Building Quality Homes
 

 

Recording Studio Tips and information 1

 Also see Recording Tips 2

 

  

Covering the following subjects 

 

Studio Equipment

Studio Wiring

Patch bays

Inserts

Midi

Master Controllers

Sampling

Microphones

 Music Software (Ad links)

   

Anyone building their own studio could benefit from the following Pages and Headings:-

 

 

Studio Equipment 

       You don’t have to have the latest gadgets and state of the art recording tools like computers running Cubase, Pro Tools, Garage band and many more software based programs, or dedicated stand alone multi track recorders to get good results in a Recording Studio. Just take a moment to think about “The old days” and how some of the best music around today which was recorded some 40/50 years ago only had 1 Microphone and 1 track (Mono) to record on. All the band played together in one room with the singer at the front (close to the mike) and the band behind and it was done in 1 take (Motown, Beetles, Stones) all went through that process, In fact I believe it was the Beetles and George Martin (Producer/Engineer) who came up with one of the first multitrack recordings (Sergeant Pepper Album only 4 tracks used!) in those early years but they did produce some good songs and music from using just 1 microphone! A simple stereo recorder can produce good results in a practice room if the microphones are placed in the right place!

 

 

Studio Wiring 

        One of the biggest headaches you may come across in building your own studio is the wiring of all the equipment, a serious problem can be caused by a phenomenon known as “Earth Loops”, this in practical terms means you can start to hear a “hum” or “Buzz” build up in your monitoring system or back line amps and into the line feeds of your inputs on the mixing desk.

 

         This is caused by all the different pieces of equipment having very small earth currents or slight voltage leakage building a potential voltage between different pieces of equipment or points, this can be solved by having what is sometimes called a “Star Earth” wiring loom (think more like a Star Fish). This means you start with your desk and monitoring system only, setting up so there is no hum, then take 1 point as an Earth and take a ground (Earth) wire to each piece of equipment 1 piece at a time, monitoring any Hum’s as you connect them. You may find that trying different locations on your equipment such as on Rack mounted Items try the bottom of a module or back panel (try undoing a chassis screw and scratch off some paint then fasten your ground wire to the screw and then tighten it back up). Make sure your Rack (Metal frame?) Units itself (if using one) is also grounded to this Earth point along with your Patch bay (Your [Jack plug] connector Screens should all be connected to this Earth).

 

 

 

Patch bays

          There is a constant need to connect various pieces of equipment to one another in the control room, “Inserts” which I will cover next constantly need connection to effects such as compressors, gates, flanges, phaser’s, equalizers the list is endless, however flexibility is the key word, patch bays are not just connector sockets in a rack, they are the way effects can be daisy chained and connected to each other. Most of your rack effects will have rear connector sockets, these are all copied, to the front of your patch bay for easy use along with more commonly used connections from your mixing desk.

 

      Midi and Data patch bays are becoming more common in use these days as technology grows with fibre optics being used to connect equipment, with computer ports like USB and SD card slots being required more in sessions for mastering and for transfers of large Data.

  

Inserts 

     Inserts are usually found on Mixing desks near the input connection stage, they commonly break the circuit between the input and gain stage or after the gain stage but before the EQ section of a Chanel on your Desk. This allows signal sources such as from a drum mic to be sent to the Rack of effects through the patch bay wiring to an effect like a “Gate” which can have a trigger threshold to only allow the main signal from say a snare drum to pass cutting off the background noise when it is not being hit. To have the Snare drum on its own track gives tremendous opportunities later in mixing to add specific Reverbs creating and sometimes making a song or piece of music ROCK. 

 

 

Midi

      Most musicians know about or have at least heard of midi, midi is a form of digital signals sent from one piece of equipment to another, a good analogy would be to consider a piano keyboard being like a row of switches either pressed on or off. There is other information included in this switching information like how hard you pressed the switch(velocity) and for how long it is held down(length), popular music software allows you to record yourself pressing these switches and then replay them.

 

      Once the information is recorded it can be manipulated to play with different timings, strengths, lengths or use different sounds, so in the studio Midi is widely used to record drum loops, piano, string sections again the list is endless usually from a Master keyboard, you are probably going to use some kind of Computer based system (who doesn’t’ in these days?) in your Studio, whether it’s a PC or Mac you will probably need a Midi patch bay and a Midi signal splitter/ booster box to send a copy of the Midi signal you have recorded to several rack mounted pieces of kit/ Synth modules/ effects etc. at the same time.

 

       If you try to daisy chain the signal using “Midi through” from one Unit to the next, Delays in the signal can get introduced and you find units at the end of the chain sometimes not responding or having a delay or other unwanted effects happen

 

Midi Controllers

      Electronic piano keyboards usually have Midi included into them these days and a studio will usually have one where the keys are “weighted” to give the feel of a real Piano, however Midi has or had when I last checked only around 128 different velocity points for each note. That is to say apart from Volume (which is kind of the same thing, and also has 128 variable levels one of which is usually set for all the keys) you can only strike a note 128 different ways!

 

        So there is a difference between the feel and sound level/ tone of a real Piano but not many people have room for them and you can’t easily sync what you play on a real piano with modern electronic formats without having a Midi conversion done on the Piano, or trying to use software to recognize what has been played and covert it to Midi in a modern sequencing/ Recording Software package.

 

    Other types of Midi controllers can operate and store EQ positions and levels on Modern Mixing desk’s along with which digital effects to call up and effect amounts, even routing Patch bays without the need to unplug a single Jack!. Although Modern Computer Softwarepackages are now including digital on screen versions of all these functions down to including Inserting, Mixing, EQ’ing, Patching, adding effects to Audio recordings, and playing Midi Sounds with effects all at the same time practically all from one box!.

 

 

Sampling 

     Sampling for those who don’t know by now is the conversion of analogue sound into a digital format that is to say for those who remember cassettes and tape recorders, sound on a tape, is stored as electromagnetic information as a continuous strip which is picked up as it passes a coil of wire (the Playback head) and boosted to an audible level through an amplifier. Sampling effectively cuts the “sound strip” up into thousands of small sections almost like cutting the strip of tape into a thousand or more pieces and then converts each section into a number, over a one second period, anything from a few thousand to usually 44100 (44.1 kHz ) sections (or samples) a second is common for CD quality.

 

       Studios can operate at 48 kHz or more for initial recordings for higher quality capture of sound, converting down to 44.1 kHz when eventually mastering onto CD. From personal experience, I could tell the difference between 44.1kHz and 48kHz when recording and playing back, but at 48kHz, nobody could tell the difference between someone talking live and the same voice being played back after recording it!. Can anyone remember that phrase “Is it live, or is it Memorex”? Well I was caught out many a time thinking a voice recorded was singing or talking live and vise versa.

 

      These days Sampling usually means copying a drum loop or piece of music from someone else’s music, or using a sound such as a bowed string, capturing a small snippet of it and then looping the sound so it is a continuous note when played back, then using a master keyboard, triggering the sound to play and/or pitching up or down the sound to make different notes and harmonies by playing 2 or more notes (triggers) at the same time.

 

 

Microphones

    Mic’s come in many shapes and forms but good quality microphones are essential for good recordings, Neumann , Senhheiser, Sure, AKG are common makes and old industry standards such as the famous AKG D112 for the kick drum and Neumann mics for vocals but cheap condenser mics can perform very well for a range of recordings and cheap mics like PZM’s are still great for getting general overhead stereo mixes especially if you have a small modification done to them to run them on Phantom power, a brighter top end is enhanced.

 

    A good idea when first setting up a Studio if you are struggling to buy mic’s is to get your first few bands that you are going to record to bring all their mic’s along to the session to add more choice and Oomph to their recordings (At least that’s what you tell them….Psychology and handling clients comes later!)