Cream of the Crop
The first time I watched a really professional sound engineer
I was completely mesmerised and amazed. He made everything
look so easy and sound so incredible.
Why is it that thousands
of engineers struggle to get a decent sound while only a few
dozen pull amazing sounds whilst doing, apparently, almost
nothing? I could never understand how these great engineers
made it look so easy. Were they doing something I wasn’t
or were they not doing something I was?
As it turns out it was largely the frame of mind they were
in – which is great, because changing your mind is a
whole lot easier (and less expensive), than refitting your
Path of Inspiration
The following chapters contain a unique collection of techniques
and mind games to make the penny drop in a variety
of sound engineering areas: Speakers, Microphones, Drums,
Guitars, Vocals, Pianos, Compressors, Digital, Production
and more. This book is organised like a journey through your
studio – and your mind.
We begin by turning up your ears by setting up your control
room loudspeakers. When you follow these steps to perfect the ‘Ribbon
Effect’, you’ll discover how to make the entire
mix present itself to you with increased clarity and a much
more solid and usable soundscape.
Next, we move straight
into some advanced microphone techniques. Here we
see how a simple three-stage positioning technique will capture
a richer, fuller sound of anything. Chase that Flame.
Then we go straight into drums sounds, which will most likely
be the first thing you record – the backbone of your
rhythm track. We’ll explore a very unusual technique
that never fails to impress drummers with its realism and depth.
on the subject of backing tracks we’ll explore electric
guitars – how to capture great ones and how to
salvage abominable ones. You’ll learn how to swing through
an infinite variety of guitar textures without even touching
the equaliser or any outboard gear.
Then we move onto
some counter-intuitive piano recording techniques. Sometimes
one mic in a great place can sound better than two or three
where everyone else usually puts them. In every situation
you will learn why mic positions work so that you
can continue inventing from here on.
A great lead vocal
sound can make the whole record sound more 'expensive'
and here are some little-known techniques, that you won’t
find anywhere else, that promise to get you there. Each one
is dead simple to do. You must do them in this order, and
once you try it you’ll wonder how you ever managed before.
I don’t mean to sound smug but I’d have given
anything to learn this 20 years ago.
By now you’ll probably be playing with compressors and
ever since this (secret) penny dropped for me, there has never
been any doubt how to get the most out of them.
ready to delve into understanding the true, yet controversial,
difference between analogue and digital recording. Imagine
how differently you’d work if your tape machine suddenly
had zero headroom!
After some digital
stuff we’re ready to relax and let the right brain take
over for a while. We begin this journey with a recent discovery
that relates mixing to meditation. With true mixing, the mixing
mind awakens only after your thinking brain shuts
down. So how do we achieve this state of mind? Read on…
This takes us to
a series on the art of mixing. We look at all the
tasks; go through them one by one and reorder them to benefit
your right brain. This enables us to take on the most complicated
mix imaginable, yet every successive step becomes easier and
And for those who
want more, the final section of this book is devoted to miscellaneous
advanced techniques, such as how to create a reference CD
that turns you into the most powerful diagnostic
tool in town.
Having completed the monitoring setup tasks earlier, we have
one further ace up your sleeve, namely, a doorway to heavenly
Then there are some advanced techniques for handling the hottest
and most dynamic vocals on the planet, plus some breakthrough
tips that will allow you to record many vocals without headphones.
It’s a minefield of potential disasters but it’s
fun to see how a simple idea can turn disaster into magical
Now that you’ve
got a taste for the bizarre, perhaps you’re ready for
some backwards mixing. It’s like hiring somebody
else with a much punchier disposition to mix your record –
And just when you
thought you knew it all, we reveal an amazing technique, that’s
been lying under your fingertips all these years, that plays
with the shear fabric of time – the time machine
effect – taught to me by Cat Stevens
And just when you
thought you had control over all the forces around you, we
discover the biggest one of all – Gravity. Does gravity
really affect sound and if so how can we carry on an intelligent
conversation with it? If you’re ever stuck for motivation
you really need to understand gravity and its effect on
Because I fully
expect your obsession with great sounds to last a lifetime,
here are a few tips about ear care to keep your ears
healthy and strong.
Now if you’re still keen after all this and don’t
mind some serious homework, there is an admittedly laborious
process that I can’t resist sharing that can potentially
reveal the common denominators among hit records. Sounds too
good to be true I know, not easy either, but worth the effort
if you are hit record inclined.
There’s only one chapter of nostalgia – why and
how I went to London. You can apply the philosophies to almost
anywhere you’d love to work.
And lastly, a compilation of questions and answers from my
private email collection.
Thank you very much for purchasing this book. Just remember,
there will always be more that we don’t know than there
is that we do know. I hope the secrets in this book will provide
you with ammunition to create your own great sounds and inspire
the creation of many new secrets of your own. Feel free to
send them to me – (only for verification of course!).
Many thanks, Mike
I knew all this stuff when I began at AIR.
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