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Battling a Large Body of Water: Part 1 August 11, 2008

Posted by ConnorSmith in : Mixing, Project Studio, Projects , trackback

::Presenting the first of many articles discussing the adventures of recording a full length CD with a band called Versus the Ocean out of Michigan::

This recording project was full of a lot of “firsts” for me (first time converting a house into a recording studio, first time working with a screamer, first time having a band live with me for the recording process… etc). The short version of the story is that the band lived in my converted-recording-basement for a week because of some last minute logistical issues in going to another (real) studio. So with my trusty Digi 003 Rack (and a HEAP of borrowed gear, thanks Damon, Ben), we got to work for the long week.  Also props to Ronnie Pinnell for driving up to assist.

Given the circumstances, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share both the “do’s” and “do not’s” I learned along the way. I’ll try to cover everything from mic techniques to mixing and there and back again.

One of the more important aspects of this CD was getting the screamer’s (Tyler’s) voice to sound not only big mean and scary, but also different than others in his genre of competition. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the beloved SM7 for this task, so I was left to use an SM58. I actually started out by trying some large diaphragm condensers, but it was just way too “pretty” sounding.

Scream – raw

Sounds ok…. but definitely not where we want it. Its very muffled and bass heavy (as a result of him using a very close mic technique), hard to understand, and just not scary enough. First things first, let’s get some EQ cooking. In the picture below, you’ll see the fairly radical EQ I had to use to get rid of the bass and boost the highs. Notice the cut in the upper mids though. This was a critical part of the EQ (without it, everything was super harsh and painful).

EQ III on the scream

Now I had to even out the volume a bit. Rather than just volume automating every word (which of course there was some of, later in the mix), I used a CT-4 compressor, which ALL RTAS users should own. The added bonus is that the compressor will bring out the smaller details of the scream (aka the scary parts). I used a fairly common compressor setting.

Scream Compressor

With the EQ and compression, the scream was starting to cut, but it wasn’t starting to scare yet. Solution=Distortion. I actually ended up using two techniques: one on the track itself (the tape drive from Massey) and one as a bus send (Sans Amp from the Digi Factory Bundle). You can see the settings below. The Sans Amp could be substituted with any amp simulator and the tape saturater could be replaced with the iZotope Vinyl (which is free).

Scream Tape Sat


Scream Distortion (Bus Send)

Scream – processed

With those additions, I felt that the scream got to where we wanted it. Now here’s that raw scream processed and in the full mix.

Scream in the song

More to come


The Studio Files


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