03
Dec
08

Hiatus!

Hi all who’ve read my humble blog and have disappointed to find there hasn’t been updated content in OVER A YEAR! That may be the most frustrating thing on the ‘internets’ (per Stephen Colbert) to encounter.

 

Rest assured, I will be bringing you really, really, ridiculously good audio production content.

 

Stay tuned.

 

-J

21
Nov
07

Top 5 Mastering Tips

For those of you who don’t know, mastering is the final step in the music production stage. You have recording, editing, mixing, and mastering is last. Honestly, a lot of people can go without it and still have decent sounding production. BUT, mastering when done correctly, can be exactly what’s needed to add that ‘commercial sound’ to your music.

This post will not go over exact processes and steps to master your tracks. Surprised? Don’t be. Mastering is intuitive. There are no set rules for mastering. Anyone who tells you otherwise and says, “Always EQ first, man! Boost the 5K frequencies, then put some compression on there with a 4:1 ratio, etc, etc”, DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM. You make your own rules on mastering. Every song is unique and needs certain things done to them to make them better. It will not be the same for a every song.

Also, you don’t necessarily need to fork over a grand to get your tracks mastered. You can do this from home. If you do it yourself, of course, your end product will not sound as good as a seasoned veteran’s would. But, you can still get some decent results. I use Sound Forge 9 and IzoTope’s Ozone, as well as some other high-quality compressors, limiters, etc. That’s all I need.

1. LISTEN

This is the most important thing to remember when mastering. You would think this would go without saying but you’d be surprised how many don’t REALLY listen. Like I mentioned earlier, there are no rules in mastering. Listen. YOU decide what sounds best and what should be done. You can define mastering as what makes a good-sounding mixed-down track sound BETTER. That’s it. There are many things you can do to improve the sound. EQ, compression, limiting, de-essing, ‘sonic maximizing’, dynamics, stereo imaging…the list could go on. But YOU decide what you use on any given track and in what order.

2. BE PATIENT

If you’re thinking you can sit down and master a track in half an hour, think again. Mastering takes time. You have to experiment. This could be related to the first tip of listening. If you truly listen, you going to be sitting and staring at your computer screen for hour. The reason for that is because if you really listen, you’re going to find things in your mix that you don’t like and you’re going to want to fix by any means necessary.

Only by experience can the mastering process go at a relatively quick pace. A veteran will know exactly what needs to change in a track and knows exactly how to fix it. Even then, mastering engineers that’ve been doing their thing for years know the importance of being patient.

Which brings us to our next tip….

3. EXPERIENCE

The art of mastering can’t be learned in a day. It also cannot be learned from a book. Indeed, you can get an idea of what mastering IS from a book, but to truly learn the art of it you need to do it yourself and for a long time.

Sit down at your computer and try it yourself. Most DAW’s come with built-in effects that can be used for mastering purposes. If you have a dedicated sound editor like Sound Forge, perfect. Start experimenting with your latest musical creation. Find out ways to make it sound better. Think the loud parts are too loud and soft parts too soft? Use compression. Does the mix sound a bit muddy? Do some rolling-off of some of the low frequencies (not much though). Experiment with the ‘sonic maximizers’ and ‘loudness maximizers’ and whatever else you can think of.

Only by doing it yourself will you learn to do it correctly. If you do begin to master your own tracks, the training you get will effect all other aspects of your production as well. Mastering trains your ear. By training your ear in this manner, your recordings will sound better from start to finish because you know exactly what you want to hear and know exactly how to accomplish that.

4. KNOW YOUR GEAR

Pretty self-explanatory. If you know your gear inside and out, you know exactly what needs to be tweaked in the mastering process in order to obtain the sound you’re hearing in your head. If your track gets too loud and you don’t know how to use your limiter, and significantly decreases your productivity and efficiency when you’re trying to learn how to use it. The same thing applies to any hardware or plug-ins you own. Know your equipment better than they know themselves (figuratively speaking).

5. RELY ON OUTSIDE SOURCES

This covers a couple different things.

  • If it’s YOUR music you’re mastering, listen to your favorite bands’ latest album. Basically, get an idea IN YOUR HEAD of what your music should sound like based off of someone else’s sound, but you need to make it unique. Do not mimic or copy someone else. That’s not true creativity.
  • If you are mastering a client’s tracks, communicate with them to get a vision for the end result. This is something so many people forget. If you don’t get an idea of what the CLIENT wants, you end up making something YOU want, and the client will not truly be happy. If you want success in your endeavors, if you want to stand out from the rest, and if you want to make an impact on the music industry in your area, TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS. You know the saying ‘customers first’? It’s still true in the music business. It’s all about the customers. Give them what they want, and you’ll be a success.

Need your tracks mastered? Email Jason with Crave Audio at jasonbnorth@hotmail.com.

13
Nov
07

Digital Redux!

If you’re like me, you’re picky about what sounds you incorporate into your projects. I need the highest-quality, freshest sounding samples out there in order to produce the best possible music.

Digital Redux is one such company that provides what I need and more. A relatively young company (Founded in May ’07), Digital Redux produces content that older companies drool at.

DR has begun to distribute 5 different sample libraries. Of course, more will be on the way but these libraries pack a powerful punch! The website has free downloads to give you a taste of what they offer, and also tech talk, links, support, etc. Each library is 40 bucks. Not bad at all.

Click here to check it out. Again, it can be difficult to find great content and the guys at Digital Redux are making it easy. Support them and buy their stuff so they can keep the content coming.

09
Nov
07

(Almost) Everything You Need to Know About EQ

by Devin Devore

Equalization can be the most misused tool in the recording world. It is easy to make a good recording sound like trash if the engineer doesn’t know what they’re doing with this wonderful tool. On the flipside – EQ, if properly utilized, can transform a good recording into a great one. Notice I said you have to START with a good recording first. Basic miking and other techniques should be learned first in order to make this possible, but that’s a whole other subject.

The major purpose of equalization is to make each instrument and vocal in your musical creation have it’s place in your mix by cutting and boosting certain frequencies. The following will teach you that.

Vocals

Roughly speaking, the speech spectrum may be divided into three main frequency bands corresponding to the speech components known as fundamentals, vowels, and consonants. Speech fundamentals occur over a fairly limited range between about 125Hz and 250Hz. The fundamental region is important in that it allows us to tell who is speaking, and its clear transmission is therefore essential as far as voice quality is concerned.


Vowels essentially contain the maximum energy and power of the voice, occurring over the range of 350Hz to 2000Hz. Consonants occurring over the range of 1500Hz to 4000Hz contain little energy but are essential to intelligibility. For example, the frequency range from 63 to 500Hz carries 60% of the power of the voice and yet contributes only 5% to the intelligibility. The 500Hz to 1KHz region produces 35% of the intelligibility, while the range from 1 to 8KHz produces just 5% of the power but 60% of the intelligibility. By rolling off the low frequencies and accentuating the range from 1 to 5KHz, the intelligibility and clarity can be improved. Here are some of the effect EQ can have in regards to intelligibility. Boosting the low frequencies from 100 to 250Hz makes a vocal boomy or chesty. A cut in the 150 to 500Hz area will make it boxy, hollow, or tube like. Dips around 500 to 1Khz produce hardness, while peaks about 1 and 3Khz produce a hard metallic nasal quality. Dips around 2 to 5KHz reduce intelligibility and make vocals woolly and lifeless. Peaks in the 4 to 10KHz produce sibilance and a gritty quality.

Effects of Equalization on Vocals

For the best control over any audio signal, fully parametric EQ’s are the best way to go.

  • 80 to 125 – Sense of power in some outstanding bass singers
  • 160 to 250 – Voice fundamentals
  • 315 to 500 – Important to voice quality
  • 630 to 1K - Important for a natural sound. Too much boost in the 315 to 1K range produces a honky, telephone-like quality.
  • 1.25 to 4K / 5 to 8K – Accentuation of vocals

Important to vocal intelligibility. Too much boost between 2 and 4KHz can mask certain vocal sounds such as ‘m’, ‘b’, ‘v’. Too much boost between 1 and 4KHz can produce ‘listening fatigue’. Vocals can be highlighted at the 3KHz area and at the same time dipping the instruments at the same frequency. Accentuation of vocals: The range from 1.25 to 8K governs the clarity of vocals. Too much in the area of 5 to 16K can cause sibilance.

Instruments

Miking instruments is an art … and equalizers can often times be used to help an engineer get the sound he is looking for. As previously stated, a good initial recording is needed in order to make great music. EQ can make it even better. Many instruments have complex sounds with radiating patterns that make it almost impossible to capture when close miking. An equalizer can compensate for these imbalances by accenting some frequencies and rolling off others. The goal is to capture the sounds as natural as possible and use equalizers to straighten out any non-linear qualities to the tones. Clarity of many instruments can be improved by boosting their harmonics. In fact, the ear in many cases actually fills in hard-to-hear fundamental notes of sounds, provided the harmonics are clear. Drums are one instrument that can be effectively lifted and cleaned up simply by rolling off the bass giving way to more harmonic tones. Here are a few ideas on what different frequencies do to sounds and their effects on our ears.

  • 31Hz to 50Hz – These frequencies give music a sense of power. If over emphasized they can make things muddy and dull. Will also cloudy up some harmonic content
  • 80Hz to 125Hz – Too much in this area produces excessive ‘boom’
  • 160Hz to 250Hz – This is the problem area of a lot of mixes. Too much of this area can take away from the power of a mix but is still needed for warmth. 160Hz is a pet-peeve frequency of mine. Also, the fundamental of bass guitar and other bass instruments sit here.
  • 300Hz to 500Hz – Fundamentals of string and percussion instruments
  • 400Hz to 1K – Fundamentals and harmonics of strings, keyboards and percussion. This is probably the most important area when trying to control or shape to a natural sound. The ‘voice’ of an instrument is in the mids. Too much in this area can make instruments sound horn-like
  • 800Hz to 4K - This is a good range to accentuate instruments or warm them up. Too much in this area can produce ‘listening fatigue’. Boosts in the 1K to 2K range can make instruments sound tinny
  • 4K to 10K – Accentuation of percussion, cymbals, and snare drum. Playing with 5K makes the overall sound more distant or transparent
  • 8K to 20K – This area is often what defines the quality of a recording or mix. This area can also help define depth and ‘air’ to mix. Too much can take away from the natural sense of a mix by becoming shrill and brittle.

Here are a few other pin point frequencies to start with for different instruments. In a live sound situation, I might event pre set the console’s eq to these frequencies to help save time once the sound check is under way. These aren’t the answers to everything… just a place to start at.

Kick Drum:

Besides the usual cuts in the 200Hz to 400 area, some tighter Q cuts at 160Hz, 800Hz and 1.3k may help. The point of these cuts makes for space for the fundamental tones of a bass guitar or stand up. I have also found a high pass filter at 50Hz will help tighten up the kick along with giving your compressor a signal it can deal with musically. 5K to 7K for snap.

Snare Drum:

The snare drum is an instrument that can really be clouded by having too much low end. Frequencies under about 150Hz are really un-usable for modern mixing styles. I would suggest a high pass filter in this case. Most snares are out front enough so a few cuts might be all that is needed. I like to start with 400Hz, 800Hz, and some 1.3K. This are just frequencies to play with. Doesn’t mean you will use all. If the snare is too transparent in the mix but I like the level it is at, a cut at 5K can give it a little more distance and that might mean a little boost at 10K to brighten it up.

High Hats:

High hats have very little low end information. I high pass at 200Hz can clean up a lot of un-usable mud in regards to mic bleed. The mid tones are the most important to a high hat. This will mean the 400Hz to 1K area but I’ve found the 600Hz to 800Hz area to be the most effective. To brighten up high hats, a shelving filter at 12.5K does nicely.

Toms and Floor Toms:

Again, the focus here is control. Most toms could use a cut in the 300Hz to 800Hz area. And there is nothing real usable under 100Hz for a tom… unless you are going for a special effect. Too much low end cloud up harmonics and the natural tones of the instrument. Think color not big low end.

Over Heads:

In my opinion, drum over heads are the most important mics on a drum kit. They are the ones that really define the sound of the drums. That also give the kit some ambience and space. These mics usually need a cut in the 400Hz area and can use a good rolling off at about 150Hz. Again, they are not used for power…. these mics ‘are’ the color of your drum sound. Roll off anything that will mask harmonic content or make your drums sound dull. Cuts at 800Hz can bring more focus to these mics and a little boost of a shelving filter at 12.5K can bring some air to the tones as well.

Bass Guitar:

Bass guitar puts out all the frequencies that you really don’t want on every other instrument. The clarity of bass is defined a lot at 800Hz. Too much low end can mask the clarity of a bass line. I’ve heard other say that the best way to shape the bass tone is to roll off everything below 150Hz, mold the mids into the tone you are looking for, then slowly roll the low end back in until the power and body is there you are looking for. If the bass isn’t defined enough, there is probably too much low end and not enough mid range clarity. Think of sounds in a linear fashion, like on a graph. If there is too much bass and no clarity, you would see a bump in the low end masking the top end. The use of EQ can fix those abnormalities.

Guitar / piano / etc.:

These instruments all have fundamentals in the mid range. Rolling off low end that is not needed or usable is a good idea. Even if you feel you can’t really hear the low end, it still is doing something to the mix. Low end on these instruments give what I call support. The tone is in the mids. 400Hz and 800Hz are usually a point of interest as are the upper mids or 1K to 5K. Anything above that just adds brightness. Remember to look at perspective though. Is a kick brighter than a vocal? Is a piano bright than a vocal? Is a cymbal brighter than a vocal?

In Closing

As previously stated, equalizers are largely misused. By understanding equalizers better, an engineer can control and get the results he or she is looking for. The key to EQ’ing is knowing how to get the results you are looking for. Also, knowing if its a mic character or mic placement problem. EQ can’t fix everything. It can only change what signal its working with. Here’s a tip: When you hear something in your drum sound that shouldn’t be there (this is most prevalent in the snare and toms because they can have some awful sounding overtones), sweep a narrow boost using a parametric-type EQ til the sound you want to get rid of stands out the most in the overall sound. From there, just cut the frequency. Again, the width of your cut should be as narrow as possible in order to keep the remaining frequencies as unaffected as possible. Equalizers should (in general) be used to cut frequencies in instruments that should not be there, not boost what’s not there in the first place.

07
Nov
07

Finding Great Music at Fuzz

Found a great resource for record labels. Fuzz.com connects “people who create and love music”.

Using Fuzz, great indie bands can post and promote their great music. Fuzz gets more involved in the music community than any other site I’ve seen. It has “featured” sections for Indie Labels, Tours, and other events.

It’s a fantastic tool for both labels and bands alike.

Go here to experience the Fuzz. Now.

07
Nov
07

Rolling Stone is now FREE

With the continuing advancement of the internet and it’s domination of people’s lives, Rolling Stone Magazine has now digitized it’s publication.

No joke. Read about it here at trendhunter.com. Look at the magazine here.

-J

29
Oct
07

SSL’s AWS900

Found a great video about the new Sonic State Logic Analog/Digital Console at recordbetteraudio.com. Click here to view it.

The AWS 900 is a full-fledged audio workstation that also is fully compatible with your DAW. It can control any DAW that uses HUI protocol (Pro Tools, Logic, Nuendo, etc). It has motorized faders, transport controls and literally everything else you need to operate your DAW without a mouse or keyboard. This is definitely on my wish list.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.