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The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section
Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete
reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false
promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians
so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.
Virtual Instrument Recording - Tips For Professional Results
By James Treweek
If you search through many royalty free music libraries it won't take long before you come across
cheap midi sounds from the past 20 years of computer recording. With the sophisticated virtual
instruments available today this need not be the case and with enough care, these instruments
can sound impressive, musical and even move you.
Here's my tips to getting the most from virtual instruments:
Always think of how the real instrument would play:
You should learn as much as you can about the real instruments that you are emulating.
Think of how the musician might physically play a certain phrase as well as the range of
the instrument and which register sounds weak or particularly strong? What type of articulations
suit the instrument and perhaps where it may be positioned on stage.You should include the
inaccuracies that might occur with real instruments. It's easy to make computer music sound
too precise and in real life, this isn't always the case. The individual instruments of a
string section won't start or end a phrase at exactly the same time-it shouldn't sound messy,
but it should include a human element.
In order to create an effective string section it's essential to record each string line separately
(violins 1 and 2 (at least) and Viola, Cello, Double Bass) making sure that each line works melodically
in it's own way. Export the files individually to audio and carefully blend each string line together
and send these tracks to a separate mix bus. Now try recording the whole thing again using a string
quintet, using solo string samples as opposed to samples from a string section. Export the quintet
files to audio and send the quintet to another mix bus. You can now blend the more individual,
closer sound of the quintet, in with the full string section. The string section can now be
processed in the same way as if the real instruments had been recorded. This kind of attention
to detail simply wasn't possible using midi sounds and while this will never replace the beauty
of a real string section, it can produce truly impressive, moving music.
If you have a solo piano or a piano that's prominent in the mix then try exporting multiple
audio tracks and blending them in a similar way that a real piano would be recorded using
alternate microphone positions. Export a stereo version with room ambiance and another with
no room sound at all and in addition export 2 mono files (left and right, with or without
room sound). You can now mix them subtly together and pan the mono tracks wider than you hear
in the stereo export. Again, send all these tracks to a single mix bus so that you can control
them easily and with the subtle use of compression and reverb, you have a truly authentic sounding piano.
Bigger Kit Sounds:
A very effective production effect for the kit is the "New York compression" trick. This
involves sending the kit (and possibly bass) to an FX channel and compressing the sound
by 10db or more. Add some high end (6-10db around 10khz) and low end (6-10db around 100hz)
to the compressed signal (not the kit channel) and now bring the fader of the compressor up
so that you can just hear it alongside the original kit mix. This has the effect of padding
out the drums subtly and making them sound a little bigger than they were.Virtual Instrument Recording - Tips For Professional Results
It's well worth investing in a good quality reverb. The cheaper one's do tend to sound inferior.
Once you've spent your money, don't overuse use it! An immediate sign of an inexperienced producer
is the overuse of reverb. Remember what would happen in reality when adding artificial reverb.
Close sounds would have little, or no reverb, while instruments that are further away would have
more. Remember that you can EQ the reverb to alter the tone.
Compression and EQ:
An essential piece of hardware that has made life easier is the Focusrite "Liquid Mix". Packed
into the size of a hardback book it has 20 classic EQs and 40 compressors. With on board processing,
giving your computer a much-needed break you can call up desk emulations from famous studios from
both sides of the Atlantic. As well as sounding great and cutting the time down for mixing. The
essential ingredient for modern music is compression but be careful not to overuse it.If you're
after that modern "in your face" sound then a multi-band compressor is essential. This acts on
the stereo master signal and compresses different frequencies as if they had they're own compressors
acting upon them. The effect is to bring the apparent volume of the entire track up and make it
sound much more alive and colourful. In my mind this is the single most obvious difference between
a professional mix and an amateur production.
You can see from these recording tips that there's just no excuse for tired, old royalty free
music sounds. It all depends on the effort that goes into it.
About the Author:
James Treweek is a freelance pianist, arranger and composer and has worked with most of the UK's
top Jazz musicians. He runs smartassmusic.com producing written music arrangements, transcriptions,
production music and royalty free music.
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