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Old 10-25-2011, 05:02 PM   #1
Odirunn
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Metal(core) Recording and Mixing Tutorial

Hello!

Intro
This tutorial is meant as a guide for beginners and those interested in improving their heavy music production skills. The goal of this tutorial is not just to say, "put this plug in here, with these settings and it will make this sound good!", it is to try and explain why that plugin is going there, and what it's doing that makes it sound good. Once the reason why certain things are being done is understood, it's easy to apply to any mix, regardless of genre. Aside from the plugins used to generate the bass guitar DI and the drums, all the plugins in this tutorial are free and can be found below.

Before we start, here's what you'll need to follow/mix along:
1. Guitar, bass and drums stems
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/Stems.rar use the drums from here and guitars from below
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/Fixed%20Guitars.rar

2. The following VSTs:
- The Serina Experiment by onQel series, this song uses the 808, BOD, x50 and x30: http://www.theserinaexperiment.net/...c8bcedc135a0caa
- KeFir: http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multim...ins/keFIR.shtml
- Kjaerhus Classic Series VST: http://avaxhome.ws/software/softwar...Series_VST.html
- W1 Limiter: http://www.yohng.com/software/w1limit.html
- ReaEQ: http://www.reaper.fm/reaplugs/
- Catharsis Impulses: http://catharsis.supremepixels.com/...ime-fredman.zip
3. Your ears!
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get started.

Part I: Tracking
Tracking is one of the most important parts of this entire process. If the sound sources you begin with are total crap, no matter how much 'studio magic' you apply, the final product will still be less than ideal. Crap in, crap out.

The guitars here are a Fernandez Dragonfly, in drop C with passive pickups, recorded DI into a Focusrite Sapphire 6 USB. I pick pretty hard and the DI's clip a little bit, but not enough to be a major deal. Ideally, you don't want any clipping going into your DAW.

Once you're ready to record your guitar or bass, the most important thing of all presents itself: the performance. Sure, you can slip edit, flex time, elastic audio your way to a tight performance, but it really is best to get as close as possible without any of these tools. For the breakdown here, I punched in each of the chugs for maximum tightness. Punching in is different in all DAWs, just google yours + punch in and there will be plenty of how-to's. For those using Reaper, just right click on the record button, select "Record mode: time selection auto-punch," left click and drag on the timeline to select the region you wish to punch in, move the cursor a few measure before the punch in and hit record.

I then copied and pasted the first time through the breakdown across the rest. Can I play the whole thing? Yes. Do I need to record the whole thing multiple times? No. If you're playing a repeating riff, it's totally fine to save some time and copy+paste a solid performance.

The bass is a robot, but if I were to be tracking the bass, I'd do the same as I did with the guitars. If you're tracking drums, that and drum editing is a whole other beast. For the sake of this tutorial, I'm going to assume most people are using a VST for their drums.

Here's how my session looked when I finished recording everything:

Last edited by Odirunn : 10-27-2011 at 05:33 PM.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:02 PM   #2
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Part II: Mixing

Here comes the fun part! Now we get to take our dinky sounding... well everythings and make them sound awesome! If you're mixing along, import all the stems into your DAW on separate tracks and you're good to go. The whole point of mixing is to make sure all the different parts of your arrangement play nice and sit well together. During this process we'll also be creating our guitar and bass tones.

Drums
Drums are one of my favorite parts of the mix and usually where I start first. I like to get a good drums sound and then build the rest of my mix on that. Here's what our dry, unprocessed drums sound like: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/metaltut-drydrums.mp3

Pretty boring and dry!

Let's start with the kick. The first thing I always do with a kick is identify where the 'thud' or low end of the kick sits. To do this, I throw ReaEQ on the kick track and solo it.

As you can see form the screenshot above, there's a peak in the low end of the kick between 55hz and 75hz. Make a mental note of this value, you'll need it later.

Next I start sculpting the sound of the kick.

I used a 4 band EQ with ReaEQ. The first band is a high pass at 66 hz which rolls off all the frequencies below that value; I do this to help tame the sub low end and get rid of the stuff most speakers can't even reproduce. Next, on the second band, I scooped out a good chunk of the low mids (this is a personal taste thing). On the third band, I put a slight boost at 4.7khz because I liked the slap/click sound here. The fourth band is a low pass at 16khz. I also added Gclip, which is a clipper that cuts down on peaks, leaving me with more head room (0 gain, 50% clip, 0% softness) Here's what the processed kick sounds like: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/metaltut-prokick.mp3

Next I like to get a nice snare sound. I'm partial to big, warm snares, which is not everyone's taste so this is another thing where tone is your prerogative. First I clipped the snare with gclip (0 gain, 50% clip, 0% softness) and then added a reverb. Here are the settings I used:

How did I end up with these settings? I dicked around until I found something I like. I wanted enough reverb for it to be audible, give the snare some space, warm the snare up a bit, and make it sound bigger. Make sure you experiment a lot with the wet/dry %'s. I like to set it to 100% wet to pick my reverb, then use that knob to blend the two. Here's how the processed snare sounds: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/metaltut-proSNARE.mp3

Next up is the toms. For these toms, I thought they rang out a bit long, so I used a compressor to emphasize the attack and then clamp down on the tail.

Here are the compressor settings:

Just like on the reverb, I basically just messed around until I got a sound I was happy with. Without having a big in depth section about compression (there's already a thread like that), you use the threshold to set the volume at which the compressor kicks in; the attack dictates how quickly the compressors kicks on after the threshold has been passed, and the release sets how long before the compressors turns off again. In this case, I set the threshold low so I knew the whole signal would be getting compressed. For the attack, I started at 0.5ms and moved my way up until I could hear the main attack of the stick on the toms before the compressor kicks in; this gives them a lot more power. I set the release for 3 seconds because that's more than enough time for the compressor to be ready for the next tom hit. If there are tom fills, the release must be a lot quicker, this slow release time only works in this case because there aren't many toms hits. You'll need to experiment if you've got any sorts of fills to make sure the compressor does not pump.

Next I put on some additive EQ to boost the low end rumble and accentual the stick attack.

The reverb is copied over from the snare track to add some glue between the shells of the kit.

Here's the dry toms: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/metaltut-dryTOM.mp3
And here's the processed toms: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/metaltut-proTOM.mp3

Next up is the overhead track. Nothing fancy here, just EQ. There's a high pass to filter out most of the sounds of the kick and snare and then a high shelf to add some 'air.' I got these values by adjusting the bands while the drum buss played solo.


Last up is the room/ambient track. This, in my opinion is one of the most important tracks when working with programmed drums because it really adds cohesiveness to the whole kit; if your kit is too dry and separated, it doesn't sound like a real drum kit, just samples playing together. All I used on the room track was some EQ to filter out a bit of kick and snare with a high pass, and a mid scoop.


That does it for drums for now.
We started with: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/metaltut-drydrums.mp3
And ended with: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/metaltut-proDRUMS.mp3

We'll come back and adjust levels for everything once we've got our guitar and bass ready for mixing.

Last edited by Odirunn : 10-27-2011 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:03 PM   #3
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Bass

Bass is my second instrument to mix and probably my favorite instrument to experiment with different tones with. That said, it can also be a huge pain in the ass.

The first thing I do for bass processing is duplicate the DI and buss the two duplicated DI's to their own track. On one DI we will cut out everything above 200hz and on the second we'll start rolling off everything below 800hz. A lot of the vocalists I've worked with sit around 400-700hz with their growls so I tend to leave the low mids in the bass pretty sparse.

Here's the EQ on the first DI (the low track):

There's a high pass to get rid of most of the junk we can't hear (it's also set above 55hz which is where the kick fundamental was, this helps make room for the kick thud), a pretty big cut around 100hz because there was a pretty boomy note during the chorus that I needed to tame, and finally the low pass to get rid of everything but the lows. After the EQ comes the W1 limiter to squash the signal.

This is basically just limiting the piss out of the track.

Next up is the grit or distortion track. This is another thing that's totally up to taste when it comes to crafting your tone. My chain was: TSE 808 > TSE BOD > EQ > W1.

TSE 808: Everything at 12 o'clock
TSE BOD:

EQ: High pass at 800hz, nothing else
W1: same values as the one on the low DI.

After that I do some additional processing on the bass buss. I put another W1 to again squash the two DIs together; same settings as before. The idea with all this limiting is to keep the bass signal as steady as possible so it's not all over the place volume wise.
Here's how this all turned out: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/metaltut-bass.mp3

Guitars
On to the likely most pertinent part of this whole thing!

For the rhythm guitars (panned 100% L/R) the chain looked like: TSE 808 > TSE x50 > KeFir > EQ
TSE 808: drive at 0, tone and volume at 12 o'clock
x50:

Like the bass grit, all personal taste here.
KeFir:

All you need to do with this is load up the impulse of your choosing and put the mix to 100%
Last up is EQ:

High pass at 100hz. Surgical cuts at 3k and 4k to get rid of that plasticy, annoying digital hiss and a low pass at 8khz to get rid of all the high end junk.

The lead part has the same chain except the amp is changed to the x30 and I put a delay on there. This track is panned center.
x30:

The delay is just the ping pong preset on the Classic Delay

Last edited by Odirunn : 10-27-2011 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:29 PM   #4
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Levels

Now that we've gotten tones we're happy with, it's time to make everything fit together. This is a really simple mix so this isn't going to be a big problem. The big problem spot here is usually the kick and bass playing nice together; what's why we made sure that the kick fundamentals were cut on the low bass DI track.

I start by turning all my faders down to 0. First I bring up the bass guitar buss so it's peaking around -20 dbfs. Next comes the kick. Once it's sitting nicely with the bass I bring up the rest of the drums, piece by piece. Lastly, up come the guitars. The whole point of mixing at such a low volume is to leave headroom for mastering; my mix is peaking at -7.7dbfs with everything brought up.

Faux-Mastering
Now it's time to bring the volume up to a more listenable level. My master buss has W1 then Gclip on it. The limiter will bring the overall volume up and then gclip clips off the highest peaks, allowing for a little more volume boost.


Here the ceiling is set at -0.3 so there will be no clipping problems when rendering the mp3. Next you need to adjust the threshold and release until it sounds good, pretty much. The lower the threshold, the more slammed and crappy sounding your mix will get. Since my mix was peaking at -7.7 db, I started with the threshold at -7.7db and lowered it until I could hear artifacts and distortion and then brought it back up. Then I messed around with the release until I heard something I liked.

After the limiter I threw on gclip:

As I said, this just clips off the highest peaks, giving you a tiny bit more headroom to cleanly raise the volume slightly. Every little bit helps!


And there you have it. Our final master is sitting right around -12 RMS (not quite commercial standard, but def enough for all intents and purposes) and we're doneski.

Check it out: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/metaltut-master.mp3

Last edited by Odirunn : 10-27-2011 at 07:32 PM.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:39 PM   #5
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Old 10-25-2011, 08:26 PM   #6
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Will finish up tomorrow. If anyone sees any major issues in what I've posted, please let me know!
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Old 10-25-2011, 10:18 PM   #7
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Hurry up and do the next parts! The drums bit has been really helpful. Here's what I've got so far (the guitar tone is awful though): https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/meta....mp3?w=f3511f30
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Old 10-25-2011, 10:50 PM   #8
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This is very well done. Nice work.

Look forward to the rest.

Any particle reason your using multiple inserts of the same reverb vs a send return system?
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Old 10-26-2011, 12:01 AM   #9
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IMO.. your guitar DIs are super weak.. I dont know if your picking hand is weak or your signal is low but its killing the tone.
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Old 10-26-2011, 05:43 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat g0r0T
IMO.. your guitar DIs are super weak.. I dont know if your picking hand is weak or your signal is low but its killing the tone.

Could just be the pickups, the tone is really bright on my computer (I'm assuming the guitar is a Dragonfly Pro, since no pickup model was mentioned, and the Pro comes with Fernandes pickups as apposed to the Elite with Duncan JB/59). I had to low pass a lot of frequencies I usually never touch on my guitars. Signal/volume-wise, the signal is a bit weak (should be ~-18dB RMS, and it's at -25dB peaking at 15dB), but that didn't stop me from getting decent results. They should be mono tracks though, not stereo like they are, that could be causing your issues.
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Last edited by MatrixClaw : 10-26-2011 at 05:46 AM.
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Old 10-26-2011, 06:50 AM   #11
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I'm gonna try to do a mix on my own with your stems, then do a mix following your guide and compare the two
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Old 10-26-2011, 08:20 AM   #12
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Are the guitar stems not the same as the ones you used in the clip you posted? Or did you use a tape-stop effect on the guitars at the spots where the toms also hit?

PS: Those Trillian DI tracks sound ****ing great. I need to get it

EDIT: Here's a fast mix I did. Added some grit to the bass, because I like that I was also pretty annoyed by the ringing toms, so I gated them pretty hard.

http://soundcloud.com/mattra-1/mixtest
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Old 10-26-2011, 11:00 AM   #13
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@Wild
I didn't use any send/returns because for the sake of simplicity, it was easier to just copy the instance over. On all my other stuff I use send returns for snare verb, parallel compression, etc.

@Matrix
It's an older model Dragonfly I got in 2005 or 2006. It's got single coil bridge and middle pickups and a humbucker in the bridge. I'm fairly certain I got the humbucker replaced a few years back and I honestly have no idea what pickup the shop put in; I'm guessing it was a warranty replacement from Fernandez.

@Filth
There's a pitch drop automated on those parts; I'll do a little sub section about that under the guitar section. And yeah, Trillian is killer. It was between that or a J-bass and I'm happy with the choice I made... I end up programming most of the bass for bands I record (dont tell the bassists!)

I'm in class at the moment, but when I'm home after this gym this afternoon I'll finish up!
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Old 10-26-2011, 01:39 PM   #14
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I think you forgot to reset the faders to 0 or something before rendering the stems because the guitar DIs are insanely weak. The peaks are much higher in the screenshot you posted (L+R to mono of course). Also there's no need to render the guitar and bass DIs (or really anything that is in mono like the kick and snare mics) in stereo since the tracks are already mono, you're just making us download twice the data for no reason. As for EQing, it's common practice to use a wide band when boosting and a narrow when cutting. It sounds better that way, but if you want to read into it more here's a good article: http://www.hometracked.com/2008/01/...row-boost-wide/

Other than that this might be a good guy for the people that are just getting started. I'll try mixing this later if you fix the guitar stems.
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Old 10-26-2011, 02:01 PM   #15
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Yeah, I did start with mono'ing all unnecessary stereo-tracks and normalizing all the tracks, but you might wan't to make that clear to people
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Old 10-26-2011, 02:13 PM   #16
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Sorry about that, when I rendered all the stems Reaper must have put everything to stereo, even the tracks that were mono. I'll re-up the stems.
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Old 10-26-2011, 03:18 PM   #17
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These Guitar Di's are quite terrible to work with in my honest opinion, struggling hard to get any good tone out of this
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Old 10-26-2011, 10:11 PM   #18
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Here are the fixed DI's: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/Fixed%20Guitars.rar
OP edited with links to fixed DI's and drums.

Sorry I couldn't find time to finish the rest today. It's coming!
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:03 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MatrixClaw
Could just be the pickups, the tone is really bright on my computer (I'm assuming the guitar is a Dragonfly Pro, since no pickup model was mentioned, and the Pro comes with Fernandes pickups as apposed to the Elite with Duncan JB/59). I had to low pass a lot of frequencies I usually never touch on my guitars. Signal/volume-wise, the signal is a bit weak (should be ~-18dB RMS, and it's at -25dB peaking at 15dB), but that didn't stop me from getting decent results. They should be mono tracks though, not stereo like they are, that could be causing your issues.


If the pickups are the problem I would recommend "Acme Gig Bar's Redshift Pickup Changer" to help compensate for it.
I know my LTD EX 50 pickups aren't strong, so I just use that vst to help with the tone.
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Old 10-27-2011, 03:49 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Odirunn
Here are the fixed DI's: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16210823/Fixed%20Guitars.rar
OP edited with links to fixed DI's and drums.

Sorry I couldn't find time to finish the rest today. It's coming!

I think those will work quite nicely for those having problems. Your OH/Room tracks are now mono though, which isn't good

Got bored waiting for my friend to get here so we could practice songs for a show I'm filling in drums in for his band, so I figured I'd give the plugins you have on here a whirl since I've never heard of those Kjaerhus ones and figured I'd try em out. Here's what I've done so far to the song:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4018922/UGmetalcoreMix.mp3





Odirunn - What did you use for drums on this?
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Last edited by MatrixClaw : 10-27-2011 at 03:51 AM.
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