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Systematic Guide to Tracking?!?!

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by schismatic, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. schismatic

    schismatic Kintsugi is coming

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    Greetings all,

    I'm a big fan of Ermz's Systematic Guide to Mixing which has really helped me understand my mixing and its goals for metal much more than any other stuff I have read.

    In the majority of cases however, crap in = crap out and without ensuring that the tracks being mixed are of good quality, mixing can sometimes amount to polishing a turd.

    I'm looking for an equivalent guide for the tracking side of things. Personally, I'm particularly interested in ensuring that I can produce great quality guitar and bass DIs because I mainly use VST sims and cab emulation and I want to make sure that my DI tracks are as good as they can be. Micing techniques for guitars and drums would probably fill another book, so my intention isn't to cover those in this thread - I'm just after a best practice guide for tracking for bedroom warriors who cannot necessarily mic up loud cabs or don't have the gear to do so.

    I'm looking for your best tips on the following areas:

    • Instruments (Quality, Preparation mainly) - what should we be doing here? New strings, good setup, tuning and intonation etc...... what about use of quality pickups etc? Do cables matter much?

    • Preamps / DI Boxes (specifically seperate to audio interface) - should you use a dedicated outboard preamp if possible regardless of an interface's preamps? Are DI boxes a good idea ahead of an interface? Can you emulate this ITB? (thinking Nebula preamps here)

    • Audio Interface - are some *much* better than others? Can this become a weak link in the chain with other decent equipment? Do other factors ultimately affect sound quality more than the interface?

    • Tracking Itself - any guidelines on signal levels? what do you consider to be too 'hot'? Do you apply any pre-FX such as compression to the tracked signal? Looking for a focus here on sound quality - there are plenty of threads discussing the merits of things like double tracking vs. quad tracking, so I don't want this thread to venture into that territory

    • Post-Tracking Treatment - how do you prepare your tracks before mixing? Noise / hiss removal? Removing / adding silence? Any filtering? Not looking to go into specifics about things like slip editing here - again please focus on how to ensure sound quality of the DI is perfect before applying VSTs like amp sims, and before mixing.

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences on this!
     
  2. thefalloftheheretic

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    Tip 1: Always use brand new fucking strings. It gives extra attacks and just sounds clearer and better.

    Tip 2: Cables fucking matter. Now, this isn't saying you need to go out to buy a Monster cable; in fact, the consensus to that seems to be no. Livewire seems to be the best value.

    Tip 3: Have a good DI box? Use it. Seems to be my weak link.

    Tip 4: Generally, you're going to want to track as hot as possible without clipping. This, AFAIK, allows for a much higher signal:noise ratio. In terms of pre-fx, I generally don't, unless I'm recording a bassist with a fuckton of clack or a singer with a HUGE dynamic range.
     
  3. schismatic

    schismatic Kintsugi is coming

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    The DI box is an interesting one. I actually own a fairly cheap interface, the Line 6 Toneport UX2. Granted it's not the greatest thing out there, but suffices. Is general consensus that throwing a quality DI box (e.g. a Countryman 85 or a good Radial) in front of this sort of interface will make a difference to the quality of DI being achieved?
     
  4. He's Dead, Jim

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    Amen to this. Same question myself.
     
  5. JeffTD

    JeffTD Senhor Testiculo

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    Man, this could be a SUPER long guide that could go in SO many different ways. You're going to need to break it down into an Engineering and Production section, and each of those will have a ton of subsections. It'd be a pretty cool thing to compile, but I think it'd be best done by a bunch of people and not one guy. As much as I love Ermin and respect his work, his mindset for tracking is going to be hugely different from mine, which is going to be hugely different from Kyle Odell's, which is going to be hugely different from Sacha's, etc...

    If we could get some kind of agreed-upon Table of Contents, we could start a questionnaire that would go into a lot of specifics on some of this stuff and distribute it to guys who track and produce a lot to get their take on it, however brief. That all compiled in a google doc or wiki would be a great asset for new and even seasoned pros.

    Is anyone else less lazy/busy than me and wants to do this? I think it could be a pretty cool resource. I of course demand 60% of any/all profits for coming up with the idea. :lol:
     
  6. Nimvi

    Nimvi Member

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    ^ Fully agree, and that sounds like a cool idea! I went ahead and checked quickly if something like this doesn't already exist, and there are some things like WikiAudio. I have never heard of it before though, so I have no idea how reliable and deep the information on there is.

    But even if something like it exists, it could be nice to have a reference like it for the metal genres specifically. It could be either a separate Wiki, or a sticky thread with sub-categories that have links to well-received articles written by members in them. It could even be a series of youtube videos. Some members have posted really helpful videos about recording in the past already. There are probably tons of other options still.

    What I think would be the hardest thing to do is to select what is worth being taken into the list. I often see stars next to threads, but I have no idea how that works? Is that done by moderators only? Or am I a retard and haven't I noticed some obvious function? And what is the true meaning of life? Who shot first?

    Just brainstorming along btw. I probably won't be adding any input on the information part just yet. I don't consider myself a very good recording engineer.

    EDIT: Just found the thread rating button... It is official. I am a retard!
     
  7. lanky noob

    lanky noob Member

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    this this this and more this.

    if everyone pitches in for rough chapter ideas and then breaks them down into specifics like you said and people all pitch in their different takes on the different chapters (eg chapter 1 tracking drums, part 1, kick drum) we can sift through the things people have pitched in and write up a general consensus guide, with other tips and tricks at the bottom.
    For example

    Kick drum
    *big ass paragraph about different preamps, what mic's work well and what mic's don't, different floor materials and how they affect the sound etc etc*

    *more potentially helpful tips such as putting a coin between two of those flam pad things, building a "tent" around the kick, attaching an empty shell to the front of the kick for more bottom end*



    It'd be a shitload of work and a massive community effort, but entirely possible and just about the coolest fucking compendium ever.
     
  8. AntonioPetrole

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    gain staging.

    Also I wouldn't call it the "Systematic" guide, because that name is affiliated with Ermz and his studio
     
  9. lanky noob

    lanky noob Member

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    Gain staging during tracking? I thought that was only in mixing (or pre mixing, whatever you wanna call it):Spin:

    *tracking noob alert*
     
  10. FarBeyondMetal

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    Digital has a very low noise floor and anything above roughly -18dB will most likely be clipping your preamp, so I would advise against this. My suggestion would be to track with the loudest parts at about -18dB.
     
  11. lanky noob

    lanky noob Member

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    extremely rough idea of chapters etc, because i'm overtired and far too excited about this ray of awesome in my otherwise shitty day, everyone feel free to call me a noob, point out stupid shit and add stuff in!
    :
    Part 1: Are you ready?
    1.1 your tracking room (what makes rooms better for drums, essential things in a tracking room, acoustic treatment etc)
    1.2 your monitoring room (same shit, just for monitoring I guess)


    Part 2: Preproduction
    2.1 making sure the band is rehearsed and completely ready
    2.2 tempo maps for drums and why drummers should stop bitching about playing to a click
    2.3 scratch guitar tracks
    2.4 chapter end/other stuff (different ampsims etc for scratch tracks, tips on writing tempo maps, why they're so essential, why guitar pro can be a godsend)

    Part 3: Drums
    3.1 Kick
    3.2 Snare
    3.3 Toms
    3.4 Overheads and different configurations (xy, stereo etc etc)
    3.5 Cymbal spot mic's
    3.6 Room microphones
    3.7 Shit you can do to make drums sound awesome (like putting wood underneath the kit to brighten it up etc)

    Part 4: Bass
    4.1 Ideal bass gear (tried and trusted basses/amps/mic's/di's etc)
    4.2 ways to find a slammin' tone that'll sit well in a mix

    Part 5: Guitars
    5.1 (just read the bass part again and change "bass" to "guitar"

    Part 6: Vocals
    6.1 vocal gear and why one microphone will never work for all singers equally well
    6.2 ways to get the best out of a vocalist (things they should be drinking, how often to take breaks etc)

    Part 7: General stuff
    7.1 Tracking gear (different consoles/desks and their advantages, essential microphones and what they're good for etc etc etc)
    7.2 Processing on the way in and it's benefits
    7.3 The different DB's explained (like dbps or whatever it is, and the difference between db levels in digital and analogue, 'cause i've got no fucking clue)


    Like I said, feel free to call me out on stuff or add stuff of your own! If everyone else is actually up for this :p hahahaha
     
  12. abt

    abt BT

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    This is a great idea and one I've thought about many time. I have to say, no disrespect to the OP or any other opinions thus far, the thing I've never been able to find good guide to is tracking guitars. Pretty much everything else listed so far I've been able to find really good information on.

    When I say tracking guitars I don't just mean tone, levels,signal flow, etc, I mean the start to finish process of tracking and editing guitars, particularly the editing. I know that there are lots of different opinions on how to go about it, this is most probably the root of the problem, but if you think about it there is a fairly common way to edit drums but with guitar there seems to be lots of ways from no editing through to note by note with everything in between. IMO if you get this right mixing is easy.

    What I also find missing is information on editing in general. Not the technical process of editing, that's easy to find, but the subjective art of when to edit and how to edit appropriately.
     
  13. EmilDelaRosa

    EmilDelaRosa New Metal Member

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    this sounds like a great idea!
     
  14. Mashreef

    Mashreef New Metal Member

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    someone please do it
     
  15. thefalloftheheretic

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    Really now? I didn't know this. TIL.
     
  16. Uros

    Uros Sonic Incision

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    Loudest parts at -18 dBFS peak or else you'll clip your preamp? :err:
     
  17. A Midnight Requiem

    A Midnight Requiem You can call me Adam.

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    A couple of things:

    1. EDIT AS YOU GO. Editing every instrument for an entire song is terrible. Do yourself a favor and edit things for timing/crossfades as they get done.

    2. Do whatever is necessary to get the performances to sound good. Different engineers approach this in different ways, but the concept is the same. Kick them out and tell them to come back when they have practiced, or record one note at a time if you have to, but don't under any circumstance settle for a crappy performance. No matter how well you mix it, it'll make the band look bad, and it'll make YOU look bad.

    3. If you're tracking with any hardware units (compressors, amps, pedals) make sure you write down or snap a picture of the settings. Chances are, you won't get everything done in one day, and when that bass player comes back to finish up, you're going to be sorry you didn't write down the settings for the Sansamp.

    4. Periodically make sure the guitarist/bassist has his volume and tone controls knobs where they should be. Inconsistencies are annoying, especially when you don't notice until reamping/mix time.

    5. TUNE TUNE TUNE TUNE TUNE TUNE TUNE TUNE. Tune chords individually. Tune after every take. It's a complete pain in the ass and it's terrible, but do it.
     
  18. drew_drummer

    drew_drummer Dancefap

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    This is absolutely untrue. You need to bit hitting the converters at their nominal input level, which is typically -18dB.
     
  19. drew_drummer

    drew_drummer Dancefap

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    He's slightly confused. It wont clip the preamp, but it will push the converters out of their ideal range.
     
  20. Uros

    Uros Sonic Incision

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    Possibly, but only if we're talking about average level. Having highest peaks between -6 and -12 dBFS is perfectly fine.
     

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