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Thread: Open sounding recordings.

  1. #1
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    Open sounding recordings.

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    Ok, I did a few searches on this board and couldn't find what I was looking for.
    I have a problem with the boxiness/"sounds like it was recorded at home" of my recent recordings. I thought if I panned the tracks and adjusted levels, I could get the sound that I was looking for.
    Here's a recording of a song my band recently did:
    Wave Array Music Page

    I guess I should say that what I'm A/B'ing this against is Coldplay's "Don't Panic". I realize the songs have different vibes, but I'm just referring to the openness/3D sound of the overall recording. For some reason, when the intro for Don't Panic comes in, I feel surrounded by the sound that's put out. It's behind, above, and around me on a 3D landscape. When I listen to my band's recording, I feel like it's either in front of me, or only 2D (L/R and Forward/Rear as opposed to 3D).

    My question is, where do I go from here?
    What's the biggest factor of many that causes my problem?
    Do I work on the panning and levels again?
    Do I need better/different track recordings? Mic placement etc.?
    I strongly feel that I'm limited by my abilities and not my equipment, but should I be thinking that (i.e., is gear a limitation)?
    Any suggestions or similiar experiences (with a possible solution) would be helpful.

    Thanks!

    Eq. used:
    Mac Laptop with Garageband
    Firepod
    SM57
    Oktava MK319
    Other misc. mics (I think a Shure Highball, Audix OM-3, Audix Fusion 6 drum mic kit, and a few other Shures)
    BOSS GT3 (some guitar tracks direct)
    San Francisco indie/alternative rock
    http://www.wavearraymusic.com

  2. #2
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    Good topic. I struggle with it too. Here's my $.02 based on my experiences:

    I try to plan the front-to-back imaging before tracking. Draw a map of where you want things to be in the 3D field (Left/Right & Front/Back).

    I try to use a stereo pair on everything except vocals and bass. The more up-front something will be in the front-to-back image might mean closer mic'ing. If something is toward the back, try a stereo pair of mics on the other side of the room, etc.

    The boxiness is probably more from recording in a so-so room. It's often caused by comb filtering.

    I would find a good pair of small-diaphragm condensers to use on most sources, and work on treating your room better.

    Looking forward to hearing other responses as well.

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    I too look forward to other responses, but I will throw a few ideas out there.

    One way to end up with a 2d mix almost guaranteed is to try to mix so that each instrument or voice is the same volume. If you listen to almost any commercial mix, some "voices" are up front and some are not (as alluded to in the previous post). Lately I have been listening to the pixies which has from my listening the drums the loudest, bass is #2, 3rd is guitars and the lowest is vocals. More current trends put the vocals loudest and the guitar the quietest. Most 90's rock had the guitars blasting and the drums drowned out. You sort of have to pick the mix you want and go with it. Everything is always a compromise.

    Another thought is movement. Meaning that while the song is playing you want to do volume swings and panning swings and even reverb return swings. bring out the reverb and the drums on the chorus and back them off in the verse, for example. this is by no means necessary, just an idea. from what I've heard on the radio, coldplay has a lot of this.

    Also too much compression can really kill a mix. limiting is worse.

    most likely it is a million little things adding up. if I had to pick one which is most important I would go with my first comment which is mixing ability. I don't know how much whoever did the coldplay album got paid but I 'm sure its more than I make in a year. A good monitoring system is where I would start. My current monitors are a pair of M-Audio BX8's. They made a HUGE improvement in my mixes. Probably not as huge as actually doing probably close to 100 mixes, but my next investment is definitely going to be in even better monitors than what I have now.

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    So, you are vastly less experienced than the guys that worked on the Cold Play (yuk, hate their stuff...anyway...), and you used JUNK gear in comparison, and you are wondering why your recordings don't sound as good?

    Dude, seriously, come back after you have recorded for a year or two, and have tried EVERYTHING you can think of to achieve the sounds you want. By then, you will be much closer, and will have a MUCH better question to ask than this one.

    You are closer than you think. But, some of the tracking decisions you made don't lend itself to a good mix.

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    I am going to focus on drums here, since drums MAKE a track for me. They always seem to define overall sound. Big concert-hall drums make for big, epic sound. Small, dead drums make for small dead sound. The rest of the instruments, sometimes even the voice, just fill in what the drums cannot do. I am a guitarist/vocalist so I don't think I'm drum-biased.

    The SINGLE most important part of a recording is the material. You have good material. The drums work as...A drum part. The second is the room in which your record vs the equipment you're recording with. Your Firepod/300 dollar Audix drum mics are matched well for eachother. You can't record with 2000 dollar mics into an 80 dollar mixer, but the quality of the preamps and the mics is well-matched. Nothing spectacular, but worthy IF they are matched with a good room. I think that is where you should first look. Get the room to sound as live as possible for a drum kit. I am guessing you recorded drums in a carpetted room. I don't be reverberant, I mean bright. Put some plywood down under the drums and hang some blankets on the walls. You need to create a balance. So get some wood/hard surfaces on the floor and soften the walls.

    I doubt you want to re-track though, so this would be my next attempt: EQ.

    I am just guessing here, but I imagine that if you cut the area from 200-500hz down by maybe 2db at fairly narrow Q and boosted everything above 5k on a shelf going up, so it peaked at a 4db increase at 20khz, the mix would have alot more air to it.

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    It doesn't sond all that bad for a home recording.

    You keep using terms like "problem," and that you're looking for a "solution," etc. etc.

    The reason it has that "recorded at home" sound is because ... well, it was recorded at home ! I'm pretty much with Fordvan on this one. The only major problem is your expectations. What you have is a pretty good home demo recording. Be happy with it. Keep trying to get better, etc. But don't try and use a major label recording as your yard stick right now. You'll drive yourself batty.

    I like the vocal sond, by the way. Nice presence without overdoing it. Is that the Oktava?
    .

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    sounds like you needs some eq cuts, volume adjustments, and different effects decisions. everything sounds like it's trying to be upfront, which doesn't work for an "open" sounding mix. Also the drum and guitar tracking leave a lot to be desired. Cut some mids on that kick, man.
    Be true, gentle warrior. Stay with me through the night, my fine stallion, you incredible and powerful beast.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chessrock
    It doesn't sond all that bad for a home recording.

    You keep using terms like "problem," and that you're looking for a "solution," etc. etc.

    The reason it has that "recorded at home" sound is because ... well, it was recorded at home ! I'm pretty much with Fordvan on this one. The only major problem is your expectations. What you have is a pretty good home demo recording. Be happy with it. Keep trying to get better, etc. But don't try and use a major label recording as your yard stick right now. You'll drive yourself batty.
    Yeah, I was just frustrated I guess. I am proud of this recording, and it is just a demo, I was just wondering if there was an aspect of mixing/mastering I had missed in the process of finishing this recording. Thanks for putting it in perspective.

    Quote Originally Posted by chessrock
    I like the vocal sond, by the way. Nice presence without overdoing it. Is that the Oktava?
    .
    Yeah, that's the Oktava. I've had that mic the longest, so I feel most comfortable with it. Thanks for saying that, as I was really aiming for that "up front but not in your face" sound.
    San Francisco indie/alternative rock
    http://www.wavearraymusic.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrhotapples
    I am guessing you recorded drums in a carpetted room. I don't be reverberant, I mean bright. Put some plywood down under the drums and hang some blankets on the walls. You need to create a balance. So get some wood/hard surfaces on the floor and soften the walls.

    I doubt you want to re-track though, so this would be my next attempt: EQ.

    I am just guessing here, but I imagine that if you cut the area from 200-500hz down by maybe 2db at fairly narrow Q and boosted everything above 5k on a shelf going up, so it peaked at a 4db increase at 20khz, the mix would have alot more air to it.
    Thanks for the EQ advice. I'll look into that to see if I can hear a difference. Surprisingly, your guess about the room is the exact opposite. We recorded in a room that had all insulation, carpeting, and part of the walls removed (it's in a house that's getting redone). I don't know why it sounds so dead; I guess I'll have to look into that.
    San Francisco indie/alternative rock
    http://www.wavearraymusic.com

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    the thing that sticks out to me in the mix the most is the drums......they soun d like they were recorded from about ten feet away with a condencer mic, in a basment with nothing on the cement walls.
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