If you’ve ever recorded and mixed drums only to discover that you’re not quite getting the full sound you want, drum replacement might be for you. This is an old technique that’s been around for decades but has become increasingly popular with the boom in home recording we’re all witnessing. The big idea is to bring in a drum sample that compliments (or replaces entirely) your original recording (perhaps your snare, or kick drum). You then mix the sounds together to give a better overall drum kit sound. Today’s video goes over the easy (and free!) way to do this in Pro Tools or any DAW for that matter!
When it comes to actually recording in your home studio, there are seemingly limitless options of how to go about laying your tracks down. Whether it’s different techniques or mic placement options, you have a lot to sift through. I’m totally fine with that. The art of recording is just that, an art. It isn’t just science, so there isn’t just one or two ways to get a great sound. In fact, I want you to spend a lot of time getting unique and great sounds.
So what’s the problem? It all starts with this revolution of recording we are living through…the hard drive era. We no longer have limitations of how much tape we have to record to. In fact, with the price of storage so low these days you could almost say we have unlimited space available too us. And you know what that leads to…unlimited takes!
Resist The Urge
The moment I was first introduced to computer based recording, I saw the potential for recording millions of takes. At first it made sense to me to just record as much as you can and then pick the best take or takes later. But over the years I have come to realize how much of a hindrance this philosophy was, rather than a help.
I honestly believe that having unlimited takes and hard drive space has made us lazy. It seems we’ve lost that sense of urgency to try to perform our best in the studio and capture a great recording in a few takes. That was part of the magic of recording; it was a challenge to get that once-in-a-lifetime performance!
More importantly, having that feeling of pressure to produce (even slight pressure) created a sense of focus in the studio. Having limits and parameters tends to focus us. It makes us better! And that is how you should approach your home recording. Limit yourself. Here’s what I mean.
Set False Boundaries
You need to setup some pretend boundaries, some self imposed limits to your recording process. One simple limit to set up is the number of takes you will record on any given part. For example: When recording lead vocals, give your singer a few warm up tries through the song but ultimately only record three takes. This should be plenty of material to comp together later if need be.
With drummers I tend to capture only two takes through a song once they are good and ready. That gives me a couple of options of fills if I need them, but not so many takes that it lengthens my editing process by a few hours that I don’t have.
The idea here is that you want your focus and creativity to be placed on the sounds going into your system, not how many versions you can get. You’re only creating more work for yourself later if you do this, plus you are reducing that sense of urgency I mentioned a moment ago, which will probably dilute your creative potency rather than spark it.
Back To The Basics
When it comes to recording, we all need to go back to the basics. Millions of takes is not how you get a good recording. Take a good musician, have him play a good song, on a good instrument, into a good microphone, with good mic placement, into a good audio interface…and you’ll get a good recording. Every time. It’s that simple.
Limiting the number of takes you record helps you get back to what’s important…capturing a good song well. Use your ears, be creative, and have fun. But don’t trap yourself with the future burden of having to sift through too many takes. Be confident enough to get a good recording and move on.
This article is taken from a section of The #1 Rule of Home Recording, a free eBook covering the most important element of producing music in the home studio, the mental approach. To download the rest of the eBook click here.
Many times when recording you feel that each track sounds great at first, yet once all the pieces are in place (drums, bass, guitars, vocals, keys) the mix becomes “muddy”, is lacking clarity and just overall doesn’t have the vibe you were hoping for. If you’ve run into this problem, you’re not alone.
Mixing music is a complex task due to the even more complex nature of frequencies, harmonics, and how they interact with those of other instruments. And while great mixes don’t come from simply reading one post online, there is one tip I can share that will help clean up your mixes faster than any other I know.
Use Your High Pass Filter
Simply put, use a high pass filter like a mad man! For those unfamiliar with the high pass filter, it is a one band EQ curve that cuts out low frequencies while letting the high frequencies pass through unaffected (hence the name). Any basic EQ plugin will allow you to implement a high pass filter. The idea here is that many instruments like guitars, keys, and vocals have musical “information” in the low to mid-low frequencies that if taken out (via a high pass filter), the human ear doesn’t really miss. In fact, in the context of a whole mix where the bass guitar and kick drum are holding down the low end, the listener won’t even notice that you’ve cut out anything at all.
How This Works Practically
What does this mean for you and your music? When you’re starting to mix, make it a habit to fire open a simple high pass filter on most tracks (pretty much anything other than bass and kick drum), roll off up to anywhere from 100 hz to 350 hz (just listen to it and make sure the track isn’t getting too thin), and within seconds you will start to notice a lot more clarity in your mix. You’re basically taking away a ton of volume of tracks on frequencies that we don’t need to hear, thus “opening” up your mix and letting tracks play nicely together.
Cut It On The Way In
Another way to speed up this process (as fast as it is already) is to cut out much of the low frequencies while recording. To do this you’ll have to have a microphone or mic preamp that features a “bass rolloff” switch (sometimes called a low cut). This is a great move for us home recording guys as the rumble of air conditioners, the frig, as well as outside traffic can creep into your recordings just building up unnecessary low end that steals the headroom from your mix.
So do yourself a favor, cut the lows on the way in when possible and definitely use your high pass filter as a first stop in mixing EQ. It truly is the fastest way to clean up your mix and one of the simplest tricks to implement. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!
Keeping in theme with last week’s video on how to mic a guitar amp, today I’m reviewing the versatile amp modeling stomp box from Behringer, the V-Tone GDi21. In a nutshell this unit is a simple, affordable, and great sounding way to get a variety of classic guitar tones into your recordings or live setup all in one small blue box. Check out the video for more details as well as sound samples as I play through a lot of the settings.
The Quick Facts
- Huge variety of amp tones in one box
- Very easy to get a great sound
- Affordable amp modeling for your studio
- Can double as an overdrive pedal for your live rig
- Can’t beat the price!
- Some noise as you push the output gain up a bit
- Hard to read the dials from a distance
We’ve all done it. We set our hearts on that one piece of gear that will make our music sound shiny and new. So we buy it, crack it open, use it for a few months, and then a year later we find ourselves looking for something else to replace it. If we don’t sell said piece of gear to afford something new, we’ll justify keeping it around by telling ourselves “It’s good to have options.” or “I’m adding to my arsenal or tool kit in the studio.” But in this sad process of always needing something new, we are loosing out on an opportunity to garnish real value from the studio gear we spend a good chunk of money on.
Audio Peer Pressure
Think about it, we home studio people are living in a whirlpool of advertising and brainwashing that bombards our minds with thoughts of newer, better, more vintage, more professional, etc. There is always something new to buy. And somehow these companies (and the subsequent online forum lurkers and fanboys) convince us that our once awesome audio interface or channel strip is no longer what we need. In fact, there is something very wrong with it. “The A/D converters aren’t good at all,” “That mic pre really colors the sound in a bad way”, “You’ll never get pro results with that.” You get the idea.
Sure technology is always improving, especially with digital recording (heck we used to have to record at 16 bit, and no other option existed for digital users!). But the idea is that if we are going to research, save up for, and buy a helpful piece of gear for our studio then we need to commit to that piece of gear (or software) long enough to extract the appropriate amount of value from it. The more expensive the purchase the more value you can (and should) get out of it before (or if) you move on to something else.
Why Am I Doing This?
For most of us home studio owners this relates to our DAW choice and our audio interface. I would find it sad to see someone go out and spend even just $300 on a small Pro Tools LE rig (complete with an interface and the software) only to want to switch to Logic and an Apogee Duet a year later. What’s the point? You invested money AND time into a great studio setup only to throw any value you could get from it to pursue something different. Nothing against Logic (I happen to own it) or any other brand of interface (as there are many fantastic options). The point simply is to analyze each purchase you make and weigh out how much value has been extracted. Don’t cheat yourself.
Here are just a couple thoughts that might help you in this never ending process. Ask yourself these types of questions regarding each piece of gear you own:
- How long have I owned/used this? Is it too soon to just move on?
- How many projects have I recorded/mixed with this? Enough to know I need something else entirely?
- Will I make back my money with this new purchase to justify the cost? (If you record professionally)
- Am I debating switching gear purely on what people tell me or after my own listening tests?
- Will this purchase truly help me to make my music any better than I currently am making, enough to justify the loss of value from my previous investment?
If you liked this article you might enjoy:
Today I want to hit on a practical bit of advice. For most of you out there reading this blog (myself included), recording, mixing, and songwriting probably all happens in one room. It may even be a room shared with a a spouse, roommate, or perhaps your bed. This poses a challenge that many traditional studios do not face: inevitable clutter from daily life in your house.
From Coke cans and coffee mugs to stacks of paper and mail, to even kids’ toys and clothes, your home studio environment can quickly become a mess of everyday things. This is just life. If your studio is at “home” then it will easily blend in and become just as messy as the rest of your place. The problem is that a messy, cluttered studio does not lend itself to creativity or productivity. That being said, here are some simple “rules” I suggest you begin implementing right away.
Rule #1 – No food at your desk during recording/mixing
“Did he just say no food?!” Yes I did. Food just gets things messy in a flash. Plus it’s kind of unprofessional to be honest. If you’re hungry, grub it up before you sit down to make music. That way your hands are focused on one thing only: working your DAW. The only exception to this rule of course is a glass of water. No problem to stay hydrated in the studio!
Rule #2 – Clear your desk of unrelated clutter
When you are ready to write, record, or mix, make sure your working space is clear of any unrelated papers, books, and knick-knacks. I personally have this problem as my studio desk also is my work desk where I write for this website, email clients, and handle financial matters. I tend to pile up stuff all the time. So if I don’t file it all away before I’m working in studio mode then I tend to get frustrated, impatient, and “mechanical” in the way I make music. Not much creativity there. So do yourself a favor and clear that desk before you work in your studio. And one final thought: make it a point to re-clean up your studio space at the end of the day so that come tomorrow you are ready to rock.
Rule #3 – Close out all other programs on your computer
Since the majority of us are producing music in the digital domain via our computers, time in the studio also means time on the PC or Mac. So in order to have a clean studio you also need your desktop free of clutter and more importantly no other distractions running in the background. This means no email, no web surfing, no facebook, no nothing! Simply close out all programs other than your DAW and then get to making music. Don’t set yourself up to fail by keeping twitter open and checking it every 10 minutes. What’s the point in that? You can get more done in one hour if you are focused than in 3 hours if you are casually checking updates from the Tour de France (yep, I’m kind of into cycling, so what).
The Moral Of The Story
Honestly the biggest challenge we face as home studio owners isn’t the lack of an acoustically treated room or high-end A/D converters, it’s the distractions of home life and the clutter of our living spaces. We need to take a stand against the junk that piles up in our lives, if only for an hour or two a week, and create a comfortable, clean, and creative environment that will catalyze us into producing an opus of epic proportions. Take this seriously and watch your music flourish!
Here is Part 2 of my interview with the guys over at Worship Ministry Catalyst. In this podcast we discuss taking your songs and demos to the point of a complete recording, as well as how to approach mixing and mastering. In case you missed Part 1 of the interview, head here and take a listen.
Again, thanks to David and Kevin for hosting me and for running a great resource of a site. Enjoy the podcast everyone!
WMC Podcast Interview with Graham Cochrane (Part 2) - Running Time|42:04
Finally got around to doing a simple video on recording your guitar amp. In this tutorial I go over mic choice and placement, letting you hear the differences yourself. Think of this video as a starting point for your recording sessions. Whether you have a handful of great mics to choose from or just one basic studio mic, you can get a great guitar tone to “tape”. You just have to experiment! Enjoy!
Until you have had a hard drive failure or “accidentally” deleted your Pro Tools sessions where all your hard work is lost, tips like proper session backup seem boring and a waste of your time. If you haven’t had issue with lost recording then pay attention to this post because I don’t want you to ever experience that!
My hardest lesson learned was thinking that I actuallay was backing up my sessions properly. What I would typically do was record everything, and then when we were finished for the day I would simply close out of Pro Tools, find the session on my hard drive and physically drag a copy of the session folder to my backup drive. I figured “I know have two copies of the sessions. No problem” The problem arose when I actually lost some files and needed to access my backup only to find that despite having the audio saved to another drive, it was still looking for information from my old drive and the session was confused as to where each audio region was supposed to be in the timeline. This became a major headache very quickly.
What I’m going over real briefly today is the officially sanctioned procedure for file backup (and even prepration for session transfer to someone else) by Avid themselves. It’s super easy, so there is no reason NOT to do this:
1. Save Copy In
With the desired session still open in Pro Tools, simply head to the FILE menu and choose FILE – SAVE COPY IN.
This will open up a new dialog box giving you a ton of options and settings to choose from, which brings us to our second step…
2. Include All Audio Files
In this dialog box, most everything will be set the way you would want. Pro Tools by default will have the latest Pro Tools session type set, as well as the current audio file type, sample rate and bit depth of your current session (assuming you want to keep that the same for your copy). What isn’t selected by default however is the option to include all the actual audio you recorded. This is a no brainer, check that darn box now!
3. Name It and Save It
Finally you’ll be asked to name the copy of your session (labeled “Copy of …” by default) and give a location to be saved. This is obviously where you’ll want to select your separate backup hard drive as the final location. After click the OK button, Pro Tools will start copying everything over to the new session copy and you will be left with a neat and clean session copy with it’s own audio files.
The benefit to backing up your sessions in this fashion is that you get a completely unique and self contained session copy that isn’t “looking” to any other hard drive or disk allocation in order to function. You could burn and mail this, upload this to your FTP server, or simply re open it later if the original session is lost all without any hassle. Do this from now on and just know that you’re doing the right thing…especially if you are working with paying clients!
Quick thank you to everyone who entered my 100th Post Celebration contest this week! We had people entering down to the wire at midnight last night! But only one person came out a winner…congrats to Steven Glover on winning a brand new V-Amp Pro Guitar Amp Modeling Processor from Behringer! Hope you enjoy my friend!
Last week I had the privilege of being interviewed by David and Kevin of Worship Ministry Catalyst for their weekly podcast. These guys run a great resource and website (www.worshipministrycatalyst.com) with the vision of connecting musicians and worship team members around the world for networking purposes.
Recently they’ve been talking a lot about the songwriting process on their podcast and last week they wanted me to discuss the demo and recording process. You can stream the interview right here in today’s post. Hope you enjoy!
WMC Podcast Interview with Graham Cochrane (Part 1) - Running Time|24:31