Audio Recording Basic Training

In Audio Recording Basic Training you’ll discover:

the secrets to picking the correct microphone to record with

the trick to using compression like the pros

techniques for recording that only the best engineers know

listening tips and tricks used by the world’s best mixers

the secret to adding just the right amount of compression or equalization

the keys to a great drum sound
the principles of getting the best out of any singer

how to deal with microphone leakage

and much more!

What It's About

Whether you’re new to recording and don’t know where to begin, or your recordings aren’t as good as you’d like them to be, Audio Recoding Basic Training can help.

Built around a series of hands-on recording exercises designed to show you how to listen and work like a recording pro, the book reveals the tips, tricks and secrets to all the different facets of recording, including miking a drum kit, recording vocals, and miking technique for just about any electric or acoustic instrument.

You’ll cut years off the time usually needed to become proficient in the art of recording thanks to this program, which is specifically designed to accelerate your learning curve.

In the Audio Recording Basic Training book you’ll see just how the pros handle setting up a headphone mix, building a rough mix and techniques for compression and equalization that will make your recordings sing.

You’ll learn where, when, why and how to mike virtually any instrument. You’ll become proficient finding the right place in the room to record, and you’ll learn how to choose the right microphone for the right application.

Audio Recording Basic Training also features an accompanying DVD filled with lessons, templates and examples specifically developed to take your recording chops to the next level.

Let's Look Inside

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1 – Monitoring
The Listening Environment
Determining The Listening Position
Standing Waves
Acoustic Quick Fixes
Exercise Pod: Improving The Listening Environment
Basic Monitor Setup
Exercise Pod: Speaker Placement
How To Listen
Basic Listening Technique
Exercise Pod: What To Listen For
How Loud (Or Soft) Should I Listen?

Chapter 2 – The Microphone
Microphones Types

The Dynamic Microphone

The Ribbon Microphone

The Condenser Microphone

Microphone Directional Response

Omnidirectional

Cardioid

Hyper-Cardioid

Figure Eight

Proximity Effect

Microphone Controls

Hiigh-Pass Or Rolloff Filter

-10 Or -20dB Pad

Pattern Selector

Microphone Accessories

Pop Filters

Shock Mounts

Exercise Pod: The Microphone

Direct Boxes

Direct Box Types

Amplifier Emulators

CHAPTER 3 – Basic Recording Gear
The Microphone Preamplifier

Why A Separate Mic Amp?

Microphone Preamp Controls

Setting Up The Mic Preamp

Exercise Pod: Setting The Mic Preamp

Compressors/Limiter

Compressor Controls

Limiting

Compressor/Limiter Setup

Equalizers

EQ Parameters

A Description Of The Audio Bands

Equalizer Setup

Subtractive Equalization

DAW Recording

The Computer Interface

Latency

CHAPTER 4 – Recording Basics
The Signal Path

Choosing A Preamp

Setting The Recording Level

Headroom

Exercise Pod: Setting The Recording Levels

Gain Staging

DI Setup

]If It’s Distorting

Compression Basics

Using The Compressor

Exercise Pod: Using The Compressor

How Much Compression Do I Need?

Limiting

Equalization Basics

Using The Equalizer

Exercise Pod: Using The Compressor

The Magic High-Pass Filter

Exercise Pod: Using The High=Pass Filter

The Principles Of Equalization

CHAPTER 5 – Microphone Placement Basics
Microphone Technique 101

Choosing The Best Place In The Room

Exercise Pod: Microphone Placement 101

Choosing The Right Mic

The Secret To Mic Placement

Phase Cancellation – The Sound Destroyer

Acoustic Phase Cancellation

The 3 to 1 Principle

Electronic Phase Cancellation

Checking Phase

Exercise Pod: Checking Phase

Checking Phase By Listening

Chapter 6 – Recording The Drums
The Keys To A Great Drum Sound

The Tuning Technique

Exercise Pod: Tuning The Drums

Tuning Tips And Tricks

Snare Tuning Tips

Kick Drum Tuning Tips

Tom Tuning Tips

Cymbal Tips

Miking The Individual Drums

Miking The Bass Drum

The Subkick Mic

Exercise Pod: Miking The Individual Drums

Miking The Snare Drum

Snare Drum Bottom Head Miking

Miking The High Hat

Miking The Toms

Miking The Cymbals

Miking The Room

Sound Check

Individual Drum Sound Check

Exercise Pod: Drum Sound Check

Checking The Drum Phase

Getting The Overall Drum Sound

Panning The Drums

Tweaking The Drum Sound

Using The EQ During Drum Tracking

Using The Compressor/Limiter During Drum Tracking

The Recording Drummer

Chapter 7 – Recording Electric Guitar And Bass
Electric Guitar Recording

Miking The Amplifier

Exercise Pod: Recording The Electric Guitar

Recording The Guitar Direct

Acoustic Guitar Recording

Recording Preparation

Exercise Pod: Recording The Acoustic Guitar

Electric Bass Recording

Exercise Pod: Recording The Electric Bass

Recording The Acoustic Bass


Chapter 8 – Recording Vocals

Recording Lead Vocals

The Scratch Vocal

Finding The Right Placement In The Room

Vocals In The Control Room

Lead Vocal Mic Placement

Exercise Pod: Recording The Lead Vocal

You’ve Got To Hear Yourself

Getting The Best From A Singer

Vocal Doubling

Recording Background Vocals

Background Mic Placement

Exercise Pod: Recording Background Vocals

Placement In The Room

Chapter 9 – Recording Acoustic Instruments
Finding The Right Placement In The Room

Exercise Pod: Finding The Right Placement In The Room

Acoustic Instrument Mic Placement

Exercise Pod: Recording Acoustic Instruments

Acoustic Piano

Horns

Solo Sax

Solo Brass Instrument

Horn Sections

Solo Stringed Instruments

Banjos

Dobros

Percussion

Recording Drum Percussion

Recording Hand-Held Percussion

Other Acoustic Instruments

Chapter 10 – Recording Electric Instruments
Keyboards

Fake Stereo

Acoustic Instruments With A Pickup

Loops

Chapter 11 – Recording In Stereo
The X/Y Configuration

Exercise Pod: Recording In Stereo

The ORTF Configuration

Stereo Accessories

The Spaced Pair

Using A Stereo Mic 

Chapter 12 – The Recording Session
The Basic Track

Setup

Where To Place The Players In The Room

The Talkback Mic

Leakage

The Headphone Mix

Setting Up The Headphone Mix

Exercise Pod: Basic Tracks

Personal Headphone Mixes

Recording Without Headphones

The Click Track

Don’t Forget The Tuning Note

Don’t Forget The Count-Off

Overdubs

Recording In The Control Room

Exercise Pod: Overdubs

Use The Big Part Of The Studio

Chapter 13 – The Rough Mix
The Quick Effects Setup

Building The Mix

The Drums

Setting The Levels

Exercise Pod: Balancing The Drums

Checking The Drum Phase

Assigning The Drums To A Group Or Subgroup

The Bass

Exercise Pod: Balancing The Bass And Drums

The Vocals

Exercise Pod: Balancing The Lead And Background Vocals

Guitars

Exercise Pod: Balancing The Guitars

Keyboards

Exercise Pod: Balancing The Keyboards

Loops

Exercise Pod: Balancing Loops

Glossary

Index

Chapter 6 Excerpt - Recording The Drums

Recording The Drums

Miking The Bass Drum
The bass drum anchors the band and, along with the snare, provides the pulse of the song. Because it can come in different sizes and be used with the front head on or off, it’s sound will vary a lot more than the other drums.

Most of the time you’ll get the best sound for recording out of a bass drum if the front head is removed, since this gets rid on any overtones that the combination of the front and rear head might produce. Even with a hole in the front head, some overtones may still exist. Either way, it’s best to place a packing blanket or some heavy towels so they just touch both heads so the sound will be tight and punchy. Pack the blanket closer to the rear head for more muffling (see Figure 6.1).

The exceptions to this might be in a jazz or classical situation where the drummer just needs to feel the tension that the front head provides in order to play well. If that’s the case, you can still get a great sound, as evidenced by the giant drum sounds that John Bonham got on all those Led Zeppelin records.

A large diaphragm dynamic mic like an AKG D-112, Shure B52, E/V RE20 or 320 or Heil PR 40 is typically used in order to obtain the girth in the kick sound that most modern records require, but don’t be afraid to try other microphones as well. The exception is a ribbon mic, since the blast of air coming off the bass drum head can actually be enough to blow the diaphragm out, so it’s best to use it on another instrument instead. 

E6.2: Bass Drum Mic Positioning 
A) For a kick drum without a front head, place the mic on a short boom stand in front of the bass drum and position the head element of the mic just inside the drum by a couple of inches.  

B) Point the mic towards the center of the bass drum, about 8-12″ away from the inside head, at about the same height as where the beater hits the drum (see Figure 6.2). Listen on the monitors. Does the drum sound tight and punchy? Does it have enough low end? Can you hear the beater? Are there a lot of overtones? Is there a decay after the drum is hit or does it stop abruptly?

C) To get a tighter, more compact bass drum sound, place a folded packing blanket or a pillow on the inside of the bottom of the drum shell lightly touching the head (see Figure 6.3). Secure it with a weight or even a brick on the blanket to keep it from slipping once you’ve positioned it to get the perfect sound. Listen on the monitors. Does the drum sound tight and punchy? Does it have enough low end? Can you hear the beater? Are there a lot of overtones? Is there a decay after the drum is hit or does it stop abruptly?

D) Place it where you have the best combination of low end and definition.

E6.3: Miking A Bass Drum With A Front Head
A) Place the mic on a short stand 4 to 6 inches away from the head, halfway up and slightly off-center (see Figure 6.4). Listen on the monitors. Does the drum sound tight and punchy? Does it have enough low end? Can you hear the beater? Are there a lot of overtones? Is there a decay after the drum is hit or does it stop abruptly?

B) Move the mic away about six inches further away from the head. Listen on the monitors. Does the drum sound have more low end? 

C) Move it way about a foot further. Is there more or less low end?

D) Place it where you have the best combination of low end and definition.

E6.4: Miking a Bass Drum With A Front Head With A Hole
A) Place the mic just inside the hole (see Figure 6.5), pointed at where the beater strikes the back head. Listen on the monitors. Does the drum sound tight and punchy? Does it have enough low end? Can you hear the beater? Are there a lot of overtones? Is there a decay after the drum is hit or does it stop abruptly?

B) Aim the mic away from the beater and more at the shell of the drum. Has the sound changed? Can you hear more or less beater? Is there more or less low end?

D) Place it where you have the best combination of low end and definition.

The Subkick Mic
The subkick phenomena started recently due to the burning desire to get a little more of the lower-bass sound out of the kick without having to crank up the EQ. The subkick mic is actually a small speaker (anywhere from 5 to 8 inches) that’s used as a microphone to pick up the ultra-lows (below 50Hz) of a kick drum that most mics just can’t capture. While this is can be jury rigged by taking the low-frequency driver from a speaker like a Yamaha NS-10M, Yamaha also makes a commercial model known as the SKRM-100 (See Figure 6.6).

Making one of your own is easy. Just get a speaker and wire pins 2 and 3 of an XLR connector to the speaker’s terminals (see Figure 6.7). The polarity might be backwards so be sure to check the Phase switch on the console or preamp to see which position has the most bottom.

E6.5: Placing The Subkick Mic
A) Place the subkick mic about 2 inches from the lip of the kick drum shell (see Figure 6.6). Listen on the monitors. Is there more low end? Is there more or less high end? Can you hear the sound of the beater?

B) Move the subkick back about three inches. Is there more or less low end? Can you hear any of the other drums leaking through?

Chapter 8 Excerpt - Vocal Recording Techniques

Vocal Recording Techniques

Lead Vocal Mic Placement
Just like with a great sounding instrument, many times with a good singer you’ll get the “sound” automatically just by putting him/her in front of the right microphone. On the other hand, with a bad or inexperienced singer even a high priced microphone or signal processing won’t add the polish you’re looking for. That said, if you start with the correct technique, you’re half-way there.

There are a number of things to remember before you begin to place the mic:

  • The best mic in the house won’t necessarily get the best vocal sounds, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different mics.
  • Decoupling of the stand from the floor will help get rid of many unwanted low-frequency rumbles that occur from truck traffic, machinery being used down the street, footsteps, and things that are even lower in frequency than normal hearing. Just place the stand on a couple of mouse pads or a rug for an inexpensive solution.

One of the main things that you’re trying to do with mic placement is eliminate pops, lip smacks, and breath blasts.

An easy way to have a vocalist gauge the distance from the mic is by hand lengths. An open hand is approximately eight inches while a fist is about four inches. By saying, “Stay two fists away”, the vocalist can easily judge his distance and usually doesn’t forget (see Figure 8.2).

Exercise Pod: Recording The Lead Vocal
E8.1: Recording Lead Vocal
A) Place the mic even with the vocalist’s lips about one hand away (see Figure 8.2) and have the him sing the verse of a song. Did you hear any pops or breath blasts?

B) Move the vocalist back to about two hands away and sing the same part of the song. Turn up the gain so it’s the same as before. Did you hear any pops or breath blasts now?

C) Move the vocalist back to one hand away and readjust the gain. Place the mic even with the vocalist’s nose and have the him sing the verse of a song. Did you hear any pops or breath blasts? Did the sound of the vocal change? Is it more or less defined?

D) Now place the mic even with the vocalist’s eyes and point it down towards the lips (see Figure 8.3). Have him sing the verse of a song. Did you hear any pops or breath blasts? Did the sound of the vocal change? Is it more or less defined?

E) Now place the mic even with the vocalist’s lips about one hand away again. Either change the pickup pattern to omnidirectional or change the mic to one with an omni pattern. Have him sing the verse of a song again. Did you hear any pops or breath blasts? Did the sound of the vocal change? Is it more or less defined?

F) Place the mic so there’s no breath blasts or pops.

E8.2: Adding A Compressor
A) Go back to your favorite mic, place it at either nose or eye level, point at the lips and continue.

B) Insert a compressor into the signal chain either on an insert in the console or preamp, or placed between the preamp and DAW input.

C) Set the Attack And Release controls to medium, the Ratio to 4:1, and raise the Threshold until there’s 2dB on vocal peaks. Can you hear the compressor when it kicks in? Does it change the sound of the vocal?

D) Decrease the Attack time (make it faster) until it catches more of the peaks and there’s 5 or 6dB on vocal peaks. Can you hear the compressor when it kicks in? What happens if you lengthen the Release time? Does it change the sound of the vocal?

E) Set the Output control of the compressor so that the record level is about -10dB on the meters.

You’ve Got To Hear Yourself
In order for a vocalist to stay in tune, she’s got to hear herself. How much she hears herself will actually determine if she stays in pitch or not.

  • Some singers sing sharp when they sing too hard because they push themselves over the top of the correct pitch when they’re not loud enough in the headphones so they sing harder to compensate. The secret is to either have more vocal or less of everything else in the monitors or phones, but be aware, pitch and timing problems also occur if a singer hears too much of the vocal and not enough band in the mix. 
  • If the vocalist is singing flat, turn him down a little or add more of everyone else in the mix. Less vocal makes you want to sing harder (and possibly raise your pitch slightly) and vice versa. 
  • Sometimes the mix is too dense and having a mix with fewer instruments can help with a pitch problems. 
  • Boost the bass guitar (the root of all chords) and kick drum (the root of all rhythm) to help the singer with pitch and to stay in the pocket. 
  • Turn down anything that’s heavily chorused and turn up anything that has a more “centered” tonal frequency (like a piano). 
  • Sometimes listening to only the rhythm guitar instead of two guitars (if there are two in the mix) can be helpful since some singers can hear their pitch better from a simple tonally-centered instrument than from screaming guitars or airy synth  patches.