Spook 45 (Stoyan Jams podcast, episode #6)

Here’s one piano/synth piece, I was exploring what the good people at Spitfire audio have to offer in terms of free-ish plugins – some LABS pads (free) and BBC symphony (free if you wait 14 days).

Subscribe to the podcast: RSS, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play

UBK’s multi-band referencing

Insert a multi-band compressor on your mix and your reference mix. Split into these categories of frequencies and think in terms of textures. Compare.

  • 80Hz and below – subs (weight). Too much makes it heavy and sluggish.
  • 80 – 200Hz – bass (warmth)
  • 200 – 500Hz – low mids (intimacy)
  • 500Hz – 2kHz – midrange (energy, fire)
  • 2kHz – 5kHz – upper mids (bite, sharpness). Too little – mix sits behind the speakers. Too much – painful to listen
  • 5kHz and up – treble (sparkle). Too little – dull, lifeless. Too much – zingy, crisp.

Source: https://www.ubkhappyfuntimehour.com/ episode 205

An example of multi-band compressor is Reaper’s own ReaXcomp. Add to your mix, select a band and then click “Solo current band” to listen to this texture only.


EQ-ing drums

Some starting points based on advice from Bobby Owsinski (update: and others). Disclaimer: Subtle. Moves of more than 3dB mean you should probably move the mic.

Kick

  • Reduce ~ 200Hz to 500Hz (the mud-range) to remove boxiness
  • Reduce ~ 1.5k to remove honk
  • Add 1.5k-2k (kick-in) for more snap
  • Add 70-80Hz for fullness/tone (esp the clicky kick-in)
  • Add 5k for definition

Snare

  • Add 10-12k to make a crisper
  • Add 125Hz to make it fuller
  • Add 1k for definition.
  • Remove boxiness at 500-800Hz

Hi-hat

  • Add at 10 kilohertz for sizzle
  • High-pass at 160Hz for definition
  • Reduce at 1k to make it thinner

Rack toms

  • Add 200 to 500Hz to make them sound fuller
  • Add 5k for definition

Floor tom

  • Reduce 150 to 500Hz to remove the beach ball
  • Add 5k to for definition

Cymbals

  • Add 10k for sizzle
  • High-pass at 160Hz for definition


Planet Performance podcast rig rundown

A few people asked about what I use for recording the Planet Performance podcast so here’s a quick rundown. This is just my preference, there are of course many other ways to do it.

So what’s in the box?

  • Two microphones. These are vintage Electro-Voice RE 635A. I got them from ebay for about $150 for the pair. Used to be newscasters favorites in the 70s or thereabouts. They are dynamic mics with omnidirectional pattern, which is unusual for a dynamic mic. They are also pretty slim. An alternative new mic for the purpose could be the classic SM58 which would be under $200 for the pair.
  • Two foldable desktop mic stands – $20/pair on Amazon
  • A 2-chanel USB interface Behringer UMC204HD. It’s a good mix of price and functionality/quality. About $100. Audio nerds may dislike Behringer due to its humble beginnings of ripping off old gear and making it cheaply and poorly. But that’s in the past. The mic preamps (that take microphone signal and amplify it) that come with it are highly regarded Midas, which is a company bought by Behringer. An affordable alternative could be Scarlet 2i2. I picked Behringer also due to the “Insert” feature that let’s me plug in a hardware compressor during recording. Which I no longer travel with to save space, so there’s that.
  • The mics plug into the interface with the mic cables. I carry a third mic cable as a spare.
  • USB cable that goes out into the computer (comes with the interface).
The setup in action. Interviewing Tammy Everts, photo by Christian Schaefer.

Software

I use Reaper to record and edit and mix. It’s a professional DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that costs $60, though it comes with unlimited trial version. A free alternative would be Audacity , which works on any operating system. Or GarageBand if you’re on Mac

Poor man’s custom reverb

How do you use your very own reverbs that no one can replicate? “In this day and age” when everyone is using the same Waves and Universal audio plugins how do you stand out from the crowd? Just record your own impulse responses!

Impulsive re…what now?

Impulse response, yup. IR for short. This is a way to get the sonic signature of a place, be it a bathroom, parking garage, Abbey Road studios or wherever Vienna Philharmonic peeps perform their NY concert. Once you “fingerprint” the space, then you can apply its IR to any new recordings at a later time.

BTW, an impulse response is a regular audio file (.wav) so you can play it in your DAW or any music player.

Capturing the IR

Ideally you want to capture how the space affects all the frequencies. With a stereo pair of the most expensive and clean (uncolored) microphones you can lay your hands on. This means setting up speakers and “shooting” a test signal that goes through all frequencies. See how in all the detail here.

The poor man’s way

Well, I was traveling and the AirBnB we were staying at had an unfurnished basement. I though I’d record an impulse response and take this virtual basement as a token of the good times that were had on the trip. I mean look at that view!

Anyway, this is a panorama image of a part of the basement:

Nice. But I don’t have decent speakers, microphones (or time away from partying) to shoot test signals in complete silence. So corners were cut. What I had is a laptop, so I can use its internal mic. (Alternatively you can just record using your phone)

For a test signal, a replacement is usually popping a balloon or shooting a gun, if it’s safe. If no balloon or gun around? Well, condoms are available everywhere. (And if you’re not inclined to misuse condoms in this way, you can always clap your hands and there’s your test signal.)

And so, here’s photo of all the tools I had at my disposal:

The first condom popped prematurely while I was inflating it overexcitedly. But soon enough I had it all: a new Reaper session with one track set to record and a coupla condoms.

Pop! Pop! Clap! Clap! Done!

Preparing the Impulse Response

  1. Slice the part of the wave that is the actual pop and throw away the rest.
  2. Export/render as a .wav file
  3. End up with something like this (yup, this is my actual IR file from that basement)

Using the Impulse Response

(I’m using Reaper here. You figure it out for your DAW of choice.)

Reverb is usually a subtle affair. If you hear it, it’s probably too much. Usually the reverb is a separate track (bus) and you send other audio to it. Benefits: less processing and single space for all instruments.

Here I have a guitar track and a reverb track.

The FX on the “reverb” track is where we load the IR file. In other DAW it may be “plugin insert” or some such. The plugin you want is ReaVerb, add it. Then in the “Impulse response generation” section click Add, then choose File and point to your WAV file.

A common trick it to cut the highs (low pass filter) and lows (high pass) from a reverb “send”, so that’s what I did too, I added a ReaEQ plugin before the ReaVerb. Adjust these frequencies to your liking:

Now all you need to do is send (route) the guitar track audio to the reverb track. This way you hear both the original and the “echo”.

To do this you drag the “route” icon of the guitar track (the cursor turns to a plug) and drop it anywhere on the reverb track.

Then at any time you can adjust the amount you send from the guitar to the reverb. You also mute the send for a quick before/after. Remember, it’s a subtle affair, reverb is.

End result

Before:

After:

Closing comments

  • Yes, I said it’s a subtle affair, but I overdid the effect for demonstration purposes
  • How expensive was the setup? Provided you have a recording device and can make a clappy, poppy noise, the budget is actually 0. Of course you can do much better with better equipment and silence to record a test tone. Again, read here how.
  • Will I use this on a song with a single solo track like this? Probably not. But if used more subtly in the mix you can get a certain je ne sais quoi that no one can replicate. And when you win that Grammy and everyone (and their uncle-in-law) wants to replicate your verb, they’ll have to come ask your majesty.

So off to your bathroom or stairwell or parking lot and start popping! And thanks for reading!

IKEA cable storage

I was at IKEA couple of days ago and saw a new item – a pegboard. “I need this in my life/studio”, I thought. It was love at first sight. 

Turns out this thing was a breeze to install and works and looks beautifully. 

And, of course, it’s infinitely configurable. 

This is my closet where I keep amps and guitar cases. Gladly ripped a few pieces of foam (these don’t really work all that well anyway) to make room for the new organizational tools.

Now I’m even considering getting more of these and installing at different random angles on the walls and the ceiling of the bedroom studio, as a way to fight off flutter echo (the bathroom kind) by reducing parallel surfaces. A diffuser of kinds. 

Shepherd’s (Stoyan Jams podcast, episode #4)

Episode #4 comes to you again from Los Angeles, California. This little piece for acoustic guitar, messed up echoey acoustic guitar as background, and random percussion noises is called “Shepherd’s”. Hope you like!

Subscribe to the podcast: RSS, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play


Update: now with a video