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How to master a folk singer/guitarist?

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by kaat, Mar 12, 2012.

  1. kaat

    kaat Active Member

    Hi all,

    Just joined; my first post. I'm hoping for some remastering advice on this project. I've done loads of recording, but this only once before. There's 11 songs, all live off the floor.

    All the raw files are now perfectly edited, and sonically, it's as good as I can make it. There's 2 channels only; 1 acoustic gtr (bridge pickup), 1 vox (Shure SM57). The original master is a Portastudio cassette tape from 1986. But it has great potential. I have loads of great tools at my disposal, just not much clue what to do.

    I rarely have access to any hardware processors (I don't own any). I'm using Emagic's old Logic Audio s/w on the PC, throughout. For me, it's still one of the best out there, for Windows.

    Here's my difficulties:

    Stereo imaging
    - nothing sounds quite right. No matter what panning, or widening, or relative volumes I try. The gtr & vox either sound too separate, or not stereo enough, or not like the true positioning of the original recording - it was also me that recorded the original. Is a little "ducking" a good idea here? I've never done it, and don't know how yet.

    Taming the guitar - It's too shrill, and I'm not finding an effective EQ setting or whatever. I need to revisit this, because I've always tried to maintain pristine audio throughout my process, and don't generally need much EQ. So I'm inexperienced. What about adding warmth? Can anyone recommend a good VST plugin? For this old s/w, it generally must be VST v2.4 standard, or earlier. Although, I believe there is a free utility (plugin?) that enables any VST standard to be used in 2.4 hosts.

    If anyone wants to read the punishing details of recovering that cassette tape, I'll gladly share. I kept a thorough session log, and it's quite funny. Extensive rigors, and me stumbling around in the dark. The whole bloody project is making me feel like a nube!

    Thanks for reading,
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Hi Martin, welcome to our community!

    post some tracks, I'd love to hear them!
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Here is an example of two channels I just did, different music but it can be done! Maybe I can help you or this will be encouraging!

    Choir-Lavry-AD11-Royer-SF24-clip2 by audiokid on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free
  4. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    How much separation is there between the vocals and guitar? A lot of bleed? Very little? (I'm assuming th vocals are mainly on one track, and the guitar on the other?)

    I'm asking because the more separation there is, the more you might be able to get away with doubling the guitar track and applying some very mild processing on those tracks to create a stereo field, leaving the vocals in the middle.

    Also, if there is a LOT of bleed, anything you do to the EQ of one track (or adding any effects, etc.) will obviously affect the other, and it'll make it tough to rebalance perspective. For instance, any highs lowered to take the shrillness out of the guitar may also take any nice clean "s" and "t" sounds out of the vocals?

    If you do have a lot of separation, you could likely do more with each track, without affecting the other, much. For instance, you might try doubling the guitar track, and putting a VERY light, slow-rate chorus on each track...an almost imperceptible one. It could add a tiny bit of movement and spatialness, and fit around the vocals. You could simply try nudging one of the tracks for a nearly imperceptible delay, but still creating space.

    You have to be careful with those, though, because you could create some very weird phasing issues, especially if listening in mono...which seems almost like a moot point these days. Who doesn't listen in stereo?

    Also, if it's only a guitar and vocal, and the guitar is not filling in the bottom at all, that may be why it sounds more shrill? Not that it actually has too much highs...just that it lacks lows? With no kick drum, no low piano notes, no bass...that one guitar should be pretty much filling in for the whole band. You'd want more lows with a lone guitar than if it was playing with other instruments. If you can't get it out of the recording, you may see about adding a bass, or even another guitar playing kinda doubled on the lower strings to add some "body" to the tune? Keep that one panned center, and spread the original a bit, and also leave the vocal centered?

    Just some thoughts. Can't hurt anything to try to experiment. You can always wipe out the changes. Just don't wipe out the originals!

  5. kaat

    kaat Active Member

    Thanks! Please click on my signature for my music web site. Oh, maybe you mean the tracks I'm working on ... I could do that, gimme a short while.
  6. kaat

    kaat Active Member

    OOF! That's lovely! All ya got's ta do now, is tell me your secrets :)

    What accounts for the "floaty", kind of dynamic panning, or image, that sounds perhaps based on frequency??
  7. kaat

    kaat Active Member

    Thanks so much for taking the time. Vox & gtr are mostly completely separate. But there is significant bleed from gtr onto vox; maybe 10%. That has caused lots of problems already. I'm determined to have the whole thing sound natural, but also sounding like it was recorded yesterday ;)

    "you might be able to get away with doubling the guitar track and applying some very mild processing on those tracks to create a stereo field" - Ooh, I think maybe this is what I'm after. Frankly, despite my love for the project, it's making me very tired to work on, and my deadline is 2012-03-19! I guess this idea could be done fairly quickly.

    Re: Vox - If only I'd used a pop filter for the original; sibilance is not an issue, but wide-band pops certainly are. Typing that just reminded me of a ReVox deck I used to have. Ah, the good old days.

    Re: Chorus, LOL. Ironically I had foolishly put some chorus on the original guitar recording in 1986, and I've been fighting it ever since.

    Re: Mono monitoring. I always try to listen to my work in every possible way to judge it. Including turning it up real loud and walking away down the street, listening. But I'm curious about mono - do you ever do that, just to get another view?

    Re: Gtr high end - damn, why didn't I think of that? I've been tempted to use Amplitube VST on all the guitar, to introduce slight distortion/saturation, and fill it out.

    Oh, believe me, I'm dying to add my own backing tracks, but the 1st order of the day is an original replica.

    All this advice here at recording.org is golden. I knew it would be ;)
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    You live with what cha got. Dupe the tracks so you have the original uneffected tracks and try and keep everything as mono as possible. In the duped tracks, add a little verb around the outside of things keeping in mind not to add too much and cause timing issues with any vst type of plug. All you will be attempting to do is 'widen' things a bit. But the fidelity and the time will suffer if you try to 'stereo' things too much.

    Always consider how the source was arrived at when you're mixing it. If you played it as a solo artist with guitar and vocals and a single mic or even two separate mics and two separate tracks, there's nothing in it built to be a stereo image in the first place. The bit of verb will give it width and the duplication will give you the ability to stretch the soundfield even more. But its never going to work in stereo.

    Most of all, enjoy your processing those old songs!
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Sorry, I didn't read your open post well, I had a late night that day but thinking more on it now, and I used to own a portastudio 144, you could play it back on a live stereo and record the room with a second recorder so it sounds live. Find someone with a nice mobile rig and do it wonders. You can make this a lot better than you think!
  10. kaat

    kaat Active Member

    Thank you Davedog & audiokid. Even if I don't use your wisdom here, it's going in the permanent mental notebook. This was the Portastudio 244, and I MISS it!

    Here's a snippet of where I'm at:
    Nanna's Song

    - If you'll play along, I won't say yet what I've done to this so far, for anti-bias' sake.
    - I could drop this today and be somewhat happy.
    - I have 5 days to finish the project.
    - But, but, but ... perfection is only just over the horizon, as always :)
  11. kaat

    kaat Active Member

    Well, I will meet my deadline, thanks in part to the advice here. Particularly EQ, which I have now spent some time with. I do plan to participate here when not under time crunches!


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