Tag: gear

Adding width to the main vocal or solo instrument with harmonizers

I don’t always go back to listen to records that I have released, but I do always tend to regret or wish certain things I have done differently in my mixes whenever I do listen back to them. One of the things I wish I had done more in my earlier records was experimenting with the use of harmonizers. I’m not talking about using a harmonizer to play a certain interval of the scale of a particular instrument, but more of the micro pitch (usually measured in percentages) effect that became a common studio trick in the last couple of decades.

What it does is take your vocal or main solo instrument, have one of the right/left channels play the same thing but a couple of percentages sharp, while the other side with a couple of percentages flat. The effect would be so subtle that it make things sound as if the solo instrument/vocal has gone from a small instrument in the middle to something that expanded out towards across the speakers. It’s an effect similar to chorus, but it’s meant to be very subtle widening effect, rather than a chorus effect in any shape or form.

Here’s an explanation by Tony Shepperd (skip to the 2:05 mark)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFmXyla_c2E#t=2m5s

Here’s an explanation by Andrew Scheps (skip to the 43:45 mark)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLnHlWpdIDk#t=43m45s

While I did some of that in my latest record, I felt that I wasn’t doing it properly (the plugin lacked certain features) and that I was tuning the effect while it was playing in solo, rather than in context of the whole mix. This made the effect a bit too subtle, and something I would need to look into improving on my next mixes.

Taking my most recent acoustic guitar post for example, I felt that I could have done that to make the main instrument sound wider and more natural sounding. I went online and spent a couple of days experimenting with various free (or very low-cost) non-iLOK harmonizer pitch shifting plugins. I found many that could only tune the instrument flat or sharp one way, but not the stereo thing of both sharp and flat. Some would not allow a different percentage between the different channels, or the option to add delay. I even found one that were buggy, where a +5% shift was more than a couple of semitones sharp. I also looked at various free (or low-cost) delay plugins but didn’t find one that could detune in both directions for both left and right channels.

Finally, I found a harmonizer plugin named CMX by StillwellAudio that had the above options available and sounded good. It’s not completely free, but the evaluation copy is free and the company’s philosophy is that they do not cripple evaluation software once a certain trial period is over.

After browsing through the pages, I recalled that I had heard of the company before when my friend Jon from Audiogeekzine/ Reaper Blog/ Home Recording Show had done a video demoing their other plugins.

In Tony Shepperd’s video, he explained automating the effect and only kicking in the effect on certain sections of the song, to give them contrast and listener’s interest. It’s something I should look into experimenting too. Now I just need to write more music… the hard part…

Ronan’s use of the Flux Bender EQ on my Record “Business Brunch Specials: Uranium Omelet (with GMO-Free Brown Sauce)”

Master engineer Ronan Chris Murphy from Veneto West Mastering​ gave me a mention during this episode of Ronan’s Recording Show​, where he briefly talked about how he used the Flux Bender EQ when mastering my record. It was a very brief mention, but **HUGE** fan-boy moment for me!!!!! Not only because I’m a crazy fan of his show, but because he’s also my mentor and teacher – not to mention that he’s also worked with King Crimson/ProjeKCTs, Mike Keneally, G3 (Satriani, Vai, Fripp), Bozzio-Levin-Stevens…. (Yeah, I know). Start at around 21:00 for the mention, but audio geeks like myself would want to check out the full episode because the EQ unit sounded gorgeous and spectacular, and really did add quite a bit of that awesome analog mojo to the tracks when I experienced it in person.

 

Steve Morse Interviews

Interesting to listen to Steve Morse’s perspective and how he’s constantly thinking about how he sounds in the mix, even when playing live (not just in studio)- and how he adjusts his playing in his technique, pickup selection, EQ-settings, etc. When watching the Sweetwater interview where he talks about his pickup selections, watch where his picking hand is playing as relative to the bridge, and how he’s changing the distances depending on how high the notes are that he’s playing (- something he didn’t talk about in the video, but interesting to see).

Interview with Sweetwater

Interview with Premier Guitar

Tone Wizards Book by Curtis Fornadley

Picture by Diego Lopez

Curtis Fornadley recently released a book entitled “Tone Wizards” that interviews top-guitarists and gear gurus on the never ending quest of finding the ultimate guitar tone. Curtis is an excellent guitar player himself, but check out this cool list of people that have been interviewed in the book:

Joe Bonamassa
Bob Bradshaw
John Carruthers
Cliff Chase
Peter Frampton
David Friedman
Jay Graydon
Scott Henderson
Eric Johnson
Jim Kelley
Jeff Kollman
Ronan Chris Murphy
Joe Satriani
John Suhr
Pete Thorn
Steve Vai
Carl Verheyen

At the time of this post, it looks like only the ebook version is available on Amazon, but the print copy should be available soon too.

I’ll post a review once I order one and read through it.

Pat Mastelotto’s Drums, Microphones and Studio Setup

Might be a little long overdue posting this, but here are some snapshots showing Pat Mastelotto’s drum kit setup, microphone placements and studio he had while tracking for my 2nd album back in 2013. Sorry about the blurriness – I believe Pat took these with his camera phone at the time.

Click on picture for larger view.

Microphones used

There were 2 overheads, 2 kicks (in and out), snare (top and bottom), hi-hat, toms, single room mic. The ride might have been mic-ed as well, but I do not remember exactly. The overheads were Earthworks (although I’m not sure what the model was).

Preamps

I believe he was using an API preamp

Which mics I used and which ones I did not

During mixing, I didn’t use the snare bottoms, kick (out), hi-hats. Things sounded much more focused and better that way. So it was mainly the overheads, kick, snare and the room. The toms were not played much, but I would un-mute those microphones whenever they were played. Every thing sounded excellent when they came in, and I all needed to do was enhance what I had with some processing.

$300 Dollar Home Studio Budget Breakdown

Recently there’s been a lot of discussions/debate on the interwebs on whether or not a home studio could be built with $300. While I agree on both fronts that gear does matter, while minimal budget gear should not prevent you from creating and recording music, the more important question is what would one really spend that $300 on?

I remember when I first started out, the audio interface and the microphone alone had cost just about that much, but there’s a lot more variety of options at lower costs with better quality available now (such as with audio interfaces and headphones).

Let’s ballpark it in numbers. Keep in mind that one may need to hunt in the used market to keep within budget.

  • DAW: Reaper ($60)
  • Microphone: SM57 ($70 Used)
  • Mic Cable: XLR ($15 Used)
  • Audio Interface (USB-interface): $100
  • Headphones: $40-60
  • Mic stand: ($15 Used)

Total: $300-320

You may decide to get a used pair of monitors for $100 instead, but that would also require purchasing of 2 more cables for that. (Headphones come with cables) – adding more to what’s already over $300.

The great thing about this list is that Reaper’s a great DAW for a great price and contains far too many features than some of the DAWs costing 8-10 times more. Its stock plugins are very useable. SM57 is a classic used in most electric guitars and snare drums for the last couple of decades. Most of the gear on the list would come at a one-time cost but chances are, that you would likely not need to upgrade those in the future.

This whole list assumes that the person already contains all the instruments needed for recording, and not need to make any additional purchases. Otherwise there’s no way to meet that $300 mark.

While there’s a lot of quality gear that don’t come expensive, there’s also a lot of poor quality things out there (<$99 audio interfaces, <$100 made-in-Asia condenser microphones) that one needs to look out for. While a bit of a stretch indeed, it’s not entirely impossible.

On the subject of gear vs technique – my dear friend Ronan explains it best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPLqA7jEF1