Categotry Archives: SOUND TECH TIPS

Producer Phil Dunget Turns a Flood in His Studio into an Opportunity

This Interview from Linda Maze, Musician / Singer – Songwriter /  Singer of the band Euphoria / and client.


FLOOD!!!  I recently heard about a producer friend of mine, Phil Dunget
who had a flood in his studio! Interestingly enough, Phil has decided to turn this tragedy (that has left him with little work until it is all restored), into an opportunity to help other musicians and producers of music.

Linda: Can you tell me how you plan to do this Phil?

Phil: I’ve decided to put together a series of blogs and video blogs one at a time and in order of all the steps it takes to set up a professional project studio in your home (or where ever). Since I had to tear it down entirely, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take would be producers, professionals, or musicians through the process with me. I will be offering a series of step by step instructions and advice!

Linda: What will Your Series be Called? Where can we find it?

Phil: I’m calling it Ten Easy Steps to Setting Up Your Project Studio. You can find it by going to my website, searching youtube, but the easiest way will be to Sign up for my Newsletter. This way you will always know when the next blog step is posted here or on youtube with a direct link from your mailbox!

Linda: That sounds great! I know I’ll be signing up… all that information for free and you get to see a visual on it!~Can you tell me what kinds of things you will be teaching on?

Phil: Some of the categories I will be talking about in the coming weeks include:

Ten Easy Steps to Setting Up Your Project Studio – from Dr.Phil

1) Sound Designing! How to foam the walls and set up any control room for the best and truest sound: - Answers the questions: ( How do I sound proof or acoustically treat my control room in my recording studio for the best sound?) I will talk about how much, how and where to place the foam for ultimate sound design, and suggest types of foam.

2) Placement of the Mixing Console: Digital or Analog? – Answers the Questions:  (What is better, an analog or a digital mixing board for my studio?) ( Do I need a mixing board / console for my studio? ) ( What are the pros and cons of a digital mixing console vrs a analog console? )  I will show you the mixing board that I use and where I set it up, and then discuss different options with analog and digital boards, how important mixing boards are or if you can get by without one.

3) Placement of Studio Speakers / Monitors: – Answers the Questions: ( How do I set up my speakers for my recording studio?) (Where is the best place to position my studio monitors? ) ( How do I achieve an equilateral triangle for my studio speakers? ) I will walk you through the setup of studio monitors; placement of speaker stands, mounting speakers and aligning them in the equilateral triangle.

4) Placement of Your Rack and Outboard Gear – Compressors, Equalizers and Effects Units. – Answers the Questions:  (What kind of outboard gear do I need in my studio?) (Can you tell me about compressors, equalizers and effects units?) I will show you how I set up my outboard gear to my rack.

5) Patching (Routing) in your Outboard Gear and Interfaces to Your Mixing Console. Answers the Question: (How do I patch in my outboard gear to my mixing console?)  In this blog and video blog I will be patching the outboard gear to the mixing console, and the snakes from the live room to the mixing board.

6)Testing Your Recording Rig – Is Everything Up and Running? Are we good to Go? In this video blog we will test out the studio to make sure everything is working. We will set up a microphone and record an initial vocal track.

7) Creating Your Sessions in Protools – Answers the Questions: (What is the Initial setup of Protools?) and (How do I open up a Protools session?)

8) Micing a Guitar: – Answers the Questions:  (Where should I put the microphone when recording an acoustic? ) and (What is the best type of microphone to use to record an acoustic guitar).

9) Vocal Microphone Setup and Recording Vocals – Answers the Questions:  ( What kind of mic do I use to record my vocals? ) and ( What is the best microphones for studio recording?) In this blog we will talk about how, where and what microphones to use.

10) Recording Drums – Answers the Question:  (What is the best way to record drums for optimum sound?) From what mics to use to where to place them and other great tips for recording drums.

I hope you will follow along with me though my Ten Easy Steps to Setting Up Your Project Studio.  Look for a blog / video blog every week in my series. Or better yet,  just Sign Up to My Newsletter HERE so you will know exactly when I am posting my blogs. (Your info is kept private I promise).
Should be a blast!

Linda: Hey Phil can you leave us with at least one picture of the damage in your control room?

Phil: Ok Here’s one…

Linda: Oh No!!!

Phil: So For Ten Easy Steps to Setting Up Your Project Studio, just Sign Up to My Newsletter HERE. It’ll be fun, cool and informative. See you soon!


Sound Marketing Recording  and Mastering Studios
Vancouver / Surrey BC
When you are ready to master or would like some re-mixing on your tracks, contact me.
You may also want to consider recording or  laying down your drums or vocal tracks here.
I offer a one-on-one instructional recording engineer course here in my studio or at yours.


Go ahead – Ask me your burning recording question!
Just click ‘leave a comment’  below.


Sign Up Now

Sessions Set Up and Organizing Tracks, Introduction to Pro Tools Basics Part 2

Introduction to Pro Tools Basics Part 2: Sessions Set Up and Organizing Tracks

Great to have you back to My Audio Production Course;
Part 2 of An Introduction to Pro Tools

Today we are going to go over the important ground work of how and where to save your sessions, creating and naming your tracks, toggling between track views, organizing your tracks; along with some cool keyboard shortcuts you should know.

It’s always a good idea to name your session and put it into a folder so that when you need to go back to it again, you can find it.

I like to make a folder with the artist’s name and then another folder in that one with their songs named.

Now your session is open and ready for the next step.

Creating and Naming Tracks:

Start by clicking on “tracks” and the “new” or start using the shortcut key commands ( I would recommend learn these as it will speed up your work flow)
Mac=Shift+command+N or Windows =Control+Alt+N and this box will appear.
I always suggest getting into the habit of making a Master fader First.
( unless you are mixing through your console using subgroups or stems. This is for more advanced users. )
Then click the “+” sign and create multiple types of tracks at the same time. If you need aux tracks and audio tracks,  you can create them all at once. When you have the types and number of tracks you need, click “create”.

Viewing Tracks:( Mix And Edit Views)

You can toggle between your mixer and edit window views by selecting “view” edit or mix.
Or you can use Mac “command + “+”or Windows Alt + “+”
You can choose to work in either window ( or purchase a second monitor for you computer and have both windows open at one time. This is what I do )

Setting Inputs And Outputs for your Tracks :

At the top of the mixer choose the Input you want to use for that Track Eg; “Mic/Line 1-2
And next down choose the output.If you are mixing within P.T. use the default Analog 1-2 or for
(” Sub-Grouping” or “Stems” us the appropriate outputs to your Mixing console.)

Record Enabling Your Tracks:

When you have setup your inputs and outputs and are ready to record some audio (or midi information )
into your session, click the “R” on your track to record and then press the “Record button” on the transport…you are recording..

Take a look at the following chart to get an Idea of how much space you will need for uncompressed audio files,
Before starting your session make sure you have enough disk space on your hard-drive.
You can access the window by clicking “window” then “disk Space”
Once you have recorded audio or midi tracks make sure you hit the Save Button !
In case of a crash or power failier.

I hope you have learned some useful tools in this Introduction to Pro Tools   basics Part 2.  Stay tuned for Part 3, coming soon. If you stick with me, I am going to take you step by step through Phil’s Audio Production Course. You will become a Pro!

Sign Up Now for my newsletter, so you will know when I release the next video  or blog containing some great new recording tips.

Dr. Phil
Sound Marketing Recording  and Mastering Studios

Vancouver / Surrey BC
When you are ready to master or would like some re-mixing on your tracks, contact me.
You may also want to consider recording or  laying down your drums or vocal tracks here.
I offer a one-on-one instructional recording engineer course here in my studio or at yours.


I’d love to get your feedback!
Just click ‘leave a comment’  below.


Different types of Lossy and Lossless Compressed Audio Formats

Caution Compression Formats! – By Dr. Phil

Do you usually use MP3, WMA, or AAC files  for your audio compression when ripping cds to Itunes or Windows Media Player; or when your final production is ready for uploading to the internet? That’s great, but have you ever wondered about other types of compression formats such as Ogg Vorbis,  RMA, or FLAC? When would it be useful to use these formats? We will explore these less common compression formats, and the different categories of compression they fall under: Lossy and Lossless, in this article.
Lossy? Lossless? Let’s learn more …..

Lossy File Formats:

Most people think that MP3 just means ‘music file’. In fact, MP3 means MPEG Audio Layer 3, and is only one way of converting music into digital files. There are many audio formats, and almost all of them compress the audio data so that it takes up less digital space, that’s less room on your hard drive, or less space on your portable music player.
The MP3 format is one that uses lossy compression. This means that it loses some of the audio information found in the original to make the compressed file much smaller. The information that lossy compression loses is the information deemed least important to the file. In music, this tends to be the very high and very low harmonic frequencies that are not considered to add as much to the music as the range of frequencies in between.
Many audio formats use lossless compression. This means that they retain every bit of information that is found in the original, so nothing is lost at all. Because of this, lossless compression cannot make the compressed file as small as it would be using lossy compression. However, lossless compression means that you get a smaller file without losing any information, and so is the only method that can be used when absolute fidelity is required.

What’s wrong with MP3 as a format?

Nothing. But MP3 is already being replaced by other lossy formats that claim to offer better sound quality while creating smaller files.
Creating a collection of your music in digital form, you may end up with a huge number of files in MP3 format, and then realize that nobody uses MP3 files anymore. So you’d have to start again and create all your music again in the latest format.
The advantage to creating your collection using a lossless compression format is that each file will be identical, in terms of information, to the original. The music stored in a lossless audio file will be exactly the same as the music stored on the CD (or other audio source) you created the file from.
So technically, the definition of MP3  is:
MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a patented encoding format for digital audio which uses a form of lossy data compression. It is a common audio format for consumer audio storage, as well as a de facto standard of digital audio compression for the transfer and playback of music on most digital audio players.

Other Lossy Compression Formats Include:

Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is a standardized, lossy compression and encoding scheme for digital audio. Designed to be the successor of the MP3 format, AAC generally achieves better sound quality than MP3 at similar bit rates.

OGG Vorbis:
Vorbis is a free software (open source) project headed by the Xiph.Org Foundation (formerly Xiphophorus company). The project produces an audio format specification and software implementation (codec) for lossy audio compression. Vorbis is most commonly used in conjunction with the Ogg container format and it is therefore often referred to as Ogg Vorbis.

RMA, RA or RM:
Rea lMedia is a proprietary multimedia container format created by RealNetworks. Its extension is “.rm”. It is typically used in conjunction with RealVideo and RealAudio and is used for streaming content over the Internet. Typically these streams are in CBR (constant bitrate), but a container for VBR (variable bitrate) streams, named RMVB (RealMedia variable bitrate), has been developed.

Windows Media Audio (WMA) is an audio data compression technology developed by Microsoft. The name can be used to refer to its audio file format or its audio codecs. It is a proprietary technology that forms part of the Windows Media framework. WMA consists of four distinct codecs. The original WMA codec, known simply as WMA, was conceived as a competitor to the popular MP3 and RealAudio codecs.WMA Pro, a newer and more advanced codec, supports multichannel and high resolution audio. A lossless codec, WMA Lossless, compresses audio data without loss of audio fidelity (the regular WMA format is lossy). WMA Voice, targeted at voice content, applies compression using a range of low bit rates.

Lossless Compressed formats:

Even though lossless audio is a perfect copy of the original, a file created with lossless compression will not be as small as a file created with lossy compression. So if you have a limited amount of data storage on, for example, your portable music player, smaller files will mean you can fit more files on your player storage. That is, using lossy compression may reduce the quality of the music slightly, but it allows you to take a greater number of music tracks (or albums) on the bus to work.

When is Lossless Audio Useful?

Lossless audio files are great for archiving your music. A while ago this would have been possible only for a small number of audio tracks, or for professionals who could afford a lot of storage devices.
However, hard drives are now so large that it is possible to store your entire CD, tape, and vinyl collections in the form of lossless audio, and still have space left to run your operating system, word processor, and games.
Because lossless audio files are an exact copy (in information – music – terms) of the original source, you can then use software that will process any of those lossless files into a lossy, smaller copy. So if the MP3 format stops being the standard, you can just delete all your MP3s, and use software to create lossy copies of a different format, using the archive of lossless files you have built up.

Can’t I just convert my MP3 files to another format if necessary?

Yes, you can convert MP3 files into any other format that you can find software for. But because MP3s are created with lossy compression, the information they contain about the music is not a perfect copy of the original. So you would be working from an imperfect source. Even if the format you were converting to allowed better audio quality than MP3, your converted files would not be able to make use of this extra quality, because you would be working from an MP3 file. Conversion and compression can only ever make quality stay the same or get worse; they can never make quality improve.
The only way to get more purity would be to delete all your MP3 files and start all over again, creating new files from the original audio source.

Some Lossless File Formats:

(Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a codec (compressor-decompressor or coder-decoder) which allows digital audio to be losslessly compressed such that file size is reduced without any information being lost. Digital audio compressed by FLAC’s algorithm can typically be reduced to 50–60% of its original size, and decompressed into an identical copy of the original audio data.
FLAC is an open format with royalty-free licensing and a reference implementation which is free software. FLAC has support for metadata tagging, album cover art, and fast seeking.
Though FLAC cannot store floating-point data, and playback support in portable audio devices and dedicated audio systems is limited compared to lossy formats like MP3 or uncompressed PCM, FLAC is supported by more hardware devices than competing lossless compressed formats like WavPack.

MPEG-4 Part 14 or MP4 (formally ISO/IEC 14496-14:2003) is a multimedia container format standard specified as a part of MPEG-4. It is most commonly used to store digital video and digital audio streams, especially those defined by MPEG, but can also be used to store other data such as subtitles and still images. Like most modern container formats, MPEG-4 Part 14 allows streaming over the Internet. A separate hint track is used to include streaming information in the file. The only official filename extension for MPEG-4 Part 14 files is .mp4.
Some devices advertised as “MP4 Players” are simply MP3 Players that also play AMV video or some other video format, and do not necessarily play the MPEG-4 part 14 format.

WMA Audio 9:
Windows Media Audio 9 Lossless is a lossless incarnation of Windows Media Audio, an audio codec by Microsoft, released in early 2003.
It compresses an audio CD to a range of 206 to 411MB, at bit rates of 470 to 940 kbit/s. The result is a bit-for-bit duplicate of the original audio file; in other words, the audio quality on the CD will be the same as the file when played back. WMA Lossless uses the same .WMA file extension as other Windows Media Audio formats. It supports 6 discrete channels and up to 24-bit/96kHz lossless audio. The format has never been publicly documented, although an open source decoder has been reverse engineered for non-Microsoft platforms by the libav and ffmpeg projects.


I hope you enjoyed this look at Audio Compression Formats and what they do.  If you stick with me, I am going to take you step by step through Phil’s Audio Production Course. You will become a Pro! Sign Up Now Here
Dr. Phil

Sound Marketing Recording  and Mastering Studios

Vancouver / Surrey BC
When you are ready to master or would like some re-mixing on your tracks, come and see me here at the studio!
You may also want to consider recording or  laying down your drums or vocal tracks here.
I offer a one-on-one instructional recording engineer course here in my studio or at yours.


I’d love to hear from you!
Just click ‘leave a comment’  below.

Equalizers and Some Tips on How to Use EQ Better.

Do you ever wonder how to EQ your tracks better?

This Time I’m Going to Discuss Equalizers and Give You a few Tips on How to Use EQs Better.

First of all what is an Equalizer/ EQ?

Here is a dictionary quote:

 “The actual proportional balance of frequencies in relation to each other at a given time is called Equalization, or, the act of changing the loudness of the frequencies in relation to each other is called Equalization.

It is a procedure where we use an instrument called an equalizer, it enables us to zero in and locate and adjust the volume level of any frequency at any point in the frequency range without any great affect on neighboring frequencies creating changes in the timbre of musical instruments and sounds.

There are 2 basic types of Equalizer’s: Graphic EQs and Parametric EQs.

Graphic EQ: You will see these large 31 band type Eq’s (or more) mainly in live situations,  like P.A and monitor setups.


Parametric EQ: You will see these on mixing console Eq sections and recording software.



Of course you know that equalizers are basically tone controls, letting you set your treble, mid-range, and bass just like your stereo or radio in your car.

In the studio with equalizers you can equalize the frequencies of the individual instruments or tracks of your recordings and /or the entire mix much more precisely. Knowing how to equalize properly can make your mixes/songs sound consistently good on all systems! So I’m going to give you a few tips:

Equalizers can make a track sound bigger and better or they can make it sound very different.
My rule of thumb is to always try to cut frequencies rather than boost them. Boosting can add lots of phase shift on the track.  But if you are going for a completely different sound than what you have, you will have to  know how to boost or cut whatever frequencies  it may need.

If you have plenty of time to focus on the mix down, I highly recommend not using the EQ at all during the recording phase. If your console has an “EQ IN” button, simply set it so the EQ section is being completely bypassed. Then you can turn it back on during mix down. If your board does not have an “EQ IN” button, just set all of your EQ knobs pointing straight up at center unity.

Let’s say you have recorded your vocal track with a good microphone, but the track sounds a bit flat. You could add a little top end around 12 k.this will bring out the nice air of the voice without making it sound harsh or to bright. You could also cut out a bit of low mid to smooth out the over all sound.

- Dr. Phil


This next bit by Ron Tongue and Mackie corp, and talks about The EQ on a Recording Console:

    recording console eq   EQ – Equalization

The EQ section of the recording console is where the magic often happens. You can completely make or break your recording with EQ. Although, with good mics and micing technique, you may find you need very little if any EQ at all.

The top three knobs are all related. They control the HI MID frequencies. The top knob adjusts the amount of BOOST or CUT. The middle knob allows you to choose which frequencies you’re boosting or cutting (this is what’s known as a “Sweepable” EQ because of this knob). The third knob labeled “BANDWIDTH” allows you to choose the range of frequencies. It is sometimes labeled as “Q.”

The next two knobs effect the “Low Mid” frequencies. The top knob adjusts the amount of BOOST or CUT. The bottom knob is your sweepable frequency knob allowing you to choose which frequencies to boost or cut.

 Below that you have the “HI 12K” knob. This adjusts the BOOST or CUT of the really high frequencies usually found in your cymbals or sibilance in the voice. And the “LO 80″ knob adjusts the BOOST or CUT of the extreme low frequencies such as the bass guitar or the kick drum.

The “low cut” button is useful for recording outdoors. By adding the low cut, you are filtering out the really low frequencies often caused by wind noise. Basically, if you hear a lot of rumble in the microphone, turn this on to minimize the noise.


Go ahead and  Sign Up Here Now and I’ll see you next time! – Phil

Sound Marketing Recording  and Mastering Studios Vancouver / Surrey BC
When you are ready to master or would like some re-mixing on your tracks, contact me.
You may also want to consider recording or  laying down your drums or vocal tracks here.
I offer a one-on-one instructional recording engineer course here in my studio or at yours.


I’d love to get your feedback!
Just click ‘leave a comment’  below.


Welcome to Recording for Beginners Series 6: Giving your Recordings a Produced Sound

Do you ever have any problem with your Mixes sounding strong ?
after listening to a commercial Cd ?

Welcome to Recording for Beginners Series 6: Giving your recordings a produced sound.

Why is it that some perfectly well-recorded songs sound like demos, while others sound like top commercial tracks? Paul White investigates the mystery of the ‘produced’ sound.

One of the questions we hear most from Sound On Sound readers is “Why doesn’t my music sound as ‘produced’ as the music I hear on commercial CDs?” I’m sure you won’t be too surprised when I tell you that there isn’t a single, simple answer. Some people assume that the superior equipment used in pro studios is the key, but although competent gear is required to do the job properly, you don’t actually need anything esoteric. Even when it comes to recording vocals you don’t have to use expensive high-end tube capacitor mics — artists such as Phil Collins and Mick Jagger often use relatively inexpensive dynamic models because that’s what works best for them. A few years ago, the drum sound was what gave away most demos, but now we have good drum machines, drum samples and sample loops, as well as real drums, to choose from.

The secret of a produced sound starts with the source material. It doesn’t matter what you do to your recording afterwards if this isn’t up to scratch. It almost goes without saying that good timing and good tuning are essential, but the choice of sounds and the way in which acoustic instruments and voices are recorded has a huge bearing on the perceived quality of the end result.

Vox Clever

If you record vocals in a small, untreated room, the chances are that the resulting sound will be boxy, so place your mic somewhere near the centre (but not exactly in the centre) of a larger room and put up improvised screens (sleeping bags, duvets, blankets and so on) where necessary to kill the reflections. Used in this way, virtually any respectable mic will give you good results providing you use a pop shield. You can also record acoustic guitars in the same environment.

Vocals invariably need compression, but what kind and how much? Listen to what you’ve recorded and try to establish how much variation there is in the vocal level. If you hear a lot of fluctuation it might be better to use a model of compressor that can pin down the level without changing the sound too much. The compressors that come as standard in Yamaha digital mixers are good for this, as you can really pile on the gain reduction without changing the sound too radically; there are also analogue models that can do the same. On the other hand, you may feel the vocals need thickening as well as levelling, in which case a compressor with a character of its own might be better suited to the job. Tube and ‘opto’ compressors generally produce the fattest sounds, and of course there are software plug-ins that emulate just about anything you can buy in a rackmount box.

The goal is to get the vocal sitting nicely with the backing track so that you don’t feel the urge to turn it up or down in different parts of the song. Professional engineers may also spend some time fine-tuning vocal levels with their mixer automation systems, and if you use either a digital mixer or a computer-based recording system you can do the same.
For more info go to recording for Intermediate series 6.

Stay Tuned for Recording for Beginners 7 .. Enjoy the musical process!

Producer Phil

Sound Marketing Recording  and Mastering Studios
Vancouver / Surrey BC
When you are ready to master or would like some re-mixing on your tracks, come and see me here at the studio!
You may also want to consider recording or  laying down your drums or vocal tracks here.
I offer a one-on-one instructional recording engineer course here in my studio or at yours.

For ongoing Sound Recording Tips go and like our FaceBook Page

I’d love to hear from you!
Just click ‘leave a comment’  below.

Recording for intermediate Series 6: Giving your recordings a Produced Sound – Vancouver Recording Studio

Do you ever have any problem with your Mixes sounding strong ?
after listening to a commercial Cd ?

For this blog please start with our beginners blog on Recordings with a Produced Sound.

Recording for intermediate Series 6: Giving your recordings a produced sound.
Continued from beginner series 6:

Reduced Reverb

Once you’ve created space in your mix, don’t give it all away by filling every available gap with heavy reverb. As it happens, reverb is one area where a decent-quality unit really helps, especially if you use a lot of small-room or ambient reverbs. You don’t have to spend a fortune: the excellent Lexicon MPX100 costs around £200, yet still offers the general feel of Lexicon’s more expensive studio processors.

Bear in mind that heavy reverb tends to push a sound to the back of a mix, so if you want a vocal to appear up-front you should use a fairly bright reverb, with 80 mS or so of pre-delay. Don’t overdo the decay time, either, especially with up-tempo songs. Other effects should also be used carefully — use an effect because the track needs it, not because you happen to have it! Dramatic effects can be made even more dramatic if you use them for short sections of a song rather than having them full-on all the way through, and delay effects often work best when the delay time is related to the tempo of the song.

Master The Situation

What many people don’t realize is just how great a difference is made to commercial records at the mastering stage. Prior to mastering, you might be surprised at just how ordinary some mixes sound. Mastering often involves nothing more than compression, limiting and equalization, but it has a dispro  —–
Favourite Strings

Guitars and basses can be a dead giveaway that a recording is not a commercial one if they are poorly recorded. Sticking a mic in front of an amp is probably still the best way to get a live-sounding recording of a performance, but if this is not feasible there are so many good recording preamps around now that there’s little excuse for getting a thin or buzzy guitar sound. However, go easy on the overdrive, and consider using less overdrive but combining it with compression if you need sustain. Use a gate to keep your guitar tracks clear of unwanted noise, and also try to reduce clutter in the arrangement: where two guitars are playing essentially the same chords, for example, first decide whether both guitars are actually necessary. If they are, consider using different chord inversions for one of the parts, or even a capo. Incidentally, acoustic guitars almost always sound better miked than DI’d.
Basses can actually be more difficult to record than guitars, because although they may sound great in isolation when DI’d via an active DI box and a compressor, they can still lack punch in the context of the overall mix. Again, consider miking the amp or using a guitar DI preamp so you can add just a little overdrive to warm up the sound. Compression will help keep the sound even and punchy. A good tip here is to make any necessary EQ adjustments when the rest of the track is playing, because then you’ll be able to make the sound match the track. If you EQ the sound first it might sound great on its own, but could get completely lost when the other faders are brought up.
As you can see, the magic of musical production isn’t something you ‘paint’ on at some point in the recording process, but is rather the result of attention to detail at all points throughout the recording, starting with the musical arrangement and choice of sounds. Nevertheless, processing at the mastering stage (ie. after your mix) can make a huge difference. Professional mastering is expensive for a reason: pro mastering engineers have great equipment and a lot of experience in using it. If you’re not confident you have the necessary equipment and expertise to do your mix justice, think about getting your work professionally mastered, especially if it’s destined for commercial release. If you’re going to do this, don’t do any processing at all on your final mixes — leave each track just as it is.

Stay Tuned for Recording for Intermediate series 7 .. Enjoy the musical process!

Producer Phil

Sound Marketing Recording  and Mastering Studios
Vancouver / Surrey BC
When you are ready to master or would like some re-mixing on your tracks, come and see me here at the studio!
You may also want to consider recording or  laying down your drums or vocal tracks here.
I offer a one-on-one instructional recording engineer course here in my studio or at yours.

For ongoing Sound Recording Tips go and like our FaceBook Page

I’d love to hear from you!
Just click ‘leave a comment’  below.

Recording for Intermediate 5 -Compression / Limiting on Vocal / Instrument tracks – Vancouver Recording Studio

Intermediate Series 5 – Compression / Limiting on Vocal / Instrument Tracks:

1) What is Compression ?

For the benefit of those who are still a little unsure as to what a compressor does, it simply reduces the difference between the loudest and quietest parts of a piece of music by automatically turning down the gain when the signal gets past a predetermined level. In this respect, it does a similar job to the human hand on the fader — but it reacts much faster and with greater precision, allowing it to bring excessive level deviations under control almost instantaneously. Unlike the human operator though, the compressor has no feel or intuition; it simply does what you set it up to do, which makes it very important that you understand what all the variable parameters do and how they affect the final sound.

2) How do I use the Compressor/Limiter ?

Threshold: With manual gain riding, the level above which the signal becomes unacceptably loud is determined by the engineer’s discretion: if it sounds too loud to him, he turns it down. In the case of a compressor, we have to ‘tell’ it when to intervene, and this level is known as the Threshold. In a conventional compressor, the Threshold is varied via a knob calibrated in dBs, and a gain reduction meter is usually included so we can see how much the gain is being modified. If the signal level falls short of the threshold, no processing takes place and the gain reduction meter reads 0dB. Signals exceeding the Threshold are reduced in level, and the amount of reduction is shown on the meter. This means the signal peaks are no longer as loud as they were, so in order to compensate, a further stage of ‘make-up’ gain is added after compression, to restore or ‘make up’ any lost gain.

Ratio: When the input signal exceeds the Threshold set by the operator, gain reduction is applied, but the actual amount of gain reduction depends on the ‘Ratio’ setting. You will see the Ratio expressed in the form 4:1 or similar, and the range of a typical Ratio control is variable from 1:1 (no gain reduction all) to infinity:1, which means that the output level is never allowed to rise above the Threshold setting. This latter condition is known as limiting, because the Threshold, in effect, sets a limit which the signal is not allowed to exceed. Ratio is based on dBs, so if a compression ratio of 3:1 is set, an input signal exceeding the Threshold by 3dB will cause only a 1dB increase in level at the output. In practice, most compressors have sufficient Ratio range to allow them to function as both compressors and limiters, which is why they are sometimes known by both names. The relationship between Threshold and Ratio is shown in Figure 2, but if you’re not comfortable with dBs or graphs, all you need to remember is that the larger the Ratio, the more gain reduction is applied to any signal exceeding the Threshold.

Hard Knee: This is not a control or parameter, but rather a characteristic of certain designs of compressor. With a conventional compressor, nothing happens until the signal reaches the Threshold, but as soon as it does, the full quota of gain reduction is thrown at it, as determined by the Ratio control setting. This is known as hard-knee compression, because a graph of input gain against output gain will show a clear change in slope (a sharp angle) at the Threshold level, as is evident from Figure 2.

Soft Knee: Other types of compressor utilise a soft knee characteristic, where the gain reduction is brought in progressively over a range of 10dB or so. What happens is that when the signal comes within 10dB or so of the Threshold set by the user, the compressor starts to apply gain reduction, but with a very low Ratio setting, so there’s very little effect. As the input level increases, the compression Ratio is automatically increased until at the Threshold level, the Ratio has increased to the amount set by the user on the Ratio control. This results in a gentler degree of control for signals that are hovering around the Threshold point, and the practical outcome is that the signal sounds less obviously processed. This attribute makes soft-knee models popular for processing complete mixes or other sounds that need subtle control. Hard knee compression can sometimes be heard working, and if a lot of gain reduction is being applied, they can sound quite heavy-handed. In some situations, it can make for an interesting sound — take Phil Collins’ or Kate Bush’s vocal sounds, for example. The dotted curve on the graph in Figure 2 (p.118) shows a typical soft-knee characteristic.

Attack: The attack time is how long a compressor takes to pull the gain down, once the input signal has reached or exceeded the Threshold level. With a fast attack setting, the signal is controlled almost immediately, whereas a slower attack time will allow the start of a transient or percussive sound to pass through unchanged, before the compressor gets its act together and does something about it. Creating a deliberate overshoot by setting an attack time of several milliseconds is a much-used way of enhancing the percussive characteristics of instruments such as guitars or drums. For most musical uses, an initial attack setting of between 1 and 20 mS is typical. However, when treating sound such as vocals, a fast attack time generally gives the best results, because it brings the level under control very quickly, producing a more natural sound.

Release: The Release sets how long it takes for the compressor’s gain to come back up to normal once the input signal has fallen back below the Threshold. If the release time is too fast, the signal level may ‘pump’ — in other words, you can hear the level of the signal going up and down. This is usually a bad thing, but again, it has its creative uses, especially in rock music. If the release time is too long, the gain may not have recovered by the time the next ‘above Threshold’ sound occurs. A good starting point for the release time is between 0.2 and 0.6 seconds.

Auto Attack/Release: Some models of compressor have an Auto mode, which adjusts the attack and release characteristics during operation to suit the dynamics of the music being processed. In the case of complex mixes or vocals where the dynamics are constantly changing, the Auto mode may do a better job than fixed manual settings.

Peak/RMS operation: Every compressor uses a circuit known as a side chain, and the side chain’s job in life is to measure how big the signal is, so that it knows when it needs compressing. This information is then used to control the gain circuit, which may be based around a Voltage-controlled Amplifier (VCA), a Field Effect Transistor (FET) or even a valve. The compressor will behave differently, depending on whether the side chain responds to average signal levels or to absolute signal peaks.

References: Sound On Sound Magazine

Stay Tuned for Recording for Intermediate #6 .. Enjoy the musical process!

Producer Phil
Sound Marketing Recording  and Mastering Studios
Vancouver / Surrey BC
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