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Bruce Swedien on vocal recording microphones and techniques

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Boswell, Apr 29, 2015.

  1. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    An interesting article from Pro Sound Web. It's apparently an excerpt from Bruce's book Make Mine Music.
    kmetal likes this.
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "Of all the types of music that I have recorded, I love popular music the most for one simple reason: In recording and creating sound images in pop music, I am limited only by my imagination and the equipment at hand..."

    We have such amazing creative tools at our disposal now, I think back to when I was forced to "make due" in the past, and in some ways that was good, because it forced you to make decisions.

    But in some ways, it could be a bit like banging your head on the ceiling. You knew what you wanted, you could even hear it in your head, but you couldn't achieve it due to technical limitations.

    I'm not speaking so much about Swedien's level, where he could pretty much have carte blanche of whatever was available at the time - I'm speaking more from the POV of smaller to mid level project studios.

    Now, it seems as if the playing field is getting much more even across the board. There are now people with home recording studios, many of whom are using the same gear as what is being used in the "major" rooms.

    I'd be curious as to know what Bruce thinks about this...

    Thanks for posting this, Bos. ;)
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    yeah ... it's like that joke; home studios are like a$$h*les ... everybody's got one and most of them stink.

    that's was a great read. i think i'll see if i can get that book. thanks Bos ....
    kmetal likes this.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Maybe. But I sure have heard plenty of great sounding stuff coming out of some of these home studios these days, and, I sure as hell had heard more than my fair share of crap coming out of "real" studios back in the day, too. LOL... and actually, I still do.

    Yes, without a doubt, there's some crap coming out of many home rigs. But I've also heard plenty of nice, warm, rich, silky mixes coming out of some of these digital home studios, too - and at the same time, more than enough over-compressed, over limited, over processed and squashed, thin sounding, mid-range brittle and harsh noise coming out of some pretty big and well known rooms, too ... both analog and digital. ;)

    So where does that leave us?
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    lol! it was a joke Donny .... "i was just sayin' ".....
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I got the joke, pal... ;) but there is some validity to it. There are some pretty bad sounding sonics coming out of many home studios - and man, sometimes I hate using that description - "studio" - for a basement or attic with a PC/Mac and an M Box i/o...

    But, I have heard some pretty great sounding stuff from home recording rooms ... and, as I mentioned, I've heard some pretty bad sounding sonics coming out of rooms that have reputations as being "the real thing".

    So, I think my "where does that leave us?" question is valid... but, appropriately for a separate thread as to not further hijack Bos's OP. ;)
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    no matter where you are, there you are.

    i've seen this kind of phenomenon before. remember CB radio? every one had one and almost no one really needed it. it got to the point where there was so much noise no one could get on the air .... that's what is happening now with EwwToob, Waste Book and all social media. mpov.

    being in a great recording studio won't guarantee you will make a great record and vica versa ... when the appeal of instant release wears off i think we will see the herd thin out. how long is the real question ....
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I think of this much the same as how I approach reverb when mixing for people. Often people will use two or more reverbs with conflicting reflection. When I get a mix the first thing I do is filter all the conflicting rooms in the mix itself or more often than not emulate one so the whole song sounds like it was recorded together in a single pass rather than dubbed in performances of different rooms.
    A great tip that applies to every mix.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I used to use a variety of reverbs in my mixes.

    I rarely do this anymore - opting instead to find one reverb that sounds the best overall on the whole mix, and then it really just becomes a question of how much of this same reverb I end up using on each track.

    For the most part, I use an aux send and then insert the reverb into that aux return, where I can control actual amplitude, or, add EQ to it if I want. At that point, I just route that aux send from whatever tracks I want to have reverb, and adjust the amounts of the track's aux sends accordingly. I never insert reverb ( or any effect) into a track's inserts. I never inserted FX back when I was mixing on a desk, either. I always used Aux's. Inserts were always reserved for OB processing like GR, Expansion, Gating and EQ.

    These days, working in a DAW, I can't say that I never use multiple reverbs, because there are times ( rare) where I might use 2 ( at the most) but this is generally a production call, and only when I've got a particular texture in my head that I want to work with. But it doesn't happen often. It has to be there to serve a specific purpose - and not to just add further reflection on top of another existing reverb.

    So, occasionally... very occasionally, there have been times where I may add some type of "special effect" reverb or delay to a track's object... as in one or two notes, and for just that object (or just those notes).

    I recently worked on a soprano sax part for a song I'm mixing for my friend Terry Fairfax's album, and on this song, there is a section where the sax hits a very high and sustained note, and we wanted it to "trail off" - with a very long decay - so, I added a separate and dedicated reverb to just that note to accomplish that. But that's a rare scenario, and only for a special effect that happens for ... well... a "special effect". LOL

    Cutting out my previous use of multiple reverbs in my mixes has resulted in a much more cohesive sound, not to mention a better sounding reverb ( space and depth), because there's only one reverb there.

    I've also noticed that since cutting back on the number of reverbs I use, my mixes have far more definition and clarity - in comparison to back in the days when I had a rack of Lexi PCM's and Yamaha Rev 7's behind me, and where I used several different types of verbs and delays in a mix. I don't know whether or not I used them just because I had them to use, or whether it was just an "80's thing".

    LOL...truthfully,I think that it was probably both. ;)

    JayTerrance likes this.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i don't think that's what Swedien was saying ..... actually, i read it as exactly opposite of what you say you're doing.

    he says he is trying to preserve the signal, not change it.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Some of this article is dated (we can detune easy itb now) but great info applicable to making music sound good.
    This particular point, at least to me, is very related to what I deal with all the time when mixing other peoples music (especially pieced together music)
    From a mixers point of view (mixing bad acoustics, dead or emulated ambience) I try to repair bad room refections and/ re emulate what is missing for the very same reason Bruce preserves. He is preserving what I find lacking in todays music. A common room throughout a performance that glues it all together.
    What are you getting out of that point? Why/ what do you suppose he is preserving
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    stereo image...

    he is very precise in setting up traps and diffusers or rooms for larger stuff. he records in stereo almost everything including vocals. he's one of my hero's.

    he records everything right in the first place. it's so much easier that way. kind of like it's easier to wash the pans while you are cooking and rinsing your plate. it's easier than going back and cleaning up later after everything has crusted up.
    JayTerrance likes this.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Exactly, and why?

    Then, assuming you and I base his approach to this as a way to preserve a more open and musical sound, ask yourself how people make music today? So, I emulate that because that is what makes music sound more open. So many people use to many reverbs and delays that are all fighting a common beat in a sound, which imho, is only needed once rather than stacked and phasing the crap out of everything. Thats what I'm getting out of it. Or, how I see that relate to my way of emulating what I hear as missing in a lot of music today.

    I'm a mixer, not a recordist. I use this strategy to improve what people don't have a clue about because half the population is tracking one at a time and not realizing how important it is to avoid stacked reverbs.
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i'm not saying one way or the other is bad .... just that what you said and what he does is not the same. the goal may be the same but not the method.
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    The reason is.
  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    ya, except I don't particularity appreciate stacked vocals either. I think it creates an unnatural sound that is harder to mix and always sounds a bit smaller to me. I think this effect is better acquired from my approach which is Bruce's approach going backwards. which is imho, related to a good stereo image. Which is what I look for when mixing.
    When I remove what i call obnoxious layers, a mix usually sounds better (bigger). I like to use one good stereo room ( which is where a Bricasti rivals all) but.. I get "close enough" reverbs with the Samplitude as well. My goal is to get a common stereo room and share that with all tracks. Its so simple and so effective.
    Its the same idea I suppose as the 4 piece band that sounds huge compared to the fabricated 32 tracks of layers. The reasons are clear. Its all working together in a common beat (Left/Right and center and in phase) Less is more in this case. At least that's how I hear it. So, the reasoning is the same. I'm on the other side of why. If it was never there, I will create it best I can which usually starts with removing as much bad stereo imaging and replacing it with a common one.

    One that note, A Royer SF24 is stellar for capturing Choirs.
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Cool, thanks for posting that. Just watched it. Yup, Its all about the Music. Love it.
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    My own take on recording is that there are basically two ways to do it - one is to do what it takes to capture the performances in as natural of a way as possible. This style puts the listener right there in the same room with the performers. It's an intimate sound - and I don't mean intimate in a way that suggests "soft". I'm using the word "intimate" in this regard to define the proximity of the listener. The listener can be in close proximity to a loud rock band just as easily as they can be to a 3 piece jazz group in a laid back nightclub scenario. So, using this reference, the first way is to put the listener in the same room with the performers, regardless of volume level or power/impact level of the musicians.

    In terms of Rock music, songs like Bad Company's Shooting Star, or The Beatles Get Back, while somewhat powerful, are still pretty intimate, in terms of the listener's proximity in a "natural" space.

    The second way, is to give the listener an experience that is "un-natural". Something that sounds bigger than life. Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, PF's Run Like Hell, Alan Parson's Some Other Place, are examples of a "larger than life" kind of production.

    Stacked vocals can be heard in many songs, such as Journey's Anytime That You Want Me, or, pretty much anything off of Def Leppard's Hysteria album, (because this was Mutt Lang's production style at the time).
    I think that this style of production worked well for those particular songs and projects, and lent a texture to the music that gave them more impact, more power. BUT... it has to be done well. Stacking is not easy... for the performer or for the engineer.
    Many novice musicians and engineers think that simply doubling or tripling parts is sufficient. There's a lot more to it than just that.

    I could use the analogy of movies vs theater to better serve this opinion.... There are times I really dig a movie that has lots of cool CGI effects, that has things happening visually that you wouldn't ever see in real life. But, I also like theater, too, where the entire scope is basically focused on acting, and performance ability. There's little special effects happening, and it seems much more plausible, much more real.

    So, with that same analogy used for audio production, much like going to the theater to see a play, there are times I want the sound of a song to be like I'm right there next to the performers. But, there are also times when I like the sound to be larger than life, to be un-natural, other-worldly, just like if I went to see a movie like Star Wars, where things are happening that aren't real, but are still cool to see.

    The great thing about audio production, and the tools we have at our disposal these days, is that we can do either one. We just have to determine which style works best for the song we are working on at the time.

    IMHO of course. ;)


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