Behind The Mountain
Cape Town,South Africa.
Email:Behind The Mountain

Behind The Mountain - Recording Tips

Just a few recording tips I've discovered myself, or stolen from other people who's names I dare not mention. Some of the tips are general, but others are DAW related.

All contributions are welcome and the guilty party will be named where necessary.

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Expand Your Guitar Track.

When recording a guitar - either acoustic or electric - record your first track. Then re-record "exactly" the same performance on any other track. You will find that no matter how hard you try, or how good you are, you cannot record the same performance "exactly" the same. Now, pan them both to get a degree of separation - not too far apart -and even EQ one or add reverb slightly different from the other.
When you play them both back together, you will have a much richer sounding guitar track. Because you cannot play the same track exactly the same both times, the slight difference in timing will give you an almost delayed/chorus type effect.


Live Drums

I do a similar thing with my Japanese Drummer. (drum box.)
Record your song using the sample chosen as a backing track. Then, using the drum pads, play "live" along with with it to simulate the first recorded backing track. Again "live" and using the pads, add your drum rolls, cymbals, tambourine, etc. until you build up your whole percussion sub-mix. The slight difference in the way you played along with the sampled track will give your drum sub-mix a real "live/human" sound. (oh, you can now delete your original Japanese track.)


Make Your Own Guitar Sound Booth

Ever wanted to have the ability to turn your guitar up full ball whilst recording without blowing the ear drums out of your family and neighbours? Here's a simple in-expensive way to achieve this.

1) Get your hands on an old non-working chest freezer.

2) Strip out all the electronics and other bits and pieces that you don't need such as compressor, power lead, etc.

3) Drill three holes, two at one end and one in the opposite end. (about 30mm in diameter should suffice.)

The first hole will take your microphone lead, the second your guitar lead and the third at the opposite end, the power lead for your amp - we need to ensure that this lead is well away from the other two to avoid power hum.

4) Place your amp into the chest freezer at one end and position your recording microphone/s to suit.

5) Now, plug in your guitar, turn your amp on and with confidence, twist the volume knob to full.

6) Close the lid, put on your headphones and let rip.

P.S This method also allows you to record your guitar amp without having to worry about leakage from within or outside of your home studio.


Making an Isolation Box

The home studio is great for overdubs such as vocals, guitars, bass and horns.
One problem I recently had was I wanted to cut a guitar using an amp.
I've done this from time to time and have put it in my bathroom and "bagged" it by using a LOT of blankets.
This is makeshift at best so I decided to get serious and build an insulated box that I could use to isolate a speaker.
I have a set guitar rig so the size was always going to be the same.
I just needed a box that I could heavily insulate.

I lucked out because I found a used anvil flight case that was the right size.
It is sealed using butterfly latches and is lined with foam.
This box was large enough that I could put my speaker inside and have enough room left to close the box and have room for a mic.
To make the seal adequate, I mounted a mic inside (SM57) and installed two jacks in the top of the box, one for the mic cable and the
other for the speaker cable.
When this box is sealed you can have the amp screaming and it's a manageable volume outside the box.


Make Your Own Echo/Reverb Chamber

One way to avoid mixes that sound like every other project studio out there is to build your own echo chamber. This may seem like a ridiculous idea, given the home recording revolution that has put every imaginable effect and device into affordable little boxes. But to further abuse an already overused clich?, why not "think outside the box?"

Remember, the same recording gear you can afford is what every other project studio engineer has also just purchased. And most people never venture past the basic presets that come with this gear. So if you have the means, try something adventurous like building an echo chamber in your studio.

You don't have to have a huge space, just a cool-sounding ambience that will help to set your mixes apart from everyone else's. Here's what you do. Run a patch from an aux send or buss on the console to a separate amplifier (any cheap stereo amp will do.) Then run a speaker off the amp to your designated chamber - it can be a bathroom, hallway, garage, attic, you name it. Then set up a cheap mic in that space. You'll want to put some distance between it and the speaker, but how much and where the mic is aimed is up to you. To do this properly you'll need an assistant. Have them move the mic around while you're in the control room listening for a sweet spot. Remember: the amount of reflections you get is determined not only by where you place the mic (straight at the speaker or up in a corner facing the opposite wall) but how much signal you send to the amp. The louder it is, the more times the signal will bounce around your newly created echo chamber.

Simply return the mic's signal back to the console using an open fader or an "echo return," and combine the signal with the original to hear the reverb. Obviously, the more of the chamber you mix in, the more reverb you'll hear. You can also use stereo speakers and two mics in stereo in your "chamber," and return the signals to two open faders and pan them opposite each other to get a stereo chamber.

P.S. You can create a similar but different effect by taking the microphone AND the vocalist into the designated chamber.

Now for some fun stuff!
Recording synth strings? Try running the signal out of the control room into the designated chamber, and into a pair of stereo speakers. Then mic the speakers at a distance as if you were miking a real string section. This will give your synthesized strings an airier sound. You can take it a step farther by slightly detuning one side of the signal that goes to the speakers to imitate the natural pitch variances that happen in real string sections. Experimentation is a wonderful thing.

A similar technique can be used to get a more authentic Hammond B3 sound. Place two speakers back to back (or even better, two guitar amps) in the studio. Send the stereo synth signal to the speakers/amps, and mic each side. This will give you the ability to add some "air" to the sound, and if you desire, you can overdrive the amps to add some distortion.


Build your own Spring Reverb
Contributed By Loki

Need a cool reverb sound? Or just bored? This is a cheap and easy project to add a weird vibe to anything you run through it.

What you need:

  • Some plywood
  • A saw
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Springs
  • Hinges
  • Hooks

Start by cutting out 6 pieces of plywood that will fit together make a rectangle.

On the two end pieces cut circles. One and should be just big enough to fit a microphone into, the other big enough to point a speaker into.

Build the rectangle box, leaving the top off, attach the hooks inside the rectangle and attach the springs to them, put on top piece and hinge it so you can open and close to add/remove springs

Point speaker of sound source into the hole on one end, and put a mic in the other hole.

Simple

Note: Be sure to build the rectangle box very solid. Consider caulking or gluing the pieces at the seams in addition to screwing to help prevent sound leakage and noise from the box itself while having loud sound pumped through it. Additionally, make sure the hinged top is securely fastened down while recording to help eliminate noise from it rattling around while recording as well.


Panning Tracks

You can pan your tracks anywhere you want that sounds good to you, but here are some tips on how it's usually done:

Lead Vocal - almost always panned right up the middle, aka Center or 12:00 (panning positions are often referred to as positions on a clock.)

Bass guitar / Kick drum - these also tend to be panned at 12:00. Typically responsible for most of the low frequencies in the mix, bass & kick get spread evenly in both channels, thus making them appear to be in the center.

Snare & rest of drum kit - pan these according to how the drum kit was set up: snare up the middle or maybe 1:30, toms @ 2:00, 10:00 & 8:00, hi-hat @ 3:00, ride @ 9:00, overhead/cymbal tracks @ 5:00 & 7:00, stereo room tracks all the way right and left - known as "hard right" and "hard left", mono room tracks @ 12:00. (This drum panning is known as "audience perspective." You could also reverse it to have "drummer's perspective.")

Guitars - if you have one main guitar that carries the song, try panning it around 10:00 or 2:00; if there's a second guitar part, use the other position of these two. If you've "doubled" your main guitar, pan the two tracks hard left & right. This should sound like one huge guitar. These suggestions work for both electric & acoustic guitars.

Keyboards (piano, organ, synth) - if your keys play a fundamental role in the song, pan them either hard left & right or maybe 3:00/9:00. If they play more of a supportive role in an ensemble or otherwise dense arrangement, you can tuck them in the middle. For instance, the piano could be panned at 8:00/1:00 and the organ at 11:00/4:00, which allows you to hear the spread of the keys without these instruments stepping on each other.

Background Vocals - if you have one harmony vocal, or a double of the lead vocal, pan it just off center (11:00 or 1:00) so the two vocals blend well but remain distinct. If it's "oohs" & "aahs" you've recorded, try around 10:00 & 2:00.

Miscellaneous "Ear Candy" - some sounds, like synth pads, percussion, or even subliminal voices, can be panned just about anywhere. For incidental sounds that may only last a short while but need to be noticed, (e.g. a cool drum loop) try panning them hard left or hard right so they can stand out without overwhelming the mix.

Just as you add the elements of a mix like building the foundation of a house, panning the instruments is like painting a landscape.You want to spread things out so that all the elements can be "seen," or in this case heard, but you also want to maintain a sense of balance so that the mix doesn't become left or right heavy.

If you have a midrange mono guitar part and a mid range mono keyboard part, you may want to try panning them opposite each other to give width and balance. The same can be true for almost any combination of instruments.


Recording Lead Vocals

More often than not, the lead vocal is the track that contains the most emotional content of the song. With repeated attempts at recording the vocal, you run the risk of losing that emotion and "magic." So while it's ideal for the singer to nail the perfect take in one or two tries, a good engineer knows how to respond the other 90% of the time.

The answer is to compile the best elements of a few different takes into a single, composite performance where each line, each phrase and even each syllable is sung just the way you want. This process is called "comping." It's done on nearly every record you hear, even the ones you're convinced are single, complete takes.

Tip: if the singer is hesitant to record this way, claiming "artistic integrity," remind them that they're free to sing the song through from top to bottom, without interruption. Meanwhile, just switch tracks while you're winding back to the top after each take. (Make sure you're only sending the current take to the headphone mix - it can be very disconcerting for a singer to begin a song and hear two voices coming out of his mouth.)

In this digital age of virtually unlimited available tracks, it's tempting to record 5 or even 10 different takes before comping the vocal. But using that many can really overwhelm you and confuse the process. Try utilizing two or three tracks instead. Starting with your first take, tell the singer it's only a practice take for the purpose of further level adjustment (when in fact you've already adjusted everything and are ready to go.) This is useful for anxious singers, taking the "pressure" off them.

After two or three takes, stop if you have terrific performances overall. If not, go back to the track with the least inspired take and record over it. Hopefully, you have gained the singer's trust by now and don't need to inform them of these details. Continue with this process until you feel that, within those two or three tracks, you have the makings of a great performance.

When you're ready to start comping, draw lines on the lyric sheet so you can make little notes (check marks, yes, no, good, bad, maybe) on each line of each take. Involve the singer in this process only if they insist - the more they analyze their own performance, the less they're likely to respond with an inspired, heartfelt one. Once you have usable takes for each line, bounce the winners onto a fresh track (you can also bounce certain lines from "alternate" takes into one take that just needs a few fixes.)

Tip: after you have a comp'd vocal, get away from it for a while (dinner break, t.v. break, whatever). Then listen to it with fresh ears, and with the singer, to see if you still need to fix something.

The opportunities to make a vocal sound unique are endless, bound only by your imagination. Sometimes the more obvious effects - 'telephone'-like filters, heavy-pumping compression, ethereal reverb - are exactly what works for the song. But you can also have the vocal sung into a megaphone, or come off tape into a guitar pedal, an amplifier, even the Leslie speaker that was built for Hammond organs (if you're lucky enough to own one.) A lot of digital effects boxes will simulate these sounds, but they don't always come out as good as the real thing. Wah-wah and distortion pedals are extremely useful in giving your vocal a different sound. And you can get great kinds of distortion by deliberately overloading a circuit. Try patching your vocal, from tape, into a mic-pre with its gain turned all the way up. Every model of mic-pre out there produces its own type of distortion when overloaded, so if you don't like the sound of one, try again with another. This trick also works with compressors - just turn the input all the way up. (Note: if you try this idea, start with the fader down on the channel where the signal is returning.)

And remember that too much effect can come off as gimmicky. Blending just a little bit into the main (dry) signal allows you to create a sound that's fresh without drawing attention to itself. (Of course, sometimes that's the point.)

Tip: Are you looking for a unique vocal reverb? Before you send the vocal to the reverb unit, patch it into a flanger first. If you dial in just the right amount, the listener may not even pick up on your little trick. But the overall vocal sound will be unique and more interesting.


Recording Backing Vocals


There are typically two types of background vocals that you'll need to record. The first is the double or triple-tracked full ensemble. The second is the "Keith Richards" one or two-liner in the chorus variety.

Think Eagles or Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young when you are doing ensemble background vocals. Those sweet, silky, multi-part harmonies that are usually spread wide across the stereo spectrum, and tucked nicely behind the lead vocal. To get that effect, simply place your best sounding condenser mic in omni in the middle of your singers standing in a circle. If you aren't using a mic that has an omni pattern, use a cardioid mic, and have the singers stand in a semi-circle around the front of the mic. The distance between the singers and the mic should be determined by the amount of "air" you want. Eighteen inches is probably a good starting point for group backgrounds. Season to taste!

Buss or assign the mic to two tracks (preferably adjacent). Record the first pass on one track, and the second pass on the second track.

Send the singers the track in their headphones, featuring the drums, main melody instrument, the lead vocal, and a good amount of the backgrounds they are singing. Most singers will want to work with one ear of their cans off, so they can hear their blend with the other singers in the room. Once the singers have moved around and found their ideal spots, it's an extremely important idea to mark their positions with tape on the floor. When they take a break, or go to the control room for a playback, you'll want them to return to exactly the same positions when they begin to sing again, or you'll lose their original blend and have to start from scratch. Conversely, there will be times when it's desirable to move the singers around to change the blend for the double track.

Set your autolocator to a point a bar or two ahead of where you want to punch in. Keep running the section by the singers (and recording each pass) until you get the performance you're looking for. Typically, you should be looking for things like pitch, blend, phrasing, attitude, texture, and dynamics. When you've got a take that meets with your approval, pan that track full left and go back to your locator start point. If the singers are all listening to the left side of their headsets (and they should be), then when the chorus passes the next time, they'll hear their live blend in the right ear (the one without the cans), and be able to make that match with the original track (in their left ear) that they're doubling. If the pitch, phrasing, etc. match, then move on to the next chorus and repeat the process. If you've got a hard disk system you can simply copy and paste in to subsequent choruses.

The end result will give you two, multi-layered tracks that can be panned full left and full right in the mix for a spectacular background vocal sound. If you're looking for more "silk," try a third track down the middle with a different blend of voices or notes.

Most decent condenser mics will give you enough top and bottom end that you won't need to eq much - a little roll off on the bottom to keep out the rumble, and maybe a little top end around 3Khz to brighten them up a tad should be all you'll need. Be careful you can always do more eq adjustments in the mix.

Use a limiter to catch peaks. A 3:1 ratio with a fairly high threshold is a good place to start. There will be times you'll want to squash the backgrounds a little more. A little reverb in the cans for the singers is a good thing. Don't print the reverb to tape.

For the Keith Richards type of background, place the singer closer to the mic, and set the limiter threshold a little lower. Typically, the part you'll be going for is a one or two-liner, and is not something that you'll want to double track and split to the sides. I often place this kind of background at eleven or one o'clock in the mix. I also find that I sometimes use less reverb on a part like this.


NOTE! If there's only one singer available for the lead and all the background vocals in a song, there are a few things you can do to make the tracks distinct in the mix.

EQ - Since the singer will have certain tonal qualities on every track, you can use eq to separate the lead and background vocals, so you don't have the exact same frequencies building up over several tracks. For instance, you could let the lead vocal retain the full sound you've captured on tape, with plenty of warmth, brightness and sheen. Then you could thin out the background vocals a little by cutting some low-end (say, -3 db at 200Hz). You don't need to take out so much that it sounds affected, just enough to give some distinction.

Reverb - Try not to use the exact same amount of reverb on all the vocals. Even if it's important that it sound like all the singing was done in the same environment, it helps to give each part of the arrangement its own space in the mix, especially if one singer is doing all the vocals. A common approach is to use a little reverb on the lead vocal (maintaining a healthy amount of presence) and more reverb on the BG vocals, setting them further back in the mix landscape.

Compression - this is another subtle way to add distinction between the vocals. Not only can you use different amounts of compression in the mix, you might even use different types of compressors, such as a tube comp/limiter on the lead vocal and a solid state device on the BG's.

Panning - this is a somewhat obvious way to make sure your vocals don't double and triple up on each other. If you've doubled your lead vocal, don't pan it exactly up the middle where your lead is - pan it around 11:00 or 1:00. BG's can go further out.

Mic Placement - you may prefer to record all vocals with the same mic placement, in order to get the best possible sound on tape and deal with this issue in the mix. Or you might get experimental, having the singer step back a couple feet for the BG vocals (or stand in the back of the room, or sing into a megaphone, etc.)


Recording Electric Guitar


The single most important factor in getting great electric guitar sounds is that the sound coming out of the amp should be great. That's determined by the guitar, the amp, and the person playing it. In the interest of brevity, let's assume that we have met those conditions and move forward.

As a general rule, it's a good idea to set up the mic right against the amp's grill cloth, pointing it directly into the speaker (sometimes at a slight angle from the outer rim of the speaker pointing toward the center). Next, place a condenser mic about two to three feet in front of the amp (at the same height as the amp) and point the mic at one of the speakers. If you have another condenser available, place it about five or six feet away, in front of the amp. You might want to raise the "far" mic to a height of approximately five or six feet off the ground.

By following this formula, you will have given yourself a choice of three different sounds - a close, ballsy sound, a mid-range room sound, and a more distant room sound. By setting all three mics up at the same time, putting them each in a different input, and assigning them all to the same track on tape, you've given yourself the option of having any one of those sounds immediately available.

Today's modern rock guitar sounds tend to be somewhat "dry" (less room ambiance and reverb), and most often use a close mic technique. There's really nothing to it. Simply use the close mic, run it through the compressor, set the compressor at a 3:1 ratio and adjust the threshold so that the compressor is usually working, but not squashing the signal too much. You will be able to make most of the tone adjustments you need at the amp or guitar, and chances are you won't need to tweak the console' s equalizer at all.

For a slightly more distant, but fuller sound, bring up the fader on the mid-distance mic. Slowly add that signal to the close sound described in the previous paragraph. You'll have the detail of the close mic, but with the fullness that comes with adding some "room" sound to it (just like sitting in the tenth row). This is a pretty standard approach that will give you a pretty standard rock guitar sound.

The far mic will give you a bigger, more heavy-metal type of sound with a boomier bottom end on it. The reason for that is low end sound waves take much more distance to fully develop than high end waves. Someone once told me that a low E note on a bass guitar takes thirty-three feet to fully develop. Whether or not that is true will only be known by people who have enough time on their hands to calculate such things.

The key to getting a great guitar sound is to constantly experiment and apply some basic physics. Try different mics, try moving them closer and farther, try different angles, try putting the amp in a corner, try putting the amp on a concrete floor, try it on a wood floor, try it on a floor with green shag carpeting, just try anything!

If you find that you want to eq an electric guitar, you will find that adding 100Hz will give you more bottom, rolling off 300 to 500Hz will eliminate some of the nasal quality, adding a touch of 700Hz will create a throaty or woodsy sound, adding a pinch of 1K or 1000Hz will give the guitar more edge, adding 3K or 3000Hz will give the guitar more bite, and adding 5, 8, or 10K will make it brighter.


Recording Acoustic Guitar

While the acoustic guitar remains one of the most simple instruments by design, it also remains one of the hardest to get a great sound on in the studio. It's really not brain surgery, but knowing some of the basic laws of physics doesn't hurt. Unfortunately, I skipped school that day and didn't learn my physics, so I had to learn how to get a great acoustic guitar sound one mistake at a time. After making those mistakes, I sat down and formulated these laws which are considered to be the Ten Commandments of recording the acoustic guitar (by me anyway).

For the sake of argument I'm going to assume that if you're reading this, you own a 4 track, or an 8 track recorder, a fairly small console, some basic outboard equipment, and you don't own any $2,000 microphones. If you own a 13 foot long console and a 48 track digital machine, you can skip this because you probably know what I'm about to tell you.

Rule #1 A condenser mic will almost always sound better than a dynamic mic for acoustic guitars. There are several condenser mics that are currently on the market in the $350 price range that sound great on acoustics.

Rule #2 New strings will always sound better for recording than old.

Rule #3 Skinny strings sound brighter than fat ones (can you believe I get paid to write crap like this?!)

Rule #4 The sound you get has a great deal to do with the dynamics of the player.

Rule #5 Get down on your knees and position your ear as if it were the microphone while somebody else is playing the guitar. Move your ear around to find "sweet spots". You'll learn more from that, than you will by reading this. Don't try it with an electric guitar!

Rule #6 If you have somebody that is assisting you on the session, have them move the mic around what you think will be the sweet spot while the player is practicing the part he or she is about to lay down. Have your assistant wear headphones so you can communicate with him or her while the moving of the mic is taking place.

Rule #7 A limiter/compressor will almost always help you get a better sound.

Rule #8 Don't believe everything you read. I only have seven commandments, not ten.

Let's get right to it. If the sound you want to get is a country/pop, strummed sound similar to the Eagles "Lyin' Eyes", here's the formula: Place the microphone about 6 to 8 inches from the guitar's sound hole, but angle the mic toward the area where the fretboard and the sound hole meet. If you point the mic directly into the sound hole, it will be very full - probably much too full, and very boomy. Use a compressor/limiter to knock down any peaks (3:1 ratio), and set the threshold a little lower to give it a slightly "squashed" or tighter sound. Set the threshold higher to just limit the peaks and give a more open sound. You may need to eq out some boominess. If so, try rolling off some bottom (100Hz), or cutting a couple of db at 300Hz. To add some "silk" on the top end, try something in the 8-10K range, but be careful, too much will add noise to the track. Positioning the mic so it angles toward the pick will give more attack - less sweetness.

For that John Mellencamp sound, try medium gauge strings, a little more compression, and try adding a little eq around the mids - lets say 700Hz to 1.2KHz. That will give you a sound that is a little more "woodsy" (a highly technical term).

Melissa Etheridge? Try this on for size. Use a guitar with a built-in pick up and a microphone to boot. You will undoubtedly get some phase anomalies, but that's part of the sound. Experiment with moving the mic closer and farther. That will affect the phase relationship of the two sound sources. Sooner or later, you'll hit on something that will put a smile on your face. You can pan the two signals left and right to get a broad stereo sound, but make sure that if you check the sound in mono, that the signal remains fairly well intact.

Gut string or classical guitar? Piece of cake. Once again, use a condenser mic, but place it about ten inches away from the guitar. As a matter of fact, try placing it about 3 to 4 inches up the neck, but aim it at the players picking fingers. This angle will reduce boominess by virtue of the mic's cardioid polar pattern producing a natural roll off when it's aimed off-axis, while simultaneously delivering the attack of the fingers. Try and say that three times in a row! The added distance will pick up some of the guitar body's resonance. A compressor/limiter is a must for this case because of unexpected peaks. A 4:1 ratio is a good place to start, but set the threshold fairly high so that the most of the guitar's natural dynamics are left intact.

When mixing acoustic guitars for rock or alternative tracks, you will usually have an electric guitar or two in the track as well. My personal preference is to pan the acoustic and electric across from each other. Send one full left, and the other full right. You'll quickly discover that the electric will overpower the acoustic and the most effective way to even them out is to compress the acoustic a little bit more than what you may have already done going to tape so you can bring the acoustic's level up high enough to compete with the electric.

Another simple but effective trick is to have the acoustic and electric guitars play parts that counter each other rhythmically (giving them each their own space), and have them each play in a different octave. That will give you a full sounding track that remains open and airy at the same time. You can also make an acoustic guitar sound bigger or more rock-like by panning the original to one side and a delayed signal (short delays are best) of the same guitar to the other side.That effect can be taken one step further by using the pitch change option on your delay to "de-tune" one of the guitars just a pinch (one cent is a good place to start). The delay will provide the brain with the psychoacoustic information it needs to perceive the guitar as bigger, while the pitch change will make it appear "fatter."


Recording Bass Guitar

Using a direct box is the most common way to record a bass. Coming out of the direct box into the console's preamp or an outboard preamp will give you the ability to get the appropriate amount of gain. For a cleaner, more direct route, try going into, then out of an outboard preamp, directly into your tape machine input on the appropriate track.

Most engineers use a limiter/compressor on the bass. It gives the bass a fatter sound by controlling peaks so that all the notes coming out of the bass have roughly the same level. Many engineers prefer to use a tube limiter such as a UREI LA-2A to get the fattest and warmest sound possible. It's an expensive piece of gear, but it works great. Most engineers set the threshold and ratio knobs so that the bass signal is always getting "squashed" by 2 to 5 dbs. A typical "ratio" setting is 3:1, meaning that for every 3 db of peak signal over the threshold, the limiter will only output 1 db.

For a more punchy bass sound, set the threshold so that the signal is getting hammered, and when soloed, it sounds obviously squashed. When in the context of the entire track, the squashed sound will tend to be less obvious, while making the bass much more apparent.

Other limiters that are often used include the UREI 1176 (also not cheap), and the DBX 160 (fairly inexpensive). The 1176 is famous for its wide range of control on the attack and release, as well as its "classic" sound. The DBX 160 is a favorite of engineers looking to get a snappy, poppy bass sound often used on dance records.

The DBX 160 X (notice the X) is also a good inexpensive limiter for bass recording. It combines the range of controls of the 1176 with the fast attack and release times of the DBX 160.

EQing a bass for recording is usually pretty straight ahead. Add a little bit @ 100Hz to make the bottom fatter. Try 60Hz if you want to go even lower and fatter, although most car radios won't do a great job of reproducing 60Hz. If you're recording in a digital environment, it's always a plus to use a tube equalizer such as a Pultec to warm up the sound. The natural distortion caused by the tubes tends to add desirable harmonics to the bass signal.

To get more "bite" from your bass, try adding a couple of dbs @ 2.5Khz. When recording a bass, it's always good to be aware of the octave that the part is being played in. The octave may dictate where your most effective eq points are.

Some people prefer to record a mixed signal that comes from a direct signal as well as using the sound coming from a bass amplifier. A more advanced engineer might typically combine or mult the signals to just one track of tape. For a less experienced engineer, it might be a good idea to record the two signals to two distinct tracks, then combine them at a latter time. It's extremely important to remember that when recording the same signal from two sources that you are likely to encounter phase anomalies, meaning that the two signals will arrive at slightly different times. The result will often be comb filtering which will make some frequencies less audible the others. The bottom end is usually the first thing to disappear. This can be fixed by engaging the phase switch on the console, moving the mic closer to the bass amp's speaker, or using a very short delay on the direct signal so that it hits the console or tape machine at the same time as the later, amp/mic signal. This is a pretty tricky endeavor, and not recommended for novices.

When using a mic on a bass cabinet, it is usually desirable to try a condenser mic that is well-known for its bottom end, and to place it a foot or two back from the amp's grill. The reason; bass notes have long waveform, and require some air to fully manifest themselves. Rule of thumb, the closer your mic is to the amp, the more attack and edge you will hear. Farther away will give you more bottom end.


Condenser/Dynamic Microphones

In the simplest of terms, a dynamic microphone is basically an iron core surrounded by a coil of copper wire much like an electromagnet. When sound waves hit the core and move it, it causes the core to move within the coil which generates electrical impulses that become translated into sound when they go through a mic preamp.

A condenser mic (or electret condenser) is essentially two extremely thin, metal (typically gold) partical-coated mylar membranes which are separated by a very thin insulating layer of air. One side is positively charged, the other is negatively charged. When sound waves, or sound pressure hits the "diaphragm," it creates electrical impulses that become translated into sound when they go through a mic preamp.

Generally speaking, dynamic mics are less expensive, are less delicate, handle extreme sound pressure levels better than condenser mics, but don't sound as good as condenser mics. There are many situations in which a dynamic mic is the better choice though. Many engineers use them on drums of all types. They are very well-suited for applications where high sound pressure levels are anticipated.

Condenser mics are generally thought to be richer sounding, with more "detail." But while they may sound better, they are also more sensitive to high sound pressure levels, and somewhat prone to distortion if exposed to too much level. Condenser mics often have variable pattern switches on them, allowing engineers to choose a cardioid pattern.

A polar pattern is the pattern from which a microphone picks up the incoming sound. There are several types of polar patterns including, omni, cardioid, hyper-cardioid, and figure 8.

Omni is omni-directional, meaning the mic picks up sound equally well from all directions.

Cardioid is a microphone pick-up pattern that for all practical purposes resembles a heart in its shape. Draw a heart, then round off the bottom point. Now imagine that the notch in the top of the heart is located at the mic's capsule. What that means is that the mic will pick up with the most level and best frequency response from the front. The sides of the pattern will give decreased level and frequency response, and the back (the notch) will give minimal pick-up and frequency response. This pattern is most useful when you have multiple instruments in a room, and you are trying to reduce the amount of "bleed" from one instrument to others.

Hyper-cardioid is very much like cardioid, but with a tighter pattern, thus eliminating even more bleed from other instruments.

Figure 8 means that the mic picks up from two sides. A practical use would be to place a mic in figure 8 between a tom-tom and the cymbal that is above it. In the figure 8 pattern, you would pick up sound from the drum and the cymbal, but not from the tom-tom next to the one you want to pick up, nor from any other instruments off to the sides.


Pay less for a Popless
Contributed By dB Masters

Music stores can charge a fortune for a simple popless screen that can be built for next to nothing.

Have you ever seen one of those screens that pro studios use in front of the vocal microphones? Ya know those things that most people think are spit guards? Well. they're not...

Actually those unit are usually referred to as a "Popless". What they do is help remove, or at least minimize the "pop" that some people's voices introduce to a microphone when singing words that start with a "P" or a similarly powerful sound like that.

What it does, in effect, is filter some of the air from the voice so it doesn't all hit the microphone as hard as when it left the mouth. It sort of "softens" the air flow, but doesn't distort or change the personality of the voice itself.

Have you ever seen the price for these units?!?!?! Music stores and pro audio stores sometimes charge a lot of money for these silly little things, and they can be built for nearly nothing if you know where to go and what to buy.

Just find your local craft store and ask someone where they keep their needlepoint supplies. In that section you will find small, wooden frames that come in pairs, one fits inside of the other and the outside frame can be tightened against the inside frame. This piece is the basic component of your Popless.

After getting that, all you need is some thin nylon material like the stuff women's leg nylons are made from, heck you can even cut up a pair of your mom's, girlfriend's or wives old nylons and use that (please ask them first though, and make sure they take them off before cutting :-).

Take the two wooden rings apart and stretch the nylon over the smaller ring (one or two layers should be plenty) and then tighten the larger ring around the smaller ring with the nylon between them making sure the nylon is stretched tight (that can be a trick).

There ya go, your popless is done...the only thing left is mounting it in from of the mic. This is where the store bought units are cool cuz they have a gooseneck or something similar to attach to the mic stand. However, I have sometimes just taped the home-made popless to a second mic stand and placed it in front of the mic and it works great, obviously it doesn't look the prettiest, but it works, and that is the key in the world of Do-It-Yourself, right?


Making a Portable Isolation Booth

Space is always limited in the typical bedroom studio, so it's usually impossible to build a vocal isolation booth into a personal studio. Fortunately, you can make a portable iso booth that can be set up when needed and broken down for easy storage when the session is over.

First, get three unfinished sliding closet doors. The doors are lightweight and hollow on the inside, so they're easy to work with.
Then hinge the three doors together with hinge pins.
To ensure the sound of the booth is conducive to cutting vocals, it's essential you attach absorptive foam on the inside of each door to help diminish sibilance and high-frequency reflections.

If you feel it would help the performer to have visual cues, you can easily cut an eye slot into the door.
Position the three-sided booth in a corner of the room to form a five-sided area.
This configuration minimizes the possibility of reflections from parallel walls.

You should also hang shipping mats on the back wall to help absorb the lower frequencies of the voice that occur at around 200 Hz or
300 Hz. Again, the use of absorptive materials is critical because you want this area to be as nonreflective, dead, and anechoic of
an environment as possible.

When you're done, you just pull the hinge pins, break the booth down into pieces, and store the unit away.


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