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Shitfit
Mallcore Kid

Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:23 pm
Posts: 3
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:36 pm 
 

I am in a black metal band and we are trying to properly record and mix our material.

We use a Zoom H4N to multitrack the instruments. The guitar is done first, bass is tracked second, drums third, and vocals fourth. The Zoom H4N is placed a few feet away from guitar, drums, and PA. The bass is recorded directly into the device.

I put all the tracks into Reaper, which was recommended to me as user-friendly DAW. The program seems great, but I have no idea what I am doing. I have no experience with editing or mixing.

The problem with our recordings is they are coming out very flat. Black metal is all about the 'atmosphere' and a lot of the old school stuff has a very thin guitar tone. Our guitar is thin, but flat. There is no life in the recordings...

For those not familiar with Black Metal, here are two recordings that I thoroughly enjoy. Both have that raw sound, but Ulver's song is in a league of it's own.

If anyone knows how to get a sound like this let me know!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57pPK9LIa34
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kI7bG_61yU

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Zodijackyl
Lazy Wizard

Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 5:39 pm
Posts: 4911
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 8:46 pm 
 

The Zoom is good for recording practice sessions, but not made for multi-tracking. If you're using Reaper, get an interface that plugs directly into the computer, plug a microphone into that. A good, versatile mic that you'll never outgrow and can always use is the Shure SM57. Generally, you'll want at least four mics for drums - kick, snare, and left/right overhead. If you're going to use the Zoom, just put it in the middle of the room and record the whole band playing at once.

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CorpseFister
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 2:07 pm
Posts: 1923
Location: Canada
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:04 pm 
 

As Zodijackyl said, get yourself a decent microphone. The SM57 comes up pretty often because it's a very versatile and reliable mic. If spending cash on 4 mics for drums is an issue, consider renting some for a recording session. It's usually pretty cheap if you've got a decent music store nearby, I rented a set for a week at about 60 bucks IIRC. As far as an interface goes, Tascam and M-Audio both make decent 4 channel units for around 200. With one mic and an interface you guys can probably get rolling for 300ish, and then either buy or rent more mics for drums as needed.

The mixing end will take some work and practice but get a solid recording first and you'll be on your way.

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Shitfit
Mallcore Kid

Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:23 pm
Posts: 3
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:32 pm 
 

Thanks for the responses.

We did use the Zoom to record our material live. It came out okay, but it still doesn't have the sound like these records I listen to.

What is the difference in using a microphone like the Shure vs the Zoom H4N recorder? I feel that the Zoom does a good job with the drums as everything is quite clear. What about our vocalist's microphone instead of the Zoom or Shure? What is the difference there?

I would think that recording Black Metal, the worse gear the better.

If you are familiar with Burzum, he used a tiny Peavey amp and a headset to record his fourth album.

Money is definitely an issue for us.

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Zodijackyl
Lazy Wizard

Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 5:39 pm
Posts: 4911
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 10:24 pm 
 

Shitfit wrote:
I would think that recording Black Metal, the worse gear the better.


Bad gear sounds bad. Certain stylings of black metal were developed based on what sounded cool with high distortion and low fidelity tape recordings, but simply using shitty gear is going to sound like shit. Some sounds came from musicians finding a way to create a sound that fit their music with limited resources, but the quality of that music ultimately came from the creativity and vision of the artist. For the same reason, there are plenty of shitty bedroom black metal bands who try to copy those techniques and make worthless music.

Shitfit wrote:
If you are familiar with Burzum, he used a tiny Peavey amp and a headset to record his fourth album.


Varg used a Peavey Special 212 on the first three Burzum albums - exclusively on the second and third, while the first one had one guitar through a Marshall and one through the Peavey. While it is inexpensive, is not a tube amp, and is pretty much the antithesis of the warm tube amp sound that many guitarists lusted after, it's one of the greatest guitar amps ever. Cold, crunchy, and high distortion. It's nearly impossible to fuck up putting a microphone in front of it, the speakers are pretty much perfect for recording, and the sound is very easy to mix. Both the Special 212 (Burzum) and Bandit 112 (Emperor, others) were utilized by Pytten - an experienced and savvy recording engineer - on early 90s Norwegian black metal recordings. However, Pytten's engineering was phenomenal and a huge part of that was how he was able to match the tools he had to shape a sound that matched the music of the bands he was recording, thus why Burzum, Emperor, and Gorgoroth all sounded very different on albums recorded around the same time.

The fourth Burzum album created an aesthetic with the distorted, clipped headset vocals and the guitar tone being a fuzz pedal run through a home stereo amplifier. That aesthetic has become iconic in conjunction with the music. However, the aesthetic has been emulated to astounding failure by thousands of shitty black metal bands.

Back to the main point

Shitfit wrote:
We did use the Zoom to record our material live. It came out okay, but it still doesn't have the sound like these records I listen to.

What is the difference in using a microphone like the Shure vs the Zoom H4N recorder? I feel that the Zoom does a good job with the drums as everything is quite clear. What about our vocalist's microphone instead of the Zoom or Shure? What is the difference there?


The Zoom has two microphones which are relatively small and configured for live stereo recording. That may be alright for drums (I've never tried that) but it's not desirable for recording anything out of a speaker. A microphone like the SM57 is ideally responsive and sensitive for recording an amplified instrument out of a speaker, and the frequency response is desirable for guitars/drums/vocals. One of the primary benefits of a microphone like the SM57 on a single instrument is that picks up the primary source of sound directly in front of it well and doesn't pick up background noise - that's different with something like the Zoom that's meant to record a whole room's sound.

You can use your vocalist's microphone - results will vary depending on specifics - to record guitars or drums. Vocal mics generally have a pop filter (that foam thing with the cage over it) and a slightly brighter mid-range, but in the case of the Shure SM57 vs SM58, the SM58 works pretty damn well for anything the SM57 works for. If you use an SM57 for vocals, you'll want some sort of pop/spit filter.

The most important thing is to learn how use the tools you need, what the tools do, and how everything responds to certain adjustments. You don't need an expensive set of tools, or even a complete set of tools - you can take every nut off with an adjustable wrench, but there's a reason people prefer a full socket set if you have them. You can plug your vocalist's mic into the Zoom that you have (I just looked this up.) Experiment with mic placement. Experiment with mixing. If you don't have a microphone stand, poke a hole in a cardboard box and stick the mic through there. More recording gear doesn't help if you don't know how to use it, but once you learn, you flexibility is somewhat limited by your equipment. Much like instruments, you can do a lot with a moderate amount of equipment, but there's a big difference between $100 and $500. Learn how to work with what you have and read everything you can find, because most flexibility is afforded by putting together a theoretical understanding of how things work and react to different setups.

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Shitfit
Mallcore Kid

Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:23 pm
Posts: 3
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 10:44 pm 
 

Again thanks for the response.

I am not interested in copying any of these bands I like, but the sound is obviously important. We won't be using a headset, I can tell you that.

Gear wise, I have experimented with 4 amps. A Traynor Blue, a Fender Hotrod 3 Deluxe, a Marshall MG15, and a Yorkville BassMaster. I have played with the EQ on all of them and used the overdrive channel. I also used the clean channel and then ran pedals through all of them - a Boss HM2 and a Metalzone Mt-2. The best sound I got was from the Fender just on overdrive. The Traynor with the HM2 wasn't bad, but with the Mt-2 it was atrocious.

I should also mention that I am the only guitarist and there is no bass player. So live, it's just me. Recording, I do bass and guitar - but it's sounds just as thin as it does live.

Our vocalist uses a Shure SM58, so we will try that out next time.

Can you give any tips for the actual mixing process? I don't know if you are familiar with Reaper. I tried doubling the guitar tracks, playing with EQ, and adding more distortion and reverb.

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Awblaster
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:07 pm
Posts: 466
Location: United Kingdom
PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 12:05 am 
 

Record the drums first.

Seriously.

Get a good drum take, then layer everything else on top. Zodijackyl and CorpseFister have basically got it nailed for the tracking side of it.

As for mixing, experimentation will be your friend. You have Ctrl + Z, so no matter what you do, you can get back to a "safe" earlier version. Look up guides on using EQ and compression, and on using effects - start out by trying different reverbs. Make sure to mix using as many different sets of headphones/speakers as you can, this will ensure a mix that translates well across different systems.

For black metal specific mixing, try using these as a rough starting point and work from there:

Apply a high-pass filter on guitars (specifically, although I usually do this on anything that isn't a bass drum/floor tom/bass) at 120Hz.
For reverb on the guitars, use a big sounding reverb (try a cathedral/church preset for this) and mix in a small amount of it - like, 10%.
You want the snare to punch through. Cut lows, boost the high mids, maybe boost some highs for some crack.
Compress the bass. Quite a lot. This will mean that it sits at a constant level below the guitars and beef up the whole sound.
Experiment with reverb and/or delay on vocals. Sometimes only one is needed, sometimes both.
Double track your guitars and pan them hard left and right for a pretty "vintage" sound. If you pan them all the way, use a stereo reverb effects track to make them fill the stereo image more, if you want that sound.
If you are double/quad/whatever tracking guitars, use less gain. It'll sound better in the mix.

Do not say that just because it's black metal you should use crap gear. There's a reason so many shit bedroom bands sound like shit bedroom bands, they have crap gear and they think it's appropriate for the "attitude". Use the best gear you can. It's easy to dirty sounds up and make it more lo-fi. It's impossible to make a £10 microphone sound better than it is.
_________________
Nolti Nan Gana Nan Nolta - black thrash and riffs introduced with an UGH.
Enneract - experimental black metal.
Nest of Vipers - old school doom metal for fans of the Elder Gods.

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Zodijackyl
Lazy Wizard

Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 5:39 pm
Posts: 4911
Location: United States
PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:19 am 
 

First tip: Fuck around with everything to see how it sounds.

Second tip: There are a ton of principles of mixing which are basically irrelevant to the type of sound you want to shape for black metal. You can use more gain on the amp if you control it in mixing*, a less balance/more treble-oriented tone at the amp, and play around with combinations of reverb on the amp/track/master. Don't layer guitars for a thicker sound - one each left/right and a middle track is good. Two each left/right, hard/soft pan - that gets to be too much for the style IMO.

*Third tip: Treat the mixing process like you're doing it on tape, even if you have the convenience of digital recording/editing. Control the high gain with compression - don't just record it at a level where the red light doesn't go on (clipping indicator), compress it. What you compress it with is a huge factor in shaping the sound - old black and death metal recordings used a lot of gain, and heavy compression was used to control this and get it on tape with the desired distortion and not the undesired kinds. When dealing with compression for an unconventional sound like this, the clean-audio sound plugins that come with DAWs aren't necessarily the desirable sound. Compressors alone can feel like learning a whole new instrument - take a look at the pics of the variety of compressors that West West Side has just for mastering. I'm an aspiring expert with these, by which I mean a total amateur.
http://www.westwestsidemusic.com/gear.html

Avoid unnecessary editing. When learning engineering basics for purposes of shaping your sound, you'll want to avoid corrections/editing as much as possible and focus on capturing a sound that fits the music. The rest are distractions from your creation. Much like black metal, you must shape your creation, rather than copy a set of instructions. I'm a bit too tired to put this last part together completely, so that'll wait for another day.

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Valgrinder
Metal newbie

Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:26 am
Posts: 246
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 3:38 am 
 

Shitfit wrote:
I am in a black metal band and we are trying to properly record and mix our material.

We use a Zoom H4N to multitrack the instruments. The guitar is done first, bass is tracked second, drums third, and vocals fourth. The Zoom H4N is placed a few feet away from guitar, drums, and PA. The bass is recorded directly into the device.

I put all the tracks into Reaper, which was recommended to me as user-friendly DAW. The program seems great, but I have no idea what I am doing. I have no experience with editing or mixing.

The problem with our recordings is they are coming out very flat. Black metal is all about the 'atmosphere' and a lot of the old school stuff has a very thin guitar tone. Our guitar is thin, but flat. There is no life in the recordings...

For those not familiar with Black Metal, here are two recordings that I thoroughly enjoy. Both have that raw sound, but Ulver's song is in a league of it's own.

If anyone knows how to get a sound like this let me know!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57pPK9LIa34
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kI7bG_61yU


If you use those tracks as preference, you should start again. Ulver's both guitars are played without cabin & mic, just plugged straight in from amp/distortion pedal. Emperor track has one guitar (the one which plays the main melody) that is miced (most likely played with drums) and others are plug-in guitars

And Ulver sounds like its been sped up and heavily compressed.

If you use Reaper, you can add distortion effects and virtual amplifier afterwards. Just skip the cabin effect. Then use EQ to find where the ugliest fuzz is. Use those already miced guitars tracks which you already have.

Important is to know what VST-effects are and what brickwall mastering means.

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