I love vintage recording gear. I really do. Actually, to be precise, I have come to find I like the idea of vintage gear a lot more than actually hosting it in a studio environment. I’ve recently been cleaning house of all of my relic SCSI gear that went along with various hardware samplers and began to wonder what place hardware will have in a rapidly software recording, and peforming, lanscape? There is no way around it, I have fallen in love with software. I have fallen in love with its many efficiencies, varieties, and cheap price tags. I have also fallen in love with a relatively uncluttered space which often makes my work easier. Still, there is a nostalgia for old hardware that I can’t seem to replace with software. I don’t have a warm place in my heart for Kontakt 1.0 the way I do for an old EMAX or Akai sampler. Memories and workflows are much more specifically attached to actual physical gear I owned far more so than any software I have used through the years. I don’t know why that is.
Hardware is currently available dirt cheap on eBay, local classifieds, ditches by the side of the highway… and I still sometimes get a flutter of excitement when I see an Akai S5000 for under $100. Kind of like how a guy in his 40’s or 50’s always idolizes that car he wanted when he was 17 but was so unattainable at the time. But, like the car analogy, I always come back down to earth and realize, sure I can now own many multiples of S5000’s but where exactly will I put these old dust boxes and would I really actually use any of them? I know I have tried to reclaim past glory only to get frustrated with slow transfer methods, SCSI errors and a whole host of annoyances I have since been conditioned to be impatient towards.
You’ve probably been hearing a lot about mid-side processing and are thinking, “great, one more thing I have to learn just to make my tracks presentable.” Well, not really. MS processing is just another tool you can use to add depth to, or clean up, your mixes and in practise it is just another way to apply the fx and mixing routines you are allready familiar with. MS processing at its base is simply a different way of splitting up a stereo signal. Ordinary stereo signals are split between a left and right channel, whereas an MS processor takes a stereo signal and splits it between the sum and difference channels. The sum channel would be any audio signal which is equivalent in both the left and the right channel, or in other words, the mono audio material which is dead center in your stereo field. The difference channel would be all other audio content. The terms “sum” and “difference” are just another way of understanding “mid” and “side” processing.
Once you have your mix separated by its middle (sum) and side (difference) audio content, it will sound exactly the same as your usual left/right channel stereo mix with the notable exception that you can separately process the middle of your mix from the sides of your mix. This is useful in a myriad of ways, but here are some common uses of the technique:
She’s a thing of beauty ain’t she? Believe it or not, this unassuming little plugin can totally change the sound of your mix.
For its fancy sounding name and esoteric roots, sidechain compression is an extremely simple studio technique both in principle and practice. What is sidechain compression? Basically, it is the same as ordinary audio compression except that it uses another audio source as its input, and then uses the resulting gain reduction on the destination audio track. The most common application of this method is in the ubiquitous ‘ducking’ or ‘pumping’ effect heard peppered throughout just about every dance track recorded in the last 15 years. This effect is achieved by using the kick drum as the sidechain input, which then sends the resulting gain reduction to, usually, a sustained sound on another track like a pad, chord, or noise loop.
Have you ever found yourself building an elaborate sampler or keyboard patch made up of layers upon layers only to be disappointed when bringing it into your mix? You find out that either it stands out over top of everything else, or else you need to bring it way down to a barely audible level, making you wonder, “dude, where’s my sound?”
This doesn’t only happen with synthesized sounds; you may have layered your drum hits, vocal takes, bass or guitar parts and come to the same conclusion.
This article will help you understand why this happens, and what you can do to avoid it, or if necessary, fix it in the mix. You will come to learn one of the central tenets of mixing: sounds that appear great in isolation don’t necessarily sound good in the mix. The most common reason for why this happens is as follows:
For this tutorial we are going to show you how to take a mediocre, boring, flat, or just plain wretched sounding kick drum, and magically engineer it into a bass-rattling behemoth. “But, why should I bother learning how to make my own kick drums?” you ask…Well, because, the kick drum is the corner-stone of almost all modern recordings. Check out any hip hop, rock, pop or dance track on the radio today. Front-and-center is a big, beefy kick. Since the kick drum has such high energy content, it goes a long way towards producing the perception of BIGNESS and LOUDNESS in a track. Often, you’ll have a kick drum in your track that you selected for its character… but then you realize its bass output is no good in the context of the rest of your mix. At any rate, you are unlikely to escape the need to take a kick, and pump it up to the next level at some point during your recording.