DVD Review: Page (1) of 2 - 05/10/06 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Mr. Russ's Neighborhood

Russ Long's Guide to Nashville Recording offers sound advice By Frank Moldstad

Russ Long
Is it really possible to record a great-sounding song using only inexpensive Shure SM57 microphones and a Mackie 1604 desktop mixer? You bet it is, and in this excellent two-DVD tutorial package, veteran audio engineer Russ Long shows step-by-step how it can be done.

This inspired idea is the second of two complete recording and mixing sessions documented in ?Russ Longs Guide to Nashville Recording, a 90-minute documentary available for $49.95 from Las Vegas Pro Audio and AudioInstruction.com. By contrast, the first recording session involves the use of top-of-the-line analog outboard gear. ?My intention is to give you a taste of recording with the very best and most expensive gear, as well as that which is available to pretty much anyone, Long says in his introduction.

Long is a highly skilled audio engineer with 20 years of experience who has worked with a wide range of artists, from Wilco to Dolly Parton. On this DVD, hes assembled a crack team of Nashville session musicians -- including guitarist Chris Graffagnino, who wrote one of the songs recorded here and co-wrote the other with Wes Cunningham.

In each session, Long patiently takes the viewer from microphone placement through the complete signal path for each instrument, with closeup shots of the various EQ and compression settings used. Then he mixes down both projects in Pro Tools, discussing his plugin choices and settings for every track, including stereo buss processing. The result is a first-rate tutorial DVD that beginning to intermediate audio engineers can refer to for years to come for upgrading or refreshing their skills.

Song files and more on companion DVD
A companion DVD included with the package includes session files that can be loaded into any DAW program for hands-on mixing experiments. Viewers can take these raw unprocessed 24-bit/44.1K wave files and attempt to duplicate the techniques Long shows with whatever EQ and processing tools they have at hand the principles involved are applicable to any plugins.

The DVD has an unpretentious reality-show tone throughout, which I liked. It cuts to the chase from Longs brief introductory remarks as he sits in front of racks of high-end mic pres and compressors that he is about to use for the first song, ?Marianna. From there, he walks into a drum isolation booth to hook up and position each drum mic. He discusses how far to place the mics from the drums, and where they should be aimed. For ?Marianna, he used an AKG D112 on the kick, Shure SM 57s on the top and bottom of the snare, a KM86i Neumann on the hi hat, Sennheiser 421s on the toms and a stereo  Royer SF12 for the overhead.

The drums mics went through a Gordon Audio preamp, a Daking preamp and a Langevin dual vocal combo preamp, with additional processing through a GML EQ, a Tubetech CL1B compressor, a dbx 903 compressor and a Focusrite ISA 220 channel strip. Long adjusts the settings on each device as the camera zooms in on the knobs. He also describes how each setting is affecting the sound.

The same thoroughness is used in explaining mic positions, preamp settings, and compression and EQ for acoustic guitar, electric guitar and vocals, and the direct signal paths and processing for bass and keyboards. For instance, he sets up the Brauner VM1-K.H.E. tube vocal mic with a pop filter slightly above the singers mouth and angles it down a tad to help eliminate pops from air hitting the mic. Then he shows the Gordon mic pres gain setting, and how its outputs are connected to the line inputs of the Focusrite ISA 220. On the Focusrite, he engaged a high pass filter at about 75Hz, boosted the top end slightly at about 15kHz, and used a 4:1 compression ratio to smooth it out. Then he mixes down the song in Pro Tools, using plugins from MCDSP, Digidesign, and Waves, with closeup screen shots of the plugin interfaces as he tweaks the settings in each track.

He also reveals multiple techniques for solving thorny problems, such as using volume automation to physically De-Ess vocal tracks. ?A lot of times if Im having problems with sibilance, and if I cant get the right reaction out of a De-Esser, Ill go in and physically turn down the volume on the actual ?S sounds, he says. ?Its a little bit time-consuming but Ive had really good results with it, and a lot of times Ill spend a couple of hours with a song and riding certain consonants that are too loud or too soft, in addition to doing regular vocal rides to make the vocal sit just right in the track.

He demonstrates a specific vocal line from ?Marianna that has sibilance problems, ?Look in my eyes, I want to see that smile, and plays it before and after reducing the problem ?S sounds from -2.8 db to -7 db. 

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Related Keywords:Russ Long, Shure SM57, Mackie 1604, audio engineer, recording, mixing, tutorial, microphone placement, Pro Tools


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