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A lot of modern recording sessions don’t take place at big budget studios like they once had. These days, it is hardly a limitation any more, compared to when consumer recording interfaces first hit the market. CPU processing and plugin algorithms have come a long way in just a short amount of time.

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Gucci Mane's head studio engineer, Sean Paine, will be hosting a free workshop at RAC Toronto on July 30th at 1:00 pm. Sean's credits include Gucci, Sosa, Young Thug, Fetty Wap, Migos, 2Chainz, Waka, Future, and more.

How did Gucci Mane release so much material while he was in prison?

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Steve Lobel, a legendary manager and music mogul most known for managing multi-platinum recording artists like Bone Thugs n Harmony and contemporary high calibre artists like Soulja Boy, will be making his way through Recording Arts Canada's Toronto campus at the start of next week.

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Ever wondered how heavyweight engineers produce and mix massive sounding metal records?

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Recent Posts

  • Creating a Big Room Sound with Plugins

    A lot of modern recording sessions don’t take place at big budget studios like they once had. These days, it is hardly a limitation any more, compared to when consumer recording interfaces first hit the market. CPU processing and plugin algorithms have come a long way in just a short amount of time. We have access to some incredibly vibrant reverbs, colorful compressors, and amazingly well emulated outboard gear in our computers now. I used to love recording drums in a great sounding huge room, but these days I find myself almost always doing my best to record drums as dry and tight as possible by dampening and diffusing the room I’m working in (Discussed in another article). This way I can decide how big the room sound comes across in the final mix when everything else is tracked. Let’s take a moment to discuss how we can get that final room sound with a chain of plugins.

    Recording the Right Source Material

    Even though we’ll be dialing up our huge room sound with plugins, we need to make absolutely sure that we’ve recorded the right source material to feed to this software. Time and time again I have come to find that the most important tracks to capture from the drum kit on recording day are the overheads and room positions. I won’t even direct mic the drums if I’m working on a budget with a band and we only have 2 channels to work with. You can always meticulously program in some direct trigger sounds if necessary, but you absolutely need to capture the kit as a whole with the mics if you expect to get something versatile to work with in the mix.

    I prefer to work with stereo positions for these angles, but it’s even more important to setup the mics so they are capturing all elements of the kit as balanced as possible before using compression (even when confined to mono positions). This means coming in from a bit of an angle over the player’s shoulder when placing overhead mics above the kit at times. Other times I have to center the mic and lift it a bit higher than I normally would. Each player has a slightly different sweet spot.

    I know you may not be recording in a very flattering space, but it’s still very important that the room mic position is capturing the space more than the drum kit itself. This is why it’s important to treat the room as much as possible without breaking the bank. Instead of trying to set up your session in a great sounding room, consider minimizing the unflattering aspects of the mediocre room you are using. Again, make your priority the goal of capturing a good balance as the individual elements of the kit spill into the room. Be sure to check for this before hitting record. For example, if the kick or a crash cymbal seems absurdly loud compared to the other elements, you should reposition the mic.

    Working in Parallel

    You’re going to want to feed these overhead and room positions to a separate auxiliary channel in post mode. Don’t send any direct channels to this parallel aux channel if you recorded them during the recording session. We want to work with the carefully balanced overhead and room channels that we so diligently managed during the tracking session.

    It’s incredibly important that you have your session setup so that you can change the fader level of your processed auxiliary channel separate from the raw microphone recordings. While we’re going to generate the sound of a large pro studio environment with plugins, we need to make sure we’re always keeping it in perspective with the actual recording of the kit. We need to work hard at making sure that this big space we create doesn’t seem to stick out like a sore thumb and sound like a bunch of effects. You may find yourself changing the fader level as you tweak plugins and working in parallel makes this easily manageable.

    Starting the Chain with Some Colourful EQ

    We’re going to want to use an EQ or two in order to focus this parallel channel on the extreme ends of the frequency spectrum (highlighting the sparkly highs and big lows). It’s important to start with this step so that we clean things up and feed the most important aspects of our recording to the reverb and compressors that will come next. It’s okay to get a bit aggressive with some of these EQ moves since this channel is working in tandem with the original unprocessed channels. It’s for this reason that I often reach for an EQ that emulates a colorful analog unit. Many plugin companies such as UAD, Slate Digital and Waves offer emulations of Neve, SSL, API and more. These EQs add a bit of harmonic saturation and phase tilt as you turn the knobs, romanticizing and manipulating the effect of their curves more so than a transparent EQ will.

    I usually focus on boosting the lowest and highest frequencies with shelf EQs at 100hz and 10khz. I’ll then use 2 or 3 parametric knobs to hone in on boosting the high mids (usually around 2khz-5khz) as well as cutting the low mids (usually around 400Hz-800Hz).  Again, remember that you should be referencing the way things sound while both the original and parallel processed channels sound together. The processing may seem too extreme if the parallel channel is in solo. Be sure to listen to the big picture and consider the fader level of the aux channel as you tweak the EQs.

    Adding Reverb to the Process

    Now the channel will be ready for a reverb plugin after all that focusing. It’s important that we choose a reverb sound that isn’t too “over the top”. While we were aggressive with our EQ sounds, we’re going to want to be a little more conservative with the length of our reverb tails. I will usually try to pick a more acoustical sounding reverb that emulates a room sound with a tail of 300ms to 1 second in length. This usually results in a more authentic room sound that we can “sneak” into the mix with the fader level of our parallel channel more so than a mechanical reverb such as plate or spring can get away with. That being said, there are no hard set rules. If the song you’re creating is going for a dreamy, surreal or over the top aesthetic… then go for it! Just remember to keep the vision of the entire mix in perspective with this artificial space that you’re creating.

    Keeping the Artificial Room Consistent

    The final icing on the cake for our plugin chain comes in the form of 2 very particular compression processes. We want to take the sound that we’ve created in parallel and go out of our way to remove much of the dynamics from it. Our original unprocessed channels will give the impression of dynamics while our parallel channels keeps the impression of the room we’ve created on a consistent basis.

    I always start with a colourful compressor. Again, I prefer to use a plugin that will emulate analog gear in order to add some “hype” or “vibe” along with my dynamic control. There are some very important settings to keep in mind while setting this compressor. You’ll want to use a compressor with a high pass filter option so it doesn’t react to the big lows that we dialed in earlier. This unit should be reacting to the higher frequencies more than anything. Use a midrange ratio to accomplish this, somewhere from 5:1 to 10:1. We want to let the initial attack of the drums through more than anything, so use a medium attack setting along with a *very* fast and aggressive release time. This is it was important that we got a good balance on our microphones during tracking day.

    The real trick to this approach is finalizing the chain with a De-esser since we’ve boosted our highs so much with EQ. Sure, the high pass filter on the first compressor avoided responding to the low-end, but now we want to control specifically the high frequencies separately. A lot of students often ask me why we should bother boosting high frequencies early on if we’re just going to compress them later. Remember that de-esser is doing more than just turning the highs back down. Instead, it is setting those high frequencies to a consistent volume that we can then dial in as a careful final level with the auxiliary channel’s fader. This is so much more productive than having cymbals that are difficult to set in the mix because they’re jumping around in volume so often.

    In Summary

    Modern technology now gives us the ability to create the exact space we’re looking for if we diligently control the unflattering aspects of the space we’re recording in. I find myself constantly taking this plugin approach these days, rather than hunting for a great sounding space and hauling all of the gear into it. Even when working in some great studios, the room sound for the drums isn’t always all that riveting. I’d much rather erect a bit of acoustical treatment in a makeshift room or setup the drums in an isolation booth so that I can devote more time to discussing the overall aesthetic the band is looking for. Why not sculpt this vision in the computer, where the final mix will be taking place anyways? Drums excite the reverb in a room more so than any other instrument and I hate being stuck with a sound that doesn’t lend itself to the band’s vision because we were stuck with a weak space on tracking day.

  • Gucci Mane's engineer Sean Paine at RAC Toronto July 30th

    Gucci Mane's head studio engineer, Sean Paine, will be hosting a free workshop at RAC Toronto on July 30th at 1:00 pm. Sean's credits include Gucci, Sosa, Young Thug, Fetty Wap, Migos, 2Chainz, Waka, Future, and more.

    How did Gucci Mane release so much material while he was in prison?

    Meet Sean Paine, Gucci's "middleman" while Gucci served his time. A lot of trust to put in one individual but that's what Gucci did with Sean and here's a chance to hear that story plus a few more tips & tricks from a man deep inside the business. 

    RAC and RAC grad Yung God (aka Niko Birch), have collaborated to bring Sean Paine, Gucci Mane's audio engineer and "middleman" to RAC's Toronto Campus to speak and then participate in a Q & A session.

    To book a seat for this free, one time event click here, or call 416-977-5074. You must have a reservation to be admitted.

  • Monday, August 3, 2015 @ 12:00 pm: RAC Toronto presents Steve Lobel

    Steve Lobel, a legendary manager and music mogul most known for managing multi-platinum recording artists like Bone Thugs n Harmony and contemporary high calibre artists like Soulja Boy, will be making his way through Recording Arts Canada's Toronto campus at the start of next week. On August 3rd, starting at noon, he'll be visiting RAC in a guest appearance to speak about leadership, work ethic, and the importance of reliable conduct. The event starts at noon on Monday with a 45-minute music listening session - producer Yung God will play a series of beats, selected from his private vault of a new sound collection. Following at 1:00 pm is a 45-minute keynote talk live with Steve Lobel, where he'll share moments from his life and the relationships he values at the very top of the entertainment industry. The session will close with a 15-minute Q&A.

    RAC Toronto alum Nikolaus Birch has been mentored by Toronto's remix alumni Boi1Da and will also be present as Steve shares his thoughts and anecdotes.

    About Steve Lobel

    Steve Lobel is an iconic American artist manager, executive producer, production manager, television talent, author & entrepreneur from Queens, New York. He's currently the Chairman and CEO of A-2-Z Entertainment, a label, production, film & management company that he founded in 2001. He currently manages and develops some of today's hottest music acts like Iyaz, who debuted his number one hit single "Replay" globally in 2009 and has reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 number one in the UK, Australia and top ten in many other countries.

    In addition, he partnered with long time friend "Big U" to manage Sony/Epic Record's Nipsey Hussle. Other Steve Lobel acts include "Bizzy Bone" of "Bone Thugs-n-Harmony" a hip hop music group, formed in Cleveland, Ohio U.S., in 1991. It consists of rappers Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, Flesh-n-Bone, Layzie Bone, and Bizzy Bone. Rapper Eazy-E of the group N.W.A signed Bone Thugs-n-Harmony to Ruthless Records in 1994, when Bone Thugs debuted with EP Creepin on ah Come Up.

    To reserve a seat, Call (416) 977-5074 for more information or email us at: toronto@recordingarts.com

  • RAC Montreal Workshop feat. Christian Donaldson

    Ever wondered how heavyweight engineers produce and mix massive sounding metal records?

    Wednesday, October 26th from 1:00pm - 3:30 pm:
    (Session en français: 9h30 - 12:00)

    Meet a world class producer, engineer, musician and RAC host Christian Donaldson.

    Born in Montreal, Christian has worked under the name of Garage studio since 1995 until the birth of “The Grid” in 2014, where he holds the title as head engineer.

    Being the name behind bands such as Neuraxis and Erimha, Christian has produced over a 100 albums throughout the last 15 years of his career. Christian has had the opportunity to work with some of the most renowned producers like Grammy Award winner Josh Wilbur (Lamb of God, Gojira, Hatebreed), Jason Suecof (Whitechapel, The Black Daliah Murder) and Tue Madson (Meshuggah, The Haunted, Suicide Silence). Christian will appear at RAC Montreal on Wednesday, October 26th from 12:30-2:30 pm to share his insights and techniques about the industry, workflow in the studio and much more.

    Being the guitarist of the band Cryptopsy, Christian has toured the world several times playing massive festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Hellfest, Party San and Brutal Assault. Christian has either mixed, produced or worked with artists such as:

    •  Neuraxis
    •  Erimha
    •  The Agonist
    •  Cryptopsy
    •  Nobis
    •  Beneath The Massacre
    •  Beyond Creation
    •  Despised Icon

    This workshop will be broken into two parts, the seminar and Q&A. Christian will go over a session template and talk about his early career experience, studio workflow, followed by a Q&A.

    Seats are limited to the public.

  • RAC Workshop with Neal Pogue

    We're excited to announce our next RAC Workshop with a keynote seminar, technical seminars, Q&As, mixing sessions, and a cypher. This workshop headlines Grammy-winning mixing engineer Neal Pogue and features beat-making seminars using Logic, Reason and Ableton given by product specialists. The Workshops will take place on March 29th at RAC Montreal and March 30th at RAC Toronto.

    Neal Pogue's work with Outkast won him an Album of the Year Grammy on their 2004 album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Neal's credits include: Outkast, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne, The Game, Nicki Minaj, Earth Wind & Fire, Robin Thicke, Pink, Nelly Furtado, Aloe Black, LL Cool J, AWOLNATION, TLC, Stevie Wonder, Common, Talib Kweli, Young Money, Franz Ferdinand, Demi Lovato, Citizen Cope, Donovan Frankenreiter, Bow Wow, Ying Yang Twins, and others.

    Attention Artists and Producers

    Submit your original track for a chance to have Neil discuss, critique, and answer questions about your work in front of the class. Three tracks will be chosen to be evaluated by Neil. You must be in attendance to be eligible.

    Submit your original track for a chance to be selected to take part in our cypher video to be mixed, mastered, and promoted to an audience of 100,000 listeners. You must be in attendance to be eligible.

    For emerging Montreal- and Toronto-area music creators, this is an amazing opportunity to separate yourself from the local market and make your name known.

    As a student, this is your chance to pick up some serious tips from one of the industry's most successful mixing engineers. Attending this workshop gives you the opportunity to:

    • Demo your music to a Grammy-winning mixing engineer.
    • Get individual feedback on your work.
    • Collaborate on a special project to be announced at a later date.
    • Learn advanced mixing processes to perfect the sound that sets you apart from the crowd.
    • (If selected) take part in our "Emerging Hip Hop Artists from Montreal" and "Emerging Hip Hop Artists from Toronto" cyphers to be delivered to an audience of over 100,000 listeners.

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Recording Arts Canada is a sound and music production college with campuses in downtown Montreal and Toronto. We're registered by Ontario's Ministry of Colleges and Universities and by Quebec's Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Canadian students qualify to apply for financial aid, and international students qualify to apply for post-study work permits.