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The Three Things Musicians Need to Succeed in Audio Recording

A good recording is made out of good equipment and a good recording studio, but most people forget that schedules, playing precision, vocalisation and other pre-production diligences are also very important. Here are three things that bands need to meet their schedule in recording an album or a single.

  1. Prepare Your Instruments

For violinists, cellists and other string performers, replacing strings and ensuring they do not detune during a recording performance is imperative. For vocalists, vocalising a few minutes before the recording session and bringing lyrics, and notation for trained vocalists, will save time by avoiding missed tones on secondary voices and misheard or unintelligible lyrics. For drummers, tuning the drums is crucial to ensure a good recording sound.

  1. Parts

Practice is highly important for every instrumentalist to succeed. Precision is crucial when it comes to playing as a whole, and understanding the way one’s part is when disassembled takes practice. This may mean not relying on other instruments to play your passages.

  1. Focus

For most casual musicians or bands, entertaining each other during sessions will help remove some tension and refresh the memories of those performing. However, it is important to focus on passages and try to play the passages with minimal repetitions. Repetitions could cause strain, and a continuous passage helps save time in the studio too.

Equalizers Could Only Do So Much

Despite knowing about the usefulness of saturation and its improved distribution of frequencies with distinguishable character, they could only do so much. Character is an important aspect of audio tracks, and equalizers could only do so much to manipulate them.

The most important aspect of audio recording is to get every sound correct during the pre-production process. Fixing the sound in the mix through an equalizer or a saturator will only bring minor changes. Attempts to improve things with a saturator or equalizer will only make things worse.

For guitarists, a treble-sounding guitar might not be for everyone. However, it does not mean that lowering the treble frequencies in the equalizer will produce the desired results. Remember that equalizers only attenuate and boost frequencies, which can shape the sound according to the context of a song. The actual sound of an instrument depends heavily on the equipment you use. For guitars, the body and pickups used has a big say on the sound of the instrument. The same goes for drums, basses and other instruments.

Equalizers must be viewed as sound filters, nothing more. Designated filter plugins are designed to produce effects using automated equalizer settings. They only do an effect, but never actually re-shaping the root sound of the instrument. So, do not attempt to fix it in the mix.

The Helpfulness of Knowing About Saturators

When you plug in an electric guitar into an amplifier, you hear a distinct mode of clipping, which sounds musical and more dynamic than the raw guitar sound. This is known as saturation, but for most guitarists, the lexicon is distortion, or gain. It creates an ordered, uniform clipping that is pleasing to the ears. Saturation is not just for guitars; it is also for creating better mixes.

In a master mix, you would not use a guitar amplifier of course. For many generations, audio engineers have used different equipment to amplify the signal, and these equipment added some desirable artefacts, which brought about many signature sounds for most albums recorded during those dates.

Tube compressors, equalizers and mixers were very common during the early era of music recordings. These tubes added a warm, bright saturation that is not too harsh and its clipping highlighted certain sounds from the recording, or added more desirable qualities to the sound. Think of it as a polaroid camera versus a modern, high-resolution DSLR; it has a distinct quality that is desirable.

Tapes also added a distinct level of warmth and brightness to recordings. Most guitarists prefer tape saturation because it highlights the high-mids, areas where distorted guitars usually penetrate the mix. However, it does this with a distinct, desirable character, rather than just raw distortion.

Saturation could just help you nail the best mix you could do with your current gear. Tube and other saturation plugins, which are free, could be helpful in your audio production.

 

Take Time Off to Rest Your Ears

Your ears are equivalent to what visual artists have for eyes. What your ears hear is the taste of the tongue when food is eaten. However, too much food could deaden the sensation of flavours, and too much colour could imbalance the eye’s natural visual temperance. Taking time to rest your ears is also important in audio.

Like every art, it takes time. An audio engineer may have to record an instrument for more than four hours, including many takes in between. By the end of the day, his or her ears will get tired, and if they attempt to mix, or edit the music, they will ultimately fail because their ears are still “partly blocked” by their tracking session.

A good way to rest the ears is to listen to relaxing music. Smooth jazz, or single-instrument music, such as a piano or violin, could help relax the ears. Ears react to compressed music, as perceived loudness bounces the muscles of the ears, which makes it exhausted.

Focusing your other senses could also help relax your ears. You could do a physical exercise, watch a movie or eat something delicious or strong. It will help your brain avert the information from the ears to your other senses, which relaxes your ears’ nerves.

Sleep is the best solution of all; it relaxes the body and shuts down the nerves and muscles of the ears.a

The Stories Behind the Melodies: Understanding Composition

Musicians learn how to play their instruments using only rudiments and simpler forms of reading music. For guitar musicians, there’s tabulation. Keyboardists also make use of tabulation if one could not read notes properly. Advancing into composition does not mean you have to learn how to read a score sheet, you just have to know the stories behind the melodies you want to create.

1. Scales
Scales have a pattern visible on most instruments, especially once your fingers move around and you notice the skips between keys, frets, holes, etc. While they are derived from music theory, the patterns can help you find some “off keys” that could add flavour. They should serve as your reference, but they should not dictate the entire melody of your song unless you find it is sufficient enough.

2. The Interaction Between Two notes
Playing C and C# in succession means you have played the seventh and root note, if you are playing the Major C# scale. The interaction between the seventh and root note makes the seven sound that it wants to return to the root. Most notes inside a scale wish to return to the root, and their interaction with one another is what carries flavour and intensity in a song.

3. Chromatic Notes
Popular with jazz and blues, chromatic notes signify ambivalence or uncertainty. These are effective especially when you do not want your fourth or third note in the scale to go home just yet, or to rest in a new home. Played in succession, chromatic notes add a distinctly unique flavour depending on how they are used.

How Listening to Different Genres Helps

Mixing and mastering is simple especially if you know what the instruments should sound like in specific genres. However, if you do not know the genre, you might end up making a too-energetic mix and master, or a very soft loud mix and master for the genre itself. Listening to different genres can help you hear the different energy levels of mastering, as well as how instruments should really sound.

1. Dynamics
Compression is an important tool nowadays especially if one wants to make a loudness-competitive mix. However, some genres, specifically jazz, acoustic or folk music, would sound better if some dynamics bounced off instruments. Lay off the heavy compression for a while. Try to focus on bringing out the changing volumes and dynamics in the instruments.

2. Instrument
Guitars sound thicker and powerful in most rock music, but making a jazz guitar sound powerful despite its smooth and creamy sound can bring out clarity in a jazz mix and master, but could sound too overpowering or energetic. Making a jazz guitar thinner or an acoustic guitar livelier is crucial in getting the right sound for the genre.

3. Equalization
A solid bass frequency always goes for RnB music, but for acoustic genres, clarity and a clear vocal track is more important. Certain frequencies may make a song sound awkward, especially if some of the instruments that are essential to the song gets muddied.

Why Always Have A Different Pair of Speakers

In audio engineering, your ears and what you hear is what counts. When your ears are trained, you might think that the mix you just made in your default studio monitors is already the best, but no, it is not. It might sound great with your monitors, but it does not guarantee a perfect sound with consumer grade speakers, headphones and earphones.

It is also important to hear the music in different spaces. With your studio monitors step out of the room and observe the details you’re hearing. Then step in the middle of the room with your back turned against the speakers and again observe the details. At some point, you might find that something is off with your recording, and you can adjust it again to find the right sound you were looking for.

A different pair of speakers emphasizes certain frequencies in a mix. From here, you can gauge if certain frequencies are clipping, or if everything is in the right levels.

Wearing headphones or earphones can make you hear specific details you couldn’t hear through a very accurate set of studio monitors. However, never mix audio with headphones or earphones alone; you could end up with a mix that disregards headroom.

Car Accident Compensation Claims: As Much as You Love Your Work, Don’t Overdo It

Audio mixing and mastering is an art. Every accomplished song that translates very well to consumer speakers is a footstep in your professional capability. However, this means listening to these music in loud volumes, even when inside your car.

I have a fellow audio engineer who has mixed audio for many local UK acts and musicians. She certainly loves her work. Every day, she pops a newly-mastered CD in her car and she listens to it and once she arrives in our studio, she dissects the parts that need improvement in the mix.

However, it was because of this that she got hit by a speeding truck. It was the truck driver’s fault because he beat the red light in the fast traffic in an intersection. My audio engineer friend ended up in a hospital with a fractured neck and a dislocated shoulder.

Her family turned to no win no fee accident claims experts to help sort out the mess. The authorities have ruled out the fact she was listening to loud music as she was in fast traffic because she was following rules. The truck company provided for her medical bills as well as other miscellaneous bills for temporary impairment because of her fractured shoulder.

The lesson for me and other audio engineers like me reading this is that as much as we love work, there’s a time for work and there’s a time to pay attention to things right in front of us. We could always listen to lower volumes and keep it a priority to keep our eyes on the road rather than concentrate our ears and leaving the driving to our bodies in ‘autopilot mode’.

The Importance of Training Your Ears

As a producer, I value my ears as my greatest assets. Taking care of them is important because without hearing, I wouldn’t have a job. Hearing is important, but it is more important that your ear knows the sound that it is looking for working in conjunction with your analytical skills.

Oscillation meters can tell you lots about the frequency of a musical instrument when recorded. Your knowledge of condenser and dynamic microphones and identifying phases when using them is also important, but you could only tell the difference of subtle sound changes with trained ears.

A simple way I do to train my ears is to scoop up a frequency gain and move it all around the equalizer while a single polyphonic note is playing. I would identify the note’s frequency range in the basic meter, then hear its character changes as I pass the gain frequency from one side to the other.

A chart like this is useful in training your ears and even in mixing and mastering the instruments in your song. These will help you improve on your usage of the most basic of all digital audio workstation plugins, the equalizer.

However, you will need to invest in mentorship and good monitors if you want to train your ears effectively. I can coach people but only through posts such as these, but the final say depends on whether your ear determines a sound to be “sweet” enough or needs more tweaking.

Compression, Dynamics and Your Music

If you have ever listened to classical music, you can clearly distinguish the different instruments, their sound and the swelling and shrinking dynamics of the instruments, giving it its organic and refreshing feeling. In today’s modern music, particularly in pop and rock songs, dynamics could not be felt, except for a perceived loudness of the percussions and lifeless melodic instruments.

Compression is useful during the traditional days of music production because it helped avoid destroying early radios with weak circuits. High volumes were too high for some radios to contain and a compressor helped to ensure a pure signal seemed to increase in volume without actually increasing in amplitude.

Today, compression is useful for tying together instruments to sound as if they are in a single room, especially for multi-tracked recordings. Being tied together, some of their transients and dynamics are lost as they hit the compression gate.

Indeed, it sounds organic when you hear musical instruments change in dynamics and volume in the process and while it sounds clearer in a compressed mix, your ears may get tired of hearing the same sound, which can make the music dull and lifeless.

While some music are suited for loud compression, such as dance and rock music, other types of music may benefit from retaining dynamics and a low compression setting.