Multi-track Studio Work
Lecturers - Geoff Allan and Magnus Collie
The studio side of the course is delivered in three modules over the course of the year, these are:
Sound Production Practice
LO1: Demonstrate the correct procedure for connecting audio systems. (Covered by the Studio Schematic)
LO2: Demonstrate the correct procedure for testing audio systems. (Covered by the Studio Ticket)
LO3: Demonstrate the correct process for recording audio signals from various sources. (Covered by the Studio Ticket)
Unit Outcome: Engineer the production of multi-track recordings. (Covered by the Studio Diary)
LO1: Demonstrate an understanding of the art and science of mixing. (Covered by the critical listening essay)
LO2: Mix-down a multi-track recording incorporating signal processing techniques. (Covered by our three mastered mixes and essay)
LO3: Develop an understanding of, and utilise current mix-down formats. (Covered by our three mastered mixes and essay)
LO4: Create and edit a mix-down master. (Covered by our three mastered mixes and essay)
Sound Production Practice
Though Sound Production Practice is a distinct module, it was delivered simultaneously with multi-track recording.
During one of our classes, Nick Green (Course Leader for Audio Engineering) came in and talked us through the correct way to create a studio schematic diagram. We covered the different level that signals travel at (Mic, Line and High) and looked at the purpose of the HD/DA (HDX) (Converting the analogue signal from the desk to a digital signal for the computer to understand, then converting back to an analogue signal to allow us to monitor the audio). My Studio Schematic Diagram can be found below.
The studio ticket is designed to ensure we are suitably experienced to use the studio equipment unsupervised, and that we are safe in doing so. A copy of the Studio Ticket can be found below.
Essentially, we had to establish an audio signal, route it correctly, establish audio in the headphones, set up an auxiliary send with reverb and send it to the headphones (using the patch bay), and then record to ProTools. I then correctly powered down the system. Throughout all this, I had to adhere to and observe correct procedures and Health and Safety.
Throughout the course, in studio and live classes, I used good practices. Examples of this include; correctly coiling cables, correctly putting microphones onto stands and then storing them correctly at the end of the session/gig, ensuring cable runs are tidy and adhere with current H&S Legislation, ensuring that walkways are clear, ensuring that flightcases do not have any parts protruding from them and being generally being courteous and fair to colleagues and lecturers. This will assist me in live work, as presentation along with meeting health and safety criteria are two key elements of running live sound.
In this module, we covered mic choice for different instruments (complementing our Sound Production Theory lectures), as well as employing stereo microphone techniques, looking into microphone placement and the advantages and disadvantages of different microphone placements. We also employed techniques from Sound Production Practice in keeping the live room tidy, ensuring cable runs were neat and being courteous and helpful to whoever was being recorded.
Throughout the first semester, we welcomed a number of bands and artists into the College, as well as recording our classmates. 4 of these sessions, along with technical information and an analysis on the session we had with 'PYRO!' can be found in the studio diary below.
This unit contributed hugely to my general knowledge of mic placement, as well as ways to eliminate spill, and working with others - all of which are easily transferrable to the live environment.
We focussed on Multi-Track Mixing in Semester 2. Having to produce two essays and three complete mixes by mid-May made it slightly challenging, but it was hugely enjoyable nonetheless. This unit helped my mixing ear hugely, as well as my understanding of different processes, which I will carry across to my live work and employ as and when needed.
Critical Listening Essay
We were asked to produce an essay analysing; mixing and engineering techniques, production techniques and the role of the mix down engineer. I decided to write this essay about the song 'Iron Sky' by Scottish artist, Paolo Nutini as I find the song emotionally engaging as well as enjoying and being intrigued by the production techniques employed. The full essay can be accessed at the bottom of this page.
Three Mastered Mixes and an Essay
For this section, we were introduced to mixing techniques and processes such as use of compression, equalisation, reverb and delay, gates and limiters. As is evidenced below, I used a lot of the aforementioned processes and effects on my multi-track mixes. All three mixes can be found below.
We then covered the mastering process, as well as file management The mastering process for all 3 tracks is evidenced below. The mastering chain should be as follows:
EQ: Take the things that you don't like out, cleaning up the low end (sub-30Hz).
Compression: A slight compression should be applied, helping to enhance any quieter nuances in the track, as well as reducing the dynamic range of the track so that transients are not too harsh.
EQ: Additional EQ, emphasising certain elements of the tracks by 1/2dB
Stereo Width: Adding more stereo width to help the listener really immerse themselves in the track.
Limiter: Limit to -1dB to prevent clipping n MP3 File Formats.
Throughout the process, I ensured all files were logically named, that they were stored on the music drive and my portable hard drive. The mastered tracks were named as follows (using 'Two Bare Hands' as an example):
For my essay, I will be writing about 'Two Bare Hands'. The essay is designed to serve as an evaluation of the track overall, specifically looking at the production techniques employed (and their effectiveness), the balance of the mix, and the mastering processes.