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Make recordings sound pro (problems)

Discussion in 'Recording' started by jmd87, Mar 4, 2010.

  1. jmd87

    jmd87 Active Member

    Hi,

    Before anyone says hang on you have all that gear but no idea you'd be right haha. My dad owns a big studio and he let me have that stuff to help me out but I want to do a song for him but it sounds good. Ive done loads of practice songs etc but I'm running into a problem.

    Basically I can get it so all instruments are clear and can be heard etc so I'm pleased about that. But the recordings sound dull as if they are lacking in treble. it sounds exactly the same on my Beyers, JBLs and my Sony Ipod headphones but they sound dull.

    Whats a good way of helping with this. Ive heard about putting a bit of chorus etc on guitars. Is it just a matter of fiddling with EQ's until I'm happy? If so which areas?

    Also with Reverb's whats the best way to go about this as the tendency to is loads of reverb when you first start etc. I just can;t seem to get it right but that maybe because my recordings sound dull lol :)

    Hope you can help
    Many thanks
    Joe
     
  2. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    All of them sound good and crisp and clean by themselves? They turn to dull when you mix them?

    If it already sounds dull, chorus or reverb won't help. It'll just smear it more. Try removing the effects, if possible, and then adding slowly on each track...if it's even needed.

    Have you got good pan positions for similar-range instruments to help keep them out of each others' way? Two guitars? One left, one right. Is everything except, possibly, the kick drum, snare, bass guitar and lead vocal panned away from center? You got left and right cymbals and toms, etc?

    Are you sure it isn't a case of too little treble, but too much something else, like mids or bass that overpowers the highs? Instead of boosting high EQ to generate distortion, maybe lower something else, or narrow the frequencies of some instruments so they don't fight so much?

    Are you cramming too much into the stereo master channel by feeding it too many too-high level tracks?

    Try this:

    Leave everything where it is, and disable any effects. Put on some headphones and check and play around with pan positions. When everything is panned better, roughly, start playing with individual track levels, listening on monitors. When those get closer, you MAY have to mess around a bit with EQ on individual tracks. Try not to boost too much on anything. If they've been recorded properly to begin with, you shouldn't need to boost much of anything, and may just need to lower the high or low end of something to fit in and get it out of the way. Or, you may have to carve the middle of one guitar, and the high and/or low a bit on the other to get them to fit together. Just because that Les Paul through that Marshall sounds killer while you are standing if front of it cranked, doesn't mean it was recorded properly and will sound killer in the midst of a mix.

    When you have a rough mix, start adding "desired" effects. Don't add effects just because you have effects. Have them if you want or need them to convey a message for that particular instrument, or want to set that guitar a bit farther back from the front of, say, stage right, as with a reverb. Once you start adding effects, the levels will possibly start changing, and their relationship to the other instruments will change. Tweak on. Too much effects, especially time-based ones like reverb and chorus, will smear attacks, soften highs, and create more low or mid mush. Think about it. You're taking an initial attack and applying very short delays with very quick, extended repeats. Instead of an initial reverb straight off an instrument, maybe a very slight delay, with reverb following that, mixed back in there? That could keep the attack and main signal clean and solid, and then introduce the reverb behind it.

    That's what I would try. Sometimes it's not too little of one thing, it's too much of something else, or too many things in each others' way. There's also the dangers of two other things:

    "I wanna hear my instrument" and "wanting EVERYTHING to be heard clearly ALL the time".

    People want their vocal, or guitar, or bass, or...whatever to stand out. They played it. They think it should be the prime focus. That doesn't serve the song. Put your ego aside, and make your part(s) work with everything else. You can't have EVERYTHING be the prime focus, unless you are doing something like a solo acoustic performance, and neither can anyone else.

    The more tracks you have, the more decisions you have to make as to what's going be sacrificed somewhat. Some things may just have to be relegated to a lesser role, but a role that is still important. Without it, even though it's back in there a bit more, the song wouldn't sound right. If it's brought forward, it causes an imbalance, and the song doesn't sound right. Find out what instruments need to be front and center, which needs to play a strong supporting role, and which ones are the extras that the scene would miss if they weren't there. Maybe you have an acoustic guitar doubling the electric rhythm a'la Pete Townsend? You don't need the full spectrum of frequencies from that acoustic. You just need the attack and a narrower range of frequencies...no booming lower end and blossoming mids. Maybe just the high and low-mid attack to cradle the electric.

    Anyway, if you are trying to get EVERYTHING out front, what you'll likely end up doing is chasing your tail. "Wow...I just turned THIS up, NOW, I can't hear THAT. I'll turn THAT up...aaauuurrgghhh...now something else got buried!" By the time you do that a few rounds, you have everything maxed out and at least as bad as when you started.

    Lastly, using compression can make a track punchy and clear...or it can kill it. If you compress every track to death, and then compress the entire mixdown...you're liable to have no clear high-end attack and "air" around the mix. Be careful with compression. Just because you have all that stuff, doesn't mean you always have to use it on everything all the time. Use it when it's needed. How do you know? Practice.

    You have to make decisions, and experiment. You may have to do some of the above all combined...like panning and levels, as you go. Try some of this, and let us know if anything helps?

    Kapt.Krunch
     
  3. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    What KK said. And if what he says doesn't make sense, or if you're actually planning on starting to do more and more of this, you'll need some background knowledge and a good starter book would be "Understanding Audio" by Daniel Thompson - its a lot cheaper and more useful to you at this stage than gear.
     
  4. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    +
    Also the Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook, Gary Davis.
     
  5. jmd87

    jmd87 Active Member

    Hey!

    Thanks a great help :) With the effects I've only used a heavy flanger on the intro and the outro with sound the best part in the song for clarity!

    The rest of the song as no effects BUT it all tracks have a very light reverb so that maybe my culprit! Also I play all instruments so I'm not concerned about "I want mine clearest... No I want mine clearer etc!" I want whats best for the song :D

    I'm beginning to wonder if I've up'd the bass getting EQ (bass end to much hmmmmmmm) I havent tried compressors to be honest I forgot about then! they may make my snare more attacking as I hate the limp snare sound!

    As for books I've never been one to read books (if it was guitar learning or computer programming) I prefer to practice over and over until I'm happy :) Also if i get badly stuck Ill ask my dad as hes more than happy to help lol (but he doesn't no I am doing this for him lol)

    Thanks alot for your help its great :)

    I shall have a try tonight and let you know how it goes :)

    Many thanks
    Joe
     
  6. bouldersound

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

    I also like to learn by experience, but sometimes that just takes too long. Most of this has been done before and much of that has been written down. In addition to what's been suggested, find "Mix Engineer's Handbook" by Bobby Owsinsky. It's a distillation of the accumulated knowledge of a bunch of really good mixers.

    Probably the simplest suggestion I can offer is to decide what the "featured" instrument is and build your mix around that. Limit the number of elements present at any one time using arrangement, and use eq and panning to make them distinct.
     
  7. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    I'm really not trying to be rude here.

    At some point, especially if you are trying to weigh up your time practicing the guitar, between your time putting food on the table, between your time working on your mix technique, whatever your priorities are - you might want to think about a quick book or two here or there. At 22 maybe this doesn't seem like fun, but trust me, as you get older and work out what you want, you'll regret every second of wasted time. If you're not sure which area of the EQ spectrum makes things brighter, you need to undertake a bit of basic learning. The time you'll save gives you more time to enjoy tweaking the dials, once you know which ones to tweak. Gotta be a good thing right?
     

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