I keep receiving many great questions from you peeps through email, Facebook, Twitter and AIM. I do try to take the time to address each and every one personally. From now on I will also be going through some of the questions anonymously here on the blog every once in a while, so that everyone can benefit.
I realize some of the content on the website can be a bit too advanced for beginners, and there are definitely times my delivery doesn’t meet the standards. 😉
So whenever you feel baffled by something, feel free to ask for clarification. Don’t be shy.
Hit me up any time from the contact page.
I would also like to encourage you to use the commenting feature on the blog posts themselves. Many times that is the best place to carry on the conversation around the topic.
Many thanks for sending in the questions.
Readers Questions January 2012
“What is your view on basic acoustic treatment (i.e. acoustic foam, bass traps) in a home studio? From the videos/pics I’ve seen of many DnB/Dubstep producers’ studios, there doesn’t seem to be much treatment (with the exception of Lynx). Also, do you have any more tips for studio/room setup, especially for hearing low frequencies.”
Basically from what I’ve seen people often don’t realize how big a difference proper acoustic treatment really makes. A lot of people are wasting the true potential of their great (and expensive) monitor speakers.
It’s like putting in the effort to go to the gym regularly but then forgetting to eat right. Makes no sense.
Here’s s a few quick tips for home studio and low frequencies:
- There’s never enough bass traps – the more you have, the more defined the low end gets. Get different ones to catch different frequency areas.
- Heavy couches and such objects will also help to balance the low end. You can fill the couch with sandbags or other material that is heavy and thick enough to absorb low frequencies.
- Experiment with monitor placement – this can have a HUGE impact. Same is also true for subwoofer.
- When people start to treat their rooms acoustically, a common mistake is to put foam and other absorbing materials everywhere which completely kills the sound in the room, makes the room sound unnatural and makes you feel weird.
- Especially don’t kill the floor too much! Some dampening can be a good thing but our ears/brain are used to hearing things with the echo coming from the floor. A wooden floor in the listening position is usually ideal.
- A lot of studios (including mine) are built around the idea that the front part of the room (near the speakers) absorbs and the back part of the room diffuses sound.
- Basic bass traps are quite easy and inexpensive to build on your own (I could do it and I’m no carpenter).
As it is really a too wide topic to go into in very much detail here, here are a few great resources:
- “Master Handbook of Acoustics” – all you need to know and more.
- Studio building forum at Gearslutz – been a big help to me when building my studio.
- Sound On Sound magazine – they have a great article series on this topic called “studio rescue”.
“Is panning a single instrument to either the left or right only, going to cause problems on a club soundsystem?”
Simple left/right panning is usually safe (in terms of phase cancellation). What you need to be careful with is delay-based and “psychoacoustic” stereo effects. Some are mono-compatible, some are not.
One thing to keep in mind with panning is that the more you pan something towards the side, the quieter it will be when the mix is played back in mono. This can have an effect on the balance of your mix as a lot of club soundsystems work in mono.
It’s generally a good idea and standard procedure to keep all low frequencies mono, and the same goes for the body of the drums. If you plan to release on vinyl, this is an absolute must.
Whenever you’re mixing, take a minute every once in a while to check how your track sounds in mono. Listen to any changes in balance/levels when switching over from stereo to mono, as well as any possible cancellation of frequencies. This will give you some idea on how the mix will translate on a lot of club systems.
If you can make a mix sound good in mono, it will surely sound even better in stereo.
“For someone starting out limited budget, what would be your set up suggestion ?”
Of course everything should start by assessing ones needs and the individual situation, yada yada. But here’s what I would get if I was starting out now on a limited budget:
Computer: Apple Mac
Less hassle, get more done, trust me it’s worth the investment. If you really can’t afford it – a PC will do, but remember this is the foundation of your setup and you want to make sure it’s a good one. Everything depends on how well your system runs.
Monitoring: Behringer Truth B2031A
Not a huge fan of Behringer gear in general but these are great bang for the buck. They are often called the poor man’s Genelecs and for a good reason. I’ve worked on these for years in the past and I currently have a pair at my studio which I use for referencing. They’re great for DNB and dubstep as their big physical size allows for a better bass response. With many of the other cheaper nearfields you would have to get a subwoofer for a decent bass response. With these you can do without. They’re big and HEAVY but very well constructed in my experience. I’ve dropped one from 1,5 meters on a doorstep. The outer shell broke but the monitor still worked fine. Current price (for a pair) at Amazon: 239.64 £.
Audio Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
This is a brand new product from Focusrite and I have not used it yet personally. I would wait for the reviews before buying, but I trust Focusrite for quality and everything I read about this one (including the price) seems really nice. Plus it comes with a Focusrite plugin suite. Current price at Amazon: 119 £.
Keyboard: M-Audio Axiom 25 Advanced
I currently have the 49-key version at the studio as the main keyboard. Nothing to complain about. Well built, the keys feel good, nuff knobs and pads… The price is competitive, the whole thing feels very solid and everything works as it should. Current price at Amazon: 149 £.
Software: Logic Pro
There are many great sequencers out there, but with Logic’s price tag currently at ridiculous 149,99 €, this is a no-brainer to me. Besides the software itself, you get huge sound libraries.
Headphones (optional): Grado Prestige Series SR-80i
Great open ended headphones for when you need to keep down the noise or check small details inside the mix. Good headphones are a great addition especially if your nearfield monitors are on the cheap side or if your room acoustics is lacking. Current price at Amazon: 102.90 £ If you have money to spend, then consider the 125i’s or 225i’s.
[dropcap1]Q[/dropcap1]“If I wanted mixdowns done by you would you want every seperate track or grouped into percussion, drums, bass, sub and FX?? every seperate track as I’m sure you know could be a few!”
It’s many times sensible to group things up a bit. It’s up to you really. Some people do like to send every single track separate. Others send most of the stems grouped up. Either way works for me. If I need something more to get a specific job done I will let you know in any case.
Same thing goes for effects. You might want to decide to leave some in there that you think are essential to the track.. That’s cool, but you should be careful – especially with compressors and limiters (it’s gonna be a mission if the dynamics are squashed out of the tune to begin with).
If you’re having doubts, the safe way is to send me two versions of a stem – one with FX (wet) and one dry. Just make sure you label everything clearly and provide me any necessary information/instructions.
“Do you finish every tune you start?”
Hell no!! This is something I have been working on and improving consciously but I always end up with a lot of unfinished bits. On the other hand I work quite fast and my output rate is pretty good, so I think it’s fine that only the ones I like the most are getting finished. I also tend to come back to old things and finish them even after years. Sometimes you just need to give it a bit of time.
I do find the finishing rate gets better when collaborating with someone. Working with another person gives you direction and makes you accountable – both of these can be crucial in pushing the project through to the finishing line.
To Be Continued…
This post is getting longer than I expected so we’ll get to some more questions next month for the sake of readability. Thanks to everyone who sent in their questions!