What are the advantages of recording
sequenced MIDI tracks to a multitrack hard disk or tape instead of
straight to digital? -DeAndre'
I've done a ton of
MIDI tracks, both on to tape and
virtual (live to 2 track).
The advantages to
recording to multitrack are:
1. The sound. You
just can't beat analog tape. It adds a smoothness and fatness that is
How does it do that? Back in the ol' days all the tape manufacturers
tried to eliminate a "flaw" of analog recording: putting in a square
wave test signal (very abrupt and raspy sounding) produced a
rounded-out result. The square corners of your test tone had a
bump-like rounded curve in playback that actually softened the attack
of anything harsh sounding. But today, we love that smooth tone! We're
happy they never got the square wave response any better than it was!
So, if you recorded a snare drum with a nasty attack, it actually
sounded smoother and more pleasant on playback - thanks to that "bad"
square wave analog response! Note: some people attribute the "fat" tone
of analog just to the low frequency "bump" (boost) that occurs at
playback. In reality, the low-end bump is fat, but the added "flaw" of
poor square wave response really puts the icing on the cake.
Also, if you
have limited pieces of outboard processing gear for the mixdown, you
can fully utilize them to record the midi tracks onto tape - which
means they're available for use at mix time. So much progress has been
achieved with plugins, but for my money, the real thing - real analog
sound - is still the best.
on tape frees up those synths to be used for additional sounds
Your bass synth might have some other cool sound that wouldn't be
available if not for tape. You may change your mind about the original
sound you recorded to tape, but that smooth, fat analog tone will be
hard to beat compared to the ones coming out of a synth (or a computer).
Analog tape "compression" - which is really a characteristic of tape
where it won't take any more level once the signal gets too hot. In
other words you can put more signal in, but the tape won't give you
back the same amount. There's signal there for sure, but it "saturates"
and gets "warmer" due to the "teeter-totter" effect - less high
frequency output appears to give favor (apparent volume) to the lower
frequencies. Tone down (saturate) the highs and everything else that is
below still comes through. Plus with that rounded-out "bad" square wave
characteristic of tape, you could actually distort the signal to a
certain point and it wouldn't sound as bad since its...
The flavor of tape compression is just less output response when more
level attempts to get onto the tape. It's a limitation that
sounds good! Digital, on the other hand, doesn't sound all that good
when it's clipped. That's when the natural shape of the sound is
getting clipped/squared off, and it just gets more harsh. If you like
harsh, then you're fine. There's no rules. But top of the line
recordings keep a smoother sound ... a more analog sound... but staying
away from those pesky red "lights."
There's no undo button on analog tape - only that friendly red "do it
again if you didn't like it" button. The red light is either on or it's
off. It offers the "challenge" of a real performance committment, to
the extent that what you record to tape eventually ends up in the
mixdown (and wasn't muted). Granted, if you are using programmed
synths, then your programming software or sequencer has lots of undo
features. But if you're flying old-school and just crankin' a real
performance onto that tape, well, you're going to get what you give.
Sometimes artists over-do the "compile" thing - recording 85 vocal
tracks and then letting the engineer pick and choose the best takes....
like a jigsaw puzzle. Yikes! Just get into it and perform
it like you're making musical history! Press the red button like
there's no going back.
advantages to not going to multitrack are:
1. No tape
hiss or track-to-track crosstalk that's inherent with analog heads. If
you recorded a staccato, crispy synth part on one track and a fat bass
synth on the next track over, the bass (in many cases) could be heard
on the playback of the crispy track. Not the entire bass sound, but a
muddy, waffley tone as if you were hearing the bass in another room
behind a closed door. That muddy sound bleeding over could either
add to the fatness of the real bass track (assuming you didn't eq out
the bleeding-over bass frequencies) -- or it would wash out the
precision of the bass notes and smear the bottom. Staying in the
digital world means no crosstalk, unless you go through a console where
there's grounding issues, console crosstalk, or physical wires crossing
over each other and signal leaks from one wire to the next.
analog tracks for more vocals, drums (remember that smooth sound on the
attacks) or live instruments (nice for horns, percussion, edgy guitars,
having to buy that extra 24 track machine that needs more air
conditioning in the room. Saves you time since you don't have to learn
how to align that 24 track machine (although you can learn how here and get even more detailed here). Saves having to buy the tape (both
recording and alignmet tapes). Saves time since you don't need to
become best buddies with a really old guy who knows how to fix analog
machines. Saves buying or finding out of date parts. There will come a
day when those blessed parts just can't be found. For now,
there's stuff out there.. and the good news is that analog machines and
consoles, to a degree, can be a bargain.. since few people are buying
them the way they were in their hayday.
live tracks at the time of the mixdown becomes more specific and
tailored to the needs
of the mix - plus you're going through less electronics which can mean
a cleaner, more immediate sound right to the mix. Also your reverbs are
first generation going right to your mixdown. Analog tape doesn't do
that much for reverb. The "bad" square wave response really doesn't
care or show up when there's nothing square as an aspect of the
signal... such as is the case with reverb. Not much square there.
there are advantages to both methods, you can just pick which
works best for the sound, the instrumentation, or the production gear
I have been avoiding the hard disk recording plunge. My
2-track mixes sounded fine to me. A recording engineer friend of mine
thinks my mixes will benefit from the additional gain and signal
processing of multitrack recording.
in benefit? The editing possibilities on a hard disc system
are endless.... so are the hours you can spend learning it all...
Knowing hard disc recording techniques means you're a part of the
future, but have a comfortable chair.... you'll also be a part of
crashes, clocking, bit rates, digital media, file housekeeping... a
mouse will live in your hand... Remember to balance your computer
genius skills with your baseline musical talent.
haven't been crying for "pluggin-type" effects, I'd really weigh
what you'll get for the money - real analog processors can be
affordable too, and when used with your real-time synths, they can be
FAT. Pluggins recalculate the digital signal and generally sound
thinner when put neck-and-neck with real tubes and transistors.
Q) I found the info on your site to be both
depressing and inspiring - depressing because I can't afford the
ultra-expensive gear it apparently takes to really make a top notch,
commercial quality CD; inspiring because I can use a lot of what you
say to get the most out of what I'm fortunate enough to have, and be
happy with that. -Scott
that in retrospect, the times when I had "less" were times when
I was forced to be more resourceful, and that gave me an advantage via
a deeper level of learning. Without my old Teac 3340 4-track, I
wouldn't have done as well on my Otari 8-track. The 8-track experience
gave me a better foundation for my 16 thru 48 track days. My only
regret was that I didn't let go of needing "more" sooner.
I would love to see how some of my mixes
would sound when professionally mastered, but I'd also hate to spend a
lot of money when the source material I'm sending in is not up to the
quality level of the 2" analog tape used for major projects.
projects that sell records and profit are not analog. Don't worry
about the format - the song, the singer, the performances, the star
quality is all more important to the consumer.
Created 12/11/01 • Modified 11/3/09
Should we not
compression during the mix session?
Digital Audio Workstation Tips
Must we analyze digital sound
microscope when a 13-year old won't know the difference anyway?
|Q) What is the primary role of a mastering
use recording-engineering and subjective listening
techniques to make all final enhancements to music prior to
2.) What tasks does the mastering engineer attend to?
to the client's music, processing it as deemed
necessary, making a reference master that the client can evaluate,
completing any final steps, making coffee or tea, seeing that everybody
has a good time...
3.) What is the affect of finely mastered music on the overall sound?
from no change at all to dramatic night-and-day
differences! The goal is to achieve a smooth, clear, full, punchy,
robust and appropriate level-adjusted cd that sounds excellent on any
4.) Why are mastering engineers important?
final objective "ears" bring a new level of sonic
quality to the music. Plus many mastering engineers are older, more
experienced, more knowledgeable professionals. The additional
perspective rounds out the production and brings it to a new level in
5.) Is there a strong market for highly trained mastering engineers?
6.) How much (in your opinion) does the average mastering engineer make?
7.) What are some of the downfalls related to the mastering engineer
to ears if overbooked.
8.) Where do most mastering engineers work?
9.) Is the average mastering studio expensive? How much would it cost
to create one?
there is no average. Mastering can be done on a $1,500 computer,
although not with the greatest results in my opinion. Million dollar
studios are available, so imagine everything in between. Keep in mind
that a top studio will have two of everything, so in case one piece of
gear needs repair, another is ready to pop into place. So if you were
to spend $75,000 for the gear, you'd actually need $150,000 to be on
line at all times.
10.) What is the affect of computer technology on traditional mastering?
gives us the ability to do special effects, tempo
changes, noise removal, and powerful editing above and beyond the
traditional methods. However when analog gear isn't present, for the
majority of the tone and dynamics shaping, computer "mastering" program
can restrict the sound if not used carefully.
11.) What kind of educational background is required for a mastering
how good of a mastering engineer you're talking about. Most
great engineers have over 25 years of experience, which of course is
the best teacher. What helps is a musical education, electronics theory
and repair, live sound experience, computer (PC and Mac) and some
acoustics theory. However, young upstarting engineers must use a low
price, word of mouth, and lots of advertising to reach clients
regardless of their education.
Q) I'm doing a survey - I am a pathetic
college student; please pity me and read this -Blake
Do you have a degree in your field?
traditional one, I have a couple certificates for educational
study programs I've attended, but the Ph.D. is yet to arrive.
Has having or not having a degree affected
your self-perceived success?
would be different than the perception of other. I would
say it would have been beneficial to me to have a business degree, but
the lack of a recording arts degree has not been an issue. Besides,
self-percieved success is most accurate when it isn't influenced from
things "outside of ourselves" like degrees. Inner success comes from a
knowing of who we are, regardless of any outside circumstances - and
usually the more successful we feel on the inside, the more success we
create on the outside.
What intangibles do you boast as an
What skills outside of technology should
any aspiring engineer boast?
integrity, willingness to ensure the client's satisfaction, a
willingness to always grow one's relationship skills (business and
personal), a sense of humor, a willingness to let go of the need to be
right, a passion for quality, a commitment to release victim-mentality
and assumptive thinking, and a philosophy of always trying to exceed
the expectations of co-workers and customers at every encounter.
I'm 18, and I'm a
singer/performer. I've been doin' biz since I was 6. And I have lots of
songs. I know that I've got a place here in the Biz, cuz God gave me
talents to reach to ppl. Plz do help me out in the this biz... All I
need is exposure..... That's all.
Plz do reply to my email. ps: pls reply... thanks alot... - Chester
it takes more than exposure. For starters, if you're going to
reach a professional management team, entertainment lawyer or
promotional agent who will be absolutely ecstatic about promoting and
representing your music, performance skills, commitment to excellence,
writing abilities, etc., you may want to consider using a spell checker
for your emails. Communicating in a professional and businesslike
manner is much more attractive than "street" abbreviations.
best of the best in EVERY moment. Knowing less, expressing less,
demonstrating less isn't what being the best is about. If you want to
fly with the eagles, be one. Raise your own levels of excellence. Check
my links page
for an abundance of
Q) I have a project studio in my basement
but there is a lack of bottom end at the listening point. Should I use
trapping? - Mark
every room is totally different from every other room, this is a
common complaint. Usually it's because the console is too close to the
speakers or there isn't enough bottom from the speakers themselves.
around the room and listen to where the low end naturally
sounds good, and put the console there. I know, they just don't demo
home studios that way, and the "where to put the customer" logistics
may take some work... With your console about 5 to 10 feet away from
the speakers, put on your favorite commercial cds (some good examples
are on my commercial cd page) and listen to see if you are hearing
distinct differences in bottom from cd to cd. Cds sound different, and
you should be able to hear those differences.
some cardboard boxes filled with books, or "quick tubes"
from Home Depot, or odd and ends... and use them as portable trapping
if there are tubby or boomy sounding areas in your room. Move these
portable traps around to where the room sounds tightened up as a
guideline for where to install permanent traps - the ceiling corners
are good locations to trap without taking up space. Too much carpet or
absorptive stuff on the walls can make a room too dead, so watch that
coolest thing you've ever heard being said by Quincy Jones?
"We never really ever finish our projects. We simply abandon them."