A Recording Studio of Manipulation

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Team Members

Sherri Anderson
Christy Fraser
Yusi Liu
Ben Harris

Technology & Issue


Technology: Audio manipulation equipment

Issue: The effects of audio manipulation on the music industry



Sound recording and reproduction: is the electrical or mechanical inscription and re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects. There are two main classes of sound recording technology:

Analog Recording: is accomplished by modulating the original sound signal onto another physical medium(i.e. the groove of a gramophone disc. For successful analog recording, it is imperative that the recorded waveforms on the medium have a long-term durability rate.

Digital Recording: is accomplished through the conversion of physical properties (i.e. amplitude, phase, etc)of the original sound into a sequence of numbers, which is stored and replayed for reproduction purposes. The accuracy of this conversion processes is dependent upon:

  • sampling rate: how often a related numerical value is created for a sound sampled
  • sampling depth: the maximum numerical size of each sound sampled

The automatic reproduction of music can be traced back as far as the 9th century, when the Banū Mūsā brothers invented "the earliest known mechanical musical instrument", in this case a hydropowered organ which played interchangeable cylinders automatically. The first electrical-generated modified sound was developed by Thaddeus Cahill and his Telharmonium.

Before computerized technology revolutionized audio manipulation in the mid-1990's, the use of magnetic tape and tape recorders to produce sound have been common practice since the late-1940's. This manipulation process was limited to adding and deleting sections of the recording, as implied by the following methodology:

1. Isolate both points on the tape where the splice needs to occur
2. Place the tape in an editing block: a pre-cut splice area at a 45° angle
3. Use a razor blade to cut the tape in selected places using the editing block
4. Use specially designed editing tape to physically join the magnetic tape together for desired sound

How It's Used

Recording Studios


A recording studio is a facility for sound recording. Ideally, the space is specially designed by an acoustician to achieve the desired acoustic properties (sound diffusion, low level of reflections, adequate reverberation time for the size of the ambient, etc.). Different types of studios record bands and artists, voiceovers and music for television shows, movies, cartoons, and commercials, and/or even record a full orchestra. The typical recording studio consists of a room called the "studio", where instrumentalists and vocalists perform; and the "control room", which houses the equipment for recording, routing and manipulating the sound. Often, there will be smaller rooms called "isolation booths" present to accommodate loud instruments such as drums or electric guitar, to keep these sounds from being audible to the microphones that are capturing the sounds from other instruments or vocalists.

Project studios

A small, personal recording studio is sometimes called a project studio or home studio. Such studios often cater to specific needs of an individual artist, or are used as a non-commercial hobby. The first modern project studios came into being during the mid 1980s, with the advent of affordable multitrack recorders, synthesizers and microphones. The phenomenon has flourished with falling prices of MIDI equipment and accessories, as well as inexpensive digital hard-disk recording products. Recording drums and electric guitar in a home studio is challenging, because they are usually the loudest instruments. Conventional drums require soundproofing in this scenario, unlike electronic or sampled drums. Getting an authentic electric guitar amp sound including power-tube distortion requires a power attenuator (either power-soak or power-supply based) or an isolation box or booth. A convenient compromise is amp simulation, whether a modelling amp, preamp/processor, or software-based guitar amp simulator. Sometimes, musicians replace loud, inconvenient instruments such as drums, with keyboards, which today often provide somewhat realistic sampling.

Isolation booth


An isolation booth is a standard small room in a recording studio, which is both soundproofed to keep out external sounds and keep in the internal sounds and like all the other recording rooms in sound industry it is designed for having a lesser amount of diffused reflections from walls to make a good sounding room. A drummer, vocalist, or guitar speaker cabinet, along with microphones, is acoustically isolated in the room. A professional recording studio has a control room, a large live room, and one or more small isolation booths. All rooms are soundproofed such as with double-layer walls with dead space and insulation in-between the two walls, forming a room-within-a-room. There are variations of the same concept, including a portable standalone isolation booth, a compact guitar speaker isolation cabinet, or a larger guitar speaker cabinet isolation box. A gobo panel achieves the same idea to a much more moderate extent; for example, a drum kit that is too loud in the live room or on stage can have acrylic glass see-through gobo panels placed around it to deflect the sound and keep it from bleeding into the other microphones, allowing more independent control of each instrument channel at the mixing board. All rooms in a recording studio may have a reconfigurable combination of reflective and non-reflective surfaces, to control the amount of reverberation.'

Design and equipment

Recording studios generally consist of three rooms: the studio itself, where the sound for the recording is created (often referred to as the "live room"), the control room, where the sound from the studio is recorded and manipulated, and the machine room, where noisier equipment that may interfere with the recording process is kept. Recording studios are carefully designed around the principles of room acoustics to create a set of spaces with the acoustical properties required for recording sound with precision and accuracy. This will consist of both room treatment (through the use of absorption and diffusion materials on the surfaces of the room, and also consideration of the physical dimensions of the room itself in order to make the room respond to sound in a desired way) and soundproofing (to provide sonic isolation between the rooms). A recording studio may also include additional rooms, such as a vocal booth - a small room designed for voice recording, as well as one or more extra control rooms.


Equipment found in a recording studio commonly includes:

  • Mixing console
  • Multitrack recorder
  • Microphones
  • Reference monitors, which are loudspeakers with a flat frequency response

Equipment may also include:

  • Digital Audio Workstation
  • Music workstation
  • Outboard Effects, such as compressors, reverbs, or equalizers

Digital audio workstations

General purpose computers have rapidly assumed a large role in the recording process, being able to replace the mixing consoles, recorders, synthesizers, samplers and sound effects devices. A computer thus outfitted is called a Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW. Popular audio-recording software includes Digidesign Pro Tools, The industry standard for most studios. Cubase and Nuendo both by Steinberg, MOTU Digital Performer, the standard for MIDI. Ableton Live, Cakewalk SONAR, ACID Pro and Apple Logic Pro.Cool Edit Pro also known as Audition (after bought out by Adobe), Audacity, And ardour on Linux. Current software applications are more reliant on the audio recording hardware than the computer they are running on, therefore typical high-end computer hardware is less of a priority. While Apple Macintosh is common for studio work, there is a breadth of software available for Microsoft Windows and Linux. A sizeable portion of both commercial and home studios can be seen running PC-based multitrack audio software. If no mixing console is used and all mixing is done using only a keyboard and mouse, this is referred to as mixing in the box. There are also dedicated machines which integrate a recorder, preamps, effects, and a mixing console; these devices are frequently referred to as DAW's, generally in advertising. Control surfaces Digidesign control surfaces attempt to bridge the gap between old style analogue desks and modern DAWs by providing physical controls for the Pro Tools software. The latest control surface is the C|24, successor to the Control|24, a 24 fader control surface with 16 built in Focusrite "A" Class Mic Preamps. A fairly new addition to the range is the ICON: Integrated Console Environment, combining a tactile control surface and a Pro Tools|HD Accel system in one unit. VENUE, a similar system, was released for live sound applications. These large control surfaces use an Ethernet connection to the host computer, but for Pro Tools users with smaller needs, the Command|8 is a small eight fader control surface which connects via USB.

    MIDI- a protocol that enables computer, synthesizers, keyboards, and other musical device to communicate with each other

Components of MIDI


Synthesizer: It is a sound generator (various pitch, loudness, tone colour). A good (musician's) synthesizer often has a microprocessor, keyboard, control panels, memory, etc.
Sequencer: It can be a stand-alone unit or a software program for a personal computer. (It used to be a storage server for MIDI data. Nowadays it is more a software music editor on the computer. It has one or more MIDI INs and MIDI OUTs.
Track: Track in sequencer is used to organize the recordings. Tracks can be turned on or off on recording or playing back.
Channel: MIDI channels are used to separate information in a MIDI system.There are 16 MIDI channels in one cable. Channel numbers are coded into each MIDI message.
Timbre: The quality of the sound, e.g., flute sound, cello sound, etc.
Multitimbral: capable of playing many different sounds at the same time (e.g., piano, brass, drums, etc.)
Pitch: musical note that the instrument plays
Voice: Voice is the portion of the synthesizer that produces sound. Synthesizers can have many (12, 20, 24, 36, etc.) voices. Each voice works independently and simultaneously to produce sounds of different timbre and pitch.
Patch: the control settings that define a particular timbre

Uses of MIDI

Modern Recording Studio - Hard Disk Recording and MIDI

  • Analog Sounds (Live Vocals, Guitar, Sax etc) -- DISK
  • Keyboards, Drums, Samples, Loops Effects - MIDI

Sound Generators: use a mix of

  • Synthesis
  • Samples

Samplers -Digitize (Sample) Sound then

  • Playback
  • Loop (beats)
  • Simulate Musical Instruments

Tools & Programs

Below are examples of three different recording tools of the music industry involving different forms of music and recording. The TASCAM is music coming directly from instruments recorded on a machine where as the TRACKTOR and Goldwave programs are DJ and Audio Engineer manpulation programs.


TASCAM Portastudio 424 MKII

The TASCAM Portastudio was the world's first four track recorder based on a standard compact audio cassette tape. When the original Portastudio 144 made its debut in 1979 it was a revolutionary creative tool. For the first time it enabled musicians the ability to afforably record several instrumental and vocal parts on different tracks of the built-in four track recorder and later blend all the parts together while transferring them to another standard two-channel stereo tape deck (remix and mixdown) to form a stereo recording.

These machines are typically used by artists to record demos, although they are also often used in Lo-fi recording. The analog portastudios by TASCAM and similar units by Fostex, Akai, Yamaha, Sansui, Marantz, and others generally recorded on high bias cassette tapes. Most of these machines were 4 track but there were also a couple of 6 track and a few 8 track units. Some newer digital models record to a hard disk, allowing for digital effects and up to 24 tracks of audio. The highest-selling of these was the TASCAM 424 (in three versions), which offered a great deal of flexibility while still remaining inexpensive to use. For bands prior to the advent of digital recording, the 424 was one of the easiest and affordable ways to record demos or even commercial albums.


TRACKTOR, a music playback and performance tool (Windows98/ME/2000) created to meet the demanding needs of computer-based DJs. The program also offers all the functionality found in conventional MP3 or WAVE players, including a convenient playlist. TRACKTOR boasts extensive beat recognition features, a complete mixer section with EQ and a powerful bandpass/notch filter. The innovative parametric control of the software allows recording and editing of the mix in a comprehensive file format. Almost all parameters can be automated and controlled via MIDI. TRACKTOR integrates two high-quality players with a playlist section, DJ mixer, beat matcher, digital scratcher, cue section and filters. The innovative control of the software makes it possible to record all control movements and export the resulting mix in a dedicated file format. Five cue points for settings loops or next track triggering can be set and saved for each audio file. The unique interactive waveform display, full MIDI control, mix automation and audio file export give TRACKTOR extensive performance capabilities. The realtime waveform displays on both decks show information about the audio material ahead of time, including cue points and detected beat events. The waveform can be manually dragged with the mouse for precise positioning of cue points. For turntablists, TRACKTOR offers realistic scratching and turntable-style manipulation.

TRACKTOR boasts a unique beat recognition and alignment feature. Tempo and timing of two tracks can be automatically matched, allowing the DJ to focus on the artistic aspects of mixing and effecting. TRACKTOR's phase shift display makes it easy for the DJ who prefers to match beats manually. Additionally, TRACKTOR's beat detector makes it possible to set up tempo accurate loops on the fly. TRACKTOR's mixer offers a crossfader as well as punch-in, boost and mute buttons. A 3-band EQ with kill switches for each band is available for each deck. Additionally a superb sounding 8-pole bandpass/notch filter can completely change the character of the mix.

Feature Overview

  • MP3 and wave DJ tool with professional sound quality based on REAKTOR technology
  • Interactive waveform display, sample-accurate cue points, pitch change (+/- 35%), scratching, seek mode and reverse play
  • Dedicated file format for recording, editing and automatic playback of a mix
  • Fully automated beat matching
  • Loops with selectable multiples of bars can be set on the fly
  • Crossfader with adjustable sensitivity
  • Auto-fade function with adjustable time, punch-in, boost and mute buttons
  • 3-band EQ (-24dB...+12dB) with kill switches per band for each deck
  • 8-pole bandpass/notch filter with variable width, resonance and cutoff frequency for each deck
  • Separate monitor output supporting multichannel, 3D and secondary soundcards or 2 mono outputs on a single soundcard
  • MIDI control over all relevant panel elements with special optimization for the NI 4-Control<BR


GoldWave is a commercial digital audio editing software developed by GoldWave Inc. It was first released to public in April 1993. It is a program designed for the purpose of manipulating songs that have already been recorded on for example a TASCAM where it is then changed to the liking of the Audio Engineer and the Recording Artist.

General Features

  • Multiple Document Interface for working with many files in one session
  • Huge file editing: 4GB and beyond (NTFS only)
  • Configurable RAM or hard drive editing
  • High quality: 24 bit, 192kHz
  • Real-time visuals: bar, waveform, spectrogram, spectrum, level meter, ...
  • Fast non-destructive editing. Cut, copy, delete, and undo take only a fraction of a second, regardless of the file size
  • Multiple undo levels
  • Many effects: distortion, doppler, echo, filter, mechanize, offset, pan, volume shaping, invert, resample, equalizer, time warp, pitch, reverb, volume matcher, channel mixer, ...
  • Effect previewing and presets
  • Audio restoration filters: noise reduction, pop/click, smoother
  • Supported file formats: wav, mp3, ogg, aiff, au, vox, mat, snd, voc, FLAC, raw binary data, text data, and more
  • File format plug-ins for the next generation of audio compression, such as WMA and MP4/M4A
  • DirectX Audio Plug-in hosting
  • Effect chain editor
  • Audio CD Reader
  • Batch processing and conversion
  • Drag-and-drop cue points, with auto-cue and file splitting features.
  • Direct waveform editing with the mouse
  • Customizable tool bars
  • Customizable waveform colours
  • Customizable keyboard shortcuts
  • Automatic timer (day/time) recording or level activated recording
  • Clean, friendly, easy-to-use interface
  • Several built-in accessibility features and many keyboard shortcuts
  • Excellent value, free upgrades

Who Uses It & What They Use It For


Recording artists

Audio manipulation is so commonplace that we hardly notice its being used most of the time. Most if not all of recording artists use some form of audio manipulation.

It can be used for:

  • Cross Fading, Looping, Echo/Reverb/Delay,Splicing, Mixing and Filtering
  • Altering: tone, pitch, and volume of voice recordings
  • Adding in certain features such as instruments, synthesized sound effects, and background vocals
  • Modulating amplitude and frequency, distorting, and equalizing
  • Compressing, phasing, and for Doppler effect and ring modulating
  • Lengthen/shorten songs
  • Add custom designed endings
  • De-noise records or tapes

The range and intricacy of manipulation that is now available allows very little talent to be involved in recording an album. Some artist’s albums are recorded with voice alterations that are obvious enough that they choose to lip sync instead of singing live. The difference between live or acoustic versions of songs and the polished and edited recorded version can be quite pronounced. Yet, not all editing is negative. Technology has allowed us to edit music in positive ways instead of manipulating voices. When editing is used to enhance the music like adding sound effects instead of manipulation there’s a positive use of technology. The producers are only increasing the amount of entertainment given by an artist’s music. Adding sound effects, for example in MIA’s Paper Planes, is only one way technology is used positively. These sound effects added to the song make it more eccentric, even though they seem to be replacing lyrics. Other song control includes back-up vocals as a solo artist is able to record their own back-ups yet still sing the chorus. More examples of positive editing include songs like Satisfaction by Benny Benassi. This song uses manipulation out in the open to create a different approach to entertainment instead of hiding the manipulations to scam the audience into the perception of talent.


Backmasking (AKA backward masking or reverse speech) is a recording technique in which a sound or message is recorded backward onto a track that is meant to be played forward. Backmasking is a deliberate process, whereas a message found through phonetic reversal may be unintentional.

Backmasking was popularized by The Beatles, who used backward vocals and instrumentation on their 1966 album Revolver.[2] Artists have since used backmasking for artistic, comedic, and satiric effect, on both analog and digital recordings. The technique has also been used to censor words or phrases for "clean" releases of songs.

Backmasking has been a controversial topic in the United States since the 1980s, when allegations from Christian groups of its use for Satanic purposes were made against prominent rock musicians, leading to record-burning protests and proposed anti-backmasking legislation by state and federal governments. Whether backmasked messages exist is in debate, as is whether backmasking can be used subliminally to affect listeners.

Aside from satanic messages and subliminal manipulation backmasking has been used for comedic purposes as well as the censorship of profanities in the radio edits.

Some examples of popular recording artists who use backmasking include:

  • The Beatles
  • Pink Floyd
  • Missy Elliot
  • Weird Al
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • Mindless Self Indulgence

Some examples of recording artists who have been accused of backmasking satanic or controversial messages include:

  • Led Zeppelin
  • Black Sabbath
  • The beatles
  • John Lennon
  • Yoko Ono


DJs / Synthesized Music

  • This technology is also widely used by DJs to mix songs together and otherwise manipulate them into remixes.
  • The introduction of computer manipulation and synthesis in music created entirely new genres that would otherwise never have been possible. Such genres include techno, house, electronica, rave, acid, and trance.

Radio DJs

The most common activity involved in making radio programs is editing voice tracks. Oddly, many of the maneuvers that seem the most natural to us are rarely performed in the music production world, for which ProTools is primarily designed. Sure, music producers do plenty of "comping" of vocals, assembling a final performance from several takes, but there is rarely a call for the kind of deleting, condensing or reordering of voice tracks that we do in radio every day

Real Talent


As we compare new technology and manipulations, it’s hard to recognize what has been changed and what it real raw talent. However, these programs and technology has only begun to be used in more recent generations, giving us proof of the real talent of artists from earlier generations. Bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who, or The Beatles didn't have access to much of these technologies. Take songs like Dream On by Aerosmith, The Beatles Let It Be, or Barracuda by Heart; all these songs show pure talent within each note and instrument. Other music genres that do not use audio technology with manipulation or editing are folk music, opera, and classical. These genres are known for their raw talent without the use of technology. Because of the increased use of manipulation in the music industry, live performances have become more entertainment then a showcase of their talent. Artists use pirotechnics, light shows, and visual aids within modern day concerts. These techniques make up for the decreased raw talent shown within live performances.

Examples of Audio Manipulation




For over 10 centuries, audio manipulation technology has been used to improve and enhance recorded music. The technological boom in the mid-1990’s has popularized computerized audio manipulation for audience enjoyment. The outdated splicing technique of magnetic tape (used since the 1940’s), has transformed into numerous workstations and programs located in whole recording studios and project studios.

Specifically, the control room records and manipulates the sound produced from the recording studio, made by an individual, or a group of artists. A Digital Audio Workstation is a multi-purpose computer that incorporates sound effects devices, the leading industry software being Digidesign Pro Tools. MIDI is a critical component in the audio manipulation process, communicating all technologies together. Three commonly-used tools of the music industry include: Portastudio, Traktor, and Goldwave.

Backmasking is a popular, yet controversial manipulation technique used by various artists in the entertainment industry at present. It is a manipulation technique in which sounds are recorded, then played backwards on the recorded track for artistic effect.

New genres such as techno, trance and house music have been created by DJs through the use of audio manipulation. A newer era of music allows individuals to experience and enjoy a broader range of musical talent, aside from the traditional vocal and instrumental abilities of many celebrated figures.

Although mainstream music relies heavily toward audio manipulation, there still exist certain musical genres that remain pure in recorded form: folk music, opera and classical music. However, much of the music frequented by listeners today have been adjusted by expert technicians and producers using the technology described in this wiki. Much of the vocal ability observed of artists since the mid-1990’s have been edited and redistributed to sound very genuine and talented to the common ear. However, not all artists use audio manipulation to ameliorate their natural vocals; rappers such as Missy Elliot and Kanye West distort their voices to different pitches and tones to give originality to their works. Audio manipulation has become a widely-accepted practice that has added to listeners' entertainment value.


Sherri Anderson

Christy Fraser

Yusi Liu

Ben Harris