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BASS (47) COMPRESSION (32) DRUMS (41) EFFECTS (47) EQUALIZATION (27) GUITAR (100) HOME RECORDING (81) IMPULSES (21) INTERVIEWS (19) KARAOKE (1) LIVE (10) MASTERING (56) MIDI (18) MIXING (163) REVIEWS (131) SAMPLES (56) SONGWRITING (18) VOCALS (29)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

How to record a song part 3/6: bass!



Once we have all of our drum recordings done it's time to track the instrument that serves as bridge between the rhythmic section of the song and the harmonic one: the bass.

The bass is an instrument that can be recorded in several ways: it can be real, or it can be Midi (click here for an article about virtual bass), it can be played with the fingers, or with a pick.
The first thing to do before recording a real bass is to dedicate some time to its mantainance: it's a good idea to clean the fretboard, and especially to mount new strings (click here for a dedicated article), in order to have all the harmonic richness we can (with time the strings tend to become more dull sounding and lose their brightness).

After we have the new strings mounted it's time to control the intonation (click here for a dedicated article) so that we are sure that the bass is in tune in all the points of the fretboard.

Once our bass is ready to rock, we need to decide how to record it.
There are several ways:

- To record straight into the audio interface, directly from the bass or through a bass preamp

- To microphone a bass cabinet

- To do both of the above at the same time with a splitter

The purpose, as we will see in the bass mixing part, is to have a clean bass track to use as the low-end part of the tone, and another one (that can be distorted before reaching the audio interface or via plugin) that will provide the upper range with all the effects/coloring we want.

If the bass player wants to use his own gear (amp, stompboxes and so on), remember to put them in the right order, click here for an article about the perfect bass effect chain.


CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/6: PREPARATION!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/6: DRUMS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 4/6: GUITARS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 5/6: VOCALS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 6/6: KEYBOARDS AND EXTRA ARRANGEMENTS!


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Saturday, March 23, 2019

How to record a song part 2/6: drums!


Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Once our project is ready to record, we need to start from the foundations of our song, which for a rock/metal song is the rhythmic section, and the first instrument to record of the rhythmic section is the drums.

Now we need to setup the tempo track, which will contain the metronome of our song, with all the necessary variations. The click, in case we are recording acoustic drums, will be sent via headphones to the drummer in order to make him follow a reference that will be the same for all the other instruments.

How will we record our drums?
Will we use a Midi virtual drumkit? In this case we will need to write every single midi note in the piano roll and to adjust the velocity and the other parameters in order to make the drum sampler sound as realistic as possible (click here for a dedicated article about velocity and the other midi parameters).
Alternatively to writing manually the Midi notes, they can also be acquired by using an electronic drumkit or by applying triggers to a real drumset (click here for a dedicated article).

Will we use a real drumset?
Then, according to how many microphones we have, we can use different techniques.
If we have only 2 microphones the best method is the one described in this article.

If we have more inputs in our audio interface instead, we can close mike every drum part.
Here is an article about how to microphone all the single parts of a drumset, and here is another one specific on how to microphone the cymbals.

Finally, here is an article with various microphone setups arranged by genre.

It's important to say that a drumkit can be also recorded both with microphones and triggers in order to add sampled drum sounds on top of the acoustic ones later, or to replace entirely some drum part that did not come out well; this gives us also a lot of flexibility in terms of editing.


CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/6: PREPARATION!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 3/6: BASS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 4/6: GUITARS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 5/6: VOCALS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 6/6: KEYBOARDS AND EXTRA ARRANGEMENTS!


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Saturday, March 16, 2019

How to record a song part 1/6: preparation!



Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!

Today we are starting a new serie, which is a prequel of our super comprehensive How to mix a song one, and it will detail all the steps necessary to record a song or an album from scratch, step by step, presenting all the links to the in depth tutorials.
As per the aforementioned mixing tutorial, also this serie of articles will be FULL of hypertext links: click on them to open dedicated in-depth articles, and expand your knowledge :D

This time will be even more comprehensive, because it's a six part serie that starts with the preparation.
Let's start by saying that this tutorial will not cover the recordings done with just one microphone in the middle of the room, for that there is a dedicated section, we're talking about a full multitrack project this time.

Fist off we need to have some recording equipment, which can be a small home recording studio (click here for an article about how to create a small home recording studio for less than 500$) or a full fledged professional one, the fundamental tools to have are a computer with a DAW, a good audio interface (with as many inputs as possible, 8 can be a good start if we want to record real drums, but we can also use multiple audio interfaces together), some microphone, a decent monitoring system (good monitors or headphones), jacks and mic stands.
About the computer is important to have a fast cpu (for the real time processing and to keep the latency low), a good amount of ram (possibly from 24gb up, in order to handle the virtual instruments with ease) and a big hard disk, capable of storing all the takes needed.

Now we need to set up our Daw and audio interface with the settings that will be the foundations of the whole project: setting the bit depth and sample rate.
Usually the standard for a project is 24 bit and 48khz, but if we want to save some hard disc space is acceptable also to record directly at 44khz without sacrificing excessively the quality.
Now we need to setup our soundcard in order to make it ready to record with the drivers perfectly configurated and at the lowest latency allowed by our computer, click here for a dedicated article about Asio, Buffer size and Latency.

Finally, when our computer and audio interface are perfectly setup, before starting to record the various instruments it's important to focus on the human factor: here is an article about 4 things to do to get a band ready to record.



CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/6: DRUMS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 3/6: BASS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 4/6: GUITARS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 5/6: VOCALS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 6/6: KEYBOARDS AND EXTRA ARRANGEMENTS!


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Saturday, March 9, 2019

Review: Ltd EC 401



Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review a guitar that is considered by many one of the best quality to price ratio in the market, capable of uniting aesthetics, premium hardware and rationality at the right price, and this combination allowed it to have an enormous success, that is keeping it in production after many years.

Ltd guitars is a sub brand of the American/Japanese premium manufacturer Esp guitars, and it's focused on the low to mid tier prices (a bit like Epiphone with Gibson), but its high tier instruments really offer a lot for the price (we're talking about the 600 to 700$ / € area), and at that range they represent probably an even better alternative to most of the equivalent Epiphone models.

This Ec 401 is the Ltd version of the Esp Eclipse model, and it's a single cut that represents Esp's take on the Gibson Les Paul, borrowing from it a very similar shape and most of the specifics: a mahogany set neck and body, tune o'matic bridge, but it adds to it top notch hardware: active Emg pickups (60 on the neck, 81 on the bridge) and Grover tuners, plus it offers, unlike the Gibson, 24 extra jumbo frets and a Pau Ferro fretboard with the classic Esp flag shaped mother of pearl inlays.
Finally, the neck has a different shape: Thin U, instead of the classic slimtaper design (in all its variants).

The guitar comes in various colours: Olympic white, black, and military green satin, all with binding.

The feel when playing is quite Gibson like: the body is heavy (but not as heavy as a Les Paul), dark sounding and familiar, but the neck feels slimmer and a bit easier to play, plus the Grover tuners offers a big update to the classic Gibson style ones, which are famous to not be very stable.

In terms of tone this guitar just sounds perfect for metal: the pickups are uncompromising, and good to even out the boominess of the body, bringing out a lot of output and clarity.
Above all this guitar, as all the upper range Ltd ones, is reliable: for the price it basically doesn't need any kind of upgrade, and will ensure great build solidity and tone.

If you have the chance try it out, you might easily fall in love with it!

Thumbs up!


Specs Taken from the website:


CONSTRUCTION Set-Thru

SCALE 24.75"

BODY Mahogany

NECK 3Pc Mahogany

FINGERBOARD Pau Ferro

NECK CONTOUR Thin U FRETS/TYPE24 XJ

TUNERS Grover

BRIDGE TOM & Tailpiece

NECK PU EMG 60

BRIDGE PU EMG 81


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Saturday, March 2, 2019

5 tips to prepare your mix for mastering



Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to talk about how to prepare our track for mastering (click here for a dedicated article)!
First off we need to start from the basics: the mix must be done with the right gain staging, and it should never peak above -12dbfs, this way the mastering engineer will have enough leeway to polish the sound and make the master sound great;
once we have a nice, stable mix at the right volume, before sending it to mastering we need to export it and check out the wave.
There are chances that some element of the mix sticks out much louder than the others (usually snare or cymbals, but it can be also something else), and if they stick out too much compared to the rest of the wave, they will hit the ceiling too soon, so either the rest of the song will remain low in volume, or if the mastering engineer will try to raise the volume, the loudest part will deteriorate, lose the transient, and eventually sound bad.

What do we do in this case? We need to reopen the mix, locate the loudest instruments, and if we can't turn the volume down enough (because otherwise the general equilibrium would get lost), we can try one or more of these 5 solutions, listed in order of aggressivity from low to high:


1) Compression: this is the most intuitive solution, and it can be a life saver especially with snares.
Compression can have either a volume-taming function or a tone-shaping one.
It's an extremely versatile tool that is very good to add weight to our sound and at the same time level out the unwanted peaks, and in some instrument (especially drums) it's fundamental to avoid the peaks to eat out all of our headroom.
A very delicate mix bus compression can also be used in the mix track, but keep it at a ratio very low (for example 2:1), because we must keep in mind that all the various compressors that we put in the individual tracks, groups, busses, master etc, will eventually sum up and can ruin our final tone.

2) Saturation: saturation comes in many types and forms and it can be extremely coloring, which can ruin our sound, or very subtle.
A pinch of saturation can help smoothing out some transient, add some warmth to the tone without degrading it, and it can provide a hint of vintage feel that in modern digital productions could be very useful (especially on cymbals), just make sure not to overdo it.

3) Console simulation: character is the keyword here.
A console simulation tries to recreate the slight compression and saturation of the historical consoles used in the big studios, and we can consider it as a sum of the points 1 and 2, especially those that have a dedicated saturation knob such as Sonimus Satson cs, some of the Waves audio ones, or the Terry West ones.
They can add some character to our tone, which is more subtle than real coloring, but if used on various tracks it can give good results.

4) Transient shaper: if we need a more aggressive transient control but we don't want either to compress or to equalize, there is a third way: to manipulate the transient with a transient shaper.
This is a tool that works on the curve itself trying to preserve it but making it at the same time poke more or less through the mix: if the snare is disappearing, this can be a way to make it cut through, if it's too present, we can make it a bit less harsh.

5) Limiting: this is a bit of a final solution, but actually several mix engineers are using it: it's used to limit a single track in the mix, in order to make sure it will never be louder that a set amount.
As for compression, we need to be very careful: a limiter, if too drastic, will literally suck away the life out of our sound by killing completely the transient, and in my opinion it's a good idea to use it only if we have some extremely fluctuating track like a finger picked bass or a particularly dynamic acoustic drumset.
The key here is to use compression to even out the hits, and then to put a limiter not too aggressive just to tame the few hits that goes completely off the chart.

Once we have solved our headroom consuming problems we can export the track (in stereo, 24 bit) and check it again: if the loudest elements are a bit more in control we can send it to master, and the final song will be clear and powerful.

Do you have other tips to prepare a mix for mastering?
Let us know!


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