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Introducing your host:
Jan 'Yarn the Mix Artist' Muths of mixartist.com.au
In this episode:
- Hold your money! Cheap vs expensive gear
- Musicians, and the many hats they wear
- Room acoustic, and what you can do on a budget
- Haas Delay: Why you shouldn't use it in production
Podcast artwork by Tom 'Chubbs' Boundy
#music production, #home recording, #recording, #mixing, #music production, #microphones, #microphone techniques
Transcript (auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error):
Jan "Yarn' Muths
Welcome to the production talk podcast with me yarn of mix artists.com know you? In this podcast series, we celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting, recording at home and music production. So if you produce your music at home, this is the place to be. Please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends.
Hello, and welcome to Episode One of production talk. Production talk is a podcast about music production and the 2020s. We want to talk about everything that is relevant to producers who record themselves at home, in their bedrooms in their rehearsal rooms. And we want to talk about the ongoing shift away from big recording studios to more home production in bedroom style makeshift studios. My name is Yann. I'm a sound engineer, I've got about 20 years of experience in recording, in mixing in some mastering in all kinds of areas in the industry. I've also worked for a very long time as an educator explaining the ins and outs of audio production. For a couple of years, I was the manager of custom zero 75 where we build large scale analogue consoles, that was a fun time. Nowadays, I run mix artists.com.au, which is a specialised website for mixed on services. And I've noticed over time, that most of the productions that are received nowadays are actually not recorded in our large scale studio under acoustically perfect conditions. But more and more productions come in, they were recorded in home studios in garages in rehearsal rooms, sometimes in community halls and all kinds of locations with a very simple gear. Effectively, musicians bring their computers and all interface a handful of microphones and just have a crack at it. And the quality of these productions is actually quite respectable. So I thought, I would like to launch this podcast to give everybody a little bit of help and support along the way. Because of this one thing for sure. You don't need to spend big dollars anymore to produce your music nowadays, you can do a lot of things with very basic and simple gear. However, on the other hand, if you don't record in a pro studio, you don't have the help and advice from professionals around you. And this can make producing yourself at home, a little bit of a loan some experience. And sometimes it can be frustrating if things don't really work out as expected straightaway. So in this podcast, I'd like to share all my experience with you so that you have a better understanding of how to produce. And I would like to model everything that I'm talking about here around the problems that my clients see when they when they produce at home. So in other words, I've looked at all the mixes have done in 2020, and all the things that are struggled with and some of them are simply a little recording oversights that made it really hard in the mix later. And those are the little things that I want to talk about to make it better and easier for everybody to record at home. Good My vision is to make this podcast a go to place for musicians who produce themselves all over the world, to find information, to have their questions answered, to get inspiring insights from interviews and subjects that we want to cover. And my goal is to get you to a place where you are very happy recording yourself at home without any big problems or frustrations. Along the way, we want to talk about a lot of technical details. So I would like to answer questions about ironore. Things like samplerate that cause a lot of confusion, bit depth and all the technical bits. But most importantly, it's all about capturing yourself as the performer and capturing performances right. When you talk about somebody who's experienced like myself, where's that actually coming from? So if we just look at the work experience and take this apart for a moment, it's actually people who have experienced all the mistakes one can possibly make and found their ways around them. So if you think about the path from songwriting to a finished project, and visualise this in your mind, there are lots and lots of little stepping stones along the way. And every single one of them means you can make good or bad decisions. And an experienced producer is somebody who can navigate through all of these little Steps without making bad decisions and just keeping it on a good track. Yeah. And that's why I want to share all the mistakes that I've made in the past. And I want to tell you what I think is important. There are definitely lots of resources out today that focus on all the wrong things and sometimes give people the impression that in order to produce yourself at home, or you need to do is buy the most expensive plugins and learn all about sidechain compression, well, nothing against sidechain compression, but there is a place for it, definitely. But that doesn't mean everybody needs to do that. And the simple solutions, in my opinion, are usually what, what makes a recording really phenomenon.
So yeah, and that's basically how I approach production in general. And also my mixing that I just try to fix you know, or to do things with the least amount of effort or the most basic means first, I know about all the complex solutions, but I leave them only for when I really need them. And this is probably the first bit of wisdom that I want to share with everybody. Keep it simple, as people like to say keep it simple way you can. Good. But before we go too much into detail, let me just tell you a little bit more about myself. You've probably figured this out by now I have a pretty thick accent and I'm guilty as charged. Born a German lived for the first 30 years in the northern end of Germany in Hamburg, where I started as a musician. I played the drums for for many years played in many different bands, a lot of punk rock and metal and things like this in those days. So for myself in recording studios watching these two big reel spinning and you know the big boards with all the knobs and pots, and got really excited about all of this and at some stage decided that as a drummer, I'm was probably not quite talented enough. I should rephrase this talent is a really strange term. Let's say I wasn't dedicated enough, that's a better way to phrase it, I wasn't dedicated enough to make a decent living from from being a drummer. And there were so many other drummers who were so much better and more dedicated than I was. So decided to switch careers and basically swapped sides got off the stage. And to the other side of the room behind the console. I studied sound engineering in the late 90s in Hamburg, and immediately after made myself self employed to start my own little business, which has gone through a lot of different challenges, ups and downs. But yeah, it's been going ever since. Then, in 2006, I got a job offer in Australia, dropped everything that I owned and rushed over and started a new life. And that's been the very best decision of my life. I met my wife here, I've settled down on the East Coast, have hundreds of friends here, the most amazing music, musical community around me. And I feel really blessed to be here and speaking to you today. So, over the years I've produced well, hundreds of songs in the studio, I definitely have lost count in small studios in really big fat, large studios under most challenging conditions with the most crappy gear sometimes or the most amazing gear. And what I've learned through all of this is that in the end, my mixes always sound like me, even if the gear that I used was a little bit dodgy, eventually found my way around and shaped the sound again to sound like, like me. Sometimes it's harder, sometimes it's easier, but in the end, the outcome is always a mix that sounds unmistakeably like like yours truly. So and that made me think about the importance of really expensive gear. So do you really need to buy yourself a $10,000 vintage tube microphone, I would definitely say that there's a place for it and some people should do it. However, that's not the majority of us.
Most of us can achieve really, really good results with you know, cheaper microphones and cheaper gear. So I'm a big advocate of keeping it simple and I would literally go as far as stating a really controversial bold statement that in 2021 any gear you buy, let it be your computer, your audio software, which we call a door, digital audio workstation, audio interfaces, cable smartphones, all of this gear is apps salutely phenomenal, I don't think you can buy a bad sounding interface in 2021 anymore, there are probably some that sound better than others, but the degree is fairly small. And even for a fairly low budget, you get an interface that has a very low noise. next to no distortion, and if gain stage correctly will give you an absolutely clean, transparent tone, that can definitely be mixed into something great. And the same with microphones. If you just buy some standard microphones, we'll talk about your microphone locker in another episode, you can definitely produce yourself at home. So in other words, the gear is no longer the limiting factor, in my opinion. What is is the performance, the headspace that the musicians are in? Definitely the room acoustics? Those are the things that that cause trouble. So what do I talk about here? What what are we talking about when I talk about your performance, you're probably here because you're a musician, and you consider yourself being a good performer. And that's exactly where we need to start, that's something we that we should take for granted that you love playing music, and that you're very happy with your performance and that you're ready to record. So now visualise yourself in a room with your instrument with your microphone, if you're a singer. And you really dedicate yourself to the music and you start playing or singing and getting into the Spirit. And at the same time now you need to be recording engineer and suddenly there's a little pop up window, a driver issue or your produce crashed or something happens. And suddenly you're out of your musical bubble. And you're focused on downloading the latest driver or rebooting your computer or whatever this may be. So the real challenge today is to be two things at once to wear two hats to be the performer and also the recording engineer at the same time. And that's, I think, a real problem. Because staring at screens and having all the visual cues and the colourful plugins and all of this can hear or suck you out of your musical little blissful bubble and drag you ever so slowly and consistently into the world of logical thinking about driver issues, ones and zeros and all the problems that you may face. And I think this is the most limiting factor nowadays that people simply struggle to, to record themselves fluently and effortlessly. So that they can actually focus on the performance again, and there's a lot that can get lost along the way of being a musician. So my first message to you today is please please please, if you find your musical blissful place where you perform just from the bottom of your heart, hold on to the space and never allow your recording gear to interfere. And that's a really, really difficult thing that's a much bigger problem, then the slightly higher noise floor of achievement to face compared to a high price audio interface. So at least that's my take on it. And along the line and this podcast series, I would like to talk about lots of workflows, I want to talk about how to make the recording effort as simple, effortless, and easy as possible. Good. The other thing that I spoke about just briefly was the room acoustics that you might be recording at. And that is definitely a point that we need to talk about. And we'll probably go into more detail in future episodes. But if there's one thing for certain the recording studio in your in your area will probably have a much cleaner and dryer and neutral sounding room to record and then you might have in your rehearsal room or at home.
And that can be a good or a bad thing more often than not, it's actually a good thing to record in a cleaner or data sounding room. Like I'm recording my podcast right now it's in a really fairly treated room that doesn't have too much reflections and noise and interference. If you ever tried to record at home with a window open and you listen later, you might hear with your headphones on all the little things that were going on in the background that you didn't even notice when you performed but the microphone captures is and why you can tune out of it while you sing or perform your guitar takes later when you listen back. All these things pop up again. And then they're in your way and might cause some trouble. So more importantly than investing a lot of time and effort into your recording gear. First focus on the room acoustics and see what you can do. So can you work with the windows closed does it get To what, maybe you just need to record for 20 minutes at a time and then you know, open the windows to air it out for a moment or bring the temperature down. All of those are methods that that will lead to better results in, have a good listen to your microphone recordings, maybe take a microphone, start singing for a couple of minutes and then listen back with headphones on what you recorded. This will give you a really clear idea of what else you can hear what else but your voice you can hear. So can you hear reflections from the room? Can you hear any echoes? Can you hear flutter echoes or some harsh sounding reflection sometimes from tiles or glass? All of those are things that you may want to consider is that always a bad thing, but make yourself aware about what's going on. Attention Attention. Some of the sound examples demonstrated in this episode require decent headphones or stereo speakers, on cheap earbuds, phone speakers or in noisy environments, you may not be able to hear much difference in the announcement. To demonstrate the difference acoustics can make. I'm going to record the in different rooms in my own house. Let me take you for a tour. This is the sound of my bedroom. It's about a four by four metre bedroom. Not very big. And this is about the sound you get at what is this about, let's say 20 centimetres distance. And now you're listening to the same microphone in my living room. The next stop is our bathroom. You can probably hear the reflections in this room, it sounds quite different. And at the risk of sounding like a real weirdo. I now took the microphone to our tiny little toilet both. It's not even a metre wide. It's maybe one and a half metres long. And you can probably hear the sound of this enclosed space. It's really weird. How much ambient noise Can you hear? Is there any traffic noise present? Can you hear secara? Or the sound of the ocean? If you are lucky enough to live close by? All of these things are not stuff you should consider at least. So think about it. What do you hear? And what can you do about it? I found that every once in a while, certain sounds can be magic in the background. So I've done some recordings in the Byron Bay hinterland in in Australia, where during the day, the temperature rose and suddenly this ecard has kicked in and provided this background noise fairly loud. Now off of cicadas, which ended up being an old recording, there was not much we can do about it. And there's no point trying to Aniki with that from the recording. So we just had to deal with this. And it actually turned out to add a certain beautiful magic a really natural feel to to that recording that I really like. So let's call this a lucky accident. The same might be the case if you can hear the ocean in the background and you do some beautiful acoustic guitar recordings, maybe maybe that could be just the magic that makes it a little bit better. However, the same will probably not apply to the sound of a highway or busy industrial estate. So be very careful what's going on the background and choose a place to record that gives you the right vibe. If for whatever reason you hear room problems, let's say
unnatural sounding or unpleasant sounding reverbs or echoes in the room. Now it's time to play with your microphone and everything that you have at hand. So just do a couple of tests and point the microphones into different directions of the room, there's a very good chance that it may not make a big difference, but it will give you a bit of an idea of what the surface is that causes the most trouble. Often windows and tiles or metal feeds can sound really unpleasant and hard. And that's why you should probably start trading the room. so thick curtains, mattresses, anything that absorbs sound can help and it's comes down to experimenting and taking a day or two to just putting up things in the room and have a little recording, have a little recording and test how that changes the sound of your recording and play with that. And yeah, just a day of experimenting with probably help you to understand what's going on acoustically and how to take control of acoustics and shape it into a way that that suits your music. And the principle is always the same setup. Probably evoke a microphone, sing for a minute recorded and listen back on headphones and then change something do the same thing again and listen back on headphones and then compare and see what makes a difference what doesn't know. Try to move with the acoustic treatment around to different places and see what a difference that makes this little trick, this little effort that you put in before you start recording can make a huge difference. The difference that makes to your your music is something that is of a magnitude that it will dominate or will be bigger than anything I could possibly tweak in the mix. So with all my EQs and plugins that I have, I could not possibly make such a dramatic effect on the beauty of your music than you can by shaping the sound of the room. That's something important to consider. And once you've got the solder, the choice of a microphone almost becomes secondary, I have to say almost because microphone choices are definitely not irrelevant. However, I found that once the acoustics are controlled, the effect of a microphone becomes well let's call it less offending or not not as big a contributing factor. Or we talk about microphone choices. In another episode when we talk about your microphone locker and all the details there. Good, okay. Another thing that I would like to briefly talk about is a production trick that I've seen many times last year. It's a trick that is advertised in hundreds of different YouTube videos, and it's discussed and forums left, right and centre, and I can't stand it. It's called the half delay. It is actually causing more trouble than good in many situations. And it goes as follows. The The story is that in order to achieve a bigger, fatter sound, you simply record your guitar vocal or synthesiser line or whatever this may be.
Then you take the recorded channel and duplicate the channel. And then you simply take the mouse and drag one of the two a little bit to the right or to the left by well as some people say 20 milliseconds, others say 30, sometimes 50. Sometimes a depends on the source you read. And then you pan one of them hard left and the other one hard, right. And what you will immediately hear is quite an impressive theory effect, which is also known as half delay. Although I can see the advantage of it, it will cause major difficulties in the mix stone. Because we live at a time where the majority of listeners will actually listen on very inferior playback systems. Well love it or hate it, there's nothing we can do about it. And I really wish everybody would listen to a really awesome stereo system and in a nice sounding room. But the fact is, most people listen to the iPhone earbuds, sometimes even their phones are crappy in both speakers, or what a lot of people do nowadays is used as mono Bluetooth boom boxes. And here's the problem with that when you use the Haas effect with identical copies panned hard left, right, but one of them is slightly delayed. Once that model sums, it creates a really nasty effect that is called a confidence effect. I imagine that some frequencies cancel each other out, which leads to a dip in the frequency response. Rather than having all the frequencies we have some too loud and others are way too quiet. And this is an ongoing effect that carries on many many times across the frequency spectrum. And Yep, let's make a little demonstration for how a confidence sounds on my voice. Attention Attention. Some of the sound examples demonstrated in this episode require decent headphones or stereo speakers, on sheep earbuds, phone speakers or in noisy environments, you may not be able to hear much difference in the announcement. This is my voice clean. This is my voice with Haas effect hard left right penned. And this is my voice with Haas effect of montsant and the resulting conflict or effect. Well, this can be a desired effect sometimes for creative reasons. It's probably not what people intend when they want to use the Haas effect for wider fat asterius sounds. So my recommendation is don't use the Haas effect by simply copying a file to another channel and delaying it a panning instead simply pick up your guitar or your synthesiser or whatever your instrument is. open up a new channel, record enable and record the same thing again. This is called double tracking. This is a little demonstration to show you how double tracking works. First and foremost, I would prepare one channel and get that ready for According then I'm going to perform the same sentence. Now you need to replace this with your musical phrase, of course, and record this on the first channel, which I'm panning to the left ear. Let's go for it. This little recording is just a friendly reminder for all our listeners to please subscribe. Good. Okay, now that I'm done with the first take, I would then prepare this second channel, a new track, and piano to the right ear and record enable. And go back to the beginning and listen to the same thing again, and record that again. So this little recording is just a friendly reminder for all our listeners to please subscribe. Now let's play back both together. This little recording is just a friendly reminder for all our listeners to please subscribe. I hope you could hear that this is quite an impressive stereo effect. And I really like it that way. But how does it behave when it's monopod? Let's have a listen. This little recording is just a friendly reminder for all our listeners to please subscribe, you could probably still hear that they're both still clearly audible. At the same time, I
don't hear any of the nasty comfort or effect. So when I have the choice, I always prefer a double tracking over the hostility effect. That is because when you perform the exact take again the second time, you will play some things a little bit differently. I will call this human imperfections a certain node might be slightly later, the next node might be slightly earlier. And maybe notice a little bit louder than the previous take or a little bit quieter. There's a constant change between the two. Although it's identical performances. They're not 100% identical. And the difference is what I would call another human error. And that is actually a good thing in my books. And the key point is that this difference is not consistent. It constantly changes. And that's what makes it work better on Bluetooth speakers. So please take a little mental note. The double tracking effect is absolutely amazing and anything that you want to sound big and powerful and thick. Think rock rhythm guitars, think metal guitars thing. Thick pads sounds. You can also think about backing vocals or no almost like choir or gang vocal sounding effects. You just can't get the same effect from a monitor steerer plugin or harsh effects. Instead just double triggered two times four times eight times. I guess that depends on how powerful and thick you want it to be. And that actually will give you a much much better sounding result. Okay, the Haas effect. Please don't use it in recording. It's a lazy way out it doesn't sound good to my ears and in the mix up. Always pull a better result when I have doubletrack takes rather than the quick and easy way with copying something over to create a heart effect.
Okay, thank you so much for being with me today and listening to my first episode of the production talk podcast. Big thanks to neron of alchemy audio for helping with the editing of this episode. I would really love to have you again in two weeks time when the next episode comes out. This time we will speak about your microphone locker and what you may have already and how you get the most out of your microphones. If you liked this episode, please recommend this podcast to all your friends. And if you believe I deserve so I would appreciate a five star review. That would really mean the world to me. Thank you so much for that and speak to you soon. Bye for now.