Q) If I want a
particular sound, say a lot of bass, should I do this
recording the track or should I just let the adjustment be made in
I prefer to get
everything sounding as good as possible
at every step, so yes I would eq the sound to your multitrack master.
Yes, tone quality will be enhanced or corrected in mastering, but when
tracking, I add eq and compression to bass, drums, vocals, you name it.
My goal was always to be able to play the tape with monitor faders only
and have excellent sound. (Not to mention that if the tapes went to
another studio for overdubs or mixing, the quality of my work would
consistently show up.) This saves time, too, when bringing up the tape
for your next session because you don't spend time eq'ing the tracks
and patching in compressors before starting overdubs. I know. You've
got a total recall board. That's cool! But read on...
would set up stereo pairs of tracks, like piano in stereo,
synths in stereo, two sets of stereo guitars, etc. I would almost
always triple track backup vocals, left, center, right. I would usually
have a stereo pair available for solos, and when the solo wasn't
playing, those tracks were available for stereo percussion or other
say, how did I ever have enough tracks? Well when doing 48
tracks it was never an issue, but most of the 24 track sessions weren't
a problem. My production technique kept stuff layered so every track
wasn't always going at once. Since I started with 4 and 8 track, I
*had* to learn how to manage the tracks, and since I've always been a
stereo-audiophile-great sound freak, I always figured out ways to get
stuff in stereo no matter how many tracks I had. Even if I had to mix
to a cassette and then bounce it back to the multitrack tape.
Key: Don't waste tracks
drums. I rarely *ever* used a separate hi hat mic or hi hat track.
There was always plenty in the snare. While some engineers like to gate
down the leakage in the snare mic, I always preferred to get the
drummer to play the hat softer, or if need be, I'd put duct tape on the
hat. I know. You spent a zillion dollars to get that loud hat that you
can hear all the way over at the neighbors house. What can I say... hi
hats don't have to be blazing in the mix. Yes, there are times when a
very precise hat is needed for jazz, or needed for real open and
effecty songs. Some of today's drum loop vibes have lots of softer
incidental snare notes that a gate would cut out too. Many of those
cool drum loops on new records are from the days of old and recorded
without gating. So whenever possible, I say have the drummer be in
charge of the dynamic mix right from the get-go. (More about that on my
Secrets of Miking page.)
always combined the toms into a stereo pair, never separating them
individually unless there was special circumstances, like doing a 3
piece live jazz thing to 16 track. Then yes, I'd separate the toms and
hi hat and maybe add an extra track for ride cymbal. But even then, a
great stereo overhead mic set-up really diminishes the need for all
those extra tracks! In the early days the goal was to get the drums
with mics on the kic, the snare, and two overheads.... and make it
sound great! "Less is more." is a very valuable idea.
I am a little conservative with compression recording to
tape, so that I'm not locked into something that I'd regret not being
able to "back off" a bit at mix time. But if I need something with a
lot of compression, I don't hesitate to use it. Often it's not a good
idea to add reverb or effects to the multitrack because then you are
locked into that sound and it can't be altered much in mixdown.
However, there are exceptions! Remember those stereo pairs? Sometimes I
would add stereo ambience or delays right then and there because I knew
ahead of time what I wanted and that it would stay till the very end.
Sometimes even adding a long verb on a mono percussion track has a nice
there were early times when I only had so many effects, and so to
have them all available at mixdown time, I'd blend them in during
tracking. Sometimes, our limitations are a gift. It invites us (not
forces us) to be more creative with the resources at hand. Usually, all
the resources we need are closeby... sometimes being open to that truth
in all areas of life makes a positive difference in what we're
experiencing moment to moment.
One last reminder, I
don't recommend compressing the
stereo buss when mixing. It hampers the mastering process - where
compression and limiting is an art.
Q) I use a program called Nuendo. Do you
think you can get a good master with using software plugins? -Richard
mean doing good "mastering", I think it depends on the mixes. If
they need relatively little in terms of processing and really good gear
was used going into the system, then a "good" master is certainly
possible, if the listening is done by talented ears that know how to
get real world results. Software mastering recalculates the numbers
(samples) and if used too aggressively, causes some shrinkage of the
sound stage and makes it sound more sterile, when compared to analog
tracking or mixing engineer is doing software mastering on the
same system as it was tracked or mixed on, then basically you may get a
"good" master suitable for many uses, but not necessarily something
that's neck-and-neck with product by Bob Ludwig, Bernie Grundman or
John Vestman. $75,000+ of processing gear and 26+ years plus of
experience just gets you to another level that software can't offer.
One thing is for sure - using the best is always sonically a good
question is how appropriate high-end mastering
you or your client's needs. A $5,000 mastering job won't make an album
sell more. It will make it sound terrific, but the material has to be
there even before the mastering session is even booked. That's why I
share so much info on my site - so that the core recording has a better
shot at succeeding. Everyone wins from every level of improvement.
However, if lower-cost software makes more sense in the over-all
picture (type of clients, who's going to hear/buy the music, when is
enough enough) then I'd go for it.
only make the best decision you can - who should be picked for
tracking, mixing, mastering? What scale of spending vs. saving is
appropriate? How well thought out are the next steps (artwork,
pressing, distribution, promotion, legal fees, merchandising, touring,
etc.)? That's why I've included my links
which is an incredible way to see more of what's possible for launching
that next Grammy-winning album.
with the slogan "I AM IT." That way I will never ever blame
anyone else for my results. Don't misunderstand... I don't even begin
to think that I'm going to do everything all by myself... I
intend to ask for support, I intend to delegate, I intend to follow
though and be a team player all the way. I know that my goals are just
targets that support my direction - and I know that my intentions are
what I am going to MAKE happen - without question. We can all take
responsibility for being "ok" at every level of our evolution - we can
keep in mind that life is a process, not a destination... and we should
enjoy the ride along the way!
Q) When you are mastering do you master 2
track or multi track?
taking a 2 track mix source and enhancing it, but there are
times when I use up to 8 tracks when layering additional material is
required... but that's pretty seldom.
...and if multi track how does it usually
multitrack stuff usually belongs in the mixing room. If I'm adding
reverb, or mixing vocals with stereo instrumental tracks, it's because
of a special circumstance. More common is where I might extend a
too-short reverb tail at the end of a song by cloning the ending and
carefully adding it into the original tail.