Friday, 2 March 2012

Final Q&A

Here is the last Q&A of the blog. Please go to @krecording on Twitter or our Facebook page if you have any more questions. If I get enough then maybe I’ll start a regular Q&A blog!

I've a Takamine acoustic guitar, would you ever go straight into desk and mic at the same time?

I almost never use the direct out of a semi acoustic guitar. That’s not to say you shouldn’t though but I find it much easier to get a decent sound with a well placed microphone. The sound from an acoustic guitar is a sum of its parts, that is if you listen to one part, the bridge, like the direct out does, then you aren’t getting the full sound.

If you are unsure of microphone technique or are recording in a noisy environment then you can get some use out of it. Otherwise make the microphone your predominant texture.

Where do you set the threshold on a compressor? Many software compressors have adjustable threshold settings and I've often wondered where is the right place.
Probably the best way to go about the threshold is to set it to an extreme setting and then work back from there. I normally set it so the compressor is measuring 3-6db of gain reduction. If you slam the sound into the threshold then as you back it off you get a good idea of what the sound is doing.

If you set the threshold of a compressor high, with a ratio of about 4:1 and getting about 6db reduction, is the sound the same as setting the threshold lower though with a ratio of 1:5:1 and getting -6db.

That’s a no. With the low ratio/low threshold combo, pretty much all of the sound is compressed, even though it’s by a small amount. With the high ratio/high threshold combo just the loudest parts are being compressed. The gain reduction amount might look the same but it’s affecting the sound differently.

What Sound Card should I use?

How long is a piece of string? There are many sound card choices out there and there are many that will do the job you need.

The main questions you should answer before buying are:

How much can I spend?
Avid sound cards/interfaces with Pro Tools bundles

If you have more money then obviously you can buy a better unit. Buy the best you can afford, it’s the main way you will get signal to your software, don’t skimp!

How many inputs will I need?

No need to get 32 inputs if you only need 2 and likewise no need to get 2 when you want to record a drum kit!

Do I need software?

You may already have software. If not some sound cards come bundled with software. Either way factor this into your budget.

What can my computer handle?

If you have an old slow computer then it will restrict everything from the number of tracks you can play to the amount of effects and plug ins you can use. There’s no point in spending €1000’s on a card if your computer is not up to it.

What microphone do you recommend for an acoustic guitar?

Typical acoustic microphone technique
By and large acoustic guitars are quiet and have a full frequency range. I’d avoid dynamic mics like Shure SM58s, especially if you are going into a cheap preamp. The Dynamic mics tend to be quiet and not recreate high frequencies that well.

Condenser mics are somewhat more suited. Again check you budget and see what you can afford. SE Electronics and Rode are good low budget starting points.

That’s it from me! Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out the videos on my website.

Andy Knightley

Thursday, 1 March 2012


Well here it is. The last blog for a while. It’s been great to write these and even better to hear all of the great feedback.

I’ll be back tomorrow to answer any questions you have on the last Q&A blog so please follow @krecording on Twitter, “like” Krecording on Facebook or email to get questions to me.


This is a biggie. I have been an engineer for over a decade and I’ve spent most of that time developing an “ear” for how I should EQ instruments and tracks. My best advice is use EQ as often as possible. The more you use it, the more you develop an ear for it.

At first your EQing will more than likely be quite drastic but as you learn you’ll find that the subtle changes make a big difference.

A typical EQ plug in will have multiple bands, High, High Mid, Low Mid and Low. You can either turn up (Boost) or turn down (Cut) these frequencies. You can also sweep along the frequency range and choose how wide or narrow your cut or boost will be.

Typical software EQ with only Cuts applied
The three main controls on these bands are:

Cut/Boost (GAIN)– The volume you are turning up the frequencies by

Sweep (FREQ)– The frequency you are turning up

Q – The range of frequencies you are altering

The easiest way to use EQ is to select a frequency band, make the “Q” relatively narrow, and boost the frequency all the way. Don’t be afraid of it. Now that you can hear a frequency boost use the Sweep to listen to other frequencies. Do you hear anything you don’t like? Cut it. Anything you do like? Either leave it alone or boost it slightly. EQ tends to work best if you mostly cut rather than boost.

Waves Renaissance EQ with high frequencies boosted
When you choose a track to EQ the first thing you should do is listen to that track in the mix. Is it dominating other instruments? Is it really dull or too harsh? You can base you EQ decisions on what it needs to sound like in the mix.

If it is dominating other instruments, find the range of frequencies that are most troublesome and cut them. Keep listening to the instrument on it’s own (solo) and in the mix. If you don’t reference it to the mix then there is a danger you could be going in completely the wrong EQ direction.

That’s only a starting point of course, by and large there isn’t a single track on any of my mixes that doesn’t have some sort of EQ on it. If you want to make good sounding mixes then learning EQ is paramount. Be aware also that the better your speakers and listening room, the better you can judge your EQ. So don’t skimp on either of these. That’s one reason that studios will never go out of fashion, they (by and large) have good sounding speakers and rooms making mixing and recording much more pleasurable.

That’s all then! Please send me your questions and I look forward to imparting more knowledge on the course that’s on this weekend. As it stands we have one space left so if you are interested in doing it then please contact Maggie asap on 01-6709033


Andy Knightley

Monday, 27 February 2012


Hi folks. 

I’ve decided that this is the last week of the blog, at least for a while. I’ll be posting one more on Thursday and then a free for all Q&A on Friday. So thank you in advance for all your nice comments and views. Please follow @krecording on Twitter or “like” Krecording on Facebook.

Leave comments on Facebook or get in touch on Twitter or for all your questions.


Keyboards can seem very easy to record as all you mostly have to do is plug them straight in or, even easier, trigger them within the software. They do however have a tendency to take over the track if they aren't dealt with correctly.

Before you even put the keyboard in the mix make sure that it is routed to the mix on a stereo track. If it’s a mono sound then leave it in mono, I’ll get to that in a sec. By putting the sound on a stereo track you can use one stereo compressor to keep a handle on the levels. Also one stereo EQ is far easier to use than two mono EQs.

Keyboards can have a great variety of sounds, from sharp attacking piano to slow moody “Blade Runner” style pads. I’ll give you some basic guidelines where you can start from, these aren’t rules but they may give you a head start.

When you set up the track put an EQ and then a compressor plug in on the keyboard track. If you have a short sharp sound keep the release fast on the compressor and the attack fairly fast. If it’s a pad use a fast attack and a slow release.
Mini grand piano with EQ and Compression

As far as the EQ goes, turn the keys up in the mix and listen to what frequencies are “clouding’ the mix. Use your EQ to turn these frequencies down. You don’t need to completely lose that frequency, just turn it down a bit. You’ll hopefully now find that your keyboard, once turned back to a reasonable level, is sitting somewhat better in the mix.

When it comes to mono keys the method is pretty much the same, just use the panning to find a place in the mix where the keyboard is heard.

Thursdays blog will be about EQ and Fridays Q&A will take EQ questions but feel free to ask me anything and I’ll do my best to answer all.

The course that I’m teaching is on this weekend. There is still one or two places available. If you are interested in learning more about recording and mixing then please get in touch with Maggie in STC on 01-6709033.


Andy Knightley

Friday, 24 February 2012

Compression Q&A

Compression Q&A

So I received a few questions about compression. Here's a selection.

What's a "better" deal? Low comp rates and squashing thresholds, or higher comp rates with less "threshold pressure"? Any personal / particular notes on attack / release controls?

I find this depends on what you're compressing. If you are compressing a vocal I tend to use fairly high ratios but on a guitar they are much lower (3:1 or thereabouts). You can get away with a lot of compression on a vocal, especially a rock vocal then you can with an acoustic guitar for example.

If I compress a mix I would use very low ratios (1.5:1).

In terms of attack, like everything it depends on the source. If it's drums i tend to slow the attack so i don't ruin the bite of the drum. On a vocal I'd have the attack pretty fast to catch the first syllable.

With release I'd set it pretty fast on short, quick sounds and slower on the slower sounds. Fast being drums for example, slow being distorted rhythm guitars and  slow tempo vocals.

What software compressors do you recommend?

On the higher end I'd recommend the Waves CLA classic compressors. They are software versions of compressors used in most big studios. They sound really good and are pretty intuitive.

I'd also recommend Massey's CT4 compressor. It's very basic to look at the plug in itself is very cheap to buy and you can run lots on even the slowest computer.

Of course don't forget the compressors that come with your software. I find a lot of them don't like being stretched but they do well to give you a consistent level.

On the final mix,whats best for overall compression? 

I find, as mentioned before, that a low ratio is good on an overall mix. Couple this with a slow attack to let the mix bite and a fast release the give it punch and you should be heading in the right direction.

That's it for this Q&A. I'll be back on Monday with another blog. Don't forget if you want to learn about this and more then you'll like STCs weekend course starting on March 3+4.



Thursday, 23 February 2012


Hi again, After today's blog I’ll be putting up a Q&A blog about compression. So if you have any questions regarding compression contact me on @krecording on Twitter or Krecording on Facebook.

Also as you may or may not know I will be teaching a weekend course in The Sound Training Centre, Temple Bar, on March 3rd and 4th. If you want to learn more about what we’ve discussed and how to record individual instruments then call Maggie on 01-6709033.

The course fee is refundable should you decide to do any of their diploma courses!


So compression is seen as a bit of a dark art. It’s nothing to be afraid of but it does take a bit of getting used to.

What a compressor does is squash the loud parts of the sound to give you a consistent volume level. For example if I was to whisper into a microphone that was running through a compressor and then shout loudly the overall volume of my voice shouldn’t get much louder. If it’s set right of course.

In its most basic form a compressor is like having someone control the levels for you. But of course it’s way too hairy to just leave it at that.

There are 5 main elements to a compressor.

Typical software compressor (Pro Tools)
Threshold: That’s the level that compression starts at.

Ratio: The amount of compression

Attack: How quickly compression starts

Release: How quickly compression stops.

Makeup Gain: Overall volume.

As a mixer I would use compression on 90% of tracks if not more. It’s a great way of getting levels to remain consistent and to beef up a track.

As an experiment, set up a microphone in the room that a drum kit is in and put a compressor on it. Set the threshold low and the ratio high. Set the attack reasonably fast and the release really fast. All of a sudden the drum kit sounds really beefy and dirty. You’ll probably get tons of cymbal wash too.
Waves CLA series compressor

When you do set up a compressor, don’t be afraid to be brutal with it. If you can’t hear what’s going on then crank it. You’ll soon start realising how the compression is working and therefore you’ll back it off to make it give a more subtle effect.

That's it for compression. Remember to ask me questions and I'll answer as many as i can.
Andy Knightley

Monday, 20 February 2012

Bass Guitar

If you want to be up to date with the blog please follow @krecording on Twitter or Krecording for our Facebook page.

I’ll also put regular deals up there for artists looking to record or mix material.

Bass Guitar

I normally set up a bass guitar so there’s a mic on the amp and a direct signal coming from the bass itself or a “DI” output from the amp. Most amps have an output marked “DI” this is the signal that comes straight out of the guitar before being effected by the amp circuitry. I’ll concentrate on the hows and whys of microphone technique at a later date so here we’ll look at getting it into a mix.

This obviously shows up as two separate tracks in your mix. One marked “Bass Amp” the other “Bass DI”. Before you start grabbing the EQ or compression have a listen to the two tracks. The amp track should be a bit grungy sounding, depending on what sound you are going for, and the DI should be quite clean. The basic idea behind having the two tracks is that the amp will give you the oomph and grit that you need whereas the DI will give you the clarity and low end that could be lost by getting that grit from the amp.

Note the routing and phase reverse on the plug in
We talked about phasing earlier so here’s a chance to see if it’s getting in the way of our bass sound. Both of these tracks are from the same bass but the microphone will take longer to receive the sound than the DI that is hooked up to the guitar itself. So that means there’s a danger of phasing. Turn both tracks up to the same level and phase reverse one of them. Does it sound better? Well then keep that button pressed. If it sounds worse of course then get rid of the phase reverse.

Now that the two tracks are in phase with each other your next step is to raise and lower the levels until you get a nice blend between the two tracks. Remember, too much DI and you’ll lose the meatiness, too much amp and you’ll lose clarity.

Next set up a mono auxiliary track. Change the outputs of the bass tracks so that they run to the inputs of the auxiliary track. This means that you can control the level of the bass without changing the blend between mic and DI and also you can EQ and compress the two tracks in one fell swoop.

I’m going to get into EQ and compression soon but that’s it for the moment. You’ll find that even these small items can make the world of difference to the bass.

My next blog will be Thursday and it’ll be about compression. If you have any questions on compression or your bass sounds please either post comments on FB, contact me on Twitter or email

Remember I will be teaching a weekend introduction to recording and mixing course in STC Temple Bar on March 3rd-4th. We’ll be going through everything from sound cards, mixing desks and microphones to EQ, compression and effects. It’s going to be a great weekend so if you are interested call Maggie on 01-6709033.

Andy Knightley

Friday, 17 February 2012

Reverb Q&A

I promised I'd put some of the questions I've received into the blog so here we go.
Don't forget to check out the new videos at!

Reverb Questions:

How much is too much? Also any info you have on "distinctive" reverb sounds and tricks of the trade to get/avoid them would be great, so i don't end up sounding like Bon Jovi circa 1988! Thanks!

I think the two questions are one in the same. Generally speaking if you load your mix with a ton of reverb and other FX, you are stamping a big “I MADE THIS IN (add your date)!”

Let the song and performances shine through. Listen to Dylan or early Beatles.

Also if you want to have a specific type of reverb from a song you like, try and research what piece of equipment was used. You can get plug in versions of classic reverb units like those made by Lexicon, Eventide, EMT etc.

Which software plug ins would you recommend, if any?

I’ll start by saying I’m not endorsed by any company so these are my opinion and mine only.
Lexicon PCM

Lexicon PCM:
Really great if a little pricey. It comes with a bunch of presets to get you started. Lexicon is probably the best known studio reverb. Almost every large studio worth its salt has one.

TL Space/Altiverb:
Two convolution reverbs. That is they recreate real spaces. You can put your bathroom reverb into these units. Alternatively you can pick up tons of files online from people who have already done the hard work! And for no cost.
TL Space

Your default reverb:
Don’t dismiss the reverbs that came packaged with your software. They are usually quite workable and low on processing power.

What are some good techniques for mixing wet and dry signals?

If you check out the reverb part of the blog you’ll see how you should hook up the reverb in your mix. The classic “wet/dry” is replaced by a much easier auxiliary set up.

If you want something 100% covered in reverb though, the best bet is to put a reverb set to 100% wet on that track.

Why does Pro Tools reverb sound sh**e?

Back to my previous question, no DAW reverb is out and out bad. It just mightn’t be suited to what you want it for. I still use the on board Pro Tools reverb. It’s particularly interesting when you set the reverb time to infinite!

When do I not use Reverb?

There’s no hard and fast rules but generally speaking if you want a really close sounding vocal, I’m thinking about some Glen Hansard/Frames tunes for example, you would use very little or no reverb.

Any future questions email me at: