How to get my Electribe to sound good?
July 21, 2006 12:41 PM   Subscribe

HelpMyMusicSoundBetterFilter: EQing on an Electribe?

Okay, so I make dance-y, often Jonathan Richman-inspired synthpop. After ditching my old band (which, practically speaking, wasn't much more than a solo project anyways), I'm recording an album on my own. I used to use Reason 2.5 for everything / ReWire into Cubase for vocal recording - but (fairly) recently opted to go the entirely-hardware route and got an Electribe MX. The biggest reason for this was that I found that I was spending too much time tweaking individual sounds / trying new VST instruments / etc, and not enough time working out awesome arrangements. I've gotten pretty good at using the Electribe already - I like having dedicated knobs for things, and it feels alot more like playing an actual instrument. I have it set as a slave to Cubase, so I just run a pair of 1/4"s from the Electribe into my Firebox, record a scratch instrumental track, deal with vocals, mix on the Electribe as it runs under the recorded vocals, and then record a final instrumental track. *phew*

The problem is, I can't get it all to sound quite right - the vocals have a hard time sitting in the instrumental - i'm pretty sure they're not too dry - but they're always either too loud or too soft, and I have a hard time getting the "musicality" / melodic aspects of the instrumental track to come through - often it all just sounds kind of rhythmic, and like a backing track, if that makes any sense. Also, I'm having alot of problems with the kick and bassline getting muddled, and the bassline getting "boomy" when it plays higher notes. When I was using Reason, I would fix ALL of these problems with EQ. But the electribe doesn't seem to do EQ well at all - it's applied as an effect, of which you can only have three at a time, and each individual EQ setting would take up a different effect slot. So I'm stuck EQing the Electribe track as a whole, which is far from ideal. Help! What can I do?

If it means anything, I rarely use effects on the electribe - apart from bits of reverb and delay - most of the synths are run clean - no distortion, and only maybe a tiny bit of drive.
Any ideas, helpful people?
posted by clcapps to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why not use the EQs in Cubase?
posted by empath at 12:58 PM on July 21, 2006

Best answer: Well, depending on what you're going for, you can sidechain compress the bass using the kickdrum. This uses the kickdrum as the source for triggering the compressor, but applies the actual adjustment to the bass. This is frequently used to squeeze extra power out of the bass and kickdrum if they occupy a lot of the same space in the mix. You'll need a compressor that supports sidechaining, one of my favorites is Trackplug from Wave Arts.

On to the harder stuff: I'm not sure what version of Cubase you have, but since you aren't getting per-part outs on your Electribe to your DAW, you're going to want to record each part to a separate track in Cubase. What you'll do first is finish your arrangement for the Electribe (or at least get to the point where you think you're finished, whether or not you actually end up being finished) and then record it one part at a time into Cubase, creating a new audio track to record to each time. Then you can apply separate EQ to each track. This isn't really ideal either, because it's a pain if you want to go back and make changes to your arrangement, but you don't really have a choice if you want to be able to do proper mixing.

I'm not sure what you mean by "boomy," but you often will want to apply a lot of compression to the bassline in a pop mix. Keeping the bass stable is very important when managing headroom and balancing the rest of the mix. Depending on what you're using for bass, you will also probably want to roll off frequencies below 20hz by default -- if it's from a digital source (like an virtual-analog synth, such is the Electribe), there's a chance there will be low-frequency artifacts introduced at some point. This can interfere with your compressor and limiter, even though you can't hear it.

If you want more helpful/specific advice, though, you'll need to post some examples that can be listened to.
posted by tumult at 12:59 PM on July 21, 2006

I think some of your questions have very little to do with EQing on the Electribe and more to do with general mastering.

I found this book to be very useful.
posted by empath at 1:05 PM on July 21, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, I was afraid I'd have to record all the tracks seperately. - it's just a big hassle. Especially (and this introduces another problem) because my G4 Powerbook doesn't seem to want to let me have more than 4 tracks at a time, at most - when I try to do more than that, all kinds of terrible distortion/hissing/popping noises start showing up as parts of the track I'm recording. I'm getting a shiny new intel iMac in the relatively near future, though, so I guess that won't be a problem for very long.

The sidechaining suggestion sounds like an excellent idea - I'm definitely going to give that a try.
posted by clcapps at 1:07 PM on July 21, 2006

I have the electribe sx & enjoy it a great deal. From the little I've used the mx, it seems like a nice box as well.

For the bass problem, there's a good chance that the bass & kick aren't so much the problem as it is stray lower frequencies from other instruments conflicting with them which leads to mud. Give this a try:
Route the kick and (maybe) bass out of the aux outputs on the MX so they're recorded to a separate track on cubase. Everything else goes out the main outputs. After it's in cubase, use the low-shelving EQ on the non-kick track. Have it cut the maximum dB, and bring the frequency to around 150-200 hz. It may seem like alot to cut, but the tracks will remain surprisingly intact. With the low frequencies cut, the kick/bass track will have considerably more breathing room.

The more instruments you have, the more important this gets. A little bit of low end on each track adds up quick and becomes mud. When soloed. some sounds may seem undesirably thin when they're cut, but still sound better in the overall mix. I've applied this technique to many struggling mixes, often getting night-and-day results.

You can also use the highpass filters on the electribe for this purpose, but I like the cubase EQ results more.
posted by yorick at 1:24 PM on July 21, 2006

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