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Recording and mixing

This discussion was created from comments split from: Just another dude introducing himself.

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  • WigsWigs Moderator, 2.0 PRO, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 4,433
    G'day mate, I'm actually learning to play the piano and slowly trying to understand and get better at recording and mixing my vocals. At the moment I'm doing alot of karaoke covers but want to start recording my keyboard as well. Everything so far is in garage band.

    I've seen tutorials where they show you how to record your keyboard in stereo, is there any benefit to this?

    Here is a link to my latest effort where there are quite a few layered vocals. I would love your feedback on it 🙂 it's only a karaoke track and I've still not delved into mastering, but I tried to EQ the best I could with some effects in different parts.

    https://forum.kentamplinvocalacademy.com/discussion/16368/2-brothers-have-a-go-at-singing-bodies-by-drowning-pool-with-growl-and-scream#latest
  • AsterAster Member Posts: 8
    Wigs said:

    G'day mate, I'm actually learning to play the piano and slowly trying to understand and get better at recording and mixing my vocals. At the moment I'm doing alot of karaoke covers but want to start recording my keyboard as well. Everything so far is in garage band.

    I've seen tutorials where they show you how to record your keyboard in stereo, is there any benefit to this?

    Here is a link to my latest effort where there are quite a few layered vocals. I would love your feedback on it 🙂 it's only a karaoke track and I've still not delved into mastering, but I tried to EQ the best I could with some effects in different parts.

    https://forum.kentamplinvocalacademy.com/discussion/16368/2-brothers-have-a-go-at-singing-bodies-by-drowning-pool-with-growl-and-scream#latest

    Hello, Wigs! Music production, mixing and mastering is a huge art in itself, and just like any other, has a million different tips and tricks that depend on your particular situation. With that said, I will try to keep it as simple as possible.

    Let me just clear one thing up because, as simple as it is, a lot of people don't understand it.
    - The production phase of the music: recording it and creating the actual raw material that goes into your audio track. (Recording vocals, instruments, programming virtual instruments if applicable, etc)
    - The editing phase: Slicing up the useless material in your track (takes that you messed up, played wrong, sang wrong, blank space, etc), narrowing down to a few best takes of each instrument, sorting your project so that it's manageable and sometimes using certain tools to clean up and technically improve the tracks before heading into mixing (don't worry about the editing phase, I just had to mention it for professional reasons)
    - Mixing phase: Using tools and processes to put your instruments in a 3D space (often called imaging), making the music sound interesting, expressive, and artistically beautiful (for lack of a better term, since this is all very broad). In this phase you use your faders, pan knobs, EQs, compressors, reverbs, etc.
    - Mastering phase: Preparing your track for the particular medium that it is intended for (CD, Vinyl, Youtube, iTunes, etc). You can, and often do, have more that one master of the same song (as sometimes different mediums require some reasonable different decisions to be made when using mastering tools).

    Now that I got that out of the way, and do not let it intimidate you, I included it just in case it interests you, on to your question.

    Garage band is great, if you get more into music production, I suggest upgrading to Logic Pro, as Garage Band is pretty much the same DAW just a beginner version in some sense. Logic Pro is one hell of a DAW! In college I was even specifically taught Logic Pro and ProTools as they are in some sense an industry standard.

    Onto the Keyboards question. You asked if there is any benefit to recording it in stereo. If you will bear with me, I have to clear something up first, lest I be irresponsible, since I don't know at what level of knowledge you are, though I can guess. I hope this doesn't confuse you. Here we go.

    A signal recorded from one source (One microphone / one electric guitar output / etc) is called a mono signal.
    When you take two (different) mono signals, and pan them left and right, it becomes stereo. And example of this would be if you recorded a choir performance with two microphones (using any of the effective stereo microphone recording techniques). Even though you are recording the same performance, the signals in the two microphones will still be a teensy-weensy bit different, since they can't both be in the exact same spot in space. Later, in your DAW, you will select one microphone that you designated to be the left microphone, and use the pan knob to pan it left (pan is short for panorama. It is a parameter that controls will the selected channel be sent more through the left or right speaker). You will then take the other microphone and pan it right (either just a little bit, or completely). Doing this (having one signal left and one right) creates an illusion of 3D musical space, and you would already be doing the rudiments of mixing (which are volume and pan).
    To make sure you understand this let me give you an example of a basic mix. We have a lead vocal, recorded with a single microphone, a choir, recorded with two microphones using a stereo technique (so we have two mono choir signals in our DAW), and flet's say we have a piano which was also recorded with two microphones, using a stereo technique (which it usually is). Now we let the art of mixing take place. You adjust your desired volume of each instrument using faders, then you pan it.
    - Lead Vocals: Panned in the center (which they are 99% of the time, since they are the most important)
    - Choir Panned: Left Microphone panned 100% left (meaning it will only be played through the left speaker) and the right Microphone panned 100% right (only through the left speaker)
    - Piano: Left microphone (usually on the bass side of the piano strings) Panned 70% left (meaning 70% of the signal will be played through the left speaker, and the remaining 30% to the right), and the 70% right for the right microphone.

    This will result in a mix where the Lead Vocals, in our 3D sound field will sound like they are in the middle, the piano will sound like it is around the vocals, and the choir, being panned most aggressively, will sound like it is the most far out to the side, resonating around our vocals and piano.

    As a matter of fact, this is exactly how our binaural perception of sound works, and the way we use audio systems (speakers or headphones) that have a left and right counterpart, mirrors our biology.

    Now that we understand what stereo is, let's get onto it.

    Yes, you want your piano to be stereo most of the time. If you are using your keyboards to record something like a piano sound, or a string section sound, or maybe a pad, you want them to be stereo. The reason you want it to be stereo is because, if you put it in the center of your stereo field, it will interfere with the lead vocals, which are in the center of the stereo field, and center of attention for the listeners. You don't want stuff bunching up in the same place.
    Now, how you do this is important. The precondition to this is that your keyboard actually has two different mono audio outputs (and I stress "mono audio outputs) so that it actually sends a slightly different signal from the left and right output (essentially emulating what recording that instrument with two microphones would do). The way keyboards are usually recorded in a professional environment is: Recording the two mono audio outputs, corresponding to the left and right channel, sometimes using a Direct Input Box (I won't explain DI boxes here cause it will definitely be too much information for such a short question), and also, at the same time, recording the MIDI data from the keyboard (if your keyboard has a MIDI output), so you can record your performance and perhaps use it with a virtual instrument, if you don't like how the original sound of the keyboard sounds in your project.

    - !caution! - If this technical mumbo jumbo interests you, since you did mention you watch tutorials, definitely go google the difference between a BALANCED AUDIO SIGNAL and a STEREO AUDIO SIGNAL. They are things that seem to be the same, but are totally not, and it often confuses novices.

    I recommend checking out David Gibsons book "The Art of Mixing". It is a bit old, and technology evolves really fast, but it really drives some of the points home. However, I would always recommend good literature from certified audio engineers over Youtube. Youtube can be quite dangerous as there is A LOT of misleading information, just like there is for singing as Ken likes to say.

    As for your project, I can see that there aren't any major "oh-no" rookie moments. Consistent levels, no clicks or pops, no aggressive plosives. Keep working on it and as it is with anything else, keep practicing and you will get better.

    I don't usually like to be the guy that says this to anyone, but, stay away any excessive mastering studies for now. This is kinda similar to Ken telling you "don't do glottal compression in the first week of singing". They tools for all of the stages of audio the production that I've mentioned are the same in many ways, but the mindset, and their implementation is different. When I was studying, my teachers had us learn audio-engineering, acoustics and analog recording basics in the first semester. We didn't touch mastering until the third year. The reason for this is that everything really stems from analogue technology. The DAW software that we use actually reflect what an analogue mixer used to do, except that there are way more possibilities when done on a computer.
  • AsterAster Member Posts: 8
    Part 2:

    Learn as much as you can about recording and audio engineering (devices, microphones, mixers, signal path, audio interfaces). Once you get that down, and I know it can be boring, but if you can get it down, you can go into mixing, and then later mastering, and you will see it with a completely different eye. Everything will be much more clear to you and you will be able to manipulate it with complete mastery. Of course that is not to say you should stop the stuff that you are recording/mixing/mastering. Just trying to say is if audio production interests you, that would be the general order of things you learn, and you can take advice from people like me without having that person worry about you getting a wrong idea about something and misleading you. Audio production is a wonderful thing, but just like any other art, it has thousands of tricks and details.

    Coming back to the "Bodies" video that you linked. As far as the vocals go I'd recommend you get a little bit into, and experiment with, spatial effects like reverb and delay to spice up your vocals and make them more interesting and expressive. If I was you, it probably turn the volume of the vocals down a bit and have it blend in with the song more, some EQ and compressor adjustments would also help along with that. However, when mixing vocal covers or vocal lessons, often vocals are mixed a bit louder to make them stick out from the instrumental more than they would in the original track (because it's a vocal cover/lesson and the point is to hear the vocalist more).

    I hope this was in any way helpful, and I hope I haven't confused you too much, but this really is the simplest I can make it without giving a professionally irresponsible answer and misleading you in some way. Best of luck in improving in both singing and your music production! Cheers!
    - Aster
  • WigsWigs Moderator, 2.0 PRO, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 4,433
    Thankyou so much! This was what I was hoping for. Alot of it makes sense to me, and you have given me some direction to further my knowledge. I am using LinkedIn learning to study some of the basics of recording and audio engineering, there are many videos from industry professionals that go for hours.

    I have tried to use logic Pro but at the moment I can't get it to pick up my mic with a Scarlett 6i6 and iMac. I can import my raw GB tracks to it and work that way, I'll have to try nut it out.

    I'll split this discussion a bit later to put it in the relevant category.

    I'll be sure to tag you when I finish my first piano cover. Thanks again mate! 🙂
  • AsterAster Member Posts: 8
    Wigs said:

    Thankyou so much! This was what I was hoping for. Alot of it makes sense to me, and you have given me some direction to further my knowledge. I am using LinkedIn learning to study some of the basics of recording and audio engineering, there are many videos from industry professionals that go for hours.

    I have tried to use logic Pro but at the moment I can't get it to pick up my mic with a Scarlett 6i6 and iMac. I can import my raw GB tracks to it and work that way, I'll have to try nut it out.

    I'll split this discussion a bit later to put it in the relevant category.

    I'll be sure to tag you when I finish my first piano cover. Thanks again mate! 🙂

    Very welcome!

    If you are having trouble with logic picking up your Scarlett signal, make sure that you have the Input/Output settings in Logic settings/preferences tabs configured to recognize your interface. Whatever the problem is, it's always a quick fix with Logic, you just gotta know your way around the DAW.

    Another quick tip, since we're on the subject, is: On Mac computers that have CoreAudio you can use a built in app called :"AudioMIDI" Setup and create custom drivers that link, and allow you to use multiple audio interfaces at once. It's called the "aggregate" function, give it a try. Cheers!
    - Aster
  • KarenSingsKarenSings 2.0 PRO Posts: 47
    Sounds like you got great help with your question from @Aster .

    If you are recording this as something that you want to present, there are some improvements you could make in the mix. Don't know if you want that kind of feedback at this point.

    Awesome recordings and vid!
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