Archive for the Making Music Category

Recording At Home: A Little R&R.

Posted in Commentary, How To's, Making Music with tags , , , on December 7, 2014 by The Buddha Rats

Writing and recording at home is challenging. Resources are scarce.  My room is all but untreated (unless you count the odd painting on the wall, a kingsize bed in the room, no echo chamber, no mixing board, no vocal or drum room and no access to real tape other than Scotchtape). I just read an article in which someone thought that his Mom’s cooking rivaled or surpassed anything he’s had in a “proper” restaurant. Oh yea, peasant cooking… rustic cooking at it’s best is a real pleasure. Same thing with Rustic Recording.

Here are tips for getting the most out of your recordings. You won’t win a Grammy, but isn’t Coldplay nominated this year?… You see my point?

1) Use mic distance to your advantage.

Recordings aren’t just stereo or mono.  Create depth using multiple mics as well as by using reverb and EQ to great effect. The brighter the sound, the more up front it appears. Using lo-pass and hi-pass filters as your “go-to” tool will keep things sounding natural and make sounds that compete for space easier to manage and fix.

2) Go DI for bass.

Bass signals plugged in direct to your daw will end up lifeless, but you can “fix it in the mix”. I always go DI and end up duping the original track 2x. Now that I’ve got 3 bass tracks:

  • Leave the DI track as is.
  • Route track 2 through an ampsim.
  • Route track 3 through a fuzz or distortion box.

Blend these tracks to create a tasty bass track.

3) Perfect your performance before you hit record.

If you can’t play it all the way through without that red light on, you’re not ready to have a go at it. Seriously- learn your material. Make sure you can sing it and play it.

4) Buy the best instruments you can afford and use them.

And this doesn’t mean that you have to subscribe to the myth that your guitar needs to be a 1959 Les Paul in order to be considered “best”. I like Elliott Smith and was pleased to learn that the entire Roman Candle album was recorded using a cheap Domino parlor guitar.  Best= what works best for the material. New instruments might not work as well as something old or beat up even (have you seen the hole in Willie Nelson’s Martin?).

5) Drum machines suck.

They’re repetitive and lack soul. Pepper any drum machine track with real tambourines, claps, woodblocks, etc. anything that sounds real- even shaking a key ring full of keys will go a long way to impart that touch that only a real human can. Or better yet, just find a real drummer.

6) Don’t marathon mix.

Take breaks every hour. Let your ears rest for 15-20 minutes. It will make a big difference. Ear fatigue, especially when listening to high volume rock tracks, is a death sentence for quality.

7) Audition your mixes before and after.

There are people who can actually mix well using headphones. Just be sure to A/B them on car stereo, home stereo, etc.

8) Elevate you demos with proper mastering.

Home recordings can sound cheap because they often aren’t mastered properly. Even Ozone (when used sparingly) can yield great results.

9) Mistakes= Happy Accidents. Keep Them.

You are making music for real live flesh and blood people to hear. Your music should sound like it was made by one. Mistakes happen. Nothing is perfect. Remember that.

10) Always, always experiment.

Do something you haven’t tried. It might make your song better.

As Close To A Magic Bullet As You Can Get

Posted in How To's, Making Music, Recording Basics, Recording with Reaper with tags , , on September 29, 2013 by The Buddha Rats

Advice comes and goes, but this trick is the one thing that has brought me back around from being 100% frustrated with mixing at home: High-pass almost everything in your mix.

That’s it. It’s really that simple. Embrace the high-pass filter, and your mixes will thank you for it. A high-pass filter is simply a filter that rolls off low frequencies. It cuts out the mud. And if you are like me, then the biggest  problem you face with your mixes is probably that they are just too muddy.

Granted your individual tracks may sound great, and you may not think there is too much bass, but when you start combining it all together, you end up with mix that gives you an instant headache, due to all the low-mid build-up. Chances are you’re also adding too much top end too.

I used to pour the compression and EQ on every track trying to get things to sound thick and full. Turns out all I was doing was increasing the noise, and the mud. Some tunes sounded good that way, but most didn’t. It was really only a little over a year ago that I all but stopped using EQ on everything but the master bus.

The one plug in that has saved my music has been Satson by Sonimus. I mean it: This simple and relatively inexpensive plug in is a sleeper hit! I’ve got other “console” plugs, but none are as effective. Satson is meant to go on everything. Essentially it gives you a  high-pass (and low-pass filter) with a gain control. I use the the high-pass on everything except for drums and bass, which I tweak using the gain control. I’ve been told by others that my recent mixes sound much clearer and natural.

In the end, it’s no magic bullet, but it’s close. Try it, you’ve got nothing to lose.

satson-big