Recording - March 2017 - 64
BY MARTY PETERS
Listen online at www.recordingmag.com
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EQUIPMENT: SONiCA AUDIO LABS 1X Hush DT Workstation Intel
Core 2 Duo PC with RME Fireface 800 and M-Audio AXIOM 49 MIDI
keyboard controller, running Windows XP, Cakewalk SONAR 8.5
Producer with TruePianos, Dimension Pro, and audio effects, IK Multimedia
AmpiTube 3 and T-Racks 3, and Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0.
Dynaudio BM5 monitors with Presonus Central Station monitor controller.
Neumann TLM 102 mic through Universal Audio SOLO/610 preamp.
Martin acoustic guitar, Fender Strat, Aria Pro 2 SLB Bass.
MUSIC: "Suitcase of Love" is a male vocal rock song, Kevin wrote,
programmed, performed and recorded the track at his home studio.
RECORDING: Kevin has submitted a strong effort here that shines in
many areas. That said, there are some masking issues and equalization
disparities that need to be ironed out for the track to reach its full
potential. First, though, let's take a look at what is working in Kevin's favor.
Starting from the ground up, we found that the simple but effective
drum programming via the Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0 software
created a strong energetic platform for the additional instruments. The
acoustic guitars supplied some subtle bulk in the mix, and Kevin did
an excellent job with his backing vocal performance and blend.
On the flip side, we felt that the MIDI-generated piano sound had an
abundance of low mid frequency, enough to all but obliterate the bass
guitar in the mix. The piano's center positioning was also problematic
to our ears, considering the accented nature of the performance. We
also found the tone of Kevin's lead vocal to be excessively sharp on the
high end through both our studio monitors and Grado Labs SR 325
reference headphones, diminishing a fine performance.
SUGGESTIONS: First of all, kudos to Kevin for the drum programming
choices here. So often in one man/woman submissions, we hear
drum programming that is quite unlike what an actual drummer might
play. Incredible fills that can be accomplished only by some type of
multi-limbed octopus type creature (insert drummer joke here!) are cool
to conjure up, but we'll take the "sensible shoes" approach any day!
As for suggestions, deciding the priority of a song's sound sources
is filed under the "arrangement" heading. Kevin's drum programming
RECORDING MARCH 2017
would be that much more effective if it had a dance partner, and
masking the bass with the low end of the piano deprives the track
of this all-important team. We urge Kevin to trim back the volume
on the piano, use a sweepable highpass filter to clear out the low
frequencies that rightfully belong to the bass guitar, and pan the keys
out away from the center of the stereo field. This should hopefully
provide the bass guitar the presence it currently lacks.
Regarding the lead vocal, Kevin has a fine signal chain at his
disposal here with his Neumann TLM 102 microphone and Universal
Audio SOLO/610 mic pre. While we can't be certain about the origin
of the excessive brightness on the vocal, it could be that a condenser
mic, even one with the Neumann name plate, is not a good fit for
Kevin's voice. If, on the other hand, the brightness was added during
mixdown in order to make the vocal "pop", we suggest that panning
the guitars and piano away from the center of the mix would accomplish
the task in a more organic fashion.
SUMMARY: Easy fixes available!
CONTACT: Kevin Selph, firstname.lastname@example.org
EQUIPMENT: Zoom MRS-1266 desktop multitrack (with built-in
drum sounds), Yamaha Clavinova CLP340 (main piano), Yamaha
P60 and Roland DS-330 Dr. Synth (strings), AKG C2000B vocal
mic, Fender Squier Jazz Bass.
MUSIC: "A Better Me" is a male vocal rock ballad, Alex oneman-banded the track at his home studio in Wolverhampton,
West Midlands, England.
RECORDING: That voice. Holy cow, as Harry Carey used to say,
would you listen to that voice! For those of us that grew up with Steve
Winwood, Peter Gabriel, and a host of other great British singers, there
is something so comfortable and right about the sound of Alex's pipes.
Like the man once said, we could listen to this guy sing the phone book!
As for the actual recording of things, what we have here is a nice
sketch/demo captured on a modest Zoom MRS-1266 standalone
multitrack recorder. Alex has set up a very basic boombox/click
track percussion part for tempo, choosing to devote more time to his
fine sense of orchestration-as evidenced by the sweet string and
backing vocal arrangements. Tonally, everything (with the exception
of the keys/strings) sounded a tad bit bright through our monitors,
though we're happy to report that there were no signs of processing
artifacts to be found.
SUGGESTIONS: As with all "demos", we could go on and on with
possible suggestions for improvement. Obviously a better conceived and
executed rhythm section would benefit the overall track. However-and
this is important, folks-Alex's skill set lies elsewhere. Would we love
to hear this entire recording recreated with the benefit of live drums/
bass, along with the benefit of some additional gear? You bet, but in the
meantime we can suggest that Alex go back and re-examine his final mix.
The lack of monitor speakers being mentioned in his equipment list
calls into question whether the excessive brightness we hear is a function
of room issues at the mixing position. As always, loyal readers, failure to
address what and how you hear has the power to render an awful lot of
blood, sweat, and tears meaningless. We urge each and every one of
you to elevate the status of your speakers to that of your "sexier" gear (or
"kit" as Alex might say), and by all means A/B your mixes on as many
systems as possible before calling it a day.
SUMMARY: Did we mention that voice?!
CONTACT: Alex Vann, email@example.com
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - March 2017
Recording - March 2017 - Intro
Recording - March 2017 - Cover1
Recording - March 2017 - Cover2
Recording - March 2017 - 1
Recording - March 2017 - 2
Recording - March 2017 - 3
Recording - March 2017 - 4
Recording - March 2017 - 5
Recording - March 2017 - Contents
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