Editing EQ and Dynamics of a song

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by LabRat, Jan 11, 2007.

  1. LabRat

    LabRat Guest

    Hello all.

    I have been recording my music using mainly drum machines and keyboards and of course microphone with a DAW for the past few months.

    Now that i understand my equipment better, i've realized i dont exactly understand EQ and other editing tools.

    I would greatly appreciate any tips/tricks/advice on the subject.

    eg. different settings for different instruments.
    i.e. settings for kick drum/snare/hihat/lead vocals/bass/etc.

    Thank you much.
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Tips & tricks of the trade are a highly prized secret amongst professionals. If I tell you mine, I'll have to kill you.

    Until that time comes, you don't seem to be asking about any problems? So you are obviously successful in your endeavor to capture your music?

    One of the marvelous things about drum machines is that they make your job so much easier. Somebody has already done an expert job of recording them for you. You need only to program them with your music. Sure, you can add all sorts of other compression and effects but that's just the extra and frequently unnecessary stuff.

    One of the things that I regularly do, is when I track vocals, I'll use some compression while I track. Now some people disagree with me on this concept because you can't undo once you do. In my book that's OK because I know what I want. And I like compression on vocals. Some people hate that but I'm not that people. Now one can actually compress the vocal after recording but I feel that there is a difference in textural quality when done that way, so I prefer to do it while recording it. With our current computer and multitrack interfaces, one can actually record both a compressed and an uncompressed version of a vocal simultaneously. Compare the differences and see if it's a difference you can perceive?

    My microphone selection for men and women is usually different. Men generally have darker voices and so they require brighter sounding microphones. Whereas I find most women already sound bright enough and I prefer them on darker sounding microphones unless I want that particularly sexy, breathy, edgy, "screw me now" sound. So generally I will use a ribbon microphone, a dynamic microphone or a large diaphragm condenser microphone on a woman, unless I want that other sound, in which case I will use a small diaphragm condenser microphone.

    Generally, I actually prefer recording with microphones such as the inexpensive Shure SM57/56/58. Those are all identical microphone elements with different bodies and pop filters. They have a very nice tonal quality that has made them very popular throughout the years. Many hits are recorded with these inexpensive microphones. Bono, Steve Tyler, Michael Jackson all have recorded their vocals on these microphones for their hit records and not on those Mega$ vintage microphones. For real.

    Generally I believe in less is more and keep it simple stupid. The less equalization you use. The less effects you use. The better the engineer you will become and the better sound you will generally have. People frequently grab for an equalizer rather than adjusting levels or moving the microphone an inch. A mistake made by many beginners.

    Recording acoustic guitar can be particularly challenging. The person playing guitar never hears it like their audience. Although they usually have a concept of how they think their instrument should sound. The biggest problem is trying to relate that guitar's sound to speakers. Many discussions have frequently been the topic of where to put microphones on acoustic guitar. Everybody has their favorite recipe. I don't think I recorded an acoustic guitar the same way twice? It really depends on the music and the artist. I will sometimes use for more classically oriented guitar the MS or middle side stereo microphone technique. This is a single point stereo microphone technique utilizing a cardioid middle microphone and a figure of 8 microphone that is mounted directly below the other microphone's capsule, perpendicular (facing sideways left and right) to the middle microphone. They are then combined electronically to produce an adjustable width stereo image that has no phasing effects when collapsed to mono, such as out of a clock radio speaker. Sometimes, I'll use 2 separate microphones one facing more towards the sound hole in the other closer up on the neck for a little more finger articulation. Depending on the acoustics of the space, sometimes a pair of spaced omnidirectional condenser microphones, can be very nice and a recital like environment.

    Electronic keyboards are like drum machines and their sound quality is usually quite superb just the way they are. They may not always fit into the song properly however in which case, you will want to go ahead and utilize some equalization.

    Recording bass guitar for rock-and-roll is generally one of the easiest instruments to record. I frequently just have them use an active direct box as opposed to a transformer direct box. Why? The typical direct box transformer has a primary input impedance of between 20 and 50,000 ohms and is too low a load for a guitar pick up which wants to see an extremely high input impedance, around 1 to 2,000,000 ohms! The lower impedance transformer, is fine for keyboard instruments and other electronically buffered outputs, not a guitar pickup coil. I will frequently use a little limiting on the bass guitar, especially if it's a very energetic player that likes to hit and pop his strings. Otherwise, it's not an absolute necessity.

    These are just some of the tips and tricks of the trade. Much is learned just from trial and error. There are no absolutes in audio. And that's what makes it the most fun. It is black magic audio voodoo! You can do everything right and get a horrible sound. You can do everything wrong and make a hit. Crappie equipment never kept A hit from the charts But crappy engineering has. The great violinist Yasha Heifetz sounded the same whether he was using a $200 violin or a $2 million violin and that was live or on a recording. So why did he have a $2 million violin? Because he could. Why would you marry a nice young Jewish doctor? Because you like the Stratavarious!

    Please deposit another $.25 for another three minutes
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Blacksburg, VA
    Here is a basic exercise. Take a short sound clip that you want to eq and loop it. Take a single band eq in your DAW and set it fairly narrow and give it a +12 dB boost. Work your way through the frequency band octave-by-octave spending some time and listening carefully to what happens in each octave. Then set it to a -12 dB cut and do the same thing. Take notes and proceed to do the thing with lots of other sound clips. Fun and educational.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    I'm with Bob on his beautiful suggestion.

    Keeeep lernin'!
  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Fredericksburg, VA
    Excellent suggestion.

    A couple notes though -

    1 - make sure you monitor at safe levels. A 12dB boost at the right frequency and amplitude and you're looking for some new monitors (or ears!)

    2 - Octave = doubling or halving of frequency. 200 Hz is one octave higher than 100 Hz and 1 octave lower than 400Hz.
  6. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Blacksburg, VA
    Very good point. The basic idea is to give a very obvious boost and cut - more than you would normally do in mixing a well recorded track - so you can hear them clearly and teach yourself what the various frequency ranges do.

    I remember the first time I did this with a bass track thinking that I had learned about as much about specific tone functions in 15 minutes as I had in playing bass for 35 years. Never too late to learn, I guess. It's amazing what you can learn with the new fangled toys. Don't even get me started on playing ahead of/behind/on the beat.
  7. LabRat

    LabRat Guest

    Thank you very much
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Well Bob, I frequently will change the entire feel of a cut by varying a person's performance by either placing them ahead of or, slightly behind the beat. Everybody is always amazed when I do this. It can make for much more interesting live mixes as well since the small time delays can truly change the acoustic ambience of a song. This works particularly good with this particular band I have been working with "The Unfortunate Sons", where the lead singer always seems to push the beat. The guitarist was complaining about that to me when I stuck a few milliseconds of delay on his vocal during the mixdown of live performance. First putting him on the beat. And then putting him slightly behind the beat. Everybody started jumping up and down and exclaiming "why can't he do that live?!". I said he doesn't have to. I'll do it.

    Pushing time till it delays
    Ms. Remy Ann David

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