The official website showcasing the music of Yellowgold, produced by Jason Howell.

Filtering by Category: Environment

Balancing between listening environments

The Neverending to-do list!

I had my Evernote to-do list down to one measely item on one single track before listening to the entire album this morning at the gym. And now, it looks like this!

I listen to these songs in a number of different ways. And each environment offers a different take on what I have to do. The tricky part is balancing these tasks between those environments. It's a challenge for sure.

  • I listen through my studio Mackie HR824's (but quite honestly, my current studio setup isn't the best for mixing situations, so I tend to do this less than I'd like.)
  • I listen through my AKG K-240 MKII (which tend to be a bit soft on the high end.)
  • I listen through my Sony MDR-7509's (which tend to reveal upper mid harshness VERY well. If it's harsh while wearing these, trust me, it's harsh. These are great for determining vocal parts that require De-Essing attention.)
  • I listen in my Prius stock stereo (exaggerated low end, flat on the highs.)
  • I listen in my Subaru Outback stock stereo (pretty decent imaging, actually, plus I've listened to SO MUCH MUSIC in this environment that it's second nature to know how it might translate.)
  • And today, I listened through my Bose MIE2i in-ear headphones at the gym, a noisy environment.

Each different location is a new opportunity to see what might need adjusting. In a perfect world, I'd be mixing and mastering in a perfectly tuned studio with adequately treated walls, sound paneling, while sitting in the perfect position centered between the speakers and out away from the desk, with no reflections yadda yadda yadda. But let's face it. I don't have the time nor the dough to throw at doing all of that to my little office space that acts as my studio. So what I'm left with is a number of different listening environments. And if I can strike a balance between the things that need to change within a track, and how those changes will sound in each environment, then I'm on to something. After a long enough time, I can get to a point where a track simply sounds good in all locations. THAT'S what I want.

So yeah. That list will likely empty and fill quite a few times over the next phase of the project, as I'm really trying to get to the finish line of production, and dive head first into the official mastering stage. Each adjustment takes time, too. Hell, just loading each project takes time, making the adjustments, bouncing the tracks, moving them over to dropbox, etc.

Also, think of it this way. At this point, I'm also really searching for the proper sequence of the tracks. Something that flows and doesn't jump around, both stylistically and harmonically. That's another entry in and of itself, but playing with the sequence gives me many opportunities to continue to find things to fix and add to the list.

Now, next I PROMISE to deliver on my promise from yesterday's post to talk about programming drums to source material that never had a click track to begin with. Look for that on Monday (unless a baby comes. Any day!!!)

Eliminate noise in your space

I am a noise freak. I kind of can't move on if I notice that there's extra noise, either in my production space or in the finished product. The best way to eliminate noise is always at the earliest point possible. Eliminating noise after the fact by messing with a digital file almost always comes with a cost: a diminished sound of whatever is on that track. If I take an acoustic guitar track that I've recorded and filter out hiss (the result of poor environment or mic placement), i am likely also altering the actual sound of the guitar in some way. Not always the best case scenario.

So, in my recording space, it means doing everything I can to get as pristine a signal from my mic as possible before I ever record anything that I wish to keep.

Machines of all types make noise. The most likely noise maker in a project studio like mine is my DAW. That little machine usually has a fan inside and that fan moves air (kind of the point) and that simple fact of physics means noise. My laptop, that charges on the desk next to my mic boom, makes noise too. If it's on while I'm recording with the mic, there is a very slight but discernible hum somewhere in the 60-120Hz range. Audible, but low level. Once I made that discovery, I started moving my laptop to the floor anytime I'm recording with the mic. The last thing I want to have to do is always run a high-pass on anything recorded using the mic. Unless of course it's something that I'd choose to do anyways. But that's kind of the point. I want the choice.

Mac Pro before

Mac Pro after

When I'm gearing up to record, my studio undergoes a little bit of a transformation, of which I'm including a few pictures. The cubby where my Mac Pro is housed gets covered by a thick couch cushion and thick blanket. I try not to keep this there for very long, just as long as the session, because I realize that the fan inside the computer actually has to work more with less free air hitting the computer. But doing this reduces the machine noise emanating from that corner of the room significantly. 

Door before

Door after

I also hang a large duvet from the door to the room to absorb extra noise and eliminate reflection. With the duvet off, I'm faced with a large reflective surface right behind where my microphone normally faces. So I toss the down comforter over the door and just that extra 30 seconds of preparation significantly improves the recorded sound.