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Adventures in music and audio for the home recording studio enthusiast

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Demonstrating the Waves J37 analog tape emulation plug-in and comparison with a real tape recorder

A video demonstration with examples including sine wave tests, female vocal, bass, background vocals and drums

 

Two microphone preamplifiers compared at Abbey Road Studio 2 - tube and transistor

Tested are the Universal Audio Solo/610 (tube) and the Focusrite ISA One.

 

Recordings of speech by newly-starting Audio Masterclass students

Audio Masterclass students start by sending in a simple recording of speech. That shouldn't be too difficult, should it?

Recordings of acoustic guitar by Audio Masterclass students

Audio Masterclass students make recordings to compare their microphones. Here are a few of acoustic guitar...

 

The Waves CLA-76 compressor plug-in on snare drum, with video

A practical demonstration of the Waves emulation of the Universal Audio 1176 compressor on a studio recording of snare drum

 

A simple 8-mic drum mix, with video

Joe Clancy plays drums in Abbey Road Studio 3. Audio Masterclass is there to make the multitrack recording.

Is it time to reinvent the physical mixing console?

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?

 

How much should you charge for your audio services?

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?

 

Q: Can I use a low-pass filter to remove noise from my recording?

An Audio Masterclass student has a problem with acoustic noise. Is it an acceptable solution to filter it out?

What basic equipment do you need to make professional recordings?

You can't make recordings of professional quality with substandard equipment. So what is the basic level that you need, to achieve professional standards?

 

How complicated do your monitors have to be?

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.

 

What is production? Part 5: Mastering

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…

What is production? Part 4: Mixing

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…

 

What is production? Part 3: Recording

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.

 

Audio problems at the BBC - TV drama audiences can't understand what the actors are saying

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?

When using a drum virtual instrument, should you record each drum to its own individual track?

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?

 

New vs. old guitar strings: Part 1 - The case for new guitar strings

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?

 

New vs. old guitar strings: Part 2 - The case for used guitar strings

For recording, sometimes it is better for your guitar strings to be used rather than new. When would used guitar strings be more appropriate?

New vs. old guitar strings: Part 3 - The case for conditioning your guitar strings

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.

 

How to set a graphic equalizer

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?

 

What level of background noise is acceptable in a recording?

An Audio Masterclass student lives close to a busy road. Is it acceptable to have background noise in his recordings?

What is production? Part 2: Arrangement

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.

 

What is production? Part 1: A&R

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.

 

Recording a cymbal from different mic positions (with audio)

An interesting audio comparison of microphone positions on cymbal, sent in by an Audio Masterclass student. The choice of mic is interesting too...

How not to run a recording session!

Make your performers comfortable, find the best microphone positions, run the session smoothly and record clean signals. But not in this session...

 

How much mastering does a Pink Floyd soundalike band need?

If you want to sound like a 1960s psychedelic band, are 21st century mastering techniques appropriate?

 

Q: Why do I have to record acoustic guitar twice?

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...

Even the best sound engineers in the world can't be trusted - apparently

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!

 

Q: Should I upgrade my Shure SM58 and use technical solutions for noise and ambience?

An Audio Masterclass visitor wonders what the next stage in his journey towards pro audio should be.

 

Recording acoustic guitar in stereo - should you use spaced or coincident mics?

Spacing your mics can create a rich open sound. But can there be too much of a good thing?

How to get started quickly in home recording

Do you need to wait until you have a fully-professional studio setup? Or can you start recording tomorrow?

 

The professional way to make sure your mics are connected correctly

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?

 

Setting the recording level control in GarageBand

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 be responsible for the fade at the end of a song - the producer, mix engineer or mastering engineer?

Who should decide whether a song needs to fade out at the end? And who should do it?

 

Buy an SSL mixing console for a quarter of its price when new!

If you're in the market for a quality post-production console, this might be of interest to you...

 

What is this strange-looking piece of equipment?

An Audio Masterclass student spots a strange piece of equipment in a photo. What could it be?

Click removal at the start of a track

It's always good to have a clean start to a track, and removing even a tiny click can make a significant improvement.

 

Setting microphone preamplifier gain to achieve both adequate headroom and a good signal-to-noise ratio

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 to become a better singer

To improve as a singer you need better tuning, tone and emotional communication. Here's how...

The Making of a CD - FREE DOWNLOAD

How up-and-coming band SinFiction financed, produced and brought to market their first CD album, 'Led By Verses'

 

Can you hear the difference between a square wave and a sine wave?

A comparison between square waves and sine waves of various frequencies, displayed on an oscilloscope, with commentary.

 

How to double track easily and efficiently

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...

Make your recordings richer with double tracking

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.

 

One simple step you must take to make sure your masters sound really great

How do you know for sure whether your master is an improvement on the original mix? Here's a simple way to tell...

 

"There is background noise in my studio. Should I use a noise-reduction plug-in?"

An Audio Masterclass student asks whether it is OK to use a noise-reduction plug-in instead of proper sound insulation.

Q: "Why is the signal from my microphone low in level and noisy?"

Sometimes a perfectly adequate microphone connected to a perfectly adequate audio interface will sound pretty bad. But there's an easy explanation...

 

The importance of monitoring in the recording studio

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.

 

A brief introduction to acoustic treatment

When you have achieved good soundproofing in your room, you will need acoustic treatment to make it sound good both for recording and monitoring.

A brief introduction to soundproofing

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.

 

A brief introduction to working in professional audio

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.

 

A brief introduction to mastering in the home recording studio

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.

A brief introduction to mixing in the home recording studio

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.

 

A brief introduction to reverb and effects for the home recording studio

It's a rare recording that sounds great without reverb, natural or artificial. Reverb and effects are an important part of modern recording techniques.

 

A brief introduction to compression for the home recording studio

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.

A brief introduction to equalization for the home recording studio

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.

 

A brief introduction to microphone preamplifiers for the home recording studio

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.

 

A brief introduction to microphones for the home recording studio

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...

A brief introduction to microphone techniques for the home recording studio

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.

 

Does inverting the phase of one channel of a stereo signal always sound bad?

The two channels of a stereo signal need to be in phase with each other. But are there times when it doesn't matter?

 

Do some microphones respond to EQ better than others?

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?