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Tracking Hip-Hop synths & drum machines
Old 2nd August 2005
  #1
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Stoneface's Avatar
 

Tracking Hip-Hop synths & drum machines

I see MANY posts on Hip-Hop vocals and how to get that 50 Cent vocal sound. While great gear and great engineering can play a huge part in this, it's always been my experience that it's the talent that makes a vocal take great. Garbage in = garbage out! But I digress.

So, let's discuss tracking synth parts, drum machines and samples, since, IMO, the music bed is what ultimately will inspire a great vocal performance. What are the most effective ways to get sterile synths, etc. into the digital or analog domain and sound as "pro level" as possible.

It's been said that the Avalon U5 is a great choice for bringing in synths. Tried it, liked it but as with vocals, there is no one answer to this question and always leaves me asking...what else will work.

With the exception of a handful of engineers on this site with every tool at their disposal, the rest of us are limited to what we can realistically afford to purchase, borrow, rent or.....

That said, what are some of your choices for signal chains for synths, drum machines and samples. What has worked for you? What didn't? I hope we can avoid turning this into a "I wanna be like Dre" thread but let's see where it leads. I know there are an infinate number of options just like vocals, so let's see what we have and what people are doing today.

Let's have fun!!!
Old 2nd August 2005
  #2
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TonyBelmont's Avatar
 

At home, I prefer the Aurora Audio GTQ2mk III, or Desk Doctor DI... They give two completely different sounds and contrast really well. The Aurora will give you the great lows for bass sounds, kicks, etc. The Desk Doctor adds a little bit of high end and really sounds great on high hats, snares, and other instruments.

You can use pretty much any good DI and get good results though. When I go to bigger studios I prefer using Countryman or BSS DI's and going into the console or their outboard gear's mic inputs. Adds a little more depth in the bottom and probably noise as well, but whatever.... thumbsup
Old 2nd August 2005
  #3
Gear Addict
 

I've gotten great results by micing up a guitar amp and running the synth track thru it, and recording that to a new track, then blending with the dry track. OLD trick but it works.
Old 2nd August 2005
  #4
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digiman's Avatar
I think a good DI is all you really need. The desk doctor should do the trick. I can tell you that I experiemented with all kinds of mic pres and comps and I found I got the best sound out of my Boss DI-1.
Old 2nd August 2005
  #5
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Stoneface's Avatar
 

I'm suprised I haven't heard any processing of synth tracks while tracking. While I agree that most any pro level (and some not so pro level) Di's will usually do the trick, I like to add a bit of compression while tracking. Not much, maybe 2-3db of gain reduction. Really just depends.

Avalon U5 > Smart C2 > Apogee

Sometimes I'll even eq to "tape" if I know I'm going to keep it. Since I'm more of a producer, I prefer to get the "sound" way before mix. I'm not a fan of the fix it in the mix practices but to each his own.

Keep em comin'.
Old 2nd August 2005
  #6
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XHipHop's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stoneface
I'm suprised I haven't heard any processing of synth tracks while tracking. While I agree that most any pro level (and some not so pro level) Di's will usually do the trick, I like to add a bit of compression while tracking. Not much, maybe 2-3db of gain reduction. Really just depends.

Avalon U5 > Smart C2 > Apogee

Sometimes I'll even eq to "tape" if I know I'm going to keep it. Since I'm more of a producer, I prefer to get the "sound" way before mix. I'm not a fan of the fix it in the mix practices but to each his own.

Keep em comin'.
I used to EQ on the way in with my neotek elite eqs but nowadays I feel like i have to be careful with the highs until I track vocals...hiphop tracks are getting brighter and brighter and I want to make sure the vocals are right before I commit to my synth sound.
Old 3rd August 2005
  #7
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Charlie-O's Avatar
 

I use a apogee trak 2 to Di , then for bass I go into a 6176 mic input, compression for the snare and bass, none for the kicks. This is how I track all my drums of my mpc or reason, for keybords and sound mudles, for a clean sound I track them straight Di, for a bit of filth Ill Di with the trak2 again and go into a avalon 737 mic input, I use two diffrent pres to seprate the sound of the rythm and bass from the Inst.
Old 3rd August 2005
  #8
Gear Addict
 

i put my signals through a micpreamp to get some analog feel to it, even its gettin
some nice hi ends through it.

mostly good compression,synth layers and a limiter do a good job here, besides eq.

i work mostly in the box besides the mixer/synth and the mentioned preamp.

first its all about sounds. without good sounds to start there will be no tool
to get it sound so much better, its mostly subtle enchancements.

greetz chester
Old 3rd August 2005
  #9
no ssl yet
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trackinng

I usually track drums first. What I've begun to do is record a beat from my mpc, then hand replace the samples in ptools with the same samples. (my thinking is if the sound was right on the record I ripped it from, then it will be a good starting point for my track. Also sounds imported from CDs into ptools sound much better than the ones that go thorough conversions to me. Once I have the drums and whatever mults I need worked out, I track synths and do some basic eq to tape to fit with the drums.

I do a scratch vocal, then lay down what ever live instruments there are to replace synth parts.

Once the instrumentation is ther I do vocals with a bit of EQ now that I know the overall picture of the track..



LOL I guess I said all that to say I use an Adesigns MP2 and a pair of Boss DI feeding Amek CIB or NTI EQ3 when a sound needs hi end air.

I find that mixing with plugins, its harder to get mid/hi presence than with hardware. Plugs work on the same freq's but dont have the same "forward" push/presence that I get from outboard imo. (I've even had other engineers mix songs itb without outboard to prove it wasnt just me)

(2007 edit: Since someone brought this up from the dead, I realized I was a bit misleading in this thread. I don't feed the Boss DI to the CIBs I split the mic/line ins on the CIB and since the mic ins accept line impedance, I track 2 channels at a time on each CIB. I feed the DI to the Adesigns Mic ins.
Old 14th June 2007
  #10
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I have a question directly related to the topic of this thread so figured it'd be ok if I tacked it on here instead of starting a new one. I'm wondering what you think would probably result in better quality, tracking from MPC 2kxl (or other synth eg. Yamaha s90) using Redco custom cables that are configured TS at one end and TRS at other end, into the 8 pre's on my Metric Halo MIO 2882. OR would I be better off getting some kind of DI (like a desk doctor, etc.) to convert the signal to balanced first and then track through the pre's on the MIO 2882? So far I quite like the sound (esp. the low end) i get tracking straight out of the 2kxl into the mio 2882 - just wondering how much, if anything, would be gained by DI-ing first.

Thanks
Old 14th June 2007
  #11
no ssl yet
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Digiman, are you still using those Boss DIs?

I never really compared them to anything else, I just kinda picked up a pair on your recommendation (they were only like $30 each used (I think)).

What have you compared them to?
Old 14th June 2007
  #12
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no ssl are you still using the Amek? How do you like it?
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