criteria in mind I can just enjoy the music! Just thought it was worth mentioning in regard to listening fatigue and hyper concentration.

I am sure you are all have experienced the phenomena where the mix you heard before you went to bed last night isn't the same as you hear in the morning (be nice if it was better but how often does that happen?). The longer you work at a project the harder it becomes to remain objective, both mentally and physically. Aside from diminished concentration, your ears start to 'EQ' themselves - frequencies you are exposed to for extended periods will be attenuated before they reach your conscious mind. After being exposed to loud volumes for even short periods they will attenuate (turn down) generally. 'Closing up' in (defence) response to a loud minute may take half a day to 'open up' again. To prolong optimal working parameters with your organic tools (ears and concentration) you should avoid mixing at the same volume you set on playback. Also consider going to bed and taking a break to be work if it is going to improve results. Taking a break doesn't just mean a rest either, it means taking your mind off it. Sometimes an extended all-nighter works. If it doesn't, actively rest. It's work.

Wow, only 2 paragraphs - a new record for me? :D


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Sensei SteelHard's Recording 101 - project #1
 Post Posted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 8:47 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 9:27 am
Posts: 584
Location: Los Angeles California
just getting back from vacation. i'll have to try and look at your recording projects 1&2 this weekend.

_________________
Hang on..... to my guitar......BABA!!

************Little Star***********
http://myfunk.ning.com/profile/Mr7


Top 
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
 
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 11 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

Board index » Funk Nation » In The University


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

 
 

 
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron