In this video tutorial, brought to you with the support of Universal Audio, Eli Krantzberg looks at using the new UA EL8 Distressor plug-in on jazz vibraphone in a small jazz ensemble.
Being a vibraphone player, I like using big soft mallets, for a nice warm, mellow, round sound. They present a challenge to record and mix, however. To cut through an ensemble, vibraphone usually works best with a more pronounced attack. Over the years, I have found that adding compression (and EQ to a lesser degree) helps bring out the attack quality of these mallets as they are striking the bars. Combined with the warmth from the mallet’s large soft texture, this results in the perfect blend of a round yet also pronounced sound.
Slow Attack Time
As with all percussive instruments, a slower rather than faster compressor attack time generally works better. The Empirical Labs Distressor, renown for its wide range of ratio based tonal variations, is a great tool to get a variety of compression responses with a moderate to slow attack. Combined with the internal mix control, everything from a 2:1 ratio, all the way up to the “nuke” setting, properly tweaked, yields interesting results.
Recording the Vibraphone in Logic Pro X
In the video, I’ve recorded the vibraphone using a stereo pair of Neuman KM 184 mics, going through the UA 610B Unison preamps. Logic Pro X 10.3’s new stereo panning is put to good use to narrow the stereo field of this horizontally large instrument so that the low and high notes don’t appear at the extreme ends of the stereo spectrum. Channel EQ is used both before and after the Distressor to enhance the attack portion of the frequency range.
And here's the video with the full performance: