What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

advice faders

Culled from numerous responses, here is a small collection of some of the best tips to improve your audio engineering skills:

  • It’s all about mic placement. If you want the best sound, start off with a good quality source. Spending a few extra minutes getting every set up correctly will save you time in the editing and mix down process later.
  • Never say “we’ll fix it in the mix”.
  • Work smart, not hard. Use technology to your benefit. By creating a session template that is configured with empty tracks, commonly used plug ins and routing already in place, you can save yourself set up time and you won’t lose your creative flow setting up the necessary elements.
  • Critically listen to your work. Recording and mixing are audio arts, so try giving them a pure listen once in a while. Just like blind people have other heightened senses, shut off some of yours to focus on what’s important – close your eyes and really listen.
  • A good mix will sound good whether it’s quiet or loud. Turning down the volume can help prevent ear fatigue, and it also makes certain elements stand out. Maybe at lower volumes the high hat will be more apparent, but you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed since the louder sounds mask it at higher volumes.
  • Spectrum analyzers – Putting one on your master output can help you see what frequencies aren’t represented, and you can see if your mix is bass heavy without having to depend on your room/speaker set up to tell you.
  • EQ is great but don’t overuse it. Boosting a lot of frequencies on various tracks can lead to congestion and conflicts. Instead of boosting some frequencies, think about cutting something else to avoid clutter. This can free up the aural space and give more room to the elements you want to stand out.
  • Take a break! Your ears get tired, just like everything else. Make sure to chill out every hour or two during a project. Your ears will be refreshed, you’ll get a new perspective on your mix when you come back, and you might even be able to think of other techniques to implement since you’re not distracted with the task at hand.
  • A good performance makes the track – not a technically skilled rehearsed rendition. That’s not to say that having skills is a bad thing, but when an artist plays the same performance over and over, sometimes it gets to a point where they are just going through the motions instead of giving a good feel. This ties into an earlier tip – by having templates and everything preconfigured you can get straight to recording without losing the vibe.
  • Low frequencies fill the audio spectrum and have more power than higher frequencies. Use high-pass filters on tracks that don’t have a lot of low frequency content to free up room. Even some bass elements – kick, guitar, low tom – can be improved through the use of a high pass filter by cutting out the muddy, super low frequencies.

Grad Spotlight: Eric Nichols

cras grad eric nichols

Eric Nichols started his audio career training at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in October of 2010. Since then he has been constantly working in various fields, and has recently landed a pretty sweet gig! While he spent a lot of his time doing radio and live sound, he recently got accepted as Associate Producer with Learfield Sports in Missouri.

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Studer Truck Visits CRAS

studer truck pic

The Conservatory strives to be at the forefront of modern technology. While we hold on to the building blocks of all that has led to what we know now as audio engineering, that doesn’t mean we stay in the past. We have classic gear, from PCM-80s to Studer A-827s, Universal Audio 1176s to Pro Tools HD2s, CRAS encompasses all that exists in the audio realm.

While we teach all that is analog, from Otari to SSL, we also cover modern gear, from Komplete 6 USB interfaces to VENUE D-Show systems, we cover everything you’ll need to know to be a comprehensive audio engineer, ready to take on the most daunting tasks, from doing sound design for Bates Motel, or sound quality assurance for the newest video games like Bethesda’s Dishonored .

We always have visits from big names in the industry – the past year we’ve seen visits from PRG and Shure, had involvement with local music festivals, and even had audio industry leaders visit our school – from studio managers to PR people, we have it all.

Here is a video from when Studer visited our campus in 2012 and showed us some of their hottest gear. You can believe this was a unique visit and something that should not have been missed!

Comping Vocal Performances

vocal comp blue mic

Recording vocals can be a tricky process. It’s hard to get spot on vocal takes consistently, especially through the entire duration of a song. There is nothing worse than asking a singer to sing the same parts over and over again, hoping to unearth a gem of a performance. There are some techniques that can help out here, and one of the main ideas that has come around with the use of non-linear DAW recordings is”vocal compings”.

“Comping” in this situation refers to making a “compilation” out of the best parts of multiple performances. This allows you as the engineer to get the best quality recording, and puts less strain on the performer’s vocal cords. As Bobby Owsinski outlines in his “The Music Producer’s Handbook“, most vocal comping is based on a standard technique. Here are some of the key points:

  • Get a copy of the lyrics and divide them into clear phrases.
  • Listen carefully during playback and make notes with evaluation marks after each phrase.
  • After listening to all of the passes, try to piece together a vocal.
  • If a phrase still isn’t working, try comping by the word or syllable instead.

You can read more about these techniques and see how to apply this skill set to modern DAWs at the Universal Audio blog here.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus

john lennon educational tour bus

Last Thursday, the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences was lucky enough to be one of the stops on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus US tour! Aside from CRAS, they visited NAMM, the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, the Summer X games, as well as countless other locations.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is a non-profit, state-of-the-art mobile audio and HD video recording and production facility. In its sixteenth year, with the very newest technology and gear, the Bus continues to be dedicated to providing young people with tours of the studios and participation in free songwriting and multimedia production workshops. With the assistance of three on-board engineers, students learn how to write, perform, record, and produce original songs, produce and shoot music videos and documentaries and complete a broadcast quality music video – all in one day!

We got an exclusive tour of the bus and all of it’s incredible workings! I was amazed that they could really fit all that technology into one bus. From pre-production to post-production, live instruments to video creation, this bus can do it all. Three individual rooms, each separated by audio and visual isolating doors, contribute to the ongoing promotion of audio education in the world. Recently they’ve been touring the United States, but once they are done with this tour, they are headed over to Europe to bring the same amazing show to a new stage.

We will certainly have more about this, but for now, check out our quick video slideshow:

If for the slideshow doesn’t load, you can check out the photos directly on our Flickr.

lennon tour bus interior

The Bus is highly adaptable, designed to provide students, their schools and communities with performances, demonstrations, remote recordings, and studio sessions customized for their needs, levels of experience and interest. The Bus travels the country visiting schools, musical and technology conferences and events, and partners with newspapers and other media to host Battles of the Bands with the national winner selected online.  With the NewTek TriCaster 855 and TodoCast-provided satellite system onboard, the Bus is able to produce live multicamera video productions streamed to the web in real-time.  All projects created on board are available for viewing on lennonbus.org, YouTube, and Facebook.

lennon educational tour bus

The Bus is made possible through the generosity of sponsors including Avid, Apple, Montblanc, Sony, Neutrik, Musician’s Friend, Gibson, Epiphone, NAMM, NewTek, TodoCast, Mobile Roadie, Audio-Technica, Roland, Boss, JamHub, Sonicbids, Disc Makers, Mackie, Ampeg, Digital Media Academy, Genelec, VOX, True Religion, Litepanels, Manfrotto, Clear-Com, Anton/Bauer, New Bay Media, Copperpeace, Apogee, Applied Acoustics Systems, McDSP, Native Instruments, IK Multimedia, Noise Industries, iZotope, Slingerland Drums, and Mad Mimi.  The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is made possible by an agreement with Yoko Ono Lennon.

Pro Tools 11

pro tools 11 daw

Avid has just announced that the next version of their popular Pro Tools software is going to be available soon. Love it or hate it, there are a lot of changes Avid is bringing to the table with this release.

  • All new Avid Audio Engine – Get multiple times the processing power of Pro Tools 10 to work with way more virtual instruments and effects plug-ins than ever before. And with the new 64-bit architecture, you gain the performance you need to handle the most sophisticated sessions—with more memory headroom to go even bigger.
  • Offline bounce – Forget the wait—speed up your final mix delivery with new faster-than-real-time bounce capabilities. They are claiming that this offline bounce mode will be sample for sample accurate with its real-time bounce counterparts.
  • New metering options (HD only) – New built-in metering standards provide a variety of scale and ballistics options, so you can be assured that you’re creating the best mix possible.
  • Work directly with HD video – Play MXF HD, Avid DNxHD, and other HD video formats directly in the Pro Tools timeline, without transcoding, using the built-in Avid Video Engine—the same as in Media Composer.

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Optimizing Logic to Use Multiple Cores

logic pro optimizing multi core

Pretty much every Mac developed since the jump to Intel processors has at least dual core capability, if not more, especially looking at the Mac Pro towers with 8 cores. A “core” can be considered to be an individual CPU, although it may not be one physical component of a computer. While a dual core processor, like the Intel Core 2 Duo, will be one “unit” on the motherboard, it can separate computational tasks in two regions. Each of these regions can run their own set of computations, so they work effectively as two processors.

Logic does have the potential to to use all of these cores in a balanced fashion so you can optimize your workflow. Here is a quick down and dirty guide on how to make that happen.

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Top 5 OS X Shortcuts for Audio Engineers

mac os x audio engineer

There is no doubt that Mac computers are found in staggering numbers within the music industry. While a common complaint about the Mac Operating System is that it is too “user friendly” and not “technical” enough, there are a lot of hidden tricks and shortcuts that can be phenomenally useful. Here are seven:

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Break in speakers: Do I need to?

break in speakersThere is a lot of talk about whether or not newly bought speakers should be broken in. On one side, speakers are a type of mechanical device and a lot of people compare new speakers to a new car. Most car manufacturers recommend that you drive the car specific ways to break in the motor and mechanical parts correctly. For example, it is recommended to drive at varying RPMs for the first 500 miles with some turbo or high performance vehicles, as opposed to setting cruise control and running it on the highway at the same speed.

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Rode i16 Surround Mic

i16 surround mic

Rode has recently announced their new i16 recording attachment for iOS devices. Based upon their critically acclaimed iXY attachment, which would allow iOS users do location recording with high quality mic capsules, the i16 extends this capability to full 16 channel surround sound.

rode surround mic

The iXY is a dual cardioid capsule bearing attachment, capable of up 96kHz sampling, and is aesthetically styled like a Zoom recorder. The i16 takes this idea further, providing 16 cardioid capsules in order to pick up the entire environment the user is operating in.

Rode founder and president Peter Freedman explains:

“When developing the iXY we were focused on providing the ultimate in stereo audio capture for iOS devices. But during the project it became that there was a large proportion of the market who wanted to record in complete surround. We’ve taken that seriously and produced the i16.”

The i16, when combined with Rode’s Rec app, can record up to sixteen tracks simultaneously at 96kHz. Using individual gold-sputtered capsules, the user is allowed full freedom to record mono, stereo, surround or anything in-between.

“Once the user records the surrounding environment, software processing inside RØDE Rec will allow them to cancel background noise through phase manipulation of the other channels, working much in the same way as noise-cancelling headphones.” explained Mr Freedman. “In this way the i16 is even more effective at recording dialogue than a traditional shotgun microphone.”

Read more about this at Rode’s website here.