Keith Everette Smith

Producer, Songwriter, Multi-Instrumentalist

Filtering by Tag: Recording

Cross Church Worship

CROSS CHURCH WORSHIP

One of the highlights of my year has been working with Cross Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas on a live worship record.  Their pastor Ronnie Floyd is the pastor of the Southern Baptist Convention and so there was a great opportunity to create an album that could positively affect churches across the world by giving them new songs and new arrangements to worship with.  

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There was a challenge to overcome.  The album had to be recorded on May 3 rd because of other church events, and the Southern Baptist Convention started on June 15.  If you know anything about recording albums, you know that recording, pressing, and releasing a record typically takes more than 6 weeks!  We put our thinking caps on and I called some producer friends who have made a lot of live albums for some advice, and we came up with a plan. 

Our plan consisted of two months of serious pre-production and rehearsals, so that the night of worship to be recorded on May 3 would be as tight as possible with little need for additional post-production and overdubs.  Most work had to be done ahead of time in order to get this all done.  So, we went in the studio and recorded demos of all 10 songs.   We worked together to perfect our to-do list and timeline for tasks that would allow us to finish on time.

The Cross Church Worship Team did an amazing job!  I’ve never experienced a team so excited and passionate about a project, and willing to do whatever it took to accomplish a goal, and care for the details the way this team did.  What was even more impressive was how much these people led, pastored, and cared for one another and their congregation.  I’ve met few worship teams like it.  Worship pastor, Julio Ariolla, is a rare leader who empowers his team and led with confident humility and without the insecurities that many leaders carry with them.   I was so grateful that he trusted me and Tasha with coming in and working with their team.

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The end result was a special night in the presence of God.  We had an encounter with His glory and we were changed.  All of the planning and preparation didn’t box us in, it made a way… and when the Holy Spirit led us to move in directions different than our plan, we had practiced flexibility so that we were able to adjust.  After all, we are only worship leaders for those in the congregation.  In the presence of Jesus, we are all followers and responders. 

I hope you’ll check out this special project.  I think the evening was well captured and a great representation of what happened that evening! 

Listen on iTunes: Come Alive

Be Blessed,

Keith

 

In The Studio With Michael Jackson


I just finished reading In The Studio With Michael Jackson by Bruce Swedien. What a great book! If you’re into recording and/or love the music of Michael Jackson you’ll really get into this book. Bruce is a BRILLIANT recordist and mixer. He has been at the forefront of music recording for decades. In this book you really get a sense for Bruce’s love for music and his love of Michael Jackson. What I enjoyed most was how much insight Bruce gives into technical recording techniques. Not so detailed that it’s overwhelming, but he recalls techniques and tricks he and Quincy Jones used while recording Michael’s great music.


I highly recommend you buy this book. (or download it on you Kindle!!)

For even more stories, tips and tricks from Bruce Swedien, check out Bruce’s many posts on Gearslutz.com. Bruce moderated a forum a few years back. You can still read it here.

MY FAVORITE DRUM MICS

Here’s a list of my favorite drum mics.

KICK DRUM -

  • INSIDE: (one of the following) EV RE-20, AKG D12, Shure Beta52
  • OUTSIDE: Telefunken Fet 47
  • SUB: NS10M with attenuator (I like this much better than the Yamaha SubKick for some reason)
SNARE DRUM -
  • TOP: Shure SM57 and a Josephson E-e22s
  • BOTTOM: AKG 414 (in hyper cardioid mode) or a Shure SM57
HI HATS
  • Neumann KM84, AKG 451, or AKG 414 (in figure 8 mode)
(Note: using the figure 8 mode on hi hats can sometimes decrease snare bleed but placement is key)

TOMS
  • Sennheiser 421’s, Sennheiser e604’s (potentially an EV-RE20 or AKG D112 on Floor Tom)
OVERHEAD’S
  • Soundelux U95S, Neumann U87’s , Royer SF12 Stereo Ribbon, or AEA R88 Stereo Ribbon
MONO ROOM MIC
  • Telefunken U47, Royer 121 or Shure SM57
CLOSE STEREO ROOM MICS
  • Beyerdynamic M160 Ribbons, or Neumann KM184’s
FAR STEREO ROOM MICS
  • Neumann U67’s, Neumann U87’s
A few notes on why…

I try not to overdo it with too many ribbon microphones all over the place. If I’m using ribbons on overheads I try to use large diaphragm condenser microphones more on room mics and visa versa. Ribbon mics can really warm up the sound of the kit.

In my mixes I’m not necessarily using all of these mics. Sometimes I do. It is a great thing to blend mics together to achieve a certain sound rather than to EQ. I love the sound of a 57 on a snare drum but the e22 has a nice top end. The two working together can sound great.

I love having room mic options because it can give you a lot of different colors and depths while mixing. For instance, your verses could be more dry, featuring the overhead mics and direct mic sounds, your chorus might be roomier. You might turn your mono room mic into an effect for a section of the song, adding massive amounts of compression and distortion to your sound (try running this microphone through an amp or amp simulator). This leaves you with lots of options for creativity later on.

PHASING IS THE ENGINEER’S ONLY ARCH ENEMY!

If you get your phasing right, you’ll be able to fix all other problems. Check your phasing by checking your microphones in mono. It can help to run your room microphones in the same line of sight. This way, some phasing could be corrected with time adjustments later. I have a few friends who are particularly good with phasing. Maybe I’ll ask them to write a blog post for you!)

TRY ANYTHING - I try to have my close room mics be a picture of the kit as it sounds in the room. My far room mics are the sound of the ROOM. For this reason, you can experiment with placement. Try NOT aiming the mics at the kit and see if you enjoy the results. If you’re recording in a bedroom, try putting a room mic in the hallway or close bathroom.


Organizing Files! The nightmare tamed!

There are two things I really hate… paper and cables! These things clutter my life more than anything else. It happens less now that I’m not doing so much arranging, but I still hate paper… how it piles up. Cables, how they get tangled and messy and how they never wrap up just right.

A close third on my hate list is FILES! Files are a necessary evil for us all (all of us who use computers anyway).

I’ve come up with a plan that seems to work well for me. I realize there’s probably some loopholes in this plan but it has served me well.


MANAGING SESSION FILES -

I recommend saving a new session file whenever you do something major to your session. Your session files act as a timeline for your project. Find significant points in your production/mix to save a new session file.

It’s also important to save the date and time in the session title. Yes, I know that these things are tagged automatically to the file, but I find it useful to put it in the title. For one, it organizes your session files roughly by date and time.

ex. “Get Me 2 U-061709 0554pm drums completed.ptf”

The date and time always follow the title THEN put any additional information. This keeps your files nice and organized.

OLD SESSIONS -

All session files I am not currently using go into a file I’ve created called “old sessions.” Without exception, the only session file in plain sight within my session directory is the current one I’m working on. You can color code it too if you want.

00 BOUNCE -

I also create a folder called “00 BOUNCE” (the ‘00’ ensures that this folder stays at the top of the directory). This is where I save all of my printed mixes.

KEEPING TRACK OF PRINTED MIXES w/SESSION FILES


It’s happened to me time and time again. I print a mix, show it to the client and we move on. Later someone says, “You know, I wish we’d not made those changes. Can we just go back to the last mix you sent and start from there?” That’s when I’d find myself in trouble. If I did not save a session to correspond to the printed mix, I would have no way of getting back to that point. I have your solution!!! ….

When it’s time to print a mix save a new session based on the date and time but add the tag, “upld1” to the end. So your session file would read “Get Me 2 U-061709 0605pm upld1.ptf” Now print your mix and give it the same title “Get Me 2 U-061709 0605pm upld1.wav.” Now once you’re finished printing save a new session file and label it one minute after the print “Get Me 2 U-061709 0606pm.ptf.” That leaves a session file unaltered from the way it was when your song was printed. You tracking with me?

The reason I do this is because I would often save a new session before I print a mix but I would then alter the session file without realizing it. If I needed to recall 'upld1’ the session file would not sound the same. This ensures you’ll be able to pull up the mix because any alteration will be made to your new file. Be sure to then put all of the unused session files in the 'old sessions’ folder.

Adding the tag 'upld1’ or 'upld1’ allows you to track which mixes/session files have been printed and sent to the client. This is extremely helpful when referencing each mix.

FINAL MIXES -

When it’s time to print the final mixes, you treat your session files the same way. Save a session file that corresponds to each printed mix. 'GET ME 2 U-M.wav’ would have a session file titled 'GET ME 2 U-M.ptf.’ I always put the final mixes in all caps to help me find them easily. Putting the final mixes in a unique folder also can help.

Happy organizing!!!

Have to post this...

If you’re not a major audio nerd just LEAVE NOW. I had to post this because it had a lot of sense and I had not heard (read) this.

The topic is harmonic distortion. Harmonic distortion is added by tubes and transistors and adds harmonics on top of the sound fist in octaves, then in fifths…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_series_(music)

Even order harmonics are more pleasing and add a thickness to the sound. Odd order harmonics introduce more dissonant colors and can be less pleasing. This would come in handy when dealing with your EL Distressor which has a distortion option (DIST 1 is even order and DIST 2 is odd order).

What I was excited to learn was about the pleasing and not so pleasing qualities of these two types of distortion. This was new to me. Thanks to Jim Roberts for posting this post. Check out his blog. It’s great.


You can read more here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tube_sound#Harmonic_content_and_distortion

Have to post this...

If you’re not a major audio nerd just LEAVE NOW. I had to post this because it had a lot of sense and I had not heard (read) this.

The topic is harmonic distortion. Harmonic distortion is added by tubes and transistors and adds harmonics on top of the sound fist in octaves, then in fifths…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_series_(music)

Even order harmonics are more pleasing and add a thickness to the sound. Odd order harmonics introduce more dissonant colors and can be less pleasing. This would come in handy when dealing with your EL Distressor which has a distortion option (DIST 1 is even order and DIST 2 is odd order).

What I was excited to learn was about the pleasing and not so pleasing qualities of these two types of distortion. This was new to me. Thanks to Jim Roberts for posting this post. Check out his blog. It’s great.


You can read more here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tube_sound#Harmonic_content_and_distortion

TOP 10 PRODUCER MISTAKES (I know, I've done them all!)

I notice things about producers… things that people do over and over again that I notice. I notice them because I used to do them, or struggle with these things myself. I thought I’d compile a list of some of these things. Here we go… my top 10 producer mistakes… (in no real order)

#1) Caring more for creating cool, technical band arrangements at the expense of the song and lead vocal.

** Guys, c'mon… it’s about the song! it’s about the vocal!

#2) Leaving bad edits in your song, not cross-fading and checking things before they head off to mix.

** I notice this because some producers do this to me! They leave bad edits, don’t cross-fade those edits and general leave things “unfinished.” This stuff could make it to the final mix! Don’t chance it. Your mixer is not your editor.

#3) Picking the wrong tempo for a song.

** I’m aware that this is preference but I hear a lot of songs that are simply to slow or too fast for the style. If it makes the song sound awkward, then it’s the wrong tempo.

#4) Not being patient enough to get good vocals!

** It can take a lot of effort to get a good vocal take. It takes a lot of psychology to coach an inexperienced or nervous vocalist. What is worse is hearing a poor vocal performance but a killer guitar solo.. THE VOCAL IS KING! Be patient and get the vocal! Nothing else matters.

#5) Over-tuning or not being careful when tuning vocals.

** This takes time, but listen carefully and make sure you can’t hear the auto-tune working. You might have to dig into manual mode and get picky but it’ worth it. I like hearing out of tune vocals more than I like the sound of auto-tune! YUCK!

#6) Double tracking everything!

** To many guys, double tracking is the key to everything. It makes things bigger, covers mistakes, and gets you excited about guitars! Double tracking everything can also make for a boring mix! Double what is necessary. Leaving some stuff un-doubled (does that work to say?) makes the stuff you did double sound bigger in contrast!

#7) Putting high-pass filters on everything.

** I know some people that put HPF’s on everything including kick and bass guitar. Now, this can be necessary but it sound be determined by YOUR EARS not what you think you should do. Use HPF’s on when you have instruments competing for low-end real estate. Your mixes will sound thin otherwise.
NOTE: check stuff on small speakers. If you blow one up, you have too much LOW END :)

#8) Phasing issues with Overhead mics and guitars!

** There’s one thing that my poor hearing has done has made me listen in mono more. What you’ll notice is phasing issues. It is very easy for guitars to be out of phase because of the complexity the wave form (particularly distorted guitars). If you check your work in mono and the gain is decreased and everything falls apart you know you have phasing issues (I say “the mix folds into itself! that’s what I think phasing sounds like.) Search google for ways to avoid phasing.

#9) Using synth pads all the time!

** Sometimes you need space in a mix. I much enjoy it! Pads can make things muddy and ACTUALLY they can make stuff sound dated and lame! Sometimes it is actually the right thing to do, sometimes it’s not.

#10) Not using me as your mixer!

** I’m affordable and good looking. I’m sure to do a good job on your next record :) ha!!



UNTIL NEXT TIME "Stay classy San Diego!”

Hearing Loss

Hey guys. I thought I’d post this article I found. I have a great amount of hearing loss in my left ear. The high end is gone and my stereo image is off. It bothers me a great deal because I wish I had been more careful. So, I plead with you… turn down the monitors, get a sound pressure meter for your studio and protect your ears against loud noises.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/83516.php

Also, it’s a good idea to invest in a good pair of molded in ear monitors if you are a performer (especially a drummer). 2 companies I recommend…

http://livewiresforyou.com/


http://www.ultimateears.com/_ultimateears/
(I have the UE-7’s with the ambient feature)

Compressor Wars


Compressors are perhaps the most mysterious of audio processors. You either admit that you don’t know how to use them or you are always learning how to use them more efficiently and to every extent that they are capable. I guess what I’m trying to say is that compressors are deep.. WAY deep. There’s a lot to learn. Even once you understand their concept there seems to be hundreds of ways to use them.

Different ways to use a compressor (there may be more… I’m still learning too)…

  • Control dynamics
  • Add “thickness” to an audio source
  • make something “punchy”
  • make something “pump”
  • control sibilance
  • control EQ of an audio source
  • add “color to an audio source
Like I said, there are more ways than this to use a compressor and within these functions there are plently of ways to achieve the same goal.

Honestly, the sound of modern recording is the sound of compression. I’m not just talking about a dynamically squashed sound (although this can be the result of the following) but compressors thicken and add color to anything it’s applied too, especially in heavy doses. Rock music often adds compression generously, thus giving the listener the illusion that a mix is louder and thicker. Consoles like the SSL E Series console offer dynamic processing on every channel allowing mixers to use as much compression as was needed. Today, most mixes are performed inside of a DAW (digital audio workstation.) This offers the mixer even more control over dynamics.

I want to talk about the common controls that a compressor utilizes. We’ll talk about the different ways to use a compressors and possible settings for different instruments later. For now, the basics.

INPUT - controls the amount of gain that enters the compressor.

THRESHOLD - the point when the compressor kicks in. i.e. If the threshold is set to -10bd then any audio louder that -10db that enters the compressor will be compressed. Anything under the threshold will be left alone (except "soft knee” compression… see below.“

ATTACK - I like to rename this "attack speed” because I feel it accurately verbalizes what the attack setting does - Once an audio source rises over the threshold the compressor can kick in at different speeds. A fast attack would turn the compressor on very quickly (keeping harsh peaks at bay) where a slow attack would let the first transients (the first part of the audio source) pass through before the compressor reacts (this setting will let any percussive sounds keep their “punch”

RELEASE (or “release time”) - The release setting determine how fast or slow a compressor shuts off after the source has gone below the threshold. The release time may be determined by the speed of the rhythmic-ness of the instrument. A release time that is slower that the next transient peak may sound lifeless and flat.

RATIO - Without a doubt the most complicated part of the compressor. The ratio decides by what ratio is an audio source reduced. You'lll see settings like 3:1, 4:1, 6:1. A 3:1 ratio means that an audio source will be allowed to raise 3db before 1db of compression is applied. This allows there to still be dynamics in audio even when the audio is being compressed. To complete this definition. A source that has risen 6db above the threshold and has a 3:1 ratio will be reduced by 2db. In the same manner, an audio source that has risen 12by above the thresh. and has a 4:1 ratio will be reduced 3db. It is actually very simple.

OUTPUT (or “make-up gain”) - It’s true, any time you add compression you are lowering the dynamic range of at least some part of the sound. The output knob simply adds gain where the compressor has taken it away. A good way to put it would be if you turned down the volume of your TIVO but turned up the TV to make up the volume loss. OR when your ipod is too loud in playing through your car stereo and it distorts… you turn the ipod down and turn up the car stereo to make up the difference.

SOFT-KNEE COMPRESSION - Soft knee compression basically makes it so the compressor is actually working a bit below the threshold. It gradually begins working harder as source nears the threshold. You might use this setting if you want the source colored in general, not just at the peaks.

HARD -KNEE COMPRESSION - this type of compression is the “normal” way of using a compressor… the compressor begins working only above the threshold. You would use this setting when you desire for only the peaks to be reduced.


That’s it… the basics. I’ll be touching more of compression soon. There is so much to cover. If I could offer one tip… when you’re first starting to use compression, try using a LOT while you’re messing around with your gear. Like any gear, take it to the limit. It is at this point where you find out what your compressors can do and what they sound like. When you learn the sound of a compressors extremes you will learn to hear when it is applied in small doses.

INSTRUMENT COMPRESSION SETTINGS COMING SOON!

Imogen Heap!! Binaural Microphones


I am continually impressed with Imogen Heap and her music. I mean, “Hide and Seek” is perhaps one of the most unbelievable recordings I’ve ever heard. It’s just so unique but SOOO listen-able. I know plenty of people who can record unique music that no one wants to hear. That’s easy. I can even do that… but to make something that people want to hear and have it be “original.” That to me is very cool!


Imogen Heap recently released a new song called “Not Now But Soon.” The song was written, produced, performed, recorded and mixed by Emogen! Seriously????!!!!??? That’s just amazing. I’m really not trying be sexist, but don’t know many women who are doing this kind of stuff.

Another reason to download the song is that it includes a short video on the making of the song. While I was marveling at Emogen’s use of walls, radiators and bricks to make her recording I noticed that she was wearing in-ear monitors AND what looked like a second set of headphones. “wierd,” I thought. Then I heard her say something like, “I was recording my house using binaural microphones.” Basically, there are headphones that have the polarity reversed, thus turning the headphones into microphones! There are a few companies who make legit binaural mics. I’m sure she’s probably using one of these.

Binaural mics are basically trying to closely simulate human ears and the way our head picks up stereo images. I’ve even seen binaural mics that use an artificial head between the mics. The space between the mics recreates more accurately the way we hear directional sound.

I’ve been thinking about buying a small digital recorder. Edirol makes one that I’ve seen many people use. I hear that the stereo mics right on the device sound pretty good. I could even plug some binaural mics into it and walk around town recording people and nature in hopes of finding unique sounds to place in my recordings. Like all of you, budgets are tight so maybe I’ll wait. I must admit, my wish list is quite long.

WARNING: HEAVY TECH TALK (in case you normal people wanna check out ;)

On that note, I just updated my digital converters from Digidesign 192 I/O’s to Apogee Rosetta 800’s. For real, everything is a good bit smoother and punchy. While at it I’ve been learning Logic. I must admit, Logic has a lot of really cool instruments. Programming goes down a lot smoother. Everything is pretty much geared towards electronic music. Drawback… the editing sucks compared to Pro Tools. You CAN edit in Logic but with much less precision.

Hopefully I’ll be able to utilize both programs to my advantage. My arsenal… Pro Tools HD 7.4, Logic 8 Pro, Ableton Live 6, Finale Music.

Till next time…