Friday, July 22, 2016

Climbing the audio ladder

This time around I’d like to talk to you about climbing the ladder in the audio world. When I got out of recording school, I moved to Memphis, TN to work at a studio there and get some experience in a major market. Now, Memphis is mostly known as a blues town and that really wants my thing, so I came back home to KY after a few months and got a job at LIRCo. After being here a few years, I decided to enter the major market again and made the move to L.A. The only problem was that local experience doesn’t really count for much when you are going to the bigs. It’s pretty much just something else to put on your audio resume.

STARTING YOUR CLIMB

If you are going to pursue this as a career (and not start your own local studio), you need to understand one thing. In the world of major league pro studios, everyone starts out at the bottom as a runner. A runner is just that - you run and get things. Food, packages, clean the kitchen, answer the phones - whatever is needed. Sometimes you are the studio taxi. Whatever the band/business needs done outside of the recording rooms, you are the one doing it. On the plus side, you get to just hang out with the bands in a more more relaxed capacity. When they are in the room tracking, it can be a very stressful environment, but when they are eating dinner, they are much more relaxed and easy going.

I was a runner years ago at a studio where the band RATT was recording, and a few days a week when things were slow, I just hung out and shot pool with their guitarist, Warren DeMartini. At the time I was a guitarist (I use the term loosely), and to be around a player of his calibre and just talk to him like a regular guy was amazing. Being in the studio, they drop their guard and the whole “rockstar” trip and you get to see them as real people.

Just working in a major studio can be awesome. Imagine watching the Beach Boys practice singing harmonies only a few feet from you, watching John Sykes from Whitesnake/Blue Murder lay down guitar tracks, or hanging out on the couch with some of the guys from Guns N Roses just watching TV. Well I don’t have to, because for a while, that was my life. And eventually, I moved my way up the ladder and became an assistant engineer on some sessions.

RIDING THE COATTAILS

This whole business on the major level revolves around “who you know”. You could be the best engineer in town, and if you have no reputation, no one cares. You basically ride the coattails of others as you rise in the ranks. When you are a runner, one of your main goals is to make friends with the assistant engineers. If you make their studio lives easier, they remember that. Most major studios don’t like it when the rooms aren’t being used and will sometimes allow the assistants to bring in local bands for a discount to get more experience in the engineer “seat”. They will in turn, bring you in to be the assistant (at least you hope so!) on these sessions. Being an assistant engineer requires lots of long hours in the studio. Sometimes you’ll sleep on the couch between sessions because it’s just easier than driving all the way home and back again. It can be grueling at times, but when you are doing a job you love, it never really seems that bad, at least to me!

When an assistant moves on (more on that later), everyone moves up one in the ranks. So now YOU are one of the assistants. Now your job is to place microphones in basically the right spot, keep logs of everything, and run the recorder. The engineer will come in and make the final mic placements. If you keep the sessions running smoothly, people will notice. When the band is talking about food, you slip off to the side and call the runner in to take orders. If the artist and producer are talking about trying a different mic setup, you go ahead and get the mic on the stand before they even ask you to do it. Basically, you are trying to stay one step ahead of everyone and keep the session running smoothly so the artist, engineer and producer can do their jobs better. Your ultimate goal is to be so good, that the producer wants to bring future sessions to your studio and use YOU as the assistant engineer.

If you work hard enough and get noticed by the right people (coattails!), you may be asked to become part of a team outside the studio. Many times, an engineer will be asked to produce a band because they like how he worked on some other band’s project. So now he is becoming a producer and needs an engineer that he can count on. That engineer is YOU! So you will travel with him to different studios (sometimes around the world!) tracking bands until you have such a reputation in the business, that you start getting offers from OTHER producers and then you will become a truly freelance audio engineer. One of the top assistants at the L.A. studio I worked at left just as I was coming back to KY and became the go-to engineer for most of the early 2000’s rock and metal acts, so it can happen! It just takes lots of long hours and perseverance to get to that level. After I came back to KY, I was able to come back to LIRCo and moved up to the position of Head Engineer that I have had for a while now. Even though I had a lot of fun in those early days, I love where I am and I’m glad I came back to KY where I can help others starting their journey.

So if you are down for that kind of life, The Lexington School for Recording Arts can give you a great education to put you on your way. Just give us a call at 859-335-8440 (if you're local) or TOLL FREE at 877-335-8440 to set up a tour or get some info sent to you. See ya next time!!!

Steve Nall
Head Engineer, LIRS

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vocal Compression

Over all the years and mixes that I’ve done here at Long Island Studios and The Lexington School for Recording Arts, I have found that vocal compression is one of the hardest parts of your mix. It seems that many times it’s a chore to get vocal to sit on top of the mix all the time without getting covered up by the instruments. Today I'm going to tell you the way I like to set up vocal compression, as well as a few other ways that you may want to try.

Normally in rock music, you want the vocal to stay on top and out in front at all times, but a vocalist is a very dynamic part of your mix. So how do you do this?  The answer is compression. I like to use either the Waves Renaissance compressor or the CLA 1176 simulation, but any decent compressor can get you the results that you need.

I set my compressor up so that when the vocalist gets loud they are getting around 10 to 15 dB gain reduction. I know that this may seem like a lot to some of you, but it will guarantee that the vocal is even as it can possibly be. Now, the attack and release of the compressor play a big role in getting this done correctly. I generally set my attack times to 1 or 2 ms. On the 1176 compressor, the attack times run from "1" to "7" with "1" being the slowest. With some research, I found out that the "1" setting is around 1 ms, so that works out well doesn't?  On the Renaissance compressor, as well as other compressors, you generally have a sliding scale to tell you how many milliseconds your attack time is so that could be an easier path for you to go.

When it comes to release times, that part of compression is constantly changing from song to song.  The two main options are to either have the release time set very quickly and be releasing for every single word, or holding for a longer period of time (say 600 ms or so) to capture the entire line of vocal before releasing in time to catch the next line. The problem sometimes with fast release times is that if it is too fast, then you can get some audible distortions on the track. The problem with longer release times is that you may get some kind of a "pumping" effect because the compressor is slowly releasing as the line gets quieter. What I like to do, is have a fairly fast release time, usually in the 150 to 300 ms range. On the CLA 1176, the release time is also a range of "1" to "7", just like the attack time. The "1" is 1 second and the "7" is 50 ms, so I tend to have mine set to around the "5" area.  Then I just set the threshold to allow me around 10 dB of reduction, and use the output to gain to get the vocal back up to the volume that I need. Most of the time, this will get my vocal on top and "in your face" how I want it to be, so that every word is heard correctly and nothing is covered by the band.

For a more dynamic vocal, the same settings can be used, but just set the threshold so that instead of getting 10 dB of reduction on the loud parts, you're only getting around 3 to 6 dB of reduction. Then,set your output volume so that the loud parts are as loud as you want them to be, and the quieter parts will remain how they were recorded - without added compression.

Another way of getting somewhat "in your face" style compression (without the possible audibility of squashing the track), is to set up multiple compressors that are only compressing a few db each. Many times, this way of compressing a track allows you to compress in order to just control the peaks and then if anything breaks through, the second compressor will clamp down and keep everything even.  

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget that you are welcome to stop by and tour our facilities anytime. Just give us a call at 859-335-8440 (if you're local) or TOLL FREE at 877-335-8440 to set it up, so we can give you the ultimate LIRCo experience. See ya next time!!!

Steve Nall
Head Engineer, LIRS

Thursday, March 24, 2016

4 Steps To Setting Input Gain

Here at LSRA and LIRS, I teach several classes, including Studio Recording. An important part of learning how to track a band is the proper way of getting your input levels. I try to make things easy for the students to remember, so I have broken it down into four steps: GAIN, RE-GAIN, FADERS, and FADERS. Following these four easy steps will ensure that you always get a good level going to your recorder (thereby lowering your noise floor, i.e. the amount of natural room noise in relation to your recording source) and that the mix engineer has a good starting point every time. In this example, the drummer is used, but the steps are the same no matter what instrument you are recording.

1. GAIN – The first thing you must do is set the initial gain for the track. This is done using the standard “soundcheck” system where the engineer instructs the drummer to hit each drum and cymbal individually. The engineer then adjusts the input gain knob (also known as the pre-amp) for the microphone that is placed on the drum he told the drummer to hit. The goal is to get the gain set as loud as it can go before overloading. The gain knob is turned up until an overload is reached and then backed down slowly until the hardest hit will not make the pre-amp overload. This is then repeated for every drum and cymbal on the kit that is individually miked.

2. Re-GAIN – After the initial gain stage is set, the engineer should ask the drummer to play the full kit for a few minutes to gauge what kind of hitter the drummer is and whether or not some microphones need repositioning. At the same time, the engineer needs to see if any gain knobs set during the first stage are overloading. Most drummers hit slightly harder when actually playing, so some gain changes being made here is natural. Just watch the overload lights on each channel and adjust the gains needing reduction.

3. FADERS - After all the gains that need readjusting are corrected, allow the drummer to keep playing for a minute or two; not only make sure your new gain settings are correct, but to get your levels in Pro Tools, or whatever recorder you may be using, correct as well. By this time you should already have your tracks routed to your recorder and the tracks should be armed for recording. When you plug a microphone in a mixer to use its pre-amp, you have to go through that channels’ fader section to get to the recorder. If the fader is turned down, you will get a lower signal to your recorder, or no signal at all. If the fader is too high, you may overload your track to the recorder, even though the pre- amp gain you set previously isn’t distorting. Therefore, the fader of the microphone input track has some control over the volume of the track going to be recorded. It is recommended that you start all the input faders at 0 db. This allows some headroom, and if a volume reduction is needed, there is a good amount to be had. If the level of each track you have armed on the recorder is not at least half-way to the top of it’s meters, go back to your board input track and increase the corresponding fader level to +5 db. This small boost will usually do the trick. Going all the way to +10 is not recommended because of the fact that a mix always needs some headroom and at +10 there’s no where to go.

4. FADERS – This is the last step in setting the gain pre amp and getting ready to record. By now, the input gains should be set as loud as possible before overloading and the recorders’ input levels should be jumping at least halfway up it’s meters. Now the engineers’ attention should turn to the board faders used for control room listening. Once these are set satisfactorily, stop the drummer from playing and ask if any volume adjustments are needed in the headphone mix. Make the necessary adjustments and you’re done!

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget that you are welcome to stop by and tour our facilities anytime. Just give us a call at 859-335-8440 (if you're local) or TOLL FREE at 877-335-8440 to set it up, so we can give you the ultimate LIRCo experience. See ya next time!!!

Steve Nall
Head Engineer, LIRS

Friday, January 8, 2016

Drum Miking - Part 2

Hi everybody and welcome back to part 2 of my drum miking series. Last time we discussed miking kick and snare drums so this week I want to delve more into miking rack toms and floor toms.

When you're miking toms, there's a couple of different things that you need to take into account. Do you want to mike just the top, or do you want to mike top and bottom? Do you want to use a dynamic mic or maybe a condenser? What kind of heads should you use? All of these are very good questions, and hopefully I will provide you the answers that you need.

Normally, I just mike at the top of head of the rack tom. I find that miking the bottom head of the tom, while providing some additional resonance, really doesn't do very much for the overall sound of my drum kit, and is a waste of a track to be honest. So let's stick with the top head. As far as what type of drumhead you should use, it really depends on if you're in the studio or if you're doing live work. In my experience, I have always found in the studio, that batter heads tend to give me the best results, while when I am doing a live sound gig, I find the clear heads are the best. Also, it's a good idea if your drummer knows how to tune his drums! I use a tool called Drum Dial. It is a tempanic pressure tuner that works off of the tension of the head, not the sound, to achieve the correct tone of the drum. And lastly, you need to decide if you want to use dynamic microphones or condenser microphones to record your toms. I would say that the studio standard is the dynamic microphone known as the Sennheiser 421. It's a very good mic I'll admit, and I use it sometimes to make musicians feel at home in the studio since it's something that they are probably used to seeing in other studios. Personally, the microphone I like to use for rack toms is the Audio Technica 4050. It is a large diaphragm condenser that just seems to have more attack and brightness then the 421 while still having about the same amount of body as the 421. I like to have a little more natural stick attack coming through the microphone than the 421 offers me most of the time.

So let's talk distance. If you using a dynamic microphone such as the 421 a Shure 57 or an Audix D2, then you want to be approximately 1 to 2 inches off of the drumhead. For me, with my "finger measuring system" that we talked about in my previous blog, it would be about a knuckle up off of the head. When you use a condenser microphone, such as the 4050, the AKG 414, or even the Neumann U87, you want to be approximately 3 to 6 inches off of the drumhead. In my finger measurement, that would end up being a whole index finger to about half of your hand. Remember, the further away your microphone is from your drum, the more bleed you will get from the surrounding the pieces of the drum kit, so it is very important to find that optimum distance that provide you with enough body and attack, but still gives you the necessary isolation from the rest of the drum kit so that your compression (and possibly gating) will work correctly and not against you. You can also mike both of your up rack toms with one microphone if you need to. I have done this on several occasions when I did not have enough inputs on my console to allow me to record both toms separately. What I did in the situation is, I used a large diaphragm condenser (which happened to be the 4050), and I put it about 6 to 8 inches up directly between both toms, facing straight down. Then in the mixing stage, I added a new audio track to my session and separated the second tom hits from the track and moved them to their own track.

For miking floor toms, my go to microphone is the Shure PG 52. I find this microphone (which is actually a lower level mic made primarily for kick drum miking) gives the floor tom a nice round "boom" while still maintaining some of the attack that is needed. I mic it up generally being about 2 to 3 inches up off the drumhead and 2 to 3 inches into the drum itself (over the ring).  I'm not pointing at the middle of the drum like you would a snare mic, but pointing more towards the outside edge about 3 inches into the drumhead.

So that's it. Not nothing too difficult, just your basic mic set up. I do EQ the tracks coming into my system and as well as a EQing them after recording. I find that this gives me the best possible sound I can get going down to my recorder and gives me a good base to start the mix with.

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget that you are welcome to stop by and tour our facilities anytime. Just give us a call at 859-335-8440 (if you're local) or TOLL FREE at 877-335-8440 to set it up, so we can give you the ultimate LIRCo and Lexington School for Recording Arts experience. See ya next time!!!

Steve Nall

Head Engineer, LIRS

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Drum Miking - Part 1

Hello everybody and welcome back.  Being an instructor here at The Lexington School For Recording Arts means that you have to be able to wear many audio hats. So along with teaching the mastering class, helping in the Pro Tools lab, the analog portion of the school, the Waves certification class, and the occasional live sound class, the main course that I teach at the school involves actually recording a live band.  This deals with setting up the board, routing the tracks to the recorder, setting the separate headphone mixes, and of course, setting up the microphones for the band. This is the part of the course I would like to talk about today.

I have already gone over some of the guitar mic placement in the previous blog post, so today I want to focus about miking up the drum kit. Now a full blog about this could take a very long time, so today I'm going to focus on kick drum and snare only. I will do a part two for my next blog about the rest of the kit.

When you mic up the kick drum, there are two things to be aware of - the microphone you're going to use, and the  placement of the microphone on the drum. There are many great microphones for miking kick drums. Some I have used are the Shure Beta 52, the Audix D6, the AKG D12, and my personal favorite, the AKG D112.

The positioning of the kick drum microphone is very important depending on the type of sound you're looking to get out of the kick drum. You can put it in three general places: Outside the drum, just inside the hole in the front head, and completely inside the body of the drum itself. Although I have seen many many engineers use the second way of miking the drum, I prefer the third way, putting the microphone completely inside the drum.

When you put the microphone inside the kick drum, you achieve several things that you cannot get from any other way of miking. Number one, you get much more isolation from the rest of the drum kit than you do if you mic outside the drum or just barely inside the hole. Number two, you control how much snap, or attack, that you receive from the beater side of the kick drum. If you need more attack, you simply move the mic closer to the back head. If you need less attack, you just move the mic closer to the front of the kick drum. This option is not available to you if you do not have the microphone inside the drum itself. You are also able to do off axis miking from inside of the drum. If you like the bass to attack ratio that you are getting, but not the overall brightness of the attack, you simply turn the mic slightly to one side or the other so it is not pointing directly at the beater and you can achieve a slightly less bright attack while still maintaining the same amount of bass. For most rock drum sounds, my personal placement of the kick drum mic is approximately 6 to 8 inches from the beater side of the kick drum pointing directly where the kick pedal is going to connect with the beater head. This gives me a nice, natural, bright attack and still allows me to have a good low-end when I get into the mixing stage.

Occasionally you will run into the drummer that does not have a hole cut in his front drum head for you to place a microphone either just inside or fully inside the drum. This could be major problem, and my solution for this is one of two ways.  One way, is I tell the drummer that he must remove his front head so I can place the microphone inside his kick drum to receive the necessary attack that I need to get his kick to sound correct. If he won't take his drum head off, then I either have to use two microphones, one in the front (usually a condenser like a Neumann U87) approximately 6 to 8 inches away from the front head,and a smaller, tighter patterned dynamic mic (such as an SM 57) pointing where the drummer's kick pedal is hitting the beater head. Then I will blend these two microphones together to create one kick drum sound. Sometimes the bleed is too much on these microphones, and the sound is not good at all. When this problem happens, I usually do not use the front microphone.  I take the back microphone by the beater head and I trigger it with a drum replacement program. I have not run into this problem very many times in the past, but occasionally you will find a drummer who does not have a hole cut in his drum head and refuses to remove it, so it's good to have a back up plan when these incidences occur.

So enough about kick drums. Let's talk about snare. There's not very many ways to mic a snare drum. You can mic it from the top, or you can mic it from the bottom, or you can mic it from top and bottom. Personally I like to mic from the top. I have tried miking from the bottom as a blend with the top microphone, but it never seems to sound good to me, so I stopped using the bottom microphone many years ago. So today we are going to focus on top of miking only.  

Although there are quite a few small diaphragm dynamic microphones that can be used to mike up a snare drum, the most used (and the one I use) is the SM 57.  How far you place the microphone away from the top head of the drum changes how the drum sounds. If you put it too close, you will not get much body at all. If you put it too far away, you will not get very much stick attack. Plus, you have run the risk of getting too much bleed from the rest of the drum kit onto your microphone, making it almost impossible to compress or gate correctly. What I have found to be a good position for the snare mic, and what most other engineers have found as well, is to put the microphone approximately 2 to 3 inches up above the snare head and about 2 inches inside The perimeter of the drumhead ring.

Now, I don't usually go through my drum kit with a ruler or measuring tape and make sure that the snare mic is exactly 2 inches up or that the kick drum microphone is exactly 6 inches away from the beater head, I just use very basic rough estimates.  You can use a tape measure and get exact measurements if you would like. If you were doing a major label session where the drums will be recorded many different times over the course of several months and the microphones must be placed back exactly where they were to begin with, then I highly recommend using a ruler or measuring tape. But if you're going to record all the drums for say, a local band that is going to only be in the studio for one month total, then the exact measurements aren't that crucial because you're going to record all of your drums at once or possibly even just leave your drum kit miked up for the entire session so that if overdubs are needed, the drum kit will be available and ready to go immediately. This is how I usually do my sessions, so I rely on what I refer to as "the finger method".

I know that my index finger is 4 inches long (yes, I measured it), so I just use my hand to get my distances on my microphones. I do this for the entire drum kit: snare, toms, Hi hat, you name it, I use this method. The only thing that I can't do with it, is measure my overheads, because of course, they are more than 4 inches away!  Now  I know that my snare drum should be 2 inches off of the head and approximately 2 inches into the head, so having a 4 inch finger, I just place my finger down on the snare head, and position the microphone to touch my knuckle. I do this for the up and in and it is almost exactly 2 inches up and 2 inches in every single time. It may not be the most exact method, but it works for me, and I get a good sound on my snare drum, so I'm not worried about it. If it works for you, use it. If you need to measure with a measuring tape and get the exact number, do that. If the sound of the snare is good, what ever way you use, then you did it the right way. That's what's great about music, to quote Eddie Van Halen, "if it sounds good, then it is good".

So that is how I do my kick and snare mic placement. Next time I will go over my placement for toms, using dynamics and using condensers. Also we will go over miking the cymbals and the role room mics play in the overall sound of your drum kit in a later article.

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget that you are welcome to stop by and tour our facilities anytime. Just give us a call at 859-335-8440 (if you're local) or TOLL FREE at 877-335-8440 to set it up, so we can give you the ultimate LIRCo experience. See ya next time!!!

Steve Nall

Head Engineer, LIRS

Thursday, December 10, 2015

My thoughts and technique for Bass compression

So I recently got a new bass guitar (a Spector Legend 4X), and while trying it out in the studio here at The Lexington School for Recording Arts, I started thinking about bass compression in modern music. I do a seminar here at the school on this subject, so I thought I'd talk to y'all about it too.

The major problem I find when mixing a song is the overall volume of the bass guitar. When they're playing on the lower strings, you can hear everything clear and full, but when they're playing on the higher strings, things tend to thin out and sound quieter. So how do we fix this problem? Well, besides riding the track fader with volume automation, compression is a major tool in fixing this. A lot of it has to do with where the threshold is placed and the attack time. If your threshold is too high, then you won't be able to compress the more average notes and only get the loud notes. If your threshold is too low, you may compress the loud notes way too much. So how do you do it you may ask? Well, this is how I personally compressed bass guitar.

I first find my average level, and I put my threshold to where the average level is getting about 3 to 6 dB of compression. My attack time is generally around 1 ms. This gives me a nice, fast attack but still allows a small bit of transient information to come through. If you want more transient attack to come through, then a longer attack of maybe 15-20 ms would be best for you. My release time is usually between 300 and 500 milliseconds. This allows the note to fully fade away for most instances before the compression goes away. The ratios I tend to use usually fall between 4:1 and 6:1. It gives a nice amount of compression, but not too crushing.

So with the threshold giving around 3 to 6 db of compression to the average volume of the bass, my louder hits are going to have somewhere between 6 and 10 db of reduction, and my quieter hits will not have any. What this will do is compress my average down a little bit and, of course, the loudest notes lowered even more. So what should be happening is that everything is coming closer to the volume of the quieter parts. If you were to record through this setting, you would see that your very dynamic loud to soft bass waveforms are now a lot more uniform. Not really a rectangle, but more in the same general ballpark of overall volume. This will allow the bass guitar to stay at a steady volume in the mix so that the instrument does not get covered by the guitars.

This technique will not change the overall low end of your track though, because the lower strings have more natural bass resonance than the higher strings. What you can do, however, is to add a bass roll off (HPF) filter around 80 Hz. This will take away some of the overall big bottom end, and the kick drum is really going to be down in that area anyway, so we're trying to keep our bass guitar and kick drum away from each other to have them more defined as individual instruments. If I really need the dynamics to be gone completely from my bass guitar, say that I am mixing a metal band, then I will move my attack time even faster than 1 ms and bring it down to around 500 ns and move my ratio up to a limiting threshold where it's higher than 10:1; usually I'm around 30:1 (if not 100:1), effectively making it a brick wall limiter. Now, remember, when you are using extremely fast attack times you must also have a longer release time or else you will have distortion on your bass guitar, which you probably don't want to have. 

So that's how I do it. I generally use a soft knee compressor like the Waves Rcomp or the CLA1176 compressor on my bass tracks, but really any compressor will do the job if you set it up correctly. Just experiment with the attack and threshold while maintaining average ratios and release times and see what you can come up with on your own. Most of the fun of mixing is trying out ideas and figuring out ways of making things sound even better than they actually are!

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget that you are welcome to stop by and tour our facilities anytime. Just give us a call at 859-335-8440 (if you're local) or TOLL FREE at 877-335-8440 to set it up, so we can give you the ultimate LIRCo experience. See ya next time!!!

Steve Nall

Head Engineer, LIRS

Friday, December 4, 2015

Single mic VS double mic - which is best?

So when you go thru The Lexington School For Recording Arts, we have a course dubbed Phase 3. It is during this time of the course that the students have hands on practice with the console, mic preamps, and microphones, and learn what it means to actually run a session with a full band.

When you track a guitar, you have two options, amp or direct. I have been know to do both, depending on the situation. Today I want to talk about the amp option. Specifically single mic vs multi miking techniques.

Miking with a single mic is probably the easiest and most straight forward way to go. Just put a mic in front of the speaker, right? Well, not really. There are many variables to think about. You have the amp, the mic, the distance the mic is from the speaker, the position of the mic, etc.

Of course, things always go better when the source is good, so having said that, a nice amp is a must. It doesn't have to be a Marshall half stack or a Fender twin, just a good sounding amp. Cheap, practice style amps won't cut it in the studio environment. I'm not talking low wattage, small amps - there are many companies that make smaller amps like Marshall and Blackstar that are excellent.

Then comes the microphone. Most engineers have a "go to" favorite for guitars. Some like the good 'ol SM57. Some like the Sennheiser 906. I lean mostly on either an AKG 414 or an Audio Technica 4050.

The position and distance also matter. If you want a tight sound, move your mic in close. A more roomy sound? Pull it back to get more natural ambience. Also, the position on the speaker itself matters. If you are dead center, it's going to be a brighter sound. More on the outside edge and you'll get a more bassy sound. I like to be about 2 inches off center, personally.

The volume of the amp is another piece of the puzzle. If you are using a tube amp, you might need to have it pretty loud to get the tubes to work how they should. If you place a microphone very close to a blasting loud amp, sometimes it actually sounds small when recorded. I have done sessions where the amp was cranked and the mic was almost 2 feet away! But in a smaller room, the room acts as an extension of the amp, and it will sound much fuller than if you put up close and turn the amp down.

Also, part of positioning the mic is the axis. Are you on axis or off? If you are off, you can get a fuller sound and not add in any actual bass, because you can be pointing at the center of the speaker but not looking directly at it, but pointing at an angle. This will roll off some bright without adding lows. It's a little smoother than the straight on approach.

Shew! So many things to think about! And with double miking it's even more confusing and technical!

When you double mic an amp, you are using two different microphones to blend together and make one big sound. This involves two different mics at different distances and different placements to compliment each other. Usually, you have one mic that is your main sound and a second that works to make the main one sound better. With that main mic, you will go thru all the steps and possibilities I have already talked about when using one microphone. Then the fun begins.

With your second mic (and hopefully an assistant!), you will begin to shape the overall sound by adding in additional textures. I almost always double mic the amp (as well as split the signal, but that is another article!), and I couldn't do it without my assistant. His job is to go into the live room while the guitar player is playing and move the position of the secondary mic around in front of the amp while I listen to the result in the control room. All he is doing is watching me for a signal and then he stops moving the stand. He comes in the control room, we listen and sometimes he goes out and moves it a little more. Not only are we listening for a good blend, but we want to make sure the phase relationship between the two microphones is the best it can be. Our goal is to get a great sound from the start, so that in the mix we just put the faders up and it's done. No compression and very little EQ, if any at all.

So, to me, single miking of an amp is ok, but limiting of what the overall sound can become. You have no secondary microphone to augment and compliment your main sound. Sometimes one is all you need, I won't argue that. I have done many a session with one mic on the amp, but I have found that my best guitar sounds have come on sessions that I took the time to not only add an additional mic, but find the correct position for it, so my main sound has more color and depth to it naturally instead of trying to fake it in the mix.

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget that you are welcome to stop by and tour our facilities anytime. Just give us a call at 859-335-8440 (if you're local) or TOLL FREE at 877-335-8440 to set it up, so we can give you the ultimate LIRCo experience. See ya next time!!!

Steve Nall

Head Engineer, LIRS