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A Simple Recording Mistake

It doesn’t matter what you do, once you’ve been doing it for a while, you default to a particular way of approaching issues. Coming from the era of recording to tape and “dropping-in” to correct mistakes, that’s how I think when I find I’ve recorded something that isn’t quite right.  (In fact, I never liked dropping-in – I always found it easier to just go back and do the whole part again, but that’s another story.)  All of which can blind you to the obvious when things have moved on and you’re recording to RAM, buffers and disk instead of spinning reels of tape.  Back in the day, you’d record with minimal lead-in recorded to tape, lest there be a sudden burst of tape noise which would ruin the ambience.  Nowadays, of course, there’s no tape hiss and the noise floor is so low you wouldn’t think twice about it, but old habits die hard.  Until, that is, they trip you up…

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Beginner’s Guide: Interfaces & Connectors

ConnectorsBefore we dive into looking at what you might want to consider when buying an audio interface, it’s worth having a quick look at the type of connectors you might come across and what the differences are.

The type of connectors you’d find on audio cables intended to be attached to computers, MP3 players etc. are 3.5mm jack plugs.  These are usually stereo cables, such as you’d see on a set of headphones.  A mono cable will have a single insulating break around the jack, separating the tip from the sleeve, but a stereo cable will have a second insulating break,   creating what is referred to as a tip-ring-sleeve, (TRS),  jack.  The sleeve provides a common earth, (or ground), whilst the tip and ring carry the left and right channels.  The tip is dimpled to allow an internal sprung connection to take the signal and hold the plug in place at the same time.  Professional audio equipment, (anything that isn’t meant to be consumer hi-fi), very rarely features these connectors.

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Gain Staging: Setting Your Meters

The visual nature of computer-based DAW software has given rise to the axiom that you should mix with your ears, not your eyes, a temptation that’s easy to understand as we buy ever bigger monitor screens to view our mixes in glorious Technicolor – why else would plug-in manufacturers go to such lengths to make the front panels of their products so visually distinct and appealing?  However, when you’re actually recording into your DAW, there’s a way in we can turn our tendency to sometimes trust our eyes over our ears into an advantage.

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Introduction to Gain Staging

When you record in a DAW, most of them give you a give image of your waveform on the track.  The louder you record, the more visible the waveform, so there’s a sub-conscious visual cue that’s telling you that “more=better”.  If, like me, you started in the era of tape machines where you wanted your recorded signal well above the noise floor, this is perfectly logical.  Only, in this digital age, it isn’t logical at all, it’s comparing apples and oranges.  In this video, I look at the issue of levels and where I suggest you set your recording level at may surprise you…

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Unlearning the value of 0

power_of_0I started my recording career in the days of tape, when there was something above 0 on the old-style VU meters and you worried about things like “the noise floor” and your signal-to-noise ratio.  Your aim when recording was to get the meter peaking as close as you could to just left of 0VU and  going as little as possible, (preferably not at all!), to the right.  Switching to DAW metering, where there is nothing above 0dB and getting too close can be undesirable, involved a major mind-set adjustment – once I realised that my analogue ways of working were incompatible with digital.  I’ve cheerfully recorded songs in my DAW with the aim of getting the maximum level recorded, so fearful was I of a poor signal-to-noise ratio, that I never stopped to consider that there is very little noise with digital – the technology that introduced the noise, those long bits of magnetic tape on spinning reels, isn’t there anymore.
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From The Boiler Room: Back In The Saddle

BTICD_GtrsIf you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve been working on an album for what we might diplomatically call “a while”. You might also have noticed that there were no March or April updates “From The Boiler Room”. Whilst I was working away from home, I had the luxury of three nights a week to work undisturbed on the album and on recording my YouTube videos, but since March, I’ve been working close to home. Living back at home hasn’t had the effect you might think of allowing me more time – progress has been, shall we say, intermittent, as I’ve used the time to catch up on things that needed doing, as well as taking my son to watch Manchester City win their last three home games to become Premier League Champions.

You can keep making excuses, but eventually, you have admit that you’re just not getting the job done, [Read more…]

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Video Tutorial: Recording MIDI outputs from VSTi’s

You can alter the voicings that the Chord Track in Cubase uses when it generates chords, but any movement in the part generated comes from the VST instrument or the MIDI inserts on that channel, not the chord track itself.  Sometimes, the output is close, but not close enough and you want to edit the part that the software has generated to fit exactly what you want.  This video looks at an example of how to achieve an editable MIDI part, by recording the bassline generated by Broomstick Bass as it reads the chords from the Chord Track onto a separate MIDI track, ready for alteration or simply to be allocated to a different VST instrument.