recording

Mixing | Keyboards & Synthesizers

Mixing | Keyboards & Synthesizers

Keys and Synths are line level instruments that typically come directly into your console without amps being mic'd up. Let's discuss a little bit about running DI lines into your preamps or interfaces. 

Mixing Guitars | Solos

Mixing Guitars | Solos

Guitar solos need to pop and stand out in a mix. They're the pinnacle or crescendo of a song in many cases, so they need to have that grand finnale attitude. Let's dive into a discussion about mixing guitar solos. 

Recording Drums | What Preamp to Use

Recording Drums | What Preamp to Use

Tracking drums is an art form that takes time to develop. Choosing the right preamp to pair with your studio setup is never an easy task. There are so many options out there and it can seem a bit overwhelming. This article dives deeper into some of the options available and I give you some personal advice on the preamps that I like to use for drum recordings. 

Using Playlists in Pro Tools

Using Playlists in Pro Tools

Learn more about how to get the perfect take for your vocal recordings using the playlist feature. Get your sessions more organized and utilize your engineering powers to be more efficient in the studio. Click on the post title for the full article.

Recording vocals right the first time

Vocals are the most important part of a recording. Over the years, I've heard some bad recordings that are wildly popular. It boils down to the vocals. If the lyrics and the emotion is just right, than the song will be a success. Now you should spend some time working on the music. I'm not saying that all you have to do is produce vocals, but do give the vocals the most attention. 

Start by recording a very rough scratch track and than take a few moments to listen to the context of the vocals with the music. Does the feel of the track have the flare that you're seeking? Do the vocals sound like they carry the listener through the song?  In some cases, it may be good to re-write some of the lyrics to convey more emotion or to mold into the music a bit more. This is a golden opportunity to figure out how the delay and reverb will be used to treat the vocals. Sometimes, the style of delay may lead you to a different style of singing or even slimming down some of the lyrics. 

Now of course this technique is dependent upon the context of the song, yet I've used this approach on many tracks with great success. Next post I'll discuss more about mic placement and tracking scenarios. 

The effort it takes to run a recording studio

The dream has been achieved! I am living the life I've always wanted and it feels great to work in my own studio everyday. The rewards are tremendous and there is nothing I'd rather be doing with my time. Being so immersed in my work on a constant basis has given me the knowledge and experience that is required to work at a professional level in this industry. I know many of you are looking to attain the same goal, so let me share just a fraction of my awareness with you.

First, running your own business, regardless of what you do, is no easy task. There are quite a few things you need to consider before diving into starting up a recording studio. Consider this, you'll need to cover your overhead and start up costs before you see a dime of profit. The initial investment is what overwhelms most entrepreneurs and that is just the tip of the iceberg. You're going to need a computer that is powerful enough to handle the processing, a DAW software program, an interface, lots of cables, mics, mic stands, headphones, headphone mixers, racks for gear or road cases, power conditioners, external hard drives, and potentially a studio space. This is just the foundation, there are plenty of other bells and whistles that you'll need to pull off a professional studio.

Now that that idea is rattling around in your head, tackle this notion, you will need to budget for electricity, water and sewage, garbage service, insurance, a security system, and rent. So your budget on a monthly basis is around $2,000 just to keep the doors open. That's the cheap end of the spectrum, which will probably not be adequate enough to compete in the market.

Now if you've invested a large chunk of change into an education in audio production, owning your own studio is the ultimate goal. These startup and recurring monthly costs are just scratching the surface of what you need to consider for operating a steady and reliable studio business. I just wanted to get your mind in motion for all that needs to be considered. Check back in soon as my next few posts will dive deeper into the elbow grease that is needed to keep a studio running smoothly and having the stamina to build a solid reputation to keep the machine well oiled.

5 Steps to Getting Your Music Licensed | Step 2

Now that you have chosen the best song to market, you need to prepare it for presentation. This next step is definitely the most important, it's time to record your music. The "sound" of your music will be the foundation of your marketing campaign. So this is where you need to slow down and evaluate the best option for moving forward. You need to invest and believe in your music, so you need a quality recording with a producer that shares your vision. Cutting corners on recording your music will hinder the success of your efforts and only wind up costing you more money in the long run.

The main focus is to get a high quality recording to exemplify the ingenuity of your musical abilities. To achieve this, you need to make sure that you're recording is done right the first time. Saving a few bucks on a unprofessional recording will only add to the cost that you'll wind up investing when you go to a professional studio and get a higher quality recording. If you want to be the best at what you do, then you need to work with professionals who can give you top quality production. Project / budget studios are great for demos and hashing out ideas, but when it comes to making the final recording, you need to invest in quality. You will only get one chance to make an impression, so there is no time to waste on mediocre sound.

When you spend all your time trying to get licensed, the music has to be spectacular. If the recording is sub-par, it will reflect poorly on the content of your music. A good engineer / producer will have the skills and knowledge to ensure your music pops! Choose a studio with a proven track record and an engineer that has serious interest in your music. A good engineer will encourage you and support you along the way. Getting guidance from someone who has experience in the industry is a wise choice. This will help you avoid common pit-falls an maximize the efficiency of your production time.

Stay tuned for step 3. We'll cover the advantages of preparation and time management.

Building a Home Studio | Top 10 Microphones

Thinking about getting a microphone to start or build on your home recording studio? Here are 10 mics you should consider. Ranging from Dynamic to USB mics that are great for singing or podcasting.

Building a Home Studio | Part 2

PC or Mac, this is the ultimate question. If you're unsure of which one to get, you can always get a Mac and install parallels to run both platforms. A PC will ultimately be a little more affordable and have multiple options for a decent DAW.

I have personally had both computers and over the years have settled on a Mac. I started with a G4, then moved to a G5, and now I currently use a Mac Pro. If you're going to run a ProTools HD system, you'll need a computer that can handle PCIe cards. You can buy a chassis to house the PCIe cards, but then that is one more cable and device on your desk.

Be sure to get a computer with a fast processor and at least 8 GB of RAM. The i5 & i7 processors are excellent options for audio production. If you're not quite sure what to choose, call a specialist. I work directly with Joseph Secu at Sweetwater.com (800) 222-4700 x1232.

Also be sure to get a good monitor. With all the mainstream TVs having the ability to connect via HDMI or VGA ports you can have a large selection of monitors to choose from. Being able to see what you're working on is very important. You're going to be staring at this computer screen for hours on end, so it would be a good idea to invest in a screen that doesn't strain your eyes.

Tomorrow we'll cover microphones.

Building a home studio | Part 1

Starting a home studio can be confusing at times. There's so much information on the web that you don't know where to start. Here are a few helpful tips on how to get your studio going.

Start with a budget. Stick to the budget. You're not going to build a world-class studio overnight. It takes time to develop a feel for how a studio operates. Buy affordable gear at first to determine if you have the talent and stamina to run a studio. Running a studio is a full-time job and will consume all of your free time. So it's best not to invest all your money into the studio up front.

Get a decent interface. One that has a few mic preamps and some routing options. As you grow, you can upgrade your interface. There are so many options, but you can find used Digidesign 192 HD interfaces on eBay for about $500. Start with one of these if you can afford the system setup. If you're on a tighter budget, I recommend an interface that has been modified by Black Lion Audio. They offer superior A/D conversion and at a price that won't break the bank.

This will be the core of your studio, so spend a little bit of time researching what will work best for you. A good computer is also vital and there are many PC & Mac options. We'll get into that tomorrow.

Internship Dos and Don'ts

I respond to internship requests on a daily basis. Many of the requests are one-sided and offer no benefit to the studio. Here's the deal, an internship is beneficial to both the studio and the intern. If you want to intern at a studio, you have to possess some sort of value to the progress of the studio. The studio is going to give you experience and education so you can be a competent member of the industry. If you have nothing to give back, you'll never get an internship.

Before you go and start pestering studios, you need to do a little prep work. Start with reading a few books on Pro Tools and recording principles. You can read books on many different topics and learn quite a bit about the industry at your own pace. Educating yourself adds so much worth to your assistance in the studio. Once you know the difference between XLR & AES cables, you will move quickly through patching and studio setup.

Buy some gear and do some home recordings. Get a little bit of experience with using a DAW and play around with the settings. If you want to learn Pro Tools, go to www.avid.com and sign up to receive Pro Tools First. It's a free version of Pro Tools that will get you started. Most professional studios use Pro Tools HD, so there will be a slight learning curve, but getting familiar with the fundamentals is important.

Watch a few videos on YouTube and ask some questions in forums. Do not show up to the studio with a bunch of questions. When you're in the studio, just observe! You're there to learn and the engineer is there to work. If clients are on the studio, keep your yapper shut. If someone asks you a question, answer them, but that should be the only time you speak.

If you do have questions during a session, write them down and save them for after the client's session. It all boils down to manners and common courtesy. You need experience and that is what you should absorb. Being in the room while a session is happening is chalk full of experience. Pay attention to how the engineer conducts the session. Keep track of how many takes are recorded and how they're recorded. When the session is over, start to help with the break down. Ask the musicians if they want help loading their gear. Be helpful and it will be rewarded.

Choosing the right audio engineer

Not all audio engineers are the same. Some specialize in a particular field of audio production. Others focus their skills on a certain genre of music. Choosing the right engineer is a very important part of your album. The right engineer will produce your music and essentially become a member of the band. Without the right engineer, your recordings will fall on deaf ears.

How do you choose the right engineer?
Start by talking to a few different engineers. You can tell a whole lot about a person just by having a simple conversation. Talk about your music and the vision you have for the finished recordings. Talk about things that interest you and find out if you share any common interests. You don't have to be good friends with the engineer, but you should at least get along. You will be spending many hours in the studio with the engineer and you need to make sure that you will be productive. So before you spend hours on end with an engineer working on your music, make sure you can see eye to eye on the vision of the project.

A good way to gauge an engineer's potential is to listen to some of their past recordings and projects. Any professional engineer will have a few examples of their work out on the internet. If you like what you hear, then you will be happy with what the engineer can do for your music. The engineer doesn't necessarily need to be an expert in the genre of music you prefer. Some of the best albums have come from an engineer that specializes in a completely different genre of music. Sometimes a fresh set of ears on the project is the key to success.

Getting the most out of your studio session

Many bands come to Shine On with no prior studio experience, so here are a few tips for using studio time efficiently.

First and most importantly, be prepared to spend time working on recording & mixing. Spending all your time on recording will leave you with unfinished tracks. A good engineer will record decent raw tracks, but they will still need to be mixed. The amount of time it takes to mix a track can vary, but a good rule to follow is at least 1 hour of mixing for each recorded minute. So a 4 minute song can take 4 hours to mix. If you want to get technical about the mix, plan more time. Better to over-estimate than run out of time with half-mixed tracks.

Second, show up on time. Time is the primary factor for how your session moves along. Showing up late to a session is the same as giving away money. Don't expect an engineer to stay late cause you showed up late. It's called an appointment and that means everyone has agreed to meet at a specific time.

Third, make sure your gear is in good condition to record. Tune, replace strings, bring spare everything, and always plan for the worst-case scenario. It doesn't happen often, but I've had sessions where the tubes in the amp burn out. Think of everything because this rolls back to the time factor. Running to Guitar Center in the middle of your session is waste of time and money. Don't expect the studio to put your session on hold while you run errands.

If you plan ahead and prepare for your session, you'll walk away with great recordings that sound professional.

3 ways to avoid ending your music career

Getting excited about your music is a great feeling. Everyday I work with musicians that are motivated and driven to compose and create new music. I see first hand the creative process that goes into the labor intensive tasks of developing ideas into new songs. Many musicians start sending out info on social media while they are still amidst the recoding session in the studio. Some leak videos and audio recordings of the music before the recording session is complete. Though you may be excited and eager to share your excitement with the world, you have to stay focused and maintain a professional attitude. No one will take you seriously unless you have some element of intrigue.

When you prematurely release media and info your image and reputation becomes amateur. My years working with CMJ, Live 105, and Shine On Studio have given me ample opportunity to work with some of the most accomplished and successful musicians in the music industry. Let me share a few ways you can avoid ending your music career.

1. The element of intrigue
It is a good idea to engage your fans and followers on social media, but don't over-saturate your feed with mundane info. If you tell everyone everything you do, then there is no mystery about you. When this happens, people loose interest in what you're doing. Then when you finally have something special to share, it gets over-looked and has no impact on the world. Cut back on talking about yourself and sharing every moment of your life. If you must engage the social media, talk and comment about what other people are doing.

2. Rough drafts are not public
When you leave the studio with rough draft mixes, take them home and review them. That is the purpose of a rough draft! These mixes should not be posted on your website or social media. When you release unfinished work, your reputation and image are permanently scarred. Listeners don't care that you label the track "rough mix" or that you will be making changes to the mix later. They just absorb what they hear and immediately decide if they will follow or forget you...forever. You should always strive to put your best work forward and impress the world with your musical talent. First impressions are vital to success in the overcrowded modern music industry. Wait for the final mix to be finished and then release all of the tracks at one time for the best impression you can make on the music community.

3. Keep you personal & professional lives separate
As an entertainer, you must constantly entertain. Sharing your personal life with the public does not bode well for your professional career. The moment that the public does not view you as a unique individual in the entertainment industry is the moment when you lose all credibility. You must stay focused and keep all your public interactions on a high level of professionalism. Separate your social media and keep your personal life private for your friends and family. The public likes entertaining distractions, so be their entertainment with your music.

These few guidelines can lead to the foundation of a successful or unsuccessful music career. It takes a great deal of effort to maintain a professional music career. Think about what you do before you actually do it. Ask your friends and family for feedback before you present yourself to the world. Hire a producer that you respect or that has a good reputation. Hire a manager or a publicist to maintain your public image. These are things that professional musicians do and they are successful. You get out of it what you put into it, so be aware of what you're putting in.

Mixing Vocals | Adding Distortion & Lo-Fi

Vocal distortion can be the glue that pulls your vocal tracks together. Just a simple side-chain with the vocals being processed through a distortion plugin or amp head can pull the vocals coward in the mix and at the same time find the right pocket for the vocals in the mix. You may be saying to yourself, "I don't want my vocals all fuzzy and gritty." Not to worry, by side-chaining the effect, you can blend in the dry and wet vocal signals to a level that works best for your mix. The distortion will add just enough color to the vocals so they feel like part of the music and not just ambiguously floating above the music. Slap some EQ on the distortion track to get a brighter or darker tone to your distortion coloring. Just don't go overboard with the vocal effects, unless that is the goal for the track. Happy mixing!

Mixing without plugins

How many of your mixes have plugins strewn across each and every channel? I'm going to guess almost all of them or at least a good portion of them. Are you relying on the plugins to make your recordings sound better? Have you ever tried to mix with just panning and volume adjustments?

Today's modern engineer has become too dependent on digital enhancements of recordings. Things like proper mic placement and quality mic preamps have been replaced with software that constantly needs to be upgraded. Thus, music is loosing the ambiance and mood of the performance that was captured in the studio. Lush layering techniques are being replaced with copy & paste keyboard commands.

I pose this challenge to all engineers that are mixing with a DAW; make a rough mix of your recordings with no plugins just so you can hear the naked truth about your mics, mic placement, and room reflections. Mastering what mic to use and where to place it to capture the best sound will exalt your recordings to unparalleled quality. Musicians will flock to you once you've learned how to capture the purity of sound and translate it in to timeless recordings. If you are using plugins like training wheels on a bike, it's time to grow up and learn how to balance your mixes with knowledge and experience.

Recording | Guitars

Marshall.jpg

Recently recorded a project that had some heavy guitar riffs. The guitarist wanted to get that overdriven tone, but still retain clarity. This is always a challenge for any engineer. Mic choice and placement are crucial. Amp volume rears its ugly head in your face and can create a nightmare for you in the mix. Here's how I did it without spending a lot of time trying to get just the right take in one shot.

Setup a few mics in front of the cab. I like to use a Shure SM57, Shure SM7B, Sennheiser e606, and Sennheiser 421. Put one in front of each cone slightly off-axis and pointing away from each other. Then run the guitar to a DI for tracking the clean signal and then thru to the amp head. Based on how many mics you setup + the DI, you'll have a decent amount of tracks to work with. Normally, I don't use all the tracks, plus there can be phasing issues. All I need is one good track from the take and we're golden.

The first take should be at the level of overdriven tone that the guitarist prefers. Then reamp the clean signal with the amp at a slightly lower volume. This should give you more clarity from the performance. You can keep doing this routine until you get enough layers to blend in the desired sound for the guitar tone. Pan out the different takes and adjust volume levels to widen the mix.

This is just the concept. You'll need to experiment with your setup to find out what works best.

Recording | Drum Setup

Tracking drums is an art form that takes years to get right. There is a lot of trial and error, so get used to disappointment. You have to really grasp your mics, gear, and room. That said, there's one major problem with tracking drums. The drummer keeps changing. Not all drummers can be good studio drummers, so here's a few tips on making sure you get good drum tracks on your recordings.

First, studio drumming is not the same as live performance drumming. When you have microphones all around your kit, it does take a little finesse to get good takes.

Second, the drum setup is completely different in the studio. There needs to be separation between the high hat / cymbals and the toms. This means that the cymbals need to be raised up higher so they're not in the same plane as the drum heads. You may not agree with me, but your album will be all washed out.

Third, microphone placement is crucial! This one I can't stress enough. If you have a tom, a cymbal, or whatever the hell is on your kit and you only hit it once, get it out of there. That can be overdubbed later and does not need to take up real estate that the mics need.

These are just the foundation for a good drum setup in the studio. Leave comments or questions if you want to hear me rant some more.

Black Lion Audio Signature 002 Mod

There are certain things that contribute to a great recording. The first is the interface that you're using. You can go and spend some $$$ on a HD converter and get great results. However, there is an alternative for great sound at a more affordable price. Black Lion Audio (www.blacklionaudio.com) is a company based in Chicago and they have some modifications that rival some of the big expensive converters. For under $2,000 you can get the BLA Signature Mod on your 002 or 003 rack. We currently have one that is used as our mobile rig and it holds up quite well. Many of the live recording that Shine On has been hired to record have been tracked with our modified 002r.

The Signature Mod will improve your converters, clock, and mic pres. These are huge improvements over the Digidesign stock interface. They also beef up the headphone amp to provide a more accurate monitoring option. The A/B recordings we did with the interface are jaw-dropping. There really is no comparison between the recordings. The mod improved the attack of transients and the depth of the EQ range. Drums have more punch, guitars roar and scream with more intensity, bass is bigger and richer in the low end, and vocals just rip through the mix to sit right in the pocket. These improvements are well worth the investment. You'll save time in the studio and your mixes will have a brilliance that just cannot be matched at this price point. If you'd like to get more info or experience with the interface, sign up for one of our Pro Tools lessons and an engineer will show you the ins and outs of this impressive upgrade to your studio.

Recording | Pro VO tracking

Voice over work can be very profitable and provide steady income. You just need one thing, a professional sound. Some recordings are just superior to others and it boils down to the talent and how the talent is recorded. Imagine just reading out loud for the rest of your professional career. At Shine On Studio, I produce some of the highest quality vocal recordings heard around the world. If you have a critical VO recording that needs to sound extremely professional, you've found your new recording studio.

My equipment and mic selection offers a wide range of presence and tone that will compliment any voice actor's project. I've worked with professional commercial productions for Television, Video Games, Theatrical Releases, Company Promotions, Educational Documentaries, Audio Books, Instructional DVDs, TV commercials, Radio commercials, and Private Interviews. I provide direction and vocal coaching to help clients get the right performance recorded to impress their employers.

Come by the studio for a tour and hear some of the quality production that has been produced at Shine On Studio. You've got the talent and I've got the experience to get the job done right. Professional sound for professional voice actors.