Building Quality Homes


Recording Studio Tips and Information 2

 Also see Recording Tips 1


 Covering the following subjects    






Studio Monitors (Speakers)

Recording in the Studio

Production techniques (Mix down) 


(to follow) 

Recording live performances

Recording Backups

Handling Clients


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




          As a former Engineer and Producer, I can first offer this advice to Bands or Artiste’s when it comes to Recording, let the Engineer get on with it!, when it comes to input signals, basic set up of tone, noise, compression and levels most Engineers know how to get the best performance out of their equipment. Before even starting a recording session, share your outline plan and idea with the Engineer, how many songs are you wanting to record? How many tracks do you want to record on? He or she should suggest where to set up and which Track or Channel to use to enable good recordings with the ability to make overdub corrections (or Drop in’s) should the need arise.




             In these modern times, one may be able to record endless amounts of audio tracks on computers, however there is usually a limit on the amount of Channels available for mixdown on the biggest of Mixing Desk’s. Again your Engineer would usually start by getting basic levels of sounds in the mix and maybe suggesting what effect would enhance various tarcks.

 Bringing back Effect and Reverbs through EQ channels instead of Aux returns (which usually have only basic tone controls) and blending the tone with the original source can also further enhance effects, this tends to use up more channels on the Desk however carefulplanning should enable you to do this




            I have found that Reverbs are one of the most important effects when mixing, you may think many songs or pieces of music don’t use reverb however it is usually used in a such a subtle way that it compliments an instrument or voice without it actually being noticed in the mix. That is to say you cannot here any reverb effect after say a single note on a piano has been played, but the reverb kind of places the sound or instrument in an environment or room that will make it stand out or blend in the mix which ever is required. 


          Most people think of reverb as sound slowly decaying away like when in a church or even a bathroom (why do people sound better singing in the bathroom?), the reverbs I suggest you try for instruments and Drums, use very short decay times from points of a second up to several seconds, try also altering what is known as pre delay or initial reflection for even more dramatic effects (especially on Snare Drums and Vocals). Some Studio's may pay hundred's of pounds for one really good vocal reverb units, (TIP:-Recorded stereo reverb effect to a pair of  tracks to free up a top quality reverb unit for another voice or instrument in the Mixdown, you can never have to many reverb units in a Studio!) A personal favorite of mine for Vocals and quite cheap was the Lexicon LXP -1 which you can still pick up on places like EBAY or second hand music shops. 




  Gates are usually used for Instruments like drums or guitars, they can be used for almost anything and in different ways. It is a device for allowing signal (Guitar,drums etc.) to be shut off when it is not being played or hit, to cut out the background noise. This is done by setting a threshold to open the gate when a signal reaches a certain level, hold the gate open for a period and then close again, an analogy would be, think of a real gate in a field to allow sheep though, you have to push hard on it to open (threshold and also Attack) then hold it open (hold) then how quickly it closes  (Decay). Other uses for gates include triggering the gate to open with another source for example using a kick drum to open the gate acting on a Bass guitar giving the effect of hearing the two sounds strike at the same time making the Bass sound tighter.


    One advantage of using Gates in a Studio is to create silence on Tracks when instruments or sounds are not being played.  To enable recording sounds like Snare drums onto one single track, to enable effects (Like Reverb) to be added in the Mixdown.


      The advantage when playing a less Mic's are open all the time so less chance of Feedback but primaraly to enable drums like Snare's or Kick drums to have a specific reverb added to them, but not to any other drum sounds!



        These devices kind of Squash, squeeze and/or boost sounds, probably one of the most common uses are to set the output signal of acompressor to not exceed a certain limit or level, the unit will squash down any  increase in sound (this sometimes takes out the Dynamics or Transients (spikes) in the sound) and can make instruments sound at a constant level, this can sometimes be helpful when recording inexperienced musicians playing with erratic levels.


   They do enhance sounds like vocals, guitar, bass etc. when used correctly but do not usually compliment instruments like drums and the like. If  set correctly, a compressor can increase a poor signal source and act as an automatic gain boost bringing low level signals up to a constant level or vise versa, capping strong signals down to a ceiling level without taking the life (or Dynamics) out of the sound/performance to much.  


Studio Monitors (Speakers)
     Yamaha NS10's are an industry standard for Studio's to use when recording, but are mainly used for mixing down on, I have found they are quite harsh when listening through however when a mix sounds good on them it usually sounds good everywhere (as long as you don't have any EQ on your monitor amp to colour the tone of the sound, that's why they are used in a lot of studios  (they usually have White cones) and there is a modification you can do to them, which is putting a car stop light bulb rated at 22 watts at 12v in series with the tweeter (HF Speaker) inside the NS10's, the bulbs actually light up behind the cones if to much treble is used (like from Cymbals) which is not good for your mix and it stops your tweeters from blowing as the lights indicate to much Treble or high end EQ and the illumination briefly acts as a fuse disspersing the excess power and gives you a chance to save your tweeters.
      (TIP) When you crank up the volume on mixdown and start EQ'ing Drums (as I believe most engineers do 1st), watch your Speaker cones move in and out, and watch the rubber mounts on the cone jumping out or displacing if to much Bass tone is added when EQ'ing a bass drum or deep sounding tom, this is not good for the Mix and there may be some frequency's you can reduce to eliminate this without spoiling the overall sound ( Some people refer to these frequency's as "Transients" in the sound).  



Recording in the Studio


    I’m going to give an example of how I would record a band for a layered session:

(Layered Recordings, recording 1 instrument correctly at a time)


    A practical problem when trying to record a band is how many tracks you have available to record on at one time?, most medium sizeddesks only have 8 sends available on the recording buss or groups, or when recording to pc, some audio conversion cards only have 8 channels or inputs available at any one time.

    If you have a typical band line up, I would first put the Drummer in the Recording Booth and mic up his kit,

I would have:-


1 mic on the Kick on its own track


1 mic on the snare on its own track


1 mic on the high hats on there own track


1 mic on each tom, panned left to right (e.g. 3 toms sent to two recording channels but panned at 3 o’clock 12 o’clock and 9 o’clock ) with a stereo pair of Over heads for Cymbals  panned left and right fully, recorded to the same pair of tracks but balanced as close to a final level as you can judge.

That’s 5 Tracks used so far….


     The rest of the band would set up in the control room if you don’t have any more rooms and would emulate their sounds very crudely or maybe just use a clear sound to send a signal down headphones to the drummer from the desk. The vocalist would also have a mic and all the other instruments would be recorded on the remaining tracks as ghost tracks, maybe a mix of guitars on track 6, bass on track 7, Vocals (vox) on track 8.


Then when a perfect Drum take is down for all your songs (it dose not matter if vocals or instruments have played wrong or Bum notes as long as the Drum tracks stand up on their own), check and listen through several times with ghost tracks playing and without them playing, after several play back’s you will know if the Drum part has the right feel and levels (Cymbal and toms balance) for your songs.


Then usually the Bass sets up in the booth with headphones and plays to the drum tracks with some of the ghost tracks turned up in the headphones (obviously not the ghost bass) until his/her parts are done, at this stage any mistakes on the bass tracks can usually be “dropped in” a term which means the engineer finds a place in the song before the mistake and gets the bass to play along then hits the Record button in a gap between notes just before the mistake and then drops out again in a way that is not noticed when played back. (Dropping in is usually easy, dropping out is not! It is sometimes better to get the musician to play to the end of the song once dropping in midway through a song)


Then each other instrument would record their parts in the same way finishing with the Vocals.



Production techniques (Mix down)

       When Starting a mix down, I would first start with the drums, starting with the kick drum and set all tone (EQ) flat, start with a little bass but equal amount of top end, the click from a bass drum needs to be prominent (TIP:-start with boosting frequency’s above 1khz). Then use a small room reverb and have the reverb returns coming back through a pair of main channels and EQ them same as the kick drum but with less Bass tone.


        Experiment with the 1st reflection or pre delay from 0.1 to anything up to 0.5ms on your reverb delay times, set the decay time to around 0.5 to 5 seconds, a short decay time keeps a mix tight and punchy’ longer decay times give a more Rock feel and sound.


         Then a similar process with the snare drum is done, except a pre delay of up to 0.6 to a few seconds can be used and the decay would usually be long enough to hang the snare sound until the next beat when all the instruments are playing together. Try altering the pre delay and decay on the reverb affecting the snare drum until the mix starts shaping together and starts grooving.


         The toms should have the same kind of reverb on them as should the overhead mics to place them in the same sound environment as the kick and snare drums. Then try using the same reverb for the kick on the bass guitar, if your bass guitar lacks punch try using an insert and send it through a compressor or graphic EQ.


        Guitars usually get recorded with all of the effects on them as it is difficult to re-create the effected sound if just a naked sound was recorded, again when mixing, adding a little reverb like a small hall with a short decay will make the guitar blend into the mix more (when I say blend, I mean as if it was playing with the band at the same time and not sticking out like a bad drop in). All this reverb use is very subtle, I would have all the reverbs quite up front at first to fine tune delays, decays and tone etc. then I would reduce them using only the snare drum reverb and main vocal reverb more heavily in the mix.