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