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tracking with or without effects

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Makzimia, Mar 19, 2015.

  1. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Greetings all,

    Not sure if this has been discussed much amongst you all. I had a video sent to me from a blog I follow, recording revolution. While I don't agree with everything Graham has said since I followed him, this topic does make me wonder.

    I know a lot of you, me included come from the time before DAWs. Along the way as DAWs became the norm, or a hybrid at least, we were told to make sure we recorded clean. When we record clean though, we need to make decisions after about how something might sound. Now, that may not matter for somethings, for some people, but as Graham points out, we are losing a vibe.

    When I first began, and at most times until I want to say 2002 maybe, I recorded, vocals included with comp reverb etc on. Does the argument once you have them on and recorded you are stuck with it, give us enough reason not to do it that way?.

  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I record clean because I like the option to make changes.

    That being said, I also love analog gear going in. Nothing better.
    Personally, I think once you figure out what something is made up of, it can be created ITB.

    I think a computer is way too much for most people's good today. A lot of us who don't need all the editing and plugins would be better off getting a console you can afford and use a DAW to capture, refrain from using plugins to screw it all up, keep it simple. The character would come from the performance and a nice unscathed bass to help it warm up more naturally.
  3. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    I think we can all agree with sufficient practice and knowledge this is true. Let me say how this effects me personally. Example, (sounds at time of recording) if I play my guitar and sing I get a better vibe than if I record playing, then sing. Problem is, I record guitar clean, then record vocal clean, not as easy to gel. I naturally control my overall performance sound/volume with what I am performing.

    I am performing a synth part (per your analog example) I used to use, in my case a foot pedal with my Jupiter 6 live. I am far from technical or extremely knowledgeable about music reading, harmonies inversions etc. What I do have is a feel for things, based on the sound I choose, even if I don't translate that very well still in recordings a lot of times. I get a vibe and a structure from sounds, how they sound right now as I am playing. When all major recordings were done in big studios with self environments at tracking time and only a mic on something as it sounded... well ?.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I have a theory on this which includes VSTi.

    You need a really good preamp to compete with the size of synths, good samples and VSTi.
  5. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Ok, and I have version of Native Instruments Komplete 9 ultimate among my arsenal. So, your personal view is, throw away our old synths unless we have a killer preamp, plug in a good controller into midi and just use the midi sample stuff. I can see that part of it.
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    no, you need a really good preamp for vocals, guitar to compete with synths, VSTi and top quality libraries that were mastered in some of the best studios of the world. Think about it, We use samples that are world class and then track with lower level gear than that samples or VSTi.

    It would be no different than singing to Mastered mix. Its going to sound really different.
  7. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Right, so, the real job then becomes to make it all work together somehow, particularly if you don't have that budget. And, here's the important part now, simplify and learn to use less to do more with what you learn, yes?.
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    This is just my theory:

    The idea is to eliminate or reduce to the smallest rather than trying take a small track and expand it into into something it will never be. Its easier to reduce than it is to expand. I'm not saying it isn't possible but this is also why compression is used and doesn't really work more often. This is why mass is over compressing everything to try and get their mix to sound big, especially with sampled drums, VSTi. So, if you are using a low end pre amp and mic ( poor or very obviously different acoustics than the samples.... , your vocals will always sound wimpy and unglued.
    This is why I saved up and bought a killer preamp and use big rails for summing. My preamp will compete with the best samples in the world.

    But, if you don't have that, and you are using samples and VSTi, get the vocals best without savage curves and then fit the VSTi in the space of the weakest , that way you are always able to make the main part of the mix stand out where it belongs (more balanced).

    As an example. If we don't hear an example of another comparison, and a song is good, thats all that matters. Its not until we create a way to hear comparisons, can or do we hear difference. Just like MP3. Once you are able to fit the main part of a song into the common space, everything else lives in the mix with a balanced more glued sound.

    As you get to know more about this, and have an open mind... sound designing and sound replacement gets fun when you know what you have to do to open a mix up.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think that pretty much stands to reason with a lot of things. My 2013 Hyundai Accent looks a lot nicer than my neighbor's 2002 Corolla... but not nearly as nice as the guy 3 houses down, who owns a 2015 Beemer. ;) LOL

    I think that - just as music has different styles - so does mixing. There will always be engineers who are better at certain styles of music than others, and I think it's probably due to the fact that they enjoy mixing in the styles that they do; and anytime you enjoy doing what you do, I think it only stands to reason that you'll be better at that, at least more than a style that you don't care as much for.

    There are a few people - but I think it's rare and a general exception to the rule - who seem to be fantastic regardless of the styles in which they are working, those who seem to be able to do anything - from classical/orchestral to jazz to alternative to blues to hip hop to metal to country - but I'm certainly not one of those people.

    I'm fast coming to the conclusion ( my own personal conclusion) that it's the performances - meaning the quality of the playing or singing - that really matter the most - at least to me, anyway.

    Performance quality is certainly more important (to me) than me trying to make my mixes compete with those that are currently hot, modern, or trendy, which I don't really have a handle on anyway, and to be honest, don't really want to, either.

    I'd rather focus on my playing and singing ability, and do the best job that I can while tracking, than to focus on attempting to get the "ultimate" mix, which, I must admit I've been guilty of doing for quite a few years now. It can be a bit like chasing the dragon's tail... the never ending quest for the ultimate, perfect mix. I've come close at times, but have never really completely taken hold of that tail.
    There's not one mix in my entire history of doing this, that I think can't be improved, where I don't say to myself "Man, I really should have ______" .

    Somewhere in those years, I seemed to have forgotten about the musicianship, the art and craft of playing, writing and arranging. I'd like to get that back. I believe I'm competent enough as an engineer to get a solid final mix that's good enough to support a well-written song, where the parts have been performed well. But, the mix alone can't do that, if the song and/or tracks suck. LOL

    If I can get great performances, and a solid, competent final mix, I'd rather do that - than to get a fantastic, perfect tonally -balanced mix of mediocre performances. ;)

    IMHO of course.

  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    This apply's to anyone using samples, keyboards, DI, VSTi.

    What I mean by this statement is, "difference" of real vs sample/vsti within the audio track itself it too obvious, yet do we realize its the reason.

    Quality difference between a sample recorded really well and a vocal track in the same song is the problem. My way to deal with this is to degrade the sample or DI.
    The difference between sample and our lower quality preamp is usually too noticeable . This stands out like a sore thumb, and has that, isn't "glued sound.

    Mass is more likely to reach for plug-ins to smear the vocal when imho, they are looking at the wrong suspect. And so it goes...

    My strategy is to make the obvious less noticeable which can be done using filters on the samplers until there is less noticeable difference between killers sounding samples and first generation capture of a lesser sound quality. That makes mixing easy :)

    The other alternative to avoid that vocal "Karaoke sound" is to improve your recording gear to the level of your sample libraries, VSTi, analog synths, keyboards, DI, and instruments that usually sound bigger than the vox. Big Rail pre's, high end converters, stellar mics and great room acoustics are the best choice but that comes at a price.

    Basically what my strategy is: if something is not quite up to the standard of the rest of the mix, it seems to glue better to reduce to the weakest link over trying to put lipstick on the pig.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    This a really good thread, Tony! Am I answering this precisely? I am understanding what you are thinking about now and what sparked this discussion? In all the thousands of posts over the years, this may be one of the first where someone actually touched on why this would even be a question. Its usually an all or nothing thought, a closed way of thinking and hate towards understanding more about why samplers and VSTi isn't working for some.
    I fully understand why we want to track it all in our studio, regardless of how bad or dated we sound. We like it and thats the way it is.
    But its quite the contrary to me. Mass is using inferior tracking tools while combining very well produced libraries. "calling the Kettle Black". Whats really happening is we are hearing how poor/ different/ out of place our tracking and acoustic are to a world class sound and capture process.

    What sparked this thread Tony?

    Could it also be titled different. I hate to see it missed by so many. Its a great thread. I'm thinking about the title and more about this topic.

    Somewhere in this thread and description is a better title:
    Tips and techniques on how to combine well produced sound libraries, DI with average to low end acoustics and tracking chains.
    What are we expecting and how can we get it to glue?

    @Makzimia Am I getting closer to what you are asking here?
  12. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    I actually lost where I was going with it from the beginning Chris LOL. It was really supposed to be more about what you record in, keep the sound clean, or have the effects on it from the beginning :D. Where you went with it is fine though, also very relevant. To me as I said in the beginning, because I am not so technical, I rely on sounds as I am doing something, if I don't hear THE sound, it's harder for me to get what I am after. It's relevant as I look forward to recording the next of the Minstrel songs. Once I am completely over the flu.

    I am toying with recording guitar and vocal at the same next time and just dealing with the bleed for example. While I agreed that turning effects off on the keyboard helped, it also made it a little harder to hear the right feel (only slightly, since I had it all worked out of course). The Presonus RC 500, my Tascam and my TC Helicons have good preamps, not the level you have, but better than I have used in the past.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Are you not tracking your keyboard? If so, put a reverb/delay on it in the DAW as you are tracking or monitoring it. The same as you would recording a Vox. Works great!

    Gotcha. Its amazing how we can all interpret something out of a thread. I struggle to word things in mine because I know it can be very easily misunderstood in such a subject technology. Mine threads always have a related sub-directories to the main OP which starts to get wordy and inevitably hard to understand.

    Again, are you not able to use an effect of some sort but not track it? I do this all the time for me or the talent.
  14. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    I still record as clean as I can, and I never record with any effects attached. Frankly, too many projects require going back. From time to time I may well record in parallel, one with processing and one without, but I spent a long time on the conquest for clean, and clean can be processed. for me that is the absolute essential requirement. Even if I know I will process a source, I still record it first. I've messed up a keys track or two by not recording it sans FX, so disabling FX presets is also something I tend to do a lot. I have to admit to sometimes recording processed distorted guitars without any clean parallel path - only recently have I tried going in clean, then a loop to the guitar processor - but results so far are a bit variable. I can't quite get the same sound... yet!
    audiokid likes this.
  15. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    @audiokid @paulears I have used DAW plugins to track monitoring (bus) through obviously. I just found in the past it didn't work as well. I admittedly haven't tried since the RME card came into play. As for parrallel pathing Paul, yes, I have seen a lot of people advocating that. I wonder though, if you know what sound you want, why would you worry?. You've practiced the song ( they have?), sound was picked out, change of heart at mix maybe I guess. Keyboard sounds on really good keyboards these days have amazing effects systems of their own. Some of the sounds have the feel they do because how they were setup, doesn't mean you couldn't get close enough at tracking time pseudo wise of course. Same goes for vocals too.
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    No NEVER to track through. You put the plugin (reverb or whatever effect on a DAW bus. You never track through it.
  17. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Wrong wording... I meant as in they are on the track like monitoring.. I'm sick Chris :-/. Fixed.
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    assign a reverb on a DAW channel that the external keyboard is connected to. Create an Aux, same Aux reverb you are using for the entire session on that Aux and add it to the keyboard. You can use that same reverb/delay for your vocals.

    Make sense now?
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    drink lots of water! We need you better :)
  20. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Logic Pro has a setting which allows software monitoring on or off. In the past I disabled it, because prior to the RME card it was laggy or required a big buffer.

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