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Do your recordings sound dull and lifeless?

Do you suffer from dull, lifeless sound? Do you wish you could have just that little extra sparkle? With the right preparation, you can!

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Do you suffer from dull, lifeless sound? Do you wish you could have just that little extra sparkle? With the right preparation, you can!

There is a fine dividing line between dull and lifeless, and harsh and over-bright. Finding that dividing line is an important part of the production process.

The process starts with the recording of individual tracks. Let's say you are recording an electric guitar. Does the sound from the amplifier, as heard by your ears rather than microphones, sound dull and lifeless? Plainly, you should make every effort to get the best possible sound right from amp.

The same applies to your vocalist. There are many people who can 'nearly' sing. But compared to a top notch singer they do indeed sound dull and lifeless. Singing lessons, or a new singer, will be the answer.

Next, the microphone. You should select and place the microphone to get as close to the sound that you want, without any processing. If you fail to do this you will end up trying to make a silk purse out of the proverbial sow's ear ('polish a turd' is the alternative expression).

At this point, it really shouldn't be necessary to EQ or compress. But if you know for sure that you have certain EQ and compression preferences for certain sounds, it won't hurt to add a little, to get things sounding as they should.

Dullness and lifelessness in the mix can result from too many tracks all competing for the same place in the frequency spectrum. You need to 'shape' each sound so that it is strong in the frequency range that is important for it to cut through, and restrained in other frequencies where other instruments should dominate.

Do all of the above and you will have a clean mix full of great sounds. In fact, you'll find mixing easy because of all the preparation you have done. Further fine tuning of the sparkle of the mix can be done through EQ of the mix as a whole.

At this point, a professional would hand over to a specialist mastering engineer. If you really must go it alone on mastering, compare your work to a mix you like and aim to get the same overall sound.

No more dull, lifeless recordings!

By David Mellor Friday March 19, 2010
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