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Author Topic: Secrets of the Pro's  (Read 62566 times)

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Secrets of the Pro's
« on: March 05, 2008, 01:12:26 pm »

Secrets of the Pro’s

Hey guys, my name is Joshua Hamilton and I own and operate a recording studio in Middletown, Ohio called Joshua Recording Studios. You can check out some demos of my work at http://myspace.com/joshuarecordingstudios .

I am writing this article to maybe help some of you out there with questions you may have about pro recording and how the crap they get such awesome sounds and why your stuff doesn’t sound as good.

Just a little about me, I didn’t go to school for engineering, but I did learn from some of the greats which I think may count for something a little more than a piece of paper. I have been in the recording industry for the past 11 years asking my self the same questions everyone else does when they begin recording bands and such.

This will be part 1 of a 6 part tutorial on how I approach recording.

1.   CLICK TRACK
First things first, you need to record to a click track! If you do not record to a click then you are setting your self up for disaster down the road if not immediately. I usually start by having the guitar player play the song and use tap tempo to figure out the tempo of the song, input that in to your tempo track and have the band follow along with it to make sure it feels right to everyone, including the producer if he’s there. In some cases you may have a tempo change at one point in the song, you’ll need to edit that in the tempo track at the exact point in measure where the tempo change takes place, just because there is a tempo change doesn’t mean you don’t have to use a click.
2. GUITAR SCRATCH TRACKS
Once you have the tempo mapped out with correct tempo’s and tempo changes you’ll need to record guitar to the click track. I usually double the guitar scratch tracks to get extra volume in the head phones for the drummer and because it just sounds better, you’ll be hearing these scratch tracks for a while so you might as well make them sound decent! Usually you’ll come across something that isn’t right if you made tempo changes in your tempo track, fix that and then proceed with the guitar scratch tracks. Once you have the guitar scratch tracks recorded and double up panned left and right sounding pretty, you’ll want the band to take one more final listen to the entire song to make sure it sounds the way they intended. Here you are looking for a thumbs up from everyone EVERYONE in the group!
3.   DRUM TRACKING
You need to have the drummer set up in a different room than where your main mix speakers are (the control room) so that you can hear what’s coming out of the speakers and not what’s coming from the drums. Once the drummer is set up and ready to go you can start placing your mics or triggers to begin tracking. If you are using microphones make sure and mic the drums in way that mostly only that drum will be heard when its hit and if you are using triggers just make sure you have at least one overhead set up so that you can hear all of the cymbals. NOTE: you need at least one overhead to hear the cymbals, you’ll see why in a bit. After you get the mics or triggers placed have the drummer play the kit and make sure nothing is in his way, for your sake and his, last thing you want is some guy you don’t even know to be banging up your microphones. Here you are looking for a thumbs up from him and once you get it, you need to do a level check. The level check is pretty important for your later editing. You need to have each drum wave look like a spike, but not clipping. This would look like a vertical line from top to bottom, it doesn’t have to be a really thin line but for the most part an up and down line. Once you have all of the levels have the drummer play the whole kit and then readjust all of your levels accordingly, because usually in level checking the drummer wont strike the drums as hard as when he’s actually playing, so you need to make sure and get proper levels no matter how hard he hits the drums and make sure that it never clips.

Now you need to play the click and guitar scratch tracks through the headphones for the drummer to make sure he’s got a good mix and that he can hear it while he plays. You are once again looking for a thumbs up; don’t move forward unless he can hear what he needs to. Also, you need to hear what is happening in the recording so make sure you can hear a decent mix of the drummer playing along to the scratch and click. A talk back mic is crucial because the drummer is going to need your suggestion or command on punch INS.

From here, you just need to have the drummer play for the most part to the click track. This can be achieved by punching in section by section. It’s not necessary for your drummer to play the song from beginning to end, most of them cant. An example would be to play only the intro of the song, listen to it back and make sure its close to the click and its what the drummer intended to play. Through and through you want to get a thumbs up from everyone in the band and mostly the drummer that the parts are recorded correctly. Proceed with the same steps until you have recorded the entire song. At this point you will need to cross fade your punch ins so you don’t get cuts in the sounds and so that the song plays like a song, not a section. Once you have that done, have the drummer listen back to the entire performance and make sure he’s happy with it. And whala drum tracking is done.

4.   DRUM EDITING
     This part of the process can be the most time consuming and the most important part of the recording. Have you ever asked the question, why is every song I hear on the radio flawless in timing? Surely not every single drummer in a signed band is perfect at timing, right? Well, the answer is no , they aren’t perfect at all. Granted most of them are great at timing, but none of them are perfect!

So what we need here is perfect timing on the drums! There are several ways to achieve this, but I have been using different methods for years and I will reveal the method I use right now! Things you will need in order to do this, a recording program that has a drum editor used for midi notation. (I use cubase, but nuendo, protools, logic and others will work) You need a registered copy of drumagog 4.0 platinum preferably with some nice sounding gog files (I use the Andy Sneap gog files) and you will also need toon tracks ez drummer or superior drummer. Don’t worry at the end of this tutorial I will list links where you can purchase everything you need.

First things first, you need to open drumagog on all of your drum channels as a vst insert. The trick here is that you don’t want double triggers or false triggers to occur. You want the track to play back as intended, once you have that then move on to the next step.

Second you will need to turn on the midi out function on the drumagog, you can find this feature under the advanced tab. Set the midi notes to different notes, an examples would setting you kick to c3 and your snare to c3#. You want your drums to play different notes.

Third, you need to create a midi track for every drum track you have. Assign the the drumagog to each midi track so that you get the kick on midi track 1 , the snare on midi track 2 and so on.

Fourth, record a segment of the song to the newly added midi tracks to make sure you are getting a midi note recorded for every drum hit on every midi track you created. Once you got that, record the entire song to the midi tracks.

After you have recorded all of your drum tracks to the midi tracks you can now delete the original audio drum tracks, or you can keep them if this scares you, but I trash them as soon as I have the midi on my new tracks.

At this point you will need to open ez drummer or superior drummer to hear the play back of your midi tracks as drums. Go to your midi tracks and select the output to go to ez drummer or superior drummer. You might need to create your own drum map to better suit your needs for drum placement and editing.

If you are lost at this point and you cant get it to work, go back through the steps until you get it right, a suggestion might be to create a copy of the entire project and use the copy to figure this out on, that way you don’t loose anything important.

Once you have your drums playing back on ez drummer, you’ll need to edit them to perfect timing. Note: your overhead mics should be turned off at this point! This part requires a little bit of timing theory, you must know what 4/4 is and 3/4 is, also 8th notes, 16th notes, 32nd notes and so on. Open the drum editor for the midi tracks that are playing your drums. Here you can see a grid to tell if the drum hits are on time and off time. You’ll need to quantize the drum hits accordingly to the timing quantize grid. An example would be if you have a kick snare back and fourth on a 4/4 beat at 120 beats per minute, you’d be able to use 8th notes quantizing to move the note to the grid where it should have been in the first place. If you are in doubt what so ever about where a drum should be on the grid , have the drummer help you, he probably knows a thing or to about timing and will be able to assist  you.

Once you have all of the drums edited and they sound perfectly on time there are other functions that midi will allow you to do that audio tracks wont. Typically on a snare track you’d use compression ,a noise gate, and a limiter to achieve optimal striking of the drum. In a midi track all you have to do is select the fixed velocity feature and bam your snare hits the exact same level every time. You may not want it to hit the exact same on a snare roll for example, so get out your pencil and draw in the velocity curve so that it plays back the way it was played or intended to be played.

Once you can set back and listen to the drums and not hear anything that sounds off or out of time or dynamically wrong like volume builds, you can move on to the cymbals.

At this point your overheads are so out of whack, it sounds like noise if you play back your perfectly edited drums along with the original overheads, right? So what you need to do is, bring up the overhead track by its self along with drum editor and start placing your cymbals in the midi editor. That’s right; you’re using sampling for cymbals also. This is the part where the drummer doesn’t mind at all to set there and tell you what they like and don’t like as far as hitting cymbals go. Once you have all your cymbals placed where they need to be, you don’t need your over head audio track anymore, so you can trash it or leave it, it’s up to you, but I would defiantly mute it, lol.

So, now you have perfectly timed drums that sound great and is exactly what the drummer wanted, if not go back and fix it. You should be able to set back and listen to the start of a great song at this point and not hear anything that is out of whack, your guitar scratch tracks might sound a little off at points , but remember those are getting scratched and the drums are there to stay.

Links:
Cubase 4
http://www.steinberg.net/983_1.html

Drumagog
http://www.drumagog.com/

Ez Drummer
http://www.toontrack.com/ezdrummer.asp

Superior Drummer
http://www.toontrack.com/s20.asp
I hope you guys got some questions answered out of this tutorial. Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have along the way. You are now one step closer to recording like a PRO!

Sincerely,
Joshua Hamilton
http://myspace.com/joshuarecordingstudios




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ShakesTheClown

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2008, 01:14:26 pm »

This should be fun...
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Larrchild

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2008, 01:18:45 pm »

Joshua,
Thank you for your generosity and concern for our recording techniques. It is people like you who have made the industry what is is today. And for that, we thank you.
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Larry Janus
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McAllister

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2008, 01:20:34 pm »

Wow.

M
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Jay Kadis

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2008, 01:23:28 pm »

Thanks!  That filled in a lot of holes in my knowledge.

scottoliphant

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2008, 01:23:32 pm »

this is awesome...
anyone want to start a pool on whether or not we get to part tutorial part 2 of 6?

Larrchild

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2008, 01:25:07 pm »

Before Brad throws a padlock on this, you mean?
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Larry Janus
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amorris

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2008, 01:26:13 pm »

On your song "Lover's war", Is that an auto pan on the kik and snare?
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Jay Kadis

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2008, 01:30:13 pm »

I do find it interesting how so many engineers now see teaching as a viable career.  It isn't as easy as it looks.  There are dozens if not hundreds of real publications dealing with this stuff, so you need to offer something new or different.  What mastery of recording demands is patience and practice and unfortunately you won't get that solely from any book.  You get even less from most attempts at internet education.

Steve Hudson

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2008, 01:30:31 pm »

joshuarecordingstudios wrote on Wed, 05 March 2008 12:12

I did learn from some of the greats which I think may count for something a little more than a piece of paper. http://myspace.com/joshuarecordingstudios


Just wondering if you'd share "some of the greats" who mentored you.
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Jay Kadis

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2008, 01:33:38 pm »

And cross-posted to boot!

RSettee

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2008, 01:38:08 pm »

Hey thanks for the advice! Now do you have anywhere where I can possibly pick up Viagra? While you're at it, I could use some lower mortgage rates, and I was also wondering if there was any banks in Nigeria that you could hook me up with information on? Better yet, if you could find a bank in Nigeria that sells Viagra and lower mortgage rates, that would be sweet.
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Tom L

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2008, 01:39:11 pm »

?que?

phantom309

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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2008, 01:39:51 pm »

I'll bet this guy knows where Osama bin Laden is hiding.
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Re: Secrets of the Pro's
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2008, 01:41:05 pm »

..I think Tad has been dethroned...off to Expert Village you go....
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