The lack of updates certainly does not mean a lack of work nor progress out here!
Here’s where I am production-wise. After a discussion with a friend and some digging around with sources more wise to the ways of recording than me, I am much more concerned with getting room sounds into the recordings out here. Because drums sounds are a weakness out here, I’m starting with those.
Since drums out here come from keyboards (real drums are still something I hope to do well out here someday), what I’ve decided to do is run complete drum busses back out into the room through the P.A. speakers and capture that sound with distant condenser mics. It’s not perfect, and the speaker sound is apparent (overhead mics on a real set can tie a drum sound together much better), but EQ on the mids can take away a big portion on the speaker/phone sound. Also, EQ-ing away the sub bass and a good portion of the bass will keep muddiness out of the result, since the original tracks will have plenty of that to go around. The result seems to give the drums more definition and adds a strange “space” to the sound, which appears to be the room sound doing its job. All in all, with A/B comparisons, my opinion is the drums lose something without the “room” sound, even if it’s not perfect. I’m curious as to what second opinions may yield.
Drums are not the only breakthrough out here. I’m paying much more attention to where each instrument fits into a mix EQ-wise. I’ve known about the goals of a mix for a long time, which are summed up in the phrase, “Tall, deep, and wide.”
“Wide” I’ve had for while, and it refers to stereo information, or where the track is placed between the two playback speakers. The general rule is bass instruments and the two main parts of a drum kit – the kick/bass and the snare – are centered, meaning that their audio info is the same in both speakers, creating the illusion of something being “centered.” Main instruments other than these, like guitars, I usually pan as wide as possible, with others being to taste. Multiple takes put through different speakers, either through over-dubbing or stereo-micing are ways to accomplish that wide sound.
“Deep” refers to distance of an instrument, and giving a sense of distance to parts of a mix usually happens with either reverb in post or through the aforementioned capture of room sound. Main instruments are best with little reverb, others can be made more distant (like drums, even though they are foundational to a mix). Some instruments sound amazing with reverb, though, like slide guitars and banjos, so this rule, like all others is fungible.
“Tall” refers to the range of sound in mix, from the thunder of bass drums that one can feel pulsing through the floor, the rumble of the bass guitar, the definition of the standard guitars and vocals all the way up to the airy hiss of cymbals, snare ribbons, room ambiance, and reverb tails. If a mix is never touched beyond initial recording, it will have these things, but they will probably mud together rather than be distinct, and this is where I am modifying my methods. By paying new attention to how EQ is applied to different tracks, I can help mixes out here become much more crisp, pleasant, and discernible. Take away a little sub bass from the bass guitar, and you’ve left room for the kick to thump, for instance. Taking the rumble away from the low end of a guitar – and most other tracks – leaves room for the bass to do its part while being its own distinct part of the mix.
I’m far from where I want to be as an audio engineer. But I am learning, even after all these years. I can’t wait for what comes next!
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