First Attempts at Multi-Tracking - Miking / Mixing Advice?

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by EPOCH6, Mar 8, 2016.

  1. EPOCH6

    EPOCH6 Member

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    Started putting together a very minimalist recording rig for solo acoustic projects back in January. One channel, single SM57 microphone run through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, all managed in Audacity. It has been a lot of fun so far and very easy to use. Thing is I don't know a whole lot about guitar production and proper miking. I'm basically laying my SM57 slightly elevated on a table or stool and positioning it 3 or 4 inches from my guitar aimed between the neck and sound hole.

    Obvious advice #1: Get a mic stand.
    I will.

    This track is probably the best example of my multi-tracking attempts thus far:
    https://soundcloud.com/epoch6/january-15

    In that track there are 2 - 3 acoustic tracks. At this point I'm barely mixing anything at all. Raw guitar tracks with slight EQ corrections, the only blending I'm doing is panning two tracks 30 or 40% left or right. No compression, very slight digital reverb added here and there.

    I always have to drop the bass frequencies at least 6 dB, I'm assuming that's due to mic positioning, too close to the sound hole? I've read that positioning the mic higher up the strings away from the sound hole is basic treble control.

    Try and focus on the mix and if you can shoot me some feedback on how to achieve a more balanced and blended mix, what are some things that work well for you? How important is compression and if you do typically compress what are your preferred settings?
     
  2. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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  3. EPOCH6

    EPOCH6 Member

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  4. Madmatt

    Madmatt Active Member

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    You could try pulling the mic back from the instrument, and/or repositioning it so it points at a different part of the guitar.

    If you get a friend to move the mic around as you play, with headphones on so you only hear what the mic is picking up, you can try lots of positions fast, and find your favorites.

    Wow! Those are some extreme settings. Not sure what I think of those.
     
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  5. Jimmy Jacks

    Jimmy Jacks Well-Known Member

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    One of my pet peeves about this section of the forum is you will get plenty of views but often not a lot of feedback. It may just be that most of the people are not really doing a lot of recording, or that they hate the music, or their just lurkers and not interested in contribution. But I will do my best to give you feedback.

    In the interest of full disclosure I am not a recording or production professional. I am dangerous enough to get the quality I feel is as good as I could without an actual engineer and tens of thousands in recording equipment. My total expense from computer, software and mics (including stands :D) is about $2,500.00. Ive only been at the home studio experience for about two years.
    I recommend a good quality condenser mic for acoustic guitar recording, close to the 12th or 14th fret will give you a more crisp tone, low end will be captured closer to the hole. Mic brand is a preference thing and totally up to debate. Ill leave it to internet research and opinions of more qualified professionals, however I'm using a spark blue cardioid studio mic. Im using the same interface you are.

    I think the Doctors orders on compression are spot on. As for actual settings use a starting point and experiment. You should find a little more separation in the tracks by compressing them. (using a good pair of studio head phones is very important too while mixing, I use Sennheiser hd 280 pro, I'm sure a recording snob or two would say they're garbage but they work for me)

    Panning is essential in getting good track separation. You might also try micing the guitar higher on one track and lower (closer to the hole) on another track to give the guitars different tonal qualities also helping to distinguish them.

    As far as your production goes, Im not sure but i think I hear a metronome in the background in the beginning. If it is there, try using the metronome in the headset not the room. Also I recommend a good noise gate to keep unwanted sounds out of the recording. I really like the tone you have captured on the guitar. Its very clear, not muddy at all and very well played. I also hear a little bit of body rap, I'm sure its unintentional but it causes a bassy thudding between the 32 and 33 second mark. Its subtle but certainly something you can eliminate once your aware of it. At the 1min 16 second mark you have a supporting guitar that your playing on the higher strings possibly capo, Id like to hear that a little better, i think it just needs a touch of volume in the busy part. I notice when it calms down a bit the capo part really rings through, I find some parts need a touch more volume when a mix is really full. At 2:10 the groove changes, awesome change up, the slide in that part is awesome, great level, great reverb. I love the song, great playing and technical skill on your part, kudos...

    Please take no offense at my critique, all I offer is opinion, a layman's at that, and its all in the spirit of getting a better production. I hope this helps you on your way. I really think a little bit of compression will really help you. It is, as i said a very well played piece, Its easy to hear that you have developed some sophisticated skill.
     
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  6. EPOCH6

    EPOCH6 Member

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    Thanks for the lengthy response, you hit a lot of points that I was hoping would be noticed.

    - There is metronome bleed, good ear, I've been doing all of this with a pair of studio monitors, no headphones. After ending up with metronome bleed a couple of times now on a couple of tracks I'm convinced that headphones will be worth it. I find it much easier to play along with my tracks when they're coming from the speakers, much easier to focus on my attack, but a metronome in one ear shouldn't cause much grief. The SM57 is very directional and as long as it is pointed away from my studio monitors and sitting a good 5 ft away there is very little bleed, but the metronome is punchy and crisp enough that it managed to poke through in a few spots.

    - Miking the guitar a bit differently for each track for tonal separation is a good idea, I'll be trying that for sure.

    - Body rap and background noise is actually something I intentionally leave in by preference, at least for my acoustic projects. I like the idea of home recordings sounding like home recordings, background chatter or dogs barking outside the window or cars driving by add a sort of personal vibe to it. These aren't tracks I ever plan on sending out to radio shows or contests or whatever, just guitar wankery by guitarists for guitarists, musical ideas I want to save for bigger projects. Bassy thuds however are obtrusive and I'll be keeping my ears open to avoid those.

    - The supporting guitar at 1:16 is a mandolin, I have it fading in from 0 to 100 over the length of its track, that was just a poor editing choice, I agree that it should be louder at the beginning. Also didn't help that it was very awkward to mic without a stand.

    - Experimenting with compression is my priority right now, I've always ignored that feature and I'm starting to understand how essential it is.

    Thanks for the comments on the actual music too, it was a fun track to make, a few ideas that were floating around that month just kind of jammed into a row.
     
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  7. Jimmy Jacks

    Jimmy Jacks Well-Known Member

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    Ok here are a couple of things from some articles that Ive found to address the bleed issue from both the metronome and monitors. Again, I'm not sure if you are already aware of these issues but ill post some things that helped me.


    "- There is metronome bleed, good ear, I've been doing all of this with a pair of studio monitors, no headphones. After ending up with metronome bleed a couple of times now on a couple of tracks I'm convinced that headphones will be worth it. I find it much easier to play along with my tracks when they're coming from the speakers, much easier to focus on my attack, but a metronome in one ear shouldn't cause much grief. The SM57 is very directional and as long as it is pointed away from my studio monitors and sitting a good 5 ft away there is very little bleed, but the metronome is punchy and crisp enough that it managed to poke through in a few spots."


    Try to keep in mind even minimal bleed will drastically affect the clarity from track to track and it will have a cumulative effect with multiple tracks causing frequency issues. In other words you don't want to play through the monitors in the room you are recording in. Think of it like this,
    Track one, virgin track no monitor bleed but slight metronome bleed.
    Track two monitor bleed from track one, plus the metronome bleed.
    Track three now has monitor bleed form track one and track two.
    Track four cumulative effect of the first three, etc. etc.
    It adds up to ghost noise and possible frequency that can be annoying and impossible to track down. Now you add a little reverb to make it wet and all of a sudden your mix is getting away from you and you just can't pin point the issue. Thats because its not one issue, its compounded background noises over multiple tracks and monitor bleed. Ive learned this the hard way. Headphones are the key to eliminating this almost totally for the purist track recording. Also be aware of the mic gain and the levels you are recording at. If its distorting at the front end you will never achieve clarity on the back end.

    Also wave interference can be an issue in the room if you are not using any dampening techniques. You strum the strings the wave travels to a flat surface, like a wall and bounces back to the origin of projection causing it to disrupt the wave, add in the monitor bleed and you have a sonic nightmare. You are always recording the room unless you are on a direct input.

    Wave Interference
    When two or more sound waves from different sources are present at the same time, they interact with each other to produce a new wave. The new wave is the sum of all the different waves. Wave interaction is called interference. If the compressions and the rarefactions of the two waves line up, they strengthen each other and create a wave with a higher intensity. This type of interference is known as constructive.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    When the compressions and rarefactions are out of phase, their interaction creates a wave with a dampened or lower intensity. This is destructive interference. When waves are interfering with each other destructively, the sound is louder in some places and softer in others. As a result, we hear pulses or beats in the sound.
    Dead spots

    Waves can interfere so destructively with one another that they produce dead spots, or places where no sound at all can be heard. Dead spots occur when the compressions of one wave line up with the rarefactions from another wave and cancel each other. Engineers who design theaters or auditoriums must take into account sound wave interference. The shape of the building or stage and the materials used to build it are chosen based on interference patterns. They want every member of the audience to hear loud, clear sounds.
    Sound Traveling Between Materials

    Remember that sound travels faster in some materials than others. Sound waves travel outward in straight lines from their source until something interferes with their path. When sound changes mediums, or enters a different material, it is bent from its original direction. This change in angle of direction is called refraction. Refraction is caused by sound entering the new medium at an angle. Because of the angle, part of the wave enters the new medium first and changes speed. The difference in speeds causes the wave to bend.
    Critical Angle

    The angle of refraction depends on the angle that the waves has when it enters the new medium. As the angle from the wave to the barrier between the two mediums gets smaller, the angle of refraction also gets closer to the barrier. When the wave’s entering angle reaches a certain point, called the critical angle, the refraction is parallel to the dividing line between the mediums. The critical angle depends on the two mediums the sound is coming from and going to. The speed of sound is different in every medium. Because of this, even if the sound hits at the same angle, the angle of refraction will vary for different mediums. The greater the difference in speed between the two mediums, the greater the critical angle will be.
    If sound hits the new medium with any angle smaller than the critical angle, it will not be able to enter. Instead it will bounce off, or be reflected, from the dividing line. When a wave is reflected, it returns with an angle equal to the one with which it hit. Whenever sound hits a new medium, part of it is reflected back. The rest enters the new medium and is refracted. Imagine sound is traveling through the air and hits the wall of a brick building. Some of the wave is reflected, but much of it enters the brick. The part of the wave going through the brick is now going faster than the part in the air. This is because brick is a solid whose molecules are closer together and can transmit sound more quickly. This difference in speeds caused the wave to bend, or be refracted. Suppose that the wave hits the building with an angle that is smaller than its critical angle. This time, the wave cannot enter the brick and all of it is reflected. If the wave struck the wall with an angle of 15 degrees, it would reflect back with the same angle from the other side. Since there are 180 degrees total, the reflected angle would be 165 degrees, 15 degrees measured from the other direction.




    Again I hope this helps. good luck my friend and enjoy
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
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  8. Jimmy Jacks

    Jimmy Jacks Well-Known Member

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    Hers another article about sound waves that I found very helpful.
    Distortion, Clipping, and Square Waves:

    These three terms can be quite confusing--partly because people mix them up all the time, and partly because they can in fact overlap in meaning. "Distortion" also has multiple correct meanings.

    Clipping has a very specific meaning: every audio device, from a transistor to a tube to a speaker, has a maximum limit of how high of a signal can pass through cleanly; when the level of signal going through exceeds that maximum, the tops of the waves get clipped off (flattened out). Imagine a doorway of average height--a short man walks through easily, and a medium-height man walks through easily, but a very tall man knocks his head against the top of the door frame. The impact of the tall man's head is the distortion that results when your signal's peak level is too high for the device it is trying to pass through. Here is an idealized illustration, using a sine wave:

    [​IMG]

    Clipping like that results in compression of the signal, and compression in general is a type of soft clipping. You can think of compression as being like the tall man ducking down as he walks through the doorway, to avoid hitting his head.

    From a technical standpoint, distortion means any change in the wave-shape of a signal from the input of a device to the output. So even a simple change in tone, without clipping, can be accurately called distortion. Here is an example:

    [​IMG]

    Changes in amplitude (volume) don't necessarily change the wave shape, so turning the signal up or down is not distortion. Even though clipping is just one type of distortion, for at least six decades guitarists have used the word distortion to mean clipping of their amp, at any stage: the preamp, power section, or speaker. It also is very commonly used to mean a pedal effect that emulates an amp pushed to clipping, especially at a level of clipping that is more intense than "overdrive" but not quite as extreme as "fuzz". Since that type of meaning is so commonly used and understood, it can sometimes be tricky for engineers and guitarists to communicate.

    Some distortion effects are created by using square waves. All sound travels in waves of various shapes, and a square wave is a particular wave shape (the pink one here):

    [​IMG]

    This shape comes from adding odd-integer harmonics to a sine wave; the more harmonics are added, the closer to a square shape it becomes. As you can see from the first image in this article, a clipped sine wave can look kind of like a square wave. Because of this, many people get the idea that clipping their amp results in square waves--but this is almost always false. Amplified audio waves are almost never perfect sine waves, due to phase alterations caused by the amplifier and speakers; and even with a perfect sine wave it takes an extreme amount of clipping to start to resemble a square wave. Here is what clipped audio really looks like, in almost all cases:

    [​IMG]

    No squares there. The reason I point this out is because many people think square waves will burn out their speakers--but even in the rare cases where the clipped wave does sort of resemble a square, if square waves really damaged speakers then how would we ever be able to listen to a recording of a synthesizer or a pipe organ? The "overheating piston" action that people claim occurs with a square wave simply does not happen in reality, at least not to any degree more than other big signal peaks; and again in reality clipping audio doesn't result in square waves anyway. The burnt-out coils that amp repair techs regularly deal with all resulted from too much power being sent into the speaker, completely regardless of whatever wave shapes were sent through it. You will hear lots of people--even senior audio professionals--recite the claim that clipping and square waves damage speakers as if it was "gospel truth", but it's really just a long-established myth that will not die. Here's how that myth got started, and maybe why it continues:

    When you crank an amplifier to its maximum, and feed it a strong, spiky input signal, it can actually put out much more power than it is rated for--sometimes hundreds of watts more. So for example when a bassist has a 200 W amplifier, and a speaker cab rated for 300 W, he might suppose that there's no way the amp could overpower the speakers; but if he dimes the amp's output, and plays aggressively, he certainly could blow those speakers, because he will be sending spikes much higher than 300 W into that cab, all night long. Yes, the amp will have been clipping like crazy, so he (and his amp repair tech) will usually assume it was the clipping that blew the cones--but it was the excess power that actually did the damage. On top of all that, tweeters (high-frequency drivers) are usually rated for a lot less power handling ability than larger speakers are; and the harmonics of clipped waves can mean a lot of extra energy up in the high frequency ranges that typically get sent into a tweeter; so it's fairly common for clipping at high volume to result in way too much power being sent into the tweeter, causing it to burn out. Just remember that the same wave shape, at a lower volume level, would not have done any harm.
     
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  9. alexander paul

    alexander paul Well-Known Member

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    in a rush because i have a session in a few minutes... lots of great advice & will add to the "get a mic stand"... i mic acoustic guitars mostly @ the octave aimed @ the hole from several inches almost lateral... i tell clients to move around a bit as they/me play & pick the best spot... read about mic proximity effect...

    [​IMG]
     

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