Monday, February 25, 2008

Beginners Guide to Ubuntu Recording

I am currently in the process of backing up and reinstalling Ubuntu Studio and thus don't have anything fantastic to write about this week.

I did however come across a cool article by rgrwkmn, called Recording in Ubuntu Linux (aka Free and Open Source Digital Audio Workstation)

It covers the basics of several Ubuntu Studio programs such as JACK, Patchage, Rosegarden and Ardour. I do encourage even those who consider themselves Ardour Veterans to check it out because it explains in detail what some of those damn buttons do. You know those buttons you always see but don't know what the hell they do.

Other posts you might find interesting:
The Best Programs in Ubuntu Studio
Audio Recording in Ubuntu - Part 1: Plan your Project
Audio Recording in Ubuntu - Part 2: Recording a Hydrogen Drumbeat
Audio Recording in Ubuntu - Part 3: Adding Effects to your Ardour Drumtrack
Hydrogen Drum Machine Basics

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Multiple outputs for Hydrogen

I only just discovered that you can have multiple outputs from Hydrogen instead of using a simple stereo output. This means that in Ardour, you can have a different track for each drum, i.e. separate tracks for the snare, and kick drum. You might be asking: ¨What on earth is the point of that?!¨ Well... this provides versatility when mixing down and mastering your final song. Often when you adjusting the volume levels of drums without other instruments, you will get it wrong. If you recorded your drums using a stereo input, you have little control, but if you record with multiple tracks you can edit each drum´s volume at any time. i.e. your toms can be brought up whilst your cymbals are pushed down.

This can be done in Hydrogen as follows. Go to File, Preferences select Audio System and click the box which says: Enable Track Outputs. If you now go to the connect tab in JACK, you will see many outputs under the Hydrogen heading. Each output represents an instrument in Hydrogen and can be connected to the track inputs of Ardour. My advice is that you pan all your hydrogen instruments to one side (i.e. left), and connect them to Ardour as mono tracks. Do all your panning in Ardour because this saves on processing power and RAM.

Other posts you might find interesting:
How to make a Hydrogen Drumkit
Pimp my Beats
Making a Roll Sound Realistic
My Attempt at a Hydrogen Drumkit
Hydrogen Drumkits

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Bittersweet Day

Hi guys,

Today, I got one of those things called a job...whoohoo!! This unfortunately means that I have less time to post. But not to fear because, due to the large success of this blog, I will not abandon it. I just plan to slow my posts to no less than one a week. To tie you over for the week I´ve left you a big one here.

Thank you so much for your input and for reading my... eh... stuff.

Catch you later,

An Example of Loud Mastering

Okay, so you may have read my post called: To Limit or not to Limit. Well, I´m afraid I´m going to have to admit I was slightly wrong in that one. However, it still has some good points about limiting too harshly. Let me explain how I saw the light...

Below is a screen shot of a song I recorded. Take a listen Ain´t no Rock Old.mp3 (This is the same as the one posted in To Limit or not to Limit)

For this song the limiter in JAMin was bypassed. This allows the peaks their maximum amplitude, which is good because no sound quality is lost. The problem is that the track is far quieter than any commercial song. Trust me, this is a big problem - no one is going to take you seriously with a quiet track.

Below is a picture of the same track mastered loudly using the limiter to reduce the higher peaks. Take a listen to this track: Ain´t no Rock New.mp3

So in this track, as you can hear, it is much louder and competes with professional recording volumes. The cost: sound quality... As you can see the peaks have been hard limited to bring the big blob of sound closer to 0 dB. This means, your song can become less punchy. This is because the peaks are mostly from the bass drum and other percussive sounds. However, you regain punch in the fact that it will be played louder.

It´s a real toss-up and mastering professionals will debate this till the cows come home. I will make your decision easier, by saying that if you do not go for the louder mix, your songs are just not going to stand up to professional tracks.

Alrighty, with that all said, how do you get the louder mix using JAMin. This is where I apologise, you MUST use the limiter. Take a look at the screenshot of my limiter setup below.

You can see that I set the boost to the maximum - remember that we are trying to achieve a LOUD mix. Next, and most importantly, the Limit is set to -0.2 dB, this is the value at which the peaks will be cut off (you can play around with this, but only between values of -0.3 dB to 0 dB). I set the Release to round 400 ms, you want quite a long release otherwise the sharp peaks will not be cut. Lastly, we fine tune the limiter by adjusting the Input level. We do this by observing the Output level meter on the right-hand side of the JAMin window. You want your loudest parts of the track (i.e. chorus) to stay between about -2 dB and -0.2 dB, without hearing any distortion in the slightest. Make sure your track does not merely sit on the -0.2 dB mark - this means the limiter input is too high and you are limiting too much!

That´s the gist of it... give it a try and please don´t forget to rate this post.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Rate my Posts

Hey guys,

I've added a rating feature to each of my posts. This is in the form of stars at the bottom of each post. Please rate my posts by selecting the relevant number of stars (5 is Excellent). This will help me to write both in the styles and on the topics you prefer. Also, I do edit older posts when I feel they need it.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Picture says 1000 Words

As audio artists, we tend to rely on our hearing to determine how well a mix is coming out. This may work, if you understand the basics of mixing and mastering, but whilst you´re still learning, seeing if a track looks right can help you more. Below is a picture of one of my earlier recordings...

It looks alright, it has what one expects, a few sharp drum peaks with lower hanging notes. But when you compare this to a professional recording like the pictrue below, taken from AFI´s Love Like Winter, my recording is like taking a pocket knife into a sword fight.

In this recording, the track has been mastered loudly, with a large percentage of the song between -2 to 0 dB. Note however, that there is no clipping of the bulgy melodic parts, only the drum peaks have been hard limited.

So, I encourage you to plug your favourite band´s best song into Audacity and see what it looks like. What remains is how to get your songs looking more like the ones you like. For this and more...tune in next time!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Normalisation...never heard of it!

Normalisation (or normalization for the Americans), is a very useful tool when mastering or mixing down tracks. As I´ve said earlier, mastering aims to achieve the loudest possible mix without losing too much sound quality. Normalisation helps us achieve this by doing the following. Firstly, it finds the highest peak in a track. Secondly, it raises this highest peak to the loudest it can go (normally 0 dB or 0.3 dB/98 %). And lastly, it raises everything else in the track to a point which is relative to the highest peak. Thus, normalisation creates a louder track without affecting the signal-to-noise ratio [1].

This is how one can normalise tracks in Ardour. If you look in the Edit menu of Ardour, you´ll find a dropdown called Region Operations and inside you´ll find a Normalize Region command. The shortcut for this command is `N´. So select the track you wish to normalise, then simply press `N´. Your track has now been normalised. You might even see the track peaks change a little. I recommend you do this on all your recorded tracks to achieve a louder, more professional mix.

[1] Normalisation Wiki Entry:

Monday, February 4, 2008

How to Punch Record in Ardour

Punch recording is a very powerful tool. It allows one to record within a certain selected range without deleting the surrounding track. For example, if you recorded a flawless bass track except for one wrong note, you can simply select the region where the wrong note is and record over it without destroying the rest of the take.

This tutorial explains how to punch record in Ardour specifically. Firstly, a punch range must be made. This is done by clicking and dragging the cursor within the loop/punch ranges selector. After the mouse button is released a window appears saying set loop range and set punch range. Select set punch range. Your screen should now look like the figure below.

The red punch markers can be moved around as necessary. Everything which falls between these two makers will be recorded over. Before you click record, you need to ensure that the Punch In and Punch Out buttons are selected. These buttons are seen in the figure below (Green means that they are selected).

With Punch In selected it will start recording when the first punch marker is reached. If Punch Out is also selected, it will stop recording when the second marker is reached, otherwise it will record until you stop it.

I would recommend that you delete whatever you're recording over before you punch, otherwise it will remain underneath the new recording and make things messy. Also, to speed things up, you can select the Snap to Beat option in the Snap to dropdown found in the View menu. This will make any ranges you make snap to the nearest beat.

Other posts you might find interesting:
Beginner's Guide to Ubuntu Recording
Multiple Outputs for Hydrogen
Normalisation...Never Heard of it!
Interfacing JAMin with Ardour
What Exactly is Mastering for?