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Sound Advice

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)

Recording Jingle Announcers by Ben McPeek

July 18th, 2002

“When recording announcers while doing characters, I prefer to use the Neumann U87 because it’s a warmer sounding mic, recorded flat (no EQ), and I prefer the AKG 414 for recording announcer tags because it has more punch (also record flat). The reason for this is that it gives more definition between the body of the commercial and the tag (which usually contains the slogan and must stand out in the commercial).”

Ben McPeek – engineer, radio producer (Captain Audio).

Improving Television Audio by Rob Rettberg

July 18th, 2002

“Due to limited dynamic range of television broadcast, it is advisable that components within a mix such as toms, loud instruments like guitars and percussive instrments should be dynamically controlled by compression. It is also advisable that an entire mix be compressed in order to create a punchier overall reduced dynamic range that still feels dynamic after transmitter broadcast. In this way even the smallest speaker in an average television set can handle a fair amount of volume without overloading and distorting. This will also make the average consumer television sound better than it really is (This is caused by the reduced work load on the television speaker.)

Controlling dynamic range at the source when music is performed and mixed creates a smooth signal that does not hit on the broadcast limiter, which subsequently would make the music sound squashed and fairly undesirable. By compressing the mix to your taste you would have a more controlled musical environment allowing control over the texture of the music, as opposed to being subjuct to – and stuck with – a broadcast transmitter just waiting to clamp and squash down on the music.”

Rob Rettberg – producer/engineer (CTV, Global, CBS).


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