header image header image

Sound Advice

The Art Of Recording Live Sound by David Norman

October 18th, 2002

If you’re in the process of recording your live show to get those better bookings, do a live CD or to critique your performance, here are some suggestions to make your life a little easier. This article will deal with recording from your live console straight to a DAT machine. With any recording worth making, it’s important to make time for experimentation.

When you decide which of your venues that you’ll be recording at, it’s always a good idea and call the in-house sound engineer and let him/her know of your plans. They’ll most likely have suggestions or feedback to make your life easier before you even walk in the door.

Make sure to fax ahead of time your stage plot and input chart so the sound crew will know what to expect. On your stage plot, show the locations on the stage of the band gear, wedges and the band members’ names to expedite things. It’s also a good idea to show the location of AC drops for power. On your input chart, include your microphone stand and microphone type (plus alternatives). Each channel of your input list should also indicate what type of insert (gate, compressor, etc.) that you would like. Once on site, and you have your gear set up, here are some suggestions to make the best recording possible. Have shock-mounts on all of your vocal mics and use rugs on stages to keep the sound of people walking back and forth down and eliminating that nasty stage rumble. You’d be surprised at how you can pick up from people walking back and forth across the stage.

Another great suggestion that I’ve found is to have Plexiglas placed around the drum kit. This brings your entire stage volume down, prevents leakage of the drums into your vocal mics and makes for a better recording overall. For drums, I try to always use Drum Claws on toms. This is great for keeping the mics in place and not having to worry about someone accidentally knocking into one of your mic stands.

David Norman has mixed such acts as The Neville Brothers featuring Aaron Neville, Peabo Bryson, Michael Hedges, Lisa Germano, Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles), Diana King and many others. He can be reached online at David994@aol.com.

Setting Up the Digital Home Studio by Alister Sutherland

October 18th, 2002

So, you’re finally gonna ditch that smelly old 4 track cassette recorder (or whatever you currently use) and plunge headlong into a digital recording environment. Should be easy, right? Just spend the bucks to get the right system, hook it all up and go. The good news is this is basically right. There are, however, some differences in techniques from analog when recording digitally, some of which I’ll cover here.

The most essential part is right at the beginning, choosing the system that best suits your needs and budget. These days there seems to be reams of digital systems out there. If you want to make great sounding material and get the most out of what you buy, there are some criteria I would recommend as required features.

One is that the system does not automatically compress the audio files (this is not like dynamic audio compression, but rather a way of reducing the large size of audio files by throwing away part of them). Some ‘porta-studio’ like disk -based systems do this and they are therefore unsuitable for making CD quality recordings.

Another is that the system be able to record at 16 bit, 44.1kHz or higher and be expandable. The number of channels and tracks you can record and playback will depend on the system and your budget, but I would suggest no fewer than 4 ins and outs (I/O) and at least 8 simultaneous tracks of playback. By the way, in a hard disk recorder (HDR), unlike analog, the number of physical I/O’s (things you plug into) have nothing to do with the number of tracks you can play. A system could have only stereo out but play back 30 or more stereo tracks. Of course, the number of inputs you have will limit the number of simultaneous tracks you can record.

Alister Sutherland is a Toronto-based musician, producer, entrepreneur and educator. A partner in CreamWare US Inc., a company that designs and manufactures computer-based digital audio workstations, he is an expert with computers, music and technologies.

Put Analog Back In The Mix by George Graves

October 18th, 2002

If you want my advice, with all the available digital technology you still can’t beat the sound of a good analog mixdown. I can answer why in two ways. The first being rather technical is that with analog you get a full sine wave as opposed to the jagged sampled sine wave you get with digital. The effect on your sound can be dramatic. With an analog mixdown, you have a much wider, deeper sound with greater stereo imaging.

Which leads me to my second point: an analog mixdown has a texture that digital cannot produce. And, simply put, to my ears it sounds better … that’s it. No more explanation needed.

Mixing engineers working in the analog domain should not forget the mastering engineers (well, they shouldn’t regardless what they do) so they should put 30 seconds of the following tones: 1 kHz, 10 kHz, 15 kHz (if available) 40 Hz (if available) and 100 Hz. This is so the mastering engineer can align their tape machines to the mix tape. The recommended recording level (recording fluxivity) is 250 nWb/m.

So when planning your mix, call around to see if you can get your hands on an analog mixdown machine. It may take some time, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

George Graves is Chief Mastering Engineer at the Lacquer Channel in Toronto, ON.

Mixing For Television by David Norman

October 18th, 2002

Mixing a musician for live television can be quite different than mixing for a concert. I’ve done the David Letterman show (twice), The Gordon Elliot Show, The Conan O’Brien show and the Jay Leno show. I’ve also advanced Sesame Street and other shows.

The best thing is to make sure for the particular song that the group will be playing on TV, is to get the studio an ACCURATE input list, stage plot and a tape of just that song. Many touring acts send their usual touring list not realizing that one person may or may not be singing, or playing several keyboards or whatever. Anything the studio doesn’t have to wire or set up is more time for your setup, soundcheck and camera blocks.

As far as mic bleed, usually the monitor mixer and the broadcast engineer work together to keep the stage volume down so the broadcast mix will come out silky smooth. For most of the acts that I’ve done on television, I’ve also made sure that there is plexiglass around the drums to keep the stage volume and mic bleed down even more.

Last, but not least. Most of the television studios are kept cool to cold so that the host doesn’t sweat on TV (and to keep the audience alert), so remember that no matter what time of year it is to bring a jacket!

David Norman has mixed such acts as The Neville Brothers featuring Aaron Neville, Peabo Bryson, Michael Hedges, Lisa Germano, Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles), Diana King and many others. He can be reached online at David994@aol.com

Organizational Tips For The MIDI Composer by Amin Bhatia

October 18th, 2002

Spend at least a day on finding and organizing your sounds, before you start writing, no matter how rushed the project or demo deadline is. By defining your virtual band or orchestra beforehand, you’ll write more coherently because you’ll know who your players are. It also reduces those futile trips to the editor/librarian in the middle of your writing we all know that never works!

As the one-man composer/engineer generation continues, you should never underestimate the value of another set of ears. Even though budgets may be tight, having another producer/engineer on your project, even if it’s only at the mastering stage, is still worth the dough.

Amin Bhatia – film composer, Bhatia Music.

What Type Of Tape Should Be Used For Duplication? by Bud Bremner

October 18th, 2002

This depends largely on the character and purpose of the project. A children’s tape is usually (but not always) normal bias without noise reduction. Why? Normal bias tape is cheaper to make and cheaper to sell. Besides, does your child’s Fisher Price cassette player have noise reduction?

We’ve found that tapes like BASF LHD normal bias duplicating tape gave us a very natural-sounding cassette – closer to the master than chrome tape, but chrome has more ‘sparkle’ to it; so if your master is a little dull, then chrome might be for you. Also, chrome is more forgiving. It’s harder to distort, so it handles dynamic signals better than normal bias. Chrome has proven to have a lower noise floor than normal bias, but the warmth of the normal is real nice.

Bud Bremner owns and operates Coastal Mastering in Vancouver, BC.

Contact

4056 Dorchester Rd., #202,Niagara Falls, ON
Canada L2E 6M9 Phone: 905-374-8878
FAX: 888-665-1307 mail@nor.com
Web Site Produced by NWC