RSR124 – Mike Senior- The Tao Of Facepalm – Important Failures You are making In Your Home Studio And How To Turn Into Big Wins

Mike talks about the importance of mistakes in the studio, and shares some great tips for recording drums, bass, guitars, and vocals!

My guest today is Mike Senior, a professional recording and mixing engineer, who has worked with artists such as The Charlatans, Reef, Therapy, Nigel Kennedy, and Wet Wet Wet.

In October 1999, he joined the editorial department of Sound On Sound magazine as the Reviews Editor for six years and also launched both the popular 'Studio SOS' and 'Mix Rescue' columns.

Since turning freelance, he has specialised in project-studio production and become one of Sound On Sound's most prolific contributors, performing more than 50 Mix Rescue remixes, launching the regular Session Notes recording-technique feature, and critiquing more than 350 commercial releases in his monthly Mix Review column. 

In 2011 he published the best-selling book 'Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio', and its sequel 'Recording Secrets For The Small Studio' followed in 2014. Alongside his audio and writing work, Mike also hosts the well-known Cambridge-MT educational resources website, which includes the web's largest free multitrack download library as well as thousands of recording and mixing audio demonstrations.

Today Mike is going to talk about the power of mistakes in the studio, and just how valuable they can be as out teachers and guides. He is also going to teach us 4 important mistakes that you are probably making in the studio, and how to turn those from big failures into bigger wins.

(Keep reading below for more bonus links from Mike)

"If it sounds good. It is good!" #MikeSenior

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More bonus stuff from Mike...

Mike's Wild Stereo Mic Test:

All my Mix Review critiques or commercial productions are freely available to read online. Here's a full listing of them all with links: http://cambridge-mt.com/MikeSeniorFull.htm#MixReview

And, specifically, here are a few of those specific critiques where I discuss tracks which I suspect contain engineering mistakes: Hilary Hahn: Christos Hatzis 'Coming To' (check out the strange stereo imaging artefacts) http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan16/articles/mix-review-0116.htm#para1

Rudimental (featuring John Newman): 'Feel The Love' (odd mono-incompatible low end) https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/mix-review-10#para1

Labrinth (featuring Emeli Sandé): 'Beneath Your Beautiful' (sounds suspiciously like the CD album version was mastered from an MP3) https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/mix-review-6#para3

Classic Mix: Bing Crosby: 'White Christmas' (was the balance engineer napping during Bing's opening phrase?) http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/dec13/articles/themixreview-1213.htm#para4

Classic Mix: The Police: 'Roxanne' (Sting sits on the piano keyboard and there's some clunky editing)

For the business questions, there's one book that's really influenced me with regards to the positive power of mistakes: Matthew Syed's 'Black Box Thinking'. If you want a flavour of what he has to say, check out his TEDX talk at the London Business School: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmVCYqs3mko

My own personal recommendations for project-studio loudspeakers and headphones for mixing:

http://www.cambridge-mt.com/ms-ch1.htm#links

http://www.cambridge-mt.com/ms-ch2.htm#links

This one I'll illustrate by talking about my struggles with stereo recording technique. In the end, the guy who I most trust these days on the subject is called Helmut Wittek, who has an excellent resources website here: http://www.hauptmikrofon.de/us/helmut-wittek

In particular, he has developed an app for Schopes called IMA3 which provides really useful guidance on how to set up all manner of stereo microphone techniques, as well as information about their unique sonic characteristics: http://www.ima.schoeps.de/

My favourite book on the subject of perceptual bias is Thaler & Sunstein's classic 'Nudge' -- in just 20 pages, the first chapter lists a half-dozen peceptual biases that I struggle with all the time, both in and out of the studio.

The other killer bias in studios is, of course, loudness bias, and here are three situations you have to be really careful about it: - When parallel compressing: it's really easy to end up making an instrument louder if you're adding the compressed signal via a separate mixer channel.

- When multimiking any instrument: add in any extra microphone, and it'll make the resulting sound louder.

- When EQing: if you use a lot of boosts, you'll make the sound louder in addition to adjusting its tone.

DRUMS - In dry-sounding rooms, try using more than two overheads. Here's a free web article (with audio files) about a session where I used two pairs of overheads rather than one: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr13/articles/session-notes-0413.htm

RECORDING ACOUSTIC GUITARS - demonstrates (with audio files) how good they can sound: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan16/articles/session-notes-0116.htm

Here's that audio example I mentioned of a figure-eight guitar mic two feet from the singer (http://audio.cambridge-mt.com/CMTWorkshops/PSE_RecordingMistakes/AES0306_Figure8GuitarSeparation.mp3)

ELECTRIC GUITARS - Multimiking. Here's another free web article with audio demonstrations of that technique in practice: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug13/articles/session-notes-0813.htm

VOCAL RECORDING - Try speaker foldback. Here are some audio examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of various different foldback-spill-reduction techniques: http://www.cambridge-mt.com/rs-ch5.htm#audio

MIXING - Mix referencing is the king of all small-studio mixing techniques. Here's an article about choosing and using mix references: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/creating-your-own-reference-cd



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