If you spend a lot of time reading and viewing videos about professional audio on the Internet, then you could easily get the idea that production is all about having the right equipment and software, particularly plug-ins. It is very true that getting the right sound is an important part of production, but there's a lot more to it than that. In this series, I will take a look at the five major components of production. A&R, arrangement, recording, mixing and mastering.
An Audio Masterclass visitor would like to record his acoustic guitar just once and not have to double it. And he thinks he has found an easy way...
Spacing your mics can create a rich open sound. But can there be too much of a good thing?
Get your microphone connections wrong and you have a huge problem, possibly bigger than you think. So how can you be sure you have got them right?
An Audio Masterclass student spots a strange piece of equipment in a photo. What could it be?
A video demonstration with examples including sine wave tests, female vocal, bass, background vocals and drums
A comparison between square waves and sine waves of various frequencies, displayed on an oscilloscope, with commentary.
How do you know for sure whether your master is an improvement on the original mix? Here's a simple way to tell...
When you make recordings, you will be *monitoring*, not merely listening. Monitoring is vital to the recording process all the way from basic tracks through mixing, mastering and quality control of the finished product.
In nearly all cases, Audio Masterclass students want to be able to work to a professional standard. They may want to become employed in the industry, write and produce their own music, or do unpaid work as well as a professional would do it. This introduction will help you to understand the ways in which you can work with audio professionally, or to a professional standard.
It's a rare recording that sounds great without reverb, natural or artificial. Reverb and effects are an important part of modern recording techniques.
Any professional microphone must be connected to a specialized microphone preamplifier to function correctly. The preamplifier will boost the signal voltage from the microphone anything up to 1000 times so that it can be handled correctly by the following circuitry.
The two channels of a stereo signal need to be in phase with each other. But are there times when it doesn't matter?
Can you tell a priceless Stradivarius violin from a $5500 copy from a $60 chain-store clunker?
Viola player Natalie Holt throws eggs at Simon Cowell on Britain's Got Talent. She protests at having to mime playing her instrument.
An eagle-eared RP reader spots similarities in music for the movies.
If you're recording in the studio, you can put your mics anywhere you like. But for TV, it's a little different...
An RP reader finds that a certain combination of microphone and preamp works much better than he expected...
So you're setting yourself up in the voice over business. What should you think about before anything else?
An RP reader fears losing cabinet resonances if the backline of his band is miked up through the PA. But perhaps it is innovation in live sound that has been lost over the years.
AKG makes some of the best mics in the world. AKG also makes a USB mic. A great USB mic?
Are you planning on getting your tracks mastered? Then the first rule of preparation is not to master the tracks yourself.
Sometimes unusual microphone placements can capture an interesting sound. In this instance, the sound is completely wrong.
Audio production - it's all about the DAW isn't it? Well that's what marketers would have you believe.
Manchester United's fans are not normally known for being a timid lot. So why can't they be heard at the other end of the stadium?
If you have a classic vintage vacuum tube, chances are you don't want to sell it. But someone does (for a price)...
If you record an entire drum kit with SM57 mics, the total cost of the mics is around $300. That's pretty cheap, but is the sound cheap too?
An RP reader has a turntable and a mixing console. But they are not sounding good together...
We know very well the most-covered song of all time, with its lush string quartet backing. But it was nearly given the electronic treatment.
For many engineers, the Neumann U47 is the undisputed champion of microphones. Here you can judge it against the $1599 Lauten Audio Atlantis. You might be in for a surprise.
A interesting question asked by an Audio Masterclass student. Well does it??
Any pro studio would have both main monitors and nearfields. But now you can have both in one package.
Good musical arrangements don't happen by accident. Either the band can arrange themselves, or someone else can take charge of the orchestration. Either way, it is the producer's job to make sure that everything sounds great before the microphones are positioned and plugged in.
If you want to sound like a 1960s psychedelic band, are 21st century mastering techniques appropriate?
The reason that the Red Hot Chili Peppers mimed their performance in the Super Bowl half time show is that the NFL were worried that something would go wrong with the sound!
Do you need to wait until you have a fully-professional studio setup? Or can you start recording tomorrow?
Several Audio Masterclass students have used Apple's GarageBand DAW and achieved excellent results. However, GarageBand's recording level control can be confusing. Other DAWs don't have one.
Demonstrations of preamplifier gain settings showing the importance of headroom, the consequences of too low a gain, and that raising the gain does not increase acoustic background noise.
How up-and-coming band SinFiction financed, produced and brought to market their first CD album, 'Led By Verses'
To achieve a richer sound from vocals, guitars, and even drums, the 'old school' technique of double tracking is extremely effective. And it costs nothing but a little extra dedication to your craft.
Sometimes a perfectly adequate microphone connected to a perfectly adequate audio interface will sound pretty bad. But there's an easy explanation...
You don't want background noise on your recordings, and you don't want to annoy your neighbors. But you don't want to spend more money than you have to, and you definitely don't want to waste money on soundproofing that doesn't work.
The function of mixing has changed since the beginning of the modern era of recording techniques in the late 1960s. In earlier times, the band and vocal would be recorded all together simultaneously, directly into mono or stereo. Mixing therefore took place actually during the recording session. But as multitrack recorders developed, eventually it was possible to place each instrument and vocal on its own track, and leave the mixing until later.
Equalization, or EQ, is one of the most basic yet most important tools in recording, live sound, and all other activities of sound engineering. Equalization is used to repair problems, to make individual instruments and voices sound better, and to help instruments and voices blend together in the mix. It is also used to improve the mix, and to make tracks on an album flow seamlessly from one to another without sudden changes of frequency balance.
Microphone technique is the art and skill of selecting an appropriate microphone for the job in hand, in terms of type, model and sometimes even the individual microphone, as microphones that were identical when new can come to sound different as they age.
You might buy a piece of vintage equipment to achieve a vintage sound. Or you might buy it for the simple pleasure of ownership. Enter the Studer D820X *digital* reel-to-reel recorder...
Sound engineers are normally a pretty thick-skinned bunch. So what is it that really riles them?
If you have a spare 665 euros among your loose change, you could have 60 seconds of your own music recorded by a 70-piece orchestra! For real.
That dangly thing at the back of your throat, properly called the uvula... Could you sing without it?
Classical music just needs to be recorded, doesn't it? Well in some cases it really can be produced.
A wrong note that has resonated for more than half a century is fixed - without the aid of a time machine.
What sounds good to the electric guitar player doesn't necessarily sound good to the audience. A live sound engineer explains...
If you're miking one of the finest violinists in the world, should you point the mic at the double bass instead?
A major producer has 'stolen' a song from a pair of unknowns. A crime, or normal everyday life in the music business?
If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound (if no-one is around to hear it?) If you can't hear hum, then is there no hum?
Take a 300-year old bass line, a cello player with just seven days' experience, and some highly uncool-looking musicians... and make a recording that is really top of the pops for weird!
There are so many decisions to be made during the process of recording. Should you make them one at a time as you go along, or let them pile up so that you have a mass of decisions to make in the mix?
We think of image-obsession as being a feature of the the current media age. But Sir Edward Elgar was at it 80 years ago...
If you're a Sparks fan, you'll want to own this live album. If you're a live album fan, you'll want to show your support for the format. Are live albums about to make a comeback?
We live in a precisely-ordered digital world these days. But what did music sound like when it used to be played by musicians? Perhaps something like this...
What kind of keyboard instrument can you buy for £20? You would be amazed...
Take a trio of rhythm guitar, bass and drums. Add a vocal, add some overdubs. Oh, and someone find a lead guitarist for the solo...
Many aspiring producers admire Will.i.am for his musical success. He admires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
Using microphones in a stereo pair always raises a good question - are you SURE they sound right?
Is this dual tube/transistor preamp the ultimate in preamp flexibility? Or does it completely miss what could have been its finest trick?
An interesting audio comparison of microphone positions on cymbal, sent in by an Audio Masterclass student. The choice of mic is interesting too...
Make your performers comfortable, find the best microphone positions, run the session smoothly and record clean signals. But not in this session...
An Audio Masterclass visitor wonders what the next stage in his journey towards pro audio should be.
If you're in the market for a quality post-production console, this might be of interest to you...
Who should decide whether a song needs to fade out at the end? And who should do it?
It's always good to have a clean start to a track, and removing even a tiny click can make a significant improvement.
To improve as a singer you need better tuning, tone and emotional communication. Here's how...
Double tracking is a powerful technique to create a rich texture in vocals and instruments. You can do it the hard way - or do it the easier way...
An Audio Masterclass student asks whether it is OK to use a noise-reduction plug-in instead of proper sound insulation.
When you have achieved good soundproofing in your room, you will need acoustic treatment to make it sound good both for recording and monitoring.
The process of mastering has changed a lot over the years. In the days of vinyl records, the object of mastering was to transfer a finished mix on tape to a lacquer master disc, which could then be processed to form the metal stampers that would create the records the public would buy.
The original purpose of the compressor was to reduce the difference between low-level signals and high-level signals so that equipment from an earlier era of recording, broadcasting and public address could handle them more easily.
Understanding the various types of microphones is key to successful recording. There are four basic types of microphone that are in regular use in professional recording, and other types that are significant, but used less often. The most important types are these...
Conventional recording wisdom says that you should choose the mic that sounds right in itself, rather than expecting EQ to solve any problems. But do some mics work better with EQ than others?
As a major fashion chain ditches the use of Photoshop for a more natural look, should we do the same in audio?
It's one thing being rejected. But when publishers won't even listen to your music, what could you possibly be doing wrong?
An RP reader wants to convert watts to dB. Is this even possible?
Getting the music done is one thing, getting the artwork finished is another. But what about all the other information a CD needs?
Can an $89 pair of monitors really be an effective tool in the recording studio? Or are they only good for 'media creation?
Anyone with a home recording studio now has the means to create a hit. So why haven't you yet?
Amazingly, the answer to this question is - almost - yes!
Any theatre would have tielines from the stage to the sound control booth. But from one side of the booth's window to the other?
Two singers, one microphone. Could it cause an Internet sensation?
You can get a plug-in to emulate virtually any analog audio process these days. But what about hum? Where's the plug-in for that?
Clicks occur for all kinds of reasons - imprecise editing, random noises, gremlin infestation. But when do you need to do something about them?
Content can be art. Art can be content. But when content is just a commodity, there is surely something going wrong.
Do you like your microphone to produce a clean, accurate sound? Or do you like your vocals rich and fruity?
It isn't often that a Neumann U47 or U48 comes up for sale. But you can grab one now if you're quick...
If you're in the mood to add some vinyl scratches to your track, what could be better than having a turntable right there in your console?
Is your computer noisy? Do you think the sE Electronics Reflexion Filter will help? Think again. (With audio)
Avid's recent webinar about Abbey Road's upgrade to Pro Tools HDX featured the worst audio I have heard for a long time. Who is to blame?
Microphone pops are an unpleasant side effect of recording. It's best to avoid them in the first place, but what if someone sends you a poppy vocal recording to fix?
One of the fundamental principles of Audio Masterclass is that if you want to get work in the audio industry, you have to be able to impress potential clients. If your audio or music is not impressive, then the work will go to someone else whose audio or music is impressive.
Everyone would like an 1176 or LA-2A compressor in their studio. But the originals cost so much that plug-in emulations are usually the only viable alternative. But do they sound the same?