Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Using a Bus to Route Effects in Ardour

When using computer audio effects, one must always bear in mind that your poor computer has to calculate the effect output everytime you play back your tracks. So when you go too crazy with effects, your computer will probably seize up, roll-over and die! To save your computer, it is important to use buses to route repeated effects in Ardour.

Okay, maybe that sounds like complete gibberish... but please bear with me and you'll soon understand what I mean. Let's take an example of a multichannel recording of a drumbeat in Ardour (i.e. one channel for snare, one for the kick drum, etc.). For each drum, you would want to add certain effects like an EQ, reverb, and compressor. One way to do this is to add the effects to each channel like in the figure below.

Since you would want the same sounding reverb on each drum, your poor computer has to calculate the same thing multiple times. This is unnecessary because you can create a bus and route all the drum channels to it and then only put one reverb on the bus. This method achieves the same sound whilst your computer does less. You can do this by following the steps below:

Firstly, you need to create a new bus. Go to Session, and click on Add Track/Bus. Configure the window that appears to look like the one shown below. i.e. select Busses and Stereo.

You now need to route all your drum channels to the bus (I have renamed mine to be DrumBus). You do this by right-clicking on the black rectangle below the volume fader (this is called the "post effects" for the track). A menu should appear and you must select New Send... Configure yours to look like the one shown below. You do this by firstly adding an output (click the Add Output button) and then selecting where you want the output to go. In this case you choose DrumBus/in1 and DrumBus/in2 from the Ardour tab on the right of the window.

Since you have rerouted the output of the each drum track, it no longer needs to be connected to the Master Bus. So disconnect it by clicking on the Output button (just above the Comments button) at the bottm of each drum channel and select Disconnect. Your drums should all be sounding through your Drum bus. This means that if you adjust the DrumBus volume, all the drums' volumes should change. It also means that any effects you use on the drum bus will be applied over the whole drum kit. The figure below shows how the bus greatly reduces the amount of reverb effects used.

Note that I have left the EQs and Compressors in each channel and not on the bus. This is done because the EQs and Compressors are set differently on each drum and thus cannot be applied to the whole kit via the bus. I hope you found this tip useful, and that your computer will also appreciate it :). A special thanks goes out to Jakob Lund for suggesting this method of adding multiple effects.

Other posts you might find interesting:
Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 3: Adding Effects to the Ardour Drumtrack
My Favourite Linux Audio Effects
An Overview of Compression
Panning for Gold : How to Pan Tracks
Mastering Tips: A Picture Says a Thousand Words

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Funk Hydrogen Beat Templates

What are the last words a drummer says in a band?

..."Hey guys, why don't we try one of my songs?"

As you should know if you read my previous beat templates post, Hydrogen Drumbeat Templates - A Non-drummer's Best Friend, I have been creating beat templates in order to help non-drummers write better songs in Hydrogen. The basic idea is that you download the Hydrogen song which has many different patterns in it and rearrange these patterns until it suits your song.

In this post I present you with my second ever beat template which focuses around the funk genre. These beats, however, can be used in most genres such as rock, hip-hop, pop and even metal at times. You can download this template from the link below.

The actual template: BriansBeatsFUNK.h2song (235 kB)
Note: These songs require the YamahaVintageKit available for download from here.

A MP3 sample of the template: FUNKBeatsExample.mp3 (837 kB)
The Hydrogen song of the MP3: FUNKBeatsExample.h2song (235 kB)

Once again, I have only used a closed hi-hat for the right-hand rhythm, however it is easy enough to interchange this with whatever suits you, like the ride, open hats, or crash. Just copy the same pattern on the ride, or crash and then delete the notes from the hi-hat. I hope you enjoy creating new beats!

Other posts you might find interesting:
Hydrogen Drumbeat Templates - A Non-drummer's Best Friend
Hydrogen Drumkits
My Attempt at a Hydrogen Drumkit
Pimp my Hydrogen Beats
Making a Roll Sound Realistic
Sunday Bloody Sunday Hydrogen Beat

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Microphone Review: Shure SM57 Microphone

It is quite obvious that the better the equipment you use, the better your recordings will sound. However, as you all know, I'm a cheapo and try to focus on doing things cheaply with the best results.

The first proper pieces of equipment you should look at buying are decent microphones. This will improve your sound drastically. Different microphones have different applications, but for a cheap home setup the most important aspect to look at is versatility. You will want two types of mics: a decent instrument mic like the Shure SM57 microphone and then a decent condenser mic for practically everything else. A dynamic mic uses a diaphragm and an electromagnetic coil to induce a voltage signal, whereas a condenser mic uses a diaphragm and an electrostatic plate (capacitive effect). If that confused you, don't worry it's not too important - it just means that dynamic and condenser mics record sound differently and will thus have different sounding outputs.

The first decent microphone I ever bought was Shure's SM57 instrument/vocal mic and it has served me well. The picture below shows what it looks like:

The Shure SM57 is said to be one of the best mics for use on guitar amps, drums, wind instruments and is therefore very versatile. You can see from its frequency spectrum below, that it has an excellent mid-frequency response which gets a little wobbly towards the high-end. This explains its claim to fame, because electric guitars and drums dominate the mid-range. The SM57 is actually the exact same mic as the common SM58 vocal mic, it just doesn't have a pop filter. It can therefore be used, with quite nice results, as a live vocal mic as well. For studio vocals, a condenser mic is better as it has a flatter high-range, but as a cheapo, this mic will work there too.

Another cool aspect of this mic is what Shure calls the "proximity effect". This suggests that the closer the sound source is to the mic, the louder the bass response, meaning you can get some serious punch out of your mic. I highly recommend that you check this mic out if you are looking to improve your sound with equipment. For more information you can check out the Shure website.

Other posts you might find interesting:
Firewire Audio Recording Devices
Sound Proofing and Room Acoustics Basics
Monitor/Speaker Placement
What Gives a Guitar its Tone?
Sound Mixing Tips: High There?!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 3: Adding Effects to the Ardour Drumtrack

Okay, by now you should have a drum track recorded in Ardour as the first step for your recording project. If not, check out Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 2: Recording a Hydrogen Drumbeat. The drum track really is the backbone to your recording because it is often filled with the most emotion (i.e. build-ups, double tempos, break-downs etc.) However, in order to allow the recording artists to feel the full emotion of the song, we must add a few basic effects. These effects can then be tweaked towards the end of the project for the final mixdown.

Let's take a look at what we have. The figure below shows my multiple drum track recording of Sunday Bloody Sunday in Ardour.

It is important to record the drums as dry (i.e. no effects) as possible because this will make your recording more versatile. You can easily add effects to a dry recording but you cannot easily remove recorded effects. The above tracks are therefore dry and can be heard from the MP3 below.

DryDrums.mp3 (555 kB)

We now need to add effects to each drum by using Ardour's Mixer. The mixer can be opened from Ardour's Window menu by selecting Show Mixer (or pressing Alt+M). This should look similar to the one below, minus all the effects on each drum.

You can add effects to each drum by right-clicking in the black rectangle above each drum's level fader and selecting New Plugin. A list of all your installed effects will be shown, choose the relevant effect and select Connect. You should now see your effect appear in the black rectangle. The effect should still be bypassed so double click on it and a window displaying all the effect's options will appear. You can vary the effect options and click the Bypass button to switch the effect on or off.

Now that you know how to add effects, which effects best suit drums? Firstly, if you want a natural sounding drum kit, stay away from EQ. The effect which is easiest and most effective for use on drums is reverb. I used the TAP Reverberator which requires a a stereo input. I therefore used the Hilbert Tranformer to convert my mono track to a stereo one. I also used the TAP Equalizer to make my kit sound a bit more like U2's, but as I said earlier, be subtle when using the EQ. The drum track with added effects can be heard from the MP3 below.

WetDrums.mp3 (555 kB)

Compressors are very useful for drums because they make the drums sound powerful. However, you can add these during the mixing stage of the project. The early use of effects is merely to inspire the artists with a emotion-provoking drum track. For more information on some cool Linux effects, check out this post: My Favourite Linux Audio Effects.

In the next part of the Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio series, our song should start taking shape as we add a guitar track.

Other posts you might find interesting:
Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 1: Plan your Project
Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 2: Record a Hydrogen Drumbeat
Overview of Compression
Hydrogen Drumbeat Templates - A Non-drummers Best Friend
Panning for Gold