sonic color with limited equipment

Recording Techniques, People Skills, Gear, Recording Spaces, Computers, and DIY

Moderators: drumsound, tomb

User avatar
lee
steve albini likes it
Posts: 306
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2003 12:51 pm
Location: Detroit

sonic color with limited equipment

Post by lee » Sat Feb 12, 2011 7:42 am

Subject title says it all, I suppose.

I'm looking for advice on how to achieve different sonic textures. I know, it's a pretty broad question; the thing is, I don't have a large selection of mics, pres, rooms, etc, so I'm looking for alternatives, little things, that'll help broaden my monochromatic recordings. Has anyone ever thought about, or experimented with this idea? Achieving color from the small details of the recording process? I.e. Mic pad, extended or shortened cabling, phase, weak gain structure. Or is this whole idea just ridiculous?

I'd like to apologize for using the word "Color." I know that's very subjective, and doesn't really communicate any specific characteristic of sound; I'm sure there's a better word, but I'm not all that fluent in audio jargon. Essentially, I'm looking for sounds that will distinguish themselves from each other in a mix, and also give an aesthetic and expressive quality to the music. And since I have such limited equipment, really, any sort of change in the sound will do!

Thanks for reading.


Also, I've been listening to the Circulatory System (anyone?), and I'm just blown away by the different qualities of sound in their recordings. They make my recordings sound like plain old vanilla.
i've written the song that god has longed for. the lack of the song invoked him to create a universe where one man would discover inspiration in a place that god, himself, never thought to look.

E-money
pushin' record
Posts: 259
Joined: Sat May 10, 2003 9:11 am
Location: Philadelphia PA

Post by E-money » Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:24 am

This is just my 2 cents, take it with a grain of salt.

I think people tend to overdue the whole "different flavors" thing. Most of the music that I grew up on and loved (classic rock) was recorded through a single console with a few different microphones. What I generally love about these songs is more performance based than sonic based.

That being said, I do love a lot of the experimentation that the Beatles and Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin did with varying degrees of technology. My recommendation would be to experiment with plugins (there are tons of free ones out there), and stomp boxes (can be found cheap on craig's list and ebay). Buy a decent reamp device and look for cheap solid state amps from the 70s and 80s.
"Politics are like sports, where all the teams suck"

dfuruta
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 697
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 11:01 am

Post by dfuruta » Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:28 am

To agree with E-money, seems like if you want "different sonic textures" the place to start is with your arrangements & instrumentation. If you've got very limited equipment, doesn't it make more sense to focus on making the performances "colorful"?

drumsound
zen recordist
Posts: 7058
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2004 10:30 pm
Location: Bloomington IL
Contact:

Post by drumsound » Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:18 am

Create a unique sound before the microphone. Stack cymbals, weave things into the strings, turn household items into percussion. Then you can capture them is a 'traditional' manner OR an oddball manner.

Also, make sure you are advancing the production, not hindering and getting in it's way. Don't make weird for weird's sake, make sure it MEANS something.

WesleyRegis
audio school graduate
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Dec 06, 2010 9:46 am
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Post by WesleyRegis » Sat Feb 12, 2011 12:28 pm

Experiment with different mic placement, but be aware of phasing, comb filtering and all that fun stuff, though if that's what you're after, go for it.

I just tracked vocals for a friends band last week, and we experimented with backing vocals being sung through an actual vacuum tube, no pun intended, and we got some interesting results. Also try setting up a DIY reverb chamber.

User avatar
lee
steve albini likes it
Posts: 306
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2003 12:51 pm
Location: Detroit

Post by lee » Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:22 pm

Great, thanks for the perspectives.

I'm relatively new to the DAW world, and I remember a Tape Op article about screwing with a digital signal via bit reduction, creating artifacts, etc. I'm excited to try that out. Any advice?

Reamping: I am way passed due to get into this.
...seems like if you want "different sonic textures" the place to start is with your arrangements & instrumentation. If you've got very limited equipment, doesn't it make more sense to focus on making the performances "colorful"?
I'm very hip to colorful arranging, I know counterpoint from Bach to Berg. I've been capturing very natural sounding acoustic tracks, for a classical/new music project; with that said, I think that even the most far out sonic colors would add to the music.
i've written the song that god has longed for. the lack of the song invoked him to create a universe where one man would discover inspiration in a place that god, himself, never thought to look.

dfuruta
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 697
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 11:01 am

Post by dfuruta » Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:24 pm

I've found the destroy fx free plugins to be of use for that sort of thing.

If you're interested in very precise control, it might be worth exploring some of the audio-centered real time programming languages out there. Max/MSP or its open-source cousin, Pure Data, are as powerful as can be Supercollider looks cool, but I haven't worked much with it.

Just mentioning those as they're big in the contemporary electronic classical/new music worlds.[/url]

nobody, really
takin' a dinner break
Posts: 157
Joined: Mon Aug 02, 2010 10:08 pm
Location: where the sidewalk ends

Post by nobody, really » Sat Feb 12, 2011 7:50 pm

read 'here, there and everywhere: my life recording the beatles' by Geoff Emerick. that book got me psyched to do more actual sound experimentation again. much fun. moreso, imo, than just clicking on a plugin.

User avatar
losthighway
dead but not forgotten
Posts: 2149
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2008 8:02 pm
Contact:

Post by losthighway » Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:35 pm

You can vary your texture and sense of space SO much just through eq, panning, compression and reverb. I don't even mean any radical uses, just subtle tweaks. The trick is to do mostly gentle processing with intention for how things will fit into the big picture. Yes, sometimes a squashed room mic, a high pass and low passed vocal with a really aggressive boost in some narrow mid frequency band for a tinny sound, or dropping something in the reverb bath can make magic.

In short I think a monochromatic mix that has clarity can easily be "colored" with a few nudges.

User avatar
jgimbel
carpal tunnel
Posts: 1688
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:51 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Contact:

Post by jgimbel » Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:41 am

It's exactly what I love about this board that folks will most often say the opposite of what you're working on. You say "I'm thinking I want to try some weird sounds" and people say "you've got this gear, shouldn't you focus on this, that is how you're doing it?". If you say "this is the gear I've got, this is how I normally do this", the response is "try anything and everything, don't keep using everything the same way", etc. Totally valid point about how many records have been made on one console with just a few mics, I just always think it's interesting how the responses are generally the opposite of what the person is asking. Which is exactly what some of my professors did in art school, and it helps you grow and learn by default to question what you're doing and not set things off limits. What an amazing group of people to have around!

The most obvious things I could think of to do are pushing the pres (if you can pad after them for example), pushing the mics (mics seem to behave pretty differently when they're closer to overloading, just be careful you don't hurt your delicate mics). Backing up the mic from the source more than I'd normally think is also something I find adds a lot. Not talking like 12 feet back instead of 3 inches, but maybe a foot or couple feet instead of a few inches. I often find I can use more room sound in a source than I would think is right, and in the context of a mix the room sound can sink back a bit like reverb can, and that rather than getting a super roomy sound you actually get sort of like a different flavor of close mic. I did this with acoustic guitar in a session yesterday, we kept an AT4050 pretty close on a few tracks, then decided to back it up a good bit. It did sound a bit more like a person playing in a room than being close miced, but mostly it just emphasizes the frequency peaks and valleys in the response, and kind of just works like EQing it differently. That could definitely work as a different color to get out of the same mic, same pre, and same instrument, compared to the same setup but the mic in a more "close miced" setting.
My first new personal album in four years - pay what you want - http://jessegimbel.bandcamp.com

User avatar
lee
steve albini likes it
Posts: 306
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2003 12:51 pm
Location: Detroit

Post by lee » Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:20 am

I just always think it's interesting how the responses are generally the opposite of what the person is asking.
Ha, that's a good way to look at this board. I've been visiting this site for so many years, and I've found that some of the most artistic, intelligent, and pragmatic people converge at this board. A great community.

I hate to keep referencing other people's recordings, because I'd like to develop my own approach, but the record from the Microphones Mount Eerie, it begins with a few minutes of what seems like silence, but on further inspection you can hear these organic atmospheric sounds which seems to be a bass guitar being played from, literally, the other 2nd floor of a house, while the mic is picking it up in the basement! (That's my guess.)

In other words, I think that you're right about mic placement; I've become a little too conventional in my placement of microphones. Thanks for the inspiration.
i've written the song that god has longed for. the lack of the song invoked him to create a universe where one man would discover inspiration in a place that god, himself, never thought to look.

User avatar
palinilap
buyin' gear
Posts: 561
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Fort Wayne, IN

Re: sonic color with limited equipment

Post by palinilap » Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:53 am

lee wrote:Also, I've been listening to the Circulatory System (anyone?), and I'm just blown away by the different qualities of sound in their recordings. They make my recordings sound like plain old vanilla.
I agree, their stuff sounds really great. Sounds like they're using an array of techniques, but probably nothing extraordinary by way of gear. I'd guess a lot of reamping is going on, or just running tracks through a distortion pedal or something. Sounds like they keep mics a little farther from the source as well. If you're in a cool sounding room, that can give a track more personality. A variety of instruments can't hurt either, and the obvious things like panning, filters, too much coffee, etc.

User avatar
eeldip
dead but not forgotten
Posts: 2139
Joined: Fri May 02, 2003 5:10 pm
Location: NoPo

Post by eeldip » Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:49 am

post processing, your options are pretty wide right now. i would say, spend a good day or two getting a buncha free plugs. load up an old song. try them all out, make notes, sort. keep your favorites. there are so many great free/cheap plugs right now that i think the biggest problem is sorting them, using them correctly, remembering them.

have you posted your music? i think people could have more specific tips if they heard your stuff... LINK PLS.

User avatar
jgimbel
carpal tunnel
Posts: 1688
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:51 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Contact:

Post by jgimbel » Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:40 pm

+1 on free plugins. I don't own any plugins that are for sale, just free ones. Go to http://www.kvraudio.com/, search for what you want, check off all the boxes for anything you might want, and only select "free". I got a ton, got rid of ones I didn't use. Amazingly, "free" in the plugin world doesn't mean worse. The Classic Compressor and Rough Rider are two compression plugins that I've used in most mixes. The Classic is a bit more transparent, with a little more in the upper midrange emphasis-wise. The rough rider is more LA2A like (though not in the controls), it smooths things out and can darken/thicken things up a bit. For me, radio-ish drums = Classic Compressor, thick Wilco/The National drums = Rough Rider. Both are amazing on crushed room mics for drums. Classic Compressor's great on acoustic guitar, louder vocals, and bass that's not all sub-lows. Mic placement + experimenting with that stuff, there you go.
My first new personal album in four years - pay what you want - http://jessegimbel.bandcamp.com

User avatar
lee
steve albini likes it
Posts: 306
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2003 12:51 pm
Location: Detroit

Post by lee » Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:31 am

have you posted your music? i think people could have more specific tips if they heard your stuff
Well... since you asked. http://www.myspace.com/samuelseed
I just posted a (very) little bit of this project that I'm currently busy with, it's the track titled Dream (hopefully not as corny as the name implies). It's fresh off the mic, so there's no processing or mixing going on. There's also a few other tracks from the last record that I completed, which show the naturalistic sound quality that I'm looking to screw with a little bit. Maybe It's All a Lie or The Thaw would be good examples.
i've written the song that god has longed for. the lack of the song invoked him to create a universe where one man would discover inspiration in a place that god, himself, never thought to look.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 35 guests