Crazy Daisy Productions Free Audio Hints and Tips - BLOG ARCHIVE
Entry August 17, 2015:
"What is an audio stem and how do I create one?"An audio stem is a full audio track length audio file (usually a stereo file) that contains one or more similar parts solo'd from within a mix. The most common examples are Vocals and Instruments. It is sometimes useful to split a mix into 2 or more separate audio stems instead of simply exporting/bouncing it as a single combined song.
This separation of the mix allows for a variety of additional applications, such as fine-tuning of the clarity and balance of vocals during mastering, added stereo widening of the instrumentation during mastering, providing an instrumental-only version of your track in addition to a vocal+instrumental version of your track, or separate parts to be used by DJs for future remix versions of the track.
Stems are also sometimes used in order to allow for finishing or fine-tuning of a mix at another facility that may not use the same audio workstation software or effects plugins that you used in your original mix work. In this way you can bounce down stereo audio files of every individual track from your mix, or combined groups of similar tracks, including all current level, panning, effects, etc. that you have applied thus far in your mix. They are all bounced down from start to finish of the song so that they are time aligned with each other when inserted into a new audio workstation system for further mixing work. Some example stems could be: drums, bass, guitars, keyboard/piano, strings, horns, sound effects, lead vocals, backing vocals, and many other possibilities.
At Crazy Daisy Productions the most common reasons our clients send us audio stems are for our Vocal+Instrumental Separation Mastering option (2 stems), our Touch-Up Mixing + Mastering option (4-6 stems), and our Full Mixing + Mastering option (any number of stems) for recordings done in systems other than ProTools, Cubase, GarageBand, Logic, or Reaper.
Entry March 9, 2015:
"My mastering studio tells me they encoded all the track title and artist name ID Tags to my digital tracks and also wrote the same information to my Audio Master CD, but when I play the CD in my computer CD player none of the track titles display correctly. Why isn't it working?"Currently almost every CD-based Audio CD player in existence do not, in fact, read directly from the Audio CD that they are playing, believe it or not. Instead, they try to match up the audio data to information available on one or more internet audio databases, with Gracenote being the most common as it's the one iTunes uses. So, while all the track information may actually be written to your digital tracks and to the Audio Master CD, the Audio player you are using never even bothers to look at it. It sounds crazy, but it's true. They will read encoded ID Tag data from MP3 and other compressed Audio format files (WMA, M4A, etc.), but not from Audio CD's. The track title, artist name, album title, and other "ID Tag" information encoded to an Audio CD is actually referred to as CD TEXT data and is used for display on non-internet based Audio CD players, such as those found in cars and standalone home systems - assuming they're capable of displaying this text information. In order to get your Audio player to display your track data when playing your Audio CD, the information must be available on Gracenote (or other) online database. The easiest ways to make this happen are: a) use an online digital distribution service (CD Baby, TuneCore, etc.) to distribute your digital tracks online and they will submit the information to Gracenote as part of that service or B) use iTunes to import the Audio files from your Audio Master CD and then add all the appropriate track information data in iTunes and submit it yourself through iTunes. The process can take a while, so don't be surprised if it's 2 weeks or longer before you begin to start seeing your track information display automatically when you play your Audio CD.
Entry August 20, 2014:
"What are all the different track variations, such as Acappella, Radio Edit, Performance Track, Stem Track, Instrumental, etc.?"There are many different versions of an audio track and so you will hear different names for all the different variations. Some of them are more obvious, such as "Instrumental Track", which means simply all vocals removed from the mix. "Acappella Track" would be the mix with only the vocals present and no instruments. Together the Instrumental and Acappella tracks would make up the entire song. There are also other variations, such as a "Radio Edit", which could mean a version of the mix that has been either censored for appropriate language content and/or edited in length to keep it to a more typical radio song length if it's a long song. There is also a "Performance Track", which typically means the lead vocal is removed from the mix so that it can be used similar to a karaoke backing track for live performance by a vocalist; but it's also possible to have many different Performance Track variations where multiple voices or even some instruments have been removed as needed. Stem tracks are portions of the mix with similar elements in them. Some examples might be "drums", "guitars", "strings", "lead vocal", "backing vocal", etc. These are not really variations of the mix, but instead they are sub-mixed portions of the full song. Typically stems are created if there is going to be some final tweaks to the mix as part of the mastering process or if you wish to have aspects of the music mixed+mastered independently in order to provide them as remix material for use later.
Entry April 16, 2014:
"I hear people talk about trying to get separation in their mixes. What does this mean?"By separation usually what people mean is the ability to recognize every element in the mix separately (i.e. you can pick out each voice or instrument independently while listening to the full song). There are times when you want to have certain sounds blend in to a point where you can't identify them independently, but most of the time you do want to hear each aspect of a song's mix just as if we were sitting in the audience and watching it being performed live on stage.
In your mixing work you will actually have 2 degrees of potential separation available to each and every element in the song - spatial and tonal. Spatial separation is achieved through use of stereo panning and use of spatializing effects such as reverb, delay, echo, chorus, phasing, and, to some extent, compression. Tonal separation is achieved through various EQ adjustments and frequency filtering. A mix with a good balance and blend of sounds that also adheres to separation techniques which avoid excessive overlapping in both space and frequency between the various elements of the mix will sound very precise and clear and feel as if it's holographic to your ears. It will sound as if you as the listener are an audience of one at a special performance catered just for you.
Entry February 12, 2014:
"Which is the best file format - AIFF or WAV?"Actually, they're the same. Both AIFF and WAV file types are PCM (pulse code modulation) files, meaning they contain a series of numbers in sequence telling your speaker how to move, which in turn reproduces the sound encoded in the file. The only difference between WAV and AIFF format is the way in which the number series is written to the file. The quality, resolution, and information contained in the two file types are identical. WAV and AIFF files are both raw audio data file types, as opposed to compressed audio data file types such as MP3, M4A, and WMA file types which use numeric algorithms to reproduce approximations to the original raw audio data. Uncompressed file types offer the truest digital audio reproduction, so either WAV or AIFF files can be used with equally good results.
Entry January 7, 2014:
"I heard that I am supposed to remove all compression plugins from my mix before sending it in for mastering. Is this true?"Not exactly. You should definitely remove any compression, limiting, maximizing, and/or EQ adjustments you've added to the Master Output of your mix. However, you should leave in compression that you used for any individual channel tracks or as auxiliary send effects or group channel effects as you probably used these in order to control dynamics, balance levels, and perhaps to obtain a particular sonic flavor. You don't want to add these to the master output channel, though, in order to maximize the flexibility for your mastering engineer to add them in to the overall master mixdown of the track. Remember, if you're using a compression, limiting, or maximizing plug-in on your master output channel of your mix in order to bring the volume up for mix checking purposes you may need to reduce the master channel fader level when you remove these plug-ins to avoid clipping distortion when you create your mixdown track to supply to your mastering studio.
Entry November 19, 2013:
"What is Dithering and should I dither my audio track I send in for mastering?"Dithering is a method of smoothing out "ghost" artefacts introduced into digital audio data as a result of the conversion of continuous audio waveforms into segmented digital data points. This is especially important when downsampling from a higher bit depth recording, such as when an audio track is downsampled from a 24-bit original audio file to a 16-bit Redbook Standard audio file, as the downconversion process can add additional artificial information on top of any existing original artificial information due to the conversion from the analog "raw" signal to digital data. The smoothing process is, at its most basic description, a way of randomizing or mixing up the lowest place values in the digital number streams.
Since you usually want to provide the highest bit depth original audio mixdown file you can without downsampling it ahead of time, and since the mastering process at any professional mastering studio will always include dithering at the final downsampling step of the process to set the audio track according to Redbook Standard, it's not necessary to dither your audio track to send in for mastering.
Entry September 25, 2013:
"If I have to choose between Mixing OR Mastering, which is best?"It's surprising how often we get asked this question. It's basically like asking, "If I have to choose between having wheels or an engine in my car, which should I choose?". Clearly in order to have a fully functional car you need both. In the same way in order to have a fully produced and finished track you would need to have it both mixed AND mastered. However, having said that, if for reasons unknown you were forced to choose one or the other in our example scenario with the car, most of us would choose wheels since there's no point in having an engine if the car can't even roll. Similarly, if for reasons unknown you would need to choose between mixing and mastering for your track you should choose mixing since there's no reason to master and unmixed song (unless it was a live mix or simple mono or stereo recording for which mixing isn't even applicable). There's not much of a discussion on this one since you really need both, but hopefully this post will help put the question to rest.
Entry June 17, 2013:
"What's the best way to do a radio edit version of my track?"The answer to that question has three parts. First, if you need to make any edits to your vocals due to lyrics that are inappropriate for wide audience broadcast (i.e. censoring of language not appropriate for all audiences) the best way to do this is within the mix session prior to mastering. If you wait and ask your mastering facility to provide you with an edited version they will have to censor the entire track, including the beat/instrumentation, during any editing work. If you make the edits within the mix session you can censor only the vocal track responsible and leave all other tracks untouched. Doing this you can then provide your mastering facility with two variations of your final mixed track: one with edits and one without. If you want your mastering or post-production facility to do the editing/censoring for you, plan on providing them with separate tracks for the beat/instrumentation and vocals so that they can do the edits without affecting the instrument sounds. The second part of the answer is related to how you make your edits or do your censoring. The quickest and easiest way is to simply mute or delete the short section of lyrics whenever an inappropriate word appears in your mix. Be sure to save your clean mix session under a new file name so you don't lose your complete original unedited mix session. Another popular method of censoring is to reverse the offending lyrics or use doppler-shifting (pitch bending) and quick fade-outs to give a DJ-style quick stop to the lyrics as you hear them appear, without hearing the full word. You could also replace the censored lyrics with a sound effect clip. The third and final part of the answer to this question is related to the length of the track. Radio play often requires tracks under 4 minutes in length so you may need to edit your track for length in addition to, or instead of, censoring lyrics. If you have a long intro or outro, consider trimming those down to make a shorter radio-edited version of the track. If your track has any kind of bridge or instrumental breakdown section, those may be easy things to remove as well to get your time within the 4-minute limit. If you have a very long track you may need to consider removing a verse, too. In the end, keep in mind that you want a fast-paced song (even if it's a "slow" song) that doesn't drag on too long and has lyrics appropriate for all ages as this will ensure the broadest possible audience for radio play and therefore increase your chances of getting air time.
Entry October 25, 2012:
"Which is better - analog or digital?"That's a difficult question to answer. Probably the best thing to do is simply be aware of the differences between them and then choose which one seems best to you for your situation. The primary difference between analog and digital is that analog provides a continuous waveform whereas digital provides a segmented waveform broken up into digital bits. You may think this means that analog is then obviously better, but that's not necessarily always the case. In particular, because of the way digital information works, it's almost always extremely accurate and has very low noise added to it, while analog signals are much more susceptible to added electronic and static noise. In addition, you must use hardware using standard electronic technology, not integrated circuit technology, to process analog sounds, so you miss out on all possibilities of using digital technology circuitry, including any computer software. Also, our brain can only process sound information so fast, so it's arguable that even digitally segmented waveforms sound like they are continuous analog waveforms to our brains as long as the sample rate and bit depth are sufficiently detailed. These three factors make it possible for some to say digital is actually preferrable over analog. Often times when people speak of analog versus digital in terms of music, they mean the feeling that results from the processors. If you've made efforts to use analog recording tools (i.e. tape) then it would probably be in your best interests to also have mixing and mastering done with analog tools to maintain that same feeling in the sound. If you've done digital recording but would like some analog feeling in your sound you may achieve results that are just as good if you ask your mixing and/or mastering engineer to apply digital EQ settings that model analog sounds.
Entry September 19, 2012:
"Why do I need to send a WAV file for mastering when everyone is always using MP3's and other small file types for easier and faster online use?"Okay, fair question. Basically the bottom line here is that you should give your mastering engineer the best possible quality material so that he can have all the details available to his ear at the fullest resolution. This helps in making fine detail decisions in the mastering work which may not be heard if he only has an mp3 file to work with from the start instead of a wav file. If an mp3 version of the mastered track is created at the very end of the process, that mp3 version will contain as much of the final information as it can carry within its compressed format, which may potentially include hints of those adjustments made during mastering using the original WAV file. If the engineer only had an mp3 to start with he may not have made those same adjustments since he might not hear all those details in the sound due to the reduced quality format, and so you wouldn't be getting any of those fine details at all in the final master version - not even a hint of them.
There's also the fact that you may find yourself in a position of wanting to have the high quality wav version to use at some future time and you can't back pedal to wav quality from an mp3 master made from an mp3 original, but you CAN back pedal to a wav quality master if you have an mp3 master made from a wav file original, because presumably somewhere you will have set aside the wav file mastered version that your mastering studio sent you and which was used to create the mp3 master you may be using currently.
Entry August 13, 2012:
"What are ISRC codes and do I need them?"The best answer is direct from the usisrc.org web page:
The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording, independent of the format on which it appears (CD, audio file, etc) or the rights holders involved. Only one ISRC should be issued to a track, and an ISRC can never represent more than one unique recording. ISRCs are widely used in digital commerce by download sites and collecting societies. An ISRC can also be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRC provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments.If you plan to have your material distributed digitally (ITunes, Rhapsody, etc.) then an ISRC code is required. The good news is that many duplication services, including Crazy Daisy Productions' short-run duplication options, include digital distribution as part of their duplication and distribution packages and will provide you with ISRC codes for the digitally distributed tracks so you don't have to do anything.
If you plan to have your physical CDs distributed internationally we highly recommend also having ISRC codes written to the CD files as well as the digital file versions. This may mean purchasing your own ISRC codes from usisrc.org and providing those codes to your mastering facility to be added to your mastered tracks and Master CD.
If you're not in one of these categories then ISRC codes are not necessary for you.
Entry June 25, 2012:
"My Mastering Studio wants me to turn off my master compression and maximizing plugins and turn down the master levels, but won't that make my music sound too quiet?!?!"Excellent question! This is probably the single most important question in regards to preparing your mixes to send in for final mastering. The simple and most clear answer is "LET YOUR MASTERING STUDIO SET YOUR FINAL VOLUME LEVELS FOR YOU". This is what mastering engineers are trained to do and what they do best. If you try to make the sound loud in the mix you are removing the ability of the mastering engineer to raise your levels in a way that sounds clean, clear, punchy, and professional. In your mix you should focus on getting a good blend of sounds, proper EQ and effects use, and make it the right overall flavor for your genre, but don't worry about pumping up the overall volume level. Give the mix to the mastering studio with plenty of dynamics and volume headroom in it. What you'll get back will be strong, loud, and clear, and professional sounding.
Entry May 25, 2012:
"What's the right amount of reverb to use in my mixes?"There's actually two answers to this question. The first answer is that if you are mixing music that you wrote or produced then the right amount of reverb is the amount that you (the writer/producer/composer) decide is required for the song. After all music is an artform and so the interpretation of it is the right of the artist to determine for his or herself. Now having said that, the second answer is the technical answer which is that you should use enough to blend the parts together into your mix so that they create a coherent sense of space that matches the soundstage that you aim to create in the stereo field. Generally you do this by fine-tuning the various reverb settings (eq filters, decay time, reflective space size, etc.) and then dial up the percentage of application to each part in your mix until it feels like it's sitting together spatially with other similar parts in the mix. Another option is to utilize an old audio engineer addage, which is to turn it up until you just start to notice its effects and then turn it back down "one click" from that point. This way it's in there, but not something you notice as an "effect", but rather something that adds to the feeling of space.
Entry March 28, 2012:
"Why do I hear a hissing sound in my recordings and what can I do about it?"If this sounds like you then you probably are picking up background noise in your mic recording. Microphones will pick up any sounds that they encounter, not just the sound source it may be aimed at. That means any ambient sounds (background noise) will also be recorded along with the desired sound. There are a few steps you can take that usually eliminate the background noise issue in most recordings. First, and most obviously, make sure there are no unnecessary sources of sound in the space where you are recording. This means turn off unnecessary fans, heat, A/C, electronic devices, computers, and anything else that could potentially produce noise - even if that noise seems extremely quiet. Second, make sure you're using the correct microphone or mic setting for your recording. Many mics are omnidirectional, meaning they pick up sound in all directions, but if what you are recording only produces sound from a single point, such as vocals or a small instrument, then you may be picking up a lot of unwanted ambient noise using an omnidirectional mic. If possible, try using a cardiod or hypercardiod pattern mic instead as these confine the area of sound pick-up to only what is coming directly toward the face of the mic. Third, make sure the microphone is placed an appropriate distance from the desired sound source. If you have your microphone too far from the sound source you will need to turn up your preamp and/or input gain and this can sometimes allow the mic to more strongly pickup ambient sound or even add electronic noise from the preamp or input device itself if you have to turn either one up significantly. Place the microphone at a distance that isn't so close that you end up with overdriven recording levels or extreme variation in sound due to the source moving around, but is close enough that you don't need to amplify the sound so strongly. Remember, when you turn up the preamp and input gain you are also turning up the level of the background noise in your recording. If you do these first three steps, which are the simplest steps to take, and you still find you have noise problems in your recordings then there are two additional steps you can take that can also help. The first additional step is to address your room acoustics and sound isolation. Is it possible you're picking up noise from outside your recording space due to the fact that your walls are not insulated and the doors are not solid doors that seal tight? Is it possible that the noise you're hearing is actually room reflection sound that's reverberating and echoing in the space because all the surfaces are flat, hard, and reflective to the sound? Examine your space critically and decide if you need to add some sound isolation measures to better seal off the space from the outside world and/or if you may need to add some interior acoustic materials to help reduce echo, reflection, and reverberation. Along with the first three steps this can very greatly improve the overall quality of your sound. The second additional step is to consider choosing a different microphone, preamp, and/or recording interface. One or more of these may be old or defective or "cheap". If so, it's possible they are adding electronic hiss and other noise in your recordings. Many people make the mistake of taking the recording equipment replacement step first, but it's usually unnecessary. Most often the noise is an ambient noise issue rather than recording equipment noise issue. First address the three "easy" steps and then try the room acoustics step and then, if there is still an issue, try the recording equipment step. The reason for this is that if you have an ambient noise issue then adding improved recording equipment will simply do a better job at picking up that ambient noise and you may actually be worse off for your investment. Leave this step until last and then, if it turns out to be a necessary step, you will have solved the issue AND removed your ambient noise sources, thus providing you with even more pristine results.
Entry December 21, 2011:
Do I need to set my levels to -6dB or -3dB or 0dB for mastering? What is the rule for this?Many mastering facilities require that you provide your originals at -3dB or -6dB levels. This is to ensure that there is sufficient volume headroom for working with during mastering and to help avoid the possibility of clipped peaks in your tracks. The exact dB reduction is based on historical values for analog equipment, but it still holds true that for most mixes if you set the master levels at -6dB you usually avoid clipping in the mixdown. In reality this is just a guide to assist you with keeping your mixes clean and not overdriven. If you are confident that none of your individual component tracks have overdriven levels and you haven't overused compression/limiting/maximizing effects on your master bus then you can actually set your master levels as high as you want AS LONG AS YOU AVOID CLIPPING. In other words, set the master channel fader to whatever level keeps the master output volume level under "the red" throughout the full length of the track. Follow this general guideline and your mixdown levels will always be ready for mastering.
Entry September 18, 2011:
How do I know if I need mixing or mastering?You may find yourself in a situation where you've done your recording and some editing and mixing work, but you feel like it still doesn't sound as full or finished as you know it could. You're probably wondering whether there are additional mix adjustments that need to be made or if perhaps everything that needs to be done to finish it will be done in mastering. There's a few things you can check to help see whether you need more mixing or if you're ready for mastering. If you feel like the overall volume level isn't there or the song doesn't feel spacious enough or it's missing some punch and sparkle or it's just not quite crispy sounding overall then most likely your mix is good now and you're ready for mastering since all these aspects are attended to in the mastering process. If, on the other hand, you feel like there are parts in the track that are getting buried or lost in the sound or there's some clarity issues in particular voices or other elements or there are some effects you think need to be added to certain pieces of the song, these kinds of adjustments require you to do work in the mix since they involve changing individual elements in the song. Mastering is the work done on the master output channel, the full bounced-down/mixed-down song, so when we're thinking of mastering we're thinking of the overall feeling and volume level of the track as a whole, not the flavor and levels of individual parts within it. If you determine there are any inidividual parts within the track that may still need attention then you need some level of mixing work before mastering. If there are no particular individual elements that need attention, but it's the song as a whole that needs attention, then you can safely say that you're ready for mastering.
Entry July 28, 2011:
Short video explanation about audio clipping
Entry June 29, 2011:
How to avoid getting clicks in your music tracks after editingClicks occur after editing in your mixes most commonly due to edit points not being at zero amplitude. What this means is that you've selected a segment in your mix that has some degree of positive or negative waveform amplitude at the very first and/or last sample point of your selection. If the amplitudes of the first and last samples of your selection are not similar to the samples that occur just before or after it in the mix channel track then you will see a sudden jump in waveform amplitude going into and/or out of the edited selection. This is heard as a "pop" or "click" in your sound. There are two ways to avoid this: 1. Make sure your selections for editing are chosen at start and stop sample points ocurring at or near zero amplitude (some mix workstations include a "snap to zero amplitude" function to assist with this) or 2. Do a very fast fade-in/out at the leading and trailing edges of your edit region and the regions to either side of it in your mix track to smooth out transitions.
Entry June 16, 2011:
What sample rate and bit depth should I use for my recordings?Sample rate is the number of times the audio information is sampled from the incoming sound per second, listed in Hertz (1Hz = 1 time per second) or kiloHertz (1kHz = 1000 times per second). Bit depth is the digital segmentation of the signal level - the greater the bit depth the more detailed its segmentation, which means a more accurate representation of the original signal in digital form. So, from these definitions you may think that it's best to use the highest sample rate and bit depth possible on your system, which on most newer systems is either 24-bit/96kHz or even 32-bit/192kHz. However, there are two things to keep in mind: 1. Higher sample rates and bit depths mean larger file sizes which can potentially make some mixes unwieldy in size and 2. If your final goal is an Audio CD then your sample rates and bit depths will be reduced to 16-bit/44.1kHz during the mastering process per redbook audio standards, and if you're planning on releasing your tracks as digital downloads (mp3, m4a, etc.) then the final sample rates and bit depths could be even lower than this. With these things in mind it's easy to see there are diminishing returns for setting your sample rate and bit depth much higher than the redbook audio standard of 16-bit/44.1kHz. However, there is something to be said for capturing an accurate representation of your sound to assist with better mixing and mastering. As such, it is our recommendation that you follow the guideline of "one step higher than baseline". By this we mean set your recording sample rate to one step higher than redbook standard 44.1kHz - usually this means 48kHz, and set your bit depth one step higher than redbook standard 16-bit - usually this means 24-bit. Doing your recording and mixing at 24-bit/48kHz and providing a 24-bit/48kHz stereo wav file for mastering will allow for higher than baseline level resolution, but not go overboard in file size for something that will ultimately need to be reduced to 16-bit/44.1kHz as a final step. Doing your recording, mixing, and mastering at 16-bit/44.1kHz is also quite acceptable.
Entry May 27, 2011: