Sound Design in Logic – How To Make Rock Music Sound Powerful

Making studio recordings sound exciting and powerful is a real skill. The loudness of your guitar amplifiers and the power of your drummer are not enough to make the recordings of your songs express the actual loudness and power of the real performance.

Working with Logic Studio, I have found out a number of methods (that are partly inspired by the tricks used in professional mixes I found impressive) to make recordings sound more powerful.

The journey starts when you  bespoke prepare your recordings. There are many general things that can make a lot of difference in the end result. For instance I highly recommend you to warm up your voice before starting vocal recordings. This sounds trivial, but it is the key to a powerful and uninhibited vocal performance. The next point I personally pay close attention to is the position of microphones. You should position microphones close enough to the sound source you want to record in order to avoid significant background noise or sound reflected by the walls of the room. But I highly recommend you to position microphones (if possible) at a distance of at least 30 centimeters (one foot) to the instrument you are recording. I know this is quite the opposite of what is usually done in studios (especially with drums), but I have good reason to make this recommendation. The problem with having microphones to close to the source of sound is a very unauthentic sound on the recording. Think about it — the bass drum does not sound the same if you lean your head against it. In my opinion it is terribly difficult to restore the original sound (as you experience it from a usual distance) afterwards — especially without any reference.

Once you have done your recordings, there are different options you should consider for the editing. One of the basic (yet most powerful) tools included in practically every audio editing software is the equalizer — if you are using Logic, I recommend to stay with the easy to use, yet comprehensive “Channel EQ” plug-in. To make your mix appear clear to your listeners, one fundamental approach is to assign a ‘role’ to each instrument (or sound) in your arrangement. Decide for each element whether it should stand out, or play a supportive role. Accordingly, you might raise or lower the levels of certain frequencies, which is when the actual sound design begins

The single elements should not sound complete individually, but all of them together should. To make all elements clearly audible, it does not help to add treble frequencies to all of them, nor to raise them all to the same volume level. It is important to leave ‘gaps’ in the mix (mostly by avoiding the extensive use of certain frequencies ‘needed’ for other instruments) to embed further elements — there should be no competition among the instruments in your mix. Instead, they should seem to complete each other. Yet you should try not to disfigure the typical sound of the instruments — it takes some experience to really get used to that balancing act, but after some time you will easily find out what frequencies are typical of an instrument, and which can be neglected with one particular instrument, so they are ‘available’ for other instruments that ‘need’ them to maintain their typical sound