There is a lot of hype surrounding the latest vintage console emulation plugin from Waves, the REDD consoles from Abby Road Studios. Does this replaces something like Slate Digital’s Virtual Console Collection or Waves own NLS (Non Linear Summer)? Or is it something more? Today I do a little show and tell of how I’ve used it in real mixes as of late.
When I was in college, all of my audio professors and books taught me to record as clean as possible, no effects. Just microphone to preamp to converter. Leave the EQ, compression, and other effects for the mixing phase.
The rationale was that you can’t undo effects on the way in so don’t play with fire. Just record things clean and then you can commit to the type of sound you want later. It’s a great idea in theory, until I realized that it was one of the biggest philosophies holding me back from making better music.
Why Wait To Make It Better?
What I’ve come to accept is that by recording “clean” all these years I’ve basically been telling myself that I’ll make it sound better, later. In fact, one band I was producing an album for used to joke on me in the tracking sessions saying “Graham will make it sound better…later!”
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You know what the problem with your mixes is? You don’t spend enough time recording. I know, I know, we just spent a month pouring over simple, practical mixing tips to help you get the most out of your tracks. But the real secret to every great sounding pro mix out there, is plenty of time spent getting a great recording.
Your Recording To Mix Ratio
Recently on the Simply Recording Podcast we discussed the fact that all of us have a recording to mix ratio. That is, the time we spent in the recording phase versus time spent mixing those recordings. For many of us our ratio looks something like 20% Recording to 80% Mixing. Translation: we spend hardly anytime on the recording end, so we are slaves to mixing for ever and ever, trying to turn our subpar recordings into gold.
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The title to this post sounds so egotistical, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s because I just turned 30, but I’m finding a common trend with “younger” bands and artists that is most definitely a product of our generation. The problem is we don’t know how to arrange a song.
We Just Stack And Stack
I talk a lot about arranging when giving recording and mixing tips, because the arrangement is what really makes a song great (or not). But last month I read an interview with Grammy winning producer/mixer Kevin Augunas that summed it up perfectly.
The best thing about a 16 track tape machine is limited tracks. It forces better arrangements. Young bands today don’t know how to arrange because of unlimited tracks. They just stack, and stack, and stack. - Kevin Augunas (The Lumineers, The Black Keys)
So just this week my band released our most recent EP entitled Lower. It’s a simple 5 song album that was tracked, mixed, and mastered in my own project studio. I thought today I would not only share it with you, but highlight a few lessons (good and bad) that I learned from this specific project.
Less Is More
I would say the biggest lesson that was re-enforced on this project was that less is more in the recording phase. I think I did this well when it came to guitars. During the tracking process I kept stripping away guitar parts until we were left with the absolute foundational parts. This made the songs easier to mix and they sounded bigger in the long run. Go figure.
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So we’ve reached the end of a month long mixing video tutorial marathon where I pumped out 31 mixing tips in 31 days straight! From mixing philosophy to tricks and hacks, this round of 5 Minutes To A Better Mix was a good one!
Third Time’s A Charm
And you know where that leaves us don’t you? With 3 rounds of this video series, that brings us to a grand total of 93 video tutorials. That’s about 8 hours of practical mixing training, at your disposal, ready to help you get better results in YOUR studio with YOUR gear. In fact, I’ve made it super easy for you to access all of those videos. I recently updated the 5 Minutes To A Better Mix page so you can see all 93 videos at a glance and dive right in!
Here are a few reactions to this video series:
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Part 31 of 31 – So here’s the question you might be asking: How do I know when my mix is finished? Well today’s video was made just for you. There’s one last thing you have to do.
Your Lasting Impressions
In order to finish your mix well you have to do something most of us are horrible at: sit on your hands. Literally. You need to give your mix one final listen through without actually changing anything in the mix. All the while take note of your lasting impressions, as these are most telling.
Part 30 of 31 – Looking for a more consistent, upfront, bass response in your mix? Or perhaps you simply don’t have enough low end at all? A multiband compressor can help.
Compress Just The Low End
With the power of a multiband compressor, you can easily process only the bottom end of your mix, giving you a more even response, tighter bass, and over all fatter sound. It’s a great tool, especially if EQ alone isn’t cutting it.
Part 29 of 31 – At the end of your mix you want to check your EQ balance against a pro track.How is the top end? How is the bottom end? A quick EQ check with a reference can go a long way.
The Painful Reference Process
Yes it’s painful to bring in a reference mix at this point, but you must do it. If you want to deliver a better mix, then bring in a pro track to reference. But here’s what you listen for: the top end clarity and bottom end weight.
Part 28 of 31 – As you near the end of your mix, one of the best things you can do is reverse mix it. This simple little move will tell you a lot about your volume balance between kick, snare, and vocals.
What Do You Hear Down There?
If you take your monitors and turn them all the way down and then bring them up in volume ever so slowly, what is the first thing you hear? Ideally it should be vocal, snare, and kick drum. What’s that you say? You haven’t tried this little trick?! Today’s your day!