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Two approaches:

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Kurt Foster, Oct 29, 2002.

  1. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    For the sake of discussion, let's agree there are 2 approaches to recording multi track pop music. The first approach would be to use as little signal processing on route to the recording medium. Ideally a mic into a straight wire with gain, to the multi track recorder. Any balancing adjustments would be made post recording stage. So everything on tape is recorded flat. This approach allows the mixer the ability to take the mix in any direction they wish and prevents them from being stuck with a particular tone or sound they find unusable. Let's call this "The Safe Method".

    The second approach would be to use signal processing on route to the recording medium. Mic to selected mic pre (for color or not) to compressor or E.Q.'s in various orders (to color and sculpt the sound). Additional balancing adjustments can be made post recording stage also. This sometimes allows the recordist to get tones or compression effects they may not be able to achieve by recording flat. Even double processing of tracks post recording, sometimes doesn't yield the same results as if the recordist processes going to the recorder and then again on playback. Lets call this "The Risky Method".

    The less experience a recordist has, the more they should rely on the "Safe Method" when recording critical tracks or performances they don't want to, or can't allow themselves to miss. As the recordist becomes more experienced and gets a better ability to visualize what the end product is going to be, the more they can start to "steer" the project as they record it. You'll know when your ready to start pre eq ing instruments and using compression. You will feel confident that the decisions you are making are correct.

    Until then concentrate on "The Safe Method", good mic choice, placement and getting a good level to medium……Fats
  2. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Fats, I feel this way.

    Your statement...

    The less experience a recordist has, the more they should rely on the "Safe Method" when recording critical tracks or performances they don't want to, or can't allow themselves to miss. As the recordist becomes more experienced and gets a better ability to visualize what the end product is going to be, the more they can start to "steer" the project as they record it. You'll know when your ready to start pre eq ing instruments and using compression. You will feel confident that the decisions you are making are correct.

    True, but the mixing engineer may not have the ability to "undo" something that the recordist did to tape..as in eq, compression, etc. Should they want to undo it? You bet for the most part. Post is post, and pre is pre. The chain of events does center around the communications and the working status of indiviguals. I have cats that record verb top tape, because it will be "right" and correct EQ for solo track only. The EQ and verb may be way off into my mix, which makes reversability impossable. I concurr that certain teams can do magic and I have been a part of many of them but really, it is hard to undo something (especially in analog) unless you have the raw to compare..and having never heard the raw makes it even harder.


    Is it mandantory? Certainly not. This is art for arts' sake..or it can be art for ^#$%s sake.. Either way, if I am the MIXDUDE Djour, I will ask for raw, uncompressed , un EQ'ed tracks to see if I can fit them "artfully different, better, or worse". I will not mind having both, that way I can see if the recorded track that is permanant could have been improved upon..DURING the mix.

    If I don't have both, I have to "deal with it" all the while feeling, I wish this track had more crunch...or less tinge..or something.

    You can fix it in the mix, but to a point.

    Now 2-bus compression as a mastering engineer is another kettle of fish!!!

    I feel any really competant engineer can work with some crap and make it shine..but it is hard to polish a turd.
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I don't recall who said it but someone pointed out that you can polish a turd if you freeze it! It seems like a lot of trouble to go through but I'm sure there's someone who will do it! Just the realization that somebody actually spent time thinking that up is disturbing! :D
    I don't usually print reverbs to tape unless it's a Kenny "Blue" Ray guitar amp reverb. I like how mono tracks drive stereo effects like stereo chambers and chorus in the mix. Those things I would almost never print unless they were going to their own discreet tracks, to be blended back in at mix. I was thinking more about eq and compression in my previous post. I was also thinking of a scenario where the tracking and mixing were being done by the same person. I am absolutely positive there are kick drum tones I can only get by eqing to tape and additional eqing in pb. I've tried it both ways and it's not the same, especially in analog. I have found by compressing just a little to tape and then a little at pb I can achieve drastic reductions in dynamic range with out audible side effects or loss of perceived dynamics. I never use a compressor across the 2-bus. When I track I'm setting up a separate mix on the C/R mons with my own verbs and efx to monitor and I tweak the mix by altering the inputs. If the desk has auto , I'm printing. That way later when I put the faders up even across the desk, the mix is already almost there. Plus when the talent comes in the C/R to hear a playback they're knocked out! But as I said, this takes ability to visualize what you want the finished product to sound like and confidence in your recording chops. After millions of years I have evolved a set of work habits that I fall back on continually.
  4. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member

    i'm not a professional engineer yet, but i am a professional drummer that does lots of sessions and albums in real studios."not my own"

    often times the engineer will do a bit of compression and or eq before tracking and then again later when mixing.

    their explination is that it is smoother than doing it all at once.

    what do you guys think?

  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Hey Chris!, :c:
  6. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member


    what would you think of applying a bit of compression to a vocal before tracking?

    preferably from a tube compressor.

    i sometimes do this because i'm in digital world as soon as i start tracking and even though i have a uad 1 i like the characteristics of a real tube compressor.

    sadly i don't have that option once i've begun.

  7. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Hey all...try compresing even less. I mean, like the Gain Reduction needle not even moving, or at most 1db of GR. This gets really magicall. It can add a nice glassy fatness. I'm one for very dynamic tracks. I feel/belive that a well balanced mix thoough the two bus acts as a sort of compressor. After all the final mix is a fourier waveform analysis of the whole. What goes out those speakers is a sum of all things in the mix. When all are combined, at each moment in time, some things compress some things refract...in essence a sort of "compression". Notice the meters of you two bus, with a good mix...a pretty controlled dynamic range...certainly not as dynamic as any solod track.
    So...netx toime you cut, compress...barely...then do it again when you mix. LET IT BREATHE (breathing is good...it gives life)
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I love compressors. Compressors are good! When they are used correctly. They suck when misused. For pop productions with vocals, bass, many times electric guitars I use compression to tape / disk what ever the hell it is these days, (???) :confused: without even thinking about it. Always... Vocals, LA3, Manley EL OP or 1176, bass LA2a or a Manley EL OP, guitars LA4 or a vca comp like a dynamite or a DBX 160. I don't compress electric keys. I figure they are compressed when they're sampled. I try not to compress Piano. I rarely compress drums or percussion! I don't compress more for more than 3 or 4 dB and I use as gentle a ratio as possible 2 to 1 to 4 to 1 max. Real world dynamics (150 dB +) need some taming to fit within the constraints of a recording systems dynamics (115 dB). I have found that by squishing a little going in and then a little more at mix this can be achieved without severe audible artifacts. Fats
  9. RedNucleus

    RedNucleus Guest

    In my experience, one of the hardest instruments to record well is a DI electric bass signal in a pop/rock production. I am not a professional engineer. I'm always unsure of what compression ratio to use, in order to be able to still make it "sit well" in the mix afterwards rather than beat the bass player's part to death right from the beginning. It has happened to me. Does anyone have any tips - what settings to use and avoid with this type of signal, especially in a setting that is not live and where you don't have guitars / keys as a reference point when tracking, e.g. working with sequenced drums and then recording a live bass part over that and then building up the tracks/mix from there. Mistakes are so easily made... I sometimes find it very hard to get right, since there's no way back once you printed the signal with a certain amount of compression on it.

  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Use low ratios, 2 to 1 or 4 to 1 at max, and between 1 to 4 dB of gain reduction. You can print to tape with that, it's a good start. Then at mix if needed, you can add a little more compresssion......Fats
  11. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member

    cedar... have you ever had a singer who live, kicks ass through a sure sm 58, or whatever.

    you decide to record them, and their dynamic range is through the roof, clipping central.

    you try to get a happy medium for verses ect. but whenever the chorus ,outro or whenever the "singer riffin" comes in i find i have to compress just to get it to "tape" or "hard disk" without clipping.

    you try to mention mic technique, but for a singer who predominatley sings live it's from outer space. they are usually eating the mic to battle the band just to hear themselves.

    should i try to find preamps with greater dynamic range, or is this a common situation?

    of course it's easier to own killer gear with ridiculous dynamic range, and only record seasoned pros that have been whipped into shape regarding mic technique. but what would you do in the mean time?

    chris perra
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Mic pre's with "more dynamic range" aren't the answer. You are clipping the input of your recorder. Pre's with more dynamic range would just exacerbate the problem. Turn down the vocal to tape. Try turning it up a bunch in the cans. This will help keep the vocalist off the mic.
    At this point if you are having trouble hearing the vocal in parts of the mix, compress it a liitle to bring up the soft passages ..... Fats
  13. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    [I'd cut that knid of singer in the room with a '58. No headphones. Then their mic techniuqe will be irrellevant. Just add some top to the mic, and compress on the way in some. 1176's are the tciket for this. But not mandatory. Better yet. A limmiter first (to get the peaks when the Chorus kicks in) at 8;1 or so...onlt a db or two of gain reduction. Follow that by a compressor at 2:1or 3:1 at about 4-6 db of compression. The limiter will keep the compressor from being hit too hard and the compressor will keep him in line the rest of the time. Being in the comtrol room will obviate the need for cans, it will improve his pitch and communication is greatly improved.
    Don't worry about bleed, with his mouth up on the capsule, bleed will be comparable to loud headphones in the room on a condenser.
    You can tell him that all the vocals on the first Rage Against The Machine album were cut this way (as an answer as to why you want to do it this way) this will solve your problem. Getting an intune, in control(dynamic wise) performance will outwiegh any sonic differrence that a condenser in the traditional setup would give. He'll be right on the mic, and in the comfort zone...and no cans will also make it more fammiliar to what he's done up till now.
  14. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member

    with my set up it's going through a mixer with phantom power, then a tube compressor then to hardisk.

    my clipping occurs from the mixer input. that's where i think more dynamic range would help.

    it's only a behringer so it's not that great would getting a better pre help here? how much dynamic range should you be looking for in a good pre ?

    that "rage" technique sounds great. i however am recording female singers predominately.
    they have a tendancy to wail from time to time. thanks for the cool advice.

    chris perra
  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    In that case I would back off the mic pre attenuator a bit. The less expensive mixers have serious power supply headroom issues anyhow so the little bit of added noise floor is better than having the input go "SPLAT!" at the most important moment. Good mic pre's are spendy, with the price of quality starting at around $500 per channel. If you're willing to go the distance, good mic pres are Neves, 1074-1083, Amek Neve 9098's, and API. These all are attitude pres. For pristine colorless pre amplification Grace, Mellinia, Crane, Earthworks...there are many others. For me, these just come to mind first ..... Fats
  16. Bob Olhsson

    Bob Olhsson Distinguished Member

    I think mixing really needs to begin during the tracking process. It's extremely important for performers to be hearing something closely related to what the final mix is going to sound like AS THEY PERFORM because a performer has more control and nuance available to them than exists anywhere else in the production process. Additionally the decision-making process profits greatly when all judgements are made from within the context of a near-final mix.

    I believe a lot of the reason there are so many mediocre sounding recordings today is the practice of "safe" tracking combined with putting off decisions and only bringing in an experienced engineer for the mix. If music is really well produced, arranged and recorded, anybody ought to be able to mix it.
  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I agree wholeheartedly or as we say here at Cedar Flat, Harrumph!
  18. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    By this do you mean no/minimal eq/compression. If yes then I concur in the case of a novice or even the majority of jedi's now practicing. But there is another plateau where the mix does come together at the beginning with minimal techniques. it requires (first having a decent song/arrangement, good room decent gear good/great players)
    meticulous attention to room/instrument/mic placement and gain staging.
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I thought that was what I said.

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