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Looking for that "finished" sound??? HELP!!

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  • Looking for that "finished" sound??? HELP!!

    OK, so I have my song finished and recorded in Cakewalk. Vocals, guitar, bass and drums. It sounds good, but how do I get that warm finished sound. I know I have to do some type of final mix down or something?? Do I have to run the entire song "all tracks" through some process??? Does this even make sence? Thanks for you help.
    :rolleyes:

  • #2
    Originally posted by Jgel:
    OK, so I have my song finished and recorded in Cakewalk. Vocals, guitar, bass and drums. It sounds good, but how do I get that warm finished sound. I know I have to do some type of final mix down or something?? Do I have to run the entire song "all tracks" through some process??? Does this even make sence? Thanks for you help.
    Yes, man, sorta. It is commonly referred to as "mastering". And it is so broad a topic, that not even my long winded self could put a dent in it. The real equipment to do it well is very expensive, but you can go a long way with some basic gear/software. A good place to start would be to some reading up on the general subject to get an overview. Avoid anything too detailed. Search some of the audio/recording sites using the keyword "mastering". Here is a starting point: http://www.digido.com

    If you want to post what you have so far here (if you're able) maybe some of us can point you in a direction, but what to do will vary greatly based on the type of music you are doing, what you have down in the mix, the equipment and software at your disposal, your idea of what you want, etc.

    Man that's a broad subject. Best to give a better idea of what you have down sound wise (hearing it if at all possible is preferable) as suggested and describe what you want from there in as much detail as possible. For instance, what do you mean by warm? Do you mean that your sound is rather crisp and digital and you want it to sound more analog? Do you mean it is too flat? Too muddy?

    By the way, as an initial caution, you will see a lot of talk about compression if you do some reading on this subject, DO NOT OVERCOMPRESS. That is by far the most common error made throughout the recording process (IMO), and even moreso during mastering.


    [This message has been edited by dr. kildrum (edited December 04, 2001).]

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    • #3
      Big ditto on what the Doctor says. Goodness knows I'm no expert, but to give a quick & dirty, "mastering" is a process where your overall mix (2-channel stereo final mix) is further processed to give it that "finished and polished" sound.

      Mastering usually involves using an RTA spectrum analyzer to find frequencies that either stick out too much or not enough, and doing some overall EQ'ing to your mix. As in everything with mastering, moderation is the key. Don't eq it to sound like your home stereo; I suggest using a CD from a band who sounds the way you want to with a similar music style & instrumentation as a template. Refer back & forth between your mix and the template CD often during the process.

      Other things occur in mastering, such as compression, but like the Doc says, better too little than too much in this regard. Listen for "pumping" in the compression, and make sure everything sounds NATURAL. Mastering houses use multi-band tube compressors costing thousands of dollars, so don't expect the same results at home.

      Many other things can be done during mastering, like stereo field separation, tube saturation, phase processing (like BBE/Aphex, etc.), volume maximization and hard limiting, and other effects as well. I usually hate this saying, but in this case it really applies: "Less is more." Don't overdo it, and take your time.

      Read as much as you can on the subject, and then get in there and start playing around with it. It is considered by some as sort of a black art, but some simple mastering can be done with most home studio setups. Have fun!

      -Danny
      -Danny

      Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

      Comment


      • #4
        From my humble experience, it is very much possible to acheive a very finished sound at home, right in Cakewalk. Just try to make the best possible use of real-time plug-ins. Get 'em from the net. Try lots of them. Try a hundred of them with a hundred of different settings each. Tweak around a whole lot. Try to remember settings that satisfy you (so you could reuse them in your next project). You will be gradually but steadily approaching that ideal sound you're looking for. It's there. Just dig around a whole lot. And try everything.
        I sold all my V-drums!!! I can bet you this is only temporary, though.

        Comment


        • #5
          Well it looks like I have a lot of reading to do TO give you an idea of what I am trying to do and what I have and so on....

          I run Cakewalk Pro Audio 7 (I know it is getting old, but it does what I needed it to do SO FAR??) I use the Sound Blaster Live Plat. card with the live drive. A normal projuct for me would be 2 or 3 vocal tracks. 1 or 2 guitars. 1 Bass, and a drum track. I play just your standard rock/acoustic rock. Nothing really too heavy. Up to this point I have done ALL the effects on the vocals and guitars as I am recording the track (nothing is done once the track is recorded). I do this, because I never figured out plug-ins and was use to doing this way in my old 4 track days.
          But that is about it. The finished sound I get it good...not great. Levels and things are fine, but the sound is very......bright (best word I guess) and unfinished. My songs sound OK, but they don't sound like they were done in a studio. They do not have that warm sound that I hear on cd's. I am looking for a warm....full sound. I am going for a Toad the Wet, Tonic, Jars of Clay, Fuel "finished" sound. From the sounds of it comprssion might be part of what I am looking for.
          So, are cakewalk plug-ins the first place to start?? I have never used these before. As I said, I just kind of use Cakewalk like an audio 8 track and that is about it. I know that there is MUCH more I can do, that is why I made my origional post. So I hope with this info you might be able to help me figure this out and start me down the correct path. Anyway, thanks for your posts so far.
          Jason
          :rolleyes:

          Comment


          • #6
            Jgel,

            Thanks for the additional info. I think it gives a clearer picture of what your're asking. I still recommend posting a MP3 if you are able, to get the most specific recommendations possible, but here are a couple of things to consider.

            Plugins are invaluable. Learn to incorporate them. Some are better than others as indicated above, find what works for your ear.

            I would also consider moving away from recording individual parts with the effects like you describe. Your setup now is much more sophisticated than your old 4 track. Take advantage of it. With a 4 track it is a good idea to get everything you can on a track to optimize use of those precious tracks. "Bouncing" tracks together always resulted in such hassles and loss of quality that it was to be avoided. Not so in your digital domain now. Forget all that. If you like your outboard effects, no problem, continue to use them, but record the dry signal (vocal, guitar whatever) on a track by itself and the effected stuff on another track. You can then experiment with using plugins on either. You may find that you can add the same effects to the dry track with plugins but get a very different (sometimes better, sometimes not) result. In the end, you will be able to mix whatever level(s) of dry and the various effected versions of each instrument to your exact preference. And it is usually better to not have 3, 4, 5, etc. separate reverbs on separate tracks or reverb over reverb or the like.

            With respect to "brightness" this is a common complaint with the early results of digital recording. This is one side effect of keeping all your signals so clean. Not to worry. Mastering is where this can now be addressed. The opposite result you got in the 4 track world is almost impossible to fix, this is not. Gentle compression may help, but I would also consider looking at whatever mastering tools (analyzers, etc.) that Cake may come with (if any, sorry not familiar with Cakewalk very much). Or look for plugins that do these things. In particular, look for something that will overdrive (yes believe it or not) your signal a little and/or something that will simulate tape saturation. This with gentle compression and good eq and mixing may do the trick.

            A sonic maximizer usually adds what people describe as punch and brightness. Based on what you are saying you might logically read the description and dismiss using one, so I will mention that you may still find one useful. Once you have your levels smoothed out after performing an analysis, and are all set to apply varying levels of compression, overdriving and tape saturation simulation, experiment away. Then plug in a sonic maximizer and see what it does...with it in the mix, try adding even more tape saturation than sounded acceptable before, etc.

            You're right about the reading being the place to start. Let us know how it develops.

            Comment


            • #7
              OK, where or how can I post a MP3 so you guys can take a listen????
              :rolleyes:

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jgel:
                OK, where or how can I post a MP3 so you guys can take a listen????
                Towards the end of this thread, http://www.vdrums.com/discussion/For...ML/001164.html Dan gives szvook some good info on how to do just that.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Jgel, I found www.javamusic.com to be quite fast and easy to get your tracks up and itís 100% free.

                  ------------------
                  szvook
                  Studio

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Just a couple of thoughts,

                    Recording a professional sounding track isn't all that easy. You want your stuff to sound as polished as the major label artists, but you gotta remember that they are recording with the best equipment out there. Even more importantly, their stuff is being engineered, mixed, and mastered by guys who know what to LISTEN for. Thats all they do, and its a skill and art on par with playing any musical instrument. Learning the fine art of recording takes as much study, practice, and experimentation as learning to play guitar or drums or singing. That being said, the beauty of computer based systems is you get to learn and practice this stuff without having to spend the enormous amount of money you used to.

                    Some of this has been covered before, but here goes:

                    1.MONITORS: Get a decent pair of studio monitors. I can't stress this enough. You can't trust a mix done on headphones or home stereo speakers. You'll end up mixing and eq'ing to compensate for their deficiencies.
                    If you aren't hearing a true representation of whats getting recorded, everything else is a guessing game.

                    2.A DECENT MICROPHONE: You probably only need one if you're using e-drums. It sounds like you do a lot of vocals and acoustic guitars. A nice condenser mic will give you great sounds to "tape" that will require less tweaking later on. If your on a budget, an SM 57 will do, and is great on guitar amps. Speaking of amps, those Line 6 PODs are fantastic. I don't even use my amps to record anymore.

                    3.RECORD DRY: It's been mentioned before, but the idea is to get a good solid dry track first. That reverb that sounds great on the vocal by itself may very well sound totally goofy when the other instruments are added in. And if you've already recorded the effect you can't get rid of it. Stop thinking 4-track. You have the technology now. That's what plug-ins are for. And they're not that complicated.

                    4.COMPRESSION: Compression is like salt. A little is good, sometimes even necessary, but too much ruins the flavor.

                    5.EQ: The most basic of all processing. It's what's for dinner. By boosting or cutting certain frequencies you can dramatically change your mix. The importance of eq can not be over-rated.

                    6.LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN: and then listen some more. You want your track to sound like Fuel? Listen to the album. Where does everything sit in the stereo field? What kind of reverb is on the snare drum? What about the vocal? What frequencies are prominent? The answers are there if you listen.

                    7.MASTERING: A very involved subject indeed. And very misunderstood. Good mastering can really do wonders to get that polished, "finished", sound. But don't expect miracles. It's not a substitute for good tracking, mixing, and eq'ing. Getting it 99% there BEFORE you master is the goal.

                    Like dr. kildrum said, this subject is way too complicated to cover in a simple post. I suggest checking out www.homerecording.com . It's a good starting point. Then you can check out some of the other recording forums.
                    And get your stuff posted so we can LISTEN.

                    Good luck,

                    Johnny

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Jgel:
                      OK, where or how can I post a MP3 so you guys can take a listen????
                      Post it to my FTP site which is featured as a link on my regular site at:
                      http://cyberjam.cjb.net/

                      Put it up and we will listen!


                      Kelly Mercer
                      Halifax, Nova Scotia
                      Canada

                      My Youtube Channel!
                      http://www.youtube.com/user/VirtualMP3Studio

                      My "home studio" webcam!
                      http://virtualmp3studio.ww.com/

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cyberjam:
                        Post it to my FTP site which is featured as a link on my regular site at:
                        http://cyberjam.cjb.net/

                        Put it up and we will listen!

                        Nice site...good use of frontpage....

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          [/b][/QUOTE]
                          Nice site...good use of frontpage....

                          [/B][/QUOTE]

                          Thanks. I keep it pretty simple to make it load faster. The only trouble is not everyone hears the small drum loop in the background (created by me and my kit).

                          I will create a flashy high speed site someday!
                          Kelly Mercer
                          Halifax, Nova Scotia
                          Canada

                          My Youtube Channel!
                          http://www.youtube.com/user/VirtualMP3Studio

                          My "home studio" webcam!
                          http://virtualmp3studio.ww.com/

                          Comment

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