This entry was originally posted in the discussion forums of MMS 172 last 2015 in the hopes of guiding students to properly execute one of their assignments. Unfortunately, almost nobody read this. I hope the future classes do.
I recorded a demonstration of how I would typically approach multitracking. The video clocks in at nearly 19 minutes, as I attempted to explain as much of what was going on as I could. So, if you’re interested to watch, please be patient. Even so, there were a lot of things left out. I will try and supplement the video with additional posts here, but the best way to pin-point what are essential is if you ask what you want to know about, specifically.
Below is the list of software plugins that I used:
- EZDrummer 2
- BIAS FX
The latter two are free and built into my DAW Software, Reaper, which I recommend for anyone who feels Audacity, Audition or any other editing software is inadequate by itself. Unfortunately, both EZDrummer 2 and BIAS FX are commercial software, so you do need to purchase a license for them. But I do think there is an EZDrummer Lite, which is a watered-down, but free version of the drum plugin. No such thing for BIAS, but there are other alternatives out there if you’re recording an electric guitar or bass and want do use amp simulation instead. Examples are the free versions of Amplitube and GuitarRig.
Experimenting with plugins is loads of fun. But you have to be wary of them because they typically demand a huge amount of processing power and RAM. So, for each project session, keep what is essential in your final mix and unload the rest.
Now, for my mic positioning during recording.
I used a microphone, my Samson MTR101, to record the acoustic guitar track. For those interested, the mic was about 8-12 inches in front of the sound hole and at he same level, but was aimed towards the middle of the neck, somewhere along the 10th to 14th fret. It probably didn’t matter all that much, but I did put my DIY portable sound booth behind the mic, without the mic actually being inside the box. I’d rather risk picking up ambient noise rather than partially block the sound energy from my guitar.
I had planned on double tracking it by recording the signal from the guitar’s built-in pickup as well but opted not to, in order to keep the demonstration simple.
As for the voice over, I spoke 8-12 inches from the mic that’s inside the box, with the pop filter in between. My recorded voice lost clarity at the beginning of the demo video while I was showing my gear. That’s because I turned away from the microphone as I panned my camera. Hint: the mic was then effectively off-axis. I also recorded that part on a different night, when it was noisier and with some doors and windows in the house open. I had to roll back the recording level, which was apparently a bit too much. I had no such problems anymore by the time I recorded the rest of my voice over.
As for the electric guitar… well if there any guitar geeks in class, the sound is from the neck position of an American-made Fender Stratocaster (not with a stock pickup, but with a Bill Lawrence L-45S). As I have mentioned, was recorded direct. However, one of the nice things about BIAS FX is that it allows you to simulate mic positioning.
As you can see from the screenshot, the plugin simulated a Shure SM57 dynamic microphone placed at some distance from the edge of the virtual speaker cabinet. This does two things: one is to tame what I thought were harsh levels of high frequencies (which is another testament to the awesomeness of BIAS FX — it convincingly captured that particular character of a vintage Marshall Plexi amplifier, as heard in many classic rock records), while the distance would have allowed a real mic to capture early reflections of the sound in a room. Perhaps it wasn’t crucial in the end, since I did apply a separate reverb effect on the track, eventually. But it seemed like a good idea at the time. And it definitely is in many instances in real life.
I hope this sheds more light into the method that I used in the demonstration.
Listening to the mix now, I’d probably increase the volume of the acoustic guitar some more and decrease the volume of the electric guitar by just a bit. A bass guitar track would probably serve this mix well, too. And that is how it goes. There’s always the chance of that mix which you thought was good in the past sound like crap if you listened to it again today.