How Can I Enhance My Tracks Even Further To Approach Studio Quality (using Reaper)

We are doing our second recording with Reaper for a black metal band and I need some advice how I can further improve the sound in order to sort of approach studio quality. Compared to the first recording which was the demo (visible on the home page) I've already made some improvements, however it would be great if I could increase quality even further.

The band has sent me two examples of what they would like the sound to be: Example 1: Darkthrone and example 2: Graupel.
You can compare this to the new recordings I've made at sar-kissati.com/records and it becomes clear that there is still a big difference.

How can I make this sound more "studio-like". I'm quite satisfied with the mix so far, maybe if something's off that would be great to know as well. However I'm actually ok with the sound of most things, only the guitar seems oddly centered and I do not seem to be able to change that (there's only one guitar track though).

Is there a way to make it sound wider and not so cramped to the center and I mean not just the guitar, I'm open to all suggestions?

I'm using the commercial version of Reaper to do all recordings, so if you know what to do in reaper specifically this would be very helpful as well.
 

VomitHatSteve

Hat STYLE. Not contents.
Since when is black metal supposed to sound like a studio production? :D

Anyway. In general, you probably want more room mic and less close mic on your drums. Some of those tom fills in your demo are very wide, but they're also very close, which is weird for the genre. Most of the width on the kit comes from the room mics, which sound pretty spread out.
You'd get more depth out of the guitars by double-tracking them and hard-panning them apart from each other. That's what your reference tracks are doing.
You could also bury the lead vocal in more reverb. Having it sound farther back from the listener will also increase stereo spread.
 
Thanks for your reply. I've played around with the guitar tracks and hard-panning them as you said. It sounds a lot better now, thanks for the tip.

Could you also explain what exactly you meant with room mic vs close mic, are we talking about the recording itself here?
I'm not really sure how to understand what you meant by "those tom fills in your demo are very wide, but they're also very close".

What would be the best thing I could do to improve upon this to make it sound less "weird" for the genre?
 

bouldersoundguy

Well-known member
In addition to close mics on kick/snare/hihats/toms and overheads, it's common to have a pair of more distant room mics on the kit. But you have to have a room with an appropriate sound. So I suspect that you have your close tom mics panned wide, but they still have the sound of close mics.
 
In addition to close mics on kick/snare/hihats/toms and overheads, it's common to have a pair of more distant room mics on the kit. But you have to have a room with an appropriate sound. So I suspect that you have your close tom mics panned wide, but they still have the sound of close mics.

Yes that's pretty much what I did. There are no room mics as of now, I've got only close mics. Is there a way I can improve that without the use of room mics?
 

VomitHatSteve

Hat STYLE. Not contents.
BSG has it pretty well summarized.

For the genre, room mics wouldn't be too complex. Have the drummer play. Walk around the room until you find the place where the kit sounds the best. Set up two identical mics perpendicular to each other. Usually, you'll get bad results if your room doesn't sound very good. But you're doing black metal, so there's a lot more wiggle room for bad drums. If you don't have enough mics or inputs to add two more to your current setup, I would probably pull the tom mics off and use those instead.
 

ericmonroe

New member
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rob aylestone

Well-known member
I suspect the original poster got confused that it's the software that matters rather than the stuff that surrounds the performers. They misunderstood the close and distant mic positions which again makes me think they're quite inexperienced in recording skills. Perfectly normal growth really. I don't like metal music in any of the genres from choice, but sometimes there are bills to pay ...... one of my spaces (not the one I use for audio most days) is bigger and plonking a drum kit in the middle and close and distant miking it works - so I take the drummer there and record the track, then do everything else at the audio space. The space is important for some styles. In my smaller room, which is much more cosy, I can do close mic drums fine - but if you want a BIG sound, I've never managed to replicate this with reverb - close, but just not good.
 

Papanate

Active member
The Drums and Bass (whats there) are separated more and clean up front mixed. The guitar is gated for a tighter response - and he (or whomever mixed it) sounds like he shaped the guitars in mix.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
It's the classic "I want everything louder than everything else" mix - but in honesty, I don't think I could ever do one of those mixs - just too much for me.
 

Eric V

Inquiring mind wants to know
It's the classic "I want everything louder than everything else" mix - but in honesty, I don't think I could ever do one of those mixs - just too much for me.
This brings up a question for me, if I may interject here. Hopefully this adds to the discussion at hand, but by your statement, some things should not compete volume wise as much as some other elements? Example, bass and drums fairly full on, with guitars back a bit ? I'm not necessarily referring to black metal but mixes in general. I'm just curious what elements should be louder or softer in the mix.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I think I try to recreate what I would have heard if I was at a gig. I know we're not recreating a live sound, but the kind of sound any band try for at gigs is their 'sound' - genre doesn't really matter and genre likes and dislikes are irrelevant. If you stood there at the gig, what would you hear? Also - what don't you hear? When I've had to work on metal gigs - it surprised me that a common drum mix rarely had every drum - the toms, kick and snare were prominent, but hats not so, and cymbal work tends to be different hard hit crashes. No twiddly bits - and the crashes are either two hand continuous sizzles or individual crashes. The live sound is also rarely stereo, just off-centre left right mono but it sounds right. When you mix live sound you prod faders and at some point it tells into your sound. Drums are easier live than they ever are in the studio. Maybe it's the fact there are no early returns from the smaller studio walls? If we have two virtually mono guitars, when you are there, you always hear both and can look at the one taking the lines. I remember years back listening to the Eagles and I was near one speaker stack and both guitars in Hotel California were coming out of my stack - but I could look at the correct guitar for what I was hearing. Yet when you record two guitars in the studio, you pan them a bit differently to separate them. I'm lacking an answer on this one - I've never quite worked out how our hearing works, but in some of the mixes we often listen to where it's a wall of loudness, this fails. We hear it too often but we never really identify what make them like this? Is it too much processing - too little? When I work live, you build the picture for each player - so that could be loads of faders for the drums, just one for the bass. We slap these onto VCAs and then live mix the sound in blocks. I get the impression from cubase projects I sometimes get sent by colleagues that many people do NOT mix in blocks - they mix individual faders and slap plugins on lots of them, and I wonder if this maybe is what is flattening things out? Instead of one fader for drums that we could perhaps process dynamically as a multi-source group, we process everything individually - and I don't do that live.

It seems topsy-turvey to now have better mixes live than on recordings? I am on the right line here, or is this coincidence?
 
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