Category Archives: Recording Guides

Studio Monitor Setup Guide

Firstly, this is not an absolute guide…  The shape and size of your room, together with working around existing furniture mean that you often have to deviate from these suggestions to get the best results.  These are just some best practice ideas to make your setup the best it can be. 

I’m also not going to touch on the subject of room acoustics here, as that’s an entire topic to itself and i’ll dedicate more posts to that shortly, but first, lets check that you’ve got as much of the basics covered as possible. 

Monitoring "Triangle"
Monitoring “Triangle”

Positioning 
The tweeters of your monitors should ideally be positioned in an equilateral triangle with your main listening position, or rather… the imaginary lines should cross just behind where your head would be.  
Ideally the tweeters should be at ear height, or at least angled, pointing directly towards your ears at the listening position.
You should angle them in towards the mix position at about a 30 degree angle. 

 

Low Frequency Control
There’s a lot of different opinions  about where in the room you should set up your speakers, but what you really do need to remember is that the closer they are to any wall, the more the bass response will be increased. 

Many active monitors will have switches to compensate for this, or LF controls on the back to compensate for this effect, the basic rule of thumb is to reduce the LF by 6db for every wall it is next to. It would be ideal to not have them in the corners of the room, as you would want to roll off 12db of the bottom end for a balanced response and not many monitors let you do this amount.  

If you can have them more than a couple of feet away from a wall, then you should be able to leave the LF controls flat. 

 

Stands

An ideal home setup would generally be having your speakers on stands just behind your table, desk or console. 

Floorstanding Stands with Isolation Platforms

If you do have speakers mounted directly onto your desktop, then the desk would vibrate along with your speakers, essentially making the desk part of the speaker and altering the frequency response of the speakers. This is the same if you have speakers or stands that are directly onto floorboards. 

Stands don’t now just put the speakers at the right height, they can also isolate the speakers vibration. Carpet spikes have been trying to do this for years in the hifi world, and certainly trying to minimise contact area between your speakers and what they are sat on is always a good thing.  

One way to tackle this effect (if you have solid concrete floors) is to make your stands very heavy and dense, as heavy objects conduct vibrations far less than lightweight ones. Solid concrete breeze block towers will certainly do the job, but might not look as attractive as you may want. 

Ideally you would want an isolating device between the speaker and the surface it’s placed on. 

Desktop Iso-Acoustics Stands

Foam based isolators are cheap, and are better than nothing, but absorb only some of the vibrations, and of course, the lower the frequency of the sound, the less it absorbs. 

Our favourite ones here are currently the Iso-Acoustics range, these use a mix of plastic, rubber and metal poles to absorb the vibrations very effectively across the entire frequency spectrum and can have a very noticeable improvement in the bass and mid range response of speakers.  There are both desktop and floorstanding models.

 

Connections

XLR Cable

Most active monitor speakers have multiple ways of connecting the audio cables to them.  The best ones are either XLR or Stereo (TRS) Jack, as these can be “balanced connections” and these will have the lowest noise. 

If your output device also has a balanced output

1/4″ TRS Jack

(it won’t work if its not), then it will send two separate versions of the same signal to the speaker (called hot and cold). The cold signal will be the exact opposite of the hot, 180 degrees out of phase.
If any noise is picked up on the cable run, it would be picked up on both lines equally, so when the signal enters the receiving device (in this case the speaker) it inverts the cold line, making the original signal back in phase, but the noise is now 180 degrees out of phase and cancels itself out.  

 

 

Gain Staging.
Poor gain staging of your monitor chain will result in excessive hiss and noise from your speakers, just follow this simple guide to get the best from your speakers. 

Set your monitor output in your DAW to  -1dB. 
You shouldn’t be clipping your monitor output in your DAW, but it should be peaking as loud as possible without going over. 

To set your best monitoring range, set your interface output volume knob or monitor controller to its maximum setting and then adjust the volume control on your monitors until they are the loudest you would ever want them to be.  Then just turn your interface or monitor controller back down to normal working levels. 

This will give you both the best signal to noise level possible, but also the most useful gain control. 

 

Ableton introduce their bitesize creative tips series “One Thing”.

It seems to be the season for tutorial videos at the moment, although Ableton have chosen to move in a slightly different direction with theirs.

Any artist can suffer from a lack of inspiration at some point and the videos in this Ableton bitesize series are designed to help kick-start your creative process, and in this respect share the same common goals as the popular ’74 Creative Strategies for Electric Music Production book they put out a few years back. 

The series launches with 13 videos and promises to bring you a new one each month to help keep you inspired in the studio with technical tips as well as broad creative strategies, there’s something that should strike a chord with beginners and experienced musicians alike. 

Check out the Ableton “One Thing” series here.

All things Ableton @ Scan.

Best Thing I’ve ever used for recording Acoustic Guitars……..

GG 29_4_13 39 copyOK, within the pages of this blog, you’ll find many a piece dedicated to the best ways to mic up and record various instruments, and of course, my personal bug bear is miking up Acoustic Guitars.

Well, here’s some news for anyone wanting to do just that.

Y’see, the problem is guitarists.

It’d be relatively easy to record a guitar if it weren’t for them.

Swaying and shaking, grooving and stomping their feet, bless their little cotton socks, but it does mean they keep moving the guitar out of position/range of the microphones.

Well, we’ve found the ultimate solution.

And it’s a Doozy!!!

This is the Gordon Giltrap signature model of the Exploraudio H-Clamp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And it’s superb…….

H-clamp InstruMounts allow almost any microphone to be attached safely and securely to almost any stringed instrument. They can also be attached to other instruments and sound equipment or even to furniture, square profile columns or beams. The standard models are designed to fit individual ‘classes’ of instruments (such as guitars, cellos or basses) but a package is also available to cover the entire range.

The H-clamp is a novel development of the traditional design of instrument maker’s cramps, which are used during construction of the body to hold the panels together tightly while the glue sets. Adding a boom to the cramp allows almost any microphone (or other audio device or accessory that can be mounted on a microphone stand) to be attached securely without damaging the instrument or affecting its tonal quality. Aerospace-class materials and manufacturing techniques produce a light, rigid and robust mount for microphones up to at least 500g in weight.

SchoepsCCM4 + GGH-clamp on FyldeGuitar LRes

The Gordon Giltrap version is a limited edition and the first 10 come with an exclusive DVD featuring some of Gordons song’s.

The Giltrap Signature H-clamp, designed to fit all the instruments Gordon plays, from electric guitars and ukuleles to large Jumbo guitars, is ideal for both live performance and studio recording. Gordon uses his H-clamp (teamed with a Schoeps CCM 4 mic) for all his acoustic recordings, including his highly successful new album with Oliver Wakeman, Ravens & Lullabies.

SchoepsCCM4 + GGH-clamp on FyldeGuitar2 LRes

Every so often, a product comes along that makes me very happy.

This is one.

If you need to record Acoustic Guitars, get yourself one of these.

It’s gonna make your life so much easier.

Believe me.

t_11-1

LN 50852

What’s your Toe-in ?: or How to Angle yourself properly…….

 

We don’t often blog about useful apps, but this one comes from the Genelec  stable, and for anyone who has taken heed of our very own Professor Tom’s advice to acoustic treatment and speaker positioning in the studio, it’s a blessing…….

Speaker Angle is a simple way to adjust the angle of your speakers for perfect listening symmetry.

It works with either a Stereo or Surround set-up, and it’s simplicity itself to use.

Set your speakers at the right height, and get them all facing the same way, (i.e. not angled in)

Next, place your iOS or Android device on top of the speaker parallel to the top, front edge.

If you then hit the button on SpeakerAngle, and start to turn the speaker inward towards you, the angle will be displayed. The button goes Green within 3 degrees of 30 degrees rotation. You then hit the button, which locks and turns Orange. Then move the device onto the other speaker, and the app remembers the first angle, turning the button Yellow.

It has full instructions included, but to be honest it’s really pretty intuitive, and a really handy little device for someone who wants to be spot on with their listening angles.

Now if they make an app this useful, how good must their speakers be…. ?

LN41310

7.1 surround set-up.

 

Abbey Road Drums via Komplete 8 Ultimate

Abbey Road Drums:

 

Just a brief word or two about these splendid kits that come as part of the Komplete 8 Ultimate package.

There are now 4 Abbey Road kits, each recorded as the name suggests, in the famous abbey Road studios down in London. It goes without saying that the kits are well recorded and offer a truly authentic sound, but I’m just going to explain a little of what makes these sounds so usable.

Basically, if you’re looking to pinpoint a musical moment in time, there’s a kit for you.

Abbey Road 60’s kit:

Abbey Road 60’s kit features  two highly sought-after 60s drum kits: A Gretsch Round Badge White Marine Pearl kit (Jasper Shell) from the early 60s and a Ludwig Hollywood kit from 1967. Both kits provide  a choice of two 60s snares, and all cymbals used are genuine 60s originals, including a rivet cymbal dating from 1963.

 

 

 

 

Abbey Road 70’s kit:

The Abbey Road 70’s kit comprises  two highly sought-after vintage kits, each with a choice of two snares, deliver two highly distinctive 70s drum sounds. The Open Kit is a Ludwig Vistalite Tequila Sunrise from 1972 with the big, roomy sound of classic rock. The Tight Kit is a vintage 1970s Premier model with the tight, dry, punchy sound that was popular throughout the 70s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abbey Road 80’s kit:

Into the 80’s and the The Black Kit, recorded in Studio Three, is a vintage Yamaha 9000 from the mid-80s – one of the most recorded drum kits in history.

The Chrome Kit is a Slingerland Magnum fitted with single-headed concert toms – very fashionable during the 1980s.
Snares include Ludwig, Gretsch, Slingerland and Pearl models. And no 80s kit would be complete without a full set of Octobans (Think Stewart Copeland) – melodically-tuned tubular toms that were popular among many of the decade’s top drummers.

Abbey Road Modern Drummer:

Two top-of-the-line drum kits deliver two very different contemporary drum sounds in  Modern Drummer. They provide a choice of three snares per kit and a number of ‘character’ cymbals, including the Sabian Chopper and Zildjian Spiral Trash.

Recorded in Studio 3, the Sparkle Kit is a contemporary Pearl Reference kit with a tight, disciplined sound for modern pop, ballads and all-purpose use.

The White Kit is a Drum Workshop Collector’s Series kit from the mid-90s. A maple kit, tuned low for drive and edge, and recorded in Studio 2.

 

So, armed with the proper kits and sounds, you can now set out to record some authentic drum parts.

 

The Mixer section:

The Mixer Section provides spot-on control over the mic levels on each drum, plus overheads, stereo room mics and any other specialist mics used during the recording process. The Mix Presets give a completely professional sound, and provide a perfect starting point for detailed tweaking.

Each snare provides faders for top and bottom mic, plus adjustable bleed level. Here, ‘bleed’ refers to how the rest of the kit rattles the snare wires — raise the bleed level for more realism.

Each drum has its own effect chain with a selection of routing options. All the updated ABBEY ROAD DRUMMER instruments include a top-qualitystudio EQ – a uniquely musical 4-band EQ with switchable fixed-bell curves on the low and high bands, plus adjustable Q settings on the midrange.

A powerful compressor adds presence and drive to your drums without blurring the detail. And it’s not just for bus compression – this studio compressor is available on each of the mixer tracks.

There’s a Transient master to  emphasize attack to make a drum hit harder, or shorten the resonance tail of a drum that rings too long. Bring drums to the front of the mix or smooth out spiky drums without touching the levels, and a Tape Saturator which by simulating the natural, harmonic compression of analog tape, adds a pleasing warmth to your sound. And pushed a little harder, it delivers a smooth, organic overdrive.

Finally a Convolution Reverb— 30 high-end impulse responses ranging from small rooms to big halls, for extra space and depth on your drums.

Now, once you take the combination of some beautifully recorded drums, and some very competent effects, you’ll find you are able to lay down effective, believable drum tracks that sit well in the mix and enhance your music in a way that just wasn’t possible a few years ago.

 

Native Instruments Komplete 8 Ultimate.

 

CUBASE 7 is Here!!!!!

CUBASE 7: I’m very excited.

 

So, it’s here!!

Forget Christmas, it’s the release of Steinberg’s Cubase 7, and I for one can’t wait.

What’s so exciting?

Well pretty much everything…..

Starting with the overhaul of the mixing page (which can incidentally now be full screen), with its extremely flexible channel layout, 12 dB boost and dedicated processing power per channel, what they’re calling an ‘exceptional’ feel to the controls and comprehensive online and offline automation tools, MixConsole has been built to provide uncompromising audio quality and routing flexibility from the outset, with plenty of pristine headroom and a fundamentally transparent sonic signature.

It also looks cool! The Channel strip seems intuitive and has some built in usefulness from the start with the strip divided into sections including a Noise Gate, EQ, Compression, Saturation and Limiting, all movable  to wherever you want them, and with an Inserts effects track at the very top to show where the signals being sent.

 

Next up, Chord track.

This is either going to be brilliant, or the biggest waste of time ever.

It’s basically an extension of the VariAudio function, which analyses your track for harmonic content,  and then presumably makes suggestions as to Harmony or alternative Bass lines etc. based on what it see’s.

Whether or not this is going to be of any use to the more advanced musician (and I presume Cubase users at this level to have some musical knowledge) remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a handy function if your own level of musical competence isn’t able to suggest ideas for itself……

On the ‘up’ side, Steinberg are claiming that the ability to create lead sheets for other musicians has never been easier.

Intelligent composing assistance:

Again, this is either going to be a superb aide to writers or, it’s going to result in thousands of homogenised chord sheets, all sounding like a Gershwin Rhapsody whilst travelling from a I to a IV chord.

In essence, they are claiming that you could enter a start chord and an end chord, and the composing assistant will offer you a myriad of chords for the middle. Whether this has any benefit to originality I have my doubts, but I look forward to a whole ruck of Harmonically sophisticated dub step tracks…….

 

 

 

 

Pure tuning:

Clever this.

Most composers know of the difficulty of pairing ‘fixed tuning’ instruments like guitars and pianos, with variable tuning instruments like trombones or violins.

‘Hermode’ tuning  allows you to….well, here’s what they say…

“Thanks to the Hermode tuning technology, the intonation of your synthesized notes are changed dynamically on the fly for utmost compatibility with well-tempered scales, while retaining a high degree of purity for third and fifth intervals “

We await with baited breath…………

 

VARI AUDIO 2:

This seems to be a superb update to an already ‘must-have’ technology.

Basically the engine works with the aforementioned ‘Chord Track’ to ensure all your harmonies are at the correct pitch. It will allow you to take a lead vocal and wrap harmony parts around it all day long, with varying levels of sophistication.

It will also provide the well known ‘AutoTune effect’, for those who like that sort of thing……  and, you’ll be able to edit multiple VariAudio parts across multiple tracks within one editor only!

 

CUBASE HUB:

Cubase sports the new Steinberg Hub loaded with tons of helpful information.

Alongside the enhanced Project Assistant you now find a list of regularly updated video tutorials and RSS feeds to keep you informed about important Cubase updates, support news or product releases.

 

So these are just a few of the advances ‘right out of the box’.

All in all, it looks like a very substantial re-working, of perhaps the most famous DAW on the market.

Its smoother and easier on the eye, and I look forward to ‘discovering’ things along the way, as always.     LN48346.

 

Compressors: What does what?

compressor image

 

Compressors: What does What?

Many people use compressors in their music, and can usually describe to you what the compressor is doing to their track, (If they can’t do that, it’s probably not the most listenable stuff in the world….), however, many people just stick on a preset, and dont bother understanding what the various options/processes within the compressor,

Here is the Scan guide to Compressor Knobs……….

The Compressor can be used at all stages of your studio work, recording tracks, mixing down and mastering the final product.
Its job is to ‘turn down’ the volume of a signal, if the signal has gone above a certain volume level. It’s exactly the same as a person turning the volume knob down, albeit much faster and much more accurate.

Terms:

Threshold: The threshold setting determines the level at which the compressor starts to act on the signal. It is listed in dB (decibels).

Ratio: The ratio is the amount that the compressor affects the signal. For example, a ratio of 2:1 means that if a signal goes 1dB over the threshold setting, its output from the compressor is only 1/2dB louder.
At 6:1, for every 6 dB going over the threshold only 1 dB extra will be heard.

Attack: This controls how soon the compressor kicks in. i.e. how quickly the volume is reduced once the incoming signal exceeds the threshold.
The attack is defined in milliseconds (ms), the lower the number, the faster the attack.

Release: The release parameter controls how long the compressor continues affecting the signal once it has started. Like the attack, the release is termed in milliseconds.

Gain: Adding compression usually results in the overall level of the sound dropping. Using the Gain control you can dial the level back up to where it was beforehand.
The signal is listed in decibels.

Knee:  A soft knee slowly increases the compression ratio as the level increases and eventually reaches the compression ratio set by the user.
When you set a Knee value, think of the Threshold as a range, rather than one point.
For input levels below this range, the compressor does nothing. As you enter the range, the compressor will become gradually more active, until it is fully “on” at the top end of the range
.

A free Windows based software studio guide.

Everyone loves something for nothing and it has to be said the are some astounding free or donationware plug in’s and even sequencers out there.

This morning I stumbled across Synthgeeks “A free Windows based software studio” guide over on KVR and thought we should bring it to the attention of our readers, as the’s whole host of cool plugin’s there that even us guys here haven’t seen during our extensive time trawling the web. Having spent a bit of time working through the huge list that’s in the article we have to agree that the are certainly tools there suitable for both the newest user and even the seasoned pro and given the price of pretty much nothing (donations always encouraged) the really isn’t an excuse not to check them out.

So grab a nice comfy chair and make yourself a coffee then check out all the goodness over at the Synthgeek site.

A free Windows based software studio guide.

Tom's Guide to Acoustics (Without Breaking The Bank)

An introductory guide to getting the best out of your studio environment, when recording and mixing down your tracks. The guide covers speaker placement and the basics of using acoustic treatment to defuse the sonic reflections in the room and make the task of critical listening whilst mixing far easier.

Recording vocals

WHY SHOULD I BOTHER WITH A VOCAL FILTER?

The main reason for having a vocal filter, is to try and record a ‘dry’ signal.
If your studio doesn’t have the best acoustic treatments it could have, you may find one of these filters invaluable. They are basically a curved composite wall, which sits behind any microphone by means of a variable position stand clamp assembly which ships with the product.
The Vocal Filter helps prevent any reflected sound reaching the back and sides of the mic. Its shape and size have been carefully tested to maximize absorption while keeping ‘coloration’ down to a minimum, and leaving the microphone’s polar pattern unaffected.

WHY SHOULD I BOTHER WITH A POP SCREEN?
Session singers are trained how to work with a microphone, so that when they are singing words that have plosives within them, they will turn their heads slightly away from the mic, or when singing a loud part, they will move slightly away from the mic to reduce the power of the vocal, but still, sometimes a ‘Pop’ will find its way through.
Whats happening is that plosives are letters or parts of words that require a push of wind from the lips, (words beginning with ‘P’ are usually culprits). The Pop screen allows the voice to pass through the mesh, but the ‘Push’ of air on a plosive is broken up and as a result the ‘Pop’ disappears.
The screen needs to be set up a couple of inches from the mic itself, and needs to be attached to the mic stand so it sits between the singers lips and the microphone.
Back in the day, home studios used to make their own Pop shields with a wire coathanger and a pair of ladies tights, but the price of the professional product nowadays is so reasonable, there seems little point.