Tech Talk: Sight And Sounds

My first ever recording studio was in the concrete basement of my mother’s house behind the closed door of a room that was tucked away in a corner that seemed like the perfect place to launch my dream. The chilled room was a perfect rectangle allowing my computer desk, keyboard and monitors to be on the north wall, and my Digi001 rack mount, sound modules, midi-interface and Mackie mixing board mounted in a rack on the east wall. My vocal booth was a separate room with mattress foam glued to every wall from floor to ceiling …….Auralex was just way too expensive and my budget did not allow the luxury of purchasing name brand sound proofing material. The mattress foam actually worked like a charm, it just didn’t look like the vocal booth at the NYC Hit Factory.

As I accumulated more hours of experience and frequent sessions in my mom’s basement, the weaknesses of my “rig” began to expose themselves week after week. I remember going to many different studios across the country, seeing so many different setups, so many different working styles, but recognizing one commonality between producers and engineers…….the desire to be more efficient. As the years went on and I gained more experience, I desired the same…..more efficiency. Less editing/balancing down time, less wait time for the artist while I move audio files from one place to the next and better management during the session.

 I found out what was one of the biggest contributors to my efficiency loss……..my single 17 inch computer screen !! Yes, sounds crazy and petty….but its TRUE !! Clicking back and forth between edit and mix windows, having to enlarge my view just to edit my audio files and only able to see 15 faders vs. 36 at once. I was not convinced of how slow I truly was until I used dual screens in other studio’s……..I was instantly a believer and a fan of the setup.

Why?

pro tools session

Well, its simple……..to be able to see most or all of your session at once makes all the difference. A stacked R&B recording can have a multitude of tracks. There could be 25 or more instrument tracks…..drum kicks, layered snares, 2 shakers…one panned to the right…one panned to the left, cymbal crash, cymbal rolls for transitions, sub-bass line, piano, tremo-Rhodes, strings, hi-hat, and that’s not counting the vocals that would be stacked very deep to create that “PHAT” and full sound I’ve grown to love. Pro-Tools allows the user to navigate through 2 screens that are linked together for seamless scrolling from one screen to the other. When the dual screen option is used, you view all of your audio and midi files on one screen and all of your faders on the other. These two famous screens are known as the edit and mix window. When I made the upgrade to dual screens, I became better prepared for my next step during the session vs. clicking back to the other screen to see what happened while recording a vocal. It also enables me to do better audio file management during my session, keeping my screens organized with vocal parts and song structure making more sense. As a former rapper, the technical and production differences between hip-hop and R&B are huge. The track count and detailed parts of a song were significantly less in a typical rap session than in those in R&B, Pop, and other genres that require countless parts. Lead vocals, ad-libs, harmonies on verse 1 , B-section, Chorus harmonies and much more all require separation and clear identification while engineering a session.

My Preference

I use two 26 inch LCD TV’s for screens……..and I love the improved results. Just to list a few improvements……I am faster overall, it enables me to see much more during the session, I can even balance harmonies and vocal parts more efficiently during the session for faster playback, listening & comping.

 My personal experience with dual screens gave birth to me having better viewing and management of my audio files and faders ……which led to better efficiency during my sessions overall. If you are in the world of studio production, maybe dual screens would be beneficial to you also…..give it a try if you can !

Thanks for reading……….

Iric