Ask Abbey Road: Senior Engineer Andrew Dudman shares his recording advice

We’re delighted to deliver you the second edition of Ask Abbey Street, in partnership with the long-lasting Abbey Street Studios. In this collection, we ask you to place your urgent manufacturing inquiries to the specialists on the world’s most famous studio.

This time, we’ve got Andrew Dudman in the scorching seat. An Abbey Street Studios senior recording engineer with an unimaginable 21 years of experience on the facility, he’s earned awards for his work on Disney’s Courageous and The Fellowship Of The Ring. He’s additionally recorded scores for big movies reminiscent of Hacksaw Ridge and Baby Driver and video games together with Killzone three and Uncharted three. His extraordinary résumé goes on to incorporate tracks recorded with Underworld and Elbow and lots of extra classical recordings.

This time, Dudman fields your questions on recording, utilizing virtual instruments alongside real devices and ways to get additional bass into film soundtrack recordings.

You’ll be able to put your personal questions to engineer John Barrett (The Shape Of Water, Black Panther) for the subsequent edition of Ask Abbey Street, now.

Michael Proulx asks: how would you sometimes report a stay band composed of a drummer, singer/keyboardist and singer/electric guitarist?

Andrew Dudman: Firstly, you find out the type and that might inform whether you went for musicians within the room together. In the event you assume you’ll have to do any tuning or hardcore modifying, you’d undoubtedly want to make use of isolation. In case you have been going to be giving it to another person to take on, then you definitely report the band along with spill all over the place, you tie the combination engineer’s arms.

Then, line of sight. It’s good to really feel such as you’re nonetheless enjoying in a band, even should you’re isolated. It pays to maintain the musicians as shut together as potential with good strains of sight or depend on cameras and screens doing that job for you. Once you’ve received that out of the best way, you then get into mic decisions. You in all probability go for more dynamics if everybody’s collectively in the room, simply to provide you a bit more management. In case you’re remoted, you possibly can choose what you like. You’ve received a blank page to put out your favourite mics, figuring out they’re not going to be affected by spill from other instruments.

Erik Skytt asks: in relation to drums, how do you determine how much processing will get printed in the monitoring part and the way a lot to go away till after the monitoring?

AD: If I know the drums that I’m tracking are going to be combined by someone else, I’ll undoubtedly hold the tracks cleaner – in all probability with little compression in any respect, if any. Then, only a tiny bit of EQ to get a superb, balanced degree to tape.

I’ve been doing this long enough to have discovered from some great engineers, so I all the time attempt to maintain my monitor faders all flat. Once you send the suitable degree to tape, it makes the blending a bit simpler – it helps everybody down the road get a stability quicker. I hold the drum tracks pretty flat.

“A lot of it is whether the drums are tuned as you want them…”

If I have been trying to give some fascinating colors or options to a unique engineer to mix, I might put out additional microphones, and process these. In order that they then have the choice of having a extra colored sound or a cleaner, flatter sound. That’s simply so I don’t pressure them into a corner the place they couldn’t undo the processing.

If I knew it was going to report and blend, I might use extra EQ and a little bit of compression to catch any peaks. From expertise in huge studios the place we’re typically recording band parts alongside strings or an entire orchestra, typically I’ll solely get 5 or 10 minutes to get a drum sound up! So that’s one more reason for retaining it simple – not gating to tape or anything like that. Anything you do, you’ve got to be able to use from the beginning.

A variety of it’s whether the drums are tuned as you need them and the position of the microphones. You ensure you have the correct quantity of achieve in your mic amp after which you already know it’s going to be a fantastic start line.

MusicTech asks: do you’ve got any guidelines of thumb for compression?

AD: Not likely, as a result of each time I do a recording, I treat it as a singular thing. So that you’re applying dynamics based mostly on what you hear at first. I know what degree, roughly, I’m going to print on to the pc, so that informs your threshold degree as a result of you realize what degree stuff goes to start out hitting your compressor, so you possibly can pre-prepare things like that. Then it’s just a case of asking: “What do I want to do to it?”. If I need to catch the odd loud hit on the snare, then I’ll only be tickling it a few dBs with a 2:1 or three:1 compression ratio. In that instance, we’re not making an attempt to vary the sound too much, however simply to cover the odd hit that’s sticking out.

When you get to mixing, it’s an entire totally different artistic course of. Do you allow it mild feeling, or do you actually need to get things sounding tight? Meaning gating and compression. That’s more a production determination than a part of the recording.

Studio Two is residence to the well-known Challen upright piano (proper) that was used on many Beatles data

Claire Kannapell asks: software instruments have begun to sound impressively like the originals. Are there any devices where you favor to go digital as an alternative of analogue for scoring? Or do you assume that recording a stay instrument will all the time sound better?

AD: Typically, it’s a query of time versus finances. It might be pretty to have the money and time to switch the whole lot on a totally fledged demo if all of the devices are replaceable.

There are different reasons to keep digital instruments, although. It may be that you simply’ve received a piano on your demo. If, for instance, you go into Studio Two at Abbey Street, you’ll have the option of two grand pianos – a Yamaha and a Steinway – and the basic Woman Madonna honky-tonk, a Challen upright. The grands are all the time going to sound like grand pianos, and the opposite pianos have actually unique sounds. So, should you’ve received a mellow, muted piano sound in your demo and your entire movie rating is built round that type of sound, you may be higher off utilizing the pattern than you are attempting to re-record.

You’ll typically attempt to exchange pianos, and it’s simply not the best sound. They’re all so unique and totally different, there’s not likely much you are able to do about it, truthfully. Should you’re in search of a Steinway grand or an enormous Yamaha grand piano, or something as specific as a C5 Yamaha sound, then it’s going to be nice recording the actual factor. But keyboard instruments are a primary instance of occasions once we do maintain the demos. The samples themselves are amazingly good nowadays.

Percussion we are likely to hold a variety of, too, notably cymbals. It’s because you’ll have composers who have listened to tracks for months at a time. Then should you get a percussion part to return and document, their cymbals could have totally different pitches. They usually’ll peak and trough at totally different occasions.

Then there are just occasions when it’s a private selection. It can be that you simply truly choose the sound of the best way stuff blends within the monitor with the pattern. Should you get an entire movie score, it could take a long time to overdub a full monitor. If you might want to save time and price range, percussion can be the first thing that you end up using as a pattern quite than an actual sound.

The exception is timpani. If you’d like these to mix completely with strings recorded in Studio One, for instance, it’s a lot better to document them in the same acoustic because the orchestra. Although there are great samples out there, one of the simplest ways to get instruments to mix is to report them in the same area – either at totally different occasions, or with the remainder of the band.

There are events when composers or artists may need spent months creating their very own samples and distinctive sounds with present instruments. You may go to exchange it within the session and what works greatest within the monitor is holding the unique sound that everybody’s been hearing. It’s not simply the engineers and composers which were listening to it. The director and editor have been listening to it, too. The last thing you need to do is scare individuals off with stuff that sounds totally different to the demos everybody’s been listening to.

Obviously, you want the width and scale and the depth of reside musicians. However there are some occasions when it makes more sense to only keep as a computerised instrument. However the place it’s a more lyrical, musical score, with lead strains on any of the acoustic instruments – guitar, woodwind, strings, brass – you’d all the time need to document it stay. Typically, you’ll go so far as specifying the precise player you need to play the part if you need a selected sound.

Recording timpani in the same area as the remainder of the instrumentation helps things gel through the mix

MT asks: are there any specific digital devices that you simply use?

AD: I don’t do much programming once I’m modifying. I often get handed over stuff and if I do add any sounds to recordings, it’s typically stuff that I’ve recorded myself or had somebody report for me.

What I will typically do is add an actual, low bass-drum growth beneath an present bass drum within the score. This helps you get actual low finish within the percussion.

I are likely to layer up home-made samples somewhat than going to any specific sound library. We move round so many various studios and so many various computers that to attempt to carry libraries with you all over the place you went can be inconceivable.

Andrew Holdaway asks: how do you get virtual devices to mesh in a guitar-heavy mix?

AD: If something’s not working, return to the unique sounds moderately than making an attempt to fix one thing that’s inherently not proper. If you’re programming and play stuff in on the keyboard, you possibly can typically get inconsistent velocity ranges popping out, so ensure all of that is beneath control, and nothing is protruding in that sense. The good thing with computers is that you’ve so many choices for making nice new sounds. Mix sounds collectively to attempt to match what you’ve acquired an actual recording from an acoustic instrument. Only after that may I start applying a bit of EQ and compression to attempt to mix issues that means. Then, I’d attempt reverb. All the time attempt to go back to the unique sound in the event you can.

“There’s one renowned film composer who sets all velocities between five and 15 on piano partS.”

I’ve achieved that on mixes where you may battle for 5 or 10 minutes and if something’s not working right away, just contact the one that did the programming. In case you can pinpoint what it is you don’t like about it. I’ve mentioned keyboard programming quite a bit. However you may feel such as you’re enjoying it very equally on the system, nevertheless it only takes a small change in velocity worth to set off a unique sample which may bark or be a bit quieter.

There’s one renowned movie composer – I used to be advised he sets all his velocities to be between 5 and 15 on any piano part. And what you get is that this most lovely sound without having to attempt. You possibly can constrain that on your MIDI channel as you’re enjoying it in and it takes plenty of the publish work out of modifying MIDI notes. That’s one strategy to do it – to restrict the constraints of the velocities, and then your elements ought to simply sit better.

Mark Turnham asks: what sounds do you buss or group together before a remaining combine is made and how do you go about processing busses?

AD: When it comes to recording, a lot of the mics go direct to Professional Instruments. The one time we’d actually route stuff is when you will have a number of mics on a string part, for instance. Depending on the dimensions of every section, you may end up with between two and 5 mics on the violins. Principally, we work so quick that you simply don’t have time to vary things as you’re recording. I might sometimes put lead violinist, lead 2nd violinist, viola and front-desk cello down separately. Then I’ll put collectively all the remaining mics of a piece. So, you find yourself with two shut violin tracks per violin part, and 5 extra tracks per recording than you’d do normally. However, having these separate is absolutely useful, particularly on the earth of film and immersive audio, as a result of it provides you the power to pan them round to pinpoint photographs.

Depending on the type, we’d find yourself not using the close mics anyway, because we’re capturing the atmosphere and the room. So, my mantra is, ‘if you record it, you don’t have to use it. But when you haven’t recorded it, there’s not something you need to use.’ We are likely to document extra mics direct to Pro Tools now than we ever used to as a result of we don’t have to fret about monitor limits any more.

Once I’m mixing, I are likely to deliver stems, as nicely. That’s across all genres. To organize them, I’ll have a buss per document stem. That’s orchestra with strings separate and woodwind separate. Typically we end up recording all these parts separately, anyway. When anything is re-recorded separately, it’s often for management. So that you need to avoid tying your arms together an excessive amount of by bussing them down.

Have a burning question about recording? Ask yours before July 11 and have it answered by Abbey Street engineer John Barrett.