Monday, December 28, 2009


This post was inspired by an e-Newsletter from my friend Mr. Walt Bowers, a local engineer and studio owner. He is also an instructor for the Broadcast and Sound Engineering program and Tulsa Technology Center, and a part time instructor at both Tulsa Community College and the University of Tulsa.




Interesting! Because of these videos and articles, I decided to make a video describing what George Massenburg was talking about.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sidechain Gang - Sidechaining 101

SIDECHAINING is the topic for today. So what is it?

Sidechaining is this: taking a piece of one signal and using it to do something for another. Let's think of a few examples of what a sidechain can do.

1) A De-Esser. This is a compressor with a sidechain EQ. The sidechain EQ looks at the source and you can adjust which frequency to attenuate. The de-esser selecectively compresses ONLY the selected band(s), usually somewhere above 5khz, to remove the sibilance from some voices.

2) Realistic Reverb. You can trigger a reverbs using mulitple sidechain compressors, so that when your voice gets above oh let's say -25dBFS, your voice is sent to  a Small Room Reverb.  However, once your voice goes to -12dBFS, your voice is sent to a Large Room Reverb. Why is this realistic? When your are in a space, you can't really hear too much of the room partially because you are influenced by what you see, but also because of the actual loudness of a voice. When a singer sings loudly, however, the voice can travel all the way to the back of the room, allowing you to hear how big the space really is. You get this effect in small venues listening to singer-songwriters.

3) A Gate's "Listen" or "Key" function. What this does on a gate is only release the gate for signals of a given frequency range. This can help a lot when gating kick drums and toms because you can choose a lower frequency as a key input so that the snare drum (usually the loudest thing) doesn't trigger the gate. Just select your frequency range and the gate will stay quiet until something in that frequency range is hit above the threshold, but it will play back the full sound, not a filtered sound.

4) Kick / Bass Dynamics -
This is the CLASSIC example of sidechaining that we're going to deal with today. This is where the kick triggers a compressor to turn down the bass guitar every time the kick hits. Why? Well the kick drum and the bass both share a similar frequency spectrum. Both have a wide response, from sub lows to present highs. The problem is, these instruments often compete if not played well. There's a certain "married" sound that you get from a bassist and drummer playing together in the groove. It's undeniable; it sounds like they are perfectly on and the bass is locked in with the kick drum. This can create a really punchy and tight sound and should REALLY be used when you're having trouble hearing both kick and bass fully. I've made two tutorials to explain how to do it!

You will need:

1. A compressor plug with a key input function. N4 has this, but N3 and C4 do not. See below.
2. The video tutorials that I made!

A free vst compressor plugin (to engage key in, turn up "KeyVolume" to 0.0dB):


Here are the videos for you to enjoy! Best Viewed Maximized and in HD.



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tempo and Time Signature Changes

How to change tempo and time signatures within Steinberg's Nuendo or Cubase.

1) Tempo Change

Let's say you've got a metal band in the studio. They're really hitting the drums hard, making it "heavy" and adding subdrops and other crazy hooligan stuff like that. Then they say "hey, so this verse is 180bpm but then the breakdown is like 60bpm. It's heavy." So how do you do that in mid song? If the drummer is good he is recording to a click, and if he wants that in his ear, how can you do this?

Another example (a little less bitter sounding example) is if a band has a ritardando toward the end of a song and they go into a second song by gradually slowing down the first until they're at the new tempo. HOW CAN I DO THIS KENDAL, you ask? I made a video to show you how.


2) Time Signature Change

Alright, so you're recording a jazz trio. Drummer comes in and says "hey man. This verse is in 17/4, but then it changes to 5/4 in the chorus, and 6/8 until the end. Can I get a click for all of those?" Before you freak out, just relax a bit. You can do this. I'll show you how in this video.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Drum Mixing

So today I finally got a chance to try out my MOTU on a full drumkit. Two words come to mind: At last! I feel like I was finally able to get tones that I wanted. I was recording on a custom wrapped 80's TAMA Kit with DW snare and custom made Saluda cymbals. Very nice sounding kit considering its age and it's somewhat older heads. The kick drum has a really cool mirror head. The miking went as follows:

Overheads - (2) KM184's
Kick - RE20
Snare - SM57
Rack Tom - SM57
Floor Tom - MD421
Room Mics - (2) AKG 414's

So, only eight mics on this kit, but it sounds like FAR MORE than that! Sean is a talented drummer, and today we were just setting up the kit, letting it acclimate to the room, getting sounds, checking mic levels and positions, etc. We recorded a quick little beat to mix sounds and I suggested doing a driving rock beat, so we did. After mixing, the kid sounded UNGODLY to say the least. It was dirty and vicious. I know that this sound is due to three things in this order:

1) My MOTU Mod.
2) My KM184s as Overheads.
3) Sean.

In the following clip, you will hear the 100% Dry drum sounds. After that you will hear the drums after mixing. The file is 24bit WAV.


I was so impressed with the sounds we got I just had to share them with you guys. Just your drum sounds usually end up sounding like the first clip? If so, then you need some mixing knowledge! Email me with any questions you might have.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Black Lion Audio MOTU 24i/o Review

Alright, so here's the deal. I've been using a MOTU 24IO for quite some time. It's a nifty piece of equipment. No preamps, no effects, nothing that just wastes space, simply 24 TRS inputs and 24 TRS outputs. I use external preamps (API, UA, etc) and choose to go mixerless. With the 24IO, all of my routing can be done within the CueMix software mixer, which is just incredible. Here's a picture of the CueMix from the MOTU Website ( 7 is way too hot.)

Anyway. So I really love the MOTU and have had no problems with it other than one thing: the quality of conversion. I found that most all MOTU units sound like crap at 44.1kHz resolution, but really sound pretty great at 96k. What sucks is, who wants / needs to record at 96k all the time? It takes up over double the hard disk space and is twice as hard on your hard drive to record. Most sessions I do end up being 44.1 or 48k, so that's where I usually keep my clock set.

Still...I did some tests and found that the 44.1 really started to bother me. In comparison to the 96k, it sounded like I had a sock over the microphone at was that dark and muddy. Now, in a full mix after EQ and compression, the 44.1 always sounded okay, but it was never as crisp or as detailed or...something...that I wanted it to be. I couldn't really put my finger on it.

Soon I learned about a company called Black Lion Audio. They're based out of Chicago, IL and their basic service is as follows: take pro-grade gear (NOT top of the line...but widely used Lower-grade "Pro Studio" gear), replace the analog section, replace the clock, and you've got yourself one amazing interface. They mod all kinds of interfaces, such as the Digidesign 002, 003, and 192. They also mod the MOTU 24io, HD192, and I think a few others. Each mod is different, and for my particualar unit, the clock has to be external; the housing is already jam packed with electronics. So, I got the BLA "Microclock mkII," with my mod. Since they can't fit it in the chassis, they just knock off about $100 of the price to compensate for your trouble, which I found to be a pretty impressive deal.

Out the door, my Mod and Clock cost around $950. My MOTU cost $1400 brand new, so having a professional quality interface for a grand total of only $2350 is a STEAL. To get the same number of inputs and outputs from Apogee, you'd have to spend a good $10,000+. Plus, the MOTU 24io mod is one of the more expensive mods. Some really well known producers are using the BLA stuff...Butch Walker, Jay Ruston, plus artists like the Donnas, Dave Bazan, Weezer, and so many more. It's really impressive.

I scheduled the mod back in September, and my date was December 7th. This place is POPULAR. As of right now, their next available mod spot is in late February. Anyway, so I gave my downpayment (half up front) and I paid for the clock (which they sent immediately). When I got the clock I plugged it in and experienced an interesting change. The soundfield had more clarity and depth, with just a touch of brightness added. What was probably happening was a touch of darkness being removed because of clock accuracy. Anyway, I noticed just from listening to my Left and Right outs that I could hear a difference. It was subtle, but you really could hear it.

Months passed and the time for my mod FINALLY came! I shipped it on a Tuesday and got there Friday. My mod was scheduled for the following Monday, and it was finished a week and a day later. It was difficult being without my MOTU for two weeks, but I was sure it would be worth it. And OH YEAH it was.

I wire everything back up, hook up my BLA Microclock, start working with the unit, and immediately I can hear a big difference. There was a LOT more clarity in the spectrum, just more clarity in transients and especially in tonal balance. I was able to notice things like, oh the kick is too boxy or the bass is a bit too boomy. Things came together quicker in the mix and to my surprise it was extremely translatable! That was my favorite part. I usually mix on a handful of speakers, but I hate it when I get an awesome mix on one set and then it doesn't sound nealy as good on another set. I think that is a combination of things (that we don't have time to talk about right now) but I know the BLA Mod and Clock helped a TON.

And don't even get me started on how good it sounds once you record an entire SONG with it! My goodness! Imagine this for a second: your sound is only as good as the weakest link in your chain. Mine was my converters, for sure. Other than that I use great instruments, room treatment, mics, and preamps. So think: if your chain gets just 10% better because of the mod, and you've got a production of 40-60 tracks, then your production will theoretically sound 400-600% better. That sounds ridiculous at first, but trust me this mod will make you believe it. Things sounded SO crisp and real. Like I was sitting right there listening. It truly was the missing link in my sound that I always needed to get that "professional sound" that we all love. It's incredible!

The company is rock solid. They're honest, they're patient, they do amazing work, and they've got to be the nicest guys I've ever talked to. They really know their stuff and will sit there on the phone explaining everything they do and everything that goes into the mod until you run out of minutes on your cell phone. FIVE STARS for Black Lion Audio. GO check them out and see the inredible deals they provide.

Friday, December 11, 2009

5" Monitors, 19" Monitors, and Hall Monitors.

Christmas is coming. Do you have your hats ready? I do. The weather is starting to become "frightful," and I love it. I can't stand the summers here; they just get hot and humid; you can literally stand outside and start sweating just because of the thickness of the air. Anyway.

So...what's with the title? Well here we are again talking about monitoring. I'm considering getting a new set of 5" monitors for mixing mains. I honestly don't have the desk space for 8" monitors right now, and while I'm a fan of my Yamaha MSP5s, they just don't seem to give me the exact sound I want. I need a pair of monitors that I can listen to and start a mix quickly and get through it enjoyably.

A few monitors I'm considering at the moment are the Focal CMS 50, plus JBL LSR4326Ps, the impressive Genelec 8030A's, and the also impressive Adam A7s. These are all somewhere around $1000-$2000/pair, and I really think they will give me some good mixes if I find the right set. I am waiting to make a reference disk so that I can go to Guitar Center and try out the monitors they've got there. Anyone want to join me?

Now...what did I mean by 19" Monitors? Now we're talking about computer screens. I got some new 19" LCD monitors for my workspace. SO amazing. I used to work with two 15.4" monitors (very small for audio or video) and finally bit the bullet and went up to two 19" screens. I'm utterly amazed at the power I have now. The first picture is of my old small screens, and the pictures following are screenshots of my new monitors.

's so awesome. These are screenshots of my workspace now. Beautiful.

Now what about the hall monitors? I don't know. Just don't get tipsy on your Egg Nog.