Equipping Your Home Recording Studio - A Free Guide from Audio Masterclass

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Readers' Letters: What is that blanket inside your kick drum actually doing? Shouldn't it be keeping you warm at night?, and more...

"Look inside any kick drum and you will probably see a blanket. The blanket turns the drum's boom into a dull thud. But is a blanket the best way of doing this?"


In response to What is that blanket inside your kick drum actually doing? Shouldn't it be keeping you warm at night?, VytisLT writes...

in the article about blanket in the kick drum there are lots of wrong information. first of all it is BASS drum not kick drum. drums were kicked, when there were no drum pedals created and used. blanket is used not only for sound, but for damping drum pedal beater's rebound, so for "feel" of pedal too.

resonant head is very important and throwing it away is silly idea. bass drum without it sounds much softer in volume if compared to rest of the drum set and much less powerful in low frequency. so when you are recording whole drum set you get unbalanced sound since simply adding gain to bass drum mic rises noise in it's track. it is then difficult to use frequency filter of gate. and room mic gets only high pitched sound of bass drum. don't search mushrooms in the bottom of the lake. drill a 7" hole in the resonant head, put a blanket inside of the drum and you'll get perfect results.

RP response: A lot of people like to call it the kick drum because then you can just call it 'the kick' where 'the bass' would get confused with the bass guitar. The methods you mention are widely used and are also worth experimenting with. However, if you are having trouble with noise cause by raising the gain of the kick drum mic, then there is a fault, probably with the preamplifier.

In response to Do you use reverb to cover your mistakes?, James writes...

I would completely agree with the sentiment of this article; I'm a little ashamed to admit that I've employed reverb in a live environment to 'soften' some harsh backing vocals, but in the studio, there's really no excuse!

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Equipping Your Home Recording Studio

That said, the time I find reverb most useful is during a song when I want the vocal to linger on a soft syllable just a little after a pause.. the reverb is almost unnoticeable during the rest of the song, which means (I'm hoping!) it's 'just right'...

In response to Why did you change your DAW?, Pauljo writes...

I use Sonar 7, samplitude and Nuendo and I have found distict differences not only in operation but performance as well.

Nuendo for instance can handle more tracks of real-time effects before latency becomes noticable in say a guitar thru an interface and then software effects.

Samplitude has, in my opinion, by far the best mixer graphic. It's easier to work with and have everything on view and its very uncomplicated. I do my mastering on Samplitude. It also has excellent import export capabilities to allow you to work on material created in other DAWs.

Sonar however, is the one that I work with most of the time. It has a good range of effects Neve, Teletronix etc and great in-built synths, but mainly because it just works right out of the box. My only gripe with Sonar is that when you are changing from say an internal asio soundcard to an external interface mid project you have to close then re-open the program. With the other Daws you can select the drivers for the souncard and just carry on.

Going slightly off at a tangent, the biggest improvement i have ever made was buying a Quad core processor and 4GB ram and m/board for £200.00. All the above DAWs are now multi thread/processor compatible meaning that the Daws share out the work between the mult-core processor. Multi effects on multi tracks are no longer a limitation, well not for my work anyways, it's still what goes in that determines what comes out and good music is recognisable no matter what.


In response to Why did you change your DAW?, J.J. writes...

I started with an "un-DAW" called RiffWorks (www.sonomawireworks.com) and still use it frequently to write songs with. It's limited for big productions (i.e. MIDI, VST's, mastering etc.) so I added Cubase.

Cubase did everything I wanted but always remained somewhat unintuitive for me. The thing that drove me to wits end after about 18 months was as I got near the final mix down tweaking it pops up a window for everything and it becomes very easy to grab the wrong effect on the wrong track and mess everything up. In short there's so many windows you lose control. I went to a local seminar with a travelling Cubase expert to see how he coped with it. He was very impressive in his knowledge, but sure enough...same thing, he kept losing track of what window was working on what. This problem was a time killer for me.

I went searching around for another DAW and after trying a few demos stumbled upon Mackie Tracktion 3. After 2 minutes with the demo I was hooked. It solved my multi-windowed problem (it keeps everything nicely in 1 window), but also is very straightforward and powerful. Sound quality is great and it's very flexible, with it's racks and effects chain flexibility. I haven't run into any limitations or things to work around in a year of use. It's setup is a little different than most other DAW's (i.e. it doesn't try to emulate a hardware console on the screen), but I've found that to be an advantage. It's really sped up my workflow.



In response to Do you use reverb to cover your mistakes?, Soundman writes...

Thank you for the tips you publish on your website.

I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us.

R-P.com is one of my favorite websites and like a fisherman you patiently cast your net, gently reminding me there is much to learn. This winter, I think, I will be ready to purchase your online course.

In response to Mastering at home - an oxymoron?, Raphael writes...

I do believe mastering is a professional practice but far as saying you can't do mastering in your home, I think this is a false statement.

I've been mastering out of my home studio for many years and people love the sound I get. In fact many of my clients have used well known mastering house's and after hearing what I do they end up using my services.

So if you know what your doing and have the ears you can definitely master in your home studio!

In response to THIS is what a PA speaker should look like!, Adrian writes...

I am a West Indian living in the US. I'm also a musician and a sound engineer.

I know what you mean but I believe that you are misplacing that mysterious sound you like on the wrong object.

I can guarantee you that that same sound system in the hands of a novice engineer would sound god awful.

The bottom end you feel can come from many modern sound systems and to be sure, it's EASIER to get that today that it was 20 yrs ago. And in smaller enclosures too!

The annoying top end that you normally hear is a result of bad eq'ing. I mainly use my main EQ as a subtractive instrument and frequently need to attenuate 3.1KHz and some 2.5k and/or 4k.

I balance my crossover 1st with everything else flat. main EQ-flat. Vocal channel-flat. As soon as the mid highs start to get annoying, I know that I'm in the ball park (oval) and stop right there. I usually don't need to boost highs but according to the speaker system, I may need to add some air at 12k and above. I do prefer to add that at the channel stage though.

I have come to be quite intimate with the Shure 58 and once I tune the sound to that and my voice, I'm golden. This is my routine:

I first defeat the highpass switch on the vocal channel to start the sound check.

For the annoyance, I say 'eh' loudly about 8" away from the mic (so as not to encourage its proximity effect) and attenuate from 2.5kHz to 4kHz until my ears thank me. I then force a 'B' or 'P' sound heavily and straight into the mic with my lips actually touching it (I WANT the prox effect now). I go for a boom level just as it begins to hit the subs. Not too much. If it's not enough, I INCREASE THE SUBS FROM THE CROSSOVER-NOT THE EQ.

You can 'ring' the system out in 2 ways.

One is to increase the channel faderuntil you hear feedback and then cut the offending freq. Keep doing this until you get and take care of 3 or 4. by that time, the mic would be ridiculously loud, way beyond practicality. Bring the level beck down to normalcy and you're basically guaranteed to to have feedback under these normal circumstances.

My preferred method though is sweeping through the frequency spectrum with my voice saying 'ooo'. I will hear where certain frequencies 'pop out'. I then attenuate offenders until I can sweep without anything 'sticking out'.

Then I replace the highpass switch.

All EQ attenuation above is done on the main EQ with the channel itself still flat. 400Hz mostly always tends to be a problem. But I always give the system the benefit of the doubt. My motto is, innocent till proven otherwise.

I want my voice to sound like someone is actually talking to me and not coming out of a speaker system. So i fine tune to taste, again on the main EQ.

Anything unnatural, I fix. I never have to boost anything.

Once this is done, everything else falls into place. I usually may need to EQ the guitar cabs, but not much if there's a '57 on it. A lot if the guitarist is going for a certain sound (Brian May for e.g.)

There are 2 schools of thought when it come to bass and kick.


separately boost low end on either their respective channels of outboard eq's making sure never to boost the same freq on both. Jamaican reggae has, as the lowest end, the beef on the bass- 60 to 75 Hz and lower. Kick-90Hz and up. Other music is the opposite (Calypso).

High pass EVERTHING ELSE. One exception may be the keys. It depends on what sounds you use on your synths.


Feed the subs separately from a separate send on the console. This way everything goes only to the rest of the PA stack and doesn't touch the subs. For any instrument that you may need in the subs, you increase that send on it's channel much like you would for a reverb. Usually this would be limited to only the kick and the bass. This is definitely a cleaner way to go about it. It also saves your speakers AND your amps by not working when they don't need to allowing them to not run as hot.

By the end of this excercise, you would have a pleasing sound system that does not hurt your ears where ever you may stand while having the low end stab u in ur belly and chest giving you that sense of loudness without the hurt.

RP response: Thank you for sharing your tips!

In response to Your compressor adds noise to your recording. Why does it do that?, Angie - Denver, CO writes...

"What recordings would sound like if compressors had never been invented, I do not know."

Sure you do! When was the last time you listened to a Les Paul and Mary Ford recording? This of course assumes your article is addressing hardware compression and not tape compression.

RP response: We love Les Paul at Audio Masterclass Towers. The Audio Masterclass Hot 100 features an artist who we think has vocal qualities reminiscent of Mary Ford - www.audiomasterclass.com/learn.cfm?a=4311

In response to Behringer's Ultragain ADA8000 mic pre misses a trick, Angelo Audio writes...

This unit makes a great addition to digital mixing consoles equiped with adat in & out. It gives you 8 more mic/line inputs that sound exceptable and 8 more XLR balanced outputs. It will also sync to external word clock, adat clock or internal clock at 44.1khz or 48khz.

At $200 or less, you can't beat it.

In response to 1960's vintage public address equipment - adapt or replace?, Brian Pincombe writes...

"PGM" is Program. An override function for making public announcements. With no associated switch, a switched mic would have been used. Non-useable now since it would cut out your other inputs when engaged.

In response to Behringer's Ultragain ADA8000 mic pre misses a trick, Edge writes...

You can use this to make your 8 input digidesign 003 into a 16 analog input unit.

In response to When you are mixing, what is the first thing you should do? What is the last? (And what should you NOT do?), Jamiee Brown writes...

I want to know if there's a virtual instrument exactly like the MPC drum machine. I have files on the computer that I would love to utilze, but I don't want to load each file to the MPC due to time and memory limitations. I know there has to be a better way please help me.

RP response: Does anyone know of one? Surely it would be popular for many MPC enthusiasts.

In response to Production Review - 'Whole Lotta Love' from 'Led Zeppelin II' by Led Zeppelin - what can it tell us about production techniques?, Gennady Saenko. Ukraine writes...

Very curious article. I like Led Zeppelin very much and interested their Recording Techniques. You should have more.

In response to Should the slope of your filter be 6, 12, 18 or 24 dB per octave?, Pete writes...

In a subsonic filter for music is it better to use the 24db slope or the 12db slope.

RP response: The 24 will filter out subsonic frequencies more effectively, but you may hear its influence on audible low frequencies. It is always best to judge by ear, considering the intended application.

In response to Hoag Musical Instruments introduces - TRAD 60 guitar, Ron Hoag writes...

My web site is closed but you may reach me at ronhoag@juno.com

Thanks, Ron Hoag

In response to The shocking truth about working in pro recording studios, Mark writes...

I think the writer of the letter was probably a younger guy. What he said seems on the surface innocent enough, but if a client was present in the room this would not be useful, giving the impression that the studio was limited in available sounds. Also as was stated already, a novice needs to develop good timing when around the very experienced as to the proper moment to speak-or not at all.

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006