Dynamic EQ and Ambient Mic Treatments


Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou


Lesson Info

Dynamic EQ and Ambient Mic Treatments

One more little forensic audio tool that I really love that I've been using lately that I want to talk about and I'm just going to do this on the snare top track and that tool is called there's several certainly various brands that'll that'll do it but I used the sona lke sis or whatever one which is at first glance kind of intimidating ah whole lot of knobs and buttons and switches but what this is is a dynamic e q it's different than a like a multi bani q or compressor but what it does is it allows you to dial in a frequency band and then set sort of a high and low threshold and then based on your volume envelope it will it will adjust the gain of those frequency band so imagine you're working with like a regular type of parametric sort of set it at a certain frequency and then you've got your hand on the volume control and every time the sneers hit you either turn up the volume turned down the volume would do something like that were or or there's also the ability to every time the ...

snare drum's hit you turn up the volume when it's not being hit you're turning down the volume so it's a neat tool to kind of go in and add further control of the tonal shape of an instrument based on the volume envelopes so let's check out uh just our soloed snare track so just the time mike okay, so there's a little bit of leakage from high hats and symbols into the snare and let's see if we can remove some of that uh so what I want to do is go in with a um with a high shelf q and I first put it in static mode and static mode means that it's not a dynamic you it's just a standard so what I'm doing here I sort of did some work ahead of the game here but set my attack and release kind of fast and then over here my standard niki controls where I find the frequency and the band with me so what I've done is I found some of the harsh silly stuff but I don't want in my mix andan now going to switch into dynamic mode so we can remove some of that silly stuff when the snow is not being struck and then boosted maybe even a little bit that silly stuff when the snare drum is struck to kind of add some air and sneering us to this tops near mike all right, so let's listen this in bypass and then turn it back on I'm being very heavy handed with it right now in reality I don't do more than a dvd or two in either direction I'm just doing it heavy handed now so you can really hear the difference wait so we've brightened her snare without bring in any additional symbol leakage I might even use all four bands of this stuff in the upper mid range I might actually I could do that pretty quickly let's up let's bypass that hye won and just listen to the upper mid range for second, first and static mode with a fast attack and a fairly fast release on dh let's find some of the harshest symbol stuff uh in this near track and then knock that out that's crap let's do a similar similar sort of thing back in dynamic mode and I have to dialling my fresh holds a little bit. Okay let's hear that bye, pastor not so I think I have I can't remember what he used on the snare in this record, but there's that typical like off axis dynamic mike sort of kind of symbol sound that I don't find particularly here pleasing this is a way to remove some of that. So and I also might do some sculpting with low mids and the lows to sort of add punch without too much additional residence but let's, try just hearing both both the hi and hi mid together and see how that affects the tone I mean actually sort of ease up on my settings on on all of this stuff since I do feel like it's quite heavy handed so quite a bit different you have a whole lot of control there were powerful but it's also you know, really easy to mess up the signal so be careful if using that tool so I like to use a lot of master failures and my studio so I'll take you know as you can see in this protocol session I have now three kick tracks but I only really have my main consoles only sixteen channels so I will send all three of those kick tracks onto one fader of the console. I want to make sure that s o I mean so all three kick tracks will be assigned to the same hardware output but I want to make sure that I have plenty of head room everywhere so I will make a master fader emh protocols which is assigned to the same output as those three kick tracks. Esso I have both a way to know if I'm clipping the internal something mustn't pro tools on that output and I also have master level control of all the kick tracks and then even further I have a ability to use mohr plugin inserts on the master fader so one plug I really love to use on drums to make drum super aggressive is the sound toys radiator plug and I first started using that when I was mixing band called toxicology cost last year and they wanted like extra distortion on everything they're like. Oh, you know, the guitarist recorded with distortion. We want mohr and the jumps were recorded superhot, but we want more distortion. So I made master fader, so I have master control of the kicks and snares tom's all that stuff on dh could then apply that radiator to the master painters of those. But you could do that. If you're working in the box, you could do that with ox masters. You know, you could assign your three kick tracks to on ox, and then you can have an ox input that those three tick tracks feed into, and it gives you master control over the kick drum using the one ox, vader and the oxen inserts and even additional sense from that oxygen. Uh, okay, right now I'm really just doing mix prep, so I'm not doing a whole lot of that stuff yet. Um, but I do like to dio aside from the parallel compression that I set up in the box with the kick turbo in the snare turbo. Once I get out to my console, the compressors that I like tio, typically used on my kick and sneering tracks actually have wet, dry controls, so within one channel I'm able to do a parallel compression kind of vibe on the kick snare and tom's, so allows the natural character of the performers to come through, but sort of reels and in a little bit, and I, like I stated earlier, I like to do b sort of light handed at several stages, rather than heavy handed at one stage, so I have several different stages of light, parallel compression, which, you know, at the end, we'll give you a nice level control and total adjustment of the drums without too many compression artifacts. Sometimes you like the sound of compression artifacts sometimes, you know, I don't, usually I want I want to feel the performance more than I want to feel the engineering process in most cases, so I tend to choose more gentle techniques, okay, so ambient mike treatments? Well, the first thing you need to decide, and this is very much dependent on the sound of song, and the aesthetic of the band is, do you wanna work? Mostly captured most of your drum tone from the overheads and or the room mikes? Or you want to capture most of the drum tone from the close mikes? I think it's very dependent on, uh, you know, whether or not you're dealing with a wall of guitars, or whether you're dealing with a little bit more open guitar tones and also just the feeling that you're trying to capture and very much the way that a drummer plays and how what their internal balances. If a drummer just sounds perfectly balanced and great in a room there hitting the drums all at the right volume in relation to the symbols, then you might not need to use the close my techniques as heavily as as just bringing up the overheads and or the room likes and capturing the bulk of the drum sound from that, I do tend to treat the remarks and the overheads differently based on whether I am kind of making the close mikes the foundation of my drum sand, then back filling that with overheads or if I'm going to make the overheads the bulk of the drum sound and then backfilled with close mikes if the already talked about pre delays, I'm gonna kind of skip that for now, but if the bulk of my drum sound is going to be over heads, then I'm not going to thin out the bottom end of the overheads nearly as much as I do if the bulk my sound is close mikes, I also probably will women the overheads a little bit more heavily if the bulk of my drum sound is coming from the close mikes sometimes actually problem that if you want close mike sound on the drum set that the snare drum is too loud in the overheads that's actually an argument you saw me yesterday, sort of measuring out the distance between the two overhead mike's, making sure it's equidistant from the snare, sometimes that's, actually a hindrance when, when mixing a super wide symbol, set up our super wide sounding symbol panning scheme, where you want to rely heavily on the overheads. Sometimes, if you actually have two different distances from the snare, it'll naturally put the snare a little bit out of phase in the overheads, which can open up a hole in the centre channel for the close mike toe live. If you do have super face coherent overheads and you wantto make a hole in the centre channel for the overheads, you can use some funny ams techniques, or you can women the overheads, there's a. If you have access to on m s type compressor, a lot of the like the fairchild six sixty type compressors, which there's a few plug in versions of that have ah latte vart control on it, which is an ns compressor, which essentially gives you independent control of the center channel versus the side channels. You can kind of compress the centre channel. Get this near out of the way of the close mikes so there's a you have I will handle overheads and reminds drastically different based on where the primary drum sound is coming from. I don't have time to get to detail about that now but just do a ton of experimentation and see what works in the context of your rooms and the songs and and with the preference of the band for you I mentioned this kind with every instrument but low mid content of overheads and ra mike's very much effects how whether it's in front of the speakers or behind the speakers so use that low mid control teo to balance that presence you know how in the face and how in the in the crowd you wanted to feel and you know I'm usually less low mids feel a little bit more modern in some cases a litte more flattering and sort of set things on a sound stage more limits tend to feel a little bit more raw gaining is not something typically done with ambien microphones but I do actually want to talk about that because this is something interesting um I really enjoy getting my ra mikes and the way that I like to do that is typically do it after I've edited the toms and once I've set up a sneer turbo I don't have a snare trouble set up yet so I'm just going to do that from the primary snare mike but I will do a, uh bus send let's teo bus eleven sounds good to me and let's set that to be pre fader um zero decibels and then now let's also copy that onto iraq high by present alton grabbing the bus nge and onto the floor high and theory already edited the floors and snare still hold for the whole songs is gonna be super accurate because I'm not dealing with gated edited once and it's the wrong tracks and then I'm gonna go down to my big room mike and let's solo the big room mike and put a um go the dynamic stuff and then we will put uh the will soothe didja gate ok, so um by passing for second, refresh your memory on what this with this microphone sounds like uh now let's do a side change thing so when I'm able to side chain by saying I want the key, I want the key insert the key input and then mikey input is going to be that bus eleven so now the gating threshold on these room mike's is no longer controlled by the audio signal within the room, mike, but by the external side chain. So I'm sending the singles from the snare and the toms into the external side chain of the gate and I'm going to use that to control I'm going to use that to control how this gate operates so we we've got this little handy tool just to monitor what the side chain is within this plug so let's hear that way so that's the signal that's going to control the the gate on the rue mike's um I'm not gonna bother to use any of these filters on there and I'm going to set the holden released were fast to start with and then the attack if you remember from yesterday we actually calculated what the offset was between the snare mike and the room mikes and it was about fifteen milliseconds I'm going to start with my attack at fifteen milliseconds otherwise when the snare causes the gate open on the room like it'll actually since you know sound moves slow and electricity moves fast, it'll actually open the gate fifteen milliseconds before the room mike's here the attack of the snare so I'm delaying the attack by that offset so let's see what that sounds like? Start forgetting the songs is a little slower sounds pretty weird, right? But let's let's start adjusting our thresholds and particularly our range and ratio and hear that sounds okay so that's pretty gentle what this does is this helps remove symbols and room mike's excuse me symbols from the room mike so we're getting mohr drum tone from the room makes and a little less simple tone and I'm goingto increase the release time a little bit just to get a little bit more decay out of that and then let's take a listen to that on bypass and then within enabled it's a bit heavy more heavy handed than I usually do, but you can hear how it does clean up the sound of the room mice little bit mohr and makes a little bit more kicking our snare and tom's focused on and then after that I might want to throw on let's just throw in a quick compressor just so we can hear how that will affect the tone of the rooms eleven thirty six is a classic choice and well, you do the you know the all button thing, which is I'm shift clicking this thing to do the all button saying let's let's set the attack and the release pretty fast and see how adding some compression too well mike's affect her tone so needs to be used sparingly but it certainly adds and more of a sense of ah bombastic kind of vibe to it I'm not going to use that on my mix because I actually already did some compression on the way in, but if you don't compress on the way and you might want to compress your reminds after doing the gating otherwise if you do it before the gating, you're just going to be it's going to make it harder to gain that's going to be a mess here now you know you got a bunch of you're going you want to double check all your polarities, make sure that uh the snare polarity is still has an optimal relationship between its close mike san it's overheads otherwise you get a thin sound it should be pretty obvious but yeah, so double check that the final thing that I want to talk about it I'm just going to go and take the gate off of this guy leave that well no sorry leave the gate on take the compression ofthe final thing that I want to talk about was this convolution reverb concept that we talked about yesterday where I actually made reverb impulses of this actual room that the drums were recorded in and in addition to gating the big room mike I still wanna have further control of the balance of symbols versus close mikes on it so I am going tio go back up here and do an ox end from my snare top like I'll just do this near for now but eventually I might send all the close mikes to it but let's let's do it set this bus to be a new track and let's call it uh room verb and uh yeah, that looks that looks good so create it and I'm gonna, um this looks different uh let's just let's use um let's say bus uh thirteen fourteen bring the volume up to zero okay um so now I'm sending sending out of the sneer track a snare top onto bus thirteen fourteen go down next to my big room track, and I'm going tio make a new track and call that a stereo oxen, but I'm going to call that room verb and, uh, make the input bus thirteen, fourteen and in the output is me. This rock tracks output that amusing for all of my rock tracks and let's solo the room verb and, you know, just so I can hear the reverb all by itself. I'm going to go over and make this a pre fader send, so I don't have to have the snare drum tracks solar in orderto to send a signal to the rumor of track. So now I don't have a plug on that, and I'm hearing sneer come up on the rim verb track. Now I'm going to open up a convolution reverb plug in which I haven't used before called hoffa or hoffa or something. The whole bunch of different convolution, reverb plug ins I use one called t l space at home, but essentially they should all work about the same if you have the same reeve convolution, reverb impulses. So I'm gonna load and I are file that is on the desktop in ah, in this thing called, uh yeah impulses so I got a bunch of different impulses here from some hardware river bes a cz well as the big room the close rome and the overheads of my studio have this one called mix which is actually a balance of but I did of my big room close from an overhead mike's I use that a lot but I'm just going to go big room for now it shows you kind of it's since it doesn't have a super long the caves showing you this sort of graphical representation of what the profile looks likes let's hear that so that's basically what uh snare drum sounds like in my bathroom uh now let's come no let's combine that along with our big room track and see how it sounds together and we'll try to find a nice balance of the two to get some extra snare drum in the room tracks without bringing out the symbols. All right, so hopefully you're listening to that at home on something where you can discern the difference you don't have to use a convolution reverb for that if your room doesn't sound particularly good, you don't feel like making your own reverb impulses you can use all sorts of different things actually you know what let's do one other quick thing while you one thing that I used to use before making my own rivermen pulses was thie for this purpose the yamaha. Oh, I misspelled that spf suvs px ninety, which is really old, crappy, think twelve bit reverb that was a standard in the eighties doesn't sound particularly good on its own, but adds this kind of gritty room tone to things that I really like. And I have a gated setting on this, which is a super, super short reverb. So it's adding some ambience without, um, adding too much. Okay, so let's hear how that sounds, way that's, booth, same timeless. You're just he expects ninety impulse that I made, but in combination sounds pretty good. You should be able to find ah balance that's pretty convincing between the real room mikes and your fake. Where, mike, so that doesn't feel canned, but has a little bit more ambiance and maurine amended control of close mikes and threats. And I think that with that we have reached the end of what I like to do for drum pre mixing before I start really tweaking the tones of the drums.

Class Description

In this two-day course, prolific producer Kurt Ballou will take you behind-the-scenes of GodCity Studios to show you exactly how the magic happens. This all-access studio pass will immerse you in every aspect of Kurt’s distinctive sound — from choosing and setting up gear, to tracking and mixing.

Kurt will show you the basic and advanced techniques he uses in his studio every day, and teach you how to apply them to your own recording — regardless of whether you’re working in a studio or at home with a DIY setup. Using anecdotes from his years behind the board, Kurt will also teach you his best practices for working with bands to extract the best and most inventive sounds.


Keith Foster

First off, even though I'm neither a beginner nor a recording professional, this class is absolutely worth the money you spend on it - especially if you plan on making heavy music. There are enough tips, tricks and guidance in here to get your money's worth many times over. That said, as an indie artist who goes to a studio to record drum tracks, then does the rest ina home studio I found some of the things disheartening. Much of the class follows a "I do this thing using item / amp / microphone / plugin (X), it's pretty cool" vibe, and it sounds cool.... until you check the price. As an example, the 'stereo buss processing' section sounds fun to try, except for the part where the three pieces of gear cost about $8K. As a result I found myself figuring out how to incorporate the essence of what he was saying without the gear budget to do so. Maybe I'm not the intended audience but a little more concept and less gearhead would have been even better. That said you should totally get it, it's a low price for so many hours of great content.