Saturday, February 28, 2015

Review and Tutorial: Fabfilter Pro Mb

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to talk about another Fabfilter product, the Multiband Compressor Fabfilter Pro Mb.
If you have read our Multiband Compression article you will already know that a Multiband Compressor is s tool that sets itself halfway between a Compressor and an Equalizer, because it lets you Compress frequences selectively, with the result of a gain attenuation (or expansion, since this unit works as an expander too) only in a certain frequency area and only when triggered, unlike an Equalizer that, once set, works continuously.
Multiband compressors usually come handy when dealing with a multi instrument track, for example in the Mastering Phase, since if we have to deal with a single instrument track often we can shape the tone with a traditional single band compressor and an equalizer, but some sound engineer likes to use a Multiband comp in the single tracks too, because this way the compression can be less invasive and more transparent, and can help us limiting the use of an Equalizer (remember, the more we intervene on a sound with an Eq, the farther we move it from the original sound, making it more and more digital).
This particular Multiband Compressor, the Pro Mb, is a Swiss Knife of useful tools: it has up to six bands that can be Compressed or Expanded, an internal Sidechain function that for example compresses a certain area when another area is activated, Mid Side Processing (which means that you can compress for example the low frequences set in the center of the mix and the high frequences of the cymbals panned on the extreme left and right leaving the central highs untouched), and a good Frequency Analyzer that lets us see in real time how we are affecting the track.
Overall this tool is another suggested plugin, because it lets us get rid of at least a couple of other plugins in our Vst chain, and we really hope that Fabfilter will create someday a handy Channel Strip with Gate, Eq, Comp (with analyzer) and Saturation  just to make us load One single plugin per channel!

- Up to six processing bands, freely placed anywhere in the spectrum, which can be easily snapped together to form a traditional crossover system

- Unique Dynamic Phase processing mode featuring zero latency, no static phase changes and no pre-ringing artifacts

- Fully customizable per band: threshold, range, attack, release, output gain, ratio, variable knee, lookahead (up to 20 ms), variable stereo linking, mid- or side-only processing, external side chain input, triggering on a separate frequency range

- Global dry/wet mix from 0% to 200% to easily scale the total effect of the plug-in

- Accurate and smooth real-time frequency analyzer with pre- and post-processing options and 'freeze' feature, with Precise output metering

- MIDI Learn

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Interview: Giuseppe Orlando, of OuterSound Studios

Giuseppe Orlando is a famous producer which has his studio (the OuterSound Studios) located in Rome.
The guy has played with many projects, from Novembre to Rosae Crucis to The Foreshadowing, and is considered to be an institution about rock and metal production.
Here's our interview:

GuitarNerdingBlog: Hello Giuseppe and welcome to Guitar Nerding Blog! Introduce yourself to our readers, tell us your story!

GiuseppeOrlando: Hi and thanks for the interview. I'm Giuseppe Orlando, producer at The Outersound studios and drummer of Novembre, The Foreshadowing and Airlines Of Terror. I started to play drums at 11 playing metal and studying all styles. I also played in several different projects like Abstracta , Ghouls , Rosae Crucis, Valkiria and others. I've always been an open minded guy so I tried to play the most kind of music in my life. The studio experience started in 96 in another studio called Random music house and after two years I've moved to Outersound.

GNB: Tell us about your career. We know you've been playing in many projects during the last few years, and the most important one is obviously Novembre, which according to the Wikipedia page are currently on hold, and The Foreshadowing.
Which are your career highlights? Which are the artists that influenced you the most? Is it there still some collaboration that you wish you would do?

GO: I have played with many bands and I did lots of concerts in every kind of club, but of course the highlights are the tours and the festivals. As Novembre we toured europe with band like Opeth, Katatonia, Moonspell and Kreator and played in several european important festivals like Summer breeze and Wave gothic Threffen. With The Foreshadowing instead, we recently toured USA and Canada with Marduk, Moonspell, Inquisition and Deathwolf and Europe with Swallow the Sun and Antimatter. With Airlines Of Terror we shared the stage with Decapitated, Rotten Sound and Dark Tranquillity.

All great experiences!! I've been influenced by many different kinds of artists, from 80's Pop/Dark music to Terrorizer, Yes, Slayer, King Crimson, Paradise Lost, Voivod, Dream Theatre and many others but as a drummer I would say Sean Reinert not only for technique but also for his "fusion" (not the musical genre) state of mind. His work on Human by Death was absolutely innovative. I don't have a real wish of collaboration with other bands except for Slayer Ahahaha.

GNB: What do you think about the actual music business? What are your thoughts about underground and mainstream music scene nowadays?

GO: The music business nowadays is in a deep crisis. Everything is online and the only bands that are continuing to sell are the bigger ones, even if much less than before. You can see it in the festivals, headliners are always the same. The scene does not grow in terms of "Making money", and many labels ask you money to "cooproduce" your albums because they don't want to risk too much. Of course there are exceptions but the way is much harder than 20 years ago. Underground scene is cool, there are lots of good bands and maybe this is the category that benefit the most from the digital world. It's the new tape trading and you can spread your music all over the world. The problem is Inflation and the falling demand due to internet.

GNB:  What do you think about the digital music distribution? What about the file sharing? How do you think the music business will evolve in the future?

GO: Digital distribution is a thing that brings few money only to few people and file sharing is already dead because of the streaming. I think streaming is the present and the future by now, I just hope that someone will find the way to bring the music sellable again because this is the point. New computers doesn't have cd players, so why should I buy cds? Everything is in the mobile right now, so what should I buy?

GNB: Tell us some funny story: which one has been your best/funniest experience as a musician? And your worst one?

GO: There are lot of funny moments in the life of a band but maybe the funniest are in the backstage with other bands. I remember an italian small tour with Labyrinth, Domine, Centurion and White skull where we passed 2 hours telling jokes, I was dying with laughter!!! Or in Amsterdam where we were smoking a not lightened cigaret but soaked with popper. All our faces were red and we couldn't watch to each other faces ahahaha. Worst moments have to be forgotten!!

GNB: Since many readers of our blog are mainly interested in the technical side of the guitar world, can you tell us something about your studio and live equipment? Can you tell us something about the last recordings you've done?

GO: In the studio I usually use my Premier Signa, I lover her!!! It's very versatile!! Live set up depends…. Ufip Cymbals for both studio and live. Sm 57, Audix i5, Akg D112 , Akg 414. Neumann U87. Pre Api 512c. Inward connection and Tla. Last recording are on the way. The new Airlines Of Terror is done and the new The Foreshadowing is in work in progress. Very different styles, for Airlines I used a piccolo snare and the goal was to have a fast attack drums. Even Cymbals mikes were closer than usual and the bass drum was triggered. Different from the new Foreshadowing where I used bigger sizes for toms, real bassdrum and a deep snare.

GNB: Tell us something about you recording studio (Outer Sound Studios): which Daw do you use? What are your favourite vst plugins? Do you use hardware outboards or you prefer to mix in the box?

GO: I use Protools Hd 2 in a MacPro but I also have a Protools Hd3 in a Powermac G5. I mainly use Waves but I also like Fabfilter and the ChannelStrip from Metric Halo, also Pt plugs are very good. It also depends on what you have to do. Sometimes you put your "everwinning" plug on a track and it doesn't work. I prefer to mix in the box because is total recall. Even if I use outboards I would record the processed signal in the box. I recently used a couple of Distressor for the Airlines mix.

GNB: Let's talk about guitar tone: what is your favourite way to get a good guitar tone? Do you use vst amp simulators or you prefer to mic a cabinet? Have you got any tip to share?

GO: I like to use amps but the guitar player have to be good first. Also the guitar as to be good! I remember when I did Mare Nostrum from Stormlord, the guy had 6 guitars but only one was very defined on top to do the thrashy parts. For that session we used a Mesa Dual Rectifier with a double stack. 2 sm 57 in one cab , different cones, and a third 57 in the second cab. I mainly use sm57 on guitars and I've tried many settings in my life. I'm recently using one 57 straight to the cone and one off axis in the same cone. i5 from Audix is also cool but all depends. I also did good guitars with one 57. Of course I use simulators, O really like some of them for some specific stuff. I still use Line6 Ampfarm sometimes to give more definition. Unfortunately they lack of dynamic sometimes.

GNB: Do you have any advice for the guys that wish to open a recording studio on their own, or to become mixing or mastering engineers?

GO: Use your ears but keep in mind that there are some technical rules to respect.

Try not to use drums libraries only!

Mike your drums, put new drum heads and beware the phase problems. then you can mix the real layer with the fake one to bring more power.

Lead the band to play well because cohesion is half of the job to have a powerful record.

GNB: The interview is over! Tell us about your latest works, projects and tours! Thank you very much and we hope to see you soon live!

GO: Yes, as I was saying before the new Airlines Of Terror is done and I hope that it will be out in spring. You can hear the song UFO=TESLA in the Brutal Beatings Compilation by Sickdrummer at The new The Foreshadowing is being recording and I think it will be out in late spring, but I'm not sure. There are some tour arrangements and festivals in sight but anything is confirmed yet. Thanx for the interview!!!!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Minimal Mixing Approach Part 2/2


Rhythm Guitars: proceeding with our minimal mixing project, started from the base of the song, the rhythm section, it's time to take a look to the rhythm guitars.
We can record two guitar tracks (microphoning the amplifier or using vst amp simulators for example) and pan them one 80% left and one 80% right, in order to give some "wall of sound" effect; then we can route them into a stereo group track and from there do some equalization in order to clean up the sound a little bit and move it more on its place in the mix.
Obviously eq varies from guitar track to guitar track (see the dedicated articles), but the idea is to use a low pass filter to take out the excessively fizzy frequences (for example the ones above 10/12khz) and a high pass for the subsonics (up to 50 to 100hz). From there we can just use a spectrum analyzer (or just our erars) to see if there are resonances to tame, and finally we can shape the tone to our taste (for example boosting the top end, or scooping out some mids).
If unavoidable, we can use a multiband compressor just to tame the low end (which means compressing only the area from 50 to 250hz), if the palm muting produces too many lows but we can't fix it with the eq.

Lead Guitars: This track usually gets kept in the center, and it should be treated like a vocal track, with effects (such as Delay, for example), and it should be compressed in order to keep it stable with volume. The eq should be more "mid-oriented" (which means that it could benefit from a wide boost around 2khz) in order to make the solo to stand out more from the other guitars.

Vocals: Another track that is usually kept dead center. Vocals need a good compression, for example a 8:1 ratio with a fast attack, but it could be even higher for rock/metal: we need to keep it stable or it will drown among the other instruments. The ideal is to acquire the vocal tracks as natural as possible and as good sounding as possible, since the more we touch the eq (other than filtering out the unnecessary lows, for example below the 50hz), the less it will sound natural. For the effects, check out the next section.

Fx tracks: Now that we have all of our tracks ready, it's time to put some icing on the cake: some effect.
We should create a couple of Fx Tracks: one for Reverb and one for Delay (actually we would need more than one reverb and one delay with different settings in order to be perfect for each instrument, but this is the minimal mixing approach, so we're gonna keep it minimal).
We must take the reverb track, set it quite short since its purpose it's to make it feel like the whole album is recorded in the same room at the same time (not in a cathedral), and high pass everything above 500hz or 1000hz, in order to not engulf the lows with resonances, and send it to the snare, toms and cymbal tracks, adjusting the amount to the point that you have to notice it only when you solo the track.
Now we must create a Delay track, set a very short delay just to thicken the sound and send it to the vocal tracks and the lead guitar tracks (always with moderation).
Now, if we feel that the vocals needs some more thickening or that the sound is still too dry we can send (after the Delay) some Reverb too.

Now that our minimal mix is ready, to we can move to the Minimal Mastering Chain and complete our tutorial on how to create a song with as few moves as possible!


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Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Minimal Mixing Approach Part 1/2

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to take a look to the "mixing phase" version of the "minimal mindset", the same that we have already examined with our "The Minimal Mastering Chain" article.
We're going to strip down a simple rock mix to its essential elements, taking as few steps as possible to achieve a good sound, and the idea behind these minimal articles is to make you understand what is more important and what is just "flavour", since priority is fundamental, especially when working with deadlines.
This article does not substitutes to the dedicated articles I've made in which I explain how to mix guitars, bass, drums, vocals...
And since we're covering just the basics we won't lose too much time into shaping the tone or fixing in the mix: if on a regular mix the original sound is 60% of the job, in this case it's gonna be 85%, so tune drums right, avoid excessive mic bleed, mic the guitar amp properly, edit the tracks so that there are no playing mistakes and so on.

let's imagine we have a rock project with 14 tracks:

- 8 acoustic or sampled drum tracks (kick, snare, 3 toms, 2 overheads and 1 hi hat)
- 3 electric guitar tracks (two rhythm ones on the sides and a lead one in the center)
- 2 vocal tracks (lead vocals and backing vocals)
- 1 bass guitar track

Starting with drums: first off we need to break down the tracks into 4 groups: 1 group with the toms, panned as we're sitting on the drumset, 1 group with the cymbals, 1 track with just the snare and 1 with just the kick.

Snare: this is the single most important element of the mix, together with vocals, and the sound that will draw most attention from the listener, so we need to get it right. if there is too much hi-hat bleed we can start with a Gate, then add a compressor that will tame the peaks and add fatness to the sound, and an equalizer to filter out the unneeded frequences.

Toms: with this group track, since it's a stereo track (a sum of 3 mono tracks with different panning) we will need to make sure we're using stereo plugins.
The chain is the same of the snare, but with different settings (the gate will need to be harder since the ideal would be to let the tom tracks be heard only when the tom is actually played, in order to avoid unwanted mic bleed), and always filtering out the unneeded frequences.

Kick: this drum part will need to stick out particularly, so compression and eq are fundamental: compression to even out the hits, so don't be afraid to push the comp more than the other tracks, and with the eq we're going to need to boost a bit the high frequences, to make them poke through the mix. If the sound is still too muddy, we can also add a harmonic exciter.

Cymbals: these microphones records basically the whole drumset and we can't gate them if we don't want to cut unnaturally the long tails of the crash cymbals, so we will need to do a pretty drastic eq, filtering out basically everything untile the bulk of the drums are gone, and then we can take out some annoying frequency and compress a bit to even out the hits, otherwise sometimes we might hear a crash hit with a much higher volume than the other ones.

Moving to the Bass Guitar: once we're satisfied with the drum sound, that must be clean and snappy enough, this is the second step to take: we take the bass track, for example recorded through a d.i. box, we load a good bass amp simulator (for example Ignite Shb-1) and filter out some of the higher and lower frequences until the instrument has a defined place in the mix that will not fight with the other elements.  Here we can choose wether to use a compressor with a high ratio to keep the low area of our mix absolutely stable, or to put two compressors in cascade, with lower settings, to preserve a bit more the original shape of the transient. The basic idea, though, is to keep the bass steady through the whole song, with no particular volume variations.


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