Lesson about Recording for the Complete Novice: It’s all about the Bus…

Aloha!  Chris here with The Kilt Lifters.  It’s Sunday again, and that means it’s time for another lesson on recording for the complete novice.  I hope everyone has had a stellar week that would make Mr. Crazy Eyes blush.  This is going to be a relatively short one, and I hope it’s useful for those folks that are just learning their way around a DAW.  This is one of those simple things that folks rarely explain, but they somehow expect you to know.  I started writing this series when I thought back to all of the frustrations I’ve had learning these things the hard way.  Most of us are musicians, not engineers.  We know how to make the noise we want to make, but not necessarily how best to capture and present it.  One of the most frustrating things ever is hearing one of the grizzled old engineers say, ‘use your ears’.  That’s the least useful thing anyone has ever said, yet you see it EVERYWHERE online in virtually every audio production forum.  It would be akin to me telling one of my guitar students to ‘use their fingers’ when they ask me how to improve their playing.  Duh.  Of course they are going to use their fingers, but it’s my job to tell them wtf they’re supposed to do with their fingers to make the noise they want to make.  So, without further ado, here’s a bit about buses.

At this point, we are assuming that you have a number of tracks recorded, and now you need to process them to make the burps and farts really sparkle.  When you’re dealing with a large number of tracks, it’s often helpful to process groups of tracks together not just for organizational purposes, but also to use your computer’s processing power more efficiently.  To do this, we group tracks into buses.

Take the example below.  We have a group of vocal tracks that we want to process in the same manner.  We have a lead vocal track and a group of background vocals. In this example, we want to use the same compressor with the same settings on all of them.  

It is a large waste of processing power and quite a bit of extra work to add that compressor and set it for each individual track. To accomplish our goal, we group all of the vocal tracks into a single bus and put the compressor on the bus!  This way, the DAW only needs to process one instance of the compressor, and the engineer only needs to configure it once! This is a much more efficient use of both the processor and the engineer.

That’s it for this week.  See?  I told you it would be short and simple.  If there’s a topic you’d like me to cover, please feel free to drop a note in the box below.

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3 thoughts on “Lesson about Recording for the Complete Novice: It’s all about the Bus…”

    1. A big part of it is EQ and compression. EQ can help to reduce frequencies that are hard on your ears. Compression helps to tame extra loud notes and even out the entire recording. I’m going to be covering both of those in future lessons. Once I’m through most of the basics, I’ll work through a recording and mix from start to finish using the topics we have covered.

      1. I just noticed this comment thread and I want to say, I approve!

        I’ve love to get the same smoothness (that’s definitely a damned technical term) that you get. I’ve been playing with the tiniest bit of delay between channels, adding just a touch – like almost imperceptible – and having some luck with it. Alas, I’m not so organized that I’ve paid attention and I’ve not shared anything with it added (that I can remember), but it’s been an interesting process.

        It’s not something that, by itself, gets noticed – but it seems to help giving it some refinement.

        I should actually consider looking up, and learning, the definitions and vocabulary – ’cause I’m pretty sure I sound mentally handichaired. My time was always on the other side of the booth and so much of this is new to me. I’m not really sure how far I’ll take it, how much I’ll bother learning, or anything like that – but it has been a fun journey thus far. I love learning new stuff – even if I don’t use it.

        Anyhow, it seems you’ve attracted some attention on your articles. That’s awesome! (Don’t forget to plug your album!)

        By the way, I’m just curious… Do you get any traffic at your site that has this site as a referrer? Feel free to hit me up with a reply by PM on Voat or by email. I’m just curious. I’m also a bit curious about your overall traffic numbers, but I digress.

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