Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Night with Tim Dolbear: "Under Pressure - All about compression"

By Tim Dolbear -

I will be hosting and teaching an event at Eclectica Studio ( all about compression. We will be diving deeply into the use of compression in audio production and compressor unit choices for different audio sources.

We will be covering:

  • Compression, types and its uses 
  • Limiters, types and its uses
  • Multi-band compression
  • Mix Buss compression
  • Parallel compression
  • Tape compression
  • Compressors' affect on tone and EQ
  • Compression and Limiting in Mastering. 
Date and time to be determined. We will choose this mid-week, mid-November evening evening based on participant's availability. Price for this info packed evening is $75.00.  

email for information and to reserve a spot.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Drum Mixing pt2 - American Drum sound/parallel processing

By Tim Dolbear -

Hey all, So lets look at parallel processing and drums.  This is a way to build huge amounts of density into the sound.  First take your drum tracks, lets say you have a Kick, Snare, Overs, and toms, eq and level them to where you want them, then depending on the type of DAW you are on, you need to buss these tracks in a way that they play out normally and at the same time through a second track...

In Samplitude, I send all the drum tracks to a Buss, then on that Buss I send the signal out an AUX fader to an AUX track which acts as my parallel processing track. You could also just buss the drums to a Buss and put a compressor on there that allows for parallel processing, or in simple term, has a MIX knob where you can blend the dry and the compressed signals together.

The goal here is to smash the drums on the processed track and then bring it up under the main drum sound. This can make the drums HUGE sounding.

The goto compressor standard for this is an 1176, set on 8:1, with attach at 3:00 and the release set to 5:00 or as fast as possible.  You want the compressor to have a fast attach, as to not really let any transients through, and about 10db of reduction or smashing in this case. You can also make the attack as fast as possible too, set to 5:00, but you will add extra inter-modulation distortion that you may or may not want.

A new plug on the market that works good inline, meaning no need for a separate send, is the new UBK-1 plugin. It allows for mixing or blending in of the direct signal, and it does a great 1176 style sound.

I suggest that if you have not messed around with this that you give it a try.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Samplitude and Sequoia Tips and tricks...stopping at position

By Tim Dolbear -

A few have asked me about a key command to return the play cursor to the original start position when stop at position is checked.

But, With “system options/playback - stop at position” checked there is no key commands to stop playback and return to the original position.

With it unchecked you have a few options. So you will want to flip the way of working if you had it checked before.

2 key commands:

Default keys:
Cntrl+Alt+ , is Section to play cursor/last stop position
Pause or Number block . is stop and goto current position

I reassigned the first one, and use the “.” in the number pad for the 2nd one still.

The num pad’s “.” Stops playback at current position.
The first on ( I reassigned to F10) after stop with the spacebar, will move the cursor to the position the cursor was at when playback stopped.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Drum mixing... pt 1, Phase!

By Tim Dolbear -

I am going to go through the steps I use for mixing Drums.  I am going to start with Phase and next time move into making the kick and bass groove and blend and on from there!

The very first thing to do when you start mixing drums is to not only check the phase but to 'pick' phase. The basics are that the close in microphones, such as the one on the snare drum, when mixed in with the over head mics may have a phase different.  Bring up the overheads first and then the snare channel. Flip the phase on the snare channel and listen. No other tracks should be playing out at this point. Flip the phase back and forth and listen to the tone of the snare.  You will want to also adjust the volume of the snare track to set it to where the most difference is heard.

I mention 'picking' phase. Reason being that sometimes out of phase may actually be the sound you want. So there is no right or wrong, just go for what sounds right. Now, mute the snare and bring up the first tom track and go through the process again to dial in the tom sound.  This process is much easier if you select a ranger over a tom fill and set playback to loop.  Once you have done this for all the tom tracks, bring up all the tracks for the kit and set the levels to a basic mix.

When listening to the entire kit, make sure you listen to how the tracks interact with each other. Example the snare maybe leaking into the tom mics and blurring the sound.  Instead of messing with the phase further, simply gate out the tom tracks, or as we do now in the DAW world, cut out the tom fills as in this picture:

This works great for rock, pop, and metal, country too, but for very delicate music, such as a light drums on a folk song, you can take it a step further.  A song with simple snare/kick/overheads, can benefit from the 2 overheads being addressed separately. In this case I simple add a free and awesome VST plugin call stereo tools  ( ) that allows you to flip the phase separately for the left and right channels.  Then while dialing in the snare, I flip the phase on the L/R overhead mics instead of the snare tracks. Also on the this kind of mix, the kick track should be check too, by flipping it's phase.

There used to be a lot of talk about sliding the tracks around to visually align the phase and timing of all the tracks to the Snare or Kick.  Basically since all the mics have the snare hits bleeding into them,  you slide forward the toms and overheads so that they are matched with the snare track visually.  They are all slightly behind of course due to time delay of the sound traveling to the mics.  I personally do not subscribe to this, but feel free to experiment.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What? Where? Why? Signal Chains...

By Tim Dolbear -

I get asked often about the order of things, specifically during mixing, "what goes first, the compressor or EQ?"  I must say that of course there are exceptions to the rule, but generally the Compressor goes before the EQ, and specifically, you should always setup the Compressor before the EQ. So there is your what and where... but why?

Why? Simply, a compressor will change the tone and EQ curve or your audio. Compressors will operate based on the audio being feed into it, they will compress and change the levels of the frequencies present in the audio, bring louder ranges of frequencies down and bring up the other areas, the more complex the audio, the more the affect.

Take a snare drum as example, compressing it will tend to bring down the 1-2k range which hits at the start of the strike and bring up the low mids which are present in the audio after the transient...  again, a very general setting and a generalization...but the snare will warm up in tone and get fatter sounding.

Thus, placing a compressor first, setting up its dynamics and letting its do its thing to your tone, then, placing an EQ after the compressor and setting it up, dialing it in based on what is coming out of the compressor is the right workflow.

By Tim Dolbear c2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Its all about Sequoia

By Tim Dolbear -

Hey all,  Here is a video of me presenting at the NAB show at the INTEL booth back in March 2012.   Its all about Sequoia DAW, 4 point editing and Source/destination editing, along with Multisynchronous cut and Audio restorations...Not common features you will find in DAWs like Protools, this is the high end stuff! So grab a soda and a hot dog, sit back and soak it in!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Choosing Drum Samples

Its all about Sequoia

So often I get mixes in here where the producer has chosen to use drum samples that just do not work in a mix. Many companies offer drum libraries nowadays, they all sound fantastic when you sample them or play them on your own. But once you add them to a real mix, they do not work. They are almost always Eq'd to death to make the sound huge, like Tommy Lee's drums from a Motley Crue album.  The kick drum is always huge with tons of bottom end and no mids, but once I bring them up in a mix, its mush and carries zero impact.

I am not sure what the answer is, since companies are stuck because if the samples sound the way they need to sound to work in a mix, no one would buy them.

Here is an example of what ends up happening.  When you are cooking, single ingredients taste one way, but the sum of all the ingredient taste different. The spice cumin,  its not a spice you want to each on its own, but once its in the right dish, it can bring the entire dish to life. Chocolate is great on its own but if you try to mix it into a dish you are making for dinner, it does not work.  Lemon-pepper-chocolate-chicken...

So my advice to you is to learn what a drum kit sounds like in a room.  Most importantly, try to match up the kick and snare sound as much as possible to the real thing. This will allow the sounds to work together in the mix. Remember,  you can always EQ the sounds to be anything you want them to be if you are starting with a good source, but these pre-EQ'd sample libraries are usually so EQ'd that there is not bringing them back.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tim's Water Closet

By Tim Dolbear -

The Drum Room. When I worked at Goodnight LA Studios, we had an exercise room off the main room, well maybe it was a large booth, but exercise equipment had taken over it... When we tracked drums, we would leave the door cracked to that room to let the sound slip in and captured it with a stereo pair of mics. The room was a very lively room and worked as a good drum room verb to tuck in under the drums in the mix.

At Eclectica Studios in CA, we has a small bathroom off the live room the was tiled, so I did the same there. But moving to Austin I knew I'd loose that room, so I set out to make a perfect drum room verb. A short, bright, dense, depth, to bring up under the kit in mix down. Now this is not the short main drum verb, nor a long over all verb in the mix, this is something always there and is a PART of the kit.

Making this verb was interesting, thus why I am writing about it. The short tile room verb patch I created using UA's Realverb and was the closest I got to the real thing. I A/B the real thing with the emulation for days and could not figure out how to get the density up but to decay so fast on such a small room.

The Answer was to place a compressor AFTER the Reverb plugin. The result is my channel preset in Samplitude called Tim's Water Closet.

So mess around with running reverb into a 4:1 compression with about 5-7db reduction on hard hits, you'll be surprised!.

The link below, you can hear the results, there are 2 verbs, the Water closet which is short and tight and the second over all verb, but with out the Water closet, the Samples don't sit well together in the room, :

Reverb: Real or Fake?

By Tim Dolbear c2012

Reverb, personally I like 'verb' in my mixes that sound musical, not necessarily real. I love outboard reverb units and a few plugs, such as Samplitude's Variverb. Convolution verbs that model a real space just don't work for me mixing Pop/Rock.

Visualize Your Studios Setup.

By Tim Dolbear c2012

Just because you have a nice Kitchen, don't mean you know how to cook. Equipment and plugins are only tools, and are only as good as the engineer running them... I have too many plugins, I have all the UAD plugs and SSL plugs because of beta testing for them, but the ones I don't use, the ones that I have tried and don't really fit my style of work, example, the UA Trident EQ, I move in my VST folder to a subfolder called 'Others'. 

I want my list as streamline as possible and more importantly, I only want available the ones that I use and know, really know. Its the same with my outboard gear, I only keep what I use and know inside and out. If something sits for a year with out being used I sell it. 

Here is great advice I got along the way: "You have to be able to visualize your setup in your head, this streamlines your workflow, only keep on hand the important parts, the ones you are an expert at using, trim the rest!" And its true.

Microphone Pre-amp love.

By Tim Dolbear c2012

I have more channels of Pre-amps they I can use, but having 1 great Tube pre-amp (Manley) and 1 great Solid-state Pre (1979era Altec) has served me well. Really great Solid-state preamps sound as good but different as high end tube. I never knew solid-state could sound equally as good til I got the Altec, I guess I bought in to the hype around 'tube'. But for 10+ years these 2 have been my goto pres. 

Try this if you are new to audio production: place a mic on a good sound source, then move it between all your preamps, try everything, cheap, expensive tube, solid-state, every combo, you will notice that the same mic will sound and react completely different thru a different pre-amp.

Studio Monitors, The perfect Stand!

By Tim Dolbear c2012

I am on the side that believes studio monitors should be decoupled, isolated from the other surfaces. When speakers are attached to or touching something, that item will vibrate and put off sound. If its sitting on a metal tube stand, the tubes will become lively with sound. On a shelf they vibrate the shelf and wall, drastically changing the sound being produced by the speakers, throwing the specs of the flat monitors you paid so much for way off. 

In the picture you can see my Neumann Studio monitors, very expensive... The stand however is the most inexpensive stand you can create, and will not transfer audio/vibrations to the floor, completely isolating the speakers. See the attached picture, it's simply masonry blocks. Super dense and with a black heavy twill thrown over, you can see they look perfect. 

Also, at the top, there is a tick layer of Neoprene. So between the Speakers and the blocks is a layer of this neoprene, which are actually $2 flip-flops cut to fit. The results are fantastic! I also have my Subwoofer sitting on the Neoprene too.