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Did Modern Music Ruin Feel and Vibe | FAQ Friday

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Hello, everybody, hope you’re doing marvelously well. We’re back with another Frequently Asked Questions, which I believe is called FAQ Friday. FAQ. I don’t want to get us banned for saying a word that we didn’t say.

Anyway, as ever, please subscribe if you haven’t already. You can go to producelikeapro.com and sign up for the email list and get a whole bunch of free goodies, which include drum samples, and sessions, and all kinds of fun stuff.

So let’s get stuck in. Our first question in this.

Can you let me know what small console you use to record drums through?

That’s a great question. It is a CADAC console. It came from Pi Studios. It was built in I believe 1971, and we had it completely rebuilt a few years ago. Actually, quite a few years ago, I spent a lot of money having it rebuilt. Beautiful sounding console. Michael Stucker rebuilt it as well — actually, I had two people rebuild it. The first person who rebuilt it, it didn’t work. Didn’t work at all.

So Michael Stucker, who’s at Indiana University, who’s the guy that we designed the UK Sound 1173 with rebuilt it again from scratch, and did an incredible job. So thank you, Michael. That’s what it is. It’s a great sounding console, and it’s what I use to not only record drums, but also sum mixes through quite often. It has an incredible sound.

What is your all time favorite drum mic?

I mean, it’s going to be as obvious as this, an SM57. I mean, we proved that with doing the Van Halen recreation. An SM57 can be used on anywhere. Toms, snare top, snare bottom, you can use it on hi-hat, I frequently do, you can put it anywhere. An SM57, a good quality dynamic microphone, can be used for almost anything, and I would lie to say that it’s anything else.

Look, of course, three U67s, three 47s in a Glynn Johns technique, that’s amazing, it could be an all time favorite drum mic, but an SM57 is a phenomenal dynamic microphone. There are other cheaper and different versions as well, but ultimately, the 57 is one mic that I cannot escape from. It gets used on drums everywhere, it gets used on guitars, you name it, it’s an incredibly versatile, affordable microphone.

And as Eddie Kramer told us, the predecessor to that was used everywhere at Woodstock, and it was the only mic they used to record with.

Modern music is also heavily relying on click track and would rob some of the vibe and feel that the old 60’s and 70’s music had. What are your thoughts on that?

Well, I think that some kinds of modern music. The reality is, we live in this incredible world now where there’s so many wonderful genres from extremes, like EDM, programmed music, Hip Hop, pure Pop music definitely revolves around heavily gridded, heavily tuned, heavily timed music. Then there’s full blown organic, acoustic guitar/vocal, one microphone… Those are the two kind of opposites, then everything in between.

There’s some heavy rock, the super metal stuff is super gridded, super played and performed, and all in between. There is no one style. There’s many, many heavy rock bands that don’t play with clicks. They don’t use samples and don’t get tuned. So there’s no real answer to that question for me, because that’s sort of assuming there’s only purely gridded music, and then everything that isn’t.

I feel like we live in a world now, and you can see this from the live video we did yesterday on Thursday. Check it out. That is not gridded. There’s not a single grid. I actually created a tempo map from the drummer. Then, if I had to edit, I edit it to his kick and snare quickly by having a tempo map that was created from it.

So, there is no right or wrong way of doing things. There’s so many different ways of doing things for me, I feel like I have to know all of those things. So sometimes, it needs to be, or feels like it should be super, super tight. Other times, it feels like you should be tracking with no click. So my feeling is, learn all the different techniques, then apply the right technique for the song. Whatever feels right for the song is what should win.

Question about drum panning: Do you like player’s perspective or audience’s?

I like audience’s. This is such a simple answer, because I’m not primarily a drummer. I do play drums, but I grew up as a guitar player who learned to play drums, so I always think of it as listening to a band going to the show, all of that stuff, and most of the records I listened to as a kid were usually, not always, but usually from audience’s perspective based on a live show.

Now, as music has gotten more modern and more produced, I’ve noticed obviously, there’s a lot of great drummers now that are also producers and mixers, the drummers I work with are producers and mixers, always make their records from the drummers perspective. So that’s a tough one. Piano playing is usually done from piano player’s perspective, mixing is usually done from a live perspective, but there’s no rules. I think both are okay. It is okay.

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Plus, you could be doing it with a left handed drummer. So there’s no real answer. You know? Drummers play left handed, and you could be doing audience perspective from a left handed drummer’s perspective.

There’s no right or wrong answer with that. Whatever you want to do, whatever feels good to you, whatever makes the song great. No one is going to listen to a song and go, “Oh, the hi-hat is on the wrong side.” It’s just not going to happen. It’s just going to be, “Does it sound really good?” That’s all that matters.

Is it a bad idea to add plugins to your master fader?

No, it’s not a bad idea, just don’t load so many things on your master fader. You know, like compression, EQ, limiting, compression, EQ, limiting, limiting, compression, blah blah blah, multiband compression, dynamic compression. You put all of that on, you are defeating the purpose of mixing. When you turn something up, it just gets squashed back down, you bring up some high mids, the multiband compressor controls it. All of this makes mixes dull and flat and unexciting.

As we’ve been doing in the live streams recently, and so please check them out, we’ve been moving away from that top down approach — I know that’s very popular to talk about on YouTube, because it’s an easy solution, but it’s not how great mixers mix. Great mixers mix by creating great vocal sounds, great drum sounds, great piano sounds, great keyboard sounds, great string sounds, and bringing them together, and when there’s a low mid build up, they find where that build up is. They don’t just reduce the low mids on the master buss. That is mastering. That’s the last ditch thing.

We just did a drum mix yesterday in the live string, summed everything together, and it had too many low mids. So then, on my drums, then I brought down the low mids, and it sounded good sometimes, but generically, it didn’t make the drums sound good, so then I went back to the drums, and individually removed low mid on individual elements. In the overheads, in the room mics, in the kick drum.

When I started pulling that out, I bussed it back together and I listened to it and went, “Wow, this sounds so much better than just generically doing it on just the buss.”

Same problem. Don’t do it just on your master fader. That is what you do as a last resort. You should be looking for the low mid issues and other issues on individual elements before they get to your master buss. So yes, I do use EQ and compression on my master buss, but I use a gentle amount of compression, a gentle amount of EQ, and maybe some limiting to get level at the very end, but I’m very conscious of how I’m hitting that. That shouldn’t be solving my problems, it should actually be complimenting.

I might do a little extra 60 on the mix just to bring up the kick, a little 10-12kHz just to add some brightness, but I’m not sitting there doing tons and tons of stuff on the master buss unless I’ve got major problems, and if I’ve got major problems, I should be solving them in my mix before I get to the master buss.

What are your thoughts on vinyl emulation?

I don’t really have any major thoughts on that. I haven’t really tried that. I remember there was that vinyl plugin of old that added, [mimics vinyl crackle] and all that stuff. That was kind of fun. I think every mastering engineer that masters for vinyl, all the big ones like Pete Lyman, and [inaudible], and anybody that’s doing stuff for vinyl always says that vinyl — you know, Howie Weinberg was explaining this when I was talking to him. Mastering for vinyl was always compromising the mixes they were getting.

They would have to shave off the low end because it couldn’t be reproduced, the stylus would jump out of the groove, they were always compromising the master tapes that were being heard in the studio. Quite often, I’ve spoken to guys like Shelley and Jack and all of these guys, in the 70’s, they’d put on an album, and they’d be disappointed, because the mix would have some of the high highs they put on there removed, have some of the low lows, and even with the RIAA curve, it wasn’t quite what they experienced in the studio.

So we love vinyl. All of us love vinyl. There’s something romantic about it, there’s something wonderful about having a 12” gatefold sleeve, and seeing photos, and credits, and lyrics. I love it all.

However, vinyl emulation is an interesting perspective. People can fight about this all they want down below, personally, I want my mix to have all the broad, 20 to 20kHz. 20Hz to 20kHz. I want it all in there, I don’t want to restrict it. But that’s just me.

But I think that’s a better way. Even the mastering engineers I know that master for vinyl would agree with that, and often say it, but there’s just something about a vinyl that’s got a different experience. We love it because of the experience of bringing out that 12”, putting it on, putting the stylus on, sitting back with the gatefold sleeve, reading all the credits, listening to music, looking at the huge photos of the band, all of that stuff we love, and that is more important to me than having an emulation. Personally speaking.

Not that I wouldn’t try a plugin like that, I just haven’t felt like I wanted to yet. Maybe I will.

Alright, thanks ever so much everybody, I really appreciate it. Have a marvelous time recording and mixing. Please leave a whole bunch of comments and questions below, subscribe if you haven’t already, and have a marvelous time… Just have a marvelous time. Goodbye!

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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