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Audio Mastering Tips - Audio Mixing Tips - Audio Mastering Facts - Audio Mixing Facts

We try to anticipate questions you might have about our Mastering and Mixing services and about general audio recording procedures. So we provide the answers and information here. If you need additional information, please Contact Us

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Kick Drum Recording & Mixing Techniques And Tips...

 Mic Choice:

To get a solid kick sound, you need to use a large diaphragm mic. An example of a good kick drum mics is the AKG D112, the Sennheiser MD 421 and an Electro-Voice RE20. There are many microphones's made for recording the kick drum and each mic will have its own flavor and will favor different frequencies over others. For example, if you want that "tick" sound of the kick drum petal beater hitting the head, you would choose a mic that favors the lower mid range and the upper frequencies as well.

Mic Position: 

For a Tight Drum: (There are countless ways to mic a kick drum)

  • This does not use 2 heads. Remove the outer head and pace the mic inside the kick drum and position it at the batter head. The distance from the batter head depends on the sound you are going for. The closer you are to the batter head, the more impact and less resonance sound you get form that mic. Inserting a blanket or a foam pad inside the bottom of the kick drum will help dampen unwanted reflections. A good starting point for mic placement is about 5 inches inside the kick drum, slightly tilted towards the floor tom.

For a Large & Live Kick Drum:

  • To get large and live kick drum sounds, you should use 2 kick drum heads.The sound will sound more resonant with rich overtones. You may want to put a strip of cloth across both heads. This helps dampen overtones without destroying the boominess of the kick drum. Try placing your mic about 2 feet in front of the kick drum and have it point to the center of the head. You'll need to turn the pad setting on for the mic, or you may overload your signal.
  • Some drummers have a front head with a hole that they cut out or bought. If this is the case, you can position the mic slightly inside the hole or aimed into the hole. Note, that having a hole in the outer head can cause an annoying ring to it. To fix this annoying issue, you can lay a foam pad or blanket against a section of the front head to remove the annoying ring without effecting the overall sound.

Signal Processing Tips:

You can compress the kick drum during the recording phase. But you do not have too. You can do all this after its recorded into your program of choice. When I process the signal during recording, I will generally use a compressor, EQ, and a noise gate. I'll compress with a threshold set to around -10dB below the highest peak with a moderate to fast attack and moderate release with a ratio set to 2:1. Then I'll boost at 100Hz to taste and then I'll run it through a noise gate, with the gate set up to close after a few milliseconds after the kick sound. This will make the kick drum very defined and very stimulating..As I said before, you can do all that after its recorded using the program of your choice.

Some General EQ Tips:

  • Less Boominess - Cut around 80Hz
  • More Boominess - Boost around 80Hz
  • More Thud - Boost around 1kHz
  • More Click -Boost around 12kHz
  • More Attack - Boost 5kHz
  • Less Wallop - cut around 220Hz
  • More Wallop - Boost around 220Hz

Kick Drum For Rock:

  • Use a double headed kick drum
  • If the kick is too boomy, try cutting 2 to 6dB at 80Hz and then another cut  with 5 to 12dB at 200Hz. Use your ears to determine the amount of Db to cut. After these cuts are made, you should not hear any boominess anymore.In fact you should be hearing allot more of the head and way less resonance.
  • To add more "flap" boost between 2 to 10dB at 500Hz.
  • You can also boost a bit at 12kHz with a peak or better yet a shelving filter.

A Long Tone kick Drum:

  • This is for simulating the sound form the Roland TR-808 Long Kick. I strongly suggest you turn your monitors down a bit for these tweaks.
  • Boost between 8 to 10dB at 80Hz
  • Cut between 8 to 10 dB at 300Hz
  • Cut between 8 to 10dB at 1kHz
  • Boost at 12kHz until it sounds good to your ears.
  • Add a hall reverb with medium pre-delay and a long decay for sustain. Perfect space IR reverb has a kick and snare preset. I suggest trying one of the kick presets and tweaking it to taste. If you don't have Perfect Space, any reverb that contains hall sounds is good.

Funky Funk Kick Drum:

  • Cut between 5 to 7dB at 80Hz to get rid of the boomines. The more boominess you have, the more dB you should cut at 80Hz and the less boominess you have, the less dB you should cut at 80Hz.
  • Boost between 5 to 7dB at 350Hz
  • Boost between 3 to 6dB at 3kHz
  • Boost a bit at 12kHz using a peak filter or shelving filter. The dB boosted is just to add a bit of presence to it, so not too much boosting.
  • You are going to need to compress with a medium attack, slow release, a threshold set to taste and the ratio set to around 4:1


Pre and Post Fader Settings ?                                    <Back

Aux buses and sends include a switch or button that decides if the audio signal goes to the bus and then the track (Pre) or if the signal goes to the bus, after the track (post). So the pre setting is before the fader and the post setting is after the fader.

Pre fader lets you set a mix up that's totally separate from the input faders and the effects on the bus. Some people use pre  for headphones mixes because you can get 2 separate mixes form it. Pre send is not good for effect buses. If pre is used for effect bus's, the track fader can be completely off, but the send level is still on and therefore the effect can still be heard.

Post fader is great for effect sends, because the effect decreases as the track fader is turned down.. As the fader is decreased, the send level is also decreased. Therefore the effects on the bus maintain a constant balance between the dry and wet effected audio signal.


What Is Gain Staging (Gain Structure) ?

Gain Staging (structure) refers to the signal level as it moves form its source to its final destination. Along this path, you can have points where signal level changes can be made. Monitoring the strength in each point is a must! You do not want to clip or over saturate a gain stage.

An example of a gain stage: 

Voice to Microphone to Preamp to Compressor to Sound Card. With this normal vocal recording chain, you have 5 possible ways to change and alter the signal strength. The strength of your voice and the positioning of the mic to your mouth is a gain stage. The mic is also a gain stage, because it can have pad settings on it. All these components affect the signal strength.

You have to experiment with many approaches to find what works best for you and your set-up. Note, that not every approach will work for every situation. You need to trust your ears. If you're getting a great sound and your settings don't look right, that's OK, as there are no rules to gain staging. Over time you will build confidence when setting up gain structures. Most important is to use your ears and do not clip your audio signal.

Things To Watch Out For:

If your input level is too high, you track fader may have to be very low.  This can make it too low to have control in the upper part. When your track father is low, its very difficult to adjust and fine tune the audio levels.

If your preamp level is too high, the signal can overdrive the sound card's input or the next gain stage in the signal path. Preamp settings are the most important. A bad preamp setting will result in failure

If your preamp level is too low, your track fader will have to be too high and you can get a bad signal to noise ratio.                                                              <Back


General Microphone Tips...

As you may already know, each microphone has its own distinct characteristics. How do you decide what mic to use for a particular sound source? It's a choice you have to make and there is no wrong and right way to pick one. The general rule of thumb is, if it sounds good, use it. With that in mind, every microphone has its mechanical limits. For example, the maximum volume it can handle before it starts distorting or even worse, it gets damaged.

SPL (sound pressure level) indicates that maximum volume. It can be found in the microphones spec sheet. You can ruin an expensive mic by hitting it to hard and blowing and moving the diaphragm. Dynamic mics seldom have a max SPL rating. Condenser mics come with SPL rating because their built with electronic circuitry that can overload and that overload can cause audible distortion.

When you're trying to find the correct placement of your mic, you need to factor in the sound of the room. Putting the mic closer to the instrument, will diminish the sound of the room (environmental interference). This kind of Microphone technique is called close Mic-ing or tight Mic-ing. A good technique is to place your ear directly to where the microphone is at and this will give you a perspective of what the mic hears and in return records..

Each and every mic was built with a specific application intended for it. The characteristics of a mic help you decide what to use it for. Like the diaphragm size, the pick-up pattern and the frequency response. All those things along with understanding of their specifications will affect your mic choice.

Pick-up Patterns:

  • Omnidirectional is a mic pattern that picks up all directions equally. It doesn't reject sound form any angle. For this characteristic, the omnidirectional mics are great for capturing room ambiance and groups of instruments. Its great for picking up sound from a distance. These mics are not for live use as they can produce feedback more easily than any other pick-up pattern.
  • Bidirectional is a mic pattern that doesn't hear form the edges, but it hears equally form both sides. This mic is a great choice for recording two sound sources into one track by positioning the mic between the two sound sources. Another name for this is called the figure-eight pattern.
  • Unidirectional and often called cardioid pickup or directional has a heart shaped pattern with it most sensitive part being the part you sing into, facing the mic capsule. This mic is great for isolating sounds. Its great for when you're recording with a group of people. Because when you point the mic at one instrument, it will pick up less to none of the sounds from the other instruments in the opposite direction. The disadvantage of using this mic is you need to be up close to get the full sound. After a 12 inches or more, your sound will get very thin compared to the sound you're recording with the mic. This mic is great for live sound as it produces way less feedback than other microphone patterns, such as the omni and the bidirectional.

The Five Directional Pickup Patterns:

  1. Cardioid has full response at the front of the mic. It decreases in sensitivity of around 25 to 30dB at 180 degrees off axis. This has the heart shaped pickup pattern and like I said before, its great for recording a single sound source when you have many sound sources in the same room. That's due to its pickup pattern. Its more sensitive in the front and not so sensitive in the back or anywhere else.
  2.  is more directional up front than a cardioid pattern. It has a decreased sensitivity of around 170 degrees on the sides of the mic.
  3. Hypercardioid has a very high degree of up front direction. It decreases around 10 to 14 dB on the sides and is less sensitive at 110 degrees off axis.
  4. Ultra Cardioid has a very focused and directional pattern in the front. It also has a very small area of sensitivity at 90 degrees and at 180 degrees.
  5. Subcardioid has a much wider and extends more out front than the cardioid pattern. This pattern is close to a non directional- omnidirectional mic.

The Three Basic Categories of Microphones:

1. Condenser Microphones are the most accurate of the three. They are more precise in responding to fast attacks and transients than any other microphone and usually adds less tonal coloration than the other ones. Condenser mics can be a large diaphragm or a small diaphragm. You use a condenser mic when you need to capture the purest sound of a voice or instrument. Condenser mics need phantom power.

Here are some popular condenser mics

  • AKG 451,353, C1000, C3000, and C-12
  • Neumann U47, U67, U87, U89, KM83 and KM84
  • Shure KSM 27, KSM 32, KSM 44, KSM 141, and SM 82
  • Sennheiser MKH 40 and MKH 80
  • Audio-Technica 4033, 4041, and 4047
  • Blue Microphones Cactus, Mouse, Dragon, Kiwi and Bluebird

In Omni pattern, the condenser mic will capture a more precise broad range of frequencies at a greater distance than the other two mics. This trait is the reason the condenser mic is widely used in the recording studio, because it can capture the sound source and some of the room ambiance. The further the sound source, the more natural room ambiance it picks up.

2. Ribbon Microphones by far are the most fragile of all the mics and for this reason alone they are the least popular choice for live use. The capsule in the ribbon mics are bidirectional. The front and back are equally sensitive as the sound from the 90 degrees off axis cancels out. If a ribbon mic has its back enclosed and it becomes unidirectional. Ribbon mics have a characteristic of having a warm and smooth sound with close mic recording. When used at a distance, these mics sound thin. Do not drop a ribbon mic. Handle them with extreme care

Here are some popular ribbon mics

  • Royer SF-12 and SF -24
  • RCA 77-DX and 44-BY
  • Beyer M160 and M500

Ribbon mics require a solid preamp. Ribbon mics have a lower output than condenser and moving coil (dynamic) mics. The preamp needs to give you at least 60 to 65dB of pristine gain to bring out the mics better qualities.That's why not all preamps should be used with ribbon mics. Active ribbon mics can use phantom power, but passive ribbon mics can be damaged by the use of phantom power.

3. Moving Coil Microphones (Dynamic Microphones) got their name because they are made with a movable induction coil. This coil is inserted in the magnetic field of a magnet that is attached to the diaphragm. Moving coil mics do not really do good in capturing transients, but they are the most durable mic out of the three types. As for being the most durable, they are can also endure the most volume before they start to distort the audio signal. With that said, this mic are optimal for live use cause they tend not to feedback as easily as the other 2 types.

Moving coil mics color the sound more than a condenser mic. The frequencies affected by this coloration are generally between 5kHz and 10kHz. That frequency range is known to add edge, clarity and presence to its sound source, like vocals and guitar. When placed more than a foot away from the sound source, these mics will have a thin sound. With that said, these mics should be used for close mic-ing situations.

Here are some popular moving coil mics

  • Shure SM7, SM57 and SM58
  • Sennheiser 441
  • AKG D12, D112, and D1000E
  • Beyer M88


Why Don't You Master At The Recording Studio?             <Back

If you where to take a look at the credits on any major CD, you will see that every CD was mastered in a different place that specializes in mastering. Mastering studios are equipped for critical listening and have tuned listening environments that normal recording studios do not have. The mastering studio should be independent of the recording studio. Having a trained, non partial set of ears are highly recommended if you want your CD to be a success.


Complementary EQ Techniques...                                  <Back

Complimentary EQ techniques involves the cutting and boosting of frequencies in specific tracks. I use these techniques in all my mixing projects. You use these techniques for instruments that are in the same frequency range. Like Bass Guitar and Kick Drums and Guitars and Piano. The Bass Guitar and Kick Drum are in the same frequency range and so is the Guitar and Piano. Both of these instruments tend to mask each other in a mix.

Complimentary EQ techniques will make it so you can hear both of these instruments clearly in a mix, by cutting unwanted & unused frequencies, and boosting certain key frequencies  that where cut in the other tracks

For example: 

  • I will use the Bass Guitar and Kick Drum for this example, since I always see questions about these two. Let's say I boost the kick at 65Hz and 2kHz and then cut at 250Hz. Now since I boosted those 2 frequencies for the kick drum track, I will cut those 2 frequencies in the bass guitar track and then boost the bass guitar at 250Hz.

I did the complete opposite in both tracks. If I boost 65Hz in the kick drum track, I will cut 65Hz in the bass guitar track. If I cut 250Hz in the kick drum track, I will boost 250Hz in the bass guitar track. Note: these frequencies I'm cutting and boosting are only examples and these may not be the frequencies you should cut and boost in your mixes. Each mix will be different.

You also cut out all the frequencies in each instrument that is not needed...

For example: 

  • A vocal track normally doesn't use any frequencies below 80Hz to 100Hz, so you can set a high pass filter so it cuts everything below 80Hz to100Hz.

You do this for every single track in your project and you will have a clearer mix that is less muddy and a mix that you will be able to make hotter, since all the unwanted frequencies are cut out of it.                   


How Can I Send Multiple Audio Files, To Have You Mix And Master It ?      

You need to create a Zip File. This is how you do it in Windows:    (Go Back to the Upload Page)

  • To select a consecutive group of audio files, click the first one, then hold down the Shift key, and then click the last one.
  • To select nonconsecutive files, hold down the CTRL key and then click each file you want selected.
  1. When you have selected your audio files by using one of those 2 methods above, you right click any audio file and scroll down to Send To and then select the Compressed (zipped) Folder option
  2. This will create your zip/compressed version of your audio files in one single folder.
  3. Now you can upload the zipped folder into my Hightail Dropbox, located here

This is how you do it in Mac OS:

  1. Control-click or right-click on the file or folder (or multiple-selected files or folders) to be compressed (zipped)
  2. On the pop-up menu, click Create Archive of "file name" (or Compress "file name" depending on your Mac OS version).
  3. A zip-format compressed archive of the selected files or folders will be created on the desktop
  4. Original files or folders will not be changed
  5. You can now send the zip file through my YouSendIt Dropbox located here


What Are PQ Codes ?

PQ codes are data sub codes, that are part of the CD. They tell the CD Player where one track ends and the other track starts. The ISRC codes are contained in the sub codes, along with UPC/EAN or barcode numbers, if supplied with them.


Sample Rate, What Is It ?                                                 <Back

Sample rate is the number of times per second a recording platform either digitizes the incoming sound or converts the digital sound back to an analog signal.

The standard sample rate for CD format is 44.1kHz. (44,100 samples per second)  If you are recording at 48, 88.2, 96 or 192kHz, you must convert your sample rate to 44.1kHz if you want to burn your song to CD.

The standard sample rate for video is 48kHz (48,000 samples per second)

The greater the sample rate, the more accurate your recording program will capture your sound. But if your target media is going to be CD and MP3, then recording at 44.1 or 48kHz is suggested.

According to the Nyquist Theorem, the highest frequency a system can handle is equal to half its sample rate.


Bit Depth, What Is It ?

The Bit Depth will determine how many values are available to describe the amplitude level of an audio signal being recorded at any given moment. The number of bits determines the resolution of each and every sample. The more bits, the greater the resolution and the better the sound quality.

Just like the sample rate, the more bits used to capture a sound, the more accurately the sound will be represented.

Anything under 16bits is not considered professional. CD standard is 16bits 44.1kHz..

The recommended bit depth to record at is 24bits. Recording in 24bits will give you 256 times the resolution of 16bit recording. Even when you convert the 24bits to 16bits for CD burning, you will not lose the effects of originally recording in 24bit.

To convert from 24bit to 16bit, you need to apply dither to it.

Floating Point Bit Depths:

32 bit floating point processing means that after you record your audio at 24bit, you can convert it to 32bit floating point. This means that it will add the extra bits after it is recorded. These extra bits that get added onto the file after its recorded, will give you more headroom for processing (audio calculations).. I always convert all my files to 32bit floating point when working with my clients audio.

Having 32 bits, rather than 24bits is going to render a more accurate result. Some recording platforms do not have this option yet.


Dither, What Is It ?                                                                                        <Back

Dither is just low level noise that gets added to a digital audio signal. This low level noise helps mask and get rid of quantization errors..

Dithering should only be applied at the very last stage of the mix, when you're going form a higher bit depth, to a lower bit depth. Like going form 24bit to 16bit. This goes for fixed point and floating point bit depths. If your in 16bit and you have a plugin that processes your audio signal with a 64bit floating point engine, you need to dither upon mix down of that track or mix.

You do not dither when you go from a lower bit depth to a higher bit depth. You only need to dither when going down in bit depths. So, if you go from 24bit to 32bit floating point, you do not need to dither.


Word Clock, What Does It Do ?

All audio devices are made to convert and /or output samples at a high rate of speed. A standard CD player must read and output nearly 85,000,000 bits of data per minute. When you digitally link 2 or more devices together, the smallest of discrepancies in each of their sample rates can and will cause major audio problems.

To fix this problem with multiple audio devices, you should have a single master clock that uses a specialized timing signal called word clock. This word clock contains no audio data or any other types of markers. Its just a timing reference, that makes sure each piece of gear moves processes audio at the same speed.


Labeling Your CD's

Do not use sharpies to label your CD’s. Sharpies contain xylene or toluene and this can damage the data that was recorded onto the disk. If you need to label your CD, I recommend you use a water based permanent felt tip marker or you can use a special sticker label that is made for CD labeling.

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