Saturday, April 30, 2011

Home Recording Tip 19: A single, well sung harmony is always better than a stack sung poorly

Now of course I’m speaking in two extremes here. If the song calls for a pile of stacked vocals i.e. 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” then of course that’s what you need. But I’ve observed often that there’s almost a default sensibility that once a harmony is sung, it must be doubled. But the fact is a single harmony can make a much more compelling sound than a stack. The mixer can then place it and the sound of just the two, or perhaps three voices can give a much clearer and emotional sound. If it needs the stack, then by all means do it. I’m just asking you to think and decided if that’s the case. Just don’t stop listening and turn into a widget-maker.

Home Recording Tip 18: When prepping a song to be mixed by an outsider, remove all plugins and automation, unless it makes the sound

That tip was a hard one to phrase in 140 characters. What I mean by “makes the sound” is that at times there’s a plugin added to a track which is critical to the sound of the track. It could be a reverb or phaser...whatever. If it were me, I’d probably print it with that effect and giving that to the mixer. The only reason you wouldn’t is if you liked it but weren’t totally sure of it. You’d then need to tell your mixer that’s generally what you’re looking for and ask if they can they better it. Also, be sure to ask if they have that plugin. If they don’t have it, explain what you did and then print with and without the effect.

Also remove any automation. That includes any panning you’ve done. I’ve had a friend give me files with automation as he liked certain balance changes. However what he didn’t realize is that within a few minutes of the mix starting, the balances that he had were usually meaningless. If you have something like that, make a rough mix and let the mixer hear it and point that spot out.

One other item. I prefer my mixes to ONLY have the data needed for the mix. I want all extra tracks, be it audio takes, midi, and effects returns and master fader to be removed. It just causes confusion and I’ll have to remove the returns and master anyway as I’ll be using my own.

Lastly, after deleting all unneeded audio tracks, go to the regions bin, hit “Select Unused” then “Remove” those files. If you don’t do this the computer must still keep track of them and it makes the session larger than needed. At times this can make the file significantly larger and backup slower. You’ve done a “Save as” for the mixer so you can always go back and fetch something if needed.

So again, clean all that stuff out. Your mixer will thank you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recording Tip 17: Hard drives are cheap. Buy more small drives than one large one so when it fails you don’t lose everything

Again, I may get some who disagree, and as long as everything you have is properly backed up See Recordingtip 16 you’re technically fine. But at least for me, I’d rather have to go back and restore as few projects as possible when a drive fails. I recommend two drives per project. One master, one back up when you’re done. So as drive space is so cheap these days, it’s a likely thing that you’ll buy a drive which has three times the space you need. Whatever....I use extra drive space all the time. But the point is the same. I’ll buy several smaller drives as opposed to those ginormous terabyte drives because that’s how I work.

And while we’re on the subject, it’s really good that once a year each drive you have gets spun up. We don’t really know how long any drive will last. We just know there are two kinds of drives. Those that have failed, and those that will.

Recording Tip 16: “If you’re not backed up twice, you’re not backed up.”-Dan Cleary And use a proper backup program

That's an old adage my buddy Dan Cleary used to say, and I think he's right. Now I may get some pushback here, but’s your project. If you're not a backup kind of guy or gal, then roll the dice. But one you experience that awful feeling I call "THE PAIN" where you realize you're fully screwed as you've lost one of your projects or songs then that's usually enough to change your mind about not backing up regularly.

It’s a bit of a pain, but one really needs to have two backups, somewhat depending upon what you stage of the project you’re in, and what your backups are. The battle of backup formats by the major labels has mostly been settled. For a while it was the AIT tapes (resembled 8mm videocasettes) and using Retrospect software. Too bad because there was another backup program which was much better. It knew how to read PT or DP and save only changes on any and every drive, but they went under. But now that’s all gone. All you need is readable media.

I use Synchronize! Pro X and find it works great. However, always double or triple check things if data is going to be deleted before hitting the button of no return! I’ll have a work drive and usually two drives that I backup to, which are all clones of what I’m working on.

These days labels mostly required you turn in copies of the mixes and digital sessions on two different media formats, normally a hard drive and DVDs. They don’t care about the backup program and that’s good. Better just to have duplicates which can hopefully be read by whatever system is in place twenty years from now.

To be honest I doubt it’ll happen...things are moving so fast. At least we’re required to turn in .wav files of the master multitracks. But really now....raise your hands if you believe any software in twenty years from now will even be able to play what we worked so hard to create?

Ce la vie....We’ll just do what we can for now and hopefully if something is needed they’ll be some old fart with a garage of computers with various OS and DAW systems to playback our file!