Project Studio Expo 2016 (AES 141st Convention) Supporting Resources For Download!
This page contains various additional resources to support my Project Studio Expo seminar ‘The Five Most Common Project-studio Recording Mistakes’ at the 141st AES convention in Los Angeles in September 2016. This site also hosts a huge range of free mixing and recording resources relating to my books, including the 'Mixing Secrets' Free Multitrack Download Library and the 'Recording Secrets' Library Of Mic Positions. To stay up to date with the latest uploads to this site, sign up for my monthly ‘Small-studio Secrets News’ mail-out – and if you have any follow-up questions about the seminar or these resources, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!
Seminar PSE4: ‘The Five Most Common Project-studio Recording Mi stakes’ (Thursday 29th September 2016)
Mistake #1: Ignoring The Source
Changing Mic Versus Changing Instrument: In this audio example Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow a single snare-drum performance was recorded using five different classic snare-drum microphones: (in order) AKG’s C414B ULS and C451, Neumann’s KM84 and KM86, and Shure’s SM57. Although these changes are significant, they’re small compared with the differences you can achieve by simply swapping out the instrument itself, as you can hear in this example Ex01.02: WAV/MP3play_arrow where the same Shure SM57 microphone was used to record three different snare drums: (in order) an Orange County 14x5-inch maple snare (as used in the previous example), a Ludwig Black Beauty 14x5-inch hammered brass snare, and a Gretsch 14x6.5-inch mahogany snare.
Interaction With The Recording Room: For this audio example Ex01.03: WAV/MP3play_arrow I recorded a Fender Telecaster through a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier (with a Shure SM57 microphone six inches from the grille cloth) in four different locations, to show the impact of simple room acoustics effects: (in order) the middle of a large empty wooden-floored concert hall measuring 18x12x5m; the centre of a small studio live room, measuring approximately 4.7x4.2m, with a ceiling sloping from 2.2m to 4.8m high; in the centre of the same studio live room, raised a foot off the floor on a heavy-duty podium; and in the corner of the same studio live room.
Using DIY Reflection & Absorption: This audio example Ex01.04: WAV/MP3play_arrow features two different stereo recordings of an acoustic guitarist in a studio live room: the first has the player and mics surrounded with acoustic absorbers; and the second surrounds them with acoustic reflectors. Notice particularly the enhancement of the instrument’s high frequencies when the early reflections become more prominent in the reflective environment.
- Preparing Electric Guitars & Drums For Recording: Check out these two recent SOS articles for tips on optimising the raw sound of electric guitars and drums for recording.
Mistake #2: Clinging To Miking Templates
Snare Miking Examples: The first set of examples I played were Shure SM57 recordings of a single drum performance, with three mics positioned at different distances from the head: 3cm Ex02.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow, 8cm Ex02.02: WAV/MP3play_arrow, and 20cm Ex02.03: WAV/MP3play_arrow. I followed that by playing another multimic recording with same mics all 8cm from the drum, but angled towards different parts of the drum head: the centre Ex02.04: WAV/MP3play_arrow.
The Results Of Template Drum Miking: Here are the two audio examples I played to demonstrate the dangers of clinging to miking templates: an overhead mic pair Ex02.07: WAV/MP3play_arrow and its corresponding snare-drum close mic Ex02.08: WAV/MP3play_arrow. The question is: where’s the snare sound going to come from?
'Recording Secrets' Library Of Mic Positions: As mentioned in the seminar, I’ve set up a growing database of instrument recordings, extensively multimiked with identical microphones so as to provide an unrivalled insight into the art of microphone placement. Compare dozens of different mic positions and combinations around the same instrument quickly and easily, so you can fast-track your own productions and make the best use of limited studio time. So far the library features 450 audio files covering 20 instruments, including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, upright piano, grand piano, upright bass, kick drum, snare drum, cymbals, saxes, clarinets, and flute.
Salvaging Template-miked Drums At Mixdown: As mentioned in the seminar, mixing the template-miked drum recordings above was a bit of a palaver – for more details, check out this Sound On Sound ‘Mix Rescue’ article. Suffice to say, it’d have been a lot quicker to get a respectable sound if the mics had been put in sensible places to start with…
Unorthodox Real-world Miking Techniques: The Sound On Sound ‘Session Notes’ feature frequently demonstrates how project-studio conditions often demand unorthodox miking methods if you’re going to achieve easily mixable results – for example in the April 2013 or January 2016 articles. Do make sure you check out the audio files accompanying those articles to judge the effectiveness of the techniques for yourself.
Mistake #3: The Cardioid Reflex
Low-end Response & Realism: Here’s a comparison of two piano recordings using two spaced pairs of Rode NT55 small-diaphragm condenser mics, the first pair with cardioid capsules Ex03.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow and the second with omni capsules Ex03.02: WAV/MP3play_arrow.
Off-axis Tonal Coloration: These three vocal recordings were made with the singer 135 degrees off axis to a Groove Tubes GT57 multi-pattern large-diaphragm condenser mic, with its polar-pattern switch set respectively to cardioid Ex03.03: WAV/MP3play_arrow, figure-eight Ex03.04: WAV/MP3play_arrow, and omni Ex03.05: WAV/MP3play_arrow. (I’ve level-matched these recordings to make their tonalities easier to compare.)
Spill Reduction: Here’s an example which demonstrates how useful figure-eight microphones are for reducing unwanted spill: a figure-eight microphone recording the acoustic guitar of a singing guitarist Ex03.06: WAV/MP3play_arrow. Bear in mind that the singer is only about two feet from the guitar mic.
Bonus Files – Polar Patterns For Tonal Variety: To demonstrate the tonal variety available from using different polar patterns, check out these three vocal recordings, which were all recorded on-axis at the same distance from a Groove Tubes GT57 multi-pattern large-diaphragm condenser mic, with its polar-pattern switch set respectively to cardioid Ex03.07: WAV/MP3play_arrow, figure-eight Ex03.08: WAV/MP3play_arrow. Clearly, the omni microphone also picks up more room sound, but bear in mind that you can combat this by moving closer to it Ex03.10: WAV/MP3play_arrow without the strong proximity-effect bass-boost you’d expect from directional polar patterns.
Introduction To Non-cardioid Polar Patterns:If you’re new to the idea of non-cardioid polar patterns, here’s a straightforward introduction: ‘Using Microphone Polar Patterns Effectively’.
Recording Singing Guitarists: For more demonstrations of methods for recording singing guitarists, check out SOS January 2014’s ‘Session Notes’ column and this great article on ‘Recording A Singing Guitarist’.
Mistake #4: Spillphobia
Separation Anxiety: Spill needn’t be a problem, even when you’re recording a whole band in one small room. Take this recording Ex04.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow, for example, where a whole band were set up in very close proximity in a single room, but which still sounds present and upfront because the band were balanced sensibly in the room itself. (There’s very little processing involved – just three compressors and six bands of EQ spread across all 20 input channels.) There’s plenty of separation between the instruments too, as you can hear if I solo the drums Ex04.02: WAV/MP3play_arrow, and guitars Ex04.04: WAV/MP3play_arrow respectively.
Accommodating Spill In The Mix: Just because this band-recording’s vocal mic Ex04.05: WAV/MP3play_arrow picks up loads of hi-hat spill, that’s not the end of the world, as long as you adapt the band sound Ex04.06: WAV/MP3play_arrow, either during recording or mixdown, to have too little hi-hat. In that way the vocal mic simply provides the missing hi-hat level within the context of the full mix Ex04.07: WAV/MP3play_arrow.
Enhancing The Mix Sonics With Spill: Here’s another one-room band recording Ex04.08: WAV/MP3play_arrow, but in this case the spill was more actively embraced as a means of making the mixdown simpler. The only plug-ins I’ve used on this mix are four simple high-pass filters, yet the ensemble sound blends very effectively without effects or processing – largely on account of the spill components. Now let me solo each of the instruments in this mix so you can hear how much spill there is in each case, and how much better each sounds within the full mix (ie. with its spill) than in isolation: saxophone Ex04.09: WAV/MP3play_arrow, piano Ex04.10: WAV/MP3play_arrow.
More Information About The Featured Sessions: Two of the recording sessions I’ve used for these audio examples have been featured in SOS ‘Session Notes’ columns (June 2015 and January 2015). Further information about the first of these sessions can also be found on it’s dedicated resources page, and you can see how the spill helped make the recordings easily mixable in this three-part video series.
Practice Dealing With Spill At Mixdown: If you want to increase your experience with handling recorded spill at mixdown, here are some suitable raw multitracks you can download from Bruks, The Don Camillo Choir, Dunning Kruger, Jesper Buhl Trio, Selwyn Jazz, Spektakulatius, Wesley Morgan, and Zwiepack.
Mistake #5: Deferring Decisions
- The Results Of Fence-sitting When Recording Acoustic Guitar: Here are the individual mic signals from the acoustic-guitar multimic recording I mentioned during the seminar: a large-diaphragm condenser microphone by the soundhole Ex05.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow; a dynamic microphone by the soundhole Ex05.02: WAV/MP3play_arrow; and a small-diaphragm condenser microphone by the fretboard Ex05.03: WAV/MP3play_arrow – none of which provide a particularly usable sound.
Fence-sitting Case Studies: Whenever I talk about deferring production decisions, it immediately brings to mind these two specific Mix Rescue articles: May 2013 and March 2011. In both cases a lack of sonic decision-making during the tracking session cost me hours of remedial work while trying to reach a respectable result at mixdown.
Recordings That Mix Themselves: If you make decisions as you go along, your multitracks will pretty much mix themselves. This is something I’ve demonstrated in a number of SOS ‘Session Notes’ columns, for example June 2015, January 2016, April 2016, May 2016, and June 2016, all of which were very quick and straightforward to mix.