Recording - October 2015 - 10

Note to faithful writers: When sending your letters by email,
please remember to include your name and where you hail from.

Sometimes one plus one equals way more than two
Hi Paul Stamler: I enjoyed your recent "First
Steps" on stereo miking (July 2015). I have quite a
collection of mics, but two of my favorites are the
Shure KSM32 and the Neumann TLM 102, of
which I have one of each. I want to buy a second
mic for stereo. Which of these two would you recommend as a pair? Thanks a bunch.
Tom Hagen
Grand Rapids, MI

Paul J. Stamler replies:
Tom: I reviewed the KSM32 in July 1999 and
found it exceptional for a lot of applications,
including stereo miking... but of all the mics you
could have mentioned as an alternative, you
picked one that I like just a bit better for stereo.
The TLM 102's small dimensions make it easier to position for coincident stereo than the
KSM32, and though it has a large-diaphragm
capsule, it has a smooth off-axis response that I'd
expect from a mic with a smaller capsule (like
the KSM32's). This is similar to the behavior of
the Gefell M930; like Gefell, Neumann seems to
have pulled an end run around the laws of
physics.
As I'm sure you know, they're both excellent
mics, and my tastes might not align with yours. I
suggest renting one of each and trying them for
yourself. Peace-PJS
Everything counts in small amounts
Does the bass guitar have an overly large influence
on the mix? We all know that bass and drums are
vitally important, as they are the foundation of
many songs. What caught me off guard was the very
slight movement of a fader making a profound
improvement.
When nearing the end of a mix, I make a CD to
use in my home stereo and MP3 player as a reference. While playing one song back, I thought it
could use a bit more bass. I moved the fader from
-2.8 to -1.8. Wow, what a difference!
That leads me to my real question. How can I possibly know when I've got the best mix if touching
one fader makes such a difference? I know mixes
are subjective, but is it experience, luck, or what?
It's rather distressing to know that I'm only a slight
movement away from a better mix. Or do I simply
do my best and at some point stop fiddling with the
controls? Thanks,
Clark Millis
Joplin, MO

Hi, Clark. You've just discovered one of the real challenges of
learning to mix, and the reason why a professional mix engineer
will slave over a single song for an entire day. You've also discovered one of the best ways to meet that challenge.
There are psychoacoustic reasons why bass has a disproportionate influence on whether a mix sounds "good" to us, but to
paraphrase Lenin (great motivational speaker, questionable
politician, iffy audio engineer), "Everything is exactly as important as everything else." By this, I mean that the placement of
each element in a mix-loudness, EQ curve, ambience, and panning-is as important as that of all the others. No part of a mix
is unimportant, and all the parts must contribute to a mix that's
a cohesive whole.
A shaker part may be a tiny piece of a huge mix, but if it's too
loud or EQed wrong or panned to a weird place, you'll find it will
be all your listeners can focus on. The majority of the problems
Marty Peters discusses in Readers' Tapes every month center
around just these issues. Need a more famous example? All
Christopher Walken references aside, imagine "Don't Fear The
Reaper" with a badly mixed cowbell!
Each element has the power to contribute to a great mix or to
singlehandedly destroy it. Place each element while remembering the words of Hippocrates (great philosopher, decent doctor,
hopeless audio engineer): "First, do no harm."
Yes, you could be only a slight movement away from a better mix,
and in many cases you will be. Again, that's why labels hire pros to
do mixes... they have a huge number of tools at their disposal that
help them get to that better mix. Those tools aren't hardware or
software, they're wetware... mental tools that come from experience (never rely on luck). Fortunately, in your last sentence you
stumbled upon one of the best tools a mix engineer can have.
Know when to stop! An excellent mix that's out there and
being listened to is better than an almost-perfect mix that's sitting on your hard drive because you can't make it perfect.
Perfectionism is the enemy of excellence. Greg Ogan wrote
about this in our September 2015 issue and Marc Urselli has said
a lot about it... at some point, you have to stop soloing and tweaking, back up your work, then listen to the whole song and gently
touch this and that to see if you can find a substantial improvement. If you screw it up, jump back to your backup immediately-don't pile more edits on top of a mistake! If you improve it,
save it... and when you're in a good place, walk away.
I'd like to close by applauding one thing you mentioned in
passing without recognizing its significance. You wrote, "While
playing the CD back, I thought it could use a bit more bass." You
changed a track by 1 dB and greatly improved the song. Don't be
discouraged because you think that means you're fumbling in
the dark. You tried a test mix and instantly found a way to
improve it-that's exactly what a professional mixer does. You're
developing the right skill set and you don't seem to realize it!
Strive to improve, learn when to let go, and your mental mixing tool kit will serve you well. Thanks for your letter, and have
fun!-MM

Write to us at: Talkback, Recording Magazine, 5408 Idylwild Trail, Boulder, CO 80301
Or save stamps and send email to talkback@recordingmag.com
10

RECORDING October 2015



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - October 2015

Contents
Recording - October 2015 - Intro
Recording - October 2015 - Cover1
Recording - October 2015 - Cover2
Recording - October 2015 - 1
Recording - October 2015 - 2
Recording - October 2015 - 3
Recording - October 2015 - 4
Recording - October 2015 - 5
Recording - October 2015 - Contents
Recording - October 2015 - 7
Recording - October 2015 - 8
Recording - October 2015 - 9
Recording - October 2015 - 10
Recording - October 2015 - 11
Recording - October 2015 - 12
Recording - October 2015 - 13
Recording - October 2015 - 14
Recording - October 2015 - 15
Recording - October 2015 - 16
Recording - October 2015 - 17
Recording - October 2015 - 18
Recording - October 2015 - 19
Recording - October 2015 - 20
Recording - October 2015 - 21
Recording - October 2015 - 22
Recording - October 2015 - 23
Recording - October 2015 - 24
Recording - October 2015 - 25
Recording - October 2015 - 26
Recording - October 2015 - 27
Recording - October 2015 - 28
Recording - October 2015 - 29
Recording - October 2015 - 30
Recording - October 2015 - 31
Recording - October 2015 - 32
Recording - October 2015 - 33
Recording - October 2015 - 34
Recording - October 2015 - 35
Recording - October 2015 - 36
Recording - October 2015 - 37
Recording - October 2015 - 38
Recording - October 2015 - 39
Recording - October 2015 - 40
Recording - October 2015 - 41
Recording - October 2015 - 42
Recording - October 2015 - 43
Recording - October 2015 - 44
Recording - October 2015 - 45
Recording - October 2015 - 46
Recording - October 2015 - 47
Recording - October 2015 - 48
Recording - October 2015 - 49
Recording - October 2015 - 50
Recording - October 2015 - 51
Recording - October 2015 - 52
Recording - October 2015 - 53
Recording - October 2015 - 54
Recording - October 2015 - 55
Recording - October 2015 - 56
Recording - October 2015 - 57
Recording - October 2015 - 58
Recording - October 2015 - 59
Recording - October 2015 - 60
Recording - October 2015 - 61
Recording - October 2015 - 62
Recording - October 2015 - 63
Recording - October 2015 - 64
Recording - October 2015 - 65
Recording - October 2015 - 66
Recording - October 2015 - 67
Recording - October 2015 - 68
Recording - October 2015 - 69
Recording - October 2015 - 70
Recording - October 2015 - 71
Recording - October 2015 - 72
Recording - October 2015 - 73
Recording - October 2015 - 74
Recording - October 2015 - 75
Recording - October 2015 - 76
Recording - October 2015 - 77
Recording - October 2015 - 78
Recording - October 2015 - 79
Recording - October 2015 - 80
Recording - October 2015 - Cover3
Recording - October 2015 - Cover4
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