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Live Studio Takes Time Alignment

Discussion in 'Recording' started by ChrisH, Aug 13, 2012.

  1. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Soon I will be doing live band sessions for local bands in my erea.
    Everything will be recorded all at once in my 600 sqft home studio that is completely acoustically treated with bass traps in every corner, clouds, and obsortion and defusing panels on the walls, placed accordingly so it's not bad acoustically for a small room. The band will be setup in a circle so everyones facing the drummer. The drums will have 6 mics, 2 overheads, Tom mix's, snare, and kick. The Amps will each get one mic that is facing in the opposite direction of the drums. Everytime I've done this in the past, setup this way, the playback in the daw has no immediate obvious phase problems, but I got to thinking the other day that there's probably little things I could do that would make a good difference like Time Aligning tr tracks in DAW and such. With the Amps roughly only 10ft away from the drums, there's a good amount of bleed into the drum overheads. So I was thinking time alignment of the tracks in DAW would make much sense and also was wondering what else you professionals would do with that situation? Also, If I'm doing anything wrong?
  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    If the overheads are spaced rather than coincident (X-Y or M-S) then there might not be a good way to time align stuff. If they are coincident then try aligning to the overheads. But if it doesn't sound good don't be too attached to alignment. Also, if there is too much distance between the amps and overheads trying to time align could make the timing sound worse.
  3. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    How much distance is too much distance? Is there any other tricks to recording bands live?
  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    are you talking about fixing drums? if so, your very limited before it becomes obvious due to the bleed. That's part of the excitement of live recording. even if the drums were isolotaed, your still somewhat limited unless you trigger everything, which defeats the purpose of recording live.

    If your talking about aligning the amps, you won't get much bleed into those, especially since you have them set-up so the null is facing the drums, very good sir.

    however, moving the instruments tracks around doesn't change the bleed in the drums, and could cause some really bad things like phase canceling.

    I use two approaches for live recording at the studio.

    1.) drums in live room, amps, vox, in seperate booths (we have three), and we use the hall as such when we need to. This is my 'best of both worlds' compromise. we have no audible bleed, and can freely overdub/edit all instruments. and it has the kinda isolated sound alot of clients want, but w/ a better feel (if band is good), than the typical one at a time approach.

    You could accomplish this by making a couple amp iso boxes.

    2.) Everything in one room, no phones, go for it until we get an acceptable take. Not perfect, just no serious mistakes. This is what my band uses, and my preferred way to record. time-based editing is very restricted, and usually reserved for very small alterations. But even in some bad rooms we've made some decent recordings. The mics and amp placement offer enough iso to for mixing needs. and i find i do alot less mixing, because we get the sounds blended well during the setup/sound check step.

    as far as tips go, i like to put a blanket over the kick to get some boom out of the room. i may or may not do the same to the amps. I also really really like room mics for ambience. If you have any kind of adjoining room to the studio, open the door start about 6 feet from the door into the other room, and put a mic FACING the wall maybe 10" away. the further you move into the adjoining room, the longer the verb trail. Also pickup patterns make a great difference and i mainly toggle thru omni/8/cardioid, on the 414s we use for the 'room' which is the very live hallway leading to the mainroom. I've used 421's for this as well and they sounded smoother.
    The only other thing i can think of right now is to not be afraid to not use a click. and vice versa. we (my band) don't use a click, and you can hear some mild fluctuations. other bands the opposite is true, and their natural timing variations w/ a click guide work well.
    This is obviously a whole debatable topic, but it depends on the goal of the project, genre trends, and how the bands plays.
    I've tracked professional musicians who banged out 12 songs in for or five hours live w/ no click. and bands that just needed to go part by part, individually.

    Typically i've found the bands who need the most time/editing are the ones who have the least budget, and experience. That's when 'scope' of the project comes in. Are they looking to just 'hear what we sound like', in which case anything goes, or for a more of a 'record' which in modern terms generally means hyper edited/tuned/compressed.

    Not saying records aren't cut live anymore, cuz i think the trends in recording are leaning that way again anyway, but if they can't play very well, you may want to maximize your isolation, to keep things open for editing.

    also, expect the bass amp to cause the most iso issues, w/ bleed, it does for us (i'm the bassist). And you may consider facing the amps away from the drums. even tho the mics would be pointing towards the kit, you'll decrease the mid range bleed into the drums, and a typical 57 an inch of the grill ain't gonna get much bleed into it w/ an amp in its face.
    i haven't used a reverb unit/pluggin on anything but vocals in like 3 years and counting, although the room mics do get moved around per project.

    Good luck man, and if you can, could you post a picture of your room? i'd love to see it.
  5. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    By the low 20s (feet or milliseconds) a delay transitions from causing phase interactions to being a distinct echo or slapback. Hopefully you can get enough isolation to avoid having to align anything.
  6. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Use direct boxes, two tracks per guitar/bass, use an amp sim and a headphone amp to give everyone a feed. Reamp after the fact. Not a perfect solution but an option.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Your inquisitiveness attracted my attention to your question. You can actually do and accomplish what you have suggested. It was rather fascinating when I myself tried just that. I probably tried that about 10 years ago or so? The truth criteria in which to do this is in the low frequency content. The high frequency content is separated by enough distance and higher in frequencies that proper timing cannot be attained. But in the low-frequency region, smaller rooms don't quite have the necessary space for proper low-frequency propagation. Because of the lower frequencies and closer proximity, along with the not so flattering resonant room frequency, lots of low frequencies start to clash. These clashes of the low-frequency timings create peculiar comb filtering and other not so great cancellations. So if you time align the low frequencies, they tend to become quite additive. A lot more low-end than you'll want. But you sure the heck will know that you have time aligned everything, perfectly.

    In the end, I elected not to go with my time alignment mix. The natural cancellations and timing errors that occur in a real space brings through a more organic and natural sounding recording. But where I think time alignment can play a big factor is when tweaking individual instruments and/or vocalists. With some rock 'n roll that I recorded of local bands, every now and then you get a drummer that likes to rush the beat. I'll stick on a couple milliseconds of delay when I play back the snare drum. I don't change the overheads. Nothing else. Makes it sound like a brand-new song. I stuck 36 ms of delay on a lead pop vocalist. Made all the difference in the world. I like to play with timing in many different ways. Playing phase tricks with both microphone technique and the combination of numerous tracks is playing with time.

    I've even cut string players, brass musicians, woodwinds, without headphones while doing overdubs for the rock 'n roll rhythm tracks. The rock 'n roll rhythm tracks are blaring into the studio speakers. This of course is picked up on the very sensitive and expensive condenser studio microphones of these rather quiet instruments. I mean after all, you can plainly hear when you solo the first violin microphone all of that bleed. You know it's going to make your recording sound awful. And the headphone system is dead. It's OK, you can get rid of all that bleed after you have recorded the track by just playing with time. The record a secondary track without the musicians. You then combine those two tracks together out of phase. Bleed disappears and the musicians you just recorded remain unscathed by the blaring studio speakers folding back the rhythm tracks. And I did that back in the days of analog tape recording. It works even better with digital. Yup, more than 33 years ago. Works great with folks that don't like to wear headphones.

    You're traveling through another dimension. A dimension of mind. A dimension of time. The signpost up ahead?! Guitar Center?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Earlier tonight I was prepping a live solo guitar/vocal tune. There was a vocal mic, a guitar mic and a guitar DI. I started with the DI and guitar mic panned hard left and right. First I matched levels approximately, then I started to move the mic track to the left until the waveforms matched more or less. Then I stopped using my eyes and started using my ears. What I was listening for was precedence effect, or more precisely the lack of it. Trying different alignments I found the one with the least sense of one side being forward.

    That done I muted the DI and turned the vocal mic track on. Going to the end of the song where the performer talked a little I could do the same thing between the two mics. What made this possible was the generally one way nature of the bleed, vocal into guitar mic. If the bleed was about even both ways then any shift to align the vocal in the guitar mic would have misaligned the guitar into the vocal mic. But as it is it worked nicely to solidify the mix.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    That's a beautiful way to go Boulder. Yes and in that scenario that would work well. I've done the same thing. You line up the wave forms and then you listen. Then you nudge and you bring it into a beautiful focus. Sound is no different than light only slower. And that's one of the ways in which we " see " sound. Sometimes it's even fun to change the timing on MS microphone pairs from each other. It relies on the close phase of the two closely placed capsules. But changing that phase by nudging a track a few samples either way creates a completely different soundscape. It's educational, lots of fun and you can end up with the most incredible results. And that's why I love playing with timing.

    I think my time has come the walrus said...
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I did this on the last record. The cool thing was the drums were put down first with scratch tracks and then the guitars were taken through DIs while the band played through PA speakers for a live band feel. One guitar got two direct boxes, before and after a SansAmp. That gave me the option of just using the SansAmp channel or reamping from the first DI or both.
  11. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    I tracked my band live just the other day, minus vocals, with the setup I described in the original post.
    Just for kicks I started by aligning overheads with each other from a solo snare hit, then I aligned the snare track to the overheads, then found a part where only the guitar was playing and lined it up with the overheads,
    then i did the same with the bass, with the keyboard, and so on. Honestly the results were not very drastic at all, there is a noticeable difference with the depth of the mix, and with the clarity of things, but not night and day.
    It was a fun experiment.
  12. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    interesting approach boulder, i would have most likely left the signals mono, and used artficial efx to create an image. good stuff
  13. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Thanks. I won't necessarily leave them panned. I just did that to emphasize precedence. But it gives me more freedom to pan things and retain some mono compatibility. But you have to be careful. There's only so much you can do to address bleed with delay, and even when you can do something it doesn't mean it's better than leaving it alone.
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Excellent post.

    I think what the OP means is getting everything "in phase" ( or as close as possible) at the start of a mix.

    We used to spend at least 30 minutes or so on the old 636, adding channels one at a time, bringing them up to unity gain and flipping the phase buttons and listening for the strongest low end response. I think it made an enormous difference.

    It's to bad not all DAWs have a phase flip function on channel strips instead of thinking the same thing can be achived by sliding a track forward or back. Especially with the Alesis ADATs it was so cool to get everything in phase first and then start slipping tracks to get a "to the bottom" effect.
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Thanks Kurt. Yes, I'm sure that's what he was talking about. However phase does change with frequency and just like you indicated, great minds think alike. "Go for the low" has always been in the forefront of my thought process since the get go, you know, Rollo? I've always done exactly what you indicated as a normal course. Getting the bass frequencies to line up is the most important aspect of our timing procedures. I always listen for extreme low-frequency your high frequency cancellation wins simply checking for Mono playback consistency and of course phase problems. And if one only concentrates on the higher frequency content phase, low frequencies can end up canceling. This is actually not too terribly different from when I used to adjust the azimuth on analog tape recorders. Many an inexperienced tape recorder tweaker have made that error when they simply found the peak at 10 kHz, when checking azimuth. Everything else would be wrong LOL. Other folks like myself also utilized other than separate frequency, continuous sinewave calibration tapes, I also utilized pink noise & fast sweep along with my oscilloscope(s). Generally, I employ many of these same concepts in my overall engineering of music... because timing is everything. From soup to nuts lots of nuts, we're all nuts LOL.

    The phase flip has always been an integral capability of Sony Vegas software. Whereas with other programs such as Adobe Audition, the phase flip has to be performed as a software function rather than just a click in Vegas channel strip window. Hey, all the controls available to me on the dashboard are different in each one of my vehicles. Software isn't any different. The GUI is the dashboard. And it's customizable in each one of our custom cars. Do you prefer Scully or Ampex? 3M or Studer? Which one of those recorders just looked right? You always knew when you were in a professional studio when all of the adjustment covers were off all the time. This was necessary back in the day of analog, especially when large scale, large budget productions frequently had various parts recorded in various different studios. We always included a set of recorded multiple sine wave tones as if we were creating our own calibration test tape. This would ensure consistency between different studios as each machine would be aligned to the tones on the master multi-track tape before each session. And when we all talk about the way particular microphones, preamps and other signal processing sounds, I could talk about the difference of when you would adjust for peak or over bias on the tape you were recording on. About as big a difference as tubes and transistors, condensers and ribbons, Chevy and Ford. And if you wanted the least amount of bias rocks, of the low-frequency content, you would tweak bias for least modulation noise, at 10 Hz with headphones. Now, now, everybody knows you can't hear 10 Hz. The tape recorder can't even playback 10 Hz. It can hardly record 10 Hz. Trick is, you're not listening for 10 Hz. And if you don't know what modulation noise sounds like, you haven't been listening LOL.

    You scream, I scream... we all scream, to live stream.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  16. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    What I've been doing in my spare time:


    That jeweler's screwdriver is a critical part of getting the most out of the recordings.
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I'm using a lower end Nakamichi deck, from the 1980s, having been utilized as a high-end duplication deck with something like more than 10/20,000 hours on it. I liked my good Technics, TASCAM, Sony decks. But I was always amazed with whatever Nakamichi did that made their decks sound more like my professional reel to reel machines did than any other. But you use what you've got. And it's all good. It's a professional quality and engineered by a professional. Who could want anything more? Perfection? What perfection?

    I am perfectly humbled
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. havana

    havana Active Member

    Here's a good trick for getting a great drum track. After recording double all your drumtracks. ie :2 kick track. 2 snares etc.
    With the first set, use Drumagog drum replacement with decent samples. Then you just add in your original drum tracks to taste. Usually for me. the overheads are key. Sometimes just the samples and your original overheads will do the trick. It all depends on the sound your going for.

    I use a 5pc Pearl Maple Custom drum set so I haven't used samples for a while. The Pearl Maple already has a great sound to it.
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member


    Or you could just record it right the first time. duh

    Seriously, I am sure one of the reasons the quality of recorded music is declining is because someone told us that all this equipment and plug ins and processing / auto tune / time correction / drum sound replacment, makes an improvement to the audio. It's NOT TRUE! Nothing and I mean NOTHING can actually improve an audio signal. Every time you process a signal it is degraded in some fashion. All you have done is modify it.
  20. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Objectively, yes. Subjectively, no. And it's the subjective that matters in the end. I just eq'ed the heck out of a stereo recording. Measured against the original recorded signal it is horribly degraded. But it sounds way better, therefore it has been improved.

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