quickie manual

the basics

I’ve been using n-track for off and on over a year and there’s so much to take into account. I printed the manual.


Is there a short manual/file that mentions the top 10 most important things to know, the 5 best effects to use, important shortcuts - you know - a total practical guide. I feel that if I try every effect and try to learn all the file menu options - I’ll never get anything accomplished. A no BS doc - plain language - easy to read - the most important basics and a handful of the most important intermediate/advanced things that every user should know.

Does something like that exist? If not would any of you be interested to creating something like that.

I’d personally be fine with doing a lot of the work and creating a word doc or *.txt file.

If this sounds interesting can we start a user top 10 list and then merge all the responses and count the # of mentions for each bit of n knowledge. Could be a good file to have somewhere - especially for us beginners.

Just a thought.

Good idea. Audiominds has something like this going on.

When it comes to effects, the first place any newbie should look is:

So are the effects on that page what you should know the basics of or are you suggesting that I download all those plug ins?

Quote (Kernix @ May 23 2006,14:23)
So are the effects on that page what you should know the basics of or are you suggesting that I download all those plug ins?

Download 'em! They're very good.

Sorry, I inadvertently posted twice. Inadvertently.

So - are they *.exe files? I don’t have the web at home - would need to d/l at work and copy to a CD. And how exactly do you merge them with n-track. But the same thing exists - what suggestions on how to apply them?

Quote (Kernix @ May 23 2006,15:01)
So - are they *.exe files? I don’t have the web at home - would need to d/l at work and copy to a CD. And how exactly do you merge them with n-track. But the same thing exists - what suggestions on how to apply them?

They’re .dll’s. But they’ll download in a .zip folder- so you download them (Be a pig and get all of them!) to your Desktop, and then do your CD burn software to get 'em on a Data CD (or whatever other way you have to copy files). I use Veritas…

Git home and load the disc to your CD ROM (floppy, et al), and, using Explorer, copy the unzipped folders to n-Track>vst plug-ins, then unzip them in that folder. Next time you go to use your FX in n-Track, they ought to appear in the Drop-Down Menu as available FX.

You need Reverb on your vocals? Call in the Classic Reverb, go to the Presets window, and try one of the Presets. Find one that ‘sits right’ in the track for you, then start adjusting knobs. Keep at it…

Sound on Sound (Google this) has a lot of free reading in .pdf format on this stuff. This is going to be cool, man! Print as many as you can stand of these articles, and put them in a notebook. Keep 'em on your night-stand, by your favorite chair, etc. Relax and read, so you’re not working at trying to remember it- there’s enough to fight with… Then go and try out what you read… that’s been the best formula for me. I retain one or two points, and go try 'em. Learn this way, it’ll stick, see? Pretty soon you’re walking in it like your own living room.

Sloom - thanks - you 'da man. If you’re ever in Philly I owe you a beer.


Sloom - 1 question - you mention going to the presets window to select the plug in you want - I’m not sure what that is.

What I do is record a vocals and rhythm track. Then on the vocals track I do a right click and an effects option comes up - not sure if I have to right click over an icon or not. Where are you talking about - from the file menu?

When you call up your effects list (by right-clicking over the track you’re dealing with), and click on a particluar effect from the drop-down list, your chosen effect plug-in appears as a graphic display of some kind in its own window. Most often it’s a picture of the front panel of an FX box with knobs or sliders appropriate to the plug-in’s function, that you can move by clicking-and-dragging your mouse. Up at the top of this window, or ‘panel’, you’ll see a little window-thing with the word “Preset” next to it.

Depending on the plug-in, there may just be an icon representing “Preset” and not the word- now, if you run your mouse cursor over things in most of these Graphic User Interfaces, there’s usually a pop-up script telling you what it is your mouse is on top of (get into the practice of pushing your mouse over the icons that are located all over the GUI and find out what they are. This works pretty universally in the software world). So once you’ve found the Presets menu (again, a drop-down), click on it and there’s a list of settings already dialed in for you to try out on your track. Pick one (note that the plug-in panel controls have changed their positions), and start tweaking it…

Look Ma, I’m mixing!

You know, I am working up a little thirst, here! But I’m not Da Man- Learjeff, Mark A., Diogenes, Bubbagump, Jimbob, John-Boy and Mary-Ellen… :D Those guys are Da Man! Me, I’m just a bass player. But hey, thanks for the thought!

Have you looked at the wiki?


Unfortunately there are no real shortcuts; you’ll have to learn all that stuff eventually… :(

One big thumbs up for Kjaerhusaudio Classic series - they suit most of the required effect needs for everyday use, and they do it well.

As to where to use what, I have this ‘rule of thumb’:

Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Auto-filter, Compressor: Use as channel insert.

Reverb, Delay: Use on the Aux buses for individual send levels from each channel in the mix.

Master Limiter: Use on the master channel.

EQ: Use as channel insert or on the master channel.

I agree with TomS that no easy shortcuts exist. Work up some patience in your learning, and consider the alternative: Pay $$$ for time from people who has the knowledge to do what you want done, or invest the time to study the task at hand yourself. It will pay off big time… - trust me.

regards, Nils

<…removed that post…>


Well done mate, you’ve gathered a LOT of info in a very short time, I bet you’re brain is aching :p
Never mind, it’ll all make sense in twenty years or so :D



Resulting questions
1. What’s the difference between mixing down with compression vs using compression on individual tracks? How do you apply an effect to all the tracks during mixdown?
2. What is EQ? I know sounds stupid – but what controls are on the EQ panel? Volume I would assume, but what else do you change? Bass? Treble? Anything else?
3. What is meant by Doubling the vocals?
4. What does. “Make a pocket for the vocals to sit in the middle” mean?
5. Do you ever want to add effects during the recording phase or only afterwards when mixing
6. What’s the difference between mixing and mastering?
7. What is tracking – is that the term used for recording a track?

The more you learn the more you realise how much you don’t know. I urge you to continue reading and searching. In the meantime here’s a few quick answers for you…

1. Compression is an effect. Mixing down with Compression just adds that effect (like adding, say distortion). Google up an article by “Jezar” on “compression”.

2. EQ. Equalisation. Basically altering the “loudness” of different parts of the frequency spectrum of a sound. Like Bass & treble on a hifi but usually with more controls.

3. Doubling vocals. Sing the vocal twice. Bring them both up in the mix. Makes the vocal sound “fatter”. Sometimes adding short delays can give a similar sound. (There is a dubious version of doubling by cloning the track. Always raises and argument or two. Suggest you avoid it for now).

4. Pocket for the vocals. Using EQ, make sure that a “sonic space” is carved out of the frequency spectrum for the vocals. Google Jezars article “Hoe to mix a pop song from scratch”. It doesn’t specifically refer to this technique but it’s a good mixing tutorial/resource.

5. Yes and no. For me, mainly no. The exception is maybe distorted guitar (or perhaps any electric guitar sound). Once it’s been recorded you can’t undo it!

6. Mixing vs mastering. Big subject, small answer - it’s the process of getting your mix ready for “production”. Generally involves another set of ears for a sanity check, balances levels and gaps between songs on an album so it sounds “right”, and tweaks EQ so all the songs sound like they belong together. Often compression is used to raise the average “loudness” so that the songs can compete with others (New Topic Warning: Loudness wars. The art of making my CD louder than everyone elses and saying to heck with the dynamic range).

7. Tracking. Yep, recording.

How’s that for starters.


I’ve been at this for over a year and I can’t even come up with that many questions. And, the thing is, even after you get all of these questions answered, you will be back asking about lag. :D

Like Steve said, give it 20 years or so…but, hey, it’s a great thing to learn… Don’t get discouraged. People who have been doing this a long time still have questions and still learn new things. New technology, alternate ways of doing things…its the constant change which keeps it interesting…

I think the fun lies in getting the answers to all of those questions and putting them to work. Like when I was younger and would find a secret door or weapon while playing a video game.

Welcome to NTrack forum…lot’s of helpful people here and rarely any rudeness.


My bad – sloppy summary – here’s an orderly summary of tips – feel free to shoot them full of holes, although I wish the outline bullets posted better:

2) Recording technique and quality of mics, preamps, soundcards, equipment, etc
g) Acoustics (room treatment/ isolation)
h) Know your equipment intimately
i) Microphone selection, application and placement
i) Shure SM57 & 58’s, AT3035, Behringer C-2’s, AKG 4000-B diaphragm type for over the shoulder
ii) Mic at head height or over shoulder plus a stereo mic pair approx 2-3 ft from the instrument – all condensers
iii) In general – mic about at eye level angled slightly down toward the upper lip and 18 inches away
iv) Placement of mics is essential as well as an art form
v) For stringed instruments – a small condenser where the fret board attaches to the body, ~ 6-8” away – closer is more intimate instrument sound, further gets more of the room acoustics
vi) Keep mics to a minimum to prevent phasing issues
j) Mic preamp selection and use
i) Preamps – you can use an outboard preamp to deliver a good strong clear signal to the recorder
k) A/D, audio interface, dedicated recorder
l) You should have a great set of speakers and headphones
m) Don’t buy cheap cables

3) Mixing & production skills - Application of effects, Mixing, Mastering
a. Try Dry mixing without effects (setting balance, pan, dynamics and EQ)
b. Vocals
i. Alter the vocal levels and compress them more
ii. Using compression on vocals and bass to even out the volume levels
iii. On vocals give a bit of a longer delay or a different EQ
iv. Doubling the vocals – drop one way below the other??
v. Make a pocket for the vocals to sit in the middle????
c. Instruments
i. Panning on backing instruments, possibly oscillating back and forth for a segment??
ii. Try the same for a different instrument but pan that one oscillating the opposite direction
iii. Using multiple guitar tracks – not throughout but intermittently – try distorted tracks as well as panned tracks
iv. Double or triple your guitar parts to get a big acoustic sound making sure to match the 1st track as perfectly as possible – and make sure to pan them left and right – don’t let them all sit in the middle – possible hard right and hard left
d. General
i. Cloned tracks nudged 2-3 ms ahead of the original and then, pan one track right and one track left
ii. Use EQ to wipe the bad frequencies out – you don’t want different instruments competing in the same frequency range
iii. Use a subtractive EQ when instrument frequencies overlap which could result in a muddy sound – so EQ out the lower frequencies from the guitar and the higher frequencies from the bass
iv. Use of reverb – turn it up until you notice and back it down
v. Consider setting the pan right and left values low
vi. A small amount of compression when mixing down – on all tracks
vii. Using a small amount of compression and reverb on the individual tracks
viii. Reverb is good on guitar and vocals with slightly different reverb settings for both
ix. Compression can be your best friend or worst enemy – the trick is to use it without it being noticed – spend a lot of time getting this right – and consider using an outboard condenser for this as opposed to a software plug-in effect
x. Consider using the Expander/Gate that often accompanies a compressor – to filter out home noises (like birds, HVAC, refridge, etc.)
xi. When mixing turn the volume down to a whisper, do your mix, then turn up the volume and listen
xii. If recording 2 tracks, don’t turn the 2nd up as high
xiii. Use EQ sparingly – if you’ve done everything else right you’ll most likely won’t need to mess with EQ
xiv. Reverb and delay – home micing tends to be closer to take out ambient home noises – use reverb and delay to help fatten the sound
xv. Compression should be considered during tracking to make sure the loudest parts don’t go over 0db
xvi. Reverb is often added during mix down but can also be added to the tracking
e. Acoustics (room treatment/ isolation)

Mark - thanks for the answers.

To Beefy Steve & g8tocliff - you have to understand - I’m not looking to become a pro - I just want to know the basics to get a decent mix.

What I’ve found - almost everyone mentions using compression and reverb, as well as using EQ - I’m sure I would have figured out the EQ tweaks, but not compression and reverb - at least not right away - that’s what I mean.

I also got from a lot of people - use multiple pans for a richer fuller sound and pan them right and left of the 1st track - something I would not have gotten right away. Doubling the vocals - that’s a great idea! And having the multiple tracks slightly lower in volume - never would have guessed that.

Then tips on microphone placement and the “wait 3 days before mixing” tip was also great.

Anyway, I have a good idea now of the basics to concentrate on - the advanced - well, I guess that will come over the next 20 years.


You’ll get it, Jim. And, the more you pick up along the way, the mo’ better it gets.

Main thing: ENJOY