Best workflow for audio software

Creating a home studio for recording the classical guitar. Equipment, software and recording techniques. Amplification for live performance.
Kurt Penner
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Best workflow for audio software

Postby Kurt Penner » Sat Dec 03, 2016 4:50 am

Hi all, I'm new here. Please forgive any newbieness.

I have started recording my playing with a mind to making simple amateur Youtube videos. I am learning how to use Reaper as my DAW and I'm rather bewildered by the many options I have. I need advice on the best method to polish up my raw audio files. My method so far:

1. Play into single Neuman KM 184 (can't afford another for the time being), into XLR input of Zoom H5, 48kHz 24 bit
2. Transfer best take into Reaper DAW
3. Apply noise reduction with ReaFir effect (samples the background noise then digitally subtracts it)
4. Edit away the extraneous silence at beginning and end
5. Make smooth sounding fade in and fade out curves
6. Copy first track into tracks 2&3, and pan those hard left and right respectively. Keep #1 up the center
7. Apply reverb to all tracks individually via the FX send/receive; Less verb on the center track, the idea being to simulate a direct sound up front and ambient sound from the far sides
8. Mix down to a stereo WAV file for export.

Does this make sense? I am at the beginning of learning this complicated software so any tips from any software user would be appreciated. In particular I am confused by the many places that reverb can be applied, such as to individual tracks or to the final stereo track in the mixer.

KP

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby Stephen Kenyon » Sat Dec 03, 2016 2:15 pm

It sounds like you've got a good handle on the process, and seem to be better equipped than probably most amateur youtubers; but if you are unsure whether there's a problem somewhere, try just mixing down one reverbed track in mono (inevitably) and see if that sounds natural. Sometimes simple is just better. In particular, be aware of the problem of a mis-match between the video (assuming its of you playing) and the reverbed sound, in terms of perception of space.
You can always upload a trial video and share it here. Its tricky talking in the abstract.
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rojarosguitar
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby rojarosguitar » Sat Dec 03, 2016 3:06 pm

There could be many different workflows that make sense. A second microphone would of course enhance the spaciousness of the recording, but never mind.
As to reverbs, there are many different plugins and they differ in quality greatly. I'd rather use it very sparingly. The best would be to use a reverb that makes mono to stereo, because these algorythms simulate the spreading od sound in space better than two channel mono reverbs. The beast reverbs are for acoustical instruments IMHO so called 'convolution reverbs' which use a signature of real good sounding halls and comvolute them with your recording. The Audio Ease is absolutely phenomenal, but not cheap; there are good convolution reverbs around, that are cheaper, e.g. McDSP. You'd have to do some research.

So what I would do with one mic is: Pan just one mono track dead center, put a mono to stereo reverb onto the master fader and mixdown to stereo (quit likely you will use 44.1/16, but for film you can stay at 48/16).

Do you really need the noise reduction thing? Usually they eat up quite a bit of the HF information, sometimes in a unpredictable way. I'd use it only if absolutely necessary. But judging from what you use as mic and interface it should not be necessary, because Neumann certainly isn't noisy, and the Zoom shouldn't be either. Just make sure to trim your mic sufficiently high in the beginning of the sound chain, so that you don't have to raise the volume too much later.
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acmost9
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby acmost9 » Sat Dec 03, 2016 5:09 pm

I'd learn/investigate how to set up a Stereo Aux Track in Reaper, you put the Verb(100% Wet) on the Stereo Aux and blend that to taste with your dry recorded track/s. That's not the only way but that is a way proven way. I wouldn't add the verb on your Master Fader. You want that to happen before you get to the Master but of course there's more than one way to do things.

PeteJ
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby PeteJ » Mon Dec 05, 2016 12:21 pm

I'd agree with acmost9. The reverb needs to be on an FX send. Never put the audio through a processor when you can send a feed to it, you'd be putting the entire signal through a vst that might ruin it. I'd also agree with rojaros about noise reduction. It's very dangerous and unless you're using ancient equipment and tape it shouldn't be necessary. I don't understand what you say about copying track and panning left, right and centre. Why copy tracks?
I'd also think about compression and/or automation unless you're a purist.

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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby kampfgolem » Wed Dec 07, 2016 10:59 pm

I'm assuming you're new to the world of recording, and that you'll be running a one-man operation, so forgive me if I build up on ideas that may not apply to you.

First off, recording is kinda like playing an instrument - you develop the technique and whilst doing it you end up developing your ear AND your taste.

So don't worry about multi-mic setups - chances are your ear won't be developed enough to appreciate what's going on (yet).

Learn how to position your mic. Set it up, record a small take of something you know well enough that it can be repeated, then move the mic, keep in mind where you put it, compare, etc. In the beginning it might be worth it to think in terms of "brightness", "shrillness", "boominess", "clarity", and so on.

A good tip that works for me when positioning microphones is to pick something visual as reference. For instance, you could use the fretboard as an axis and move the mic alongside it (closer to the soundhole, away from it, towards the bridge, etc). Feel where the sound that is most pleasing to YOU is and go to town.

The rest will come with experience. Enjoy the ride ;)

kampfgolem
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby kampfgolem » Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:01 pm

Oh and regarding the use of reverb, the people here are right - using an aux send (it might be called an effects send on your DAW) is your best option for a "natural sound"

Kurt Penner
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby Kurt Penner » Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:11 am

kampfgolem wrote:Oh and regarding the use of reverb, the people here are right - using an aux send (it might be called an effects send on your DAW) is your best option for a "natural sound"


But why?

stevel
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby stevel » Thu Dec 08, 2016 1:11 am

Kurt Penner wrote:3. Apply noise reduction with ReaFir effect (samples the background noise then digitally subtracts it)


I'm not sure if this step is really necessary. I've got to think it's subtracting some "noise" you want in the signal as well. I'd say as long as your signal to noise ratio is good, that's all you need. YT is going to lower the audio quality anyway...so unless the YT signal reduction on top of the recording noise poses its own problem, I wouldn't mess with it.

6. Copy first track into tracks 2&3, and pan those hard left and right respectively. Keep #1 up the center
7. Apply reverb to all tracks individually via the FX send/receive; Less verb on the center track, the idea being to simulate a direct sound up front and ambient sound from the far sides


Now here's where you need to learn to do it the "right" way, or the "classic" way.

Record in mono as you're doing.
Using an effect send on that track, send it to a Stereo Reverb plug-in.
But you bring the Reverb return back into the Stereo Mix Bus (or, another Stereo Track).

So you've got a DRY, MONO signal - your original guitar.

Then you have this other stereo track that has whatever wet/dry mix you have set in the plug in that you can pan anywhere from center to sides to get your width (when returning to the stereo mix bus, the wet/dry mix of verb is controlled at the plug in, if returning it to a track, you can actually adjust it with the fader as well).

This is the way it had always been done until people with DAWs started putting verb on every track. Which is not really the "correct" way to do it. You can certainly get good effects, but traditional recordings were don the way I've outlined above. Keeping the mono track dry gives it more focus and the reverb returned in stereo gives you the "ambience". You can then adjust the two faders (and pans, if returned to a stereo track) in relation to each other to get the proper balance between direct sound and reverberated sound (as well as spread).

This is a "more realistic" way of doing it - what it would sound like in a performance venue when you hear a solo instrument on stage and reverberation coming at you from the sides (and ceiling, etc.).

Your method will make it sound like you're sitting much more distant from the instrument (unless you get rid of the verb on the center).


Does this make sense? I am at the beginning of learning this complicated software so any tips from any software user would be appreciated. In particular I am confused by the many places that reverb can be applied, such as to individual tracks or to the final stereo track in the mixer.


So, final stereo track, right :-)

I can never remember if I can post a YT link, but check this out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf8QaPnWSA4

Here's the title, just in case:

Logic Pro X Tutorial - Using Reverb as a Send Effect

I think he's using a virtual instrument, which is a stereo source, and a channel that returns with no panning ability (essentially a mono bus) but you get the idea. All you need on the return fader is the ability to vary the stereo width (2 pan controls) if it's not present in the plug-in itself.

But aside from a special effect, putting a plug in on every individual track (especially if the same reverb plug in) is really overkill and counterproductive in a lot of cases.

In the end, it's also much easier to do it the way I'm suggesting.

HTH,
Steve

stevel
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby stevel » Thu Dec 08, 2016 1:24 am

Kurt Penner wrote:
kampfgolem wrote:Oh and regarding the use of reverb, the people here are right - using an aux send (it might be called an effects send on your DAW) is your best option for a "natural sound"


But why?



If you sit in a room with a guitarist on stage, it's a mono sound source.

We have two ears, but, when you play back "dual mono" from two speakers (or earbuds, etc.) you're mimicking that mono signal arriving at each ear simultaneously.

What's "stereo" in the room are all the reverberant reflections. They "surround" us. And what's on the left is not the same as what's on the right.

So what a "mono to stereo" reverb plug in does is, it uses the sound of the mono track to "trigger" the reverb.

When a guitar is played in a room, it's the same thing - what causes the reverb is when that single point source (the guitar, whose sound expands spherically until it encounters a surface which it reflects off) "creates" all the reflection sounds - the reverb.

So you don't really hear reverb on the guitar, unless you're sitting far enough away that reflected sounds have time to bounce off things and re-integrate with the direct signal - like sitting very far away in a really large church/cathedral.

Instead, you get direct "mono" signal from the guitar at speed of sound. The reflections actually take slightly little more time to reach you (were talking very few milliseconds here) and that's where a "pre-delay" control can be helpful. But that makes the "direct" signal a little more "up front" - like you're hearing it live.

If you put digital verb on your dry tracks (especially with no pre-delay), there's no arrival time difference which tends to "cloud" the original signal.

Likewise, if you have 3 dry tracks and each of those has reverb on it (in various wet/dry mixes) what you're essentially doing is triggering 2-3 more times reverb than would naturally occur.

It can get soupy and artificial really quickly.

The video I linked to above explains it pretty well (not to mention the extra control, which engineers always love!) and I'm sorry I didn't read all the other responses before I posted mine, but I think you can see that's the general consensus.

It sounds more natural because that's how reverberation is created in the real world - in the case of a solo instrument, a single point source you hear directly (usually) with the reverberant reflections it creates being heard "around" you in the stereo field.

Now, we do hear in stereo of course, which is why we use stereo mic'ing techniques in concert venues, but since you've only got one mic right now, this gives you the closest alternative.

kampfgolem
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby kampfgolem » Thu Dec 08, 2016 2:56 pm

Kurt Penner wrote:
kampfgolem wrote:Oh and regarding the use of reverb, the people here are right - using an aux send (it might be called an effects send on your DAW) is your best option for a "natural sound"


But why?


Just like before, the people in here are right.

I'd like to further elaborate on the subject of reverb as a send fx. When you have multiple tracks and each has its own reverb your brain might not process it but it can sound a bit off, especially if you've tried to get a natural balance in the mix, ie. trying to have each instrument's level according to how you'd hear them in reality if they were located in a specific space related to you (the listener).

On the other hand, having only one reverb would work as though you were putting the instruments in an artifical room of a determined size. In fact, that's kinda how reverb was done originally in big studios - the signal in the 'send' was played back by a speaker in a big reverberant room located in the basement or something and the 'return' was a mic located in the other side of the room.

A good way to get a feel for this would be to set the reverb at the aux channel at 100% mix (no direct signal) and just playing with the send level in the mono channel, starting from 0. Use your ears, not your eyes. When you feel something like "wow, this sounds just like I imagined" then you got it right.

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby Stephen Kenyon » Thu Dec 08, 2016 7:32 pm

I use the Altiverb plugin, which has a % mix - is this effectively the same as sending to a bus?

I thought the main reason to send to a bus was so as to economise on CPU resources, so if you have a whole load of tracks you don't need to load an instance of the reverb plugin for each.
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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby Denian Arcoleo » Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:52 pm

I agree with rojaros, I'd ditch the noise reduction. As well as removing 'noise' it will adversely alter the sound of the instrument. Just try and find a quiet room and use high-quality equipment, which you are.

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Paul Janssen
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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby Paul Janssen » Thu Dec 08, 2016 9:10 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:I use the Altiverb plugin, which has a % mix - is this effectively the same as sending to a bus?

I thought the main reason to send to a bus was so as to economise on CPU resources, so if you have a whole load of tracks you don't need to load an instance of the reverb plugin for each.


Stephen, this may be part of the reason. But I was once told by an audio engineer friend of mine that the main reason for using a send is so that you effectively create one reverb "space" to which you send all the instruments. The risk with having a separate reverb plug in on each channel is that the plug in settings need to be 100% the same or else you risk creating different spaces which may sound artificial.

Your pont is a good one though. If we are talking about a single track with a solo instrument then perhaps there is no good reason to use a send and instead it may be ok to insert the reverb plug in on this single track. Maybe it's just a good habit to use the auxiliary send method in case someone ever creates multitrack recordings in the future?

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Re: Best workflow for audio software

Postby kampfgolem » Fri Dec 09, 2016 5:18 pm

kampfgolem wrote: [...] having only one reverb would work as though you were putting the instruments in an artifical room of a determined size. [...]


So yeah, what Paul said.

Now, since you're using one track only I guess it would be ok to use the effect as an insert on the channel itself. Then again, the only control you'd have over the general sound would be the mix control on the reverb.

The main difference would be in that scenario you'd fiddle with the reverb mix itself while on the aux send method you keep the send at pre-fader level if available, the mix at 100% in the aux send and you control the effect level with the send and/or with the actual aux send level.

Now, as far as I'm aware, the aux send level is usually set to 0dB and you only move the send on the channel. However, I like to have all the control I can, so sometimes if I feel the general Reverb is too overbearing I might turn the send aux level down a notch.

Something else to keep in mind is the reverb would respond differently if you send a low level signal to it from the guitar track send. That is to say a low send level and a high reverb level might not equate to the perceived equivalent level of a high send level and a low reverb level, sonically speaking.

If you send a low level signal to a reverb it's like you put a tiny guitar in the artificial space it's emulating. If you send a high level it's like you're putting a huge guitar. The aux send level would represent how much of the actual room you wanna hear.

I think I just muddied it up even more, huh? TL:DR - try everything out and stick with what works for you :)
Last edited by kampfgolem on Fri Dec 09, 2016 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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