Old 10-11-2009, 11:42 PM   #921
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Regarding bass players, don't forget Carol Kaye.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Kaye
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Old 10-12-2009, 07:35 AM   #922
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Now I feel like I have to come up with some new insight into recording before this thread turns into a Motown/Jamerson/Fleetwood Mac fawning session...
There's some great advice scattered through this thread but I often wonder how useful some of it ultimately is without audible examples.

As they say "Hearing is believing."

It's fine to read about things like over compressing vocals or whatever but it's a different thing to read about it and maybe hear a vocal with bad compression vs. one with "good" (transparent) compression or some A/B recordings of good vs. bad tracking/mixing. I don't have much to add to this thread... it's all generally been covered.

One thing I do when mixing though - I like wide mixes - is to strap on a good stereo enhancer on the master bus before mixing and run the stereo field to about 140%. I generally use Waves S1 for that or the Binaural Pan in Studio One which is really great. If you plan to do that it's better to start with it than strap it on later and have to readjust panning.

Last edited by Lawrence; 10-12-2009 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 10-12-2009, 08:32 AM   #923
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One thing I do when mixing though - I like wide mixes - is to strap on a good stereo enhancer on the master bus before mixing and run the stereo field to about 140%. I generally use Waves S1 for that or the Binaural Pan in Studio One which is really great. If you plan to do that it's better to start with it than strap it on later and have to readjust panning.
I like w i d e mixes as well, but there are so many down effects with it that I did quit it soon..
generally, I used to wide pan the guitars (electric) on a dedicated bus, but it sorted out an unpleasant mess when I double checked on mono: one or more guitar disappeared, phase issues, etc. just to make it short.
good reference for the problem is the isone plugin from jb in the master bus, wich allows you to check the mix by earphones.
so, the best thing I can get is to reduce the guitars (two instead of four, for example), carefully planning each line, and make a good ambience for each egt with a slight slap mono delay on each channel, panned 70% L & R.
advices are welcome.
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Old 10-12-2009, 08:39 AM   #924
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I like w i d e mixes as well, but there are so many down effects with it that I did quit it soon..el, panned 70% L & R.
advices are welcome.
p.
You certainly have to check it in mono.
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Old 10-12-2009, 08:54 AM   #925
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Without reading all 24 pages of this thread lets talk vocal compression. One of the things I see and hear is some people treating plugin compression as more of a creative process than an analytical process. While with hardware comps you will often use it for "tone" or "color" along with leveling, I don't really use plugs for that. With plugs on things like vox it's purely an analytical process 90% of the time.

Here is a graphic which puts that in context. What I want to do is pull the peaks in while generally leaving the rest of the vocal alone so I look at the waveform in the audio editor and it shows me that the vocalist is generally level up to about -12 or so. So what I do is set the threshold to -14 (green box) to tame the peaks while leaving everything below that alone. It evens out the track and sounds much more natural to me. Only the peaks over -14 are being compressed.

If I were to set the threshold where the red box is I'd be digging more into the rest of the track and also compressing it, which kinda defeats what I want to do here. You can see in the render of the compressed track how the peaks were tamed while much of the track remains as it was.

I didn't apply any makeup gain here, I only tamed the peaks. So the general dynamic "intent" of the performance is still generally intact, it's just been leveled out a bit with far fewer artifacts. Much of it hasn't been compressed at all.



It helps if you have a reference to peak levels as on the vertical scale on the left below. I use that scale as a guide where to set my threshold.



So (to me) this kind of compression is more of a purely analytical process. I don't want the comp working on the entire track, only on the peaks. If I really wanted to squash a vocal with compression I'd do this first, level it out some / tame the peaks, and then insert another comp afterward.

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Old 10-12-2009, 09:04 AM   #926
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One thing I do when mixing though - I like wide mixes - is to strap on a good stereo enhancer on the master bus before mixing and run the stereo field to about 140%. I generally use Waves S1 for that or the Binaural Pan in Studio One which is really great. If you plan to do that it's better to start with it than strap it on later and have to readjust panning.
Same here, except I drop the master bus through Ozone. I like Ozone's stereo widener because it's multiband -- I can leave the lows and low-mids more in the center of the mix and get freaky with the high-mids and highs.

In the past I've dropped Ozone on my master bus as a nice A/B to know where my mixes were heading. As I went I would often pull the master fade and enable Ozone with my baseline mastering preset. I would often find problems that I could suss out with the more "mastered" sound...

Frankly, though, I've been rethinking this approach... While I know that whatever comes out of Ozone in the end is going to be what goes on my CD, mixing to a mastering preset is going to lock you into a particular "sound". By delineating the process into three distinct steps (recording & premix, mixing, and mastering), I think my results are going to be more open ended and ultimately better. That is, I'll create the absolute best mix I possibly can during the mix phase, then when I go to mastering, I will dial Ozone to what makes it sound *better*, rather that adjusting my mix to what my settings are in Ozone.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I shouldn't "master" myself. But it's all part of my "Release a CD for $300" scheme.
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Old 10-12-2009, 09:09 AM   #927
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I probably should have clarified that stereo width thing. If do this for mostly demo mixes. If it's a known CD project I don't generally do that or if I do it's a very, very subtle widening... 110-115% tops... and after the fact, after the mix is done without it.

For a "demo" mix - where I know I will be the last person to touch it, which is 80%+ of my work - I'll go much wider... sometimes to 150%. If it's going to mastering you shouldn't do that. The ME will have a much better grasp on the overall stereo image.

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Old 10-14-2009, 04:36 PM   #928
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Great examples from Lawrence, and visual is almost better than audio when it comes to this kind of technical compression. After all, the whole idea is to increase headroom and tamp down transients *without* creating any kind of audible effect.
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Old 10-17-2009, 03:35 AM   #929
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Yep, thanks very much for the unbelievable amount of useful and real world information in this thread. I've been following it off and on since fairly close to the beginning and I finally just registered now to say thanks and to ask a quick couple of questions.

1. Regarding low and hi passing tracks, this is something I routinely do with hi passing, but low passing definitely makes sense and I am definitely going to try it on my next mix. My question is, how steep of a slope would you normally suggest? The examples earlier in the thread about cutting above 12k make sense, but at what Q?

2. In the spectrum analyzation pics of various songs from way earlier in the thread, and the subsequent discussion about the pretty pronounced and obvious cuts in the lower mids/300ish range for most of them, do you think that is something that comes from cutting most of the individual tracks in various degrees in this region, or from actually cutting it from the master track?

Thanks again for the wealth of information and for your time.
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Old 10-18-2009, 03:17 PM   #930
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Yep, thanks very much for the unbelievable amount of useful and real world information in this thread. I've been following it off and on since fairly close to the beginning and I finally just registered now to say thanks and to ask a quick couple of questions.

1. Regarding low and hi passing tracks, this is something I routinely do with hi passing, but low passing definitely makes sense and I am definitely going to try it on my next mix. My question is, how steep of a slope would you normally suggest? The examples earlier in the thread about cutting above 12k make sense, but at what Q?

2. In the spectrum analyzation pics of various songs from way earlier in the thread, and the subsequent discussion about the pretty pronounced and obvious cuts in the lower mids/300ish range for most of them, do you think that is something that comes from cutting most of the individual tracks in various degrees in this region, or from actually cutting it from the master track?

Thanks again for the wealth of information and for your time.
1. Most parametric eqs have a pretty good "generic" starting Q for high- and low-pass filters (maybe about 1 for highpass and 0.5 for lowpass). That said, it really depends on what you're cutting. If you're getting the low-pass up above the the real "meat" of the instrument, and just cutting out hash, hiss, and sonic "veil" then it almost doesn't really matter, since you're not really trying to do sound sculpting, just cleanup, and you can err on the side of putting the eq outside the range where it really affects the instrument sound.

If you're cutting in the "meat" of the instrument sound, then you really have to suss it out by ear.

Tips:

-Gradual (low value) Q is generally "safer" than sharper (high value) Q.

-Eq tends to "peak" the sound at the cutoff frequency. If you are cutting lots of tracks, you would probably do well to place the cuts in slightly different places (e.g. if you do them all at 12k, and each cut also creates a little 1dB bump at 12k, then you might end up actually creating a pretty ugly cumulative peak there, especially if most of your tracks have the same kind of noise (same room, same preamp).

- If you want to be conservative, a shelving filter is less invasive than a cutoff filter, and a few dB of shelf is often nearly as effective as a hard cutoff.

- The best starting practice when using eq is a "First, do no harm" approach: to cut until it stops sounding decisively like an improvement, and then back off a little bit. There is nothing wrong with dipping the eq on an offending frequency until you can "hear" it working, and then backing off until you cannot hear the effect.

If you do this a few times on each track you will have a much better overall mix, because you will have slightly reduced the uglier parts of every track, and the the masking effects of all the other tracks will reduce them a bit further still (especially once you have re-adjusted all the track levels). The totality will be a lot of little improvements, with each ingredient upgraded just a little bit, and each ingredient therefore also helping to support the weaknesses in the others. In short, don't expect any "magic" settings (although take 'em if you find 'em), expect the "magic" to come from the cumulative effect of doing a bunch of little things right.

2. Possibly a little of both. If anything, there is probably a tendency to cut the "mud" frequencies a little too much at every stage in commercial releases.

You know the old saying "sell the sizzle, not the steak"? Well the mids and low mids are the steak, when it comes to music. And as we all know, the better the steak, the less seasoning and sizzle it needs. You don't pile ketchup and cheese and pickles and mustard and barbecue sauce and mayo on a filet mignon, although you might do that with ground chuck, to the point where it hardly even tastes like meat anymore.

You would not cut the rich body and fullness from Pavarotti's voice, or Charlie Christian's guitar, or Mingus' bass. But if you have a singer who's a little pitchy and nasal who likes to swallow the mic capsule, and a bass with suboptimal setup and playing technique, and guitar with a little too much gain on the rythm, and a cheapish drum kit that isn't tuned right, and everything is close-miked with boomy proximity effect, and recorded through inexpensive preamps that might be a little bit prone to tubbing out...

Well, then you might want to pull out the barbeque sauce and shredded cheese and so on, the way cheap restaurants smother everything on the plate.

As an aside:

If the takeaway from this thread becomes "use high and low filters and cut at 300Hz to make better mixes," then I will have wasted a lot of typing, since you can read that stuff anywhere. A lot of the quick and handy "recipes" that circulate around are quick and handy because they cover up common mistakes.

One of the really good things about the cheap recording and easy processing revolution is that it makes it possible for people who are not necessarily studio-caliber musicians to still give life to a creative vision. And a great many absolutely worthwhile popular recordings have used tricks and studio techniques to achieve creative results that would not have been attainable if the musicians were required to actually play it live without the benefit of processing.

But a side effect is an increasing tendency towards formulaic sonic sameness, and frankly a pretty significant reduction in the expected quality of musicianship and sound quality. If "good enough" is the objective (and there are many cases where it might be, especially if your goal is to use your recordings to get to a place where you can hire a professional to do the engineering for you), then by all means, go for good enough, if you can do it quickly and easily.

But if "good enough" hasn't been getting you where you want to go, or if the process has NOT been quick and easy, if you've been staying up late flipping through plugin presets and reading all the tips n' tricks and spending money on new gear and it's still not getting you where you want to go, then it's time to get back to basics. If ten different pieces of infomercial exercise equipment and a long succession of fad diets haven't got you into shape, then problem is NOT that you have not found the correct fad diet, and the solution is not to keep wasting more time and money trying out new ones.

At the very beginning of this thread, I described our hypothetical protagonist, Joe Blow, staying up all night, "improving" his mix until sounded like a vortex of shit. If that's you, then your problem is emphatically not that you need to know the "magic frequency," the problem is that you are doing too much listening and not enough hearing.

Last edited by yep; 10-26-2009 at 05:47 PM.
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Old 10-23-2009, 11:24 AM   #931
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Finally stickied this now-legendary thread.
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Old 10-28-2009, 09:48 PM   #932
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Wow I have just read every post of this amazing topic and I cant thank you enough Yep for your efforts. Also to everyone else who has asked or shared knowledge.

I know if it sounds good it is good, but what happens when you are trying to capture, no lets say copy/clone a sound you have heard but dont know how to go about achieving that sound. I guess im really talking about FX.
I was wondering if you could please give us some pointers on routing FX and what kind of FX normally work well with say guitars or vocals or anything to achieve a type of sound. (very broad question I know)
I know your not one for presets and recipes but some tips would help us all out alot.
EG the first time someone told me to try a dry guitar panned left sent to a wet bussed reverb panned right, I couldnt belive what I was hearing. This was beacuse I had allways just put a reverb on the instrument strip etc.
Like you mentioned the New York compression trick earlier, those sort of tips are a huge help.

I dont want to take up to much of your time, but lets say you do want a wall of guitars sound, how do you go about getting it? I remember your earlier analogy about if all the colors where drawing on the same line, they would be making one murky dark line oppossed to a rainbow all seperated etc. So can this sound be achieved with eq and panning alone with multiple tracking? or does it need to come from combinations of different guitars, amps, pickup selection, picks etc tracked multiple times.

I dont like Red Hot Chili Peppers, but its sort of my era that I can relate to. I really like the production on there albums and the bass playing is amazing and im really drawn to it. Im not sure if its the hit bass you speak of but I really have tuned my ears to listen to everything and I have found them to be a great tool in training my ears.
Thanks again.

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Old 10-29-2009, 12:19 AM   #933
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Finally stickied this now-legendary thread.
You should not call it "this" thread. Call it "The Thread".
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Old 10-29-2009, 05:25 AM   #934
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EG the first time someone told me to try a dry guitar panned left sent to a wet bussed reverb panned right, I couldnt belive what I was hearing. This was beacuse I had allways just put a reverb on the instrument strip etc.
The above quote made me think of an idea for a possible side thread. Just a big list of "things to try". I know yep has been an advocate of taking 5-10 minutes to just try something and hear how it sounds, i.e. judge for yourself, rather than discuss/argue merits in a forum.

For example, I probably spent hours reading about parallel compression mastering techniques in various forums, magazine articles, etc. I finally got around to trying it and it's a pretty impressive tool for increasing volume and presence without overly crushing a mix. Not always the right tool, not always the best tool. But now it's a tool I have in my arsenal that I understand well, and how/when to use/not use, from direct experience. Took about 10 minutes to set up, do a couple of quick test and level-matched A/B comparisons with both previous mastering attempts and with the original mix.

So the idea is a thread of just a big list of things to try that can be done in 10 minutes or less. Very succinct descriptions of the technique, how/when it's used and why/when/where the poster thinks it's a useful technique to try, maybe a couple of examples (commercial) of where this is used, and most important an accurate description of how to set it up. And ideally very little commentary on the pros/cons of the technique within the thread (I know that's a hard one). I'm imagining "a thousand things to try to train your ears, learn what's possible/tricks of the trade, build your arsenal of audio tracking/mixing/mastering tools, and train you ears some more".

I actually keep a personal list going already and my next one to try is live tracking of a solo singer/guitar player using dual figure-8 mics positioned to provide maximum isolation of the vocal and the guitar.

..ant
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Old 10-29-2009, 08:23 AM   #935
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The above quote made me think of an idea for a possible side thread. Just a big list of "things to try". I know yep has been an advocate of taking 5-10 minutes to just try something and hear how it sounds, i.e. judge for yourself, rather than discuss/argue merits in a forum.

For example, I probably spent hours reading about parallel compression mastering techniques in various forums, magazine articles, etc. I finally got around to trying it and it's a pretty impressive tool for increasing volume and presence without overly crushing a mix. Not always the right tool, not always the best tool. But now it's a tool I have in my arsenal that I understand well, and how/when to use/not use, from direct experience. Took about 10 minutes to set up, do a couple of quick test and level-matched A/B comparisons with both previous mastering attempts and with the original mix.

So the idea is a thread of just a big list of things to try that can be done in 10 minutes or less. Very succinct descriptions of the technique, how/when it's used and why/when/where the poster thinks it's a useful technique to try, maybe a couple of examples (commercial) of where this is used, and most important an accurate description of how to set it up. And ideally very little commentary on the pros/cons of the technique within the thread (I know that's a hard one). I'm imagining "a thousand things to try to train your ears, learn what's possible/tricks of the trade, build your arsenal of audio tracking/mixing/mastering tools, and train you ears some more".

I actually keep a personal list going already and my next one to try is live tracking of a solo singer/guitar player using dual figure-8 mics positioned to provide maximum isolation of the vocal and the guitar.

..ant
I support this 100%
(I dunno how I managed in life before parallel compression)
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Old 10-29-2009, 01:20 PM   #936
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Vortex that is a great idea!
Hopefully yourself or someone else that has the time will get the ball rolling.
Tips like you mentioned with parallel compression are all tools that can help speed up our workflow and even simplify some workflows. We would probably all end up with the same results but if we can achieve it with much less time and effort then great aka "give the job to the laziest person and they will find the easist way to do it"

Stuff like sidechaining and reverse reverb before a vocal so you get the sssshhhhhp sound to build dramatics (is that a word lol)
etc
Putting a low cut on reverb to remove mud but boosting the highs to add sparkles.
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Old 11-01-2009, 11:58 AM   #937
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Hi all,

Many thanks to all the contributors to this thread, and particularly to Yep for starting and driving it. I think I've learned a lot. I read it as I was "finishing" my first Reaper-recorded song (I recently migrated from protools). A mix of it is here:
http://anguswallace.bandcamp.com/tra...ovely-moment-2

I've attached it because I've tried to apply some of the suggestions in this thread, but am sure there's a hell of a lot I'm still missing. Some info (because I am also after methodological advice):
System:
Mbox and laptop
Recording:
Acoustic guitar first. Both DI from pickup and MXL 990 condensor. Tracks 'positioned' nearby to try and sound coherent.
Vocals recorded next through same mic, though rerecorded after reading about the importance of removing room artefacts (I think adding physical damping around the mic helped considerably).
Drums recorded via midi next to complement the guitar (I prefer this approach as it helps me not get that click-drum sound that programmed midi can cause)
Bass is my DId electric guitar pitch-shifted (please don't hate me - I'd like to buy a bass one day..)
--
there's a little bit of reverb on the master track, and I managed to work out how to 'dodge' the acoustic guitar by compressing based on the vocal track, which seems to bring forward the vocals. I also applied some compression on the master, because the beginning of the track was too quiet. While I love dynamic range in music, the end of the track was seeming ridiculous compared to the start. There's EQ and compression on most tracks, and a couple of electric guitar garnishes.

I've done all my mixing through headphones. they're Sennheiser HD 220s, which to me seem very bass-heavy, so I got their specs from headphones.com and made an EQ in the master to undo this (being careful to remove it before rendering!). That seemed to help, but I realise it's still suboptimal. After rendering, I went back and forth to my stereo to listen there and also listened on a tiny midi hifi.
--
Thoughts
It still sounds a bit boxy to me, and I'm still dissatisfied with the vocals in particular (I'm not a great singer, but I'm sure I can make them sound better than this). I'm vaguely dissatisfied with the overall thing, but can't really put my finger on it - it doesn't really feel engaging or in the room...

I'd welcome any and all advice or constructive criticism, either regarding the recording, mixing, performance, arrangement or composition.
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Old 11-02-2009, 10:39 PM   #938
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Default sorry this probably doesn't belong in this thread...

I know I suck for asking so many questions but Igot another....

it kind of fits with the whole t-amp guitar amp diy kit idea....its an alternative. basically, my deal is a singer songwriter who uses drum loops, guitars, midi keyboards, and vocals to make my music in my living room. i live in a cottage, but its basically an apartment volume level vibe needed.

so i have the ridiculous fender performer 1000 head 100 watts to go with the fender 412....i feel ridiculous with an amp this big considering how small my 1 bedroom cottage is etc....plus i can't even turn it up and it doesn't sound that good unless its turned up (i know, volume equals sounds better, but i think there is something like saturation at play in that situation too)...anyways, so its seem a very small amp would be perfect for my sitch, as long as it doesn't deliver significantly less sound quality than some bigger amp....i have an emu 1820 , use sonar 8, akg c3000b condenser mic, beta 58a dynamic....

so i was thinking Roland Microcube vs. Vox DA5... http://www.tdpri.com/forum/amp-centr...da5-print.html

http://acapella.harmony-central.com/...t-1356541.html

http://acapella.harmony-central.com/...t-1516305.html

but the thing is....
I don't even know if mic ing guitars is the way to go anymore with all these amp simulators, etc (i have all the software and plugins I could ever use, so that is an option).

And I don't really know what DI entails...Direct INject....when I plug my guitar into my fender head and then go from the head's line out to my emu line in (on the back, not one of the two preamps xlr/ guitar jack sockets on the front) is that DI? is there any point to doing that? How does that compare to plugging my guitar into the preamp jacks on the front of the emu 1820? is that DI? under which scenario is one generally supposed to utilize the amp simulator/speaker simulator plugins and all that stuff?

And what about just going straight from my guitar to one of the line ins on the back of the emu (again these are not with preamps and or phantom power like the 2 input jacks on the front). Is that DI? Where does a DI box come into play? Would an ebtech humx or hum eliminator fit into any of these scenarios?

I'm not even sure where a v amp thing fits into all this (i know google everything, but, I am exhausted from googling for hours upon hours). I've tried these various ways out, which has been somewhat hard given my fender amp gets crackly sometimes, but generally it seems that taking the line out from the back of the amp into the emu results in a superior signal going into sonar and getting tracked. its louder, seems more "real", etc. whether that matters given that maybe one could take the

(my guitar is a 1994 strat custom shop american classic holographic deal with rosewood fretboard and a smallish/thin neck which is probably not so good for me because i have really large/rachmaninoff type hands...this is probably too much guitar for me and selling it might mean i could get gear more integral to the process?)

I think this all might make a good thread (if seven of them don't exist already....)


Okay, so assuming a home recording guy like me still has a place for guitar amps in his studio, and knowing I want quality and the ability to keep my options open for later (which I assume means tracking a clean version of my guitar playing, ie, no distortion or reverb from a guitar amp and or no guitar amp at all, so I can manipulate later with amp sims and plugins); and given the fact that I don't want some ginormous Mount Guitarampmore in my living room/studio and that big guitar amps generally are too loud for my sitch anyway....do I need an amp that has a line out? Do the Roland Microcube and or the Vox DA5 fit the bill? If not, would the next wattage up for small amps be the way to go? seems like that is a choice between Roland cube 30x vs Vox Valvetronix VT30 :

http://acapella.harmony-central.com/...2421301&pp=100



thanks for any insight you will offer

Peace,

ZC
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Old 11-02-2009, 10:56 PM   #939
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DI boxes are used in place of Audio Interface for certain application. For example, if you were recording into a device with a different impedance level. Hi-Z to Lo-Z. Generally, Audio Interfaces for PCs achieve the same effect as DI boxes, plus more. There's a great thread about DI and "reverse DI" on here somewhere.

It sounds to me that what you want to do (if this is possible with your amp) is crank it up, but use the line out so there's no sound coming out of the speakers, it's all coming out the back into your PC. Short of that, maybe your amp IS too big for the sort of thing you use it for. But before considering gear purchases, assess what you have and what you want out of it. A lot of gear purchases could be avoided if they're increasing the complexity of your situation.
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Old 11-03-2009, 12:43 AM   #940
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Hi funtimesman,

for what you want to do, there are tons of options these days...

You can use the EMU's DI to record the guitar totally clean without an amp (which in itself sounds pants in most musical scenarios) and then use plugins to give it the proper "amp mic'ed up" sound you (probably) really want.

If you find guitar amp plugins too fake sounding (some people do, some don't) then you can invest in a small 5W to 15W guitar amp - there are dozens of such small guitar amps (even tube ones) on the market, e.g. Vox AC4TV, Fender Vibrochamp XD, Fender Superchamp XD, Marshall Class 5, Laney Cub 8 and Cub 10, Bugera V5 and lots more. It's just a case of trying them out and picking the one that has the msot appropriate sound for your style of music. Because they are low powered they can be cranked up more without being too loud - mic that up well and you should be pretty much guaranteed a decent guitar sound. (A lot of classic rock stuff was actually recorded on small tube amps like these...) Some fo these amps also have "speaker emulated" direct line outs so you could record them without micing them up - as they are "speaker emulated" outs they do pretty much retain the sound of a guitar going through the speaker even though it doesn't actually.

Or you could get a V-amp or a POD - which is in essence a guitar amp plug-in in a stompbox format. In my opinion, software plugins tend to sound better though, especially for clean sounds...

Hope this helps.
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Old 11-03-2009, 02:37 AM   #941
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Hi funtimesman. This is just my opinion (obviously) but reading your post, what seems most important is that you're working in a small space which limits your options for volume and mic placement, and also (if I'm picturing this correctly) your ability to isolate your live sound from your monitored post-DAW sound.

If that's the case, and if your goal is to get (at least) listenable recordings of reasonable quality that showcase your writing/arrangement/production, AND do this in some kind of reasonable timeframe, then I would suggest relying less (if at all) on your current amp, or a replacement amp, and instead go with a POD or similar box.

In a recording/monitoring environment like you describe, the theoretical pros and cons between "real" and "sim" fall apart bec of your inability to actually hear what's being recorded BEFORE it's recorded and played back. Going "real" becomes a trial and error process comparable to trying to paint or mix colors with your eyes closed: you won't see what you've done until you look at the canvas.

Authenticity aside, the advantage of doing a POD (or similar) direct is that you're always working with a "monitored" sound, which is the only sound that matters in the end.

The fact that, theoretically, in a finished mix, a POD doesn't sound quite as "real" (say, because it's not "moving air past a diaphragm") isn't as important as being able to actually get things done efficiently and creatively.

Basically, direct/POD/sim lets you eliminate the amp-mic-room factors from the equation, which is a good thing, as those are the most difficult (and time consuming, and creativity killing) to control for in one-room, self-engineered recordings.

PODs and so-called amp sims shouldn't be measured by how close they simulate real live amps, but by how close they can get you to the *recorded* and *mixed* sound that you want. In reality, they're not "amp sims" at all. Besides, all recorded sound is "sim," no matter what its origins.

Personally, I wouldn't even consider using a miced amp unless I had great separation between the control room and the live space, and at least one other person to play the guitar, tweak knobs, and move mics, while one of us was monitoring through nearfields. (And even then I probably wouldn't do it unless the other person was, say, a Lord-Alge brother or sim-ilar. hahahha!)

IOW, make music.

Last edited by Marah Mag; 11-03-2009 at 02:44 AM.
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Old 11-03-2009, 06:49 AM   #942
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I wouldn't even consider using a miced amp unless I had great separation between the control room and the live space
That sounds like great advice. Do you record acoustic guitars? It's hard to examine the recorded sound of a mic-d acoustic for the same reasons you said above. I can get a decent acoustic sound from the pickup of my acoustic, but like to use a mic too. Any thoughts?

On a tangent, I might have a go at recording my acoustic from pickup and putting it through a clean amp-sim VST.

Thanks,
-Gus
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Old 11-03-2009, 07:55 AM   #943
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Hmmm... does it sound like I record acoustic guitars?

No unfortunately acoustic guitar, like vocals, etc., still have to be tracked the old fashioned way. Someone should work on a way around that. It's 2009 already! (Maybe in Reaper 4!)

What I've done on occasion to get an acoustic rhythm effect is record my electric through a clean setting on my POD X3, and then thin it out and brighten it, maybe add some delay/chorus, and then set it into the mix. It doesn't truly sound like an acoustic when you listen closely (in the mix) but it can sometimes effectively function like one, which might be more than acceptable. Full strummy acoustics in an otherwise full mix of electric/electronic insts often become part of the percussion layer. But they don't stand up when they're more exposed.

I keep meaning to see how it would work to record an unplugged electric "acoustically" with a mic. That's happened by accident a couple of times and it seemed like it might be worth doing intentionally. I'm sure others do that all time.
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:16 AM   #944
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On the same vein, I guess you could view the body of an acoustic as a reverb. If you could record the impulse response of an actual acoustic guitar, and then apply that as a reverb, that might be quite convincing...
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Old 11-03-2009, 02:37 PM   #945
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It helps if you have a reference to peak levels as on the vertical scale on the left below. I use that scale as a guide where to set my threshold.


You have no idea how timely your post is. I recently got the zipped file of this thread (awesome, awesome job Yep) and of course, the section where I flattened my face against the wall was on compression. Searching further on the subject, I fell on another of Yep's post and was about to ask a question. Here's what Yep wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by yep
So here are some examples:

If the threshold is set ABOVE the level of the BODY of the sound, but BELOW the level of the TRANSIENT attack of the sound, and the attack/realease are set very fast, then the compressor will basically work as a peak limiter, only compressing the initial transient attack.

If the threshold is set below the level of the BODY of the sound, and the attack and release are set somewhat slower, then the slow attack time will allow the transient sound to pass right through and will then compress the body and "tail/decay" of the note. This will create MORE initial impact when you apply makeup gain, and the slow release time will create a longer, more gradual sustain. This is the most "dramatic" way to set your compressor.
I was basically like "Yeah, but what's the point of reference, how can I know where the transient is and where the body is in order to set the threshold?" Before I read your post, I had the thought that the process your picture above is showing would do the trick, but when I tried to edit Yep's bass compression file in Audacity (launched from Reaper as an external editor), didn't help much as I don't see the scale you have in your picture. What editor are you using that has that scale on the side?

Also can somebody set me straight on threshold because I read conflicting things: Low threshold means -40db or -10db? Reason I ask is because Yep wrote the following:

Quote:
Originally Posted by yep
A compressor with a very low threshold will compress the entire sound, and will make the attack and body blend into the decay, ambience, and noise of the track.
From what I undertand, threshold in this case would be set in the -40db zone. However, Redstone wrote this in another thread:

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Originally Posted by Redstone
Typically, use a higher threshold with higher ratios and a lower threshold with lower ratios. Using very low ratios (like 1.02:1) and an extremely low threshold is called 'light painting' and can be used to bring out some detail in a sound without it sounding over-compressed.
Looks to me that his definition of low threshold is more in the -10db zone than -40db.

So which is which gentlemen?
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Old 11-03-2009, 02:48 PM   #946
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I keep meaning to see how it would work to record an unplugged electric "acoustically" with a mic. That's happened by accident a couple of times and it seemed like it might be worth doing intentionally. I'm sure others do that all time.
Done this and actually liked it. Though, its applications are limited.
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Old 11-03-2009, 03:21 PM   #947
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So which is which gentlemen?
Point of reference thing, I would guess... When talking about dB, -40dB is lower than -10dB. When talking about a "threshold knob" on a compressor, setting it "higher" is essentially giving you a lower dB threshold. I usually talk about it in the dB way (and I always err on the side of yep)...

Also, regarding getting a good visual when setting up compression, I recommend GComp from the GVST suite. The GUI superimposes the compressed signal on top of the original signal in real time. It's an awesome learning tool.

http://www.gvst.co.uk/gcomp.htm



Just remember: compress with your ears, not eyes when *really* mixing.
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Old 11-03-2009, 06:56 PM   #948
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...From what I undertand, threshold in this case would be set in the -40db zone. However, Redstone wrote this in another thread:



Looks to me that his definition of low threshold is more in the -10db zone than -40db.

So which is which gentlemen?
Wow, okay, great question, and one that I meant to but forgot to touch on earlier.

THRESHOLD IS ENTIRELY DEPENDENT ON THE PROGRAM MATERIAL. There is no "number" that equals a high threshold or a low threshold. It totally depends on the program material.

There is no way around that. I think I talked a lot about it earlier in the thread, and to the degree that I did, I'm right and everybody else is wrong.

Now, where this becomes confusing is that you will read in a great many magazine articles and books and so on stuff like "start with a moderate threshold of -4dB" or whatever(EQ magazine is notorious for this, even when advising on plugins). There are two reasons why people write stuff like this and think it is meaningful:

1. (most common) they are simply parroting some old analog-related rule of thumb that they heard or read somewhere from someone who knew what they were talking about, or;

1. They are working, thinking, and speaking in ANALOG terms. In analog, you do not set your levels relative to full-scale clipping, you set them relative the average "bouncing" level on a VU meter, and you set the VU meter to show "zero" as a certain amount below where signal starts to sound ugly by whatever subjective measure you prefer.

This is a hugely important distinction to understand. In this world, zero dB might be equivalent to -18dB or -14dB on a digital peak meter. With analog VU meters, [b]0dB[/] is not the PEAK level, but the AVERAGE signal level.

The analog engineer turns up her vocal gain, her bass gain, her drums so that she is recording them with the needle bouncing around zero most of the time. For the digital recordist, zero is not the target (certainly not for average signal strength), zero is the alarm, the code red, the ruined take.

In digital, I typically try to record with my peak signal at about -6dB or lower. I could put a -4 threshold compressor on every single track and none of them would ever engage or do anything at all but use up CPU cycles. To get the effect that a knowledgeable analog guy is talking about when he suggests a -4dB threshold, I would have to crank down the threshold to 4dB BELOW MY AVERAGE SIGNAL STRENGTH, which might be something more like -20 or -22 or -14 or -12 or -30, depending on the type of material.

This is a hugely important difference. In the analog world, pretty much everything is recorded at zero dB AVERAGE. So a heavily distorted rhythm guitar track might peak at +3dB and basically live with the VU needle more or less flat at zero with occasional bumps and dips, whereas a conga track might pin the meter at PLUS 18dB on the peaks, and drop off the meter quickly, but mostly hover around 0dB. Here, we can compare different kinds of tracks sensibly in terms of 0dB as a meaningful term, because zero is the target, the bulls-eye, the place you're trying to have be the MIDDLE of what you're aiming for.

With digital peak meters, specific number settings are meaningless. If you have a singer with poor mic technique, one not might be 20dB louder than everything else. In the analog world, that would mean you would have one heavily saturated note, which might actually sound pretty appropriate. In the digital world, that would mean that a well-recorded track would have to have most notes PEAKING at -20dB, with typical AVERAGE levels of -32 or lower. A -10dB compressor would only affect one note, which would still sound way louder than every other note, and forget about fattening the body of the sound or any of that.

Again, on this one, I am right and everyone else is wrong. With digital, you have to set the compressor according to the material, not relative to peak. I'm not asking you to take my word for it, I'm explaining exactly why it's so. If you don't believe me, re-read, and ask for clarification.
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Old 11-03-2009, 07:44 PM   #949
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Hi all,

Many thanks to all the contributors to this thread, and particularly to Yep for starting and driving it. I think I've learned a lot. I read it as I was "finishing" my first Reaper-recorded song (I recently migrated from protools). A mix of it is here:
http://anguswallace.bandcamp.com/tra...ovely-moment-2...
I really like your singing voice. The accent and tonality is very good. I think you might benefit by checking into some formal voice-training exercises-- it seems like you get a bit timid towards the higher notes and emphasis passages, where those are exactly the places to go "soaring" full-voice and full-throated. You don't necessarily need to pay for classical singing lessons (although they'll never hurt), but you could extend your range quite a bit with a little more confidence. You're not singing opera, so a transition to a whisper is just as good as a transition to a scream-- they both sound the same on tape.

the electric guitar lead part frankly sounds goofy and the song would be better without it. Once again, there seems to a be a temerity holding you back. If you're gonna go electric lead on a song like this, make it wail and scream and howl. Check out the intro to "don't fear the Reaper"-- the lead guitar comes in screaming and does not diminish but rather enhances the sensitivity of the acoustic part.

There is a similar wobbliness to the backing vocal parts. Do it and mean it, or just leave it out.

Your lyrics are bold and courageous-- make the performance match.

Sound-quality-wise, you are right that there is a boxy room sound that sounds a bit "cheap" in the beginning, but only if you're looking for it. Nobody would ever not buy this record due to the room sound, and it's actually kind of cool in a certain respect-- it enhances the intimacy and immediacy of the sonic texture.

Kudos for committing to and posting such sensitive and personal material. Now practice singing in a whisper, and go for notes that seem scary with everything you have. Then start to give them full voice, and your audience will be stunned.

edit: PS-- none of the above is at all unusual for singer-songwriter types, who tend to spend a million years thinking about the song and working on lyrics and then half an hour actually practicing the singing. You just have to put in the same thoughtfulness and effort on the vocal performance and you'll kick ass. You have a vastly wider range than you think you do (this applies to everyone reading this thread). Singers of rock/pop/folk material really need to practice hollering and whispering and crooning and so on. A singer with a five-note "range" in a classical sense can still coo like a baby in falsetto and grunt in fake baritone when they are telling a joke.

Developing those kinds of alternate "voices" and learning to shift smoothly between them can extend even a bad singer's range to two octaves or more. Maybe not for unamplified opera, but that's not what we're talking about. It's not like Axl Rose goes to the store and falsetto screams "I'd like a quarter-pound of low-fat ham, pleeeEEEASE.... fuck YEAHHHHhhhh..."

He sings in a whispery-high pseudo-falsetto that makes everything sound like a howling scream. He speaks is a fairly mellow baritone. I would by no means advocate that everyone sing like Axl Rose, I'm just illustrating a point. His "voice" is a practiced skill, an affectation, a thing learned, to better express his own artistic vision (whatever its merits).

Way too many would-be singers "back off" when it comes to actually singing. Which immediately makes the audience "back off" when it comes to listening. The audience won't imagine your vision for you (although a producer or experienced A&R rep might, if it's only meant to be a song demo). For an audience, you have to present the finished picture, not suggestive sketches. Which is a lot easier than many aspiring musicians think it is.

99% of the work is actually writing the material, and audiences are not that demanding when it comes to pop songs. But a lot of musicians give up on the last one percent. They agonize over lyrics and chord progressions forever and then mumble them into a mic and can't understand why nobody hears the soaring grandeur of their original vision.

Last edited by yep; 11-03-2009 at 08:24 PM.
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:46 PM   #950
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Wow, okay, great question, and one that I meant to but forgot to touch on earlier.

THRESHOLD IS ENTIRELY DEPENDENT ON THE PROGRAM MATERIAL. There is no "number" that equals a high threshold or a low threshold. It totally depends on the program material.


Again, on this one, I am right and everyone else is wrong. With digital, you have to set the compressor according to the material, not relative to peak. I'm not asking you to take my word for it, I'm explaining exactly why it's so. If you don't believe me, re-read, and ask for clarification.
Yep, I gave arbitrary numbers to help me understand the apparent opposite meaning between your definition of threshold, and Redstone's definition. As far as I'm concerned, in the context of Reaper, your definition was more fitting, but I had to verify.

But if I come back to this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by yep
So here are some examples:

If the threshold is set ABOVE the level of the BODY of the sound, but BELOW the level of the TRANSIENT attack of the sound, and the attack/realease are set very fast, then the compressor will basically work as a peak limiter, only compressing the initial transient attack.

If the threshold is set below the level of the BODY of the sound, and the attack and release are set somewhat slower, then the slow attack time will allow the transient sound to pass right through and will then compress the body and "tail/decay" of the note. This will create MORE initial impact when you apply makeup gain, and the slow release time will create a longer, more gradual sustain. This is the most "dramatic" way to set your compressor.
In Reaper, how would you proceed to determine where the boundaries between transient and body is? It would be great if the area where the waveform in Reaper is drawn had some sort of scale like in Lawrence post above, but it's not the case. So how do you do it?
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Old 11-04-2009, 04:10 AM   #951
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But if I come back to this:
In Reaper, how would you proceed to determine where the boundaries between transient and body is? It would be great if the area where the waveform in Reaper is drawn had some sort of scale like in Lawrence post above, but it's not the case. So how do you do it?
Not trying to steal Yep's thunder, but i would never rely on the waveform to set compression. In order to get a sense about transients versus the body of the sound, the track meters tells you all about it. You see the track peaking at -12dB, and in general it goes from -40 to -20 dB, you have all the information you need in my opinion.

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Old 11-04-2009, 08:32 AM   #952
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Not trying to steal Yep's thunder, but i would never rely on the waveform to set compression. In order to get a sense about transients versus the body of the sound, the track meters tells you all about it. You see the track peaking at -12dB, and in general it goes from -40 to -20 dB, you have all the information you need in my opinion.

Yves
That's just the thing. Yesterday, I was playing around Yep's "bass compression" project that was included in the zipped version of this thread. With Reacomp off, the "big suckky punchy" track peaks at -8db. However, there is enough transients going from -18db to -8db, so I tried setting the threshold at -18db to see how it reacted. Pretty not much, and I was wondering why.

You're not wrong about the track level showing the information I need. But the track level are moving sometimes pretty freaking fast, as is the case with Yep's project, and it's not easy to pinpoint where you want to set your threshold. With the waveform that is drawn and pretty much static on your screen, Lawrence's scale graphic above makes a lot of sense to me. Yes, I know about using the ears and not the eyes when mixing. But in the case of compression, which, I'm sure you'll agree, is the hardest to "get" for recording newbies as far as effects go, a slower visual tool than moving track levels can be pretty effective and more precise.

Oh, and thanks to nickm for that plugin he showed me above. I downloaded it, and will experiment with it.

Last edited by Deltones; 11-04-2009 at 08:39 AM.
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:42 AM   #953
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Thanks for your advice and help Yep - much appreciated.
I'll keep playing with this song, and will experiment with some different vocal styles.

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His "voice" is a practiced skill, an affectation, a thing learned, to better express his own artistic vision
I think this line of thinking is perhaps the most important thing I've taken away from this thread. Prior to reading this, I'd been thinking about the way things "ought" to be done. For example, even though my acoustic guitar has a pretty good recorded sound on it's pickup, I also tended to mic it. I might keep micing it, but really just for finger and pick sounds (eg, by using EQ). But this thread has really emphasised the contrived nature of all recordings, even those that might sound natural and honest -- and that this is just the nature of the medium.

Thanks again.
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Old 11-05-2009, 05:04 PM   #954
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...In Reaper, how would you proceed to determine where the boundaries between transient and body is? It would be great if the area where the waveform in Reaper is drawn had some sort of scale like in Lawrence post above, but it's not the case. So how do you do it?
What Yves said.

Words like transient, peak, and body are just casual descriptors, like hot or cold (where does something stop being hot and turn cold?)

You can and should look at your meters while learning compression, especially the gain reduction meter. But there is no way to "think through" where the settings should be in any generic sense.

The examples above are just meant to illustrate why the different knobs are there, and what they do.
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Old 11-05-2009, 06:51 PM   #955
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When using a fairly aggressive high pass filter on lets say an accoustic guitar but could be anything, and then the song cuts out and that instrument is playing by itself but sounds very thin and small as opposed to fitting in the mix really well just before. Is it normal to automate etc reducing the high pass filter so that it fills up the frequancies that are missing/lacking and having that instrument in all its glory. And then automate it back thin again when the mix came back in?

I know if it suits the song etc and I think I kind of answered my own question but thought I would ask anyway.
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Old 11-06-2009, 12:23 AM   #956
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You could also drag or copy the portion to another track with different settings.
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Old 11-06-2009, 05:11 AM   #957
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When using a fairly aggressive high pass filter on lets say an accoustic guitar but could be anything, and then the song cuts out and that instrument is playing by itself but sounds very thin and small as opposed to fitting in the mix really well just before. Is it normal to automate etc reducing the high pass filter so that it fills up the frequancies that are missing/lacking and having that instrument in all its glory. And then automate it back thin again when the mix came back in?

I know if it suits the song etc and I think I kind of answered my own question but thought I would ask anyway.
Yes you did answer your own question ;-)
Automation is your friend :-D

It's also amazing how much of an psychoacoustic impact this has. A drum intro, with the room mikes turned up full and heavily compressed, a booming bassdrum, very happening snare. If all other instruments come in, they wouldnt have any space. With automation you can then carve out some space in the kick for the bass, turn down the room mikes, etc as soon as they do come in. But the listener stills 'thinks' the drums are that big. Listen to the intro of Coldplay's "In My Place" e.g.

Yves
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Old 11-06-2009, 09:09 PM   #958
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Once again, what Yves said.

An acoustic solo intro often calls for completely different processing than the acoustic backing part in the "full band" sections. I often like to make them separate tracks just for convenience.

Likewise, a singer who radically changes voice in different parts of a song, or a drum kit that goes from playing fast double-kick rolls with furious hi-hat work on the chorus to sparse, spacious tom melodies on the verse might require completely different processing.

In orchestral music, these things are dealt with in the arrangement: more or fewer or different instruments are used to create varying textures, timbres, and dynamic and frequency profiles. In modern popular music, these differences are often created partly by the performance of the musicians, and partly by the skill of the producer and engineer.
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Old 11-06-2009, 09:36 PM   #959
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To add to the above, it is often beneficial to change the processing in different sections even with the exact same instrumentation, or even with the exact same looped recordings.

Let's say you have a mix where there is a real cool bass part, and a piano part with a great left-hand riff happening. It is going to be very difficult to feature both of them throughout the song. In fact, if there is also an electric guitar, it might be hard to feature either one of them without burying the guitar (which tends to suck up the whole frequency spectrum). '

So a solution might be to introduce the first verse of the song with just the bass, drums and vocals, and then to bring in the guitar and piano halfway through the verse, or at the chorus. Now the listener has already heard how awesome the bassline is, and will continue to "hear" it, even if it gets pushed back in the mix. Second verse might be a "straight-ahead" mix conspicuously featuring the guitar. Third verse, we might mute the bassline, or just have some root-note hits on the downbeat of every measure, and pull back the guitar (or similarly pare down the part) to feature the cool left-hand piano. Then bring everything back in the chorus.

The above makes a fluid, varied arrangement from a completely static song, and it showcases each instrument one step at a time, even if every verse is just a copy of the same tracks.
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Old 11-07-2009, 09:26 PM   #960
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Originally Posted by yep View Post
So a solution might be to introduce the first verse of the song with just the bass, drums and vocals, and then to bring in the guitar and piano halfway through the verse, or at the chorus. Now the listener has already heard how awesome the bassline is, and will continue to "hear" it, even if it gets pushed back in the mix. Second verse might be a "straight-ahead" mix conspicuously featuring the guitar. Third verse, we might mute the bassline, or just have some root-note hits on the downbeat of every measure, and pull back the guitar (or similarly pare down the part) to feature the cool left-hand piano. Then bring everything back in the chorus.
This is what I have been doing for that last 8 months or so with a "internet group" that I am mixing for. I have been getting a lot of tracks that are not "interesting" on their own, both sonically & performance, but when one element is missing the fullness is missing in the tune.

So by introducing each part at various places to work around the vocals, I can keep everyone happy by utilizing their parts, but it does not turn into a song mud bath, and can make it interesting, even tho the parts are "so-so".
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