header image header image

Sound Advice

Keep That Mix Under Control by Rob Porter

July 18th, 2002

When mixing, combining different treatments of the same track gives more control. I often split my snare track to two channels – one channel slightly gated (3-10 dB attenuation – long decay) resulting in a natural sounding drum which feeds reverbs nicely. The second channel I very tightly gate (60 dB attenuation – short decay) followed by a dbx 160 compressor (4:1 ratio 8-10 dB gain reductino) with lots of 60 Hz EQ added. I use channel two dial in the impact portion of the sound so that the drum still sounds BIG on small speakers or radio.

Rob Porter – Engineer, Mushroom Studios, Vancouver, BC (Barney Bentall & The Legendary, Love & Sass, Lava Hay, Mae Moore)

Be Prepared! by David Mack

July 18th, 2002

If you are contracted to compose a score for acoustic instruments, be prepared! Before you enter the recording studio, keep in mind that time spent in the studio will be a great deal of money. To prepare for the recording date make sure your scores are coherent both to yourself and to someone who may be assisting you. Don’t get caught off-guard with the wrong transpositions, unplayable parts, i.e. ranges, etc., and unreadable parts. Studio musicians are great sight readers and to maximize your hard work and their talents, take the time to make each part crystal clear. Plan. Highly complex rhythmic features and electrifying runs may take more time to sort out in the rehearsal than they contribute to the overall effect. Use them, but make sure they work!

The film cue may end up being a wonderful lconcert piece but risks being overwritten for the intent of the cue. Before writing, examine what each cue requires, and save your resources until you really need them!

David Mack – Composer of film and concert music; graduate of the University of Southern California’s Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television in Los Angeles.

Performance First by Bob Doidge

July 18th, 2002

Fabulous sounds are never a substitute for great performance. More and more, I find that the right mic, in the right place, with mild EQ and compression ends up the favoured sound by both the artist and myself. When I work too long on a sound, I usually end up with a tired performer (and a tired me).

Proudly announcing to all involved, the model numbers of six pieces of gear in the chain will surely impress everyone in the control room, but when I A/B to the original simple set-up (which I’ve held), the first usually wins. There are exceptions to this rule, but I feel that good performance only lasts so long and I prefer to have it on tape, not lost over discussion about things that might not matter to the people who buy records.

Performance first!

Bob Doidge – Producer/Engineer (Cowboy Junkies, Crash Test Dummies, Daniel Lanois, Jane Child, Prairie Oyster, Sherry Kean, U2)

Emulating Analog Recorded Drums by Barry Lubotta

July 18th, 2002

“Many engineers still prefer the warmth of analog recorded drums over those digitally recorded, particularly kick and snare. Those engineers lucky enough to have access to multitracks of both formats frequently capture the drums on analog tape, and quickly bounce them over to a digital domain and have access to a three head, two-track analog machine, can often emulate the above process, even without a synchronizer.

While tracking the entire drum kit digitally, run a pair of direct outs from the kick and snare channels on your console to the inputs of your two-track, simultaneously returning the outputs onto two free digital tracks. The result will be two analog sounding drum tracks that are between 10 and 60 milliseconds behind the beat of all your other tracks – the delay occurring because of the lag between the record and repro heads on your two-track. Now record all overdubs to the original digital tracks, ignoring the analog tracks until mixdown time.

The Akai A-DAM digital recorder has a handy ‘variable track delay’ feature whereby each track can be delayed up to 65 milliseconds during playback, while hard disk recorders and some other tape based digital multitracks are even more flexible in their time shifting capabilities. Listening to both the digital and analog kick drum only, delay the digital kick track so that it is exactly in time with the analog kick.

Next, offset all other tracks by the same amount and you’re left with two analog tracks recorded onto a digital multitrack that are in time with the rest of the drums as well as all your overdubs. Now you can mute or erase the original digital kick and snare for further over-dubs, or combine them with the two analog tracks for and even fatter sound. You can do the same trick with sequenced drums even easier by offsetting the computer generated drums (forward, ahead of the beat) by just the right number of milliseconds so that the sounds coming off the repro heads of your two-track analog machine mesh perfectly into the tune. No further adjustment would be necessary.”

Barry Lubotta – owner

Recording Horns by Robert DiGioia

July 18th, 2002

“When recording horns I feel that the best results are achieved by placing the horn section around one mic which has been set on an omni pattern. If it is a fragile condenser mic it is a very good idea to start with a 10 or 20 dB pad on the mic itself. As the players warm up, a good horn section will know how to balance themselves around the mic. The engineer can also assist on this from the control room based on what is heard. If you think you’ll want to double the horns, sometimes it is a good idea to do it as you go. This will ensure a tighter double especially if it is a difficult chart.”

The Artist Comes First by Greg English

July 18th, 2002

“The main function of a studio owner is first and foremost the artist; to help nurture and develop their potential without the corporate time pressure feeling. In choosing a studio, technology should not be the deciding factor. Technology is very important and necessary but not the main ingredient. What is the main ingredient? The artist and the engineer must get along and have the same goal for the musical product. Remember: When the artist succeeds, everybody involved with the artist succeeds.”

Greg English – owner of Harlow Sound (developmental studio)


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