the $100 question

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owl
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the $100 question

Post by owl » Wed Nov 13, 2019 6:51 pm

Hey everyone! Give me some of your favorite thing, OPINIONS. I impulsively signed up for a recording and production workshop this weekend (Music Production 201 on this page). My husband immediately pointed out I could probably learn everything I would learn in this class through Youtube videos and books. So now I feel like I have to get my $100 worth out of attending this class in person!

In various bands, I've recorded several albums' worth of material in real-ish studio settings (ranging from "world class" to "in our practice space, hoping the band next door isn't practicing at the same time") but have never been in charge of the recording/mixing stuff, aside from my various FAWM/Songfight demos. But I have at least had some exposure to best practices and the way pros do things. Any suggestions for what I should look at, ask about, or focus on to get my money's worth out of an in-person learning experience like this? I have no idea how much is going to be new territory vs stuff I already basically know.

Here's what's already on my list. Hopefully these will already be covered to a greater or lesser extent. But I don't even really know what I need to know about. So, please tell me what you'd ask and what would be the best to learn in person/hardest to learn through Youtube. (Or feel free to just tell me what important things you think I/other bumbling amateurs should know about any of the things listed below!) I know some things about most of these, but maybe I'm missing important things to know.
  • proper mic selection, placement, and mixing 101 for drums (I've only ever dealt with MIDI drums and/or simple percussion, never a full kit, so I'm particularly interested in this even though I don't play drums myself)
  • proper mic selection and placement for amped instruments
  • proper mic selection and placement for vocals
  • something something impedance levels??? I don't even know what to ask about this but I know it exists and have a vague idea I should be concerned about it?
  • recording workflows... where to put everyone and when to record what, if it's a situation with actual people and not just me on my couch; isolation, reducing noise and bleed?
  • selecting a space for recording--what makes a space sound good? best things to do when prepping a space?
  • best practices for using multiple recorded inputs and dealing with phase issues
bonus questions that probably don't need to be answered in person but they are still on my list:
  • what the heck am I supposed to be aiming for with levels when I record all these things?
  • which things would benefit from double-tracking or doing DI + amp?
  • DI'ing instruments and mixing them in properly (& re-amping?)
  • what should I do to clean up tracks before mixing?
  • best practices for EQ, compression, and levels for maximum clarity and separation
  • getting things to sit in the mix and not on top of it
  • panning, reverb and creating a sense of space, making a mix sound "big"
  • exciters, saturation, making things sound "warm" or "live"
  • suggestions for good recording gear
  • DAW project organization--best ways to set up busses, folders, naming conventions, and so on
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Pigfarmer Jr
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Re: the $100 question

Post by Pigfarmer Jr » Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:31 pm

Those are all good questions.
On drum micing... I'd ask how they would mic a drum set to record with 2 mics, 3 mics etc., How they answer those questions will give you some insight as to how they are teaching the class. Of course, a workshop might be limited on time, so it may be hard to get into too much detail on one subject.
I've watched a lot of videos that a address a lot of your questions. But having an in person conversation, even if it's the same material, is likely valuable.
Evil Grin has an album: https://evilgrin.bandcamp.com/
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owl
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Re: the $100 question

Post by owl » Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:14 pm

Good idea to ask about non-optimal recording setups!

I'm sure you're right about being able to get a lot of this from YouTube videos. I figured asking about mic placement and person-placement would be helpful since I think it'll be easier to see how far things are, how they're angled, etc in person over even the most professionally shot YouTube video. But I'm not sure what else is more customized advice or less Googleable info.
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Re: the $100 question

Post by grumpymike » Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:19 pm

Aside from “learning in person is always better”...

If you can get an expert to explain and demonstrate, in real-time, some sonic nuances and how to impact them, and why they’re important, then this is well worth it. Training your ears is difficult to do without that kind of help. If you can gain that kind of intuition, you can extrapolate it and not worry about procedures and tips so much.
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Re: the $100 question

Post by Lunkhead » Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:31 pm

Wow, you have covered a lot of ground with those lists! I'd say that's most everything I at least could think of in terms of engineering and mixing and starting in to producing, but I'm not a professional of course.

Every one of those items seems like a topic that has a lot of breadth and depth to it. Am I seeing correctly that the class is 4.5hrs? And this focus:
As we focus on the front-end of the recording setup we will record a live demo song using drums, guitar, and vocal and go through the process of micing and overdubbing.
Hopefully you'll get some quick info about the items from your first list but that's honestly a pretty short time to setup for a band and track a live demo, let alone dive into a dozen plus other rich topics. Sounds really cool though, I hope it's enjoyable and informative!
owl
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Re: the $100 question

Post by owl » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:20 pm

I'm just going to ask him to talk really fast. :) Also I plan to show up and sit in the front row and yell "TEACH ME SOMETHING I CAN'T LEARN FROM YOUTUBE, BUDDY" and poke him in the chest if he's not covering enough ground for my tastes.

Also, Mike, that's a good suggestion, that's definitely another thing that will be so much easier in person than in videos! I will ask if he can demonstrate some common pitfalls, how to detect them, how to fix them.
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Pigfarmer Jr
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Re: the $100 question

Post by Pigfarmer Jr » Thu Nov 14, 2019 5:24 am

owl wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:20 pm
I will ask if he can demonstrate some common pitfalls, how to detect them, how to fix them.
Most useful question so far.
Evil Grin has an album: https://evilgrin.bandcamp.com/
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/1Dcqs6LhwsoYS6EDGPhCCk

My solo Album: http://tcelliott.bandcamp.com/

Ad astra per alia porci - Steinbeck
(To the stars on the wings of a pig.)
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Re: the $100 question

Post by jb » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:31 am

Here's my opinion-- less about what to ask than a suggested approach for asking stuff.

From the description on the page you linked to, I would expect the teacher to have a plan laid out for their demo and mix. And hopefully they've done the same "set up, record, and mix" process multiple times-- since you're not in the very first class ever.

Try to keep the questions in context without interrupting their flow, but be vocal. It's an ambitious agenda for a 4.5 hour class, so they will not have a lot of time to spare if they are going to explain everything as they go about it. Especially as it's for ages 15+, so there may be teens in the class and anything involving teens reduces efficiency.

They'll be using a "most common setup" approach-- or at least their idea of the most common setup. So it'll be up to you to personalize it for your own use, and if it's not clear how to do that then it's a good time to ask a question. For example, their drum mic setup might involve 2 overheads, a floor mic, a snare mic, and a kick mic. So during that section ask the question "If I only have 1 (or 2) mics to record drums, what would you recommend I do?"

At the end, if they offer to answer followup questions via email, don't be shy. If they don't offer, ask if they mind if you send them followup questions.

HTH,

JB
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Re: the $100 question

Post by owl » Thu Nov 14, 2019 1:48 pm

This is all very good input! Thanks, guys.
owl
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Re: the $100 question

Post by owl » Sat Nov 16, 2019 8:59 pm

Update: went to the production class today, it was actually really good! No teenagers in attendance, so it moved fairly quickly, I asked lots of questions and came away with pages of notes--thanks again so much to everyone who weighed in about this, the 2-mic, 3-mic, etc. question in particular got a good and interesting answer! And I'm glad I pressed about it because the first person asking about it asked about the upsides or downsides of the full mic setup and the main instructor's response (he's the lead engineer) was "there are no upsides to using fewer mics, only downsides" but the secondary instructor did point out that it's easier to avoid phase issues, plus obvious problems of not enough mics/inputs and also not wanting to spend absolutely forever mixing for things like amateur demos that don't need to be perfect.

The "demonstrate this thing and fix it" approach was good in the beginning, but at some point I had such ear fatigue that I couldn't really hear whatever the instructor was trying to point out...

We didn't have time to get into some of the details, and I'm still kind of vague about a number of things, but I actually did get answers to nearly everything on my initial list despite the fairly short timeframe of the class. It wasn't a full live band setup, it was one guy tracking each instrument one by one (drums, bass, electric guitar, double-tracked acoustic guitar, vocals).

Some of the more interesting takeaways for me, in case anyone's curious:
  • all the drum mic'ing stuff (placement options and mic selection), 3:1 rule of mic placement
  • checking for phase issues while mixing
  • analog EQ (he recommended Waves SSL G) and how using it to boost frequencies can add pleasant color (I'd previously heard you should basically only use subtractive EQ if possible bc of audio artifacts)
  • the benefits of using a non-graphical EQ since it really forces you to use your ears, and not be scared away by seemingly huge EQ changes
  • in-person instruction in looking for the sweet spot when mic'ing an amp
  • avoiding soloing anything as you add it to the mix, only listening to instruments in context as you add them
  • benefits of mic'ing vocals using a bidirectional polar pattern as opposed to cardioid
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