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Sound Advice

Naked Lunch Drums by Peter J. Moore

July 18th, 2002

The search for amazing spaces for “real sounds” has led me to another discovery. The movie set for Naked Lunch has just pulled out of the “Munitions Bunker” beside Cherry
Beach sound studios. I was snooping around and looked at the ceiling structure; fantastic! Next I brought in drums and tested my theory. Yep, the best darn drum sounds I’ve heard in a long time. I told the owner Carman, that he should put the tie lines between the space and his CF750 control room. This he did in time for my next project which was a great success. I found out that the Kim Mitchell project also feld the same way for their drum sounds. Let’s hear it for real reverb.

Peter J. Moore – DI Productions, Toronto, ON (Credits include: Cowboy Junkies, The Silos, Lucinda Williams, Holly Cole, Swamp Baby, Pat Temple, The Corn Dogs, T.S.O. and M.S.O.)

Problem Vocalist? by Richard Chycki

July 18th, 2002

Paranoid, uncomfortable vocalist in the studio? Bad news because, as a producer, the responsibility falls on you to coax good product from him/her. If they don’t like headphones, throw a pair of Auratones up out of phase and put the mic in the “out of phase” null. Easy enough, but what if the vocalist doesn’t like singing into one of those big, cold studio mics but favours that ubiquitous SM57.

Relax, digital breath. Patch in both your handheld and your studio condenser mics. Make a deal with the singer that he/she can use their ol’ fave but you’ll want your mic nearby (get it in writing and try to take their publishing at the same time with a little fancy small print – invisible ink does wonders here!). Allow the vocalist to monitor the handheld – you monitor and record the studio mic which, in use, should still be on vocal axis but probably a little farther away than a normal vocal overdub session.
The relaxed attitude and resultant increase in productivity of the vocalist more than makes up for the slight compromise in studio mic distance. As long as room relativity is low, and your vocalist doesn’t get too aerobic during the session, you should have few problems.

Richard Chycki – Freelance Engineer/Producer in Toronto

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


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