A book about the history of modern rock & alternative music of any sort which excludes the works of producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Eric Valentine would be a very short book indeed. Eric's hard-tinged credit list includes such luminaries as Slash, Third Eye Blind, The Wombats, Smashmouth, Weezer, Steve Lukather, Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5, QOTSA, Taking Back Sunday, Good Charlotte, 5 Seconds of Summer, Joe Satriani and many, many more. Back in 2011 he spent a couple weeks here doing a super cool Q&A which was extremely popular with the GS community as no question was too technical or weirdly-specific for him to dive into, whether the answer was to do with 3rd-order harmonics or "nudity and 400bpm songs" - we had it all! Enjoy our edited interview-style article with Eric below!

[top]Which is the most ideal analog/digital integration method you have found from your experimentation? - Dillweed

I have had the best luck doing the digital first analog second approach when combining the 2 mediums. I believe there are 2 advantages to doing it this way:

Recording directly to the computer while capturing performances takes full advantage of the benefits from the digital workflow. The benefits are obvious....ease of editing/comping, fixing performances, virtually unlimited DSP fx etc etc. Capturing performances directly to analog tape takes a certain Caliber of musician and very different kind of preparation.

The other benefit of doing digital first/analog second is the sound. One of the things that most people credit for the pleasing sound of analog is the harmonic coloration. Tape machines are adding a healthy dose of 3rd order harmonics. I believe it is these harmonics that give tape it's somewhat magical airy, dense but very un harsh high end. This is what I believe is going on: let's say you have a cymbal sound that is focussed around 10K. The 3rd order harmonic that is generated by the tape machine above that is about 30K. So now you have this very hi over tone that is interacting with the original sound that will subtly change the character of the sound (there is debate about if/why/how these overtones affect things but we'll assume they do for the purpose of this example). If you then transfer the analog recording to digital lets at 48K, there is a very necessary brick wall low pass filter at 24K to eliminate the digital aliasing noise. Goodbye 30K overtone. The 30K overtone is not just filtered off. It is first devoured by hideous square wave digital noise and then filtered off. (This explanation is based on my somewhat limited knowledge of digital technology and could be better explained by a digital expert.) The one thing I have experienced over and over is the difference I feel when mixing from analog vs digital. It is way easier for me to get the high end to "open up" when mixing from analog. I can boost the high end very aggressively without it being harsh. When digital is last in the chain for some reason I feel like I am pushing against a ceiling with the EQs. Things tend to transition into harsh more easily before they open up.

[top]Have you ever recorded to digital, completed your mix 'in the box' and then rendered your mix to 1/4" or 1/2" tape? If so, how do you compare the results to the method you described above? - the keester

Waves MPX Kramer Tape
That particular workflow (direct digital recording, bounced to disk via "in the box" mixing) , if I understand it correctly, would be very uncommon for me. So I can't say that I have tried that exact scenario. I always print a digital version of the mix directly into Pro Tools in addition to the analog 1/2" version. I do have lots of opportunities to compare those. I typically like the analog better but sometimes if the mix is not fortified with enough definition the analog mix can take it in the wrong direction and I will use the digital mix. I have Decapitator and was pretty excited about it when I first got it. The tape emulations keep getting better and better. The new release from waves (Eddie Kramer MPX Master tape thing) is the best I have heard so far. I personally still prefer the real thing over even that plug in. The difference is starting to get exceedingly subtle though. The difference I hear between most of the emulators and the real thing is a slightly grainy quality in the plug-ins. The real tape machines seem to do a slightly better job of smoothing things together in a way that sounds denser and thicker in the high end. the plug-ins have a slight grainy transparency that doesn't sound as solid to me.

[top]Have you heard the Anamod ATC-1? - Greg Wells

I did try an early version of the Anamod ATS-1 device. I think it was still being developed at that point. My experience with it was similar to a lot of the tape emulations I have tried. The emulations are very good at duplicating the peak limiting and harmonic overtone part of it. There is one quality that seems to still be eluding the emulations. Whenever I compare them I feel like there is this density to the sound that I only hear in the real analog tape version. A sort of seamless quality to the high end that makes the individual sounds be less transparent and more solid sounding. The plugin/digital emulations have an additional issue that the high end always feels a bit grainy to me. That's the best I can do to put into words.

The emulations do seem to continue to improve though. As soon as they feel the same to me I will get rid every last tape machine in my building.
Hope you're well!

Anamod ATS-1

[top]Re: Third Eye Blind - Can you tell me details about the signal chain for Salazar's bass? He has the ultimate rock bass tone in my opinion. Any tips on how to get that? Obviously there's the "tone is in the hands..." issue, but I'm just talking gear-wise, like direct, or mic'd, and if so what mic/amp/cab… - confooshus

There have been a few questions about Arion's bass sound, I guess it makes sense to put it all in this answer. First, about Arion... He is, of all the bass players I have worked with, probably the most "into" being a bass player. He is really really passionate about it... about his parts, about his tone, about his performances... everything. He has more of a guitar player's attitude towards his bass. He would show up with tons of ideas about parts and tones and everything. He said very early in the process when they were recording demos for the band before they got signed that "his bass has to sound huge and different and special". It is always great when a musician walks in and says that sort of thing. It inspires me to try and help make that happen and Arion shared my same patience, determination and endurance for chasing cool tones. Oh yeah... and he is a profoundly gifted player. Good technique is kind of essential when you are recording bass players that play with their fingers. There is a lot more leeway with pick players.

This is what I can remember on the gear that was used. I am pretty sure we had all of the following available to us throughout the recording process. A Fender P-bass, Jazz Bass, a Spectre bass, A Music Man stingray and a Rickenbacher 4001. The Fender basses were probably used the most but I can't remember exactly what songs were P-bass and which ones were Jazz. I know for sure that the stingray was used on Semi-Charmed Life. We wanted to get an especially punchy sound for that and the Stingray seemed to do that the best. The amps were an SVT and a Fender Twin (silver face) for the main percussive punchy parts. At about 3:10 both of the amps change. We actually punched in on the same amp tracks on the analog master, a magnatone replacing the SVT and this weird little Gibson Skylark both with vibrato going. The bass transforms into this fluterry underwater sounding thing for that break down. In the mix I mult'd those track to some other channels that EQ'd and panned differently to accommodate the amp change. I also remember specifically using the Alan Smart C1 Compressor on the punchy percussive parts for that song. It is a great Bass Compressor.

I know for sure that the Rickenbacker was used on The Background. I remember it because it was really hard to keep in tune. There was a Leslie speaker only used on the intro of that song. The intro starts very lofi and slowly expands into a full range sound. That was achieved in the mix with the HP/LP filters on the Orban 672A EQ. I had to "perform" that EQ move for every mix pass that was printed. It was a little different every time. After the intro I think the amp setup was pretty straight forward. Just an SVT a B15 and the DI. Arion wanted to try and get a Wings era McCartney-esque tone on that... hence the 4001. In the mix on that stuff I would just play with blends of the signals to try and get all the notes as even as possible and then maybe a little compression on the blended signal via a buss on the console. Usually the main compression is already on the printed tracks.

Losing A Whole Year is a bit of a bass extravaganza. There are sections of the song I am quite sure the bass is triple tracked. The main bass pass is a DI, SVT and the bass going through a marshall feeding a Leslie speaker. The marshall/leslie speaker signal is added in all of the loud parts. Whenever Arion plays the bass melody after the choruses there are 2 other distorted bass tracks that are layered in to make the bass sound bigger/wider for those moments. Although I never discussed this with Arion the whole distorted Leslie bass thing is a sound I had been chasing for a long time. At some point I finally realized that the incredible growling distorted instrument in the verses of Led Zeppelin's Heartbreaker was a bass!!!! For some reason it had always just registered in my brain as a guitar and then one day I had one of those driving in my car "oh my god that's a bass playing that part!!!!" moments as I almost crash my car veering off the road. From that moment on I was always looking for opportunities to recreate that sound. It is truly a magical sound for sure. So when Arion started talking about distorted bass... out came the Leslie. I am just doing my part to (secretly) help modern music sound more like Led Zeppelin

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone
Arion was also really into this Boss Metal Zone pedal for bass distortion. He loved it because it has a very active EQ on it that can restore a lot of low end when things are really distorted. The best example of that is on the song Graduate. I am pretty sure on that song we used the Spectre bass ran it through an SVT and another amp that had the Metal Zone pedal. He also had an envelope filter pedal before the Metal Zone. The laser gun effect that pops up occasionally is from the envelope pedal going into the Metal zone. He would turn on the envelope pedal at the same time as thumping all of the string with the palm of his hand. The resonance was turned all the way up on the envelope pedal and it create that sort of "Bew" sound you hear at :51 on the song. Metal Zone sound is blended in with the bass sound throughout the rest of the song with the envelope pedal off.

On bass at that time I was mostly using my 47fet on the SVT 8x10 cabs. I also occasionally like the C12A as well. I have always had the best luck keeping the mic further away from the SVT. I point the mic either at the center of the top 4 speakers (brighter) or the center of the bottom 4 speakers (bassier). The mic is usually 20 to 30 inches from the cab. When the mic is close up on one speaker it always sounds a little nasally to me.

[top]Third Eye Blind's debut album was one of those albums that just had a SOUND throughout the album. There are so many perfect things about the album. At what point during the recording process did you know that you'd found a sound for the album and how hard did you have to fight (or not) to keep that sound the rest of the way? - Monsieur_R

I don't think it really struck me that way at the time. I was using all of the techniques I had been using on other recordings I had done for years leading up to that. The one thing that was unique at that time was that the 3EB album was a cool opportunity for me to have a full on, no compromises, spare no expense, do everything the best possible theoretical way type experience. The only other time I had that opportunity previous to that was the T-Ride album. Stephan and I agreed that the overall approach should be a totally un apologetic super hifi as good as we can get everything to sound type approach. There were some records at the time that were starting to embrace a more intentional lofi approach and we wanted to do the opposite of that. I put together my dream setup for everything and figured out how to make it work with the budget. We recorded at 3 different studios HOS, Toast and Skywalker Ranch. I rented special WireWorld Gold mic cables for all the drums. I had a rack of 10 Neve 1081s sitting right next to the drummer for all of the drum recordings. We rented C12s and 251s and anything else we might need to make the record as sonically spectacular as possible. All the drums, bass and main rhythm guitar were recorded on my Ampex MM1200 2" 16 trk. We actually brought that machine with us everywhere we recorded. We used the best high level tape available 3M 996. The tape alone on that project probably cost close to $10K. It really was pretty extravagant. The band had a healthy budget so the opportunity was there and we went for it. It was really fun.

Sadly, I fear that kind of record making experience is becoming increasingly rare. It is one of the unintended consequences that I think music consumers haven't really thought about when they devalue music recordings by acquiring and sharing them for free. When music recordings lose their value, so does the recording process and the opportunities to push it forward as an artform become difficult for record companies to justify. I can honestly say that if 3EB came to me today as a new band to make a record and I didn't have Barefoot Recording at my disposal, there is no way we could have the record making experience I just described. The resources just ain't there.

[top]Re: Persephonees Bees 'Notes from The Underworld' Hey Eric. I love this record. Any production notes to share? - RoundBadge

The P's Bees record was a real treat for me. I stumbled onto them at a Deathray show at Paradise Lounge in SF. I remember walking into the club and thinking man they play cool stuff in between bands here. I then realized it wasn't a CD being played in between bands on the main stage, it was a band playing in the corner next to the bar! I walked over to watch them play and was completely blown away. No mics on any instruments just on vocals and it sounded like a f***** record. The guitar was completely mind blowing. Unbelievable feel, parts and sounds coming out of this little Fender vibroverb amp. After they played I introduced myself and asked if they would like to record some stuff.

It took a while for things to finally come together and give us the opportunity to get in the studio and make a record. It was one of those moments when I needed a break from record labels, A&R folks, radio promotion people etc. I spent about 10 years slogging away in a small studio recording demos for local bands and there is something I really love about that experience. The purity of having all of the creative decisions being made only by the people in the room (band + producer/engineer) is a very liberating, inspiring environment to make music in. I'm always up for a good challenge, but Man... when the band wants one thing, A&R guy wants another thing, The president of the label doesn't like one of the lyrics, the radio promotion people want a shorter bridge, and the band's manager thinks a different song should be the single anyway blah blah etc. it can get a bit frustrating I just need a break from it every once in a while ala P's Bees, Deathray, The Dwarves etc.

By the time we started work on the record they had parted ways with their drummer. I made arrangements for a really great drummer from another band to play on the session. It was a really weird moment. I was so sure this guy would be perfect for this music and for some reason there was just no chemistry between the drummer and the remaining band members. After accepting the reality that it just wasn't working, I reluctantly decided to jump in and play drums just to make use of the time I had set aside to start working on the record. I just would hate to be that "hey I got a great idea... why dont I play on your record" guy, so I always say I only want to do it if they're comfortable with it and think it's really working.

Ampex MM-1200
Being able to play on those songs was a real treat for me. It also allowed me to get a bit more adventurous with the drum sounds. Definitely very minimal micing. The drums were my 60s Ludwig champagne sparkle kit. All the basics were recorded straight to 16trk MM1200 15ips IEC/CCIR. Because I couldn't be in the control room to EQ the drum mics I recorded everything flat onto the MM1200. Once all the drum tracks were recorded I ended up making EQ'd copies of all the drum masters. It was something I had heard of people doing back in the 60s and 70s and this was a perfect opportunity to try it. Basically you put up all the tracks on the console that were recorded flat on the first master and EQ everything to taste. Then you record the EQ'd stuff onto a new multi track master. I basically made sure that everything was as bright as I would ever possibly want it. So there is no way I would be turning up any high end when mixing off of the EQ'd copy. If you try to boost high end on a second generation 15ips analog recording it will sound like an army of snakes attacking your song. I think the second generation analog is a big part of the drum sound on the record.

The micing of the drums was mostly as follows:
  • D20 on kick
  • Coles 4038 - Left Kit
  • Coles 4038 - Right kit
  • Northern Electric 633A salt shaker - Snare
  • either C37a or U87 for room mics

The song "On The Earth '' had a slightly different approach. That was mostly a Mono kit mic and Kick mic. There was a close mic for the hi hat on the left and the cymbals on the right (I think those were both coles). the Mono Kit mic was an AKG D202. I really tried to have it be a one mic drum sound in the mix but I had to give in and use a little of the hi hat/cymbal mics to widen it out just a little. The mixing of the drums was very similar to what I usually do. Expander and Distressor type thing. Probably not as aggressive with the compression as I do on some of the modern rock/pop records. There is definitely spring reverb being used on the drums in the mix.

Queen's night out was mostly a Mono Coles over the kit and a kick mic that was far enough away so it would also function as a room mic. lots of spring reverb in the mix. The Fuzz guitar on that was a hofner guitar that had a built in fuzz circuit. I believe we put that through Tom's Vibroverb.

Microtech Gefell (Neumann) M-582
We mostly only used 2 amps on the record. AC30 and Vibroverb. The AC30 is responsible for the Heavier guitar sound like on Way To Your Heart. The Vibroverb is more of the clean sounds like on Musika Dlya Fil'ma. This project was when I discovered the Neumann M-582 on the AC30. That has definitely become a goto combination for me ever since the Bees record. The guitars were mostly either a Silvertone Jupiter or a Fender Jazz Master. There were 2 pedals essential to the AC30 setup. The boss parametric EQ pedal and a compressor pedal I believe was a Way Huge Safron Squeeze maybe it was my Dynacomp... one of those for sure. The guitar sound on 'Way To Your Heart' is one of my favorites of all time. He also had a weird custom Octave Fuzz pedal that he kicked in for the really gnarly sounding parts. He used that same Octave Fuzz for the crazy percussive flute type sound in the second verse of City Of Love (that is actually guitar).

the Bass was almost all done with instruments that had nylon flat wounds on them. We had a Univox and Guild that both had those strings on them and they were used for the majority of the record. The bass sounds were typically a combination of amps. Usually either an SVT with a magnatone or Tom's Vibroverb with a magnatone. Fender Vibroverb is a great bass amp. Insane low end. The magnatone is set very bright and midrange-y with reverb on it. I blend in the magnatone to add to the attack of the sound and create a subtle space around the bass sound. Mostly 47fet, 47tube, C12A for the micing.

Nice Day was a song that was very new for them. They only had the intro and the verse figured out. I loved the vibe of that song and played a more significant role in helping figure out the groove, arrangement and overdubs and stuff. The Piano on Nice Day is an old Ivers & Ponds upright I borrowed from Jon Brion. Every time I remind him that I still have it he says "oh that's fine I'll grab it if I need it". It's been at my studio for 7 years now. When we tracked the drums, Angelina was playing the piano and singing at the same time while we were pinning down the arrangement. Eventually when we started going for takes Angelina just focused on playing the piano. I had her vocal mic going through a Roland Chorus Echo SRE555 with some tape delay on it. Of course the piano ended up sounding really cool through the vocal mic. So you can hear the tape delay adding a sort of chorusy effect to the piano in the final mix. On this song I did layer some old 60s drum loops on top of my live drum performance. It helped that song have a slightly more modern loopy/groovey kind of thing to it.

Almost all of the keyboards on the record are casios. They had a Casio that they used live that was just incredible. They would put it through amps and guitar pedals and it was just really cool sounding. I also own a couple of casios and we tried to stick to those to give the record a specific "sound" with the keyboards.

On the vocals I used anything that wasn't expensive. I had been collecting D19s for a while leading up to this and we ended up really liking one of those (they all sound totally different) for most of the vocals. I did use the CMV-3 for the vocals on Home. Angelina stood in front of the doorway to the echo chamber and sang the vocal to add a natural reverb right into the vocal mic.

This was a record I did completely for fun. I wasn't charging them anything to record it and for some reason that always seems to free me up psychologically to be more adventurous and experimental throughout the process. I take more risks. I guess if I try something weird that really doesn't pan out we all only lose our time and effort... and we were all there when the decision was made. It seems when a record company is paying me money to record something I get nervous about being too experimental. They only hear about it when I have to call them a week into working on a song and I have to say "Well... we tried some really crazy **** on this and it didn't quite work out. We're gonna have to start over". That is not a fun conversation to have.

[top]Do you find you have a tendency to use larger sets when you record bands? I'm actually considering buying an old slingerland set this week with a 30x16 kick, 20x18 and 16x16 tom. -

Wow! 30 inch kick drum, that sound really fun! i am a hopeless John Bonham fanatic so I do tend to like larger drums for rock stuff. I have 2 24" kick drums (A Sonor (QOTSA) and A Vistalite (Slash - "By The Sword") that I like a lot. I have a 26" ludwig (TBS - "Faith"), a 28" slingerland (Good Charlotte - "Lifestyles"). I have a very old Leedy 28" kick drum that has calf skin heads on it. That was used on QOTSA "God Is On The Radio". For some weird reason I have had very little luck with 22" kick drums. I used to own a Yamaha Recording series 22" kick and I think it literally never made it onto a single recording. I ended up selling it. The other thing I am not a fan of is really deep kick drums. They don;t seem to have enough attack in the sound for me. i am usually not very concerned about getting lots of low end from the kick. That is easy to get with EQ or NS10s. I am always looking for a cool very audible attack or midrangy knock in the sound. that's the part that is very hard to recreate with EQ.

I do really like 20" kick drums. I have a 20" champagne 60s ludwig that is great (on the entire P's Bees record). I also have a Trixon 20" that's great as well.

Ultimately, I try to pick things that will compliment the music and if the drummer has a kit they are comfortable playing on I will always start with that and only swap stuff if I have to.

[top]studio1225 : I have a couple questions regarding your protool transfers to tape. Do you transfer directly from the DA's to the tape machine input? or do you run signals though your console? or a mixture of the two? - Andersmv

This is a good question! There are some very specific things I like to do when transferring to tape. I use a -18 cal on my Pro Tools rig. At that level in the computer it is somewhat difficult for me to get the kind of level I like when hitting tape without clipping digitally in the computer. I also like to print conservative levels in the computer. i find that sounds start to collapse when they clip in the computer. I try to make sure the drums are peaking in the -6 range. That means i need quite a lot of extra level when transferring to tape. 192s have A and B cal settings. The A cal setting shows up as +4 (zero on my console) when -18 in the computer. The B cal setting is basically turned all the way up. I use that when i am printing drums to tape. for most things (OHs, room mics, toms) it will get me to the level I want for hitting tape. The kick and the snare sometimes need some extra level. I will either use the line trims in channels at the far end of the console to boost those few tracks up or use outboard gear boosting (1176s in bybass, Neve 1064s). I try to set levels on tape machines with my ears not the meters. This was something I learned from Roy Thomas Baker. He was potentially going to help T-Ride record a second album and came to our studio to work on stuff for a couple of days. We were getting some guitar sounds and the meters were literally just pinned to the right the whole time on everything. When I pointed it out to him he said "I never look at those things. I usually just put tape over them so I don't ever see em'. Its better to just listen." I don't put tape over my meters, but I do prescribe to the principle. I adjust the levels going to tape while the machine is in record listening to Repro. I simply turn up the level until it sounds bad and then turn it down a little.

[top]I'm curious about the Third Eye Blind and Deathray self-titled records. The song 'Good For You' pumps heavily with the drums. Is that something you did or did that happen as a result of mastering? - Richard Salino

Although I didn't attend the mastering (done by Ted Jensen) I remember listening to the mastering and thinking it didn't really sound significantly different than the final mixes dynamically, which is what I am usually looking for. He did subtle but very flattering EQ moves to even things out a little. Of course, that was in the days when a mastering would come back and the mixes could actually sound better. Now with the level of idiocy going on with mastering, they always come back sounding worse. It is unavoidable when everything is expected to hover around -10 or -9 RMS. Things will just sound worse. I plan on starting to master my own stuff so I can be hearing the stupid limiting while I'm mixing and adjust for it. I am also developing a plugin that will get level without limiting. So far the results have been really good.

I was using mix buss compression on those mixes. There were only 2 possibilities for that batch of mixes. It was either an Alan Smart C1 (rented from Stephan Jarvis) or my DCL-200. It sounds more like the DCL-200 to me when I listen to it now. I don't have any mix notes available on that so I am not absolutely certain. I think that low end pumping happens for me when I mix into a buss compressor. The buss compressor is always stealing the low end. I have to be pushing more low end into the mix to balance it out. Good For You is by far my personal favorite of the mixes from that record. If I ever reference a mix from that album it is almost always that one.

Summit Audio DCL-200

[top]Re: the Deathray self-titled album - The drums in general on that album sound really cool. Could you please talk a little bit about that record? - Richard Salino

I am going to assume we are talking about the 1st Deathray record (lunatic friends, only lies, what would you do etc.) That record was recorded immediately after the Smash Mouth 'Astro Lounge' record. Michael Urbano was hired to play drums. The idea was to have the rhythm section sound very angular and machine like but played by human beings. The hi hat was a big deal on that record... When it came in, how hard it was played, how open it was and almost always very deliberately without any dynamics. The beginning of Only Lies is a good example of that. We would create dynamic shifts in the arrangement by just having Michael play the hi hat 50% harder. Urbano is that kind of a Studio Drummer. You can almost program him like a drum machine. We could map out on paper where the hi hat would get harder or more open and he would just sit down and do it. he plays with extraordinary control while still maintaining an energy and fire in the performance. There was a couple of other tricks I was using a lot on these drums. I was doing the gated pink noise on the snare trick. Basically you have a pink noise generator (in my case it was my Gold Line Spectrum Analyzer) it goes through a gate that is keyed from the snare track. You can use EQ to shape it into whatever... a clap type sounds, a wispy high end. In this case I was just trying to simulate the sound of a simmons analog drum sound. I was also using chandler tube drivers on the kick and snare a lot on this record. It just makes things sound very dry and dense. We wanted everything to sound very in your face on the record so the drums used a lot of gates and distortion. The compression on the drums is very much the same as a lot of other stuff. A lot of distressors. I remember using more 1176 on some of the songs. The song 'This Time" I can recall being very excited about the results I got from crushing the kick/snare mic (a U87 on the batter side of the kick drum under the snr) with an 1176 and blending that in with the other cose mics. It is responsible for the sustain on the kick drum and the trashy quality of the snare. That song definitely also has the gated pink noise on it. The song Happy New Year was kind of unique. I wanted to experiment with having the drummer play really soft and get all of the aggression in the sound from compressors. The drums on that song were a result of that. Michael was a bit skeptical when we first started trying it. It felt weird for him to play so soft against all of these loud guitars. It was one of those "just trust me... its gonna work" type moments. On that song Michael is actually playing incredibly soft on the drums and the sound is coming from massive amounts of compression.

Greg Brown is really fun to record. He is a very musical guitar player. He uses a Guild starfire III, a ProCo RAT and a Silvertone Twin Twelve on pretty much everything. He is just constantly playing with his volume and tone knobs on the guitar, playing harder or softer, picking closer or further from the bridge to pull the sound out of the setup... It's really amazing to watch. We used that setup for pretty much everything and I just played with tons of micing variations to get different qualities throughout the record. At the beginning of Lunatic Friends I put a mic inside a metal can in front of the amp. There was a lot of back cab micing and or combinations of close mics and room mics to get peculiar mid range qualities.

Sadly that record never really got its chance. The band was signed to Capricorn Records (same label as Cake). The label was imploding right as we were finishing the album and it got zero support when it was released. Basically, what was left of Capricorn records had to release the record as a contractual obligation but there wasn't really a record company left to promote it when it came out.

[top]How do you start if you have to record a song with just an acoustic guitar and voice where the guitar can take a lot of space?.. Where do you put the mics? and how do you do it if you have to record it at the same time (which I do 30-40% of the time) - pete

I do use a particular micing technique I like for getting a big stereo acoustic guitar sound. I like getting the strings to pan across the stereo field. So you put one mic above the guitar angled down and one mic below the guitar angled up equal distances both pointing at the neck. The mic above gets more of the lower strings and the mic below gets more of the higher strings. I never really liked the thing of putting one mic near the bridge and one near the neck. The 2 mics sound too different and create kind of an odd, irrelevant stereo image.

Schoeps M221b
I really like being able to hear the placement of the notes across the stereo field kind of like a piano. Seems to be a more meaningful stereo image. The 2 mics are basically at a 90 degree angle from each other both pointing at the neck of the guitar. You can change the voicing of the pair by moving their orientation to the guitar. I find that pointing them at around the 15th fret seems to get the most natural balance. If you put them more in front of the sound hole it will get bassier and woodier, if you move closer to the 12th fret it gets brighter and more sparkly. I have used a variety of mics in this configuration: 67s, 251s, Coles 4038s and more recently Schoeps 221Bs. The Schoeps were pretty wonderful. I didn't have to EQ them at all when recording, mixing or mastering.

The voice isolation thing is tricky. For the vocal mic it helps to use something the player/singer can get really close to like an SM7. I have also had some luck putting the guitar/voc mics in fig8 and orienting the position so the node is pointing at the player/singer's mouth/sound hole. That definitely eliminates all of the low end of the voice from the guitar mic and vice versa.
Hope that helps!


[top]I note you like using AKG C12A’s for Toms - quite an esoteric choice! What do you prefer about the C12A on Toms as opposed to the "usual suspects"? - Blast9

I first heard about using C12As on toms in an Alan Sides article. He said it was his favorite tom mic. I tried it and really liked it. It is a very natural sound on toms. C12As are a little smoother sounding than regular C12s and seem to have a really great tonal balance for toms. They always come up in the control room sounding very much like the toms do when you're sitting behind the kit. I have always felt like 421s need a lot of EQ before they start sounding anything like the toms in the room. I do occasionally use other stuff when I am going for a specific effect. On the Slash album I was using AKG D20s on the toms for a dryer thuddier sound.

[top]How much of the "final" drum sound do you get while tracking and how much of it do you tweak from then on until the final mix? - sparrow

I try to be listening to as close of a final mix of the drums as possible when doing overdubs, whether I am working on tape or computer. I end up voicing the sound of the guitars, bass vocals... kind of everything based on the drum sound, so it is really important for me. If I am listening to a kind of dull drum mix through overdubs I will always find myself in that spot of having to brighten everything with EQ in the mix. That is not necessarily the best way to do it. I would rather get things closer based on mic choices/placement. I also find that, sometimes I don't realize that the sound I captured doesn't really work that great when it's brightened up in the mix and then it's too late.

When I am done tracking drums on a full album project, I basically tell the band you guys get to take a break if you like. I will be spending the next few days doing drum mixes on everything. I try to get the drum mixes as close as I can to what I think the final sound should be. There are times when I end up using that original reference drum mix on the final mix. A recent example is on the new TBS record. The verses of "Falling" and "This Is All" are both the original stereo drum mix just turned up on 2 faders on the console.

[top]Re: Eric Valentine and New Taking Back Sunday self titled - Would you talk about the drums and guitar sounds. Everything Is huge like beyond big but not harsh at all. How do you do that in the cymbals and gtrs. Where they seem just enormous but the 3-5k range isn't killing you but is def there. Any tips for the vocal and bass sounds? - bwrecordings

Sure, despite my effort to do something distinctly different with the drums this time around, they seem to have ended up pretty close to what I usually get. I guess, if you put the same drummer in the same room with the same guy recording them it is going to be pretty similar. I did actually rent drums for this project and intentionally did not use stuff from my stable of drums. I have been using the same collection of drums for a long time on a huge variety of projects from Smash Mouth to QOTSA to Maroon 5 to Good Charlotte…. basically anything I have recorded over the last 10 years. I think a change was overdue at this point.

I rented drums from the Drum Doctor. We went to his warehouse and picked out some really unique stuff. The kick drum in particular was really cool. It is a 26" Gretsch that is very shallow. I find that shallower kick drums naturally have more of that mid rangy knock to them. My preference with kick drums is to make sure the sound has lots of natural attack in the sound more than it having a huge amount of low end. It always seems easier/more natural sounding for me to manufacture low end with EQ than it is to try and manufacture high end attack with EQ.

There were several different setups used on the record. Here is a picture of the spread sheet we used for calling out mics/pres/tie lines etc. in the main setup for most of the big rock stuff on the record.

As you can see there are a lot of different sources for the kick drum… that's just me being indecisive. It did give me some great options when mixing. I was able to voice the kick drum slightly differently depending on how things got layered on top of it. Mark is one of the hardest hitting drummers I have recorded. He's a big guy, he uses large drum sticks and playing hard is a big part of how he feels what he is playing. When drummers play that hard it can limit what mics are usable in particular positions. It tends to force me to use dynamics in the close positions because some of my favorite condensers or ribbon mics just can't handle it. Sometimes it works out for the best because dynamic mics tend to have a very close up in your face quality to them that can be helpful for getting the drums to cut through a wall of guitars.

The entire record was recorded directly to Pro Tools. I did actually monitor with HEAT while tracking. It was helpful for me because it did sound a bit more familiar (analog tape-esque) while tracking. Ultimately, when mixing I turned HEAT off and transferred everything to a STUDER A800 MKIII 24 track and an Ampex MM1200 16 track. I want to check my mix notes to see where samples were used. On this project, I always started each mix with no samples on the drums and then only added them if I wasn't getting what I wanted out of the original recording. I am pretty sure I only used samples on a few songs, but I want to check my mix notes to be sure.

[top]How is it to record the Dwarves? Is it a mess and does He Who Can Not Be Named run around naked among possibly other things in the studio? :D Regards. - ickefes

It is pretty insane. Lots of nudity, verbal abuse and songs at 400bpm.

They are also by far the funnest sessions I have ever worked on. There were days when I would be exhausted by the end of the session mostly from laughing uncontrollably for 14 hours straight.

[top]I was wondering if you might be able to talk a little about the self-titled T-Ride record. Anything you can recall regarding its production, engineering, or approach would be great. - Fash

Ok wow… the T-Ride saga… Here we go...

The 1st and only T-Ride record took 5 years to develop and complete. It started in a garage on a FOSTEX B-16 with a TASCAM M-520 console and ended in Oceanway Studio A on a 72 channel Focusrite with 2 ATR-124s sync'd together for the final mixes. It feels like it would be fun to go over a bit of the history of how that journey happened. There are also some details about the project that were intentionally kept secret that would be nice to finally reveal.

I joined the band Telluride (the original name of the band) in early 1986. I was 16 years old. The band had recently parted ways with their drummer and I was the only guy they could find that could play this insane drum part (the original drum part for the song Zombies From Hell) that Dan had programmed on an Emu drumulator. They needed to get a new drummer in place quickly because the band was preparing to record some demos to shop to record labels. These demo recordings were being produced by a fellow named Ronnie Montrose (guitarist and namesake of the band 'Montrose'). We recorded versions of 'Fire It Up', 'You And Your Friend' and 'I Hunger' at a studio in richmond called Starlight. Those recordings were expensive, not very good and didn't get the band signed. Dan and I collectively realized that we would have been way better off if we had used the money spent on those demos to just buy some equipment and do it ourselves. Leading up to this I had been recording tons of stuff on my TASCAM 244 porta studio cassette 4 track and was young and cocky enough to think I could do better if I had the right equipment. We used credit cards to buy a Fostex B16 and a TASCAM M-520 and the studio was born!

The first couple of years of the DIY studio approach were not very fruitful for T-Ride. It was a whole lot of trying to pay credit card bills by using most of the time at the studio to record local bands for $15/hr. We would try to start making recordings of the T-Ride stuff that sounded closer to the Mutt Lange Def Leppard records I was enamored with at the time, but a teenager in a garage with a B16 and M520 wasn't going to make that happen. Every time we got a new piece of equipment we would try another round of recording some of the T-Ride songs. We got an SP12 try em again, get a Yamaha REV7 Digital Reverb… try em again. It went like that for a while. It wasn't until 1988 when the studio had moved to a second location that we had our first glimmer of hope. We recorded a version of 'I Hunger' that had a significant discovery on it… Gated guitar. We were always trying to get the guitar to have a very percussive, rhythmic syncopated quality to it. It just wasn't a quality we could ever get by simply plugging a guitar into an amp and micing it. We came up with a setup where the guitar was split 3 ways, went to 3 separate gates and then went to 3 separate amps. The 3 gate channels (A furman QN-4) were all keyed by sounds coming out of the SP12 drum machine. It created this magical percussive rhythm guitar effect that was very unique. Although I later ended up replaying most of the guitar on 'I Hunger' for the final album version, we could never beat the verses from that 1988 version and they were used on the final album version of the song. They were originally record on a FOSTEX B-16 and later transferred to an MCI JH24 24 track master as the song was further developed. The whole gated guitar thing was supposed to be super top secret. Dan felt like it was T-Ride's ace in the hole that would help set the band apart from others. The gate guitar thing got refined over subsequent years of working on the record. We ultimately were using Aphex S612 gates and triggering the key inputs with sine wave tones coming out of a synthesizer. With that approach we had control over how long the gate held open. At that time there was no Pro Tools or Logic Audio. We were using an Atari 1040ST computer with Hybrid Arts SMPTE track software to do all of the sequencing for the record.

In 1989 the studio moved to a 3rd location and things started to come together more. We acquired a pair of Urei 813C speakers and I finally started to be able to make some headway with the mixing. One of the first significant achievements with this setup was the album intro. I had written an instrumental thing back in the 1986 garage era that was revived in 1989. I added the last dramatic tri-tone chord change, a bunch of Scritti Polliti tom samples and was able to get a mix of it that really felt exciting. It was the first time I achieved a huge rush of sound that was kind of overwhelming when you really turned it up. That album intro was recorded and mixed on the FOSTEX B-16 1/2" 16 track and the TASCAM M-520 mixer. I tried to remix it at Ocean way on the Focusrite but just couldn't beat the original mix. We used the 1989 TASCAM M-520 mix on the final album.

In 1989 was also when we upgraded the tape machine to an MCI JH-24 2" 24 track and a Sound Workshop console. The versions of the songs we were able to capture with the improved tape machine and console finally started to get the band some serious attention from industry folks.

There is just too much to this story to put in one answer. I will continue the next installment of the T-Ride saga as the band gets signed and builds its own T-Ride dream studio.

[top]Re: UnderTone Audio MPEQ-1 - When is the channelstrip available and how much will it cost? - ThomasWho

I am spending my days working on the circuit board layout for that unit right now (when not posting on Gearspace)!

UnderTone Audio MPEQ-1

[top]Re SM7 - How do you usually set this mic? Bass roll off and mid boost? Use the stock foam or an external pop filter? Sm7a or SM7B? Thank you! - Mho

I pretty much always have the HP engaged on the SM7. I can't think of an instance when it was off right now. I always use an external pop filter (the high end seems way better to me that way). The presence peak is totally based on the singer. I find that singers who have a thicker voice with a lot of overtones need the presence peak. Singers that have a cleaner voice can start to sound too small and midrangy with the presence peak on. Here are some examples of singers that were definitely one way or the other for me:
  • Adam Lazzara - peak on
  • John Nolan - peak off
  • Steve Harwell - peak on
  • Myles Kennedy - Peak off
  • Chris Cornell - Peak on
  • SARA Watkins - Peak off

[top]The one thing that always immediately jumps out at me about your records is the midrange. I'm dying to know - is this deliberate? - thecrashfactory

I think it may be a result of me trying to move things away from the 2K to 5K range that I find kind of harsh. I guess I'm not specifically trying to boost that 800hz range it just ends being the dominant midrange presence in the mix after I tuck in those higher mids. there have been times when I have thought that my mixes don't sound as loud or as present as some other mixers I really like, but my ears always seem to navigate to that same place... even when I am trying not to

[top]I was wondering what sample rates you like to record at? - tekn0

Typically, If I am recording something that is going to incorporate tape machines I use 88.2. I would probably use 96K if stupid Pro Tools would give me the full vari-speed range at that sample rate. Sometimes I like to varispeed things and have people play performances in different keys to get a particular part to have a different quality to it. Pro Tools only allows you to pitch things up 50 cents at 48 and 96K. At 44.1 and 88.2 you can pitch things up 200 cents. I don't think there is a sonic difference between 88.2K and 96K anyway so it probably doesn't matter. I always like to print the digital versions of the mixes back into the same Pro Tools session that is playing back the multitrack. It makes it easy to keep all of the mix passes and stems locked together.

Sample rate hasn't been a big issue for me sonically. I have done blind A/B between 44.1K and 192K and the differences are not dramatic and in some types of music aren't really audible at all. I think the higher sample rates mostly give a slightly clearer sense of depth in the sound. If I was recording a classical record or a Jazz record I might be more inclined to make use of it. On a lot of modern rock/pop music that sense of distance isn't necessarily better. Modern popular music tends to want to sound very in your face and having things sound more naturally distant sometimes isn't as good. The slightly more two dimensional quality of a 44.1K recording can be a good thing sometimes. In addition to that, the amount of compression and limiting going on with modern records tends to mask the potential benefits of higher sample rates.

When I first really learned about and understood how the sample rates were affecting the higher frequencies in a technical sense I was really concerned with the issue. I was convinced that this has got to be a huge issue. When you look at it on paper it really is pretty horrifying. Ultimately, when I started doing blind A/B tests I realized that the actual audible difference for the type of recordings I am doing wasn't that dramatic. If I am doing a more pop type thing that has a lot of tracks, dsp processing and virtual instruments going on, I always use 44.1 or 48. The creative benefits of the extra processing power far out way the very very small sonic benefit that might not even be that flattering to a pop production.

Avid 192 I/O
Re converters: I am also not that picky about converters either. I still use the same 192s I got probably 10 years ago. I have experimented with other converters for multitrack conversion over the years (Genex, Lavry Blue, Lynx) and nothing has ever justified the price for me. I also find the system to be a bit finicky and clumsy when driving a bunch of third party converters. I like to varispeed things a lot. I use it all the time the same as I always have with my tape machines. In addition to what I mentioned earlier, I use it to keep things in tune. guitars are a bitch to get in tune and sometimes it is easier/faster to change the pitch of the track than to retune all six string of an electric guitar to get something in tune. I used to it all the time on my Studer tape machine and it is just a permanent part of my tracking process.

It is easy to get caught up in the idea that "if I only had this converter or that clock or did this at a higher sample rate my mix would be sounding bigger, clearer, wider, better image, just better....etc" I have definitely caught myself making those excuses for myself at times. I believe they are just excuses though. Especially in the digital domain, I believe 99.99% of the end result comes from how things are recorded, how they are EQ'd, compressed and balanced. And of those 4 things EQing is by far the most important. I call it "voicing". The voicing of a mix has the most significant impact on how clear, punchy, big, open, wide things sound. I have to remind myself this all the time, but if I am struggling with a mix it is not the equipment's fault it is my fault.

That said it is our responsibility as engineers to always at least be shooting for that 100% and I will chase that .01% at times. I am always trying to find a happy balance between cost, workflow and tangible sonic benefit.

[top]: Re Good Charlotte - Who wrote the Danny Elfman-esque arrangement on "A New Beginning"? - Juniorhifikit

I wrote and arranged the soundtrack intro on the album. The idea came from hanging out with them in DC. I typically will make arrangements to spend a couple of days hangin out with the band members in their home turf before starting a record. It is an opportunity to get to know them, get to know their tastes, talk about music, talk about the record, listen to music etc. One thing that struck me was that one of the CDs that was in their CD changer when we were driving around was the soundtrack to Edward ScissorHands. When it came on it surprised me and asked is this your usual driving around music? And they all went on and on about how much they love that soundtrack and love Danny Elfman and listen to his soundtracks all the time. I thought we should do something like this on the record. It is a totally sincere, organic influence for the band and should be represented. I came up with the opening part and then we collaborated on the portion when the band comes in. It was a lot of fun to do. I am also a huge Danny Elfman fan.

[top]Re: Good Charlotte - Is that actually "Lust For Life" slipped under the drums in "Lifestyles"? (if you can't or would rather not say for certain reasons, I understand). - Juniorhifikit

The drum sound and groove on Lifestyles was very much inspired by Lust For Life. I set up a drum kit right at the opening to the reverb chamber. I used a 28" slingerland marching kick drum with the original very thin heads for the kick. The snare was the red vista light. I am pretty sure there were no toms setup. I think there are no toms on that song. It was a somewhat minimal micing where I tried to use mostly close mics but have the sound of the chamber bleed into the close mics. That was the best I could come up with from listening to the Lust for Life recording. I will also say that in the final mix the drums on Lifestyles were directly "influenced" by the Lust For Life drums\

[top]- Is your "compression/expansion at the time time" technique something that you do often, or just occasionally? - Juniorhifikit

I pretty much never set a gate so it completely shuts off in between openings. I always leave as much natural ambience as I can in each mic. It makes it way easier for me to get the drum kit to sound more cohesive. I just use the gates only as much as I need to to get the hihat and cymbal bleed under control. With minimalistic micing like on the P's Bees record it is essential. That record is a really good example of the expander/compressor trick.

[top]This is a trick question, right? Work at the highest tape speed that you can in order to minimize noise and get most possible audio bandwidth - oldeanalogueguy

I think I would have had the same reaction if I was asked this question 5 or 6 years ago. I didn't start really experimenting with slower tape speeds until more recently.

A long time ago I read an interview with Jimmy Page where he said they only use 30ips no dolby on everything. That was all I needed to hear and that is pretty much all I ever did for a long time. It wasn't until later that I realized that was most likely technically impossible on their first 2 records at least.

I had heard people talk about the low frequency advantages of 15ips and tried it a couple of times. It was always kind of unsatisfying and noisy. I actually remember trying it at the beginning of the QOTSA tracking on my Ampex MM1200 for drums and ended up sticking with 30ips. Shortly after that project I learned a lot more about tape machines from Larry Jasper. I discovered the IEC or CCIR curve for 15ips. Its the way it should have always been done and was the standard being used in Europe in the era of most of my favorite sounding records. It changes the pre emphasis eq in the record electronics. IEC/CCIR adds about 3db of high frequencies and reduces about 3db of low frequencies. The result is less noise and more headroom at the slower tape speed. Once I discovered the IEC/CCIR EQ curve I started using 15ips much more. I am now starting to experiment with 7.5ips. It is wonderful. It is definitely noisy but it's a small price to pay for the beautiful thick smooth sound that happens on the J37 when it's in 7.5ips. I think it's fair to say that I am using 7.5ips as an effect and I wouldn't normally do that unless I was looking for something pretty extreme.

Here are some examples of projects at different tape speeds:
  • Persephonees Bees 'Notes From The Underworld' - 15ips IEC/CCIR
  • Deathray 2nd LP "Believe Me" - 15ips IEC/CCIR
  • Third Eye Blind 1st LP - 30ips
  • QOTSA 'SFTD' - 30ips
  • Taking Back Sunday (self titled) - 30ips
  • Slash Solo Record - 15ips IEC/CCIR

The decision to use one or the other in general is based on how intentionally "vintage" I want something to sound, but The way my different machines (Ampex MM1200, Studer A800, Scully 16track, Studer J37 etc) respond at different tape speeds is pretty dramatic. Where the head bumps fall and move to at various speeds can be a big deal. It's complicated but there are very clear reasons to run particular machines at particular speeds for particular source material.

Coles 4038 Stereo Set

[top]If you HAD to choose just 4 utility mics to work with for the remaining projects you will ever have, what would you choose? They can be stereo pairs. - Wlouch

It would be my pair of C12As, an SM7, SM57 and a pair of Coles 4038s.

[top]: One thing that's always fascinated me about your mixes, is the way the volume keeps ramping up throughout the sections. Is this something you set out to actually do on a regular basis, or is this more of a bi-product of how you layer parts/ideas and your stylistic way of producing/mixing? - Lackatee

I definitely seem to have a very emotional reaction to sound and dynamics. There were a few songs that really revealed this emotional effect for me. I think a great example was "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard. The Hysteria record came out not long before I first got a pair of Urei 813C monitors. I had always been blown away by the sound of that song, but when I finally cranked it up on the Ureis it was overwhelming. That first down beat when the band comes in after the vocal intro was so powerful and satisfying. I had just never heard low end like that before. I could literally feel a rush of adrenaline when I cranked that song up in my control room. When I started to try and figure what it was it finally struck me that it really was just the sound. I have absolutely zero connection to the lyrics in that song. I have listened to that song easily hundreds if not thousands of times over the 24 years since its release and I couldn't remember even 10% of those lyrics. I know that there is a somewhat hilarious and awkward use of the word "saccharine" in there somewhere. Yet I love listening to that song. I just put it on recently when I was making an adjustment to my control room monitoring and it is still very exciting for me. I think when I am mixing I am chasing that sensation. I am always trying to accentuate those moments that have a sonic pay off and cause one of those adrenaline rushes I get when listening loud on the Ureis.

There are a lot of records that are great at delivering emotional sonics. Here are a few that are maybe not as well known. Peter Gabriel's "Passion of The Christ" sound track. Holy ****!!! Not a lyric on it and for me it is one of the most powerful, emotional listening experiences of all time. Incredible low end and incredible dynamics. The other one is Scritti Politti "Cupid & Psyche 85". The singer's voice is a bit cartoonish on this record but I don't even hear the voice when I listen to it. This record was very influential for me. It is one of the ultimate ear candy productions of all time. The dynamics and transitions from section to section are amazing. A good modern example is T-Bone Burnett's solo record "The True False Identity". In my opinion, the best sounding record of the last decade for sure. Amazing low end, and seemingly all with organic instruments. It is really fun to turn that album up loud in the control room.

Transitions and down beats are a big deal for me. It is important to me for them to feel a certain way. The most important part of it is how the kick drum and the bass guitar interact on that first hit of a chorus or verse or whatever. When tracking directly to tape I used to make the bass player repeatedly punch the 1st down beat of sections until I had one where the phasing lined up right. With certain kick drum sounds there is almost a 50/50 chance of the low end either being additive or subtractive when it plays at the same time as the bass. There is nothing worse than having the low end cancel out right on the down beat of a chorus. If I screwed up and missed one while tracking, I used to have to mult the final bass track to an additional phase reversed channel on the console and automate it to switch for that spot to fix it. Now I can just flip it or nudge it in Pro Tools to fix those issues. I don't have to torture bass players quite as much while tracking either

While figuring out arrangements I am always looking for opportunities to create emotional sonic transitions. The are 3 main variables I play with for making it happen: Volume, spread and spectrum:

"Volume" is pretty self evident although it can get lost when there is a lot of compression at play. One of the last steps of mixing for me is restoring some of the natural dynamics and volume increases that would normally accompany changes in a performance. I do like to compress the drums quite a lot because it holds things in place and keeps them in focus. That becomes a problem for moments in the performance when the drummer is accenting something… ala downbeats of sections. I always do a round of "pushes" as one of the last steps of the mixing process. I will push the kick/crash 2 or 3 db on the downbeats of choruses. I do pushes on the guitar and bass as well but usually a little less 1 or 2 db. It is simply using volume to try and restore the sense of excitement generated by a player that hits a little harder on the down beat of a section. The perception of volume can be very relative. Things seem loud when they are contrasted against things that are soft. That is why pull outs before the down beat of a chorus are so effective (something that is very easy to over use). A good example is the little 2 bar break before the choruses in Good Charlotte's "Lifestyles". Originally the song went straight to the chorus from the pre-chorus. The transition just wasn't being a big enough event for me. I specifically added those parts so there would be a moment to "inhale" before the big "exhale" of the chorus. Volume only gets you so far because you can't continue to turn up the volume at each subsequent section without running out of headroom, that's where the other 2 can help.

"Spread" for me has been a cool subtle way to give the sense that things are expanding and getting bigger. I like to try and keep all the panning in the verses more between 70 or 80 (in Pro Tools terms) and save the hard panning (100) for the choruses. It is subtle but it is just another way to manipulate the size of the mix. There is a good example of using spread to create an emotional effect on the 3EB song "God Of Wine". I think I described this in a thread about 3EB but it relates to this discussion as well. The second half of the first verse needed something to help it expand and give the sense that it was moving to another level that supported the new vocal range. The guitar sound for the song already was a stereo sound derived from an array of guitar amps and room mics. At about 1:16 in the song I had Kevin play an additional pass of the verse guitar part. When mixing the song I pulled down the right fader of the main stereo guitar pass and turned on the right fader of the 2nd stereo pass of guitar. It is the same part, in the same register, played the same way as the first half of the verse but it just sounds richer and more expansive all of a sudden at 1:16. It creates a bigger environment for the vocal to live in as he starts singing out more.

"Spectrum" is using the frequency spectrum to expand the size of the mix. Sometimes I will withhold some of the extreme top end and low end in the verses and save them for the chorus. Maybe by turning down the over heads on the drum kit and turning up a hi mic that has a LP/HP filter on it that makes it more mid rangy. On my spectrum analyzer I can watch the sudden inclusion of the frequencies below 80hz and above 10K when the chorus hits. One arrangement dilemma that comes up a lot is when the bridge of the song is trying to take a step up from the chorus which is already pretty much full on. Sometimes i will sneak in a dbx sub harmonic synthesizer on the bass and add some sort of percussion element to have the frequency spectrum reach out even further in both directions in the bridge when there is no room to push the volume any more. I guess this idea of "spectrum" is basically the over all practice of deliberately restricting the frequency range in one section to leave room for expansion in other sections. I appears that I find it very useful because it seems to be all over the stuff I work on.

[top]HUGE thanks for responding in such detail Eric. Can you clarify what exactly you mean by "pushes"? Are you automating this stuff in or doing it by hand on faders? - Lackatee

The pushes are automation moves on the Flying Faders system installed on the UTA console. I typically set up group masters for guitars, Bass, kick, overall drums, lead vocal etc. That way I can sit in the sweet spot between the NS10s and do all of my final level tweaks and pushes.

[top]RE: faraday cage - I'd love to hear about that! - reverend

The challenging part of this is that it only works if you create a box with all six sides of a ferrous metal. I used what is called "Expanded Steel" in 4' x 8' sheets. you can see it here:

I used a total of 8 sheets. It creates an 8' tall 4' wide expanded steel rectangular box. We wired all the pieces together into the rectangular form with steel wire. The sheets themselves are strong enough to hold themselves up. One of the panels is wired in place only on one side so it functions like a hinged door.

I put a passive monitor speaker inside the cage fed from a power amp outside of the cage. It is important to keep all active electronic devices outside of the cage. I created a mono mix (with an aux send) for the guitar player to listen to while paying inside the cage.

The expanded steel has sharp edges and is a bit of a hassle to work with. We wore leather work gloves while putting it together and covered the sharp edges of the "door" with gaff tape to protect the talent!
That is pretty much it!

[top]I'm curious what role plays J37 in your workflow. What goals, colors, character does it help you to achieve? Is it instant goto for certain things? - matucha

The J37 is a more recent thing for me. I am still getting to know it. My early experiences have been hugely positive though. I am in fact set up right now to record vocals (the singer is lost trying to find their way to the studio so I have some extra time at the moment) where I will be printing the vocals into the computer going through 2 tracks of the J37 in series at 7.5ips. It is a beautifully smooth, rich sound. It is really great at grabbing unpleasant mid range peaks and smoothing them out. In general the effect is that it makes things sound thicker, denser, smoother, richer and to my old school ears just more like a record.

Typically with the J37 I use it on the way into the computer. I will mult whatever the sound I am recording and simultaneously record the signal straight into the computer as well as through the tape machine in Repro. We will monitor the direct digital performance while singing/playing. After we have the performance I can then go back and do one global timing adjustment to the analog version (pull it back a few thousand samples) and then listen to that from that point forward.

I have also been using it as part of my mastering process as well. When people give me stuff that was recorded and mixed entirely in the computer I will often print things to tape as part of the mastering treatment. People seem to be responding very positively to it. There is a song I mastered for a song for a band called Vicky Crier called "Smut". That particular song we ran through the J37 at 7.5ips. It added a really cool character to the track.

[top]: What kind of synths and samplers did you use on Third Eye Blind self titled, and Astro Lounge? - krock2009

3EB self titled has very little keyboards on it. There is a piano on the bridge of Jumper and then I Want You has a Honer D6 clavinet, a synth Bass sound that I think came from an old Korg EX8000 synth module I used to have. There is a drum loop in I want you but it was looped in Logic Audio. The loop is from an old Jazz record. Semi charmed life has a drum loop running through the whole song also looped in logic audio. I did have to supplement the kick sound in Hows it gonna be. Other than that there are no other keyboards or samplers used on the record.

Astro Lounge on the other hand has a ton of Keyboards and Samples on it. The synth sounds are mostly from a MiniMoog, Prophet Pro1 and a MemoryMoog. I also used a Hammond M2 organ, A Farfisa organ and another Farfisa type organ called a Rheem (that is the sound on Diggin Your Scene). All of the drum sampling and looping was done in Pro Tools (I had recently switched to Pro Tools at that point). I used to use an S1000, Roland S770, Roland S760 but stopped using almost immediately after I was able to place samples and loops in a DAW.

[top]First of all, a big thank you. This is BY FAR, the best Q&A on GS ever, and I have read all of them. It shows how passionate you are and how you really enjoy talking about your stuff. I have 2 questions: -Being a huge Distressor fan, which ratios/modes do you like? - Mho

On the distressors I mostly use the 4 highest ratios (6:1, 10:1, 20:1, nuke). On the drum buss I almost always have both the HP and the peak engaged on the side chain. Attack times are always slowish 10-8, release times are always fastish 0-4. I only own one pair that has both the brit mod and the stereo link mod. I never use either. I have played with the brit mod but it has never worked better for me than the original regular old Distressor mode. The original "link" mode I think is better as well. It is more forgiving when you have a really loud floor tom panned to one side of the drum mix.

Empirical Labs Distressor EL8

[top]: I have a further question about your use of Distressors on the drum bus: I often struggle with attack times. Just curious how you approach this with ratios and attack settings. - Studio Trilogy

The character of the attack on the drums is something I seem to be very sensitive to and have struggled with over the years as well. The best I can figure is that it seems to have more to do with the source material than the distressors themselves. I find that if the attack time on the distressors gets much faster than about 8 the sound really starts receding too much. Unfortunately, with some drum sounds the slower attack times leave too much of that clicky sound at the beginning of the hit. This has been way more of a problem for me when trying to mix digital recordings. Analog recording tends to soften that initial transient click sound and blend it into the body of the sound better. I find in general it is easier for me to really stomp on a drum recording with compression when it is coming off of tape. All the attacks just sound more natural to me. I pretty much just stick with the 10-8 range on the attack time and play with adding just enough distortion (beyond what is inherent in the Distressor itself) before and/or after the Distressor to help the compression sound more natural. The best is always analog tape. I also will push the channel strips on the UTA console to get a little even order distortion, and sometimes I use a chandler tube drive on an effects send to blend back in with the compressed signal to help smooth things together.

[top]Thank you Eric! Do you use the Dist modes on drums? Trick: Do you know the link setting engaged for extra grit? - Mho

I have not had much luck with the Dist modes for drums. I like the amount of distortion the distressors add when they are in their normal mode. Whenever I've tried the distortion modes the drums seem to lose too much of their punch and strength. I have had good luck with the dist modes on vocals as a more extreme effect.

This is how I approach adding distortion to drums and other things. There is a distinct difference between "Harmonic Distortion'' and "Clipping". I think those 2 things get confused sometimes. Pretty much all amplifiers or gain stages in electronic circuits follow some form of this behavior. As level is increased the harmonic distortion content will increase. This means that you will be adding more of either an octave (2nd order) overtone or an octave + 5th (3rd harmonic) overtone in a pretty predictable way. There is a very specific threshold where the gain stage transitions into clipping. The harmonic distortion pretty much instantly jumps 100 times and the overtones them selves get very deformed and unpredictable. The other thing that happens is that the original waveform starts to collapse and get terribly deformed. Just so you know how quickly this happens you can be listening to beautiful 2nd order harmonics at +26.5dB and then have hideously deformed clipped waveforms at +27dB.

What I try to do is get as much actual harmonic distortion from a particular device or gain stage as I can without transitioning into clipping. If I am still needing more harmonic distortion I get it from another device or gain stage. The effect is that the sound keeps getting thicker and it never collapses into clipping. You can keep adding layers of harmonic distortion from multiple devices to get the sound to be thick and not lose the punch and strength of the original sound.

The Distressor ends up being just one of the stages I use. It has never worked for me to try and get it all from just that device.

[top]How do you use the band sidechain thing? Is it for taming mids? - Mho

On a drum mix I use both the HP and the PEAK. I think of it as being less sensitive to low end/kick drums. I like it because it doesn't over compress/turn down the kick drum too much in the drum mix.

[top]What exactly was your approach to achieve the bass guitar grooves that seem to absolutely carry this (Astrolounge) record from start to finish? DI, Mic'd? Cabinets? I'd love to know. - IonicBreed

The bass sounds on the Astro Lounge record were mostly done the same way. I would always record a DI, a large amp and a small combo amp. The large amp was usually an SVT. The small amp was a variety of things either a Gibson GA20, Vox AC15 or a Magnatone. Small amp was typically set very bright to emphasize the attack part of the sound. I would sometimes put a mic in the back of the amp to get a more peculiar mid range quality. When mixing I use delays to try and line up the phasing a little better (TC 2290 back then). Sometimes the elements would fall into place the way they were recorded and sometimes I would have to maybe hi pass the small amp, while using the DI to create an almost synthesizer-like low end to get it all to work. A good example of that is the bass sound on "Home". That is a ton of compression (Distressor) and EQ (Orban) on the DI to get that sound.

The parts themselves mostly start with Greg. He would have the initial idea for the bass part on his demo of the song. Paul would make some cool refinements to it and then he and I would figure any final tweaks together while tracking. Mostly just figuring out transitions and simplifying things in places to stay out of the way of other parts. All of those parts are recorded directly to an analog master (Studer 24trk). Paul liked to do a couple of passes across the whole song first to get into the vibe of the track. Then we would just start punching and touching up whatever the last pass was.

[top]Re: Smash Mouth - Astro Lounge - I think this album is amazing in terms of tone, arrangement, and production -- I've always wondered, how did the songs change from when you heard them in pre-production to how they sound on the final record? - rhythmic5

The trick with Astro Lounge was figuring out how to expand Greg Camp's home demos without screwing them up. Greg makes incredibly well realized home recordings where the vibe and feel was amazing but the fidelity wasn't quite there. The challenge was rebuilding the tracks with more fidelity while including the band members and not losing the vibe and feel. It was very tricky at times. The band wasn't really rehearsing the songs together as a band at that point. The songs really only existed as Greg's demos. I would have the drummer play live drum performances that would emulate the sound and vibe of the loop in Greg's demo. I would then find loops and samples that would help expand the sound or increase the fidelity. Sometimes that meant chasing down the original source of the loop greg was using and just getting a more hi fidelity version of it. Ultimately, my part of it was mostly making suggestions along the way. Choosing to feature one part or another. Deciding to push a particular sound further in one direction or another. There were some arrangements, I suggested introducing a key change for the bridge of "Then The Morning Comes" and helped figure out how to do it. Smash Mouth and I had reached a high level of trust by that time and they were pretty comfortable with me fiddling around with the tracks. I would add little keyboard sounds and ear candy type stuff to help the arrangements move along.

I would say that of all the various folks I have worked with over the years, My creative collaborative relationship with Greg Camp was by far the most effortless. We share a lot of the same influences. He would always show up with songs that blew me away and I could play him final mixes that he had no changes on.

[top]I have been listening through most of your discography and to me it seems like it was during this album you developed your "signature drum sound" that we all have been enjoying for several years. Would also like to know what you used for the intro guitar on "Diggin' your scene"?? - LinusWendel

I think the knocky quality in the kick drum on both the Fush yu Mang and Astro Lounge records is partly from the Kick/Snare mic I have described (A mic on the batter side of the kick drum typically a U87). I did start using the K/S mic on the first smash mouth record so maybe it just got more refined on the Astro Lounge record. Also, on the astro lounge record there is a lot of samples and loops being used. I specifically sought out drum samples and loops from old 60s recordings. A lot of those old recordings have a lot of mid rangy knock to them.

I am not absolutely sure about these details but I'm pretty confident this is right. The Fuzz sound on Diggin' Your Scene used a Boss Hyper Fuzz pedal into an Ampeg Jet. Greg had been using the Hyper Fuzz for the entire tour following the first record. When he came in to work on the second record we used that pedal for some of The Fuzz guitar stuff.

Waves Linear Phase EQ

[top]If you had no choice but to master with vst plugins only what vst would you choose? - PureArtist

I don't use the vst plugin format but I suppose a lot of the choices are the same. For mastering if I am EQing in the box i have had the best luck with:
  • Massenburg EQ
  • Waves Linear Phase EQ
  • PSP NEON Q10 (for surgical stuff)
I haven't found any plugins I like for compression.

For getting level I have tried a variety of things:
  • Sony Oxford Limiter
  • Slate FGX
  • Letting things just clip
I have been struggling with that issue. I really don't like the sound of actually limiting the mix. I feel like it is just turning down the kick and snare in the mix. I am developing a plugin for achieving level without limiting. So far the results have been good. I have been using it to master some recent stuff. I just mastered an EP for Jason Hill from Louis XIV. He has a new project called "Vicky Cryer" that is really cool. Check out the song "Girls" . It is an amazing mix (mixed by Matt Radosevich) and a really cool song. It is a good example of what this new level boosting mastering plugin can do as well.

[top]Hi, Eric
Since auto tune didn't exist yet (thank god) when 3EB's self-titled record was made, how did you go about fixing Stephen's vocals if they were ever off key? Comping, Harmonizer? - krock2009

We did spend more time getting the performances as close as possible. Some songs we would have to revisit over and over. Burning Man was one of those songs. That song was in a vocal range that was just not very comfortable for Stephan to sing. he could sing that verse maybe 4 or 5 times and his voice would get tired and the takes would just start getting weaker and weaker. We just took our time with it. We would sing on it a bit until his voice got tired and then stop and come back to it another day.

Even with all of the effort in capturing the performances there was still times when the vocals needed some pitch help. I did come up with a auto tune type technique back in the 90s. I used an Eventide H3000 harmonizer. I set up the H3000 so the pitch bend control on a MIDI keyboard would control the amount of pitch shift +/- 50 cents. I would simply listen to the the vocal performance and use the pitch bend on my midi keyboard to bend things in tune. The midi information was recorded in to Logic audio that was syncing to the analog master via SMPTE. In the mix of that record I had one H3000 dedicated to vocal tuning.

[top]I am a big fan of The Wombats new album "This Modern Glitch" which you did most the work on if I'm correct I was just wondering what the process was like?
What gear was used, what your role was etc etc. - Protooled

I actually only recorded 2 songs. There is a bunch of info in this thread: The Wombats

[top]I love the collaboration on 'Stay Home' on the Shrek soundtrack from about 10 years ago, and I was curious if you still remember anything from the session. The use of 'sampled' material in the song (the weird bell loop at the beginning/breakbeats/misc other 'hip hop' samples) were masterfully used and I've always wondered how they're introduced in songs you've produced... whether it's always the artist, or if you happen to add from your own collection or something. - rhythmic5

Dreamworks had temp'd (a temporary placement of a song to get the idea of the vibe for editing that is going to be replaced later) in the song All Star in the opening of Shrek. The director didn't want to use it because it had recently been used in a couple of other movies. They hired Matt to write and record a song that had the same vibe as All Star. Hence the similarity. He was hired specifically to copy it without legal infringement. Matt had demoed the song and Dreamworks agreed to pursue it and then I was hired to help make it sound more like All Star. Matt's demo version of the song was great and already had most of the cool stuff on it. We mostly only re recorded guitars in the chorus and the main drums through out the song. On the drums I did my usual thing at the time of recording a live drum track and then supplementing it with loops or samples from old sixties drum recordings. The weird bell loop was a part from the original recording that Matt did himself. He had just done a record where he used all toy instruments. I think that little bell loop was created from some toy xylophone or something. The main issue for Dreamworks was the overall voicing of the track. All Star is a very hifi type mix once it gets going and leaves a lot of room in the mid range. It made it very easy for the film mixer to fit in all the sound fx and bits of dialog in the intro of the movie. I seem to remember that we did quite a bit of work on the bridge section at my place. I think that part may have been added after the project moved to my place. Matt and I worked on that thing for a while. Putting a song in the intro sequence of a movie is bit like a 50 yard putt. it is really really challenging. Basically while you are working on the song the film company is constantly sending you revised versions of the edit of the opening sequence. They will say things you have to cut out 3.2 seconds at about 1:10 on the song because we changed the edit. Then you have to go back and figure out how to remove a totally random amount of time from the song and still have it sound musical. After almost a month of tweaking and revising and editing and refining Stay Home, they played the final version of the opening sequence for Jeffery Katzenberg and he said "why don't we just use All Star in the beginning. I like that better" and that was it! Stay Home was relegated to the soundtrack and I think deep into the ending credits.

Working with Matt was really fun. He is a great guy and unbelievably talented. he is one of those "do anything" type people. He can sing it, play it, write it, engineer it, mix it. Just a really gifted guy.

[top]I've always liked how upfront and dry your drum recordings sound at times, but when you do add reverb to them it never seems to take away any of that force or upfront power that I've come to enjoy in your drum tracks. If there's any sort of method to your madness I would love to get a taste of it. - andersmv

I think the most important thing for keeping that upfront quality when adding artificial reverb is blending in the reverb before compression. This is how I think about it. If the reverb is being sent to the compressor with the drum sound that is being sent to it, lets say 10db of reduction on the significant hits, then what is really happening is that the reverb is being turned down 10db when ever the drum hits and then swelling back up to the audible volume in between the hits. Whenever you have multiple things sent to a compressor whatever the loudest element is will essentially be ducking all of the quieter elements in the blend. With drums and artificial reverb it makes it so the hits stay dry and you only hear the reverb tails in between the hits.

UnderTone Audio UnFairchild

[top]Do you have any information or pictures about the UTA Fairchild you've been mentioning and developing? - SamPura

We actually finally just decided today on the final name... UTA Unfairchild 670.

The idea is to do a Fairchild remake that is affordable. Here is the spiel that is going up on the UTA website soon.

UTA Unfairchild 670V/M

We decided to take on the well traveled path of remaking a fairchild because it has yet to be done in a way that focuses on what is special about the fairchild without getting caught up in details that make it wildly unaffordable. The vast majority of what is special about the sound of a Fairchild is inherent in the topology of the circuit itself. It seems a waste of such a clever design to have it always represented in a form that is simply unobtainable for most. Simply put, a faithful recreation of the Fairchild circuit doesn't have to cost $20,000. In addition to that, modern features can easily be added to bring this classic circuit up to date with modern expectations. We have developed two version at two different price points. One that is an exact duplication of the original circuit and one that is cleverly optimized to be more affordable. The UTA Unfairchild 670V is the version that exactly duplicates the original circuit and will sell for $7500. The UTA Unfairchild 670M is the modified version that makes use of carefully chosen component alternatives that further reduce the expense and will be sold for $5000.
  • Faithful recreation of the original Fairchild circuit
  • Modified version for increased affordability
  • sidechain input
  • stereo linking
  • additional time constant settings for added flexibility
  • authentic classic look
  • front panel control of DC offset (behaves like a combined threshold/ratio control)

I have mostly been using the "modified" version because it has needed the most testing and listening to get it right. It uses 6BC8s instead of the annoyingly expensive 6386s. 6BC8s are great. They are used in the old UA 175 - 176 compressors. They are a bit more aggressive than the 6386s and I have really been enjoying the results. It is the first tube compressor I can use on drums that sounds really aggressive.

When I mixed the song "Gives You Hell" I printed the mix with and without mix buss compression. That mix was designed to have mix buss compression and it has been really great for evaluating the Unfairchild. I kind of wish I had this thing when I printed the GYH mix for the album. I really love the way the low end pumps with these 6BC8 tubes.

[top]. : I was wondering if you could take the time to answer some questions about the Wombats album "The Wombats Proudly Present… - NoahP

Of course I can only speak to the songs I recorded (Tokyo, 1996 and parts of Techno Fan). All three of the songs are combinations of live drums and samples. The drums on Tokyo and Techno Fan were very similar. A fully mic'd drum kit in the large room at Barefoot Recording with supplemental samples for the kick and snr. In Tokyo we also recorded a round of live industrial percussion. It was Dan out in the sound room banging on anything metal in the room. I later went through and picked out some highlights and either made loops of them or placed them as specific events. On Tokyo the real meat of the low end on the kick comes from a sample off of an old Ice Cube remix. I ended up using that same sample in 1996. I like to try and keep some consistency with the samples where its appropriate to give the songs I worked on a more cohesive sound.

1996 was very different. The live part of that drum sound is mostly 2 microphones. It is a pair of Coles 4038s about 8' from the drum kit with a wide spread. One out in front of the hihat side of the kit and one out in front of the ride side of the kit. The kick was my red vista light and the snare was a tiny 8" pork pie snr. There were some close mics set up but mostly as guides for editing/lining up samples and were barely used at all in the final blend. The coles had a lot of 1176 compression and a ton of EQ. I was using both the UTA EQ and a pair of ADR vocal stressors to get the sound. It took a lot of fiddling to get those to mics to sound complete. There are also samples blended in to give it a more sort of "80's" type sound. There is a different kick sample in the verse than in the chorus. The chorus uses the same Ice Cube kick sound that was in Tokyo. The guys in the band were very much into capturing an 80's type vibe on these recordings. I was going for a Tears For Fears meets Peter Gabriel kind of thing. In the choruses of 1996 I added a bunch of extra drum programming. There are 16th note hihat parts and really ridiculous very 80's sounding tom samples in there. I literally went for the cheesiest Roland drum machine tom samples I could find. There is also a snare sample that is introduced in the choruses that is from the same Ice Cube remix as the kick. Ultimately all of the samples and drum mics get bussed through a pair of...yep you guessed it Distressors!!! yeah!!! I would then send selected items (kick, toms) directly to the main mix buss so the low end can breathe a little more. Both 1996 and Tokyo were started as live band performances. They were not recorded to a click. I comp'd together some takes and tempo mapped the live performance so I would have a grid to reference when lining up samples or editing other parts. The tempo definitely moves around on those tracks. I thought it would be a unique approach to these songs that are really designed to be dance music (which is usually brutally metronomic). I think it added a subtle little extra bit of life to those tracks than if we had just done them to a click and grid'd everything.

ADR Vocal Stressor

[top]: I've always been puzzled by the bass sound The Wombats have. It's a "gainy" sound but without any harshness and massive distortion. I've tried to get this sound myself but I've never been able to pull it off. Anything you can say about how that trebly sound was acquired? - NoahP

Tord definitely has a specific bass he likes to use. He has a spectacular sounding 70's Fender P-bass. It is a great instrument. The action is a bit low so there is a fair amount of fret buzz going on all the time. It adds to the metallic brightness of the sound. Whenever I do that type of gainy sound without being distorted or fuzzy this is how I approach it. I have one amp set up as a solid more straight forward sound... usually an SVT. i have another amp set very bright that is distorted. In this case it was an oldfield combo amp feeding an SVT 8x10 cab. The bright amp makes it so the distortion is on the overtones of the bass instead of the fundamental note. that's how you can get that crunchy aggressive sound instead of a dull fuzzy distortion. You have the other amp that is not distorting to carry a solid low end when they are blended together. the other way to achieve this if you only have one amp is to set the amp really really bright so the brightness is driving the distortion and then add low end with EQ on the mic. As soon as the low end starts to really distort the bass can lose depth, punch and focus.

[top]Re The Wombats Tokyo - I'd like to know what you used for the solo in "1996" that comes in around 3.08. - LinusWendel

This was another situation where I reamp'd it a few times and couldn't remember which one ultimately got used. Again simpler was better! The part was played on a Silvertone Jupiter guitar. I originally had him going through an AC30 with front and back mics on it. It just wasn't energetic sounding enough. When I set up for the final mix I tried reamping it one more time. I ended up putting it through my Soldano SLO100 through a 4x12 cab and a 57 on it. That is definitely a tried and true combination but I always seem to hesitate using it as a first choice because I have used it a lot in the past. There is a slight mid range most on the DI in Pro Tools before it gets sent to the amp. I am pretty sure I compressed it with an original EMI zener style compressor.

[top]Re recording violin. Could you explain how you set up the pair of Coles 4038s for the violin? - Ryan Earnhardt

I experimented with a few different things. I think the approach that ended up being the best was having one mic more in front of the instrument pointed towards the sound holes/bowing of the strings. I do like to have that mic a bit off axis though. Placing the mic directly in front of the sound holes seems to accentuate some of the resonances that cause the instrument to sound unbalanced. the other mic is a little further away behind the player to get a more diffused perspective. I pan that second mic opposite the main one and have it down in volume a bit. It allows me to widen the sound a bit but still have the violin come from a specific place in the mix.

[top]Re: Undertone Audio MPEQ-1 "N" switch - I've been racking my brain trying to figure out what the "N" switch is (just below boost and cut) in the EQ section on your console? - neb

The "N" stands for "Notch". It allows you to turn any of the 4 bands into a notch filter. A notch filter, in theory, allows you to totally eliminate a particular frequency in the spectrum. On the UTA eq both the shape and Q controls remain active when in Notch mode. That allows you to turn one of the parametric bands in to an active HP/LP filter or have control over the width of a band pass notch move. You can achieve as much as 50 or 60 dB of cut at a particular frequency when in notch mode.

This is how a notch filter works: It takes the original signal, filters it to a specific part of the frequency spectrum, reverses the phase and then blends it back in with the original signal causing a cancellation of the frequencies left by the filter. You can create a notch filter in your DAW by duplicating a track, filtering it lets say with McDSP F2, flipping the phase and blending it with the original track (delay compensation would be essential for this to work). As you blend it back in there is a "null" point where one achieves the maximum amount of attenuation. On the UTA EQ this happens half way up the gain scale at a setting of "5".

We realized there is another thing that you can do when you have access to a filtered phase reversed signal in an equalizer... you can use it as a phase manipulation tool. When you take that same filtered phase reversed signal and continue to turn it up past the point of cancellation, you can get it to blend back in with the original signal at unity. Then what you have done is simply phase reversed a particular slice of the frequency spectrum. This is what happens on the UTA EQ when you turn the gain control fully clockwise "10". It is a really interesting effect. When you listen to that track by itself it doesn't sound any different. It only changes how that track interacts with other tracks, particular if they are mics on the same sound source. So if you select lets say 200hz on a band in notch mode with gain fully clockwise, then what you get is a full 180 degree phase shift at 200hz. The degree of phase shift starts to travel back to 0 degrees the further you get from 200hz. How quickly that happens is determined by the "Q" setting. This allows you to make variable phase adjustments to particular parts of the frequency spectrum. It is a feature I have never had before and I am still finding interesting ways to utilize it. There is an example video of one way to use it on the UTA website.

[top]I was at one of your talks at last AES where you recommended several pieces of analog outboard gear. I purchased an Orban 672A which I believe you recommended in that talk. Any other units along those price points that you think are interesting? - arimaka

There is one other piece of gear that is indispensable for me that is not wildly expensive. It is the BSS DPR 901 II 4 band Dynamic Equalizer. That thing is great. It can fight my way out of any bad vocal recording with that box. It is great on a lot of stuff. I use it all the time. Whenever you have some harsh overtone or weird resonance that only sticks out on particular parts you can kill it with that thing. I think they go for about $500-$700 used.


[top]I wanted to ask you about your mixing work on the "Memory Man" album by Aqualung. Back in 2007 I was covering the bass player's paternity leave and did a fair chunk of touring to promote that record so I know it very well, and badgered Matt for any mixing details!

Matt mentioned that you were very fond of using quite large EQ boosts but with a very narrow Q. Is this how you manage to get such amazing separation and definition in very dense mixes? - johnny_catfish

I think doing very specific aggressive EQing can really make a huge difference in trying to get a particular instrument to have presence in a very limited part of the frequency spectrum. It started for me when I first discovered the Orban 672A equalizers. That was the first time I was able to really do razor sharp EQ adjustments to a sound and it changed everything for me.

There are 2 contexts where I believe that type of really surgical EQ is really effective. The first is when the source material has some sort of ringy overtone that is the artifact of some phasing anomaly in the sound source. It is usually caused by some reflection off of a wall or surface that is in close proximity to the sound source. Sometimes it is inherent in the instrument itself. These phasey spiky overtones make it very difficult to get things to blend or find an appropriate level against other elements in the mix without sticking out in some way. I use very narrow parametric EQs to try and correct these anomalies. I do it a lot on amplified guitar and bass or certain crash cymbals or background vocals. These are all sounds where one weird overtone can overpower the fundamental pitch or all of the other overtones. I first discovered this issue when back in the 80s basically every person that walked through the front door of my studio wanted Eddie Van Halen's guitar sound. I studied the **** out of that guitar sound. It is extraordinary. Incredibly bright and present, but not harsh. I finally discovered what was unique about it. There is this beautifully flat shelf of high end in the sound from about 2k-5k. It showed up perfectly on my Gold Line Spectrum Analyzer (which I still use today). When I compared my guitar sounds they had some weird frequency consistently sticking out in that range and they just sounded harsh and awkward. I started using the Orban EQ to even things out in that range, sometimes using very narrow Qs as tight as the Orban would go (A Q of about 10). This was a huge discovery for me. I finally felt like I had control over the actual timbre of instruments and could make them as smooth or aggressive as I wanted. When you get the overtones of an instrument in balance it just sounds natural and effortless. It sounds good by itself and it sounds good against other instruments.

Orban 672A
The other context where I use these very narrow EQ moves is to manufacture a resonant fundamental tone in an instrument. The best example is on Kick and Snare. On the snare I will typically do a very narrow boost to emphasize the fundamental body of the sound (Usually around 200hz a Q of about 7 or 8). It adds weight to the sound that will cut through a mix without taking up too much space. The same thing with kick drums. I never use a shelf EQ on a kick drum. I want the kick drum to own a very specific part of the freq range and leave lots of room for the bass guitar. the more specific you can get it the clearer and punchier the low end will be. A really good example is Mutt Lange's kick sounds on the Def Leppard stuff. They are so economized. There is a specific peak in the low end and a specific peak in the high end and very little of anything else. Tons of room left for the 500 synth bass overdubs he loves to do!

[top]please take me through how you approach mixing. Do you start with all faders up? drums first? Quick rough mix? many breaks? - LinusWendel

I usually start with the drums. It is very difficult to start piling things up without the drum sound pinned down. Once I have the drum sound together I start adding other elements: bass, guitars, keys, vocals. I can tell pretty quickly if I didn't get the drum sound right. usually you can tell because everything starts to fall apart when you add the other elements. The drum sound gets buried too easily, things aren't staying defined, Things are sounding harsh. I will usually start to A/B to some other mixes I like and be able to tell if I am on the right track. If I am not on the right track I immediately announce "NOPE!" and pull down the faders and start over. I find it is easier when mixing on a console to just pull everything down and start over by bringing things up one by one and just trying a fundamentally different approach ala more individual compression on the drums vs. buss compression switch to a different EQ on the kick, try using a room mic for the kick low end or something. Something that will change the overall approach. For me, the kick sound seems to be the single most important element for setting the stage for the overall mix. If the kick doesn't have that really punchy clear, well defined low end it is really hard for me to push the high end and then mix ends up sounding mid rangy and small. That was a significant discovery for me… the character of low end has a huge effect on how bright I can make things.

I do try to move quickly. It seems that my ears start to change how I hear something if I listen to the same thing over and over again without any pauses. One of the advantages of mixing from tape machines is that they impose constant intermittent pauses that I think is healthy for ear fatigue. On the computer my impatience will get the best of me and I will tend to have sound constantly coming out of the speakers and my ears start to accommodate deficiencies in the EQing. I like to mix a song mostly in one day and take home a 1st pass over night. I actually will listen to it on my way the next morning in my car. If everything is going well I will most likely make some small adjustments to the low end, do some final vocal rides and refine some pushes and I'll be ready to print that song. If things are not translating to the car then a resounding "NOPE!" can be heard from the control room and the faders get pulled down.

One of the other things that is important throughout the process is to resist always turning things up when they need to have a more significant presence in the mix. When I feel something needs to be turned up I first look at the overall level on the final mix buss. If the mix buss is already peaking as high as it should, than I start looking for things that might be masking that element in the mix that isn't loud enough and turn that down instead. It avoids the problem of getting to a point in a mix where you have to trim everything down to get the gain structure under control. It is always very unsettling for me to have to trim down all of the faders on the console globally to a few dB at the end of a mix. It is just to easy to make a mistake and have something get out of balance.

[top]RE: Third Eye Blind. At around 3:30 on the track "Jumper", right after the guitar solo, the chorus is about to kick right in and there is a feedback noise as if a microphone got too close to some speakers. What was that? - workingtitle

I know the exact sound you are referring to and it was absolutely left in intentionally. It is guitar feedback but Kevin was not trying to get feedback in that particular moment. It just happened at the beginning of that take. When we were mixing the song Stephan and I agreed that it had a sort of awkward charm to it and that it should be left in. Listening back to it now I would say it was maybe a bit loud though and kind of distracts from the vocal entry. Definitely can't fix that now

[top]Re: Third Eye Blind's Self-titled Album Drums on (insert album & artist name here please) Can you explain your process a little more on your compression approach? - bottombunk

I typically have not been a fan of using a lot of compression on room mics. I find that the explosiveness of the kick and snr gets swallowed up too much by the cymbals when they get too compressed and I've never found the sound of heavily compressed cymbals particularly attractive. Whereas the heavy multiple layers of compression on the close mics adds that hyper consistency that almost sounds like samples even when not using any (something I've been accused of before I just like to be able to hear and feel all of the hits and articulation of the drum performance. It is the only way I can get that to happen when drums are fighting their way through a wall of guitars.

There is one trick I really like whenever doing a more minimal micing setup. Even if I mic a drum set intending to only use a single mono overhead with a stereo room type thing, I will still record close mics for keying. Let's say I want the single mono OH to sound more compressed without changing the balance between the cymbals and the drums. What i do is use an Expander and a compressor at the same time. The idea is to set the amount of compression the same as the amount of expansion. So if the compressor is compressing 8db on the significant hits, than the expander should be turning down the signal 8db around those hits. The expander is being keyed by the close mics so it will respond only to the kick and snr. Once you get the release times matched up right, the net result is the kick/snr get the thicker, more aggressive sound of being compressed without changing the volume relationship between the kick/snr and the cymbals. This way you can get the sound of compression only on the kick and snr from one mic. The same thing works on room mics. You can make the kick and snr sound thicker and more aggressive without losing so much of the natural air and dynamics in the cymbals.

[top]Young and The Hopeless by Good Charlotte was one of my favorite albums as a kid and the new TBS is incredible, as is the latest All American Rejects album. One thing I've noticed with the discs that I buy with your name on it is that the bands all have taken a big step up in their writing. How much of a role do you have with helping these bands craft their songs? - jordanvoth

Getting the most out of the clients: This is a broad topic and I feel like it's a really big deal. I am just going to throw out a bunch of stuff that is sort of related to it.

I don't even get a chance to use all of my stupid distressors and EQs if I can't win over a band's confidence and get them to allow me in the door with something as personal as their music. I think the most important thing for being able to step into a band's creative universe is trust. I work very hard to establish it when I am first meeting with a band to discuss making a record and work very hard to maintain it throughout the recording process. If the bands trust in my ability to confidently guide the creative direction of their record waivers even slightly, it can easily, instantly derail the project. These are some of the things I do to help gain confidence and trust. I always do a lot of research about the bands existing recordings, musical tastes and interests. Musicians bond by talking about music. Bringing up the wrong musical reference at the wrong time can be devastating and unrecoverable. I have made the mistake of being poorly prepared when meeting with a band for the first time and referenced a band or song that falls flat in the room. one of the band members said something like "I always hated that record" and you could just feel the enthusiasm get sucked out of the room. Just like that, one inappropriate reference and I knew I won't be working on that project. KNOW THE BANDS TASTE!!!!!! It is so important. When I get it right and mention a band and then a specific song that they all love and then go into detail about what I think is cool about it, you can just feel the sense of camaraderie being established. I'm not trying to trick anyone, I am genuinely trying to figure out how to make a record that this particular band will really love and accurately represents them. i am being hired to make the best possible Good Charlotte or TBS or Nickel Creek record not an Eric Valentine record. if that wasn't the case, I'd just be trying to make them all sound like Led Zeppelin Through the course of the project there are hundreds of forks in the road... should we use the Les Paul or the Tele, should we use this snare or that one, should we use this lyric or should we change it. Those choices come up constantly and I try really hard to make sure I have clear sense of what choice the band would think is great and which one they would think sucks. I used to have this very hippy sort of attitude that "hey it's all subjective" and try to encourage bands to be more open minded, i don't do that anymore. I encourage bands to indulge every single petty judgmental musical observation. This distinction of what is F***ing cool and what sucks is what DEFINES a band's taste and aesthetic. It is my responsibility to be intimately familiar with a particular band's loves, hates and overall aesthetic. If I am consistently suggesting things that the band is not responding positively to, the trust will be eroded away and the project will fall apart… and yes that has definitely happened to me before.

I think maintaining composure even when things get frustrating or heated or even surreal is really important. It was very hard for me to maintain an air of relaxed confidence when Iggy Pop walked in the door to sing on a Slash song. If I am nervous about recording his vocals then he will get nervous about singing it. It was insanely surreal to hit the talk back button and hear myself say "OK Iggy that was a good pass, let's see if we can beat it".

I do like to do a lot of preparation/pre-production. Because of the luxury of digital recording many bands I don't think really know how to properly prepare for recording. Starting the recording process with a somewhat vague idea of the songs and their arrangements I think is a mistake. I like to have the parts and arrangements well established before we start recording the actual record. I have noticed that I actually will get more spontaneity from the musicians when they are better prepared. It seems that when someone is trying to figure out what to play on a section when it is being recorded for the album that they use up the time searching for a part instead of actually being able to do something more spontaneous. When there is a part well prepared in advance, they play that first. Once we get that down, then psychologically we know we have that and it works. Having the prepared part in the can is very liberating for the player and they are more inclined to have fun and be adventurous when playing spontaneously. I will frequently suggest to guitar players "OK we got that part and its great, but you should just F*** around and try some stuff". That is usually when I get some cool performance moments.

I essentially record the record twice. I record it once as a pre-production version, where I don't focus on sounds at all. I actually specifically intentionally make the sounds a bit lofi to make sure the ideas and parts aren't being propped up by a sound or effect instead of really standing on its own conceptual merit. We basically record all of the pre-production development of the songs. We can chop things around to play with arrangements and work out all of the parts that the band members are going to be playing. I make CDs for individual band members with their parts featured so they can go over them and practice the parts. I want them to have the confidence of knowing parts that we all agreed on that are rehearsed and ready to go. This also avoids the biggest time waster on a record… the re-record. It is a huge waste of time to completely record a song and realize it is in the wrong key or its the wrong tempo or we can't come up with a bridge over the drum part we recorded.

I think one of the biggest advantages I have when working with bands is being able to work out of my own facility. I only do "All-In'' budgets where the label pays a flat fee for a finished record. No hourly billing, no trying to schedule time at other studios etc. It puts everyone's focus squarely on working on things until their right. Whenever anyone has something they want to try or suggests something that could improve the song the answer is always YES we should try that. I feel it is hugely beneficial to the creative process. The band or I are never in that position of having to accept something that we know isn't as good as it could be. I never have to tell the lead singer things like "well, we're out of time/money… were just gonna have to work with what we got on that song."

There are some particular phrases that I use all the time that have become tools for me when I am trying to help an artist navigate towards something I think will improve a song or part. I love the phrase "I think there may be a missed opportunity here". For me, it has been the most constructive way to address a part that I don't think is working. I never say "this part isn't working" even if I believe that. It focuses on the negative aspect of something not working and can immediately put an artist in a more defensive state of mind. I like skipping directly to the very positive aspect of possibly adding a cool new part or idea to whatever it is we are working on. The fact that it may be replacing an idea that is not working so well is secondary. It seems subtle but it really makes a big difference. I also always try to be sure I have some sort of solution to suggest if I am going to address something that is being problematic. The worst thing to do is say "This isn't working" and not have a suggestion to offer. It just leaves everyone wallowing in your opinion that something sucks… It can ruin the momentum.

Working with singers is one of the most interesting and delicate recording processes. I always try to listen for meaning in the performance. I am always checking with myself if I believe what the singer is saying or not. That is the most important thing to me, especially now that small tuning and timing issues can be easily fixed. If I find a singer is repeatedly sounding like they are reading a lyric sheet I try this little trick. Usually songs have a particular moment of inspiration when they are originally conceived. It is frequently the moment when the composer discovers an idea that has a real spark to it. I know for myself, when I stumble onto something that I feel is really cool there is this sort of… Oh ****! this is really cool and it will sound like this and I would sing it like this and the drums would play this etc. It is a moment of clarity that can fade over time. I get the singer to think back to the moment when they first had the idea for the song. Think about where they were, how they felt when the inspiration first struck them and how the vocal would be sung. It is an attempt to get the singer back in touch with the original honest inspiration and meaning of the song.

Man… I really find this particular topic very interesting. I hope some of that is interesting for some of you as well.
Thanks for the great question!