Spring 2011:6pm - 9pm Wednesday Evenings
week-10: Jam 'n Remix
Week-8: Reflexshun, geekin', mixin' and Over-Dubbin'.
Week-7b: Electronics and Overdubs
Ok, this day was admittedly alot of work and I did not necessarily let everyone in on the technical hurdles. On one hand, I apologize for that - I was a bit pre-occupied with pulling the whole thing off, literally all of the challenges from A to Z (see bulets below).
We did indeed accomplish all that I crazily set out to do. Ryan's Mix of Jack's track was a bit bkg heavy and, in light of our MS discussion, I attempted a Mid-Side after-the-fact remix.
Week-4: Brad Senne Session
Another cool tracking session taken to the extreme in terms of exploring how much isolation is possible. The added texture of Acoustic DI through an amp was nice.
You might ask WHY I always bother to do
'pre-mastering,' the answers are simple. I listen in my car
on the way home. In a fresh and familiar environment, I know in an
instant what works and what doesn't. The pre-masterign process helps
me put 'numbers' to what my ears heard. Also, the songs were mixed out
of order - 3, 1, 2 - and while I set up (and mixed) all the paramters
for song-3, they were not at all appropriate for the other two songs.
Through mastering, I tied to reconcile the disparity between what I heard
in the car (disappointed) and what I felt the songs had the potential to
Week-3: Machine Alignment, Flanging
and Jack's Guitar OD
Week-2: Jack and Nick
This session went pretty smoothly. Your feedback appreciated.
KIT: Nady TCM-1150
Weeks 1 thru 5: Two Track and Four Track experience
On SESSION days, Four students with have defined jobs in the control room as detailed below and will then rotate throuh the jobs so everyone gets a shot. Anyone in the control room should be listening and avoid distracting talk as the engineers (and musicians) will want your feedback and observations.
RECORDING ENGINEER: operates the preamps in the tall rack
MULTI-TRACK TAPE OPERATOR: Keeps track sheets and session log on the 4-track or 24-track. Get song titles, learn the band members names, etc... Machine operates at 15 IPS, the tape will last 30 minutes max.
MIXER / Communicator: Responsible for the rough mix in the Control Room, FX sends / returns and Foldback / Cue (when aplicable). It is very important to comunicate with the band, get song titles, learn the band members names, etc., amd EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to slate each song via Talkback.
Stereo Tape-op: This is a 'logging' job. Unlike the multi-track, which will likely be stopped between takes, the logging machine will operate at 7 1/2 IPS and not be stopped unless nothing it happening.
STUDIO REPRESENTATIVE: At least one person will be in the studio to make sure the band is comfortable and that they are on mic. Other students are welome and encouraged to listen.
Week-s 1 thru 5: 2-track and 4-track techniques and recording
Weeks 6 thru 10: 24 track
commentary, opinion and perspective
I often help students with mixing problems, and often find myself resolving simple issues like 'extreme use of plug-ins.' Unless you are specifically going for 'affected,' there are more gentle ways of achieving what is often referred to as 'glueing all the pieces together.'
More often, our goal is to reconcile disparities between various mics and instruments so that nothing in the mix sticks out. If the rhythm track is trashy and bright - for example - but the vocal doesn't match, it will be hard to hear the vocal. Do you make the vocal bright and trashy OR do you attempt to tame the rhythm section and make 'sonic real estate' for the vocal to fit. The song often dictates the choice, but it's generally better to make sonic real estate. Leave the trashiness or the final polish until after the mix is balanced. Mastering engineers can often help advise you along the way - objective ears can be very useful.
'Air' and other forms of treble enhancement - as one example of abused territory - must be done gradually. Like sculpting, it is important to not chisel too deep too fast. That said, all variations of ART are valid - you can use extreme EQ if that's what the track calls for - but there are often many ways to achieve the desired goal often by applying EQ and processing in stages.
Even as your hearing diminishes over time, your ability to listen will improve as experience adds to your 'sensitivity library.' This is known as knowing what to listen for.
THE LOUDNESS WARS have undone many of our technical achievements. We need to be able to play all different kinds of music - back-to-back, in shuffle mode - and it needs to be 'in the spectral ballpark,' a big field for sure. Future mp3 players will have 'automatic level matching software' that will eventually prove that the loudness wars corrupted rather than enhanced. Consider the following exercise...
If you listen to lots of different types of music - and want to do a compilation of same - you might need to reconcile the differences of the various tracks, especially if they come from extreme audio periods and would be an extreme mastering exercise...
Think about how different the Altecs sound compared to the Polks - and listen to what we achieved week-6. Even though this was only a rough mix for the purpose of evaluating 'what to do next,' it is very much in the spectral ballpark. The top end is there but not painful. There is detail and air. The bottom is perhaps a bit plentiful, but it is not muddy. This is a great foundation from which to start. A mastering engineer could 'tame' this easier than if it were bass light and / or had high frequency harshness.
During the final phase of mixing to tape, Ian noticed the top end was getting messy - and his perception was right - the question is, what could be done to fix it? On listening during the ride home, I noticed that there should either be more bottom snare brightness or less overhead treble. Keep in mind that it is even more important to reconcile the drums with the needs of the song as it is to know how to reconcile all the drums mics / tracks with each other.
Because of the lousy crotch mic I had at the time, the snare brightness will have to meet the cymbal brightness in the middle - help the bottom snare by carefully adding a little top to the crotch mic and possibly tame the cymbals either by lowering their level or treble EQ OR using a high frequency limiter to preserve the air but tame the peaks.
Once a drum track balance is achieved, any additional EQ - to make them fit with the track - can be applied via submix EQ, if necessary. Again, like sculpting, many small steps - small amounts of multiple EQ and compression in stages often works better than one heavy-handed 'attack.'
When the Altecs were THE studio monitor, mixes did not come out too bright - the emphasis was on balancing the vocal or lead instrument against the 'background - the arrangement made sonic real estate, with vocal intelligibility being of max importance. Vocals were mixed way up front because most people listened on AM radios or 'sound systems' without tweeters - kinda like the Altecs, but darker. The u-47 helped with its presence and along with tape and echo, it was the sound of the fifties.
We have not really made any significant fidelity improvements since then - mostly just that miniaturization has allowed more channels and reduced amplifier distortion (and a significant loss of color along the way - not bad, but different).