I'm very pleased to have mastered The Greatest Gift mixtape for Sufjan, in addition to a couple new songs he contributed to the film Call Me By Your Name. Check out videos for two new songs I worked on below.
I recently released my first drum sample library, and several people who are new to sampling and MIDI have inquired about how they could go about using them.
These samples are 24 bit stereo WAV files. Most DAW applications record in WAV or AIF, and they all can read both formats. WAV and AIF are raw, uncompressed audio formats. This means that there's no loss in audio quality, as opposed to MP3, which sacrifices audio resolution in favor of smaller file sizes.
1. Drop the files directly onto the grid
The simplest way to use samples is to simply drop the sounds directly into audio tracks. Create a track for each drum and place the samples where you want them within the measure. This doesn't require using MIDI or software instruments. You can treat the sounds just like you would any audio in your song project.
There's no disadvantage to this approach, although it can be a bit slow.
2. Use a drum machine instrument/plugin
If you use MIDI and some kind of software instrument, you can perform the drums with a keyboard or other MIDI controller.
A drum machine plugin has a container for each drum sound, and often some kind of step sequencer interface for creating beats. One big advantage to this approach is you only need one MIDI track for an entire drum kit. Each "note" that you play on the keyboard or MIDI controller triggers an individual drum sound.
3. Use a sampler instrument/plugin
This approach is like a hybrid of numbers 1 & 2. A sampler plugin is what you use anytime you play an artificial piano or organ sound in your DAW. Every time you press a key, you're playing back a pre-recorded WAV file of a sound via the sampler instrument.
If you instantiate a MIDI track and sampler instrument for each drum sound you want to use, then load a drum sample into each sampler, you can easily perform or draw the MIDI for each drum track. If you want to get fancy, you can use "multisample" configuration wherein you use one track and assign a different sample to each note. That way you could control the entire drum kit with one MIDI track, similar to #2.
4. Use a drum replacer plugin
Nowadays, many records feature acoustic drum performances enhanced or replaced with drum samples. A plugin like Drumagog is inserted on, for instance, a pre-recorded snare drum track. Looking ahead, the plugin detects the transient for each snare hit and alongside it (or instead of it), plays the drum sample. The timing and dynamics of the original performance are preserved, but the sound is replaced.
Hopefully, this post gives you the info you need to get started. Good luck!
Electric guitars are fun to collect. There are so many classic models, and new boutique builders are popping up all the time. The two primary characteristics are tone and playability. The biggest determining factor when it comes to tone is the pickups.
When it comes to pickups, there are two primary classic categories: single coil and humbuckers. Most pickups are constructed by wrapping wire around a magnet. When the guitar string vibrates, it induces the pickup to generate an electromagnetic signal. A single coil pickup has a well-defined tone but can be noisy and harsh at times. A humbucking pickup essentially combines two single coils in such a way to cancel out the noise. It also has a side effect of a more compressed, fuller sound, and often has a higher output.
I'd recommend having a selection of single coil and humbucking guitars. Here are my choices:
Humbuckers: Gibson SG
The SG is a classic, probably made most famous by Angus Young of AC/DC. It's a beautiful guitar, and it's a joy to play. It's slightly unbalanced (neck-heavy) but it's light overall. Gibson's 57 Classic humbucking pickups are on lots of your favorite records. For heavy music, an SG is often paired with a Marshall amp, but they sound amazing with Fenders and Vox's as well. Below is a video of me playing my 2004 '61 reissue with Lo Tom, through David Bazan's Benson Monarch combo amp on the "British" setting (more of a Vox amp vibe).
Single Coils: Telecaster
Tele's and Strats are the quintessential single coil guitars. I prefer Tele's for the most part. Telecasters excel in situations where the guitar needs to cut through the mix, and you're looking for either a clean sound, or something just slightly overdriven. You'll hear Telecasters in a lot of country music and indie rock from the 90's and early 2000's.
Below is a video of Mike Campbell showcasing his Fender Custom Shop Telecaster (the Telecaster was originally called the Broadcaster. Fender soon renamed it to sound more modern, due to the emergence of television).
P-90 (Single Coil): Les Paul Junior
The first Les Pauls had P-90's because humbuckers hadn't been invented yet. Gibson still makes a P-90 Les Paul called the Junior. P-90's are also single coil pickups, but they sound much different than Strat and Tele pickups. They are larger than most single coil pickups and bring way more growl and aggression to the tone. Mick Jones from the Clash is one of the most famous players of the Junior.
Here's a video of Doug and Pat comparing modern Juniors to more valuable vintage Juniors.
If you have these three guitars on your wall, you can really cover a lot of bases, and you can have a lot of fun.
I'm a big fan of making decisions early in the recording process. I like to commit to sounds and effects. But it's also smart to have a backup plan in case something goes wrong, or the unexpected happens. The vibe of a song can change late in the game, and you don't want to be stuck with 4 tracks of fuzzed out guitar when the song turns into a jangly pop tune in the eleventh hour. Maybe the guitar player has finished his tracks and he just left on a 2 week vacation. You're stuck treading water until he gets back.
The best way to avoid this situation is to always record a direct guitar signal in addition to the microphone at the amplifier. That way you can go back and reamp the same guitar and performance without forcing the player to get another great take. Recording both the DI and the mic'd amp has always been a common practice for bass, but I find it very helpful for guitar as well.
Any decent DI box will have a "thru" output, meaning it has a 1/4" instrument cable output in addition to a balanced XLR output. Plug your guitar into the DI box, send the XLR out to a preamp & audio interface input, and use an instrument cable to connect the "thru" output to your guitar amp. Mic up and record the amp as well.
This way, you end up with 2 guitar tracks: one mic at the amp and one direct guitar signal. You may not need the direct signal at all, but you if the amp'd track is not working, you can slap an amp/cab emulation plugin on the direct track, or use a reamp box to send it to a different amp with new pedals, and record that.
I like Radial products for this purpose:
Give it a shot - it will probably save you a few headaches, and it may even open up new creative possibilities.
Singing in the studio is difficult! Most singers experience anxiety when tracking vocals. You can feel like your performance is being examined under a microscope, and the whole situation can feel sterile. Here's three things you can do to improve the chances of getting a great performance.
1. Ditch the headphones.
For some reason, it can be difficult to find the right pitch and delivery when singing with headphones on. It might be the fact that you're used to hearing your voice in the air within a room, or it might be the fact that finding a tonal and volume balance between the voice and the mix is easier in a space.
Try singing while monitoring off the speakers. Make sure to mute or turn down your vocals to eliminate feedback.
2. Use a hand-held dynamic microphone.
As you can see in the photo above, Bono is using an SM58 and not wearing headphones. Dynamic microphones tend to have better off-axis rejection, so there will be less bleed. Give this a try. Holding the mic in your hand puts you at ease, and it's easy to adjust your distance from the mic without having to step away. You also eliminate the pop filter. It's just you and the microphone.
Recommended hand-held vocal mics:
3. Record a guide track with piano or synth.
If you're having a difficult time finding the pitch or hitting the notes, record the melody on a keyboard and use it as a guide to sing along with. It can make a big difference.
In the age of the DAW, it’s hard to resist throwing every idea at the wall and trying to make sense of it later. But that can be real a bummer. Limitations foster creativity. Limiting your track count is a great way to focus and keep things exciting. It also forces you to work harder on the individual parts and the overall arrangement. Here’s seven ways to do it.
Think before you act! Do you need that banjo part? Can you live without the tamborine in the chorus? Just pretend you’re working on a 4 track.
2. Minimal mic’ing techniques
Try using one microphone per instrument. Or two, for a stereo signal. Don’t stick three mics on a guitar amp. One is enough.
If you decide to use 8 mic’s on a drum kit, do a sub mix and print it to a stereo track before you move on to the next overdub. You can keep the original tracks in a backup session file, but moving forward, you’re working with a single track for drums or backing vocals or whatever.
4. Print effects
If you want reverb on the vocal, choose the sound and just print it! You don’t have to do it while tracking, but you can do it right after.
5. Don’t double
Don’t double that guitar part. Don’t double that vocal. Just don’t do it. Put that saved time into improving the arrangement.
6. Shared effects returns
If you have a bunch of tracks that you think should sound like they’re in a cave, use the same aux send to the same plate reverb effects return. This is a classy, old-school move.
7. Don’t comp vocals
Fix vocal takes as you go along, or just sing the song all the way through. Comping is for wimps.
Quit screwing around. Make some music.