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Effects Beginners And Recording

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
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3,456
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Citizen of Nowhere
There's been a discussion recently about not having enough confidence to post a recording because it doesn't sound right. I'm here to tell those of you who have this problem that it's not you, you just need a little reverb and EQing.

No, it's true. And I'll try and prove it.

When we listen to ourselves we place our recordings, whether we realise it or not, in exactly the same little box that is already full of very expensive, professional recordings of people who are/were the very best in the world at what they do/did. This isn't a great starting point ;) but adding just a little reverb and EQ to our recordings can make all the difference. It can even mask small intonation problems if your sax isn't as accurate as it could be.

Today I recorded the beginning of Autumn Leaves to try and show the above is true. I plugged in a mic, but didn't bother placing it in any specific way, and threw on a reed without wetting it or warming up and hit record. This should have created quite a poor recording but unfortunately it turns out my Keilwerth is rather special because the take sounds far too good. Hopefully, it won't get in the way of this explanation.

Once you've recorded yourself, the raw take will expose absolutely every little flaw. It's rarely an overly-pleasant experience to hear, plus your average home mic can never compete with your own ears so it will never sound as clear and complex as it does while you're playing.


If you then mix this into your backing track, it will rarely sit well. This leaves you with something that not only exposes your flaws, it doesn't even sound right within the backing track, either, because it sits on top of it rather than being part of it.


However, you don't need to be a studio genius to make a huge difference by doing very little. If you own, or have ever owned, a stereo, HIFI, car radio etc. then you already know how EQ works. EQing your recording is no different, except that you're doing it in your recording software. Reverb is an effect that you should find in every flavour of recording software in the world. All you need to do, irrespective of how complicated the reverb controls seem to be, is to turn the amount of the effect up or down until you like how it feels.

Sadly my raw recording isn't quite as raw as I would have liked but you should still hear a massive improvement.


This image probably looks really complicated, however I bet you all recognise the basic layout of the EQ and can work out very easily how it works. As for the reverb, yes it is a complex effect but the only bit you need to understand at the moment is the knob that says Dry:Wet. The dryer the sound, the less reverb there is. The wetter, the more reverb.

This is all I did to my raw recording.
12868


Hopefully, you can hear in this final example that the sax sits that little bit better within the music as a whole and that the sax sounds that little bit smoother and more professional.


You may be thinking, 'yeah but that raw recording sounds okay - mine don't sound like that so it won't work.' Do me a favour, take a chance and give it a go. It won't cost you anything, you have nothing to lose, but it just might make you realise that the reason why your recordings up to now sound the way they do isn't because of your playing but because you haven't explored reverb and EQ yet. :thumb:
 
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trimmy

One day i will...
Messages
10,352
Locality
Liverpool ( Pool of Life )
Brilliant explanation (tutorial) Dave

Thanks
 

Keep Blowing

Senior Member
Messages
1,711
Locality
Bottesford England
There's been a discussion recently about not having enough confidence to post a recording because it doesn't sound right. I'm here to tell those of you who have this problem that it's not you, you just need a little reverb and EQing.

No, it's true. And I'll try and prove it.

When we listen to ourselves we place our recordings, whether we realise it or not, in exactly the same little box that is already full of very expensive, professional recordings of people who are/were the very best in the world at what they do/did. This isn't a great starting point ;) but adding just a little reverb and EQ to our recordings can make all the difference. It can even mask small intonation problems if your sax isn't as accurate as it could be.

Today I recorded the beginning of Autumn Leaves to try and show the above is true. I plugged in a mic, but didn't bother placing it in any specific way, and threw on a reed without wetting it or warming up and hit record. This should have created quite a poor recording but unfortunately it turns out my Keilwerth is rather special because the take sounds far too good. Hopefully, it won't get in the way of this explanation.

Once you've recorded yourself, the raw take will expose absolutely every little flaw. It's rarely an overly-pleasant experience to hear, plus your average home mic can never compete with your own ears so it will never sound as clear and complex as it does while you're playing.


If you then mix this into your backing track, it will rarely sit well. This leaves you with something that not only exposes your flaws, it doesn't even sound right within the backing track, either, because it sits on top of it rather than being part of it.


However, you don't need to be a studio genius to make a huge difference by doing very little. If you own, or have ever owned, a stereo, HIFI, car radio etc. then you already know how EQ works. EQing your recording is no different, except that you're doing it in your recording software. Reverb is an effect that you should find in every flavour of recording software in the world. All you need to do, irrespective of how complicated the reverb controls seem to be, is to turn the amount of the effect up or down until you like how it feels.

Sadly my raw recording isn't quite as raw as I would have liked but you should still hear a massive improvement.


This image probably looks really complicated, however I bet you all recognise the basic layout of the EQ and can work out very easily how it works. As for the reverb, yes it is a complex effect but the only bit you need to understand at the moment is the knob that says Dry:Wet. The dryer the sound, the less reverb there is. The wetter, the more reverb.

This is all I did to my raw recording.
View attachment 12868

Hopefully, you can hear in this final example that the sax sits that little bit better within the music as a whole and that the sax sounds that little bit smoother and more professional.


You may be thinking, 'yeah but that raw recording sounds okay - mine don't sound like that so it won't work.' Do me a favour, take a chance and give it a go. It won't cost you anything, you have nothing to lose, but it just might make you realise that the reason why your recordings up to now sound the way they do isn't because of your playing but because you haven't explored reverb and EQ yet. :thumb:
It all sounds very interesting but I can't open any of the recordings
 

Alice

Psychedelic
Messages
5,585
Locality
Kent
That’s strange... I’m using my iPhone and there was no problem for me to listen to them.
 

Keep Blowing

Senior Member
Messages
1,711
Locality
Bottesford England
I d
That’s strange... I’m using my iPhone and there was no problem for me to listen to them.
I do have a tendency to struggle with this sort of thing, I usually figure it out in the end
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,456
Locality
Citizen of Nowhere
Strange. I know Dropbox sometimes has problems with WMA files. I've no idea what to suggest as I can't replicate the problem.
 

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
26,655
Locality
Cheshire UK
Brilliant @Veggie Dave I wanted to do something simlar years ago, Jason was supposed to mix it for me but never got around to it :)

Jx
 

Rob Pealing

sax in a kayak (apprentice sax tamer)
Messages
1,124
Locality
Greenfield, Nova Scotia, Canada
Thanks for this Dave,
For those using Audacity Pete has made a similar guide
and
 
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hedgehog

I love singletrack.
Café Supporter
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310
Locality
In the café.
Yes, the links opened fine for me, also. Wow, that's an amazing difference!

I just tried your experiment. It was just slightly less dramatic, but still noticeable.

Here are my samples. As-recorded.


DeadAudiolink Removed


And with some reverb:

https://soundcloud.com/user-72701583%2Fbesame-mucho-with-reverb View: https://soundcloud.com/user-72701583/besame-mucho-with-reverb


(This is using a backing track from Jazzbacks, FYI).

The funny thing is, adding the reverb simply makes the playback sound more like what I heard with my ears while recording. That is, adding the reverb, which is a manipulation, makes the playback more natural sounding. That's counterintuitive somehow.

Thanks.
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
Messages
9,887
Locality
KIC 8462852
The funny thing is, adding the reverb simply makes the playback sound more like what I heard with my ears while recording. That is, adding the reverb, which is a manipulation, makes the playback more natural sounding. That's counterintuitive somehow.
Not really. You hear the sound as it comes out of the sax, the recording is the sound as it is deadened by the surfaces in the room.
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,456
Locality
Citizen of Nowhere
That's counterintuitive somehow.

The hell of recording is that it's incredibly difficult to get that sound you hear when you're playing to come out of the speakers when you listen back. But something as simple as a little reverb goes a very long way to doing just that.
 

6441

::::
::::
Messages
6,321
This did come up recently in the post you mentioned, and I agreed then as well. I've avoided EQ mostly so that I myself can judge the sound, If I am putting a recording out for the world to hear, I'd probably use EQ? though. Reverb is a good idea for the exact reason you mention. Almost all saxophone recordings from about the mid 1950's on have reverb. I'm trying to think about Bird live in clubs, and I think they do not have any modification. There are so many notes in Happy Bird Blues that reverb would just muddy them up. Reverb is most helpful in ballads or tunes with fewer notes. All of this is subjective, but most pro recordings use both EQ and reverb in a studied manner.
 

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
Messages
3,456
Locality
Citizen of Nowhere
You've made me research the history of reverb as an effect. :D

The first artificial reverb device was created in 1939. It was the very end of the 40s when engineers started intentionally using rooms with heavy reverb reflections (bathrooms to be exact :) ) in recordings. In fact, the very first recording using this technique was a huge hit. From what I can gather, it was a forerunner to the 'wall of sound' style.

Finding out if the sort of PA systems Parker et al would have used also had reverb has proven to be nigh-on impossible (although I did find out that they were a very modest 25w). I'd be surprised if they did but it's difficult to tell on the live Parker albums I've got as the sound is actually pretty bad. I believe most of them are basically bootlegs.

Regarding reverb muddying a mix, that can certainly happen but it needs a lot of the effect, it needs to be on every instrument and to really make it sound bad, each instrument needs a different reverb setting. But that's more a discussion for 'how to use reverb' rather than 'why to use reverb' which we have here.

I've recreated my example from above (because I'm an idiot who didn't save the original project). This time I've used equal amounts of the original recording and reverb. Even for someone who likes reverb, this really is too much. However, in our context here of getting new players to record and share those recordings, it shows that even if you absolutely drown your recording with this effect it still sounds okay and more than good enough to post.

 

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