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Archive for August, 2007

10 Signs Your Track is Amateur

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007


We’ve all experienced it: 3 seconds into a track you’ve never heard, you know instinctively that it was recorded and mixed in someone’s bedroom.

Amateur recordings often sound “amateur.” But what differentiates these hometracked opuses from professional recordings? It’s not just fidelity or sonic quality: Many competent engineers produce lo-fi or distorted mixes on purpose, when it suits the song. Rather, amateur recordings tend to share some key traits, telltale signs that the mixing and recording are the work of a novice.

You can learn to recognize and address these traits in your own recordings, and produce more polished, professional mixes:


Equalization: A basic overview

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007


adapted from

I have read comments that compression is the most misunderstood audio process but I really think it is equalization. It might be the most over and under used audio processing tool at the same time. What complicates the matter is factors intrinsic to our humanity. We perceive different frequencies different ways. Some frequencies will sound louder or quieter than their actual volume. This is why some audio hardware has a “loudness” button. Most people will try to improve sounds by boosting frequencies. But EQ is a sculpting process. The best result will be attained by boosting and cutting. You can accentuate one frequency by reducing another frequency , and it not make the sound muddy. Following is a basic overview of the spectrum of audible frequencies.

20-40hz: Edge of human range of unwanted rumble often complete removed.
40-80hz: Sub-bass or “feel” of bass. Can add low end kick or over power mix. Is not produced by small speakers..
80-250hz: Bass 100-200hz can be boosted to add fullness or cut to reduce boomy sounds.
250-600hz: Fullness or some vocals and percussion. The cardboard box sound of kick drum is around 300-400hz.
600-4khz: Midrange all too easy to add mud. 800hz is where the “cheap” sound comes from. 2k-4khz is where the attack of most percussion and some other instruments reside.
4-6khz: The “presence” range that determines how far out in front of the mix vocals sound. Can easily become grating.
7khz: The nasty realm of sibilance, the unwanted “s” hiss
8-20khz: This is the range of “air” or “brilliance”, and its presence adds sparkle.

Pseudo-granular synthesis in Reason

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

Granular synthesis is the creation of sound by taking tiny slices of audio from another source and playing them back really quickly. Here’s a handy trick for chopping up samples into pieces without ever leaving Reason. First, create a Redrum drum computer. Next, notice that the function of the bottom left knob in the Redrum varies depending on the channel number. In the third, fourth, and fifth channels, the function is “START”. What this does is alter the starting point in the sound file that you have loaded. So, load up any sound file of your choice (vocal sounds are good) into channel 3, 4 or 5. Then turn Channel 3’s length knob to the left. You want the sound to be just a short burst. Next, while holding Shift, right click (or command click for mac users) on an empty space in the rack. Select “Matrix Pattern Sequencer”. Now, flip the rack around with the Tab key, and then drag a cable from “Gate CV” on the Matrix to “Gate In” on the Redrum. Flip back around again, and then press the Run button on the Matrix. You shuld now hear a stuttering sound. Now play with the Start knob and you will hear the effect we were looking for. Now you can record the automation of the start knob (make sure the Record button next to “Redrum 1” on the sequencer is lit up red, hit record and then press play). Go wild with the pitch and the start time, and you should get some cool sounds. Even cooler: play with the Resolution knob in the matrix to adjust the speed of gate triggering.


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