Saturday, June 29, 2013


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we will answer a question made to me by a band I'm recording these days: how to create the "reverse" sound that can be heard on the snare drum at the beginning of the Muse song "Panic Station", and in countless other great songs.
This is an effect which is mainly used on vocals, cymbals and snare drums, and consists in creating a sense of "anticipation", a "crescendo" of tension for the part that is about to start.
The effect we're talking about is also different from a completely inverted section: sometimes for example a guitar solo is taken and completely inverted to give it a "sitar-like" sound, like on the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Give it Away" song, and to have this effect is sufficient to take the track and reverse it.

The effect we're talking about instead consists in taking a wave track (in the image depicted, we have taken some snare hit for example), to copy it on a second track and to reverse this second track (on the Cubase/Nuendo interface the path is Audio -> Process -> Reverse);
now we're gonna move the second track in order to match its peaks with the ones in the straight one, so that the sound builds up, reaches its peak and starts lowering again on its tail.

Now we have to make sure that the reversed track is not as loud as the straight one, in facts there will be a part of the peak that it's going basically to result doubled, and therefore it will largely increase its gain.
It's a good rule to compress and Eq this second track on the same Buss as the straight one, in order to level down the peaks.

Use this effect on your songs with parsimony as an abuse may result annoying, and never stop experimenting! Hope this was helpful!

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Thursday, June 20, 2013


Hello and welcome to this week's article! Today we're going to talk about an interesting bass present in the Ibanez catalog of the last few years, included the year 2013.
The Soundgear 205 Gio is an entry level model (as all of the Gio serie), which presents impressive fetures for its price range, features that sets it as the 5 strings bass with the best quality-to price ratio.

The body is in Agathis, the 34" neck is a "bolt-on" made in maple, with a 22 frets rosewood fretboard with a thin profile, very easy and confortable to play.  

The particularity of this bass that sets it above the direct competitors is the Phat II active eq: the two pickups are active, powered with a 9v battery, but the same is for the eq section: added to the 2 volume knobs and the tone knob there is in facts an addictional knob that adds more bass frequencies, to compensate the cheapness of the wood, boosting the eq at around 100hz and adding some air to the highs too.
This solution makes this bass much more resonant and deep, producing an impressive amount of low end.

Tech Specs taken from the Ibanez Website:

neck type: GSR5 Maple neck
body: Agathis body
fretboard: Rosewood fretboard w/White dot inlay
fret: Medium frets
number of frets: 22
bridge: B15 bridge
neck pu: DXH-5 neck pu
bridge pu: DXH-5 bridge pu
equaliser: Phat II eq
hardware color: Chrome

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

HOW TO RECORD VOCALS (a guide for dummies) PART 2/2


Once we have chosen the right microphone, there are other tools that we will need in order to record a vocal take properly: an Antipop Filter and a Headphones Set
The antipop Filter is a plastic ring with two layers of nylon inside, and it's crucial in order to avoid that certain consonants (such as the letter "P") that are catched badly from the microphone, can ruin a whole take due to the excessive air movement and "snap". 
This Filter is mounted on the mic stand and its distance from the microphone varies according to the mic type: it can go from 2-5cm away from a dynamic microphones, to 10cm with a condenser one. 
A good producer of Antipop Filters is, among the others, Samson
Headphones also are very important: we will use them to send the base to the singer's ears avoiding it to be recorded from the microphone (although a little amount of bleed is almost unavoidable). 
There are headphones of any price, from the cheapest ones (for example the one produced by Behringer) to the most high end ones, which are good for editing and mixing too (for example the BeyerDynamic ones, which cost 5 to 10 times the Behringer ones). 
My suggestion is, since for tracking isn't necessary an absolute fidelity of the frequency reproduction, to aim for a cheap set, just make sure that the headphones are closed, so that the sound spilling on the outside is as low as possible.

Distance from the microphone: while with dynamic microphones the distance, as in a stage environment, should be as reduced as possible, if we are tracking vocals with a Condenser Microphone we can choose the distance from according to the result we are looking for.
As a general rule, the more the singer is close to the microphone, the more the vocals will result "in your face", and due to the proximity effect lower frequencies will increase, as well as the sounds produced by the mouth, like the sounds produced by lips, tongue and throat. 
The farther the vocalist will sing from the microphone, instead, the less highs and lows will be captured from the capsule, and the more the "room" will be catched (so beware if you don't want to record on purpose the natural Reverb of the room).
Usually with a Condenser microphone the good compromise is to sing 15 to 25cm away from the capsule, this way the track will sound clear and upfront enough, avoiding too much room reverb, but also the proximity sounds will be avoided.

Gain Levels and Tracking Compression: when tracking vocals, a control of the amount of input gain is critical: it helps avoiding distortion due to excessive peaks, and to keep the signal-to-noise ratio optimal.
First off let's say that it's very important to set our project to a 24-bit resolution, then we should keep our signal on a maximum of -12 dBFS (decibels relative to full scale), in order to avoid clipping (which is our n.1 enemy). This level is enough to have a good amount of signal and to stay far enough from clipping levels.
If our singer has a large dynamic swing inside the same song, we can add a little Compression to the incoming signal. 
Beware, because in this case we're not talking about sound sculpting, the use of Compressors in order to modify the tone is a prerogative of the Mixing Phase, in this case we just need to tame the loudest parts in order to not make them clip: if we'd just lower the volume gain of the channel in order to avoid it to clip on its highest peaks, we could lose energy in the quieter parts; some of them could even result so low that part of the sound wouldn't be even catched from the microphone.
Keeping in mind that hardware Compression cannot be modified later in the mixing stage (and it has to be decent, because if it colors your sound in a way that you don't like, it's better to leave more headroom and to not compress while recording), it can be a good idea, to apply 2/3 dB of gain reduction on the peaks of the vocals when tracking, with 10-20ms of attack and a release between 150 and 200ms; this will be enough to reduce the loudest peaks, while mantaining a decent level on the quietest parts.

...And now, time for some track EditingAutotuning if needed, and we're ready to Mix!


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Saturday, June 8, 2013

HOW TO RECORD VOCALS (a guide for dummies) PART 1/2

Hello and welcome to this week's article! In the past we have already covered the topic of Mixing Vocals (Here), but this time we'll take a look at how to record them properly.
First off we'll need to find the right Microphone. There are two roads we can take here (I have purposely omitted the residual types of microphones available because they're quite expensive and not very common, such as the ribbon or the tube ones):

- Condenser Microphones: these are very sensitive microphones, that reproduces a very detailed image of the captured sound in a wide range of frequencies; those microphones needs a 48v phantom power on the preamplifier in order to work, so we must make sure that our audio interface features this option. 
With these microphones a proper room acoustic treatment is important too, since they can easily pick up unwanted room resonances; there are also portable isolation devices that can be mounted on the mic stand itself, and they will absorb the sound of the singer's voice avoiding resonances. 
An example of these isolation devices is the Primacoustic Voxguard.
This type of microphones, that put emphasis on the higher frequencies, are particularly suited for genres such as Pop or R n'B, and some brand with a good quality-to-price ratio are Rode, Audio Technica, SE Electronics
Finally, these microphones also need a spider shockmount, which is a mechanical fastener that connects the microphone to the mic stand with elastic bands, leaving it in a "floating" state that protects it from catching vibrations and other sounds we don't need.

- Dynamic Microphones: these ones doesn't need 48v phantom power, and are usually mono directional, with a cardioid pattern: this means that they take the sound of what's in front of them and tend to attenuate or cancel the sound produced behind them (which is particularly useful in a live environment). 
These microphones are less sensitive than the condenser ones, and usually put less emphasis on the higher frequencies, resulting in a more round sound, less bright and crisp, which is more suited for aggressive vocals, like screaming or growling, also because this type of microphones tends to accept higher volumes and air movement better. 
The most famous and common dynamic microphones brands are Shure and Sennheiser.

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

BITCRUSHER PLUGINS (With free Vst Plugins inside!)

Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we continue in our analysis of how to distort, twist and manipulate a sound, analizing a particular type of plugin that takes a normal, clean sound and reduces its bit depth, obtaining an audible degradation of the signal that may remind the distortions of some old sound processor, like the ones produced by the primitive 8-bit Nes or Commodore 64 sound cards. 

Today BitCrushers are used mainly for creative purposes, to give a sound a sligh touch of vintage/lo-fi vibe, and it can be heard often in some Muse and Linkin Park record.
Unlike the other distortions, this one is usually not applied on guitar, but it's more used for drums, vocals and sometimes bass, adding a touch of noise and digital glitch to the signal to give it more character. 
Just beware to not overuse it, or you'll risk to ruin your sound!
Another creative use may also be to Automate this plugin, in order to make the tail of a song to become progressively degraded, until it ends in pure noise (not differently by how the Radiohead's Karma Police song ends).

Today many DAWs already feature an in-built bit crushing plugin, but if you want to try some free Vst (and in this case there may be quite big differences in terms of tone from one plugin to another), here are some good free ones:

- TAL Bitcrusher: an interesting and simple Bitcrusher with hi pass and low pass filters.

- DeLaMancha Thrummaschine: a multiband Bitcrusher, Distortion and Overdrive.

- ToneBoosters Time Machine: a simple Bitcrusher with a very nice interface.

- Cmt Bitcrusher: one of the best around, with a Gameboy-like interface

- Time Machine Vintage Sampler: this one reproduces a vintage C64 sampler

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