Have you ever mixed a great sounding kick drum, only to have it get buried somewhere later on in your mix? Yeah, I hate when that happens. If you’re fighting with automating the volume up where you need it, but still getting nowhere then you might consider using the age old “cut through kick” trick. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s helpful. Enjoy!
Sometimes no amount of great gear or mic technique can help you get the recordings you need. What if you just have a bad sounding instrument and time or money won’t allow you to make any changes? You need to improvise and experiment, and most importantly, never give up until you get what you need. Let me share an example
The Drums Didn’t Sound Good
I do a lot of mobile recording for bands. I pack up a portable studio, fly somewhere, and setup shop in people’s homes, churches, and other random buildings to record for 2 to 4 days at at time. Since time is short and I’m not in a permanent recording studio, we usually have to work with what we have in the moment.
In one recording session the original drummer had bailed on the singer for some reason. The artist secured a replacement drummer just days before recording was scheduled. This guy was quick enough to learn the parts and was prepared to play, the only problem was his drum set had been in storage for months and was both out of tune and sporting year old heads. Yikes! Not what I had in mind.
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The great thing about mixing music is that everyone seems to approach it differently. Some people start with all the faders up. Others focus in on one instrument at a time. Some mix in a specific order each time, others allow the song to dictate the flow.
If you’re just getting into mixing, or are feeling stuck in your mixes, then allow me to show you the smart way to get started. It’s not the ONLY way, but it sure can help!
Start Mixing The Most Important Section Of The Song First
I’ve found it very helpful to start my mixes with the most important part of the song first. You know, the section where a song is at full throttle, the pay off part. This could be a big bridge or perhaps the final rocking chorus. It doesn’t matter where in the song it is, only that it is the biggest dynamic of the song.
The reason for this is twofold: it gives the most attention to the biggest part of the song while simultaneously making mixing faster as you work backwards from there. Let’s say the final chorus is the most epic part of the song. If you start your mix there, crafting all of those instruments together, allowing every part to shine, then when it comes time to move on to previous choruses or verses, you can easily “come down” from that big dynamic by removing parts or simplifying the mix. Compare that with making a rocking verse one, only to find you need to “add more oomph” to the following parts. Give your time and attention to the most important section of the song and work backwards from there.
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When mixing, your job is part technical (make the tracks fit together audibly) and part musical (create dynamics and scope from beginning to end). Even if the technical side of the mix is going well, sometimes you just need to help out the arrangement to keep things interesting and flowing well. Today’s video covers a simple mixing trick that can help “fill in some gaps” in your mix. Enjoy!
Most of us are recording and mixing on a computer these days. Whether Mac or PC, these machines (partnered with incredible software) act as our tape machine, outboard gear, and mixing console all in one. The power in today’s computers is stunning compared to what many of us dealt with just one short decade ago, but they don’t come without their problems. Today I want to give you a couple of helpful “rules” to live by when it comes to your music computer.
Fill It Up With RAM
No matter what software you are running, the best thing you can feed your audio computer is RAM. More RAM means more power in the moment to record with virtual instruments and amp simulators and more power to mix with the all of your dazzling plugins. Yes CPU speed is crucial, but most of us can’t change our CPU after we bought the computer. RAM is both cheap and easy to upgrade. Fill your Mac or PC up with the most you can fit (and afford). Your DAW will thank you!
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Many home studio owners are on a limited budget. You may have only a handful decent studio mics. Perhaps you realized that the best $100 you could spend was a solid large diaphragm condenser mic and that’s all you have.
You’re looking to get newer, better sounds in your recordings. What do you do? Do you slap down your credit card and pick up a new mic? Perhaps. Here’s another idea. How about instead we simply maximize the mic(s) we already own and get more out of them? That sounds better to me already!
Get More Out Of Your Mic With Distance
Forgive me if this sounds simplistic, but how close or far away from the source you place your microphone is one of the biggest things that affects the recording you will get. The closer a mic is to the kick drum, the more click or attack of the beater you likely will get. Conversely, the further away that same mic is placed, your recording will have more bottom end and fatness. If you close mic an acoustic guitar, you may get a beefy (or tinny) sound that might be perfect for the song in question. Move the mic a foot or two back, and you get a more rounded out natural guitar sound that incorporates more of the room’s natural reverberation, good or bad.
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As a long time Pro Tools user, I’ve never had the opportunity to wander outside the audio interface realm of Avid. Now, thanks to Pro Tools 9, I was able to make some changes in my personal studio and go with some 3rd party hardware. To me the choice was clear, the Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56.
After using it on the last few projects in my studio I wanted to give you guys a full video review including some audio samples. Really quick, here are some highlights:
- Great sounding pres and converters.
- Flexible sounds with liquid pres.
- More control on built in pres than typical interfaces.
- Expandability for a huge studio.
- A little pricer than some other units in this I/O range.
- 2 U rack space can be a bummer if there’s not enough room in your rack.
We are only 2 weeks out from the first ever Simply Recording Academy, a recording and mixing workshop designed for real home studio people who want to get better at what they do, fast! Audio blogger Joe Gilder and myself are teaming up to do something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time, get to train some of you in person! This 2 day workshop will allow us to sit down in a home studio with YOU and show the ins and outs of recording a live band and mixing their tracks to perfection.
When – Friday, Sept 30th – Saturday, Oct 1st
Where – Nashville, TN, USA
What – 2 days of recording a live band, editing and mixing their tracks. Hands on training, breakout sessions, Q&A, kick butt time!
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I seem to get this question a lot, “Should I use a limiter in my mixes?”. Usually what people are asking is whether or not to mix with a limiter on their master fader (mix bus). Some of the confusion may even come from people like myself who tell you to use a limiter for reference mixes. But that is very different than mixing through a limiter or limiting your mixes before mastering. Let’s clear things up.
Why A Limiter Is Helpful
In case you weren’t aware, a limiter is basically a compressor with a super high compression ratio. It is built to really turn down peaks, limiting the dynamic range, thereby allowing you to turn up the volume of your track. At it’s core, a good limiter can help make your mixes nice and loud. Sweet!
So if a limiter can quickly and easily make your mixes louder, shouldn’t you throw one on the master fader, crank it up, and bounce down the mix? Not so fast. The very same thing that makes a limiter helpful, is what can actually ruin your mix. The reducing of the dynamic range really can change the sound of a mix, especially if you are still in the mixing phase, trying to develop your sound to begin with.
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I don’t care what the “purists” might say, a true mark of professional recordings is a singer who is on pitch and in tune. Now just how MUCH in tune the vocalist sings is completely subjective. But let’s be honest here. If your vocalist is off pitch in your mix, listeners are simply going to move on.
That being said, the solution to on pitch vocals isn’t always pitch correction software, although it is a legitimate tool. With some simple fixes and sneaky moves you can help your singer deliver a great on pitch performance every time!
It’s All In The Monitor Mix
Plain and simple, the singer’s monitor mix determines everything about the outcome of his or her vocal performance. Obviously the better the vocalist can hear herself, the better she will sing. You want to spend as much time as necessary to help your singer feel comfortable. But here’s a dirty secret: you can control how on pitch your vocalist is without her ever knowing it.
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