The majority of my freelance audio work comes to me through the internet from all over the world. It’s maybe 1 in 10 projects that I do for musicians in my area. When I’m recording it’s usually overdubs. Recently I had the pleasure of tracking a 3 piece band live in another studio. That’s not sarcasm! I really do love working with people in real life, setting up microphones, and making loud noises. I don’t get to do it nearly enough. Thinking back on this session, a few important topics come to mind that will help you get through your next (or first) tracking session.
The headphone mix for the drummer and bassist were constantly changing throughout the two days of recording, more bass, less drums, more guitar, less guitar, more bass, less vocals, more bass. I kept tweaking their mix, filtering sub and compressing it in an attempt to get them more level, and the bassist kept playing harder and harder in an attempt to hear more clearly.
What was happening? I was listening to the same mix as them off my interface, but I did not check it on their headphones. As a result, their mix was totally distorted from driving the input of the headphone amp too hard. They messed up by not telling me it sounded like shit until 4 hours into the second day of recording. Note to musicians – speak up, the headphone mix must sound good, tell the engineer if it doesn’t. I only found out the mix was jacked because I heard the bassists headphones buzzing when he was in the control room for an overdub. The point here is that you need to listen to the musician’s headphones to adjust their mix correctly.
I don’t always use contracts, in this session I’m glad I did. It was great to have everything in writing and agreed on, simply because it gave me the power to say ‘No.’ If it’s not in the contract I don’t have to do it. The price and terms were set, all in plain English. There were a few important points in the contract.
- Price per day and when it is due
- Client pays for the studio and equipment rentals
- The service was defined as audio capture including basic editing
- The service did not include advanced editing – vocal correction, drum editing, noise reduction
- No files or rough mixes released until paid in full
- Session no more than 10hrs including setup and breaks
- My recording credit specified
If the idea of ‘fix it in the mix’ came up I could shoot it down. “Nope, not in the contract, you have to do another take.” This is not me being lazy, this is quality control.
In case you’re wondering, I did say ‘Yes’ much more often than ‘No’ in this session.
Something will go wrong
Aside from the headphone mix issue, my mobile DAW system caused a lot of frustration with intermittent glitches. I thoroughly tested the system at home before the session but issues still came up. Now I can’t recommend OSX Mavericks for audio. We also had a phone go off in one of the best takes. The bass player had tape all over his fretting hand to keep from bleeding everywhere. Worse things can and do happen! You just have to stay positive, keep the morale up and work around the issue.
Know when to move on
With that said, sometimes you just have to give up. One song the band was recording has a drastic change in feel between verse, pre-chorus and the chorus. It was a train wreck every time. If they did make it through then the tempo would be way off. Most takes are incomplete.
We gave up on this song early on the second day and came back to it at the end. On the first take of the second attempt a guitar string breaks. Fix that, computer glitches, try with a click track and without, it’s just not working.
I try to keep it positive for them. We DID get through 19 other songs, and we started late on the first day and went home early. This one song needs more work and now is not the best time. Time to pack up and go home.
Anyone can mic a snare drum, that’s easy. Recording sessions are less about the equipment you’re using and more about working with people. That is the priority on these projects, keeping everyone happy and playing their best. You can’t fix that in the mix.
iZotope makes awesome plugins for mixing and mastering, they’ve also done us all a favor and made some great guides to using their plugins for mixing and mastering. These free pdfs are packed with tips and information to get the most out of Alloy, Nectar, and Ozone, but also general mixing tips and workflow advice no matter which plugins you use.
Go get them here: iZotope Free PDF Guides
Premier Guitar always has great gear videos. I’m a big fan of Russian Circles‘ music so I was pretty stoked to find this video interview and run through of the guitar and bass gear. There’s also some interesting info on the recording process, particularly with combining amps. The video was recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago.
There’s some more in the article here http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/19620-rig-rundown—russian-circles-mike-sullivan-brian-cook
Today I’d like to bring your attention to a new magazine on audio production called The Modern Producer. This is an interactive magazine available only on iPad (for now at least). The first issue was just released and is packed with cool tutorials, interviews and reviews. I have some reviews in the first two issues.
Check it out at TheModernProducer.com
For part 2 of my EZ Drummer 2 review I’m exploring the interface and demonstrating some of the presets. Gotta say, so far this is pretty damned intuitive and I’ve barely dug into it yet.
The plugin is out next month, check out the video below for a preview.
Are you already an EZDrummer user? Thinking of upgrading? Are there any features you want me to dig into for the 3rd video? Let me know in the comments below!
Toontrack sent me EZ Drummer 2 this week to try out and make some videos. Prior to this I had never used EZDrummer but I could usually identify it in indie releases. It’s pretty exciting to be one of the first reviewers of this product. My first impressions of it are very positive.
The first video is a bit boring, I admit. Install went perfectly as it should. I intended to show more in the first video but my screen recording had major sync issues, user error. So I’ve broken it up into a few parts, part 1 below covers the install and authorization, part 2 explores the interface, and shows off the sounds and patterns, first impressions kind of stuff. Part 3 will be my final review after using the software on a few projects, this should be done by the end of the month.
Check out part 1 now, and stay tuned for part 2 and 3.
If there is a specific feature you’d like me to cover in part 3, please leave a message here, on Youtube or email me directly.