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Entries in audio engineering (7)


Amplage: 0.4 Small Word of Advice - Working as a sound engineer

Today I’d like to discuss with you some invaluable information about working as a sound engineer. Whether it is in the studio or as a live engineer you are always providing a service for a client/customer and you must do your best to accommodate their needs.

This rant is brought on by my music ventures of Friday. I went to watch some amazing musicians perform for a University event and the musical content was completely butchered by a tech team who seemed to be a bit in the dark of their job role. Then later on during the day I watched Evermore and Maroon 5 perform at Rod Laver where I saw some people who obviously are very much into their job and were in complete control of the situations.

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Mix reference

I often suggest using a good sounding mix reference track to compare your own mix tone to. This is often in response to receiving a mix which has far too much or too little low frequency content for mastering. In these instances it is best to address the core problems in the mix down by using a mix reference.

I would use a track which relates to the genre of the mix your are working with. Select a track based on tone, clarity, space and definition, not it’s perceived level. This will help when getting the right tonal balance for the track, i.e. balance of lows, mid range and highs. I suggest bringing a track into your mix session with it’s own separate stereo track. Ensure the file is a high quality .wav file or .aiff file. Choose a track that you feel has a great mix which works on a lot of different playback systems. It helps if you like the track but don’t just choose a track where you love the song itself, try and discern what qualities give the track a good mix down.  

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Getting your bass levels right at mix down

As a mastering engineer one of the most common issues with a music mix is the bass levels. Commonly there is not enough bass, far too much bass or uneven response throughout the lower musical octaves. There can be a number of causes for bass level problems.

1)Inappropriate positioning of monitors/speakers in mix room.
2)Lack of acoustic treatment to deal with low frequency energy.
3)Speaker size inadequate to produce full range audio.
4)Low listening volume.

Ideally your loudspeakers should not be positioned in the corners this produces what is known as “bass tip up” or the proximity effect. It means that low frequency sound waves are reflected and appear in phase at the monitoring position. This means you get a bass boost at the listening spot. This can fool the mixer to believe there is more bass present than there is. I suggest trying to keep speakers 1 meter away from walls where it is practical to do so.

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Stem mastering vs Stereo 2 track mastering

Stem mastering is a different method of mastering audio which traditionally uses the stereo 2 track mixdown files. There is some confusion surrounding stem mastering as it appears to be akin to mixing, however this is not the case. Stem mastering utilizes groups of instruments such as bass, guitars, vocals, drums, synths, brass section etc. The mastering engineer requires these groups of instrumentation to successfully perform stem mastering. Stem mastering allows the engineer extra flexibility when adjustments are being made to the overall sound of the music. the goal is still based on ensuring your music translates as good as is possible to as many sound reproduction systems as possible.

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The Danger Behind DAWs: How to write a killer tune without a computer

…no matter how much we wish it wasn’t the case, computers are completely useless at generating content. Where is the ‘compose Platinum selling LP’ key command in Logic? Where’s the ‘improve my bassline’ command in Cubase? Where’s the ‘choose correct tempo’ option in Ableton? They don’t exist. These are creative decisions that only a human can make.So how should we work? Here’s a different kind of compositional process a lot of DAW users have forgot…

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How to make a great recording of any instrument with ease.

Making a great recording need not be difficult. I suggest a quality cardioid microphone and a great all rounder would be the Audio Technica AT4033. It’s a condenser microphone and will require 48 volts phantom power supplied by the mixing console or your sound card microphone preamplifier. (this is very common on mic preamps).

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Record Any Vocals Lately? Read This.

Audio engineering and production is an art and one of the most technically demanding areas of the art is vocal recording. Vocal performance recording - on a general level - is taught in recording and engineering programs of most colleges and universities, around New York and California. I learned some useful information from the Institute of Audio Research, however what I am about to share with you came from painstaking hours in the school of hard- knocks.

The human voice is naturally forward and present to our hearing system. And the equal loudness contours show us that we hear the human voice three to four times louder than the greater part of the human hearing spectrum.

This is important because in a musical production, the human voice not only tells the story of the song, by communicating the emotions and sentiment through language and other expressions, but it naturally wants to be heard above all else because of its frequency range. To get the best sounding vocal recording, a producer or engineer must start with the vocal performance.

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