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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Lesson about Recording for the Complete Novice: Adding Space to Your Mix

Aloha!  Chris here with The Kilt Lifters with another entry in the ‘Recording for the Complete Novice’ series.  Sorry I missed both lesson and thread last week.  I was off to the mainland to keep the lights running.  I figure that since the company I work for is kind enough to pay me enough to keep me flush with guitars and other cool gear, it’s probably a good idea to answer their occasional summons.  What was initially to be a once a quarter trip quickly turned into once every two years, so you’ll hear no complaints from me on that front.

Since we covered tracking in the last episode, I’m assuming everyone has a cool new song tracked complete with a face melting bitchin’ solo.  That being the case, we’re going to talk a little about adding some of the sparkly bits to shine it up.  

One of the tools in mixing is space.  This article will talk about creating space in your mix using double tracking and panning.  It’s possible to simply duplicate a single track and time shift it, but I prefer to double track rhythm guitar parts for a less robotic feel.  Once I you have a double tracked guitar part, I generally like to pan them out about 75-85 degrees on each side.  Some people prefer to use a hard pan in each direction, however, I find that 75-85 degrees gives a better sense of space in the mix.  To hear how this works, I’ve created a few sound clips.  In this example, there are two rhythm guitar parts. One is played in open position, and the other with a capo at 7. Take a listen to the first track.  In this track, nothing is double tracked, and nothing is panned. Both guitar parts are sitting at center.

Clip 1, Guitar parts at center.

Bear in mind, that using this approach, the more instrument parts you add, the more you have coming from the same perceived source: directly in front of the listener.

Now, listen to the second clip.  The guitar parts are both double tracked.  This will give a slight chorus effect. Remember in the last lesson where I said you need to really know the song?  If you were just barely able to get your initial guitar track down, you’ll never be able to play it exactly the same in order to double track it.  In that case, you could use a technological cheat and duplicate the guitar track and time shift it slightly to get that same slight chorus effect.  However, it will always sound more ‘real’ if you actually double track it.

Clip 2, Double tracked guitars at center

Now, in that clip, we still haven’t panned anything.  We’ve just thickened up the guitars by double tracking them.  Now, listen to the last clip. We’ll take the guitar parts and pan them.  One of the open position parts is panned left 85, the other right 85. The capo’d parts are at 35 respectively.

Clip 3, Double tracked and panned

Notice how there is now a sense of space in the mix.  The mix has become much wider, with the guitar parts surrounding the listener instead of pointed right at their face.

This is a great way to handle rhythm guitars, but it’s not something you’d use on a bass guitar, due to the way low frequency sound travels.  It’s not uncommon for some engineers to pan a lead instrument a little to the left or right to give a sense of where that instrument might be sitting on a stage.  I find that personally when I’m listening to music, these are the sorts of things that I’m always actively listening for.  If there’s a song you just love, sit down and listen to it with a technical ear and try to pick out where the various instruments are sitting in the mix.

Now, since we’re dealing with space, I want to say a few words about reverb.  Reverb is fantastic for bringing a little life to your tracks, or in my case, covering up my awful flute tone.  What reverb also does is push the instrument farther back from the listener. The more reverb, the further away it will sound.  The more dry it is, the closer the part will sound.

And that’s it for this one!  If you have any questions , comments, or requests for a recording topic you’d like to see covered, feel free to leave them below!

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Greatest Guitarist of All Time? I think not!

Rolling Stone Magazine rated Jimi Hendrix as Greatest Guitarist of All Time. This has, for a variety of reasons, bothered me. I don’t mean it’s bothered me just a little, I mean it’s driven me to make passionate rants in front of otherwise nice people.

The truth of the matter is that Jimi was not the great guitarist that people seem to credit him as being. Don’t get me wrong. Jimi was a great artist and his contribution to music isn’t to be taken lightly. He’s just not even remotely the Greatest Guitarist of All Time. He wasn’t even the greatest guitarist of his era.

It’s from this that I ended up having a conversation with a fella named @cynicaloldfart and they were pretty smart about it. They asked me who I felt was the best guitarist – and I had an immediate answer. (That answer is Les Paul, by the way. Without him, we’d still be banging proverbial rocks together and strumming on fig leaves.)

This led to a second question – who else? Then, it led to the idea that I should compile a list of guitarists who are better than Hendrix. This seemed remarkably cathartic and I’ve now decided to begin publishing this list. Suffice to say, I’ve quite a few folks on that list – all of whom are better than Hendrix ever dreamed of being.

Running with his question, I’ve decided to compile a list of guitarists that are really very good and deserving of accolades. I’ve taken a scholastic approach to this, though it’s not so refined as to ever be suitable for publication in an academic journal. Instead, it’s meant to give us a moment of healing, a time when we can feel better about the injustices that have been done to us – like naming Hendrix as the greatest guitarist of all time.

I present the very first in what’s a fairly long list of guitarists who are greater than Hendrix. I will attempt to quantify the unquantifiable and to justify each selection. I highly encourage people to respond and let me know if you’d like a new guitarist featured, one that you think is better than Hendrix ever was. I, of course, will decide if you’re suggestion has merit and will consider it for inclusion on the list.

There is no guarantee about the length of the list (I currently have a dozen to get us started) or the regularity with which I’ll post. I’ll aim to get a new guitarist added to the list, one each week, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

Without further ado, I present to you the start of the list and our first guitarist greater than Hendrix ever thought of being:

Continue reading “Greatest Guitarist of All Time? I think not!”

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