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Controlling Bleeding

Multitrack live recordings can be a real challenge to mix. The vocal mics are typically loaded with bleed from the instruments – especially the drums – and the instrument mics may also pick up bleed from each other and the vocals.

This bleed is a problem when you go to mix; it can result in phase problems, and more commonly, it obscures the clarity of the recording, adds mud, and in generally messes things up.

It’s very difficult to completely remove bleed from a track. But you can control bleed using these suggestions:

  1. Try gates – drums, especially, can be cleaned up to a large extent using carefully set up gates.
  2. Edit – if you’re using a DAW, edit each track carefully to remove all of the spaces between the desirable parts of the track. This can be tedious if you really get detailed, but it can pay huge benefits in keeping things clean. DAW editing allows you to take complete control over what is pulled out of the track.
  3. Filters are your friend – most live vocal tracks cover a fairly narrow frequency range. Use lowpass and highpass filters to remove any frequencies not essential to the sound of the track. (Careful not to filter too high or low and thin out or darken the track.)
  4. Noise reduction – for certain types of bleed, noise reduction software or hardware can be used to reduce the unwanted sound. A program like iZotope RX can also be used to spectrum edit a track, taking out especially intrusive noises.
  5. EQ – in some cases, careful EQ can remove the most offensive frequencies from the bleed without noticeably damaging the desireable audio.

In the end, remember that you are working on a live recording – it’s never going to be quite as clean as a completely controlled studio recording. Make it as clean as you can, and enjoy!

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