Want the secret to getting great recordings and mixes? There are two sides to the process that you must keep in balance. All of us lean more to one side than the other, but great tracks are never delivered by only one of these pillars. Both are critical and you can get better at both. Time for a little rant…
The more you mix a song the more confused you’re likely to become. Your ears start getting compressed, you lose perspective on your EQ balance, and you can easily fool yourself into thinking your mix sounds better than it really does. What you don’t want is to deliver a mix to a client (or share your own music to the world) that actually sounds worse than you thought it did.
So how can you avoid this issue? With some simple reality checks. Today I want to share three that help me out tremendously.
Listen On At Least One Other Speaker Setup
One of the smartest things you can do when mixing is to take breaks from your primary monitor setup and check the mix on something that sounds totally different. Every speaker and headphone has a different EQ response so you’ll get a different “color” of your mix on different systems. As will the rest of the world.
Read More →
You know what intrigues me about the top dog recording engineers? They know their microphones inside and out. They know how certain mics work well on certain instruments or types of voices. They also know how some great mics just don’t match well with certain sound sources. Either way, they know what their mics can and cannot do well. How about you?
Pushing The Limits Of Your Microphones
So the question I tend to ask myself is this: have I personally pushed the limits of my microphones? Have I used them in enough situations on a multitude of sources to see where they shine and where they fail to impress? Have I maxed out their potential? Often times the answer is “no.”
The way I see it, if you get a new microphone (or only own one) you owe it to yourself to use it like crazy. Use it on drums. Use it on guitars and vocals. Mic up a piano with it. Just use it on everything you can think of. All the while you should be taking note of what you like and don’t like about it.
Read More →
When mastering stereo mixes you can only do but so much. Usual tools are EQ, compression, and limiting. But what if you want to turn the vocal up in the mix or turn the guitars down a bit? You can’t really. You’re stuck with the stereo mix. Unless of course you tap into the power of mid side processing. Let’s take a look…
When you sit down to mix a song, you may find yourself bursting with excitement about delivering the best mix ever that you immediately begin dropping in plugins and tweaking like a crazy person. A little compression here, a little EQ there. You’re just going for it! But what if I told you that there was one crucial step in the mixing process that you can only do once and never get back to if you skip it? Would you be interested?
Hearing A Song For The First Time
I was listening to Grammy winning mixer Dave Pensado over at Pensado’s Place and he said something that struck me as very wise. In describing his process for mixing and how he starts, he dropped this insightful nugget of gold:
There’s only one time to hear a song the first time, and I like to catalogue my first impressions because I trust them. So I’ll begin the process by pulling out pen and paper and noting down the weaknesses and strengths of a song. - Dave Pensado, Mixer (Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Justin Timberlake)
The goal of every mix you work on isn’t clarity, depth, punch, or even warmth (whatever that means), rather it is to ellicit an emotional reaction from the listeners. In other words, your mix should “move” them. It could make them happy and want to dance, or it could make them melancholy or introspective. Or perhaps it could even help them relax after a long stressful day at work. Whatever it is, your goal as a mixer is to make the song powerful and relavent to the listener.
Getting Lost In The Science
I’ve admitted here before that I’m not a very technical person. I didn’t come into audio engineering from an “engineering” side of things. I can’t solder cables nor can I read a mixing console schematic. I can’t build a homemade mic pre, nor do I fully understand how impedance can affect microphone performance. But I do know what a gripping mix sounds like and I try my darndest to create compelling mixes myself.
Read More →
Do you find yourself layering guitar parts in your sessions only have them wash together, sounding vague and mushy? Today I want to show you a simple way to bring some clarity and width back into your guitars. With nothing more than a little EQ we can subtly get that separation and focus you want when you have a dense mix of guitars.
I am proud to be part of the Pro Tools Generation. And when I say Pro Tools, I don’t mean just Avid’s Pro Tools software, but any recording/mixing software. I am part of a generation of mixers and producers who have grown up with and have learned on a DAW rather than an analog console. And today I must address why this is an important distinction to make.
DAWs Are Here To Stay
Like it or not, I think we can just about all agree that DAWs are here to stay as part of our recording and mixing workflow. They cost less than consoles and outboard gear, they don’t break down as easily, they are more portable, and they have instant recall on all aspects of the session. With computers getting more powerful every year and 24 bit converters sounding as amazing as they do now, we can expect to be working in DAWs for a very long time.
That however, is not my point. What we must address is that there is a real difference between a once analog guy who now mixes in Pro Tools or at least has Pro Tools as part of his modern workflow, and a young digital only mixer (like myself) who has always only mixed in Pro Tools and the like. We are two very different animals. Read More →
There is a simple way to get instant separation and clarity in your mix that you might not be taking advantage of. It’s fast, easy to learn, and takes immediate effect the moment you implement it. And best of all it comes bundled free with your DAW, no matter which platform you mix on! Do you know what it is? Your pan pot!
Are You Halfway Panning?
OK, so my intro paragraph might sound a bit sarcastic, but don’t discount what I’m about to say. I get so many people emailing me mixes of theirs for critique. I try to listen if I have time and give some honest, helpful feedback. One suggestion I consistently find myself offering is to stop panning just halfway. What I mean is so many of these mixes I’m hearing where people complain about the lack of clarity and separation, I notice that most of the tracks are jammed up the middle or close to it. What a waste!
Read More →
In most cases the lead vocal is the most important part of your mix. The best mixes out there always seem to find a way to get that vocal to sit right on top of everything else. How do they do it? Well there are a lot of small steps to get you there: vocal compression, riding the vocal with automation, and of course proper use of EQ. But today I want to show a super easy “hack” to making sure your vocal always sits on top of the mix nicely.