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So I hate to ask this...
Old 13th July 2010
  #1
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
So I hate to ask this...

because I feel like its probably been asked a hundred times, but I couldn't find a thread on it, so please don't hate me...

Here's the deal, I'm running a home studio, its small, cause i'm on an even smaller budget, but I've been working on it for a year or two now, and its starting to get somewhere. I've got some pretty decent mics (though no super high end ones for sure.), and I have done a a few recordings of different genres, but none of them seem to have that polish of a final product that all of the recordings I've heard you guys post have.. I'm not looking for a high end studio, CD quality sound per se, but something that sounds pretty decent as a demo or atleast for uploading online ya know?

So my question.. how do I get that polish? I know there is no one, end-all answer, I've been doing this long enough to know that, but what steps should I be focusing on, and what things should I maybe be doing to get that polish?

Thanks guys, hopefully I'm not being too much of a noob right now...
-HBP
Old 13th July 2010
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Jimsi's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
bass recorded through the direct Input (di)with a little compression smoothes a bass recording...decent strings decnt bass and decent tecneque good timing, record to a click track for timing, im rambling....
Old 13th July 2010
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Liquid Shadow's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by humblebassplayer ➑️
because I feel like its probably been asked a hundred times, but I couldn't find a thread on it, so please don't hate me...

Here's the deal, I'm running a home studio, its small, cause i'm on an even smaller budget, but I've been working on it for a year or two now, and its starting to get somewhere. I've got some pretty decent mics (though no super high end ones for sure.), and I have done a a few recordings of different genres, but none of them seem to have that polish of a final product that all of the recordings I've heard you guys post have.. I'm not looking for a high end studio, CD quality sound per se, but something that sounds pretty decent as a demo or atleast for uploading online ya know?

So my question.. how do I get that polish? I know there is no one, end-all answer, I've been doing this long enough to know that, but what steps should I be focusing on, and what things should I maybe be doing to get that polish?

Thanks guys, hopefully I'm not being too much of a noob right now...
-HBP
Well, can you tell us what you have already done to your music? Such as your attempts at polish it? Tell us your workflow. I mean this is a very broad question, you are basically asking us how to master music.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #4
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
If you wanted to be so bold, posting a clip of one of your mixes would probably get you a lot more helpful suggestions.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #5
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
I'm sorry, I should have been more specific, I apologize... I guess it's partially mixing I'm asking about, and then moreso mastering that I'm asking about... I know how to record instruments, and i know mic placement and I experiment with it alot to get different sounds and all, so the actually recording is good I think. Mixing-wise.. I'm not as comfortable with as recording, but I can manage I guess. Obviously I work with panning and levels, and go with the approach of panning things like you would hear them on stage, so I guess I'm good there? but maybe i'm missing something...

So I guess it'd be mastering where I'm going to get most of my polish... Unfortunately this is the area where i have the least amount of experience. I'm running pro tools LE8 to mix/master, and most of my plug-ins come from there, so I use a compressor/limiter to lightly limit the volume of my recording, the maxim plug-in that comes with pro tools to further adjust dynamics, and then a Powr Dither, all on my master tracks.

I'll upload an example of my most recent project for you guys to hear in just a second, so you can more hear my problem... sorry for not uploading in the first place.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Liquid Shadow's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Is it correct to assume that you have never done any EQ before? That might be your culprit right there.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #7
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Here it is, it's just a vocal/viola duet, done by a local group, but it should be simple to gain that sorta polish on something smaller like this no? Hopefully I can be helped, atleast in baby steps... Hope this displays the problem better..

humblebassplayer - Gloomy Sunday - No Fingerprints - SoundCloud


Also. I EQ all of my tracks separately, and I guess I know I could throw an EQ on the masters, but I'm not positive what way i should do such, especially if they are all EQ'd separately, idk how throwing one on the masters would help?
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Guru
 
joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Cool tune! Is that really a mono file?

Seems to me the only thing missing is a spacious, complementing reverb that would take us out of reality into the mystical, timeless place where songs like that want to live.

Also, there seems to be a sort of boxy aura around the string player? Strings are tough: I always find, even though I don't want to, that there's an essential "zzzishingess" with strings that is not part of the tone or note per se, but just an emphatic, searing vibration: you hear it live but it's difficult to capture and convey in a recording.

Also, and here's a left field comment, a song like this would maybe sound better-- not technically be better, but "sound" more compelling and authentic, if they were recorded on the roof of an apartment building at night, with the traffic and sirens and distant roar of the city in the background-- seems like it's begging for some kind of "tragic" dimension you're not getting in the stillness and calculatedness of a studio.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #9
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Liquid Shadow's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Just took a listen. I think the vocal part came out significantly better than the viola track. I hope I won't offend anybody by saying this, but I feel that the viola part wasn't particularly well executed, things weren't in tune here and there, especially when the voice came in, things weren't lining up. I would definitely think about adding some reverb to the vocal, it sounds to "in your face", unless that's what you're doing for.

I also think that the viola part could've been better recorded. It sounds like it was recorded in a very dead room, the sound is also a little grainy, which could be your signal chain or part of the playing itself. I think a little reverb on the viola would definitely help a great deal. And then bus these two parts out and use another reverb to unify the two.

Just my 2 cents.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Addict
 
appleburger's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
that example just sounds really dry to me. add some reverb to smooth things out a bit and create some space. it sounds like your ear is right next to the source in a dead room, doesn't make it very interesting. also try creating a much wider stereo field. double and pan those backing vocals so they can help create a sense of space and give it some interesting character. it will also get them out of the way of the main vocal and mono main instrument. and try using a stereo reverb, maybe a big room sound on the viola and backing vocals and a smaller one on the main vocals. the tracks sound like they're recorded decently but the mixing doesn't do much to add anything that makes it interesting. viola part could be practiced and rerecorded also.

*edit* i guess i'm not the only one with these opinions.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #11
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uncle duncan's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I thought it was weird when the vocal came in softer than the viola. Panning could help the mix, especially when the viola and voice are on the same note. How about a more interesting vocal tone - less lows, more mids and more compression, and some reverb?
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Liquid Shadow's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by appleburger ➑️
that example just sounds really dry to me. add some reverb to smooth things out a bit and create some space. it sounds like your ear is right next to the source in a dead room, doesn't make it very interesting. also try creating a much wider stereo field. double and pan those backing vocals so they can help create a sense of space and give it some interesting character. it will also get them out of the way of the main vocal and mono main instrument. and try using a stereo reverb, maybe a big room sound on the viola and backing vocals and a smaller one on the main vocals. the tracks sound like they're recorded decently but the mixing doesn't do much to add anything that makes it interesting. viola part could be practiced and rerecorded also.

*edit* i guess i'm not the only one with these opinions.

Great minds think alike hehhehheh

Jokes aside, I do agree that the viola part should be practiced and re-recorded. The best word I can come up with to describe it is "scratchiness".
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Wow thanks for all the helpful responses!

Overall it seems that I went with too much of a studio feel, and need to "liven" it up a bit more. I guess thats just from me always trying to get a clean recording, working in a home studio, that I got in the mindset of keeping it all as clean as possible, and forgot about keeping that live feel, as you guys suggested with the panning/verb.

The viola part, was in fact sort of tricky, I'd never recorded strings like that before, but I'm trying to get out of my comfort zone, and a traditional band setting, so that's why I went for it. Do any of you guys have suggestions for mic placement, or anything then if I were to rerecord the viola part? the violist of the duet wants to come back in a month and record a solo demo album, so I'll take all the tips I can get there.

@joelpatterson - love that last idea, maybe I'll look into finding or recording some atmospheric sound effects for the background.

@Liquid Shadow - though the violist is infact my girlfriend, I take no offense I can hear the out of tune notes, and yes the scratchiness was from the playing not my signal chain. Part of it was my unsure-ness on how to record the viola part so I'll take part of the blame, but the rest was she came a little unprepared, it's true. I'll work with adding verb to both the vocals and the viola track though, I definitely wasn't trying to go for an in your face thing. Though I'm alittle unsure about your last step of instruction: "And then bus these two parts out and use another reverb to unify the two." What effect would this have? I'm alittle unfamiliar in this area I guess.

thanks again for all the replies so far!!
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #14
Gear Guru
 
joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by humblebassplayer ➑️
... suggestions for mic placement, or anything ...
One of the cliches I hear over and over is that with something like a viola, the "musical sound" is really a "filling up the room" sound as opposed to what is technically emanating from the instrument. As opposed to say a guitar, where the further away you are, the dimmer it is... with a bowed string thing, you ideally should be recording in something like a basketball gym: this will smooth out the "scratchinesses" and just lend a mellower, more "sweeping" vibe overall.

Yeah, explore the rooftop option if you can... and it would be super-amazing if the passersby on the street joined in on the harmonies...
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
Liquid Shadow's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
What I mean is this:

If you use different reverbs on the viola and the vocal, when you put them together they may not sound that they were performing in the same space, if you will. This is ok if that's what you're going for. By sending these two tracks to a bus and put a reverb on that bus, you apply one reverb to both tracks, it will have more of a "live" feel. Since the reverb is identical for both tracks it will sound that they were recorded/performing in the same "space".

Hope this makes sense.

P.S. I tend to take some liberty when critiquing other classical musicians since I'm a classical pianist. I'm glad that you're not offended.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
@joelpatterson - so basically record where I can get as much natural verb and sound out of the viola as possible? rather than a more isolated recording room?

@Liquid Shadow - Ooo ok, that makes alot of sense actually. I'm going to try this, along with the other suggestions and see if I can come up with that polished sound I was going for, as well as a much better mix/sound. Thanks aton!
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
@joelpatterson (or anyone else) - also, would you suggest stereo miking the viola? I just got a pair of MXL 603s condensers. Or would you suggest just using one mic to record? Or maybe even a combo of both? I plan to toy around with it, but I just wanted to know if you had any personal suggestions or anything.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #18
Gear Guru
 
joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by humblebassplayer ➑️
... get as much natural verb and sound out of the viola as possible?...
Right, and also where the player feels like they are creating an enjoyable performance that thrills them ever-so-slightly-- rather than "playing a part."

The psychology of performers-- you start to understand and unlock that mystery, you will really be on your way!

Edit: I personally think stereo miking anything and everything makes for a more realistical result-- I mean it has to, you're edging ever closer to holography, right?
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #19
Lives for gear
 
Liquid Shadow's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I would definitely do stereo miking with viola, his idea of the gym is great. A church or a real performance hall is even better if you have the opportunity. You might get away with a spacious living room too.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #20
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Alright, both suggestions make alot of sense, and I'll definitely keep them in mind! Thanks so much guys, working with all of your suggestions now, and its already sounding a bunch better! I definitely think that not only is this helping with this recording, but its gonna help my future recordings/ and mixes also :D
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #21
Lives for gear
 
Liquid Shadow's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Glad we could help!

Welcome to GS and hope you stick around
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #22
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
No worries, I will I've been reading on GS for probably 6 months now, you guys have awesome, knowledgeable and helpful people on here, and I've learned alot from reading, so I figure its about time I jump in the community. Thanks for making my first leap in, such a great learning experience
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #23
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
I used all of your guys suggestions (except for joelpatterson's atmospheric effects idea! I'll work on that tomorrow) and came up with a remix/master for the song. Its really late/early here, so I'll revise it tomorrow morning with a fresh set of ears, but I figured I'd post my progress here, one to see if I'm on the right track (I think I am! it sounds aloot better to me atleast!), and also to see if you guys have any other suggestions for me, before I finish this entirely tomorrow. Thanks again for all the help!

humblebassplayer - Gloomy Sunday - Remix - SoundCloud

-HBP

P.S. - The backing vocals are too low. I'll fix it in the morning. But it has been noted.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Addict
 
appleburger's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
sounds much more believable and a lot less sterile! i'd still play with panning the backing vocal, i wouldn't be subtle about it either. definitely a big step in the right direction to my ears!
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Maniac
 
Quadrophonic73's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
A huge step forward in my recordings was taking the time to use a graphic EQ plugin to actually look at the EQ curves of each track and see where things needed to be sweetened (and cut!). One of the biggest Eureka! moments I've had as an engineer is the time I finally figured out a good way to make a snare punch through a mix without going crazy on the effects. It has a lot to do with bringing out the crack in the high end and playing the thing consistently.

I'm a big fan of EQ notching, especially since I've had to learn to get a decent sound out of a not very decent room. The idea is to carve out the parts of the sound in each track that end up saturating the final mix. In my case, it's taking a lot of midrange out of drums. I've started using amp simulators more and more so there's less that actually gets recorded in the room itself.

+1 for DI bass and careful EQ.

-Alex
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #26
Lives for gear
 
uncle duncan's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
For the viola, have her walk around the room to see if there's a sweet spot. Then, try a neutral (not bright) mic near the instrument, and put up a figure 8 mic aimed at the walls, instead of the instrument. That way you can dial in some room sound without worrying about phasing issues. I do the same thing on guitar amps all the time.

I like Joel's suggestion for ambient sounds. Scary percussion could add tension to the track: triangle, wind chimes, rattler (think rattlesnake,) squeaking a glass by rubbing a wet finger around the rim, playing a cymbal with your fingers, dragging a pick slowly on the low string of an electric guitar, plucking the strings on the other side of the bridge or tuning nut, the sound of a leaky faucet dripping... Alfred Hitchcock would be so proud.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Guru
 
joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Yeah, much better! Starting to get a little "agony" out of the viola-- I know people are piling on with the production suggestions-- -- but there's still something about the vocal that's too square and afternoony... maybe it's the reverb that's focusing me on the midrange? If there was a delay, a kind of lingering delay, wispy and tortured in the background-- "No flowers... no flowers... will waken you... waken you..." it would hammer home the sense of disorientation and despair the singer seems to be talking about.
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by humblebassplayer ➑️
@joelpatterson (or anyone else) - also, would you suggest stereo miking the viola? I just got a pair of MXL 603s condensers. Or would you suggest just using one mic to record? Or maybe even a combo of both? I plan to toy around with it, but I just wanted to know if you had any personal suggestions or anything.
Just pinched this from a recent SOS reader question. Thought it would be helpful given earlier posts:

I am attempting to record a violin for the first time. I want a nice deep sound, but am unsure about using stereo mic techniques such as M/S, X-Y or ORTF, for example. I want to get the most natural sound possible with minimal amounts of processing.

When recording a violinist, it’s important to find the right room; violins do not respond well to close miking techniques, and the rich tonal quality of the instrument may be lost in a small, dead-sounding space.
Photo: Danchuter / Wikimedia Commons
The recording space is less than ideal: not a nice reflective surface with good acoustics, which would lend itself to distant miking techniques, but a small, treated, dead space that doesn’t have an especially nice sound. Will I have to use close mic techniques and artificial reverb, or can I get a reasonable sound out of the room?
I have a pretty good selection of microphones to choose from and have thought about using large diaphragm condenser mics, such as AKG C414s but, if close mics are the way to go, I also have access to dynamics. I want to capture the full, rich sound of the instrument and have looked at some diagrams showing the frequencies present at different places around the room; now I am wondering if I would need different types of mics at different places? I will be using a PT8 HD system and have hired a Neve desk. I might also add some tape warmth afterwards with a Studer tape machine.
Via SOS web site
ASOS Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: If you want a natural, full-bodied sound from a violin, you have to give it space. Close miking will always sound coloured by comparison and there will be a disproportionate amount of mechanical bow noise. Recording in a small, dead acoustic will result in a small, dead-sounding recording, no matter what you do in post-production.
When recording music the priorities are the music, the performer and the place, in that order. After that you can think about where to put the mics and the types of mic to use. And only then should you think about preamps, converters and recorders, for example. Your priority should be to find an acoustic space worthy of the performance, and then work out how to record there.
As far as the stereo techniques are concerned, there’s really no point in close-miking a violin in stereo. The instrument is not big enough to warrant it. However, recording a violin performance in a nice-sounding room often is worth doing in stereo, although whether you choose to work with X-Y, M/S or ORTF, for example, will depend on the nature of the room acoustics, the perspective you require, and the kind of stereo imaging you favour. All those techniques (and more) can produce pleasing results in the right situations.
For mic choice on a solo violin, personally I prefer to use either small-diaphragm omnidirectional mics (I think they sound significantly more natural than cardioid mics), or ribbons. The latter tend to give a smoother, more mellow sound, while the former retain more edge and detail. Which is best will depend on the music, the instrument and the technique. For a stereo recording, my personal preference would probably be X-Y ribbons or spaced omni small-diaphragm condensers (with a spacing of about 30cm).
Whatever mics you choose, though, avoid anything with a big presence peak and invest plenty of time in experimenting with both the position and height of the mic(s) around the player. You’ll be amazed at how dramatically the sound and tonal balance can vary in different places, and with different instruments and players! Finally, I’d suggest finding a room with lots of wood; a wooden stage or wooden wall panelling (or a wooden, vaulted ceiling) helps to maximise the tonal qualities of the instrument. 0

Hope this helps
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #29
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
wow guys! All great suggestions! And thanks for the feedback! I'll definitely be working on this today, and get the violist over soon to work with these new recording suggestions!
Old 13th July 2010 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
donsolo's Avatar
Having not listened to the tracks (I'm at the dayjob) here's my advise for recording a viola in a room that isn't a large concert hall:

1: Multi mic, don't think you're going to keep all of them, but grab options.
LDC 12" away pointed at one of the F holes
SDC pointed down close to the ceiling (in an 8' ceiling)
LDC about 6' away pointed towards the player
LDC about 6' away pointed towards the wall

I prioritized it in case you don't have 3 LDCs. Feel free to substitute the last two for a single ribbon and see what it does. Two and three can be flipped. Check phase on all the mics.

2: Put reverb in the headphones of the player. String players feel weird playing in ultra dry environments.

3: Start with Mic placement but some EQ and sometimes compression can make strings sing.

4: Try doubling the string parts, panning hard. Haven't heard the track, may not fit in this case. Typically double or triple tracking will sound great though.
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