Archives For Recording Techniques

Techniques for producing the best audio recordings.

double tracked gutiar

Recording the same guitar part twice, and then combing them in the mix is known as “double tracking”. It is a simple technique which can be very effective, and is easy enough to try in a home studio – no matter how basic.

Why Double Track Guitars?

If you have a guitar part which needs more substance without making it any more complex, double tracking is an ideal technique. It can also help to pad out a mix that needs to stay simple, or help give a solo more character.

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Double Tracking Vocals

Andrew —  May 16, 2013 — 3 Comments

double tracked vocal

Recording “double tracked” vocal parts are simply two vocal recordings of the same part played back simultaneously, a simple technique but very reliant on the ability of the singer. Here’s our guide to double tracking.

Why Double Track Vocals?

Double tracking is used as an effect similar to a vocal delay, to add weight and texture to a lead vocal part and blend it into the mix. You could use this to add some substance to backing vocals – but unless it’s for a specific effect with its own place in a mix, the effect isn’t prominent and can get lost easily.

You can use it to highlight sections of a song, such as a verse or even shorter phrases. This works really nicely as it’s fairly subtle and your average listener probably won’t notice a big difference – just more ‘presence’ of the lead vocal.

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Recording Backing Vocals

Andrew —  April 23, 2013 — 1 Comment

backing vocalist

Backing vocals are often recorded to bring depth to a track and help support the Lead Vocal part. They can also be used to add a harmony or contrasting melody part to a recording, and vary from accenting single lines of the lead part to more gentle support throughout a song, more like a string pad. How you intend to use the backing vocals in the finished song will determine which recording method you use initially, so here’s our complete guide to recording the different types of backing vocals.

Single Harmony Part

This is probably the simplest of all the different types of backing vocals, because you can treat them very similarly to the lead vocals. Usually with a single harmony part you will want it to be fairly prominent in the mix, so a large diaphragm condenser microphone like a Rode NT1-A positioned around eight inches away would be a good choice to give the voice clarity help it stand out.

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snare mic

We’ve compared and reviewed some of the best snare drum microphones around, to help you choose the right one for the perfect snare sound. Microphone choice is very important, because the sound of the mic is the foundation that you build the snare sound from.

Dynamic Mics

Recording with dynamic mics has always been a firm favourite when it comes to snare drums. This is because they are robust, can deal with very high ‘Sound Pressure Levels’ and at high SPL’s they naturally compress the sound by the way they work. (See here for more detail) This compression effect squashes the transient, or attack, of the drum and brings out more of the sustain and natural tone, giving a very full and chunky sound.

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piano4

Placing microphones very near the hammers will give your piano recording a very close and tight sound, because there they will pick up some extra ‘attack’ from the sound of the hammers hitting the strings. The stereo image is usually very well defined and spreads the notes from low to high across whole width of the image. The trade off is that you lose some of the mellow tone from the body and soundboard of the piano, and getting too close will mean the mics pick up a lot of noise from the piano’s action (see this article). This technique can easily be combined with others such as close omni mics or miking the soundboard to get the full sound the instrument.

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Piano3

The soundboard in a piano transmits the vibration of the strings in to the air as sound. As such, you can get a very warm and direct sound by miking up the soundboard directly. There are a number of ways of miking a piano soundboard, each with its own pros and cons, and each with a different sound.

Underneath

This is by far the easiest way to access the soundboard, as on grand pianos it is left completely open underneath apart from the actual framework supporting it. It is an unobtrusive way to mic up a piano and can very very useful if you are short of space. Since mics here are not anywhere near the strings, they will sound very dull on their own but combined with other mic techniques, they will add a very direct and warm tone to the piano sound.

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Piano1

With some basic understanding of how a piano works and sounds, the mammoth task of recording one is much simpler. Choosing microphones and positioning them for a piano is something of an art, but it’s really enjoyable to learn as there are so many opportunities to experiment and play around.

Recording with an stereo pair

Rigging a simple stereo pair is probably the most reliable way to get a decent piano sound, as it will force you find the spot where the piano sounds best. Continue Reading…

Piano2

Pianos are arguably the hardest acoustic instrument to record well. They are capable of producing a frequency range wider than humans can hear, and the way they radiate sound is not at all linear so moving a microphone a foot or two, or even a couple of inches can completely change the tone it picks up.

In this article we will look at how a grand piano creates sound, then we can explore some different mic techniques to make the best use of that knowledge. After that, we will apply everything to recording upright pianos as they are much more common than grands. Continue Reading…

acoustic ms pair

As we know from our previous look at recording acoustic guitar, using a microphone gives you much more control over the guitar tone and a more natural sound than you would get through a built-in pickup. If you want something a little more advanced and a bit special for your guitar sound, then record it in stereo.

You might think a stereo technique for acoustic guitars is overkill since it’s such a small  instrument compared to something like a grand piano which you would expect to record in stereo. So why isn’t a single mic enough?

Honestly, the best way to find out is to give it a go and hear the difference yourself. The ‘middle and side’ technique or ‘m/s’ is the perfect tool for the job, because it allows you to listen to the mono mic and then fade up the stereo. It will also give you a very natural sounding stereo image with minimal phase issues if you decide to make it quite narrow in the mix. It is slightly more fiddly to set up then just rigging two mics and panning them left and right, but it is a more versatile technique and can give really nice results.

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Recording Lead Vocals

Andrew —  January 18, 2012 — 2 Comments

vocal mic

In most modern recordings the lead vocals are likely to be very the centre of attention, as they carry the melody and the lyrics. For this reason, if you are using a guide track, make sure it includes a decent vocal take for the rest of the musicians to follow and perform alongside. I prefer to leave the final vocal overdub to very near the end of a session, because then the singer has a more complete and balanced mix to listen to, and will usually give you a better performance for it. Having said that, don’t ever throw the guide vocal track away – you never know, it might be the best take you get!

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