Fostex VF160 digital multitrack recorder, Dell computer with Intel dual core processor, Behringer Xenyx 2442FX mixer, Joemeek and Alesis compressors, Bose 4000L monitors, American Audio 100w x 2 stereo amplifier, Sennheiser headphones, ART Studio V3 tube microphone preamplifier, BBE Sonic Maximizer, MXL V63 condenser mic (vocals), Gibson Les Paul guitar, Stradelin guitar amp (miked with Shure SM57), Ludwig acoustic drums (20” kick) with Zildjian cymbals, miked with two AKG overhead condensers, SM57 (snare), and CAD large-diaphragm mic inside kick, Danelectro bass and Kurzweil SP76 piano (direct through ART preamps).
Production Notes & Credits:
“Happiness is Everything” is a male vocal blues rock song. Jeff played keyboards and handled the recording. Gary Ooley was on guitar and bass, while Tim Huber rounded out the trio on drums. The final mix was a cooperative effort.
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: Now and then we receive a submission that while containing solid performances and good individual tones, lacks what is often times referred to as “glue” in regards to the final mix. From their production notes it’s obvious that Jeff and the guys have spent a considerable amount of time, effort and resources to get their one-room facility up to snuff. In Jeff’s words, “The one-room studio is designed as a “live end/dead end” project configuration. 12’ wide x 23’ long x 10’ high. The studio has a carpeted concrete floor with Auralex bass traps in each corner and Auralex Studiofoam wedges strategically placed on the front and side walls. The rear wall is a combination of custom-designed audio diffusors and Auralex Studiofoam.” They have also taken a similar approach to the sound sources here. Trouble is, they may have actually scrubbed them a bit too clean in the process!
Two other areas also troubled us a bit. The first was the choice of (to our ears) an innappropriately large reverb for the track, along with a strange “warbling” sound on the electric lead guitar and to a lesser extent, the lead vocal. Those of you actually old enough to remember the “glory” (or should we say “gory”!) days of multitrack cassette tape recording will remember this as something called “wow and flutter”, and trust us, kids—it wasn’t good!
Suggestions: First of all, we are by no means saying that having clean, clear sound sources is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, we applaud the band for their efforts here. What is missing, as we stated earlier, is a cohesiveness to the individual instruments, and this is where some professional mastering could really be of service. A topnotch mastering engineer has the experience, skill set and tools to perform just the type of “gluing” that is needed here. A carefully and correctly applied dose of compression/limiting, along with some minor eq, would go a long way toward turning Jeff’s ingredients into something fine.
Prior to that, however, we would ask that he re-examine his mix and locate the source of the “wobble”. There are myriad other effects that could be applied to both the vocal and lead guitar to add some spice, and we suggest that Jeff experiment with sounds that benefit the track as a whole. As for the reverb: short delays can oftentimes be just as, if not more, effective in creating space and mood in a song, and do so with more clarity
We would advise Jeff (and the rest of you loyal readers) to spend some time with the April 2010 issue of Recording, in particular the fine article with Jim Wilson from Airshow Mastering. Mastering is the final, often critical, step in the recording chain, and Jim provides some great real world insight into the process.
Summary: “Honey, have you seen the glue gun?”
Contact: Jeff Wisbey / Cry On High, firstname.lastname@example.org.