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Raw Tracks Have No Nuts!!!!!! Dynamic Microphones
Old 10th September 2011
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Raw Tracks Have No Nuts!!!!!!

Hey everyone,

I sincerely hope this is not a repeat question, I have spent the last 3 1/2 hours searching and haven't found anything yet (and it's honestly such a stupid question it's not surprising.)

I'm new here so let me start by giving a little background about myself and my studio.

My name is Lee, I have a very small studio (about to get bigger, new 3 room 750 sq ft studio hopefully to debut in Oct.) I use PT8 on a self-built computer running Vista 64 bit with an 002. For front end I use a combination of a Behringer Eurodesk 24 track mixer and an ART Pro MPA II preamp. My mic locker is a collection of mostly generic mics whith a few good ones mixed in but not really anything "great". I have been recording for about 4 years now but I have only felt good enough about my work to do it comercially for aout a year. I am completely self taught (plus the help of a small library of books and videos for help) which is why it has taken me so long to feel comfortable with my stuff.
I mostly record my own band and the small collection of garage bands in the very small area where I live for a ridiculously small price because realistically none of them can pay any more for it and I would rather record a few bands for just enough to pay the power bill than not record any bands at all. The bands I record mostly play metal or alt rock, however one of my most regular customers is a sca/regae band.

Anyway, forging on to prove myself an idot. The question I must ask is, what is the key to getting good presence and body in a mix?? I have reached a point where I am reasonably comfortable with my mixes level-wise, I feel that they are EQ'd well and basically sound the way I want them too less the fact that the instruments themselves simply HAVE NO NUTS!!! It's driving me insane. I thought at first that it may be inferior instruments, mics, payer tone, so forth. Some of it may still be, however I have found the problem consistent with pretty much every band and every musician I work with. My saving grace has been that so far the bands I work with are all very young and very amateur and don't know what they are missing, but I'm getting ready to record some demo's of my own band to submit to some booking agents and the problem needs resolved.

I mostly notice the problem in the guitars but all instruments suffer. I have to add that I recently recorded a track for the ska/regae band I work with where they were looking for a very smooth, fat, Bob Marley bass sound, I mic'd the bass amp with an Audix D4 close to the grill and we turned both the amp volume and the tube drive on my MPA up considerably farther than I usually do. Doing this we achieved a much better tone from the bass than usual, do I just need to push the front end of my pre's harder on everything?? I know better equipment would probably help and the new studio I am almost finished building is going to get a UA 4-710d and a Joe Meek ThreeQ to try and upgrade that end a little but I just can't help but think it's probably mostly operator error. I am going to give my signal path and method on every instrument I regularly record for whatever help it might be and I can provide some samples of my work if needed. I usually record with the tube drive on my MPA touching yellow consistently but seldomly in the red and I set the gain on my mixer about where I would for FOH work. Any help would be great, I can live with needing better equipment and better musicians but I hate being the weak link.



Drums: Studio owns a Pearl Export kit, Evans heads regularly changed, tuned every session. Audix drum mic kit (D6, I5, D2's, D4) Carvin FET condenser overhead-> Drums mic's into Behringer Eurodesk using small amounts of EQ just to sweeten sound as needed, subgoups and aux sends used to keep tracks seperate, OH's into ART Pro MPA II in stereo mode -> Digi 002 using 8 tracks. I have begun putting an AT small diaphragm condenser on the top of my snare with the capsule aligned with my I5 ocassionally to brighten it, I mix the two at the mixer and send it to PT on one track.

Bass: Usually record a DI through and ART active DI box but rarely use it. Mic amps with Audix D4, D2, or Shure SM7B -> Pro MPA -> 002

Guitars: Studio owns a Crate 100W Half stack and a Carvin V3 Half stack plus client's own rigs. Usually record a DI for editing purposes (recording self taught 16 year olds in metal bands, I do a fair amount of editing) Audix I5 or Senheiser e609 close to grill, sometimes a Carvin tube mic about 18-24 inches away for depth -> MPA -> 002

Keys: Usually recorded using the DI on my MPA but occasionally I will mic the studio's Treynor amp using an I5, e609, or Carvin FET LDC.

Vocals: SM7B, Carvin tube or FET Large Diaphram Condenser, Sterling Audio ST-55 LDC, and once an Audix OM-2 for a client who couldn't relax and deliver a solid performance in front of a Condenser mic. You do what you gotta do I guess.


This is how I usually do it, I realize my equipment is not real great but it's gotta be better than what I'm getting. Thank you for reading this very long winded post and double thank you for your help.
Old 10th September 2011
  #2
Gear Addict
 

hopefully you find this helpful:

1) The mixing phase cannot ADD what was not recorded during tracking, so if you somehow managed to record these instruments in a way that left you with anemic material then you are stuck. Although it would be uncommon for you to manage to get the same quality recordings as more experienced engineers in better studios with better rooms and better gear, I doubt you are doing such a poor job that the information you need is not there to be found through EQ.

2) Assuming your tracking was done well enough then, the issue is one of fundamental mixing technique. Most likely EQ. You say you get the tracks EQ-ed well, but you feel like the instruments lack 'nuts.' To me, that is a contradiction.

If I were a gambling person I would put money down that your monitors lie to you. You dial in your EQ and think it is awesome, but this exercise is completely disconnected with reality because your monitors are not telling you the truth. That's my guess.

Have you tried mixing on headphones? EQ a track on your monitors and then check it on headphones -- do you stand by the settings, or do you want to change them?

How well do your mixes translate to your car stereo?

If it is not a monitoring problem then it sounds like you might be applying EQ incorrectly. Are you EQ-ing your tracks with them solo-ed, or in context of the whole mix?

How are you dialing in your EQ settings?
Old 10th September 2011
  #3
Gear Nut
 
MrTinkle's Avatar
 

^ What SonicAlchemist said. It could very well be your monitors. However, how are you tracking your guitars? Have you tried DI-ing the bass and micing the bass cab too?

If the guitars are lacking "nuts" then how are you recording them? Are you cracking the volume on the head so the speaker cones start moving a little? Are you sweeping the microphone across the cab speaker to find the sweet spot? What microphone are you using? Have you tried double tracking or quad tracking?
Old 10th September 2011
  #4
Here for the gear
 

SonicAlchemist,

I had considered the monitor angle once before and even went so far at one time as to upgrade my monitors and to move my desk and treat my room a little better at one point but after reading your thoughts I went back and worked with my headphones a little more. I usually check my mixes periodically on headphones anyway. I still think they compare reasonably well but I was able to maybe put a better description on what I'm thinking. I feel that my mixes do translate pretty well to other systems, my regular checks are the factory stereo in my truck and the hi-fi system in my entertainment center. I say reasonably well because they sound pretty much like my monitors...... Including the bad parts. :-(

I spent some time just listening to some old mixes today trying to better describe my problem and I think you have it pretty much right when you say I can't add what's not there. When I say I feel that the instruments EQ well what I mean is that there is a fair representation of the instruments frequency content represented in a pretty level manner. You just can't feel it if you know what I mean, there's no power or movement. You can hear the lows in the bass but you can't feel it in your chest. You can hear the body of the snare and guitars but it's like they are across the lawn from you. That is what leads me to believe that it is probably something I'm not capturing in the recordings. Just for giggles this morning I loaded up a song and brought up an EQ plug-in on the bass. I put up a shelving filter on it at 200hz and just started picking it up a db at a time, with a 10 db boost I still hadn't made a significant difference in the power of the instrument, just added floor noise.


MrTinkle,

I have never really done much with double tracking guitars, I do sometimes duplicate them and then pan Haas effect delays opposite both tracks so I have a track and a delay on each side in the 40 to 60 percent range though which gives a "bigger" sound but if anything actually takes away from the power (probably due to the phase problems wiyh the delays). As far as recording them, I usually use an Audix I5 or an e609 right against the grill. I usually record at a somewhat loud volume but nowhere near something like stage volume, I almost always put my speakers and mic in another room so I've never really looked to see if the cones are moving much or not. As I said in my original post, I think this may be a part of the problem. Once again I like the sound that I get, it just always sounds very distant and thin, almost like it was mixed with too much reverb or something. Could it be that I'm not pushing my preamp hard enough? What is the "average setting range for the front end of a tube pre? Should I always be in the red a little? A lot? Never in the red?? Thanks again for your help. Gotta be getting better right.
Old 11th September 2011
  #5
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LaboratoryStudio View Post
When I say I feel that the instruments EQ well what I mean is that there is a fair representation of the instruments frequency content represented in a pretty level manner.
Hmm, perhaps this is the core problem. If I understand you correctly you are trying to use EQ to accurately represent how it would sound in real life. So if you get some proximity effect, or if your mics have certain frequency biases you will EQ to bring back the truth. This is a wonderful ideal, in a world of perfect instruments, amazing players, and wonderful acoustic spaces. This is how players and instrument makers and acousticians should see the world, but not mix engineers. Make the track work within the context of the mix. Do what you need to do, and don't think at all about how the instrument should sound in isolation.


Quote:
You can hear the lows in the bass but you can't feel it in your chest.
If you can hear the lows, but not feel them, that means they are there but they are not focused enough and/or not loud enough. Or that other things are too loud (often turning other things down is better than continuously turning everything up , up, up. So I think you are getting what you need, and what you need to do is change the way you think about EQ.


Quote:
That is what leads me to believe that it is probably something I'm not capturing in the recordings. Just for giggles this morning I loaded up a song and brought up an EQ plug-in on the bass. I put up a shelving filter on it at 200hz and just started picking it up a db at a time, with a 10 db boost I still hadn't made a significant difference in the power of the instrument, just added floor noise.
This approach is confusing to me. Why would you put any shelving filter at 200 Hz? A high pass filter would completely eliminate your bass. A low pass filter would leave a rumbly mess -- Bass guitars need frequencies much higher than this in order for you to "feel them in your chest" as you say. So this experiment doesn't do much for me in terms of troubleshooting. Instead, try this: Put a high pass filter on the bass at about 20 Hz. Find the place at which not only do you not hear anything being lost, but you don't feel anything being lost. All you are doing is preserving some headroom by eliminating the super low stuff, which will also help you get a focused low end. Now get a really tight Q on your EQ, boost it and fish around for the place around 1.2 - 2.2 khz (I know, it is a wide range, but I have no idea what your bass sounds like) where you are getting definition to the sound. When you find it you'll know -- you are looking for clarity and definition. Boost a little bit there, just enough so you can tell when you A/B. Now, do this again, but fish around in the 50- 80 Hz range (that is where the 'nuts' lives.) Forget about what you bass sound like in real life. Boost it too much. All you are looking to test is whether you recorded the frequencies you need. Unless you tracked with crazy settings on an EQ (like you tracked with a hpf set to 200 Hz ) you should have what you need. From there you will need to dial it in, and I am not patient enough to walk you through that process. I am stopping at the point where you can hear that what you need is, in fact, there.

Did you track with a hpf set to 200 Hz, btw?


Quote:
Once again I like the sound that I get, it just always sounds very distant and thin, almost like it was mixed with too much reverb or something.
This confuses me, and you have made statements like this earlier. How can you say you like the sound you are getting in tracking, and then in the same sentence say it sounds bad?

Quote:
Could it be that I'm not pushing my preamp hard enough? What is the "average setting range for the front end of a tube pre? Should I always be in the red a little? A lot? Never in the red?? Thanks again for your help. Gotta be getting better right.
Your recording levels are not what matters here. Think of a tube amp as an instrument in itself. It sounds different depending on how hard you drive it. Yes, it will have to be really loud in order to get the harmonic saturation people associate with the advantages of recording an amp, because the amp doesn't get its characteristic sound until it is driven that hard. But you could adjust your input sensitivity such that you are recording really soft levels and you would still be getting the vibe down to tape. Your tube mic pre is the same concept. It will sound different depending on how hard are soft IT is driven. So that adds another variable. The process of getting each piece in the chain set to its optimum level so it sounds the way you want is one of the most important and fundamental skills of an engineer (gain staging.)

The part of your post that makes me think you are confused on this point is where you ask whether you need to be in the red -- I assume you are talking about your input levels into you DAW. If you are running in 24 bit you should be able to record at really soft levels and have the mojo intact. If the tube amp is cranked just right, and the tube pre is at its optimum levels, then that is what is relevant.
Old 11th September 2011
  #6
Here for the gear
 

Thanks again for more ideas I can try, I hope that I can find an EQ solution, it would make me feel a lot less like an idiot. I have also decided that tomorrow when I get a chance I am going to load up some sound clips just to make sure everyone is on the same page, I seem to be confusing you a lot. To answer your questions, no I don't use any EQ at all when I track if I can help it, I prefer to do as much work as I can in ways that I can undo it if necessary. Also when I say "in the red" I am not refering to my ProTools faders, my preamp has LED meters to show tube gain and needle type VU meters for output level, I was refering to those LED's on the pre.


To clarify, I used the experiment with the shelf EQ (which I think I also confused you about, what I meant is the shelf-like eq curve at the low control of my eq plugin as opposed to the bell curve type, not a hpf. Sorry again) was simply to see if there was in fact any low frequency information even there to begin with. I have read about using the higher harmonic frequencies of an instrument to help bring out power but your examples have helped me understand it a little better. I am looking forward to seeing if that helps.

Once again, I will try to post some sound clips tomorrow with and without my attempts to try the ideas you have given me and go from there. Thanks again.
Old 11th September 2011
  #7
Gear Addict
 

sounds like a good plan. And to avoid any confusion from my post, don't expect to get a great bass guitar sound from only the ranges I mentioned, especially the 50-80Hz range I suggested you fishing around in for the 'nuts'. I was basically curious whether you had anything down there to boost, because if you did then it would be a great indicator that you had a low enough range to work with.

In practice the sweet spot is likely to be a bit higher, especially when you consider finding a good balance between the bass guitar and the kick, without them stepping on each other. Of course, i'll know better when you post your recordings. If you don't find what you are listening for there, keep scanning around.

good luck and I hope this is helpful
Old 12th September 2011
  #8
Lives for gear
 
Heartfelt's Avatar
One thing you said caught my attention as I had a similar issue. You
mentioned a feeling of distance and a lack of punch. I found two things that
made a huge difference for my tracks.

1. Micing and Isolation.
I had way too much room sound in my mics and all the accumulated room
ambiance led to a distant sound.

Solution?
DI'ing bass. Using absorption around my guitar amp and SM57. Building a Gobo
to sing next to for vocals and to use for recording any acoustic instruments.
This is in addition to existing room treatment (room is not dead)

2. Consider the preamp being used
I spent a little bit of cash for a single great channel (pre/compression). I find
it brings greater focus to the sound of what's being recorded.

The bottom line is do what you can and can afford to do and be happy.

But, the 2 above things (someone helped me realize this) made a huge
difference in punchy upfront/present sounding tracks.
Old 12th September 2011
  #9
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steveschizoid's Avatar
LaboratoryStudio, you may not want to hear this, but it seems to me like you have a serious problem with your monitoring and your front end. If you want to bootstrap out of the amateur world, your going to have to deal with this. The Eurodesk will not get you where you want to be. Generic mics? I assume by that you mean nothing spectacular, but still, that doesn't tell us much. And did you mention which monitors you use, I didn't see it if you did. How far down do they go? In my experience, if your monitors don't reproduce (at least down to) 40Hz, mixing kick and bass guitars involves a lot of guesswork. And even if they reproduce it, your room can seriously sabotage your ability to hear it accurately.

For testicular fortitude, the bass guitar and kick must be mixed just right - EQ'd, compressed, volume automated, side chain compressed, multiband compressed, side chain multiband compressed/gated/downward expanded...whatever - but you have to hear it to be able to manipulate it. You must assure that every kick is loud and proud (but not .1 dB too loud!) and that you can clearly hear every note the bass guitar plays....all while taking care that you're not muddying the entire mix.

So monitoring needs to be optimized. Meanwhile, while you are mixing, set it up so you can compare your mix in progress with a volume adjusted commercial mix with one key command - that will tell you a lot.

And back to the front end - mixing can be challenging, and if you are mixing tracks recorded with cheap dynamics and Chinese condensers amplified by Behringer (and/or the cheap Art tube pre) while trying to compete with CLA, Michael Brauer and Joe Baressi...you're pretty much f*cked.

By all means, make do with what you have, but it all starts with the front end and decent monitoring. It's kind of sine qua non...
Old 13th September 2011
  #10
Don't eq in solo mode. Listen to reference CD's while you mix (5 minutes here and there for a gut check). Get the arrangements right, if you and the band don't think the performance is 'killer' despite the gear limitations then they need to play it again. You want nuts the players have to provide the sack to carry 'em.
Old 15th September 2011
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

Im surprised no one mentioned the one word answer followed by the 2 word answer.

Compression.

Parallel Compression.

Done. You get Nuts, Ass, big fat bottom, the whole she-bang!!

Seriously, though. Compression, this is what makes you "feel" the kick and the bass, and feel the crack of the snare, and those thick ass guitars...

speaking of which, you really need to be at least double tracking the guitars... one track of electric guitar, mostly rhythym im talking here, will just sound thin and distant.

Send me a session of yours, and I'll put some ASS on it and send it back so you can see what im talking about.
Old 29th September 2011
  #12
Here for the gear
 

Hey guys, I'm still here. I am planning on putting up some sound clips and if anyone can tell me how I will put up the WAVs for a minute or so of one of my songs and whoever wants to can take a crack at it. I have only had 3 days off since my last post here and I work 12 to 16 hour days so I have spent them sleeping. I will get noise uploaded asap. Thanks
Old 29th September 2011
  #13
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BillSimpkins's Avatar
Know WHY something sounds good or bad, stop guessing. If it takes a week to figure out why a sound is good or bad, do it. Be able to recreate it and/or get rid of it. Mess with all the knobs on the amp from 0-10. Move the mics all around. Make sure the drums are tuned well and there are no phasing issues. Learn what the static frequency strengths are on your source signal, i.e. the ones that stay the same no matter what note is being played. Don't listen to people who tell you a single trick or technique is going to fix it all. Know WHY things sound good and HOW to get those sounds. Armed with that knowledge, you can make crappy gear sound pretty good and great gear sound awesome!
Read this 5 times: Slipperman's Recording Distorted Guitars From Hell
Watch this 5 times: http://www.youtube.com/user/Vihart#p/u/2/i_0DXxNeaQ0

You can get FAT drum sounds with those Audix mics that you have with no EQ or compression(and maybe sound even better with). Could be the room, tuning, player, placement, phasing ....

A common mistake people make with micing guitar amps is having to much treble coming out of it. Start with a nice round sound. Find which volumes makes the cab sound punchier. Try different guitars. All the speakers. Play with all the knobs. Figure out what distance and angles of placement does to the sound. Write is all down if you have to.
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