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.