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?
A video demonstration with examples including sine wave tests, female vocal, bass, background vocals and drums
Tested are the Universal Audio Solo/610 (tube) and the Focusrite ISA One.
Audio Masterclass students start by sending in a simple recording of speech. That shouldn't be too difficult, should it?
Audio Masterclass students make recordings to compare their microphones. Here are a few of acoustic guitar...
A practical demonstration of the Waves emulation of the Universal Audio 1176 compressor on a studio recording of snare drum
Joe Clancy plays drums in Abbey Road Studio 3. Audio Masterclass is there to make the multitrack recording.
Although the mouse and keyboard interface works and is cheap, many of us yearn for something more like the traditional analog console interface. But is it time for a complete rethink?
You've been asked to make a recording of some local musicians, and they expect to pay you. Wow - you're a pro! But how much should you charge?
An Audio Masterclass student has a problem with acoustic noise. Is it an acceptable solution to filter it out?
You can't make recordings of professional quality with substandard equipment. So what is the basic level that you need, to achieve professional standards?
Do your monitors have digital FIR filters; digital fine-tuning for volume, trim, bass and treble settings; soft fade-in and Crimson Aramid fibre drivers? Your listeners' loudspeakers don't.
When the mix engineer has squeezed every last drop of perfection out of the original multitrack recording and turned it into a stereo mix, the mastering engineer will attempt to perfect it even more…
Mixing can be the process of getting the best out of your original multitrack recording, or it can be an amazingly creative process in its own right. But first you'll have to fix the faults…
Of the five stages of production - A&R, arrangement, recording, mixing and mastering, clearly recording is central. And there is a lot more to it than choosing and placing microphones.
The BBC's recent broadcast of Jamaica Inn has drawn comments and complaints. "The actors are mumbling", "The sound track is faulty", "Like listening through mud". So what has really gone wrong, and who is to blame?
You can use the stereo output from a drum virtual instrument just as it is, or you can record each drum, the hihat and overheads to individual tracks. Which is the better way of working?
This is an age-old debate in the world of music making. Is it OK to use old guitar strings, or should you change them often?
For recording, sometimes it is better for your guitar strings to be used rather than new. When would used guitar strings be more appropriate?
If new guitar strings are too zingy for the sound you want, and used strings too variable, then perhaps there is a case for conditioning new strings, so they have exactly the sound you require.
The graphic equalizer is a very popular tool for live sound. You can also use it in the studio. But why would you use a graphic, and how should you set it?
An Audio Masterclass student lives close to a busy road. Is it acceptable to have background noise in his recordings?
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 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 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...
If you want to sound like a 1960s psychedelic band, are 21st century mastering techniques appropriate?
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...
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!
An Audio Masterclass visitor wonders what the next stage in his journey towards pro audio should be.
Spacing your mics can create a rich open sound. But can there be too much of a good thing?
Do you need to wait until you have a fully-professional studio setup? Or can you start recording tomorrow?
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?
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.
Who should decide whether a song needs to fade out at the end? And who should do it?
If you're in the market for a quality post-production console, this might be of interest to you...
An Audio Masterclass student spots a strange piece of equipment in a photo. What could it be?
It's always good to have a clean start to a track, and removing even a tiny click can make a significant improvement.
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.
To improve as a singer you need better tuning, tone and emotional communication. Here's how...
How up-and-coming band SinFiction financed, produced and brought to market their first CD album, 'Led By Verses'
A comparison between square waves and sine waves of various frequencies, displayed on an oscilloscope, with commentary.
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...
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.
How do you know for sure whether your master is an improvement on the original mix? Here's a simple way to tell...
An Audio Masterclass student asks whether it is OK to use a noise-reduction plug-in instead of proper sound insulation.
Sometimes a perfectly adequate microphone connected to a perfectly adequate audio interface will sound pretty bad. But there's an easy explanation...
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.
When you have achieved good soundproofing in your room, you will need acoustic treatment to make it sound good both for recording and monitoring.
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.
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.
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 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.
It's a rare recording that sounds great without reverb, natural or artificial. Reverb and effects are an important part of modern recording techniques.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
The two channels of a stereo signal need to be in phase with each other. But are there times when it doesn't matter?
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?
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...
Can you tell a priceless Stradivarius violin from a $5500 copy from a $60 chain-store clunker?
As a major fashion chain ditches the use of Photoshop for a more natural look, should we do the same in audio?
Sound engineers are normally a pretty thick-skinned bunch. So what is it that really riles them?
Viola player Natalie Holt throws eggs at Simon Cowell on Britain's Got Talent. She protests at having to mime playing her instrument.
It's one thing being rejected. But when publishers won't even listen to your music, what could you possibly be doing wrong?
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.
An eagle-eared RP reader spots similarities in music for the movies.
An Audio Masterclass visitor wants to convert watts to dB. Is this even possible?
That dangly thing at the back of your throat, properly called the uvula... Could you sing without it?
If you're recording in the studio, you can put your mics anywhere you like. But for TV, it's a little different...
Getting the music done is one thing, getting the artwork finished is another. But what about all the other information a CD needs?
Classical music just needs to be recorded, doesn't it? Well in some cases it really can be produced.
The Sound Guy, Inc. has announced the release of a 64-bit compatible version of SFX Machine Pro for Windows. SFX Machine, a flexible multi-effects and sound design tool, will now work with 64-bit VST host programs...
Can an $89 pair of monitors really be an effective tool in the recording studio? Or are they only good for 'media creation?
A wrong note that has resonated for more than half a century is fixed - without the aid of a time machine.
An RP reader finds that a certain combination of microphone and preamp works much better than he expected...
Anyone with a home recording studio now has the means to create a hit. So why haven't you yet?
What sounds good to the electric guitar player doesn't necessarily sound good to the audience. A live sound engineer explains...
So you're setting yourself up in the voice over business. What should you think about before anything else?
Amazingly, the answer to this question is - almost - yes!
If you're miking one of the finest violinists in the world, should you point the mic at the double bass instead?
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.
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?
A major producer has 'stolen' a song from a pair of unknowns. A crime, or normal everyday life in the music business?
AKG makes some of the best mics in the world. AKG also makes a USB mic. A great USB mic?
Two singers, one microphone. Could it cause an Internet sensation?
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?
Are you planning on getting your tracks mastered? Then the first rule of preparation is not to master the tracks yourself.
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?
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!
Sometimes unusual microphone placements can capture an interesting sound. In this instance, the sound is completely wrong.
Clicks occur for all kinds of reasons - imprecise editing, random noises, gremlin infestation. But when do you need to do something about them?
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?
Audio production - it's all about the DAW isn't it? Well that's what marketers would have you believe.
Content can be art. Art can be content. But when content is just a commodity, there is surely something going wrong.
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...
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?
Do you like your microphone to produce a clean, accurate sound? Or do you like your vocals rich and fruity?
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?
If you have a classic vintage vacuum tube, chances are you don't want to sell it. But someone does (for a price)...
It isn't often that a Neumann U47 or U48 comes up for sale. But you can grab one now if you're quick...
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...
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?
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?
What kind of keyboard instrument can you buy for Â£20? You would be amazed...
An RP reader has a turntable and a mixing console. But they are not sounding good together...
Is your computer noisy? Do you think the sE Electronics Reflexion Filter will help? Think again. (With audio)
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...
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.
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?
Many aspiring producers admire Will.i.am for his musical success. He admires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
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.
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?
Using microphones in a stereo pair always raises a good question - are you SURE they sound right?
A interesting question asked by an Audio Masterclass student. Well does it??
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.
Is this dual tube/transistor preamp the ultimate in preamp flexibility? Or does it completely miss what could have been its finest trick?
Any pro studio would have both main monitors and nearfields. But now you can have both in one package.
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?
It's a rare bass guitar recording that doesn't vary in level to some extent. In most cases, this adds nothing to the musicality of the recording and just makes the track harder to mix.
How do you keep your studio door closed? If it uses a latch then you may be slowing down your sessions.
Should the bass notes be on the left and the high notes on the right, or the other way round?
Q: When is a ribbon tweeter not a ribbon tweeter? A: When it's an eXtended Accelerating Ribbon Technology tweeter in an ADAM Audio loudspeaker.
Should a pro engineer prevent clipping through correct gain setting? Or can soft limiting be relied on to save the day?
Avid says that what you need for great mixes is superior plug-ins, to achieve the polish you crave. I disagree.
Can you get by with decent-but-plain production values. Or do you have to go the extra mile to win clients?
Can the gain control on your preamplifier increase bass boost due to the proximity effect? Can it increase the level of acoustic background noise in your room?
If someone gives you a vocal recording to work with that has pops burned in, what can you do?
So many bloggers and commenters encourage fear, uncertainty and doubt about audio. But what should really be taking up your attention and time in the studio?
Is it always necessary to pronounce the final consonant of each and every word? Or would that just get too irritatin'?
To succeed in audio, clearly you have to satisfy your client's requirements. But what if the client wants changes? Can you do that? Or will you be too stubborn to achieve long-term success in the industry?
The new Stagescape M20D live sound mixer from Line 6 allows novice users to shape sound in subjective terms rather than scientific measurements. Is this a good idea, or does it merely ring-fence ignorance?
When phantom power was first invented, it was designed so that any mic that didn't need it wouldn't be affected by it. So why do we now worry about switching it off?
The difference between sound pressure decibels and sound intensity decibels isn't all that difficult. Here is the real explanation...
Nearly all power amplifiers used in live sound feature a level control. How should it be set?
The Mackie DL1608 is a digital mixing console aimed at the live sound market. But would a beginner in audio benefit from iPad control?
There are fashions in microphones just as their are fashions in clothing and interior design. But the AKG D12 and its successors seem to have stood the test of time.
There is much talk about microphone preamplifiers on the web and in recording magazines. But do they really make that much of a difference?
Do you ever avoid a certain audio technique because of fear? Fear of failure? Fear of bad sound? Fear of... the unknown...?
Rihanna performs live in a rainstorm. She gets wet. And so does her microphone...
The tape that got The Beatles rejected by Decca Records in 1962 has unexpectedly been rediscovered. But is it just a (money-making) fake?
A blog post from a senior representative of Pandora claimed that 2000 acts will earn more than $10,000 each next year. He actually meant $4500.
Look at any decent mixing console and you will see high-pass filters in each and every mic preamp section. Why is this, and what are they used for?
As the new James Bond movie Skyfall opens, it seems an appropriate time to revisit the question of whether the 'James Bond Theme' was actually written by Monty Norman or John Barry.
Kid Koala's new CD, 12 bit Blues, comes with a cardboard turntable that you can build yourself, plus a flexidisc to play on it. Want one? You really should!
Ask a number of preamp users what each of the controls on the Golden Age Pre-73 does, and the 'Low-Z' control will probably cause the most scratching of heads. So what is it for?
The money in music is divided like this - the top 1% get nearly all of it! But soon it might be possible for the 'middle-class' musician to make a decent living.
Every home needs a listening room or home cinema with a pair of really big loudspeakers. And this pair certainly is big. And unusual too.
If as a producer you decide not to use Auto-Tune, then it's a judgment call whether your singer is in-tune, or in-tune enough. Like James Bond himself, Adele's producer lives life on the edge.
Voice over recording can be very lucrative. But only if your voice talent AND your recording techniques are of the highest standard. So what are the potential problems?
Ask any two engineers which mics they prefer for any instrument and you will soon be witness to a heated argument. But sometimes there might be a very good reason why a mic doesn't work.
It is an accepted fact of audio life that a decent quality loudspeaker must have at least two drive units. But this only has one. Is it because it's old?
The Neve Melbourn 12-2 mixing console is a classic in miniature, but now quite expensive to buy on the used market. But might this be an alternative?
It might be impossible to achieve perfect soundproofing against the sonic onslaught of heavy traffic, but small improvements can be gained quite easily.
One of the potential problems of compression is pumping. And in this example it's about as bad as it gets.
One wouldn't expect a 50-year old potentiometer to be without a few crackles. But does a guitar used only for recording actually need a volume control?
Some singers have deeply resonant vocals. Some don't. But how can you add deep resonance when it isn't there in the first place?
Apple's new OS Mountain Lion apparently has more than 200 new features and you need 20 pages of tutorial to understand them. In what way is this a good thing?
Having great equipment doesn't always lead to great recordings. And how much will you regret wasting your money?
The Shure SM58 is normally regarded as an unburstable microphone. But these husband-calling wives have other ideas...
Conventional wisdom says that soundproofing materials need to be heavy and thick. So how can curtains be expected to provide any degree of soundproofing at all?
If you write your own songs, you might be able to get royalties for your live performances. Why settle for just one income stream?
Gain... Level... Are you confused? And does it make any difference if you are?
You don't often see keyboards like this one. A delight to the eye as well as the ear...
Lower latency, better CPU load balancing, reduced memory usage, better disk performance... Something to look forward to?
There is a big difference between a school or college, and the real-world working environment. One is helpful and supportive, the other is harsh and takes no prisoners. Guess which is which?
A good musical arrangement can make all the difference to the presentation of a song. Of course, it helps if it's a good song in the first place...
Everyone wants the famous Neve sound. But can you find it in a ducker?
Is your music earning you money? Here's how it could earn you money while you sleep.
Will Loomis thinks that Jessie J's song 'Domino' is a ripoff of his song 'Bright Red Chords', allegedly. But how many notes does it take to be scoundrel in the music business?
Delay is one of the simplest yet (currently) under-appreciated effects available. But how do you work out the correct settings?
Take off the grille cloth of your loudspeakers and you will see that they have holes, with tubes extending inside the cabinet. Why? What would happen if you blocked them up?
Do you always connect your effects pedals between your guitar and amplifier. Wow, that's just so retro!
The average YouTube music video gets a few tens of views. Isabel Fay's gets 683,649. How come?
Why have loudspeakers that fire sound at you when you can have loudspeakers that spray sound all around the room. Those crazy Swedes... :-)
Real acoustic reverb has texture and character, and it's much more fun than using a plug-in. But how?
You can make each individual track of your recording sound as great as you like. But will they all mix together successfully?
Are you concerned about the professionalism of your work? Some photographers are, and some are not so much. The comparisons are interesting...
If your living room is dominated by a gigantic pair of speakers, then why not dominate it some more?
An 8-channel preamp of apparently SSL/Neve quality is up for sale on Ebay. But can you really trust the seller's description?
We think we know everything these days. But are we getting a little too clever? Perhaps people in an earlier age of recording knew something that we don't.
If you look at the photo carefully, you will see that this Studer A80 analog tape recorder has several more tape guides than the norm. It's used for mastering. But why?
Do your recordings brush up against the full scale mark? If they do, might they be distorted or degraded in some way compared to lower-level signals?
There are so many notes in a sonata or a concerto. Should we expect them all to be played correctly? Or is the occasional wrong note acceptable in the context of a performance of wonderful musicality?
I never thought I'd see synchronized singing and hula hooping, but I have now. And it demonstrates an interesting scientific principle that relates closely to audio.
In the studio, you can work at whatever pace you like. But in live sound, or live broadcast, sometimes you have to think very fast indeed.
Take some music in 1970s style, then apply mastering processes from the 21st century. Will it work? Or will the two eras clash horribly?
To achieve success in music, you don't necessarily have to be able to sing all that well. Here's proof...
If you have an old-style mixing console and you're suffering from noise, there's a reason for that.
Your recordings need to sound professional right from the first millisecond. Four audio examples demonstrate this VERY clearly.
An RP reader has an interesting phase problem. Is this something he should worry about?
Computers are cutting edge, right? Er, not quite so cutting edge as you might have thought...
Waves currently has an offer on plug-ins - up to 50% off and more. Wow that's a lot - but is there something else you need to consider?
When stereo sounds so much better and more lifelike than mono, why would you ever want to record a vocal with a single mic?
So you record using virtual instruments. Can you really call yourself a producer?
An RP reader wants to pan, but doesn't know the rules. Do you have to know the rules before you break them?
An RP reader wants to know how loud the bass should be, in percentage terms.
Many a great record has been made using only 24 tracks. But how can you expand a 24-track recorder to 25, 26 tracks or even more?
Bass drum samples tend to sound more like samples than the proper way a bass drum should sound. So how can they be given a more lifelike texture?
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