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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Setting EQs, Compression, and Stuff for Bluegrass Recording


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/370867

Lemon Banjos - Posted - 12/10/2020:  08:58:38


I have Presonus Studio One as my DAW. I have been recording with it for three or four years, but I'm just now getting some decent stuff out of it. However, my mixing is still...poor.



Therefore, gimme some tips about setting EQs for each bluegrass instrument (fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin) and vocals, what compression settings to use on them, and other stuff.



I realize every song, instrument, and mic difference means different settings, but can you give me advice about where to start, and where to go from there? Like, for example, give me a starting point on the banjo, and if my particular banjo sounds too flat on the recording, how do I fix that? That kind of thing.



Here's a photo of a Channel Strip plugin in Studio One



Studio One effects review



Here's a photo of EQs in Studio One





How to use the Pro EQ plugin in Studio One 4 - PCAudioLabs



Here's a photo of a Compressor in Studio One

 



How to use Presonus Compressor in Studio One 4 - PCAudioLabs

jimbopicks - Posted - 12/10/2020:  10:38:13


This topic is probably too big to get good advice on a banjo forum. There really isn't a short answer. Two books that may be useful are "Practical Recording Techniques" by Bruce Bartlett, and "Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio" by Mike Senior.

Consider that recording and mixing are disciplines unto themselves, not unlike playing an instrument, and that the results you're looking for may not be obtainable without investing a lot of time and energy into it.

-Jim

reid26164 - Posted - 12/10/2020:  10:52:04


Hello Lemon Banjos

This is a very subjective topic.
When I began recording a lot of years ago I identified an excellent recording that I liked. Then attempted to duplicate that sound. You must listen to the recording you like in the same space (room) you are doing your recording.
You can accomplish a lot with mic placement, typically then recording every thing as flat as possible then when mixing tweak the EQ and compression minimally.
We have to get the sound we are looking for recorded in our brain in order to be consistent.
This is just like playing our instrument, We typically play to the sound we have recorded in our head...
Gordon
PS, This is a deep rabbit hole!

KCJones - Posted - 12/10/2020:  14:15:06


Good luck!

When faced with this issue, my band ended up raising our gig price by $100 and hiring a sound guy to do sound for us. Worth every penny. Learning how to mix a bluegrass band in the studio is probably harder than learning how to play (or build) banjos.

pearcemusic - Posted - 12/11/2020:  11:16:07


Settings really don't matter. It's the training of your ear to KNOW what sounds good and what works. 

examples:



Compression: look at ur compressor's gain reduction meter while adjusting threshold and ratio. See if you can learn to hear what is happening without worrying about numbers. 

Pan position: Critical to creating space in a mix. 

EQ: train ur ear by sweeping hi-mid-and lo frequencies to learn what these frequencies do to each instrument you will be recording. Too sibilant ? What frequency removes it? Too boomy? 

learn how reducing frequencies works, as well as boosting. 



These things and many more take years of doing it daily to become confident in ur ability. 

It's ALL about training ur ears. 

There are NO magic settings. 



Record a LOT .... Mix a LOT. 

don't be afraid to makes mistakes and stay open to learn.



I see it a lot like painting sound. The plug ins are like an audio pallet that require lots of experimentation to see how they affect whatever sound that is going thru them. 

 



I still learn new things that I like everyday.... I've been mixing professionally for 25+ years.

loonsailor - Posted - 12/12/2020:  08:54:33


As others have said, this can be a deep topic. There’s a reason that there are professional studio engineers, and schools where you can get a degree in it. BUT, it doesn’t need to be that hard for you to get satisfying results. There are many, many instructional videos on YouTube. Just go there and search “audio mixing” or “audio mixing studio one”, find someone you like, and pick up enough knowledge to get started.

When you have a mix you kind of like, do another YouTube search on “audio mastering” to get a sense of how to add a bit of final “polish”.

BTW, if you mic reasonably well, you don’t need to do very much to the instrument sounds, and once you get a sound you like, you can pretty much stick with those settings for every song with maybe only minor tweaking.

Lemon Banjos - Posted - 12/12/2020:  18:43:38


I've been giving this a lot of thought, and was wondering if this would be a good idea?

This idea was inspired Gordon Reid...

I could find a song I really like the sound on (there's so many haha) and learn it and record it.

For example - I make a habit out of learning to play songs on the fiddle just like other people so I can then take those breaks and pick them apart, using a lick from that break in this break, and so on, to further better my fiddle playing.

If I could record a song, playing it very similarly to an original record, then try to make it sound just like it, then would I get there eventually?

Doug Knecht - Posted - 12/12/2020:  19:24:27


Hunter,



I've been fortunate enough to talk to some engineers in bluegrass and I've been doing this for 10 years or so. I'll just tell you what I do, but that is pretty limited, because these settings aren't cut in stone. Start here and experiment.



First, if you're using a good preamp, you shouldn't need any eq or compression plugins, period. But most people can't afford $3000 pre's, so we do have to use plugins.



I'll just talk about EQ, Saturation, and Compression... And build a chain for each instrument.



Looking at your compressor, use a medium knee for all these settings below.  Not too soft, not too hard.  About 15-20dB I think is a nice medium knee.



Guitar:

1. Put a high pass filter at about 80Hz on first.

2. Use a notch EQ plugin to do surgery on unwanted resonant frequencies. To find unwanted resonant frequencies, raise the Q at any point, and raise the gain at that point to max. Then slide the frequency back and forth until you hear resonant feedback. Keeping the Q and the frequency where they are, reduce the gain below zero about 3dB. Repeat this procedure about 3-4 times so you're getting 3 or 4 sharp dips in the EQ graph, if needed.

3. Put very slight saturation on guitar.

4. Put some compression on the guitar: Attack=20ms, Release=175ms, Ratio=2.5:1, and reduce threshold until most of the reduction is about 3dB of gain reduction. Try not to go past 3-4dB of GR or else you'll hear it and it will not sound good.

5. Add EQ to taste. Usually I put a dip around 300Hz to get rid of muddiness, and I raise the high end shelf eq 6-10dB starting around 9kHz.



Banjo:

1. Put a high pass filter on at about 135Hz.

2. Use the notch EQ procedure for guitar the same way for banjo.

3. Put very slight saturation on banjo.

4. Don't use compression on banjo (hard driving bluegrass banjo styles).

5. Add EQ to taste. Usually I dip again around 300Hz, and again around 4kHz.



Mandolin:

1. Put a high pass filter on at about 190Hz.

2. Use notch EQ procedure.

3. Slight saturation.

4. Compression: Attack=20ms, Release= 140ms, Ratio = 2.5:1, reduce threshold until you achieve -3dB of gain reduction.

5. Add EQ to taste.



Acoustic Bass:

1. Put high pass filter on at about 40Hz.

2. Use notch EQ procedure for 1 or 2 points.

3. Slight saturation

4. Compression: Attack=30ms, Release=250ms, Ratio = 8:1, reduce threshold until you achieve -6dB of gain reduction.

5. Add some high end EQ shelving at about 4kHz.



 



Fiddle:



1.  Put high pass filter on at about 190Hz.



2.  Do surgical resonant eq filtering.



3.  add saturation



4.  I treat fiddle like a vocal.  Two compressors in series.  First one set attack=20ms, release=1ms, ratio = 4:1, and this will reduce gain quickly and release quickly to just reduce transient spikes in signal..  Set threshold so GR is about 3-5dB.  Then, add second compressor.  attack=20ms, release = 200ms, ratio = 3:1, and this is slow compression to smooth out the first one, set threshold so GR is 1-2dB.



5.  Add EQ to taste.



Hope this helps. Just guidelines, nothing saying you can't experiment.



Doug


Edited by - Doug Knecht on 12/12/2020 19:38:58

Disco Kid - Posted - 12/24/2020:  17:44:55


Check out Presonus Sphere. You get everything Presonus has plus great training videos for $15 month. The vids are excellent.

Disco Kid - Posted - 12/24/2020:  17:46:52


quote:

Originally posted by Doug Knecht

Hunter,



I've been fortunate enough to talk to some engineers in bluegrass and I've been doing this for 10 years or so. I'll just tell you what I do, but that is pretty limited, because these settings aren't cut in stone. Start here and experiment.



First, if you're using a good preamp, you shouldn't need any eq or compression plugins, period. But most people can't afford $3000 pre's, so we do have to use plugins.



I'll just talk about EQ, Saturation, and Compression... And build a chain for each instrument.



Looking at your compressor, use a medium knee for all these settings below.  Not too soft, not too hard.  About 15-20dB I think is a nice medium knee.



Guitar:

1. Put a high pass filter at about 80Hz on first.

2. Use a notch EQ plugin to do surgery on unwanted resonant frequencies. To find unwanted resonant frequencies, raise the Q at any point, and raise the gain at that point to max. Then slide the frequency back and forth until you hear resonant feedback. Keeping the Q and the frequency where they are, reduce the gain below zero about 3dB. Repeat this procedure about 3-4 times so you're getting 3 or 4 sharp dips in the EQ graph, if needed.

3. Put very slight saturation on guitar.

4. Put some compression on the guitar: Attack=20ms, Release=175ms, Ratio=2.5:1, and reduce threshold until most of the reduction is about 3dB of gain reduction. Try not to go past 3-4dB of GR or else you'll hear it and it will not sound good.

5. Add EQ to taste. Usually I put a dip around 300Hz to get rid of muddiness, and I raise the high end shelf eq 6-10dB starting around 9kHz.



Banjo:

1. Put a high pass filter on at about 135Hz.

2. Use the notch EQ procedure for guitar the same way for banjo.

3. Put very slight saturation on banjo.

4. Don't use compression on banjo (hard driving bluegrass banjo styles).

5. Add EQ to taste. Usually I dip again around 300Hz, and again around 4kHz.



Mandolin:

1. Put a high pass filter on at about 190Hz.

2. Use notch EQ procedure.

3. Slight saturation.

4. Compression: Attack=20ms, Release= 140ms, Ratio = 2.5:1, reduce threshold until you achieve -3dB of gain reduction.

5. Add EQ to taste.



Acoustic Bass:

1. Put high pass filter on at about 40Hz.

2. Use notch EQ procedure for 1 or 2 points.

3. Slight saturation

4. Compression: Attack=30ms, Release=250ms, Ratio = 8:1, reduce threshold until you achieve -6dB of gain reduction.

5. Add some high end EQ shelving at about 4kHz.



 



Fiddle:



1.  Put high pass filter on at about 190Hz.



2.  Do surgical resonant eq filtering.



3.  add saturation



4.  I treat fiddle like a vocal.  Two compressors in series.  First one set attack=20ms, release=1ms, ratio = 4:1, and this will reduce gain quickly and release quickly to just reduce transient spikes in signal..  Set threshold so GR is about 3-5dB.  Then, add second compressor.  attack=20ms, release = 200ms, ratio = 3:1, and this is slow compression to smooth out the first one, set threshold so GR is 1-2dB.



5.  Add EQ to taste.



Hope this helps. Just guidelines, nothing saying you can't experiment.



Doug






Thanks, Doug. That's exceptional.

Aradobanjo - Posted - 12/27/2020:  05:10:57


Hello,



Most everything mentioned in this thread has to do removing unwanted or unintended noise. This could be us, the room, the HVAC, a neighbor’s animal(s), and even the recording equipment. Noise is anything not adding to the target.



I have used EQ to limit HVAC motors at a steady state hum. Use tools to measure your recording area. Then use EQ and compression to eliminate the unwanted known noise.



Tools are aids to eliminate bad noise. This is the first need.



The second need is what I term, The Bela Fleck need and every entertainer. Establishing their sound for their music is like a Chef using a special ingredient for your favorite dish.



F&S used many tools to enhance Earl’s banjo tone. Tools back then were limited to Chamber/Hall and possibly Repeater. Banjos today are trying to replicate massaged sound that F&S wanted to be remembered by.



Doug's excellent examples shows his tools being used for his success. COVID-19 limits success to FaceBook and YouTube. 


Edited by - Aradobanjo on 12/27/2020 05:21:10

Tractor1 - Posted - 12/27/2020:  06:27:11


Before I ruin them with enhancement ,I turn them all off. Then bring them in one at a time and test drive them .I like to get as close as the instrument sounds ,sitting in front of it. I back them out and note their settings. If you need compression ,imo,something is set too hot or close, or turn every thing off and work on dynamics in the performance. The problem is this stuff shows up in hindsight ha ha. In the digital age and it's ability to boost gain ,recording hot enough can be addressed later than old school analog..The big question nowdays is which set of speakers to mix for. Laptop or phone minis or home systems that actually have some colors in mid range.



This is the way i see it, I don't offer it as advice though


Edited by - Tractor1 on 12/27/2020 06:40:51

Tractor1 - Posted - 12/27/2020:  06:39:40


I actually like playing with effects,but banjo with it's quick ,short notes is really not much a candidate for this. Most effects are nowdays, some way of modulating the pitch or volume . even reverb is divided into hitting the ''tempo ''at certain wave envelope spots. You can sync goofy effect tricks by getting a square lick going with your right hand then using your ear to time it just right,like timing an old distributor on a gas engine, Then you turn it off unless you have some sinister reason imo.



I do most of my stuff stand alone but end up in audacity a little. I find it easy too overload asking too much effect addition .To the point  where you start getting digital artifacts.


Edited by - Tractor1 on 12/27/2020 06:50:25

mikehalloran - Posted - 12/28/2020:  12:32:21


As one who started in the tin cans and string era (ok, the 1960s), I think that George Martin said it best: "All you need is ears."



Yes, I have the modern tools and make my living from them but it all starts with recording a good sound—and that can be done with a smart phone and the right microphone. Those processes that make a phone so good for speech get in the way of recording good music — the apps that ship with iOS external mics bypass that processing.



Without great sound, you have nothing to mix.

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