Use EQ While Tracking
We'll talk about channel strips for a second because most of us have an audio interface and that's probably your starting with and and that's all you need it has a preempt built ins you can plug your microphone right into it turn up the gain it also converts your microphone signal to digital so then it's feeds into your computer via usb firewire thunderbolt whatever you don't need anything else to make a record in terms of recording you going really clean signal I think the pre empts and all the interface is these days sound amazingly good and I'm stunned at how cheap they are for how good they are. So if you're making music in this day and age and really really blessed to be able to do it because it's really accessible but let's say you want to be able to sculpt your sound a little bit more these subtle things we're doing in the mixing phase why not do them in the recording phase and something like a channel stripped like this one from purse honest this is super affordable it might be...
three hundred dollars u s right now I'm not really sure really, really affordable but what is a channel strip all it is is another preempt so that the left side of of the box is another preempt so it's doing exactly what your pre amp already does but then it's followed by a compressor and hardware compressor so we can actually compress the signal. If you're seeing vocalist in there singing, I can actually tame their focus a little bit, squeeze it a little bit if it's a bass guitar and get more sustained. If it's a snare drum, I could get some more fat is on the snare drum on day one, and this followed by any q equalizer, so you've got this one has a three band lowman and high, and some controls will explain all the controls here in the in the dog in the next segment, but I can now, if I'm recording let's, say that you could hear on my vocal if we can flip back over the pro tools for one. Secondly, where's my vocal look at this this cq curve and pro tools I've got. I'm filtering out some low end, I'm dipping out about three hundred hertz, three twenty a little bit of a shelf boost around seven and a half k to open up some of that christmas, you said, or that brightness we can do this if we go back to the channel strip, we can do this on the channel strip we can, we can filter out some low end, we can scoop out some of the mid range that I like the three hundred twenty we could find that on their scoop it a little bit out and we could do a little bit of a boost to open up some brightness on the vocalist or the opposite let's say your microphone is really bright and then you have a singer who has a very bright voice. A lot of times I'll bring in female vocalist and they'll have a really bright voice they don't need any each you to make them bright in fact, they might make them the vocal sound really harsh because the microphone plus their voice it's a little too much brightness so you could use any cute actually darken up her voice a little bit on the way in and all that happens in a line and you can switch it usually put the before the compressor if you want um yeah e q after compra que before cops, you can do all that and then that outputs into your audio in her face and that gets recorded into your digital audio workstation and you've already sculpted the sound with a q before it's recorded. So what gets recorded is already a little closer to what you're going to do to it in the mix anyway by itself this is this is what it's been happening for decades in the studio this is a call the channel strip because if you imagine this is just replicating what happened on an analog council a strip of a channel on a council where the microphone go in the council's preempt it would go through and take you through a compressor, and that would go to tape, and in these days they've got rid of tape and I'll throw in a dog, but it still has a consul that's why people love recording through consoles or through, you know, outboard gear like this because the engineer on day one can be thinking about I want this to sound a certain way and he's mixing on the way in again. This is not how I was taught in school. I was taught to not do any of this. I was taught to plug right in don't use any q any compression and just capture clean and then that way, when you get to mixing, you can because of course you got accusing compressors here, you can sculpt the way you want, and we're going to do that. We're going to mix, but I think that's really, really bad advice because it just delays decision making. It means he was a recording engineer and then for all of us that are at home recording our music, I want you to think about it from day one if you have a channel strip, you know? I'd rather you save up and invest in a really affordable channel strip than more plug ins because this can help you in the recording face when you come time to mix you've already sculpted the sound a little bit and if you're like me you're recording one track at a time you know you're recording your base you're recording your guitar when you record your vocals you record your acoustic guitar all you need is one of these you don't need a whole consul because you khun overdub so that that a few hundred dollars for ah channel strip which is really getting to another preempt and a compressor and nick you can be used on every single track and then you could have raw tracks that already sound pretty close you know if you ever listened to your raw tracks before they're mixed and you go man, they don't really sound that great and then you listen to if you ever have access to multitrack files from somebody else when you're like man these aren't even mixed but the the drum sound pretty good and the vocal sound pretty good it's a lot of combination of things it's probably good mic placement and a good performer but they've also tried to sculpt some of the sound a little bit on the way in so that when it comes time to mix that's why you see some of your favorite mixing engineers and they're like they're saying yeah for john mayer's vocal I just had to do was this little teeny boost you know, this little teeny cut on the q and as perfect because his vocal artist sounded amazing on day one because they probably were sculpting and mixing and using e q on the way in tracking me there so show a couple more examples this is one from personas here's one from a couple of questions about that channel strip before we were going and let's go back to the person so here's a question channel strips air cool but what about separate hardware units for the pre empt for the compressor, the etcetera do you feel that separate components would be better than just a channel strip? No, I don't because I think it's just going to cost you more money usually and it's more cables used to hook up with more hassle. So why do that when you can do this? You know, for the typical home studio person I mean, this is this is exactly what I did. I had an interface for years and then I was recording and mixing people and you know, and I would save up some money from doing those gates and then I wouldn't I bought a little channel strip um that's all three and one and it's it's perfectly matched for each other if they sound great so there's nothing against individual components and some people like to mix and match a certain preempt with certainty q but I'm a fan of simplicity, so I would say this is a great type of thing doesn't have to be this exactly and it is a great type of thing for the home studio cool, we have another question yeah, yeah you're saying that if you do it outside out of the box like that, then are you monitoring the entire mix? Is your recording the new track or these people just know by ear when they're just doing one track at a time without listening to it with the whole thing, right? So it's a great question, so in practice let's let's talk about probably most of us in a home studio environment you're sitting in your room your it's hard to monitor what you're doing on this in real time because you are there's no separate control room from your tracking room, you know, so like I'll do this with drums I literally will have a drum kit in my room he's playing drums I'm sitting next to him, we all have headphones on and I've got a couple of channel strips and how can I hear what what the channel strips of doing? Because I'm hearing it in the headphones, but I'm also he's blasting drums right next to me so well it's a slower process of let's record the drums without any q let's set up our mic placement record for a minute then let's stop and that's press playing let's listen back to what it sounds like out of my monitors out of my head phones and then assess because we only want to eat you for a reason and if things sound great I don't need an e q but I might hear you know what that snare drum it's a little wolfie and some low mid range doesn't sound that great I might move the microphone a bit if I'm getting closer with mic placement but it's still something that I'd rather just cut out with nick you after I got pretty like ninety percent of the way there were the mic placement then I'll try frequency and guests and I'll take it out record a little bit listen back or another trick I do it sometimes I will listen back to the recording I'll slap a e q plug in like this on there and I'll cue it a little bit with a plug in to hear what I'm doing to in find the problem frequencies with a software plug in and then I'll go mirror that on the do it on the channel stripping then record through that this sounds like a lot of work but it's you get faster at it and the whole point of this is to think about if I could record in such a way using cue in such a way that the tracks that end up in my dog before I've ever used any plug ins already sound like it's almost mixed, it won't be perfectly mixed because they're going to compete with me tracks to compete with each other, but the individual tracks will be clean or they'll be musical or they will feature the right tracks frequencies that they won't have too much buildup of a nasty frequency you might have. The goal is to have a track that you feel like I don't even need to mix this thing it sounds great to me that's going to make mixing easier it's going to be mixing more fun it's gonna mean fewer plug ins you have to use it's going to go faster that makes sense. So a couple other examples. I'm sure the art the one from a party is the voice channel. Its exact same kind of thing. You've got a pre empt on the left. Um it even has an impedance switch, which is cool so you can match sort of the, uh the impedance to the microphone, which changes sort of how much power is being sent to the microphone, and it it can change the tone of the microphones here with some nice things there you have a compressor this one even has an expander or a gate and then it has a q on the right and then it all outputs on the right there another affordable one actually actually on this one as well this one's really really cool on it's got to it's a to preempt it has sort of a a little bit different color than your typical um are you in the face and then we got one more I think from you a yeah so the sixty one seventy six so you've got on the right you've got a compressor and then over here you've got your pre empt and the other you're very simple a cute and you make some great stuff a little more expensive much wants a piece of gear but the point is to show you that so many manufacturers make something like this and so it's not just a pre amp it's not just any q it's both and a compressor all in one and for the home studio picking up one affordable channel strip for your home studio is a really good move it's very very simple so people are mean so many people spend so much money on things that I don't think really make that much of a difference but I want you think about you not just in a mixing world but also in the recording world because it will help your mixes it will make your life easier my mixes have gotten the things that I'm mixing of, the things I'm recording if I'm working with a band and I got to record them and mix them, my mixes have gotten better because I've got better a recording and my mixes have come together faster because trying to sculpt the sound in the way in and recording and in queue just another way to do that to a channel strip wait a question that came in, you touched on this a little bit, but I want to get some more clarification. Here's a question from b s m who says, hey, graham, when you talk about committing to a sound on the way in the of the outboard compression or the for example, how do you go about sound checking this when you're recording alone? That is your the musician and the engineer at the same time with the instrument and monitors in the same room? Do you have any other suggestions for doing this other than recording a sound sample and listening back to it after? I mean, we just talked about that that's the on ly related with it? Yeah, I mean that's. One of the limitations of the home studio is we don't have the liberty of having a band out there in a sound, isolated tracking room, and we're behind some glass and all weekend here is literally what's coming out of the speaker's a k with the listener will here that's the beauty of a real studios that's why that's why they do that so then they can on the fly hey just play the drums for a minute and while they're playing the drums you're just fiddling with your channel strips or your console and you're getting it to sound right that would be so much easier in fact that's the best way to work but that's not that's, not our world so the way to get great mixes and recording the home or in your project studio is to accept your limitations and realize that you're not set up the exact same way as a pro studio and instead then embraced those limitations and find workarounds that will really help you in the only way to do this is record a little bit listen back and tweak I did a drum session two months ago where after we have the drum set up and we had some initial mic placement from that point that's a you know an hour and a half to get is all drummers take forever just have together once he was ready to go and my mike's we're ready to go we probably spent two and a half to three hours of doing this kind of stuff record a little bit listen back, move some microphones around because when you're moving microphones around, you are cuing microphones closer or further away angle differently, different microphones that's changing the q that's your first line of the q even before channels stripped so we would move microphones around and take microphones out, I swapped out different microphones because I had some sure that really actually makes the symbol sound harsh. I don't want to use that microphone or that's the kick drum sounds five I need to throw a towel inside the kicked him because there's too much ring I mean, you know, so you're sculpting the sound on day one and then I had a couple channel strips I used it on the kick drum and the snare drum I compressed those, um to really get some more smack, so they already sounded more energetic on the way in. I even used e q on this one microphone that I didn't have a channel strippers. Thank you on that, but we've probably spent two and a half to three hours of doing that. I had like eighteen to twenty segments of the drum path that we record for eight bars and you could see in pro tools it was all these test ones and we go back and forth, which one sounded better all that work and we haven't recorded anything but but once we finally got a sound that we felt really, really good with and it's included tuning the drums, another form of e q e q starts from from the beginning once we had a really good sound, then we could just press record and let him play the song a couple times with a couple of songs and what was captured sounds awesome. It won't it won't need much to mix it will make mixing easier. It will be fighting your other tracks. It sounds really, really good and I think to many of us in the home studio world wanted jump that we think just get it recorded, I can fix it later just captured I've got accused, I can change the tone later and yes, you can I'm going to show you how to thank you, but that's a really bad way to think and it's a lazy way to think and what I want us to do is home studio people is to get confident and willing to put in the work to get a great sound on the way in, so when you come time to mix it, mixing his fun mixing is so fun for the pro mix engineer because he's got great tracks to work with, you know, if you're given stuff that's recorded by the top engineers in the world, it's okay? Can you mix this warming you press play and the tracks already sound like a record coming off the computer screens so you're so pumped to mix this it's a joy to mix it on I don't wantto to teo dismiss how good these mixing engineers are but it makes their job easier right? Yet most of us in the home studio world have really bad sounding tracks and so we're trying to mix those tracks and we're frustrated we're beating your head against the wall because we're saying grand you gave me this mixed technique but I can't get it to work because your tracks don't sound that great and it actually harder for us in the home studio to implement these mixed techniques because we're starting with really bad track so if you can think about q how little goes a long way from day one and tracked through a channel strip or spend the time with your mic placement getting the right when we get to the stuff we're going to show in these next three segments it's gonna be a breeze because you got a great sounding tracks that makes sense yeah, we have a couple more that came in here with twenty five people who wanted in on this question so this one's popular from side ball posted it do you try to be cute top down the same way that you did with compression? Okay? Yeah, yes I do. So I like to in this case in this song I showed you there's some drum come drunk you on the drum bus? I did this cq move before I had done in the queue on individual drum tracks so I have the raw drum tracks I busted through this group and I listened to the drums as a whole and I said, what the drum sound like they sound like there's a little bit of something building up down here and scooped out some of that and I felt like the symbols were a little muffled so I brighten them up a little bit. I did that before I went down to the actual kick trump snare drum toms that kind of stuff. So yes, that top down approach. A lot of times if I can with drums I I start at a higher level of sort of the drum track level before I get down to the individual instruments in the drums um but not always. Sometimes they even start on the next bus, but a lot of times it's usually on a group level I'll do that maybe on the guitars, maybe on the drums. Um this depends we have another one here from steve lucero who says graham, can you talk about it's attractive additive q on instruments that share the same ranges for instance kick and base yeah, this is something I'm going to go into more detail. The next segment on this is a real issue, so this is a big bulk of what we're doing in the queue. And so it's a good preview of what's to come our job with the q is to make room for everything, make everything have a place to live and have anything of the place to shine. So let me show you how to do that. The next segment I'm wondering for people who work pretty much in the box, like myself and other people who don't record instruments from outside into the computer, you do everything in the computer. Um, do you have any advice for getting that to sound good before he kidded tio? So you're using virtual instruments, right sample? So I use a few virtual instruments, not a ton, but the ones that I have, they they have some tone shaping features on actual instrument itself, right? So they actually have a little geeky hilton, or did that when you haven't. So I'm just wondering if you're using all just sense and drum machines, things like that? Do you have any, any advice, or any, like any rules or anything about how tio I guess, the way you were doing the instruments from outside into the computer, like does this even is even a consideration if you're working all in the computer or you just wait till you have everything and then no, absolutely see, I think it's the exact same process so let's, let's, look here on pro tools there is because I don't have a channel strip because I don't record anything from outside and that's a great question, so all you have to do is think about these things in the exact same way, so I have a track here. This is the organ track was actually a virtual instrument track and this one's on pro tools, so this is their their dp thirty three's what's called and I spent you got it. I got a little keeper or controller and I'm I'm playing, playing his organ part of holding a note to I cannot play keyboard to save my life, but I have many so I can fake it. Um, I use that mentality of sculpted on the way in and try to sculpt the tone of this instrument here. If it doesn't sound the way I want to sound, I don't play it yet. I holding the notes from playing a little bit, and I will I will mess with all the sliders and all the tone knobs and some of the some of these even on the back. The cabinet but this has the whole cabinet back here so you actually can adjust where the micro virtual microphone is on this cabinet that you can change the character of the to preempt I will play with all the settings on the virtual instrument and pretend like it's either a microphone placement or it's an e q some of these guys have they ever do this there's another uh virtue instrument here um expand so a lot of the cw's will come with something like this like this is just you know I know you don't have all the files on here it's kind of blurred out but you can almost see like there's tone controls on a lot of these patches on these virtual instruments high low mid I will sculpt the tone on the virtual instrument itself and get it to sound the way I want it to sound as opposed to saying hey this is what the patch sounds like I can throw any cue on it later if I can get you the patch within the virtual instrument I will do that same thing with drums a lot of drum programs thiss the ones I've used I can not only blend the drum mikes amongst themselves I can sculpt the top end and maybe the just high end and low end a little bit on the drum mix that even if it's that simple I will do that to get the drums to sound the way you want them to sound within that little virtual instrument plug in so that I may not even need to meet you are need much later on so I would think the same way but you're right you're not there's nothing in a channel strip to record through but it's still an instrument and it probably has some tone shaping controls of some kind so still try to get it right all within that instrument for you actually play the many performance okay and all these changes and and within the virtual instrument we deal with in the mix or like wallace into the whole mix so that's a great question so this depends on how you like to work if I'm recording and trying to sculpt the tone of virtual instrument I try to do that on recording day, and so I just like once I've recorded my bass guitar or recorded my vocalist like it's whatever e q I apply to through a channel strip or mic placement it's captured for all time I tried to do that with the virtual instrument it's an oregon on get the tone right? And once I feel good about the tone, I'll play it and then I like to print that many performance down to an audio track in fact, that organ that I showed you I actually printed that to an audio track here so that actually in oregon track right here in the purple that's actually an audio wave so that I can get rid of the organ virtual instrument that's a huge cpu hog is taking up a lot of my computer power, and then I can make it inactive and I can hide it, so I always get it back if I needed to, but I've basically pretended like I had a real organ that I miked up and I recorded in its actual audio, so I can't go back and change the sound later, and I like to work that way because again, I was taught the opposite don't come in it don't commit and it's on lee led me to problems it's on lee led me to have spent a lot longer mixing and trying to make decisions. It's just delaying decision making is just saying, I don't have the guts to decide if this sounds good or not now, so I'm going to figure it out later, which is just laziness. It's a lazy way to work, you have to make a decision at some point at some point, you're going to send this to a friend or bounce it down for a cd or an mp three released some point, you're making a decision. You can't send it to your friend sale I haven't decided on the organ sound yet. I know you're listening to it on itunes, but I'm going to change it later. At some point, the decisions made, so I've tried to have the guts to say, does this sound good to me now? And if it doesn't, let me change it now and they commit to it that that is a different decision than what we're going to look at. Some more deaths today is that organ might sound great. I might committed to a great sound, but you can see I still eat you this organ. Why did I still need you this organ and it's? Because that organ is great is it sounded by itself didn't play perfectly with all the other instruments, and there was no way for me to really know that I hadn't recorded all the other instruments yet had done the vocals hadn't donald the guitars and that's why you still needed to process and mixing a little bit, and we're gonna talk about how you do that. But it's still made the easier because I already had a good organ sound that could stand by itself, but in the mix needed to be shaped a little bit differently. That makes sense is I mean, she jabbed a kid of of having the courage to say, I want to make this sound the way I want to sound today as opposed to saying now just I can fix it in the mix later, I used to I used to do this and I remember it got so bad and I noticed it when I was recording a band and this whole week I was flew into town to record them. They're running joke was because I was say it, the running joke was graham will make it sound better later because I kept saying that like this area, you cool the sound like, now we always make it sound better later, and they started to make fun of me about it, like all graham could just make it sound better later, and it was hearing them mimicking what I've been saying the whole week, that was like the tipping port for me. I realized, what am I doing? I'm basically like that's ok, we recorded it sounds all right when I take it home, I'll make it really sound like a record at home and that's actually a horrible way to work I'd rather put in the work to get it right on day one and then mixing is a lot more fun and actually sounds better, so I've been there