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Category Archives for "Workflow"

One Song At A Time…

Daily Blog - June 29th 2021

...is a good release strategy, but does it also make sense to work on one song at a time in the production, mixing and mastering process?

One Song At A Time…
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You Gotta Love Your DAW

Daily Blog - June 28th 2021

I don't care which DAW you use. What you use doesn't matter to me. But it definitely matters to you. And you should take that decision seriously.

You Gotta Love Your DAW
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Real-Time Reamping

Daily Blog - June 24th 2021

To me, what I call "real-time reamping" is by far the most efficient and fun way to record guitars with ultimate flexibility and the mix in mind. And because this week's podcast episode is all about reamping, I thought I'd explain one of the concepts from that episode again for you here.

Real-Time Reamping

Here's a step-by-step instruction:

  1. Plug your guitar (or bass) straight into a DI box or Hi-Z input using the shortest possible cable. No pedals in between, the DI is the first and only thing in the chain.
  2. Record that pure DI to a mono track in your DAW and set the output of that track to a physical output on your interface (not your main output! 2-ch Interfaces won't work for this or for reamping in general). So you're not going to hear the clean DI, because the recorded DI leaves the computer immediately through an extra output.
  3. Connect that output to a reamp box 
  4. Connect the reamp box to your amp (and/or pedals), using the shortest possible cable.
  5. Record the cab with a mic / record the amp with a loadbox / record the line out or DI out of your amp. Whatever setup you have.
  6. So this amp signal goes back into the computer to another channel in your DAW and this is what you'll be listening to. Just send the output of the amp channel to your monitor out/main out or your subgroups in the DAW, as usual.
  7. Make sure the buffer size is as low as possible, because latency can be a problem with setup like this. Remember, you're going in -> out -> in again -> and out again to your monitoring. That's four conversions. It's totally possible with most modern interfaces and a solid computer, but maybe not with every setup. You'll have to try and find out.

The advantages of "real time reamping":

  • You're hearing how the amp reacts to the reamping chain right away, as it's always connected to the reamp box, not the guitar directly. So you don't have to adjust and match the signal later, if you're reamping certain parts.
  • You can use your computer as a giant pedal board! Your computer is always in the chain before your amp, so you can use plugins to manipulate the signal you're sending to the amp. Infinite possibilities to correct or creatively shape your tone!
  • You're always recording the highest quality direct signal from your guitar. So you have that safety net in case you don't like the amp tone.
  • You can change and adjust sounds for each part quickly, using reverbs, delays, overdrives etc. in your computer. Just like you would with pedals. You can be quick and intuitive here because, again, you always have that DI as a backup.
  • If you need to change something, it's super easy, quick and fun! So if you recorded a perfect take, but the tone was not quite right for the part, you just hit play, listen, change the settings and reamp immediately without having to perform that part again. The reamp setup is always in front of you ready to go and the tones will be exactly the same, as you're always listening to the reamp chain while playing.

Yes, I know. This is another concept that probably sounds a little confusing at first, but when you make it work and get to try it, you'll love it! It's so much fun!

-Benedikt

PS: If you're looking for an amazing community to get feedback from and provide your own expertise for, check out The Self-Recording Band Community. It's 100% free and can be the growth accelerator you've been missing all the time.

PPS: Downloading one of our free guides and joining our email list is also a great way to connect with your peers, as we will invite you to events and keep you in the loop about what's going on in our community. We just had an amazing video meetup last weekend and together we helped 5 people improve their recordings, arrangements and mixes by listening and giving collective feedback live on the call. Join us now!

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

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A DI Signal, A Mic, One Stereo Track

Daily Blog - June 23nd 2021

You're probably recording each of your inputs to a mono track, right? Try this trick next time you're recording a DI signal with a mic.

A DI Signal, A Mic, One Stereo Track

Record The DI And The Mic To One Stereo Track

So you'll end up having the DI on one side and the mic on the other side. That seems weird, right? Hear me out, please.

If you now insert a plugin that let's you solo one side, or ideally blend (pan) between the two and then switch the plugin's output to mono, you'll be able to hear the DI, or the amp or a blend of the two, depending on how you set the plugin. 

It will all be mono, as usual, coming out of the middle, so you can use the channel pan knob, as always, to place it in the stereo field of your mix.

And in many DAWs it can all be done with stock plugins.

Why all of that?

Because you don't have to group tracks any longer to prevent editing mistakes, everything will stay perfectly in phase and you can easily switch back and forth or blend tracks that belong together in a much more manageable session. Less faders, less pan knobs, smaller chance for errors. 

Trust me, try to wrap your head around it and you'll love it.

-Benedikt

PS: If you're looking for an amazing community to get feedback from and provide your own expertise for, check out The Self-Recording Band Community. It's 100% free and can be the growth accelerator you've been missing all the time.

PPS: Downloading one of our free guides and joining our email list is also a great way to connect with your peers, as we will invite you to events and keep you in the loop about what's going on in our community. We just had an amazing video meetup last weekend and together we helped 5 people improve their recordings, arrangements and mixes by listening and giving collective feedback live on the call. Join us now!

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

1 Keep The Faders At Zero

Daily Blog - June 9th 2021

What does your song sound like if you bypass the plugins and put all the faders at zero? Hopefully like a well balanced rough mix! Here's how.

Want To Reignite Your Passion For Music? Read This.

Treat your preamp gain (the mic input on your interface) like a volume knob

There's absolutely no need to record super hot levels. As long as you're recording in 24 bit, the noise floor will be so low, that you could record crazy quiet, like -50 dB, turn it up digitally after the fact and you wouldn't have a problem. 

In fact, the noise floor will be higher, and potentially audible, if you turn the mic preamp gain up a lot on a cheap interface. Those budget preamps tend to get pretty noisy at a certain point.

Why am I telling you this?

Because for some reason many people still seem to be trying to get as close to zero as possible on every track when they record, instead of focussing on a great balance from the beginning.

It's very rare that I can just throw the faders up and be like "this sounds awesome!" I typically have to create a rough balance first, making pretty drastic moves, before I can even listen to the song.

This is the norm, but there is a much better approach that solves so many problems, prevents issues down the road and lets you focus on what's really important. Not on noise floor and levels.

Record your source tones at the correct level. It's as simple as that. Your ears and taste will tell you what "correct" is. You simply balance your rough mix, as you record it.

What to do step by step:

  1. You start with setting the level for the first element of the song you're recording, for example a kick drum. Set the fader to zero and turn up the mic pre (interface input) until you hear it clearly at a reasonable monitoring volume. Leave plenty of headroom, so that you can add more tracks later without overloading the master output/fader of your DAW. Peaks as low as -15dB or -20dB are perfectly fine.
  2. Then set levels on the next input, for example a snare drum mic. Again, set the fader in your DAW to zero and adjust the input gain, so that the relationship between the kick and snare sounds right to you. It doesn't matter what the meter says and if you started low enough with the kick, you shouldn't have any clipping problems.
  3. Then set the levels for the other drums, the bass, the guitars, keys, vocals, etc. accordingly. Leave all the faders at zero and simply adjust each track's volume with the mic gain knob as you keep adding things. Use the pan knob in your DAW to find the right spot in the stereo image and if something is being masked, solve the issue at the source (mic choice, mic position, strings, drum heads, etc.), instead of just turning it up super loud and throwing the balance off.

You will find that at some point you'll want to adjust something and reach for the fader. Don't do that! Insert a simple gain plugin instead or use clip gain to bring the track's volume up or down.

When you're done recording, commit and consolidate the best takes and any clip gain moves you made, keep the faders at zero, check the panning, hit play and... there you have your rough mix!

Some tracks will need to be recorded super quietly, others pretty loud and that's totally fine! It's just important to start low enough with the first track to not overload and clip the master output.

These are only some of the advantages of this approach:

  • You can very quickly recall and play your rough mix if you screw up along the way. Faders at zero, and let's go again!
  • You can easily export all your tracks and send them to someone else without having to worry about levels and clipping.
  • Collaborators can easily listen to your rough mix and have a great starting point for additional recordings, mixing, etc. Import, faders at zero, there you go!
  • Fader resolution is best around zero. So when it comes time to mix, you can make subtle moves and fader rides. You can go in 0.1 dB increments if you need to. Further down on the fader you might be turning up or down 1-2 dB at a time making the exact same move.
  • It makes it very unlikely to cause unintentional clipping during recording. Again, no need to record super hot.
  • You'll have healthy levels and an easier time gain staging properly in your DAW. So your plugins won't distort unintentionally. You can always turn the level up or down from one plugin to another, as long as the last plugin in the chain brings the level back to where it was without plugins.
  • You'll have to listen carefully and make tone decisions carefully, as you record. You'll notice issues quickly and whenever you're having a hard time finding the right level for something, maybe the source tone isn't right. Or it's being masked by something else and you need to fix that. If your levels are all over the place during recording, you can easily miss problems like that.
  • You'll hear your song come together as you go and always have a reference point. If you're not changing levels a lot, but are listening to a consistent level, adding one thing after the other, you'll get a great feel for the overall balance and vibe very quickly.


Try this next time you record and let me know how it went!

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

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Step Away From It

Daily Blog - May 28th 2021

I'm taking a couple of days off, starting tomorrow, and just wrapping up the week here. So this is a short post. But this little vacation made me think. 

Step Away From It

Sometimes, stepping away from something is what you need to do to get it done.

Have you ever been stuck and just couldn't seem to finish your song? Have you ever been tweaking tones for way too long and then finally given up? That's when you need to step away from it.  Take a walk, get outside, take a day off and return tomorrow. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but if you stop working on it for a moment you will get it done faster. And better. And you'll enjoy it more. What's the point if we're not fully present and don't truly enjoy creating art?

Find a balance, take a break and step away from it.

Talk to you on June 7th. 😉

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

2 Can any stranger work on your song?

Daily Blog - May 27th 2021

Could you send your session or multitracks to a stranger for collaboration and they would immediately know what's up? No? Please read on.

Can any stranger work on your song?

Your session might seem logical to you, but it could be completely confusing for everyone else.

Make it a habit to keep your sessions organized from the beginning and all throughout the writing, pre-pro and actual production process, so that anytime you need outside help, feedback, or want someone to collaborate with you, you can quickly and easily transfer files or sessions.

That includes: 

  • Constantly committing and getting rid of everything you don't need (redundant files, bad takes, etc.)
  • Consolidating everything you need (e.g. takes of the same instrument with the same sound spread out over multiple tracks without any overlap)
  • Color coding and clear labeling (your names, number of takes, any notes etc. don't matter. What's on the actual track does! So use "rhythm guitar left mic 1" instead of "James_078_(D)_final")
  • Making sure that all exports have the same starting point and line up perfectly when imported to a session.
  • Printing any amp sims, virtual instruments, MIDI stuff, samples, etc. and sending the raw files in addition to the printed files.
  • Reading and following any export & transfer checklists you get from people you're working with. They send you those for a reason.
  • Creating and frequently updating an info sheet that has all the relevant information about the project on it. You can send that along with your session and everybody immediately knows what's up.

There is more you can do, but even if you "only" do those things above, collaborating with other musicians and working with audio professionals will be so much smoother and lead to much better results. With less headache for everyone.

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

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As Few Mics As Possible

Daily Blog - May 26th 2021

I love a great challenge. And one of the best challenges you can try for yourself is to record a complex instrument, like a drum kit, with as few mics as possible.

Please note: The following advice is a great challenge and exercise for any genre. However, if your genre is modern metal, any kind of fast and technical heavy music, "radio rock", pop punk or any "polished" sounding rock genre then you probably need more mics (or programmed drums) in your final recording, in order to get all the detail and the punch required for that. Anything organic, dirty, noisy and even a lot of pretty heavy rock stuff will benefit most from the minimalistic approach described in this post.
As Few Mics As Possible

Limiting yourself to as few mics as possible forces you to listen more carefully and really learn your instruments, room and gear.

And the best part is: If done right, it can even sound better than a giant multichannel setup! Here are three reasons why:

  • The more mics, the more phase issues you'll have
  • The more mics, the more bleed will come from all the different channels, messing with the image and clarity. 
  • Less mics give you a more realistic, organic sound


An example of what this could look like for drums:

  1. Choose a great sounding room. It all starts there.
    Find a room, that's as lively and ambient, as you want it to be, that sounds balanced, not boomy or harsh and then find the perfect spot for the kit in that room.
  2. Set up a mono room mic.
    Drums are actually pretty mono. If you're standing in a room, listening to a kit, it all pretty much comes from the same direction. It's not one tom 30 feet to the left and the other 50 feet to the right. 
  3. Find the perfect spot for it that gives you a great balance between shells, cymbals and room ambience.
  4. Add something to capture the low end energy.
    A "front of kit" mic on the floor, a couple of feet away from the kit, for example. This will capture the low end of the kick drum and maybe some additional tone and body from the toms.
  5. Listen again, find a good balance, make sure the phase is right between the two mics before you move on and then add whatever is still lacking.
  6. If you're missing stick attack detail and transient clarity, add an overhead mic.
    Maybe over the shoulder of the drummer, pointing at the kit as a whole. Or right above the snare drum, pointing straight down. Find a position and angle that captures a good balance between the snare and toms.
  7. Listen again, get the phase right between the three mics, rebalance and then move on.
  8. If you want more cymbal clarity and separation, add a pair of overheads.
    Try XY, ORTF, or a spaced pair. This will give you a stereo image and all the shiny top end from the cymbals.
  9. Listen again, get the phase right between the five mics, rebalance and then move on.
  10. If you now want that same image in the ambience and a wider overall picture, add a second room mic (XY in the exact position of the first one), or an additional pair of room mics somewhere else in the room.
    Remember: Keep it simple and natural sounding! 
  11. Listen again, get the phase right between the 6-7 mics, rebalance and then move on.
  12. And finally, if you really need more transients, attack, punch, etc. from the shells, add a kick, snare or tom mic wherever you need it.
    Blend it with what you already have. Never forget that with this approach your main sound is the room mic, followed by everything above. You're just enhancing whats lacking, not relying heavily on the close mics. The whole point of the challenge is to get as far as possible without any close mics. 
  13. Listen again, get the phase right between all your mics, rebalance, pan and enjoy your minimalistic, yet exciting, organic and huge sounding drum kit.
    Make notes of everything you've discovered along the way, so you can use that knowledge next time you set up a kit. This will help you make better decisions, even in more detailed, bigger setups for modern, punchier genres.


Stop and ignore the rest of the steps, as soon as you think it sounds amazing! You don't need all of those! That's the whole point. You should end up with anything between one and maybe 10-12 mics max. Depending on your needs and goals.


I love exercises like that. There's so much to learn from this challenge and it works just as well with any other complex instruments or groups of instruments.

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

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