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infinitenexus
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
Posts: 1939
PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2013 9:21 pm 
 

With all the newer musicians coming in here on a regular basis, I wanted to post this. Maybe even make it a sticky, so there won't be an influx of the same questions over and over again.

Note: this entire huge post(s) is assuming you're using a DAW like Reaper or Protools or Cubase or whatever.

I've been reading about mixing and mastering (note, the two are extremely different) a TON over the years and I wanted to put out something educational for the people new to recording, so they can avoid making all the basic mistakes. So if you're new to recording music, read this before you try to mix anything. Or for that matter, record. Plenty of it is very basic, but many noobs don't know about it. We'll start with the guitars, since a majority of us on here are guitarists.

Recording heavy metal guitars:

We have to start with the basics. The absolute basics. After playing for a while, many of us don't think about these things because they're so basic. And when you record, it shows. Get brand new strings on your guitar. If you have old strings, you aren't ready to make a professional sounding recording. After you have new strings, set your intonation. This is another basic thing that many of us (myself included sometimes, with certain guitars) skip. Your intonation must be in line. Yes you can do it yourself, you just need a screwdriver and google and a tuner. It takes an hour and it'll make your guitar sound a lot better. While you're at it, lower your action (takes a small allen wrench and google) as low as you can get it without any fret buzzing. After you do that, reset your intonation. Then double check it. Then triple check it.

Tune your guitar properly. I have that word bolded for a reason. For 99% of players, your guitar needs to be tuned right on the spot, perfectly. Not your g string 5 cents sharp and your high e 5 cents flat, but within 1 cent of perfectly in tune. Now that being said, sometimes your playing style can affect that. For example, I have to tune my lowest string about 10 cents flat because of how I play. When I play it, it's in tune. It's taken me a long time to get that figure.

So tuning and intonation, that's all? No, that just means you're reading to actually start playing. Now the fun stuff begins.

KNOW YOUR SONG. If you can't record the guitar tracks for your song in 3-4 attempts, you are not ready to record and you need to practice more. Period.

Okay, onto guitar tone.

Start dialing in the tone on your amp. I know in heavy metal we tend to hate midrange, but trust me, it's not your enemy. Here's how to dial in a good metal guitar tone the right way. Start with your gain, bass/mid/treble/presence knobs all on 5 (12 oclock). Play a bit and see what's missing, or what doesn't sound right. Start with the bass. When you palm mute - especially for those of us using low tunings - you'll probably need to turn the bass down a bit (and resonance if you have it) in order to avoid muddiness and to keep from blowing your speakers. And if you want clean, clear rhythm guitars, you need to remove some bass. So try dialing the bass knob down a tad. Now onto midrange. This is a highly debated topic and there are many options, many opinions, and it all really depends on your ear/amp/speakers. DO NOT TURN YOUR MIDRANGE DOWN TO 0. If you like a scooped sound, try turning it down to just 2-3 and dealing with that. The extra bit of midrange will help your guitar punch through the mix and add clarity. Trust me. Now for treble. Slowly dial up the treble and presence until your guitar is bright enough sounding. This one isn't too difficult. You want a nice bright clear tone without it sounding fizzy in any way. NO FIZZINESS. You need to be happy with the sound coming out of your speakers. And most importantly, the gain knob. Dial in the amount of distortion you want for a good crunchy tone that's plenty chunky on those low palm mutes. Then dial it back a bit. If the tone you like involves your gain knob on 9, dial it back to 7. This will add clarity to your riffs, and once you double (or quadruple) track your guitars, you will never notice the absence of gain, I promise you. As for master volume, dial that in according to where you're recording. If you're in a shitty apartment, you probably can't go too loud. If you're in the wilderness of West Virginia, crank it up a bit - although that as well is subjective. Some people like power tube distortion and some don't. Many metal albums with incredible guitar tones were recorded with the famous Peavey 5150... With the master volume on 2 (which is still really loud, fucking tube amps...) It doesn't have to be on 10.

So in short, get the guitar tone you want... And then turn the gain down a bit, turn the bass down a tad, and turn the mids up a bit. This is all for clarity.

Now that you have a good sound coming out of your amp, it's time to mic it. Take your mic (shure SM57 is the industry standard and highly recommended, you can pick them up used for $50 and they sound great and are indestructible) and place it in front of your speaker, right up the the grill cloth (if it's there). Now where you place your mic depends on your speaker. If you have a midrange heavy speaker like a Celestion Vintage 30, start with the mic pointing directly in the middle of the dustcap. For basically any other speaker, move to the edge of the dustcap. From here, you will play and record a tad (if you're alone), analyze the sound, and then move it accordingly. If the tone is too bright and fizzy, move it a tiny bit ( like 1/4 inch) toward the edge of the speaker. If the sound is too dark and midrange heavy, move it toward the center of the speaker. This is something that can take an hour, but you absolutely must do it if you want your guitars to sound good. Keeping the mic pointing straight at the speaker will pick up more high end. Angling the mic so that it's perpendicular with the speaker cone will pick up more mids and bass.

Now, once you have your guitar tone that you're happy with, it's time to record. You should be recording to a drum track (which I'll cover later). If for some reason the drums aren't recorded yet, then stop recording guitars and recording your god damn drums. But if for some reason you want to do things in a different order, then record to a click track. Yes, it's annoying having headphones on blasting that metronome in your ears, but that's how you stay on tempo.

Play your shit right. As I said before, if you can't lay down a sufficient track in a few tries, then you're not ready to record. This may seem funny, but you'd be amazed at how many people try to record without being proficient in their own music. The pros laugh about it all the time.

But how many guitar tracks should I record? That is a topic that is hotly debated, with no real defining evidence on either side. Some people like 4 or more tracks. Bloodbath's "Nightmares Made Flesh" uses 4 tracks, as does In Flames' "Clayman", and those two albums have excellent guitar tones. However, ...And Justice For All has more tracks than that and the guitar tone is thin as shit. What's missing on Justice? The bass? EXACTLY! The most important thing for guitarists to learn is that you do not get a big, thick guitar tone from your guitars. You get it from the bass. Let me say that again so it sinks in:

You do not get a big, thick guitar tone from the guitars. You get it from the bass.

So stop worrying about how many tracks you need to record or how to pan them. If you use 2 rhythm tracks like many do, pan them anywhere from 80%-100% left and right. If you use 4 rhythm tracks like many do, pan them accordingly: 100% L 80% L 80% R 100% R. That's how Nightmares Made Flesh and Clayman were panned, and I'll be damned if those aren't some great guitar tones.

Now that your guitar tracks are recorded, be it 2 or 4, it's time to EQ them. The first thing you should do is use a high pass filter to remove the bass. "But I want a big thick guitar tone, waahh!" Shut up, guitars don't do that, bass guitars do. Set a high pass filter (which basically just removes all the bass below a certain level) at 80-120Hz, depending on your tone settings. Trust me, you DO NOT want a lot of bass in your rhythm guitar tone. Otherwise, where is the bass and kick drum going to go? After you've high passed them, put a low pass on them, and put it pretty high. I set mine at 12KHz, as does Andy Sneap, who may know a thing or two. Dial that in depending on your guitar tone. If it's fizzy, you may want to go down a tiny bit. The key word here is TINY. All EQing should be done in small increments. SMALL. When high passing your guitar tone, just make sure you don't take out so much bass that it's thin and weak. You don't want that either. You just want to take the muddiness out. A high pass filter at 100Hz is an excellent place to start. From there, listen to your overall tone. Is it just right? Is it a bit too this or that? There's a good way to find out. Take a graphic EQ and make a single band with a boost of about +6 or so, and a Q of like 0.5 (note, that means a really narrow band on an EQ. Really narrow). Now, while listening to a single guitar track panned in the center, slowly sweep this band from about 400Hz to 3kHz. While you're slowing sweeping it, it may suddenly sound like absolute ass. When you find a frequency that sounds like absolute ass, you can make a small cut there. And I mean small - narrow Q, and a cut of only a dB or two. Also, many people like to make a wide and low (+1dB) boost on the higher end of their guitars, centered on about 4kHz, to add some brightness and clarity. I personally do this (I'll go over my settings later) as it helps brightness and clarity.

Aside from that, the only other thing often applied to rhythm guitar tracks is a multiband compressor. In that instance, compress the frequency ranges from about 100Hz to 350Hz, and that's to keep your palm mutes from being too excessively bassy.

Bass and Drums to come next, and then final mixing and mastering.
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infinitenexus
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
Posts: 1939
PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2013 12:01 am 
 

A couple other notes on guitars:

Just to hit the midrange thing again, remember that the guitar is a midrange instrument. That is where all the tone, sound, and volume is. Completely killing the midrange will completely kill your tone.

Pedals

I know some of you like pedals. That's fine. I personally hate them. To each his own. There is one pedal I would recommend though, and that's a tubescreamer. It doesn't have to be a vintage 1981 tubescreamer with germanium transistors or whatever; I have a cheapo TS7 model and it does the job just fine. The reason a tubescreamer can be great (especially for rhythm guitars) is because of it's tone shaping properties - it cuts some bass and low mids and has a slight presence boost, and that can go a long way with helping your guitars sound brighter and clearer. This can come in very handy with certain tube amps that have huge low end, like a JCM800, VTM60/120 or certain Engls. It really tightens them up.

Please note that when I say "brighter" I don't mean tons of treble and tinny sounding. I mean nice and clear and not muffled, so you can hear the pick attack and hear the notes that you're playing. Especially when tremolo picking, this can be very important.

Many people have many different ways of using a tubescreamer. Ola Englund (who gets amazing guitar tones) tends to put the gain on 0, the tone a bit above noon, and crank the level, to use it as a boost. Andy Sneap often puts the gain at 9 o'clock, the tone at 11, and the level at noon. I personally put the gain down low, and the tone and level at roughly noon, depending on the amp I'm using.

Also, for that "Clayman" tone, what Fredrik Nordström did (and what I plan on trying whenever I get a second SM57) was to use 2 mics for each guitar track. Using a 5150 (with settings of Bass 7 mid 1 treble 7 presence 7 if I remember correctly) and an Engl cab loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s, he put one mic pointing directly at the center of the speaker cone, and a second mic (both SM57s) perpendicular to the surface of the cone itself, so that the two mics were essentially forming a V shape. These two signals were blending, with the angled mic providing the majority of the tone and the centered one brightening up the signal. Clayman was recorded with 4 rhythm tracks, and with 2 mics for each, there's a total of 8 tracks. Note that for each "track" with two mics, they're treated as one - the two tones were blended and panned equally. So the rhythm guitars were recorded a total of 4 times (resulting in 8 tracks). In a situation like this where you're using two mics on one source, you have to be extremely careful of phasing. In short, make sure both mics are exactly the same distance from the source. A difference as little as 8 millimeters can cause phase issues, which can cancel out frequencies and result in a thin, shitty guitar tone. So it's definitely more of an "advanced" technique that takes time to perfect, but it's worth it if you have the time and know-how.

Also just for some reference point, I personally use a Peavey 6505+ and a Celestion Vintage 30 and an SM57 for my preferred guitar tones. It's taken me a while to get the tone I want, but I'm almost there. I will post a sound clip tomorrow so you can hear that I'm not completely talking out of my ass. But for now, my tone settings are as follows:
Lead channel
resonance 2.5
bass 4
middle 1
treble 7
presence 6.5
pre gain 6
post gain 3

Yes I know my mids are on 1 and I just said not to suck all the mids out of your tone. The V30 is a very midrange heavy speaker and I'm using an isolation cab which accentuates the midrange, so it's a struggle to keep it from honking. My tone is still very midrange heavy. Were I using a 4X12 cab my mids would most likely be on about 3. Sound clips to come tomorrow.
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shouvince
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2013 2:15 am 
 

:thumbsup: I would really be interested in the basics for recording & mixing vocals. That's always a tricky bit for me. Do you plan to cover that as well?

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infinitenexus
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Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:07 pm 
 

I'll get there also, I've just been busy lately and haven't updated this like I wanted to.

So onto guitars, here's a quick clip:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/728 ... 0check.mp3

That is my 6505+ through a vintage 30 using the tone settings described above. You can hear that although my mid setting is on 1, it's still got plenty of midrange, and it punches through a mix very well. That's just two guitars with no EQ, panned 80% left and right each, respectively. I'll do bass next.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:59 pm 
 

Alrighty, onto bass guitars.

Bass guitars often get overlooked in metal (and are often mixed too low to be heard), yet for those wanting a big thick guitar sound, the bass is key.

Recording:

As with guitar, make sure your bass is in tune and your intonation is set and your action is low without buzzing. New strings are important as well, as they add a bit of brightness that can help the bass to punch through. The obvious things first, but many people don't do these. Moving on.

Bass isn't too difficult, fortunately. Run your bass into your amp (or a distortion/boost pedal first) and as with guitars, put your amp on the volume you want to record at with your tone knobs all on 5 (12 o'clock). Play around a bit and see what it needs. Avoid the urge to turn the mid knob down, and to crank the bass knob all the way. It's not needed. Often just a bump on the bass knob gets a good rumble, leaving the mids on 5 helps keep all the body in the tone, and adding some highs helps clarity, punch, and attack. For fingerstyle bassists, adding some highs can be critical. If you listen to Alex Webster's bass tone, he has a lot of high end added. On the topic of distortion, try to avoid adding too much. A heavily distorted bass tone can get lost in the mix and end up a flabby mess. A bit of grit does sound good though, especially in metal. Another tip: play closer to your bridge. It helps with more control, faster picking (because the string isn't flopping around as much there) and the same goes for fingerstyle bassists. This is one little "trick" many famous producers have bassists do when they record. Now onto speaker selection.

If I don't have 9 15 inch speakers, I won't be able to hear my low string! Not true. If you were to disconnect every speaker in your cab except for one and then play, all the disconnected speakers would in fact be resonating along with the one working speaker, and would actually help reinforce the low end. With all of them working together, it effectively helps extend the range of your speakers. The exact term for this escapes me at the moment. But this is the reason why those Ampeg 8X10 cabs can hit any note you throw at them with only 10 inch speakers. Now this is like guitar tone, it's very subjective and I won't tell you this speaker is better than that one. What I will say is that it requires a lot more power to create low frequencies than it does high frequencies. That's why bassists will use a 1000 watt amp with an 8X10 cab to keep up with a guitarist using a 100W half stack. So turn your bass amp up a bit, of course surroundings permitted. And don't fret too much about your speaker size, be it 10, 12, 15, or 18 inches. Actually Carvin sells a 21 incher. Just make sure it sounds good.

Use similar techniques to mic your bass as was mentioned with guitars. The majority of the speaker cone movement (and that movement is what creates the sound waves) is going to be coming off the cone itself, not the dust cap. So while micing the dust cap can often be fine with guitars, it's often better to mic the cone itself with bass. Start in the middle and move the mic slowly around until you find a sound that has plenty of low end rumble and still some punch on top. Piece of cake. Fortunately, bass is a bit more forgiving than guitars in this aspect. Record your well-rehearsed bass lines. Boom. Onto mixing.

This is one thing that shocks some people: Put a high pass on your bass guitar signal. Not at 100Hz obviously, but depending on tuning, at 30-40Hz. You can't hear much down there anyways, and even with a high pass there will still be plenty of rumble. Just don't overdo it so that there's no low end (duh). What this does is maintains the solid low end of the bass but clears up a bit of sonic space for the kick drum. A multiband compressor is also useful with the bass guitar, slightly compressing the low and low mids, from about 100-400Hz. Again, not too much as you don't want to lose all that precious low end. Just a bit to keep it under control.

Since properly micing a bass guitar and accurately capturing the signal can sometimes be a pain, many pros run their bass right into the console and use amp VSTs. Some do that solely, and some do that and blend it with the miced signal. VST bass recording is very easy. Just plug into your audio interface, get a good amp VST (amplitube has some good ones) and do the tone settings as with a real amp - small adjustments are all that's needed. Do a high pass filter down low to get rid of any excess flab and voila. If you want to mix it, you can split your bass signal with one going into the DI signal and the other going into your amp. Some people do this using a cleaner DI signal and a more distorted amp signal, so they can have a distorted sounding bass but it's still nice and clean. When you blend them, move the high pass up on the amp signal to eliminate a lot of the bass, and low pass the DI signal. There is no exact formula for this, so use your ears to blend them until you get the growly tone of your bass amp but the clean solid low end of the DI signal. And to get really technical, if you want to compensate for the difference in length the signals have to travel (right into the sound board versus through the amp, into the mic, through the mic cable, into the sound board) you may want to nudge your amp signal about 1ms to the left (sooner).

Another good tip: If your mix is sounding thin, instead of EQing more bass into your signal, just turn your bass up a notch. That will often fix the problem, and make your bass more audible in the mix without being muddy.

That's basically it. Fortunately, bass is pretty easy in most cases, and more forgiving than guitar. Here's a sound clip with a few different bass tones. Unfortunately it's too late for me to turn on my bass amp, so these are all DI for now, using Amplitube. I'll mic my bass amp tomorrow. I'm not much of a bass player, so I'm just kind of dicking around on the bass to show the tone. Both of these tones are ones that have a good solid low end, clarity, and punch. In the hands of a better bassist they would sound much better. Same clip, through two different amp settings. The first one is clean with just a bit of grit, and the second one has more distortion, but still not too much. I offer them just as examples.
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/728 ... 0check.mp3

Tomorrow I'll record some bass using an amp and post a quick sound clip so you can hear the difference. Then I'll tackle drums, vocals, and then mixing and mastering and finally the step where you give me all your money. That's the most important.
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somefella
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:51 am 
 

I suppose I'll add my 5cents about recording if you don't mind, especially guitars and bass. While all these modern DAWs will let you punch yourself in or copy+paste riffs that were tricky to nail, try to keep this to a minimum, even if it means having to do 10 or more takes. This is one of the things that cause that sterility and flatness in modern recordings. Even if you're going for a polished sound, you still want some natural dynamics. You're a band of people, not robots. The way to achieve this is practicing a lot more than you deem necessary. Every minute spent in the studio costs money and you want to minimise time spent, while at the same time not compromising on quality.

As for tone I don't think such a by-the-book method is necessary. Nile scoop out ALL their mids on every video or picture of their gear ever. I personally agree with most of your views about EQ but I think it's necessary that people play around and see what works for them. Marduk's guitars are recorded with a Strat, works for them.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:50 pm 
 

I absolutely agree. And I think your comment also backs up what I said earlier; if you can't play the riff in a take or two, you shouldn't be in the studio anyways, you should be practicing and preparing for the studio.

And definitely, tone is subjective and sometimes rules are made to be broken. The method I mention is the basic method that people should start with, that keeps things clear and clean. With more experience you can mix stuff like you mentioned, Nile scooping their mids. These guys scoop the absolute shit out of their guitar tone and their bass is fuzzy as hell, and it all works out into a gigantic guitar tone:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GHMG4ltVSs

I would hate to try to get clarity in that guitar/bass combo, but whoever produced it did a great job. Although if you listen closely, there isn't really any actual clarity to the guitar once he starts playing faster. One benefit of all the mids being scooped out is that there is a huge sonic space for the vocals and snare drum to sit in.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 8:14 pm 
 

I guess it's time for vocals. I'm kinda dreading drums, because that's going to be a loooooong post or four.

Recording vocals for metal

Since I started with the absolute basics for guitar and bass, I'll do the same for vocals. Whether your singing operatic vocals, some falsetto shit, blackened shrieks, or guttural death growls, all the power should be coming from your diaphragm/abs. If you doubt that, just ask George Fisher. He'll tell you the same. Also, check out this awesome video of Death playing live in L.A.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9_9y9zBRVQ

With Chuck being all shirtless and whatnot, you can see how much his midsection tightens when he sings. He's got a damn 6 pack busting out from singing. At the same time if you watch his face, he's not straining his throat or face muscles or anything like that. It's all core power. (that sounds like some kind of stupid super power. Activate CORE POWER!)

So to continue with the absolute basics, you should pay at least some attention to your diet. Don't eat or drink any dairy products before recording vocals, as they'll cause your throat to produce more mucous. Apple juice is good for keeping the throat clear. The best thing is lukewarm/room temperature water. Yeah I know it's bland, shut up and sip it between takes. Keep your throat from drying out, as a dry throat can kill your vocal quality. And while having a beer or glass of wine can be good to help you relax and get into it more, limit yourself. Drunk vocals do not sound as good as non-drunk vocals. One drink is enough. If you're a raging alcoholic, have two. Try to limit the smoking also, as that dries out your throat and vocal cords. Also, warm up your voice, even for death growls. Just go to youtube and follow one of the million warmup videos that's appropriate for your vocal range, be it tenor or baritone, or for a few of you, bass.

Mic selection. For vocals you want a mic that captures the vocal sound cleanly and doesn't pick up too much shit from other directions. A cardioid pattern. An SM58 is a tried and true mic, and though I've never used it, it's been used on more albums than can be counted. Mattp, who used to frequent around here and recorded some nice sounding stuff, preferred a Shure SM7 for extreme vocals. A Shure SM57 can be good at vocals also, partially due to it's slight presence rise, which can add life and clarity to the vocals. I personally prefer a Rode NT1-A. It's an excellent quality condenser mic (so it needs phantom power) that has a slight presence rise and comes with a nice shock mount and pop filter. Brand new they're less than $200, used you can find them around $100, and they're well worth it. The guy from recordingrevolution.com says you can't have too many of them, and they'll work for everything. It's also a sensitive mic, so if you're doing something quiet it can pick up the subtle nuances. And while all that is great, I've recorded decent vocals on a $20 mic with a sock on the end to act as a pop filter. While the mic is very important, technique is the most important. But a mic definitely is a big part. Anyways.

On to recording. Use a pop filter. Period. Be it the $1 foam covers for the tip of the mic or the $10 circular screens, they are such a wonderful thing to have. They don't detract from the sound at all, but they help eliminate popped "p"s and hissy "s"s, which is something you can't really fix in the mix. And as I mentioned earlier, I have in fact just put a sock over the mic. Eh, it did the trick, although I highly recommend spending the pennies on a real pop filter. I also would not recommend holding the mic, unless that's the technique you're just really accustomed to. And even then, I would have it on a stand, with the vocalist holding it. That keeps the mic stable and close to the vocalist's mouth. It keeps the volume a bit more stable. I personally have my NT1-A on a shock mount on a stand in front of me and I stand so my lips are just touching the pop filter. I try to keep my face pretty much there the entire vocal take, just to keep things level.

While blasting your music at full volume is excellent so you can rock out and headbang while growling, you'll end up with plenty of noise and music in the background of your vocal track, and you don't really want that. So headphones are definitely the way to go whilst recording vocals. Some vocalists like to hear themselves along with the mix when they're recording. That's fine, put it in their headphones.

Then, record. Growl. chugga chugga durr durr COOOOKKIIIEEEEEE

Okay, onto mixing. We'll start with compression, because that's first in my effects chain on my vocal tracks. If you want decent sounding vocals that stay roughly the same volume through your song you have to compress it. Even the best singers need compression, it's perfectly fine. When compressing vocals, be they clean or growls, you don't want to compress the initial attack of the voice too much. The exact figure of your attack setting on your compressor will vary from singer to singer and from style to style, but for aggressive vocals I use an attack of 20-23 milliseconds. Your mileage may vary. For the release I use 100 milliseconds. Some use less, some use more. Experiment. I should make a post about compression and phasing and stuff so I won't have to explain any of that any other time. Note to self. As for the ratio, this is where you level off the volume. You don't need a 20:1 ratio to keep things level (if you do, your singer is horrible and you should redo the vocals), somewhere around 3-5:1 should be plenty sufficient. Be careful because the higher ratio you use, the more your volume can drop.

Now EQ is where you really craft the sound of the vocals. If your name is Andy Sneap and you have uber expensive acoustically treated tracking rooms and a $2000 mic to sing into, then you won't need much EQ to get a great sound. Fortunately for the rest of us, in a mediocre bedroom studio you still shouldn't need much EQ to get a good sound. Even with super guttural growls, you need to put a high pass filter on the vocals. It cleans them up and takes any rumbling and muddiness out, and lets the actual vocal tone punch through the mix. I personally have a peter steele-esque voice when I sing, and when I look at my vocal tracks, even death growls, on a frequency analyzer, there's a lot stuff going on at 60-120Hz. That's the frequency where the bass and kick drums and low end of the guitar are compiling their brutality and the last thing you need is to add another low bassy signal to that mix. For death growls, even low pitched ones, I high pass at about 180Hz. For higher black metal stuff, 200Hz. For clean singing, I tailor it to the range I'm singing in. If i'm singing down as I said, peter steele range, I'll high pass it at 80-120Hz, depending on how bassy I want it to sound and depending on what's playing in the background. If there's heavy guitars, bass, drums, then I'll high pass it a bit higher. If it's over something clean, or ambient or whatever, then maybe a bit lower to get a bassier tone. For higher singing, to include both clean singing and thrash metal uh, yells(?) the high pass will again be tailored to the timbre of the vocalist's voice, but it will be in the 100-200Hz range. You want to get rid of any useless low end rumble and muddiness without altering the sound of the actual voice, and without making it sound thin. And this is another place where good vocal technique comes in to play. If you sound like Peter Tagtgren, you're still going to sound badass even with a high pass at 180Hz, so stop worrying. After the high pass, you want to put a low pass on also, just to get rid of any hissing or high end frequencies that you aren't using anyways. That's usually set at around 10K. You can't sing at 10KHz, so don't even worry about that affecting your voice lol. Now that we've gotten rid of frequencies that are either useless, unused, or muddy, let's make it stand out a bit. And this is where I differ with some of the old school "purists", but I'll make a post about subtractive EQ later, along with compression. Second note to self. For male singers, to help accentuate frequencies that will help your voice stand out - be it clean singing, yelling, or growls - I add a small boost - and by small I mean +1.5db, with a bandwidth of 1 octave - at 650-700Hz. If you're playing metal, which you probably are because you're on the metal archives, your guitar tone probably doesn't have a ton of mids in this frequency range. So a slight boost here will help your voice stand out a tad without altering the actual sound. I also add a second boost, equally small in size, at about 5KHz. Depending on the vocal take, I'll move that one around a tad. If I recorded a particularly hot vocal take, then I may need to take that one down a bit to avoid it sounding too sharp. Same with the low pass filter up top. For a female vocalist the EQing will be basically the same, but the boost at 650-700 may need to be tweaked a bit.

After EQ we have reverb. Ah yes, reverb. Every black metal musician's dream. Reverb, when tastefully applied, can help glue things together, so to speak, and help things blend better. It can also give a vocal track a much more natural feel. The key is not to overdue it. I like to dial in just enough reverb to make it noticable, and then I'll blend the wet and dry signals to taste. For death growls, which are usually pretty dry sounding, I'll have the dry signal at 0 and the wet (reverby) signal at -4db or so. It's a small addition that you won't even really notice, unless you A/B your vocal track with and without it. But it really helps make things sound better, fuller, and more natural. For black shrieks, I'll use just a tiny bit more. And for clean vocals, again I'll tailor it to the song. If it's doom and I'm singing down low, I may dial in just a bit more. If you're doing some power or progressive metal, you may not want much (but you'll still want a touch).

That's all I use for vocals, personally. I guess whenever I release these million fucking albums I'm finishing up I'll post some sound clips so you can hear some of the techniques, and know that I'm not just talking out of my ass, hahaha.
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Last edited by infinitenexus on Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 8:40 pm 
 

Okay, even after a few beers I remembered my notes to self, so here I'll vomit up some basic knowledges on compression and subtractive EQ and phase and anything else mildly technical I can think of.

Compression: For the total n00bs, compression is basically this: You set a volume level, and anything that exceeds that level gets squeezed, or "compressed" by a certain ratio. With a ratio of 2:1, anything above that set volume level (known as threshold) if it's 4 decibels above, it will get compressed to 2 decibels above. If it's 10, it will get squeezed to 5. With a compression ratio of 10:1, for ever 10 decibels above the threshold, it will compress it down to 1dB above. It's extremely useful for keeping things at a set volume, like snare and kick drums and vocals. It's also great when applied to an entire mix with very mild settings, so you can retain the sound quality of your recordings but boost the volume a tad. But that's getting into mastering, and I'll get into that at a later post. Now I already mentioned threshold: that's the level you set, that anything above it will get compressed. Next is attack. That is how fast the compressor "grabs" the signal. So if you set your attack at 20ms (milliseconds), 20 ms of that signal will squeak through before the compressor grabs it and ruthlessly compresses the signal. And then there's release, which is pretty self-explanatory; it's how fast the compressor releases the signal. So what's the benefit of having an adjustable attack? And what do I do with it? Well thanks for asking jim bob, I'll tell you. Different signals propagate in different manners. Actually a better example would be a bassist. Let's say you're recording Jason Newsted's latest bass track. It's pretty loud and bassy, so you decide you need to gently compress it so keep the low end in line. So you may initially do a very short attack, like 3ms, to squish the sound down. But... He plays with a pick, and you want that nice sharp percussive pick attack to remain. So you'll open up the attack a bit, maybe to 15-18ms, so that sharp pick attack remains, but the actual signal gets pleasantly squashed. Seeing where I'm going with this? Good. The last thing you ever want to do with a compressor is put the attack on 1ms and squash something. That will sound like shit, plain and simple. You want to preserve the initial attack of the instrument, while gently compressing the loud volume of it, and controlling the sonic range and often the excessive low end. This is extremely important with drums. I'll cover compression on drums at a later time, but real quickly here: Drums have a very very fast and percussive attack. You want to preserve that at all costs, while levelling out the sound, especially if your drummer is happy with his or her kick drums. So you play with both the attack (to keep the attack of the drum) and the ratio (to keep the volume constant). And while I'm still learning, I can make a pretty god damn good death metal kick drum sound, and I'll post clips later to illustrate.

Also, a good rule of thumb for using compression: get your attack, release and ratio where you want them, then slowly start dialing down your threshold from 0. Once you are able to start hearing it actually start compressing stuff, back off a bit until you can't really tell anymore. Bam. That's how you get a sort of transparent compression. It will still be compressing the signal, but won't be so obvious, and will help preserve a more natural sound.

Multiband compressor: This is a compressor that works within certain frequency ranges. It is excellent for heavy, down-tuned guitars. Putting a multiband compressor with gentle settings (I.E., low ratio) on the lower end of the guitar, like up to 350Hz, can help tame those bassy palm mutes.

Subtractive EQ: This is a touchy subject for many old school pros, and I do understand where their touchiness comes from: To oversimplify it, a hatred of brick-walling and excessive volume. Subtractive EQing means exactly that: When you EQ something, you subtract and never add. For example, if I was EQing a guitar track, I would do standard high and low passes. If I felt it needed some brightening, instead of adding a small boost at 5K, I would subtract everywhere but 5K, essentially adding a boost there while lowering the overall volume of the track. This is basically a safe way to mix, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it and you can't go wrong with it. But today with our digital technologies that allows us to visually see the audio spectrum of the song - down to specific frequencies - can trump this a bit. So in short (as short as I ever type anything), it is always better to use subtractive EQ when EQing something. If you need to add large amounts anywhere, then your technique is flat out wrong somewhere else down the line. If your guitar tone is so dark that you need to add +5dB of high end to make it suitably bright and clear, then your mic is in the wrong place, and you need to fix your mic, your tone settings, your strings, etc. But adding small boosts is okay. Just don't overdo it. The exception to this is a clicky heavy metal kick drum, but I'll get to that at a later date. Enough rambling.

Phase. This one can bite your ass if you're using 2 mics to mic the same source. Sound isn't instant of course, it travels at 767 MPH, or whatever that is in m/s or kilometers/hr. So basically if you have 2 mics pointing at the same source, they need to be the exact same distance from that source, or else the sound waves will hit them at slightly different times, and that slight difference will start to cancel out certain frequencies. A difference of just 8MM can cause phase issues at 20Khz, for example. So if you're using the Fredrick Nordstrom method of 2 mics per guitar speaker you need to pay extremely close attention to the distance of your mics to the speaker. If there's too much of a difference, it will start canceling out frequencies and your guitar tone will be very thin and shitty. Just use a piece of string or something and fucking measure it. Problem solved.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 9:48 pm 
 

Well, I have nothing else to do right now, so I guess I'll move on to drums. Hopefully I can keep this from becoming a novel. God, where to fucking start.


Okay, so again, with the basics. If you want to record drums, you should have plenty of new sticks and your drum heads should be in good shape and should be in tune. Obvious stuff first. When it comes to drum heads, Powerstroke 3 kick heads are preferred by Andy Sneap and a few others. He also prefers clear Emperor heads for the toms. I mention Andy Sneap a lot because he's put out a ton of excellent sounding metal records. I've only been playing drums for barely a month, so I won't tell you how to tune them. Google it. But definitely tune them properly. And I would recommend porting your bass drum head (the resonant head, not the batter head, dumbshit). If you don't want to spend $40 on a port, just google how to do it with a can of food and a stove. It works perfectly, and provides you with a perfect place to stuff a mic in that kick drum.

But I only have one(or two, or three, etc) mics, I can't mic my drumkit! Yes you can. It won't sound like Daniel Wilding, but you can get reasonably good sounds with almost any amount of drums. We'll start simple here.

One mic: If you only have one mic, place it on a stand between your floor tom and your kick drum, roughly snare level. It should be angled slightly up, basically pointing at the batter head of your snare. Tweak for sound. From here, you'll pick up plenty of snare, toms, and cymbals, and while you won't get the deep bass of the toms, they'll at least be there, and you won't get a good whumpy kick, but it will pick up a lot of attack from the kick head. And it's probably the best way to mic a kit with just one drum. I've done this and it will surprise you at how good it can sound with just one mic. Here's a video that shows in detail how to put the mic, and gives a sound clip:
http://therecordingrevolution.com/2011/ ... mic-video/

Two mics: This is what I'm doing now, until I save up the pennies to buy an army of SM57s so I can mic everything individually. It's basically the one mic method, but you also put a dedicated kick mic on your kick drum, so you can get a better low end on your kick. It basically sounds the exact same as the one mic method, just with some thump on the bass drum.

Four mics: I haven't tried this yet, as I don't have enough mics or enough inputs on my audio interface (soon, paycheck be damned!!!), but I've heard clips and it's pretty damn good. You've probably heard clips of it as well, if you've ever listened to Led Zepplin. And if you haven't listened to Led Zepplin, you probably shouldn't be here, because you are an abomination. But the 4 mic method involves a mic on the kick, 2 stereo overhead mics, and a mic on the resonate (bottom) head of the snare. Here's a link to explain it better than I would:
http://therecordingrevolution.com/2011/ ... ng-method/

A million mics: Yay, enter the realms of controlling your drum sounds! This is what we all aspire to, for that big, thumping huge drum sound. If you've heard Lars' floor toms on Metallica's self titled album, you are probably familiar with that gigantic drum sound that will blow your speakers out. Yes I know it's a shitty album, but it's mixed incredibly well, so shut the hell up. So if you have enough mics to mic each drum individually, as well as some overheads, well let's start that uber long post. We'll start with the snare, as it's what you hear above all other drums.

THE SNAAAAAAARE. First, how to mic a snare. An SM57 is a perfect snare mic (and for basically everything else, for that matter). Regardless of your mic, place it so it's slightly above your snare and (obviously) out of the drummer's way, angled so that it's pointing at roughly the center of the batter head of the snare. Some people also mic the bottom head of the snare, to get a bit of extra "trashiness" from it. I'll leave this up to you, and I'll just focus on the top head of the snare. What's most important is that the mic is picking up the signal nice and strong but is out of the way of the drummer. So once it's there, start recording, and we'll move on to EQ and compression and all that shit. As a note, I won't cover triggers in here, because I personally have never dealt with them, and while I'm not necessarily against them, I don't feel that I know enough about them to teach anyone else anything about them, other than the very basics: They are used to replace your drum sound with a pre-recorded sound, so you have a solid drum sound no matter how fast (quiet) you're playing.

The snare drum. First we'll start with compression. Compression is a very valuable tool with drums. With us being human beings and all, you will never hit the drum at the same volume ever time, no matter how hard you try. However, all the albums we hear have a snare that's always at the same volume (even during blast beats sometimes), and that's because of compression (when not triggers). As I mentioned in an earlier post about compression, drums have a very solid and percussive attack, and you absolutely do not want to get rid of that with excessive compression. If you want to know what it sounds like when you use incorrect compression on a snare drum and then brick wall an album, just listen to Arch Enemy's "Rise of the Tyrant." Sure the guitars and kicks and cymbals are great, but you can't hear the snare. The transients have been completely cut off, and the initial attack of the snare is being compressed as well as the main bulk of the volume of the drum as well, resulting in a snare that gets completely buried in a mix. That's what we want to avoid. In order to do so, avoid using an attack on your compressor that's too fast. Considering drums have a very fast attack (especially a snare, which for metal is often tuned pretty high), 15ms is usually sufficient. A ratio of 2-4:1 is usually sufficient in keeping everything at the same volume, while preserving some dynamic range. The release can be in the 100ms range, that's fine. Dial down your threshold until you start to hear things sound all the same volume, then back off a bit to keep a bit of dynamic range. Please note that when I use phrases like "a bit" I mean 1-2dB. A BIT.

On to EQ. Your snare mic should be picking up your snare. And while it will naturally be picking up some kick, a bit of toms, some high hat (because that thing is everywhere) and some cymbals (because cymbals are just plain too loud), you want to make sure it's focused on the snare. With that in mind, you may want to use a noise gate. But that's for another post, we'll just stick with EQ here. You've probably seen a recurring theme about high pass filters in my posts, and guess what, it's about to repeat itself. High pass your snare. I mean seriously, your snare isn't producing any tones you want to retain at 50Hz, so why keep them? Work with the tone of course, but high pass your snare around 150-200Hz. You want that nice "CRACK" sound of the snare to punch through, not some low end rumbly stuff. On a side note, if you want an uber 80s sound, just make a cut at about 600Hz. Scooped snare drum sound = 80s. It sounds horrible, but it's fun to do for like 2 minutes. But anyways, after high passing your snare drum, do an appropriate low pass. You don't want to be EQing your splash cymbal through your snare mic, so get rid of that shit. I set mine kind of high, to keep a nice bright snare tone, but experiment. Try a high pass anywhere from 12K-18K, depending on the snare tone you're looking for. After that we'll move on to the meat of the snare tone. The typical "metal" snare sound tends to involve a snare that's tuned a bit high (more rebound for them blast beats) and is a fairly bright sound, to punch through the mix. Third note to self, talk about the fletcher munson curve and how it pertains to midrange. I'll post some snare clips hopefully tomorrow (if my neighbors aren't home) so you can hear the difference between a raw snare and a properly EQed snare. To get a nice bright punchy snare, sometimes it is necessary to add a bit. I tend to add a small boost at 3K and a slightly larger boost at 7-8K. These small boosts help brighten up the snare, and while you may think the snare is already bright, it's solidly midrange. Depending on how it's miced, these small boosts will help it sound brighter and clearer, which is especially important for blast beats, and help it cut through that mix. One of the fortunate things about the snare drum is that the majority of it's sound is solidly midrange, right in the space where a scooped guitar tone is typically lacking. As you can imagine, this helps the snare to punch through the guitar tone - as long as you haven't destroyed the transients with excessive compression, douchebag! More to come later, I need to play guitar for a while.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:01 pm 
 

And by play guitar I mean finish these few beers and sloppily play some old thrash or something.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 4:49 am 
 

infinitenexus wrote:
Now EQ is where you really craft the sound of the vocals.... (large paragraph)...And this is another place where good vocal technique comes in to play. If you sound like Peter Tagtgren, you're still going to sound badass even with a high pass at 180Hz, so stop worrying. After the high pass, you want to put a low pass on also, just to get rid of any hissing or high end frequencies that you aren't using anyways. That's usually set at around 10K....

Is that what you mean?
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 4:59 am 
 

I actually record vocals using a 15th century computer mic, and with a little distancing and compression it sounds like a low or mid quality compressor mic. I place it about two feet back from where my mouth is, adjust the input signal accordingly, and let them rip. While I may be over exaggerating the mic's age, I'm being precise about the placement. infanex, your article was damn good by the way.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 8:45 am 
 

Arkhane wrote:
infinitenexus wrote:
Now EQ is where you really craft the sound of the vocals.... (large paragraph)...And this is another place where good vocal technique comes in to play. If you sound like Peter Tagtgren, you're still going to sound badass even with a high pass at 180Hz, so stop worrying. After the high pass, you want to put a low pass on also, just to get rid of any hissing or high end frequencies that you aren't using anyways. That's usually set at around 10K....

Is that what you mean?



Yes, thank you. Damn typo.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 12:23 am 
 

In extreme metal it's all very subjective. I agree with you 180 million percent on mids. I keep my knob at 5 or 6 typically.

I agree completely that practicing to a metronome makes you a better player, but depending on the genre I think a click track could suck the life right out of the music unless you have a dynamic pre mapped click. I'm just talking about final recordings though. I think you should always practice to a metronome so when you don't have one you just have a better grasp and realization on staying 3 or 4 bpm within range of whatever the tempo "should" be.

Anyway, this is a great guide for most metal sub genres from death metal to progressive. Genres that demand clarity. And then you have sludge metal and black metal bands that scoff at the idea of a metronome and don't give a fuck if anyone thinks their tone is too muddy or scooped hahaha.

Like I said, ultimately it's subjective, but you definitely know the principals and most effective methods to satisfy the tonal palette of 95% of the underground metal community.

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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:57 am 
 

I really need to post more on this
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 7:54 pm 
 

About midrange: When I'm playing thrash songs, I tend to cut it out on my amp to give the picking a little more definition, then EQ a mid boost in my DAW to give it more overall power. Is that a bad idea?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 7:58 pm 
 

Not necessarily, no. In the end if it sounds good and full and clear, then you're good. You can also try the opposite - Have lots of mids on your amp, and cut them in your DAW. That's what Bob Rock did on Metallica's self-titled album.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:13 am 
 

I hear that cutting frequencies during eq-ing instead of adding them sounds more natural and less noobish, is this true?
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:22 am 
 

Fucking with EQ settings on pedals/amps is perfectly legit, but I generally do subscribe to the "cut, don't boost" philosophy during the mixing EQ stage when it comes to metal.
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rexxz
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:43 pm 
 

There's no hard and fast rule for what sounds good with EQ. Everything in a mix is interdependent, it's all about the context basically. Some people say you can fuck up a lot less with subtractive equalization, but I find you can just as easily ruin a sound with that method as well, thereby making it flat and lifeless.

The reason it's a popular suggestion is because a muddy or unclear mix is due to resonance build up and frequency masking. When you cut resonating frequencies you're kind of fixing that problem, but you need a good set of ears and monitors as well as a little knowledge of what you're doing.

Here's some homework for you: The next mix you do, pull up your EQ and create the most narrow bandwidth peak you possibly can, and boost it as high as your EQ goes. Then slowly sweep the frequency until you hear the most harsh resonating frequency, and then cut that freq by -6db or so. This way you're only targeting problem areas in your sonics, and you're not completely cutting out all of the frequency which tends to sterilize a sound.

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CF_Mono
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:33 am 
 

rexxz wrote:
Here's some homework for you: The next mix you do, pull up your EQ and create the most narrow bandwidth peak you possibly can, and boost it as high as your EQ goes. Then slowly sweep the frequency until you hear the most harsh resonating frequency, and then cut that freq by -6db or so. This way you're only targeting problem areas in your sonics, and you're not completely cutting out all of the frequency which tends to sterilize a sound.

I suppose I am seriously giving myself a disadvantage by using audacity and not having an EQ that responds live to a playing track? I have used a frequency response chart which has helped a lot, but a lot of the EQing I do is just "eh, I want less high end."
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:40 am 
 

Well in the end your ears are your most important tool. Regardless of what it looks like on a frequency analyzer, if you think it needs less high end then gently EQ some high end out of it.
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rexxz
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 1:39 pm 
 

Yes, always trust your ears over other graphical information. There is a caveat though; you have to have good monitors and a good monitoring environment to feasibly pull that off. Otherwise you'll likely be hearing frequencies lower or higher than they actually are on the recording due to those reasons. This is why a great pair of mixing headphones is crucial for anyone that doesn't have a good studio room set up.

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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:16 pm 
 

Sorry for the long hiatus. Continuing on now.

metal kick drums

The all important click/thump. First and foremost, you should know how to tune your kick drum, and have a decent batter head on there. If you want a nice click to your kicks, use a beater with a hard surface, like wood or plastic. You can also get sticky kick pads that go on your batter head, so you have a hard batter striking a hard surface on your drum head. That adds a good amount of click. Muffling is good, as you get more of a "thump" and less of a ringing tone, which may possibly have some form of use in slow doom metal, but for anything even remotely fast it isn't going to sound good. So you can spend $50 on a specially crafted muffling device, or use an old pillow like everyone else. Seriously, go digging around for pictures of the pros recording drums and half the time you'll see a pillow stuffed into the kick. Also, I would very very highly recommend having a ported bass drum head (the resonant head, not the batter head). You can do it with a food can and a stove, and it works very well. Google it. That port provides a perfect place to stuff a mic. You can also have a mic completely inside the bass drum. I haven't done that personally, as I just prefer to stick it in front, right in the port.

Now one thing needs to be said about kick drums in metal, before we go any further: Most of the kicks you've heard over the past 10-15 years are just sampled kicks, replacing the actual recorded kick. So you're hearing the drummer's performance, but with a sampled kick. Anyone who has ever tried to keep a totally constant volume on kicks can tell you it's physically impossible. I don't care who you are, George Kollias can't do it, Daniel Wilding can't do it, Fancesco Paoli can't do it. It's part of being human and having muscles. It's totally normal. So massive compression can be used to get the volume of your kicks somewhat the same, but the sound will still be different. It's a hell of a problem. So the solution is to use a good kick sample. It basically eliminates compression from the mix (well, not totally). However if you aren't replacing your kicks, then definitely stuff a compressor first in your kick signal chain. Start with a ratio of about 4:1 and a pretty slow attack, like 20 or even 30 milliseconds. You want that sharp kick attack to come through, and you want almost nothing after that.

EQ: Most of EQ for most instruments is very slight, just tailoring the tone, eliminating excessive low end or high end fizziness, etc. Metal kick drums are kinda the exact opposite. If you want a powerful metal kick drum sound with a nice click, your EQ should basically look like the letter V, and that's not really much of an exaggeration. Of course you should have a high pass filter down low (I set it really low, like 50-60Hz) and above that you should end up with a nice boost around 100-130Hz of 3-4dB (give or take, tailor that to how much bass you want in your kicks), and a massive cut at the 400-800Hz range, depending on the sound you want. And when I say massive I'm reminded of a famous producer who back in the mid 90s, before the sampled kicks were the norm, would run the kick signal through 2-3 EQs in a row in order to get a 30-45dB CUT in the lower midrange. Yes you read that right, cutting 30-45 decibels. Midrange serves no real purpose in a metal kick drum, especially a big death metal thumper. You want the low end to of course give you the bass in the bass drum. You can't go without that, although you can overdo it. If you're doing something very technical with blisteringly fast kicks, you don't want the kick to be super bassy, as it can quickly mud up the mix. This is why you don't have a hugely bassy kick on any Fleshgod Apocalypse's albums, or pretty much any other tech death band. So after a suitable boost on the low end and a huge cut in the lower mids/mids, you want to start adding highs, because that's where you get the click. Using a hard beater and a kick striker pad will help, but you'll still most likely need to add 10 decibels at around the 7-10K range. All midrange would do would be to compete (frequency wise) with the guitars, upper end of the bass, the vocals, the snare drum, and basically everything else except the cymbals.

And of course the shell material of your drums will affect the tone as well. Maple shells have a brighter sound, mahogany a warmer sound, and bubinga has a bit of both. But not really enough for most of us to tell a difference.


toms
Toms are somewhat similar to the kick drum, although a bit less extreme. For compression, start with something similar to the kick compression and then back off a bit. You do want to preserve a bit of the natural playing feel, I.E., the right hand being slightly stronger/louder than the left (but not much) because it sounds more human and actually flows better this way. EQ is also fairly similar to the kick, but again it's less extreme. You'll still make a decent size cut in the lower midrange (for Metallica's self titled album, producer Bob Rock cut freqs at 400-500Hz to help get that big huge floor tom sound) and add appropriate boosts at the lower end in order to get a good strong sound, and enough high end to brighten the sound and add a sort of "snappiness". Toms are another place where midrange really serves no purpose (at least in heavy metal) because it would just compete with everything - and to be honest, the midrange of a tom doesn't sound good.

cymbals

I dare you to try to keep cymbals from bleeding into all your other drum mics.

That being said, if you have a million mics and a 48 channel tudor board like Andy Sneap you can use 2 mics per cymbal. But here in the real world you'll probably use a few overheads. Overhead mics are specifically to capture the cymbals (and some snappiness to the snare and toms) and you can use just one, although two is preferential to get a proper "stereo spread". The key is to have your overhead mics placed appropriately, so that they pick up a good signal. There's a few popular ways to do it, but the way I would most recommend for various reasons would be spacing the pair of mics out. Place one roughly over the outside edge of your ride cymbal/floor tom, and the other just past your high hat. Now here's the most important part - due to phasing, you need to make sure these two mics are the same distance from the center of the snare drum. The snare drum has a strong presence in the 400Hz area, and that wavelength is just over 30 inches long. And if you want to get into some wave propogation theory, half of the wavelength at 400Hz is roughly 16.5 inches, so if one mic were to be, say, 16 inches further from the snare than the other, it would basically cancel out the snare sound from your overheads. Not something you want. So use a piece of string and get them equidistant from the center of your snare. You should be able to get a good sound from all your cymbals this way, to include the high hat. Some people like to mic the high hat directly. That's up to you. A single SM57 edge on the high hat will do just fine for that.

Compression for cymbals:
I don't know anyone who likes to do that. Compressed cymbals don't sound very good.

EQ for cymbals:
Super easy. Assuming your cymbals are in decent shape and the room you're in doesn't have the worst acoustics out there, all you really need is a high pass filter anywhere from 300-500Hz, depending on your cymbals.

That's pretty much it for the main instruments I guess, unless anyone has any requests or specific questions. Otherwise I'll move onto mixing next. Also I'll try to post a few sound clips of a kick drum with and without processing later.
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TheOldSkull
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:40 pm 
 

Well, I'd like to ask two questions about drums please.

1) Do these compression and EQ advices apply to a drum machine ?

2) If you're using real drums and not replacing your kicks, would the 4:1 compression ratio you mention keep some natural variation on the kick attack and sound? What if you want to sound old-school ? less / no compression, or something ?

Thanks for the thread, by the way, very useful.

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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 6:25 pm 
 

1) yes, absolutely. I use all of these techniques with EZdrummer and Superior Drummer and Drumcore 3 Free, as well as real drums

2) Essentially no amount of compression will get rid of the natural variances in double kicks, so the 4:1 is fine. You can even go in manually and turn up each left kick to match the volume of the right kick (i've done it before) and while the volumes will be the same, the tone is different. For old school, compress it, EQ it, mic it right, and just don't worry about replacing it with a sample.

You're very welcome!
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kale100
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 3:34 pm 
 

Ok, since this thread contains recording basics for noobs, I suppose this is the right place to ask a noob question. If I take a MIDI keyboard, a MIDI/USB cable, plug the MIDI end into the keyboard, the USB end into the computer, and open up Reaper (or whatever, just an example), I can make MIDI recordings right? In .MIDI format?

I ask this because electronics are never intuitively functioned, and thank whoever can answer.

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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 4:00 pm 
 

I'm not personally experienced with midi so I can't really say. Hopefully someone else can help.
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Arkhane
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 4:44 pm 
 

kale100 wrote:
Ok, since this thread contains recording basics for noobs, I suppose this is the right place to ask a noob question. If I take a MIDI keyboard, a MIDI/USB cable, plug the MIDI end into the keyboard, the USB end into the computer, and open up Reaper (or whatever, just an example), I can make MIDI recordings right? In .MIDI format?

I ask this because electronics are never intuitively functioned, and thank whoever can answer.

You should be able to.... It sounds right for me, but you probably have to record it real time if its anything like mixcraft. Also you may or may not have to change your midi input to the external keyboard. At least thats the way it was explained to me.
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Arkhane wrote:
What does it mean if I try to open a thread and it says "You are not authorized to view this forum"?...
I'm trying to view the worst songs thread, by the way.

Someone started posting your music and the mods wanted to spare your feelings. ;)


Arkhane, Progressive Melodeath

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TheOldSkull
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2014 12:24 pm 
 

kale100 wrote:
Ok, since this thread contains recording basics for noobs, I suppose this is the right place to ask a noob question. If I take a MIDI keyboard, a MIDI/USB cable, plug the MIDI end into the keyboard, the USB end into the computer, and open up Reaper (or whatever, just an example), I can make MIDI recordings right? In .MIDI format?

I ask this because electronics are never intuitively functioned, and thank whoever can answer.


In theory you can. I did this with an electronic drumkit, it worked in the end but it took many tweaks and tries. With a keyboard, I think it will be easier though...you'll probably only need to adjust your audio/midi settings.

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Der Einsame
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:08 am 
 

Thanks infinitenexus, this really clears up some issues for me. I think one step you forgot to mention is gain staging and limiting your db's. It's something that I never thought of doing before I read about it, and I'm still a bit conflicted about it (like what is the max db of each track should be, some say 12, some say 6, 18 etc...).

Also, I would like to see some general advice about mixing keyboards with metal (strings, horns, choirs etc) since it really frustrates me how bad it sounds when I do it.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:03 am 
 

I do have some experience using strings (albeit VSTi strings). I treat them basically like any other instrument, depending on the frequency they're in. Usually a high pass filter down low, although strings are usually not very bassy so it's a minor thing. Depending on the tone, you may need a slight bump in the high end to add some presence and high end and "sparkle" (jazz hands!). I put a touch of reverb on strings/keys just to give them a bit more natural "playing in a room" kind of sound. I would never cut any midrange from keys, as that would bury their sound.

limiting the dB is a very important thing, and you're exactly right, I forgot to mention that.

It's good to record your tracks with enough volume that you don't have to boost them so they can keep up with other tracks, but they should NEVER clip. If your tracks are clipping when you're recording them, you need to move the mic, turn the amp down, get a better mic, or turn the gain down on your audio interface/preamp. Recording hot is fine, but clipping is never okay, else you'll end up with an album that sounds like metallica's death magnetic.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:20 am 
 

mixing basics

I guess that's pretty much everything for the basic tracking, so let's move on to basic mixing. Now keep in mind I'm just throwing out basics. You can get insanely in depth with this stuff.

And so we move on to mixing. Personally I like to start with drums, just the snare and kick at first. Mute everything else and focus on the snare and kick and get their volumes nice and balanced. Then add in your overheads and high hat and toms and tweak everything so that your high hats add a nice sizzle, but not too much, and your kicks have a nice solid thwack, your snare has a nice crack, and your cymbals add a proper accent (but aren't ear splitting), and your toms have a good powerful sound and are easily heard. Depending on how you route things in your DAW, you may want to run a single compressor over your snare, kick, and toms together, just to keep the overall sound uniform over various blasts, double kicks, and fills. I wouldn't recommend compressing cymbals though, as compressed cymbals just sound weird and I don't really know of anyone who does it. So then with just your drum tracks playing, listen through it all, and everything should be at a nice uniform volume. And when I say uniform volume I don't mean compressed to the point that there's no dynamic range, I mean there aren't any wild peaks and valleys. Considering that with the EQ recommendations I gave earlier, excessive bass shouldn't be a problem by this point, but listen for it with multiple things playing at once. Bass freqs can build up quickly. Also add some panning to your drums. The kicks and snare should be dead center, they're the meat of the sound and they need to be prominent. The high hat you can do center, or I prefer slightly panned to the left, as it would be on a real drumkit. like 15-20%. If you're using 2 overhead mics, then pan those left and right, so you can get a nice stereo spread on your cymbals. Not necessarily 100%, play with it a bit so it's not so blatantly L/R, but blends nicely. And for toms, it always sounds good when they're gently panned so that when you do the big tom rolls, you hear it going from left to right. For 4 toms, I pan them as follows (starting with the high tom) 45%L 21%L 21%R 40%R.

Then I like to add in the rhythm guitars. I personally do 2 tracks, and I pan them 80% L/R. If you do 4 tracks, then I would pan them 100%L 80%L 80%R 100%R. That's how Sneap and Frederikson do it, and they know a few things. Gradually bring the volume up so that they sound nice and prominent in the mix, but make sure you don't bury the drums - especially if you're using 4 guitar tracks. And don't worry a bit if your guitars sound thin, even with 4 tracks. That's perfectly fine. If they sound excessively thin, you can dial your high pass filter back a tad, but don't overdo it. Remember, a big thick guitar sound comes from the bass, not the guitar.

So now your rhythm guitars and drums are all balanced with each other and sounding good. Next comes the bass. Your bass tone should be big and full, but never boomy and never thin. A thin bass tone is basically worthless. A boomy tone isn't very good either. Slowly dial it up until your rhythm tone gets that big, thick sound to it, but isn't muddy. If you're concerned about whether your bass track is loud enough or not, try dialing it in until it sounds right, then muting the bass track. You should hear a big difference as the mix suddenly sounds thin and wimpy (comparatively) and then big and full when you unmute it.

This is a good time to mention having a reference track, and A/Bing your mix with something pro. And when I say a pro mix I don't mean A/Bing your music with an early black metal album or a poorly produced death metal album from 1991, I mean something with good full and clear production. If you're concerned about your mix being too "clean", don't worry. Getting squeaky clean mixes takes a lot of practice, a lot of time, and a lot of work. But having a good reference track can really help you get your bass/guitar/drum/vocal levels correct. Metallica's self-titled album is good for this (not the quality of the music, just the quality of the mix), although the bass guitar could be 1-2dB louder. Bloodbath's Nightmares Made Flesh is a good album also, although slightly brick-walled, at least the transients aren't destroyed, and the bass is mixed excellently, giving the overall mix a huge guitar sound (the guitars themselves are actually rather thin, showing how important the bass is). Just listen to the song "Eaten" and you'll see the value of a good bass guitar. Anyways, Carcass' "Heartwork" is another good one, not overly clean but still very well mixed. And well, there's a ton of good albums out there you can use as a reference. I don't need to cherry pick it for you.

More to come soon, gotta get some work done.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:46 pm 
 

Mixing basics continued.

This is also where it pays off to have a halfway decent set of studio monitors. If you want a good quality mix you need good quality monitors. Headphones won't cut it because they have a different bass response than regular speakers, and computer or stereo speakers won't do because they color the sound too much. A good set of monitors is a great investment for any home studio, possibly the second best investment after the computer itself. Yes monitors can get expensive, which is why buying them used can be great. I have a nice set of Alesis monitor ones, powered monitors that sound great, and I got them off eBay for $100 in new condition. Brand new they would be much much more. So keep your eyes open.

That being said, other speakers do have their uses, and it's good to have a couple different speakers/stereos handy to check your mix. There's also the old method of checking your mix on your car stereo (which pros hate, by the way). The point is, perfect it on your monitors, then try your mix on a bunch of different speakers to make sure. You'd be surprised at how different a mix can sound on different stereos.

Back to mixing though. Once you have all your rhythm instruments set and done (and sufficiently high passed so they aren't muddy), it's time for the vocals and lead instruments. Andy Sneap prefers to treat lead guitar essentially the same as vocals, in terms of EQ. Something to keep in mind. Slowly bring each one up until it sits correctly in the mix. Then hit mute and hear your mix without vocals, then unmute it. For obvious reasons, you don't want vocals (or lead guitar) too loud or too quiet. For lead guitar, one thing you can do if you aren't quite sure about the volume, like if you think it may be a tiny bit too quiet, is to leave the volume there but give it a slight boost in the upper midrange. And I mean slight, like 1-2dB around 2K-3Khz. That will really help it punch through a bit. Also don't forget a bit of reverb on your vocals and solos, even death growls. And not much for the vocals! Refer to my tips a few posts up about vocals and reverb. It really helps them sound more in the mix and not so, well, dry. A bit of reverb on lead guitars can help them really "sing."

That's all great for a single vocal track and a single lead track. But if you're doing harmonies, then you need to start panning. Personally, I don't think lead guitar harmonies or vocal harmonies should be panned totally left and right. You want a bit of each on each side so they blend well. 40%L/R is a good starting point for guitar harmonies and vocal harmonies. Now sometimes you may want to do a "shout" effect or something similar. Sven from Aborted does plenty of panning with his vocals. For stuff like this, you can go from a single, centered track, to 2/4 tracks panned hard left and right. If you listen to much Aborted, you'll hear when he does it, which is often.

So after bringing everything up to volume and making sure all the tracks meld well (and aren't too hot. Nothing should be clipping, or even higher than about -3dB peak at this point), it's time to start listening to your mix on a few different speakers and headphones if possible. You want to look for any muddiness in the low end, any shrill tinny fizziness in the high end, any boxiness in the midrange, any panning issues, phase issues, EQ issues, etc. If you're doing things properly, this will probably take a while. In fact, once you get to this point, you should probably turn all your shit off and just relax for the day and do something else. Your eardrums could be tired at this point, and mixing is something you want to approach with fresh, rested eardrums. So let's fast forward to the next day.

Start your mix up and start listening. How loud? Not too loud. If you mix loudly and get things sounding good when they're blasting, then it'll most likely sound like shit at quieter volumes. Mix too quietly and it'll sound too boomy at louder volumes. There is debate on this of course, but the most recommended mixing volume is approximately that of a loud conversation. So with your fresh eardrums, really tune into your mix. Keep in mind that you're mixing on monitors, not stereo speakers. Their job isn't to color the sound and make it sound good, their job is to represent the sounds as accurately as possible. Monitors are known for sounding very flat, slightly dull, and kinda thin when compared to other speakers. Get in habit of listening to music on your monitors, really get used to their sound. Also A/B your mix with some pro material to keep your bass levels in check. That snare may not have enough 'crack'. Add a hint of high end to it, maybe lessen the reverb a bit. The guitars sound a bit mushy. Adjust the high pass on the rhythm guitars, instead of 80Hz push it up to 100Hz. Okay now it sounds slightly too thin. Turn the bass guitar up 1dB. The vocals sound kinda "hot" and slightly hissy. Lower your low pass filter just a bit at a time. If you recorded all the drums with the same settings, and the guitars and bass with all the same settings, then when it comes to mixing they should end up being pretty similar. Sometimes with two songs, one will need slightly different tweaks in the EQ. It happens, it's normal. But they'll likely be similar, especially the drums. And most importantly, especially with those of us that are just home studio musicians on limited budgets with limited equipment, don't attempt to finalize a mix in one day. Get it as perfect as possible, get it where you think it's great, and click save and go do something else. Come back to it tomorrow.

So now it's tomorrow, and your ears are once again fresh. You're listening to your mix and it sounds quite nice. Except... Hmmm, the last song does have a tad bit too much high end. Oh, that's because your eardrums got fatigued and you unknowingly overcompensated for your eardrums' slightly reduced frequency response. So adjust that low pass filter a tiny bit and boom, there you go. Sounds great on the monitors, put on your headphones and it still sounds good... Now switch from stereo to mono. It'll likely sound, well, not quite as good. And I'm not production genius so I won't tell you how to get a perfect mono mix. But if there's any blatant phase issues still lurking around, or muddiness, etc, it'll really come out in mono. No problems? Great, switch back to stereo, render the songs, burn them on a CD, and listen to it on a bunch of different sources. It should sound acceptable on pretty much everything - cheap headphones with no bass? Okay, it doesn't sound overly thin, just as thin as everything else. Car stereo with 2 12 inch subs? Crank it and enjoy that kick drum and bass guitar. No mix will sound perfect on every speaker system. But it should sound acceptable on pretty much everything. Once you get there, congrats, mixing is essentially done. Now take all your tracks and send them to a mastering studio and pay them $10 grand so they can master it.
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infinitenexus
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 4:14 pm 
 

Just kidding, but if you ask around on the internet, that's basically what people will tell you, along with my favorite and the most common; "Mastering? You have no clue what you're talking about, don't even attempt it, just let a pro do it." Professional masterers seem to hate the thought of anyone else learning how to master music. The very thought is like genocide to their fragile egos. I mean with them, who else would brick wall all modern music?

So what is mastering, you ask? It's simply explained. In it's most basic sense, mastering is taking a good mix and bumping up the volume to an acceptable standard and fixing any tiny EQ flaws that made it through the mix, and giving the overall "polish" to the sound. It's also where a lot of brick walling takes place, unfortunately. But I'll avoid the loudness war talk here, other than saying I don't like it.

So if mastering is basically making stuff louder, why is it so difficult? Well louder isn't the problem, it's that polish that's so hard. Assuming the album was mixed well, mastering isn't too hard. If it wasn't mixed well, mastering still shouldn't be too hard, because you should just remix everything until it sounds good and ready for mastering. Mixing is not mastering. If you're EQing a bunch of shit, that's not mastering. So what tools are involved in mastering? Pretty simple. A compressor/limiter, maybe an EQ, a tiny bit of reverb, and that's about it. The $10,000 monitors in an acoustically perfect room would be nice, but that's a bit out of my budget, personally. So for now we'll just do some basics that you can do at home. Have monitor speakers? Great, put them on your desk. The back of the desk, as far back as they'll safely fit. Put some cheap mousepads underneath them, to keep vibrations from passing into the desk. And while you're at it, pull your desk a foot or so away from that wall you have it against. A bit more, if you have the room to do so. Also, don't angle them straight forward. Sit upright in your chair, nice and comfy, and push back from your desk a foot or two. Now angle each monitor so they're pointing directly at your head when you're sitting here. The reason is that the slightly further distance, even just 6-7 feet, allows more frequencies to reach a sort of "fullness" before they hit your ears, instead of being right next to your speaker and hearing the wave all cut off. If you look at any pics of professional studios you'll see monitors (usually 2 pair) mounted at head level and probably 10 feet away from the sound technician. So now that you're set up, let's get to actual mastering. Well, basic mastering.

First and I would say most importantly is compression. Do not put a ton of compression on your master buss. It will not sound good. Mastering compression should have a low ratio, like 1.5:1, and a gentle attack, 10-15ms. Start there and tweak according to your music. Then start scrolling down the threshold until you can juuuuust start to hear the compression start working, then back off a bit. Then maybe back off another decibel. Remember, mastering compression should be transparent - you should never know it's there. So now that your overall song is compressed a tad, those peaks should be lowered some, and in fact the overall volume will be lowered. So you can push the volume slider up a bit on your master buss - not until it clips though. Some people will add some reverb here, just the tiniest bit focused on the midrange and high end, to add some life to the mix. If I knew their settings I'd tell you, haha. So after the compressor I use a separate limiter. I've tried using just the master limiter by itself, but to me it sounded more transparent with some very gentle compression first. Maybe my levels were just too loud. Hmm, note to self. So your limiter is like a compressor, but with a ratio of infinity (basically). You set a level, and NOTHING will go beyond that level. So you can set the upper limit on your limiter at say, -0.1dB and then push the volume of your tracks up and it won't go past -0.1dB and won't distort. This is also a great way to brick wall the shit out of it. While setting an upper limit of -0.1 is fine, as that'll keep anything from clipping, you need to be very careful with how much you push that volume up. Just a few decibels is usually sufficient. This is where A/Bing with a pro recording can be tricky. Most are brick walled these days. Try A/Bing your music with Hypocrisy's "A Taste of Extreme Divinity" (very brickwalled) and then Metallica's self titled album (not brick walled at all). You'll notice there's a HUGE volume difference. And so your goal when mastering is to push the volume up a reasonable amount without destroying any transients and without destroying dynamic range. The quiet parts should still be quiet, in other words (quiet parts in metal, HAHA!).

That's mostly it. Using all these tipses and knowledges got me to make this album sound as it does (which I understand may be too clean for some people):

http://devourerinthemist.bandcamp.com/a ... he-shadows

Now it's certainly not a perfect mix. Looking back I think the kick drum is slightly too low in the mix, and I did make the overall mix a tad too loud. But hey, lesson learned. You can also hear, on the guitar intro on the first song, how I'm not using much distortion. Once the second guitar comes in, and then the bass, the overall sound gets a lot bigger and fuller. I do wish I could go back and bump that kick drum up a tad though. It's killing me. But hey, we learn from our mistakes!
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kale100
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 3:41 pm 
 

Arkane and OldSkull, recording real time and messing with the inputs/outputs a little is what I was expecting. Thank you both for your answers, and I thank Infinitenexus for writing this most informative thread.

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Subrick
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:43 am 
 

Anyone else think it's kind of fitting that infinitenexus finished this thread right before he got banned? At least he left a really good thread behind.
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somefella
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:10 am 
 

Subrick wrote:
Anyone else think it's kind of fitting that infinitenexus finished this thread right before he got banned? At least he left a really good thread behind.


?? when on earth did that happen lol
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Subrick
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:42 am 
 

A week or so ago. He started insulting people in the FFA, least of all Morrigan, and failsafeman booted him for it.
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