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@steve metcalf: Metal Recordings?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by shito, Jul 17, 2003.

  1. shito

    shito Guest

    Hey Steve!
    I read in one of your other posts, that you have done a lot of Metal and Hard Rock-recordings. Around where I live we have a pretty lively Metal- and Punk-scene with lots of bands looking for a place to record at, so I often get the opportunity to work with them at my humble basement studio (for an example, listen to this , a recording I did with my own band with myself on the drums).
    When a band comes in, I usually ask them to bring a couple of CDs they really like, sound-wise, just to get an idea of their expectations. If they bring let´s say something along the lines of Master of Puppets or other "old-school"-metal, I can relate pretty well and can work towards it, but now more often than not, they want to sound like the "New School", the really, REALLY fat, right in your face-recordings of the likes of Hatebreed (for the classic, metal-hardcore-approach) or DefKornBizkit (for the "Nu Metal-approach).
    I must say, I can´t seem to even come close to this sound. I am pretty much self-taught and haven´t ever had the opportunity to watch other engineers work to get new influences or new ways to make things work, I´m pretty much stuck in my ways, so I´m hoping by posting this, maybe you or other members who know their way around the Metal-scene a little bit could share some of their wisdom on getting a modern, tight-sounding recording. Most of the hints and tips I get from literature and the net never quite seem to cut it for this type of music. Do you approach such a recording differently from the get-go? Is it a mastering-thing ("Blow it up, dude! Make it HUGE!")? Is it a less subtle way of setting the compressors and EQs? What do you do?

    Don´t get me wrong, I´m not asking for the be-all-end-all-potion for a metal-recording. I know this doesn´t exist and there are to many variables to be considered, performance-wise, equipment-wise, attitude-wise, etc., I´m clear on that. I´m just looking for some clues and hints that I might have missed, overlooked or would simply never think of, that you (as in "you people out there recording metal-bands") would be kind enough to offer. Would it help to give a rough overlook of my equipment?

    Well, sorry for the huge post, but in English it´s hard for me to get my point across, so I resort to long explanations. But I´m learning. :)

    Hope to hear from ya!

    Greets from Germany
  2. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    Konrad, it's hard to say what will work to get a neu-metal sound, but there are some things to consider. First is the bands production. Are you producing? If this is the case you may need to model your approaches after a couple of bands that influence the music written by your clients. If that's what they want to sound like.
    Based on the clip you sent me I could only offer a couple of very generic suggestions.
    It seems to me that the material in the piece you selected would not be complimented by a neu-matal production style, but if you use the same mix chops when you do mix that style you could try more fx on the drums. Also some verb on the vocals, with the bottom end rolled off the verb to add some shininess. It's kind of hard for me to say beyond that. I'm not in the studi right now, and don't have accurate speakers to listen on. With these tiny computer speakers, it sounds like the guitars could use some more meat around 250-400hz or a little less edge at around 2-3khz. But like I said, I'm listening on unfamiliar speakers.

    Finally, beyond that, the best advice I can offer you is to listen. Listen to tons of stuff within that genre, and you will acquire a taste for it.

    If there are any specific questions I can help you with Pleas let me know.

    Also.....Does anyone else have some ideas or techniques in this style???

    Lets hear it!!
  3. shito

    shito Guest

    First of all, thanks for the prompt reply. It must be the middle of the night over in Canada right now, eh? (I´ll be there in a week-and-a-half, although on the west coast, in Vancouver.)
    No, I´m not producing at all, at least, not that I know of. Some of these bands I´m recording I´m surprised they can find the power switch on their equipment, so I´m trying to help them (pre-recording) to brush up their sound a little, but I´m not involved in the creative process at all, and I guess that´s what "producing" is, right?
    Actually, I only sent the example just so you know I´m not recording with the built-in mic from a cassette recorder placed in the middle of everything (although I used to do that :D ), just to give you an idea where I´m coming from. For me, it´s always hard to talk to people about technical stuff when I don´t know where they´re at knowledge-wise and I had a couple of pretty embarassing moments because of that. Our music is just supposed to be old-fashioned old school-thrash metal, and it´s supposed to sound it, too. :D
    I´m really insecure about using FX, I must say. I´ve heard so many amateur-recordings (which I consider mine to be, too) that drown in reverb or make my head spin with chorus, so I tend to stay clear of FX as much as I can. What would you suggest on the drums, for example? I tried some different reverbs on the snare, but since metal tends to be pretty fast, the reverb kinda smears the sound, it doesn´t really add to the sound, it just makes it more "indirect" and less in-my-face. I can work with your suggestion on the vocals, though. I will try to go back into my desk from the reverb (I use a Lexicon LXP-1) through a channel strip instead of an AUX-return and roll of the low end and see, what that does. Never thought of manipulating the EQ of a reverb.
    I´ll keep that in mind for sure. The recording you heard is through, but I´m sure, this will come in handy for the next job. I´ve noticed, that I always tend to make the distorted guitars too bright, they sound good when soloed but ... well, you know. :roll:

    It will be pretty hard to listen to MORE metal than I already do. I´ll see, what the wife sais when I´m in bed with big-ass-headphones on, blaring Cowboys From Hell! :c: [/b][/quote]:tu: YEAH! :tu:

  4. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    #1 Caveat.

    Don't compare or expect to get the results of the genre's your mentioning if you aren't experienced with a big budget in pro rooms...period.

    Second (and I say this coming from the experience of having recorded or mixed: Staind, Ronnie James Dio. Kingdom Come, Vince Neil among others):
    1. Keep it dry: The principle FX's I'd use besides the Guitarist's pedals are: Reverb (chamber,plate, non-lin) on the snare. And/or FX for the singer (can be verb,slap,distortion, etc).
    2. Cut your tracks as much as possible on neve's
    3. If you can...cut your basics on 2" and transfer to digital(on neve's again...they help with that FAT in your face sound, and they're top end compliments the high end saturation of hard/metallic music).
    4. Experiance/Experiance/Experiance. I feel for you over in EU. I worked in Germany a few years also and my take was that techno&digital had pretty much wiped out the market of live recorded music to the point that they're are damn few rooms and engineers left who know how to do this stuff.
    5. MIC technique: If the sound isn't right...andjust the instrument/mic choice/mic position/Gain structure(hitting Neve's hard and backing down there output makes them sound fatter). If you need to add more than a couple of db on anything in the drums then the problem is before that.
    You don't need EQ when you cut: Vocals/Bass/Gtrs/Keys. If you do, again there's something not right before that.
    .....Also...the very most imortant part of this equation is the band & thier songs/arrangements...if they don't sound good live your screwed....

    ...just keep recording and learning...
  5. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

  6. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

  7. shito

    shito Guest

    Hi RecorderMan!
    Yeah, well, you know, a man has to have goals. ;)

    I will surely do that! :eek: <- that´s what I look like when being ... well ... you know). But I´m trying to make the best of it, so keep those suggestions coming, I really enjoy talking to you guys about this stuff.

  8. shito

    shito Guest

    Me again.

    Damn, I just re-read my post above and I´m not sure I came across. :confused:

    What I was trying to say, put in simple words and with all due respect to RecorderMan:

    Steve´s post catches my drift pretty well. Your post sounds like there is no getting the described sound without the high class-equipment you mentioned. While this might be true, I wasn´t looking for a multi-million-dollar-shopping-list, just some suggestions on how to get close to the sound I described above. Please, no offence. :c:

    I have a few albums of the artists you mentioned above, would you mind telling me which one´s you were involved with? I would really appreciate the opportunity to ask you to share some of the experiences you made. Even though these artists don´t represent the sound I´m looking for, they are still great and I really enjoy listening to their records. :tu:

  9. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    don't sweat me one bit. I'm one guy with an opinion. And it's all about degrees. When I say you can't ....blah, blah, blah...you just have to say "Jagged Little Pill"...bazzilion sold...recorded on black face 16bit ADATS. And then I'd say...yeah...but recorded by some experianced LA guys and the songs & arrangements were right.
    I make good fast demo's too like you on dig gear all the time. But when you get those opportunities (rarer and rarer these days) to cut large format analog to 2" in a great space it really reminds you of the +&- of dig. So I'm just ttying to give you that perpective.
    My gear gripe is the endless seeking of "which peices". I honestly haven't even used many of the mic's/pre's ect that are bandied about here. Just the old tried and true (it just happens to be whats around where I work). What really works is mic placement, gainstructure, and the experiance to do it.

    Lastly...as we move forward...and seemingly can do more and more...there is honestly (again in my opion) no beating the classic. Beatles/Zep/Floyd/SteelyDan...basically stuff recorded from the mid '60's to the early nineties (just before adats). So I keep going back (when I get to ) that stuff...

    ...Please...don't treat me like royalty....I'm just an engineer...it's the artists that deserve that....
  10. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    Hey R.M. I'm really glad you set yourself a little straighter with those last posts. I have kind of a beef about gear snobberry. :D


  11. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Ahh..but the "Jagged Little pill ref" kinda proves my point...here's agreat record (song/arrang/performance/production/engineering sales wise) and yet it doesn't and can't sound like records done the way I was speaking about.
    But we're living hear and now....
    Records I think sound good: Beatles/Zep/Floyd. LOTS of stuff recorded from say '67-'79. Recent records? "Wildflowers" by tom Petty. Fav engineers? Geoff Emerick, Bones Howe, Richard Dodd, Jim Scott, Jack Joseph Puig, Flood, Phil Kaffel, Garth Richardson....these guys make big fat records.
    One last thing...it's not gear snobbery...it's opinion. Don't forget some of us have been doing this for decades as a living and we have opinions...if that fly's in the face of recent developments don't blame the messenger.
    Cheers Steve...love your enthusiasmSteve :c: [/qb][/QUOTE]Ahh..but the "Jagged Little pill ref" kinda proves my point...here's agreat record (song/arrang/performance/production/engineering sales wise) and yet it doesn't and can't sound like records done the way I was speaking about.
    But we're living hear and now....
    Records I think sound good: Beatles/Zep/Floyd. LOTS of stuff recorded from say '67-'79. Recent records? "Wildflowers" by tom Petty. Fav engineers? Geoff Emerick, Bones Howe, Richard Dodd, Jim Scott, Jack Joseph Puig, Flood, Phil Kaffel, Garth Richardson....these guys make big fat records.
    One last thing...it's not gear snobbery...it's opinion. Don't forget some of us have been doing this for decades as a living and we have opinions...if that fly's in the face of recent developments don't blame the messenger.
    Cheers Steve...love your enthusiasm :p:
  12. Sanity Inn

    Sanity Inn Guest

    if I remeber this correctly

    Jagged litle pill was up in the million dollar plus cost to produce

    spend that much time and money, it should sound good? no ??

  13. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    one thing that this style of recording hangs on is big time multi-mic technique. Very often, tops and bottoms (and in rare case two mic on top and one on bottom) of all toms, kick, snare. hat and ride in addition to OH's. Lot's of two mics on the GTR's..one for the "top" the other for the bottom. So an abillity to deal with phase, both creatively and so that you don't lose punch is in order. It's a fien line bewteen less is more and more is more.
    Vocals can be cut with dynamics. This is a benefit with inexperiance singers as well. They sing much better in fron of the minitors tahn with headphones. If they're singing right into an sm57, the bleed is so far down that it doesn't cause a problem.
    Bleed can be your friend. If the band is really tight, cut thwem Live in the same room with some gobos...sometimes this bleed will give you a bigger sound than not. But it cuts down the options for punches etc.
    The ns10 (or any woofer) for an outside kick mic will give you a modern 808 style bottom without the need for an expensive condenser and a blanket or tunnel to isolate said mic.
  14. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    I know in a sense I kinda proved your point with the ref to jagged little pill, but the reason it sounds the way it does is due to poor DA conversion on those adats. I really only noticed a degradation of sound with the vocals, had the vox been cut with tape, and the rest of it on the adats, I might not have noticed it was a digital recording.
    I think now, with the quality of digital processing, the error factor is almost too small for the ear to detect. Furthermore, the reason why an engineer would prefer tape is because of the smoothness of the sound, and the pleasant distortion of the signal. It is however a distortion, and when you monitor a miked instrument direct, and then play it back on tape it sounds different. Obviously with experience this becomes part of the order of operations, but like you said, it's what you are comfortable working with.
    Even sampling 2444 is a huge difference ove 1648, which is what jagged little pill would have been cut on.
    My point is simply that, I too feel the need to stick with what makes me comfortable, but I have to accept that what I can do can also be done on something else.
    I have a friend who, for the last 20 years has done everything on 2" tape. He now uses the alesis hd 24 track and samples at 24/96. In his opinion, and mine the stuff sounds just as good.

    I can agree to disagree with you, But it is now, and will always be my motto to keep an open mind to the unexpected, and to try new things-even if I dont like it! :D

    This little debate has been cool, and quite informative.
    Thanks, man!
  15. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    As long as everybody else jumps on the all-dig-band-wagon, we can pick up some machines for a really good price, before they become really scarce. Then, until they start to raise in value and the inevitable trend towards cutting to 2" first and then dumping into dig for that "old-old-school-phat" sound happens (and it will...remember the '80's when SSL's became the rage and everyone was dumping their neve's, pultecs and fairchilds?); we who hear analog as better will still have an edge.
    There are some who say dig sounds the same...but If I were to pole a who's who...the vote would still come down on printing to analog my friend. Beinhorn is rumored to want to do his next record back on analog. You just can't get stuff up in your face in dig, whatever thew reason. I think it is because of analog's compression characteristics. When I cut to 2" I pretty much need zero compression on drums. When I cut to digital, I'm always in that debate as to compress in or not. when I don't the drums never sound as big during OD's unless I get them up there with compression.
    I'm sorry if this sounds elitist..it's not. I've been giving digital a chance for close to 15 years now on various formats. If you want in your face , huge and fat with depth, cutting to analog still wins. Digital definitely has it's pluses...editing, generation loss, etc. And I'm talking about making expensive records, so it's irrellavent. I have MIx+ rig with rosendahl clock. Three years ago that was close to the $*^t (as dig goes)...I've been working, trying this, trying that...getting good stuff...BUT; If I walk into the Village Recorder, strudio 'A' and cut on there 8048 to 900 @+6 there is NO WAY anything cut to a digital system sounds as good (good as in it gives you goose -bumps.

    OK I'LL SHUT UP...we've done this whole analog/digi thing before...it's just that I keep working/hoping/waiting...and like most everything else computers have touched... (like our economy and phones) it is a big hype.

    Cheers all :cool:
  16. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    Coming from a more or less digital experience, I can still agre with what you say about the characteristics of tape. :eek:
    I think for me, what the real issue is here is the feasability issue of using analog in a smaller studio. For me, at this point it's completely impractical. The cost of media is too much for me to be competitive, and I already make some of the best sounding recordings in this area using a digital format. Right now, the money I need to invest is in renovations, and front end gear. I think the acoustic characteristics of my soon to be main room, (14'x40'x96'), and good selection of legendary pre's and mics are the way to go right now. I am much further along than a lot of studios here, and that says to me that analog is not an option for the little guys. If it should happen that I get super-duper busy, I have intentions to introduce multiple formats to attract other engineers and producers, but this won't be for a long time.

    As for the "production sound" Konrad is after, I would wager a guess that some albums in that genre HAVE been made with digital. It may not be the norm, but as you mentioned jagged little pill, I'm sure it's not alone in the world of dig cut records. Analog may win in some ways, but how close is the race getting? As a label investing in the business of a band, if digital is an acceptable format, why wouldn't you spend less. Investment vs return right? I think that the labels record at these facilities for a couple of reasons. First and most obviously, the experience of great ears. Secondly the mechanics of making a top notch production from the getgo. Third, they(the labels in most cases) own the studio and spent millions building it, and if they didn't record there what would they do with a multi-million dollar studio? Lastly, because they can afford it.

    You may be right, there might be a revival of analog format recording every where. I hope so too, but if that happens, I hope people can afford to pay for it.


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