Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How To Apply for Studio Internships


Friday, September 2, 2016


Hello friends - it has been so long since I have updated this blog, and I apologize. I have been in the process of moving everything over to the all new, squeaky clean, super-fly:


Go there for future blog posts, updates, videos, podcast episodes, and all things Recording Lounge. Sorry Blogger...ya got beat.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Behringer X-Touch Compact Review


As always, check out the podcast "Recording Lounge" on iTunes and check out our all-new Youtube channel, www.youtube.com/recordinglounge


Hey friends, today I'm reviewing the new (ish) Behringer XTouch Compact USB Control Surface. I have been a long-time CC121 User, which is a very simple and straightforward single-fader control surface from Steinberg. Since I'm a Nuendo user, it has done right by my side, but I needed an upgrade. To my surprise, the X Touch Compact released...finally...and was a very fair price - a mere $399 for a 9-fader, 16-pot, 39 button interface. So let's get down to business.


First impressions on this unit were very good. The build quality is quite decent, it feels sturdy and not like it's a cheap piece of plastic. Nice rubber feet on the bottom and metal vents in the back. Faders feel pretty solid and the pots aren't too shabby. Nice! The unit is a little bigger than I thought it would be - I'd say it's about maybe 15x11" and maybe 3"-ish tall in the rear...I don't know what I was expecting, I guess I just thought it would be smaller/shorter for some reason - no matter, it is by no means "big." 


What install? You literally just plug it in and it works fine...with the Mackie Control Protocol. If you're into the Mackie protocol/MIDI mapping, then it should literally work right out of the box. Just enable it in your DAW and make sure it can support Mackie Control and that's pretty much it. I, on the other hand, despise the Mackie protocol - it doesn't make sense to my brain, so I have to use the Standard Mode and create my own "generic midi remote" in Nuendo and map every button, knob, fader, etc., myself. Which is going to be a very time consuming task, however
it will be customized to how I want it. 


The fader action is smooth and it feels natural, as do the V Pots. It's a bit of a shame that all the buttons are the same color - yellow - and they are unlabeled. There is a nice space on the unit for some labeling tape (I use 1/4" patchbay tape to label mine, or 3/8" labels for a label maker). On the next step up (the "X Touch") there are multi-colored lights, which would be a nice feature, but hey, it's more expensive. 

Unit seems to be pretty response and sensitive, it reacts basically as I expect it to. It's not quite as smooth as a Euphonix or Avid interface, but it's pretty darn smooth. It doesn't feel jerky or glitchy when playing back automation, and I have't noticed any major issues. Every now and then I feel like it will get confused on which fader is selected, but that very well could be just a miscommunication with the DAW - like I had a fader selected in the DAW but my hand was touching a different fader and it got confused. Who knows. I haven't been able to repeat it, but I don't think it was an issue with the X Touch. 

It's a very simple, effective device. In short, it just works! 


It's literally one of the only devices of its kind in that price range. $400 for this many faders, knobs and buttons? That's crazy.  Good on you, Behringer for coming out with something we've been wanting for a long time. I'm impressed. 

Every V Pot is also a switch, so you can route it to be a pan pot, but when you click it, it can do something else, like mute the channel, or disable the panner, or record enable. If you're mapping it yourself, you can do whatever you want. 

Every fader is touch sensitive - which is a really nice feature. You can do separate CC commands for the touch, which means for example touching the fader will put the channel into write mode, and when it's touched again, it will go out of write mode. So you could automate without having to enable "write" and instead just immediately grab a fader and you're writing automation. Neat! 

There are 8 buttons below the primary 8 faders, which I assume most people would make a "select" function, however, you could easily put the select button above the fader and make these 8 "function" keys for whatever you want - changing workspaces, changing fader banks, edit modes, or opening various windows/devices in your DAW. The X Touch (full size) has Function keys and a few other nifty features.

The unit has a powered USB hub in the back with two ports - you could use this for your mouse and keyboard, or a MIDI keyboard, or anything that works just fine with USB 2 power. You can also use it to chain multiple X-Touch units together! I wish it was USB3, after all it's almost 2016 now and USB2 is on its way out, but hey, it's still a very nice touch...like X touch....get it? ahem....sorry

You can download the Behringer Editor app and any firmware updates from their website and remap your controller to almost anything you can imagine, and save various settings as .bin files on your computer. NOTE: I have read that they've already released a firmware update for the X-TOUCH (full size version) but not the X Touch Compact (yet). 

There is a footswitch input, expression pedal input, and MIDI in/out on the back of the unit. I haven't really had a need for these yet, but it's a very nice feature that could come in handy. For example, you could plug in a footswitch and set it to be "record" so you can sit in your chair with your instrument, ready to go, and not have to hit record and run over to it. You could also run a long TS (instrument cable) line into another room and set it by a drumkit, a guitar amp rig, or by your vocal booth and hit record from a footswitch in there. If you think outside the box a little, there are some really cool options for this. 


The faders make a little bit of noise as they move. It's sort of like one of those old printers from the 90s (you know, with the holes on the sides of the paper) except quiet. It's there, though. Kinda like this little buzz...but it's not too bad. 

The manual / documentation is virtually useless. It's really just a "quickstart guide" to help you install it. But remember what I said before - there's literally nothing to it, you just plug it in. In the back of the manual it shows the default MIDI mapping, which is nice, but there's no help regarding re-assigning your own CCs, or using the Editor program, or integrating it with Generic Remote editors. I think it assumes you're just going to use the Mackie Protocol. Lame!

The unit seems to get a little warm - not hot - but warm. It is ventilated well, but I hope it's not the Achilles heel of the unit; I really hope they don't start failing after 6 months of use or something. 

The unit uses a full size IEC cable in the back, which is kinda difficult to position on your desk, and it's kinda bulky. In my situation, the cable sticks out a little too far, and isn't sitting nicely near my widescreen monitor...but I think I can make it work. This is one of the few situations where I actually wish there was a wall-wart instead of a full IEC. 

You can't edit the CCs of the unit while In-program. It's understandable, but it makes it a real pain experimenting with routing CCs. You have to close out of your DAW, reroute, dump the info to the hardware, reopen, test, etc. Keep in mind, this is only an issue if you're making your own CC mapping, not using the Mackie Protocol aka "MC Mode" aka "Mackie Control Mode" 


Overall, I must admit, I'm really impressed with this unit. I like things that are simple, effective, and affordable. It solves a problem, and does so for the guy that doesn't really want or need to spend $4k on a control surface. 

Is it as versatile, stylish, and high quality as an Avid S3? No, but it's also $400, and for that price, it's got my vote as a really cool control surface, which will allow you to get out of clicking/mousing around and start grabbing faders and automating more often. When I got my CC121 years ago, I suddenly realized much more I enjoyed automating and how much more often I did it! With this, I feel confident I'll automate even more. It's a really fun piece to work with and definitely a step UP from the CC121, even though it's cheaper than the CC121. This is my honest opinion, coming from me, a huge Steinberg fanboy. 

I never really thought I'd say this, but WAY TO GO BEHRINGER! 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Compression Tutorial

Hey everyone! The latest episode of the Recording Lounge Podcast has posted, Episode 78. In this episode we explore all the ins and outs of COMPRESSION. Things we discuss:

1. The attack and release controls
2. The threshold and ratio controls
3. Wet/Dry mix (parallel compression)
4. Sidechain highpass
5. Using the compressor to get more attack or punch
6. Using the compressor to get attack evenness
7. Using compression to get distortion/color
8. Using the compressor to get "glue" or "fullness"
9. Drum bus compression
10. Groove and compression

And much more! This is a 100% free podcast episode packed with 1 hour and 38 minutes of awesome information to help you better understand compression.

Check it out!


Thursday, July 23, 2015


"Big To Small" mixing is a technique that I talk about in my book, Three Dimensional Mixing, and it's also something I utilize every single day. I don't give advice that I wouldn't give to myself, in fact, I think big to small mixing is a great technique for anyone to try.

So What is it?

Below is a segment taken from the SECOND EDITION of my book, where I talk about Big to Small mixing. This is the first section from the new book shared anywhere on the net!


This technique centers around the idea that mixes are NOT a creation of random sounds. They are songs. They are instruments playing a song. It doesn't matter how many mics you used to create that sound, all that matters is that it's an instrument. I see way too many mixers diving into a mix with guns blazing, filtering this and that, compressing this and that, soloing up channels, doing all kinds of ridiculous small picture stuff. We don't want that. We want BIG PICTURE. We want the song to sound like a song.

Pros of Mixing Big to Small:
1) Your mixes come together quicker.
2) You use less CPU.
3) You use fewer plugins and processors in general.
4) You retain context of the song constantly.
5) You are organized and can make easy changes to your mixes.
6) You will likely have tighter phase relationships due to fewer individual channel processors
7) You will likely worry about the right things and ignore the irrelevant things. 

Here are your guidelines:

1) Work quickly, and try to mix at a normal to quiet level.

2) Act on instinct. Act musically. React to your feelings. Don't read numbers or meters.

3) Avoid the solo button (for now).

4) Be organized. Name your tracks appropriately, color code, organize, group, etc!

5) Group things into as many groups as you need. Guitar group, Drum group, percussion group, BGVs, etc. If there are 3 mics on a bass cab, group them into a bus. If there's a "dry" and "compressed" chain on a vocal, bus them. If there's a kick "in" and "out," bus them.

6) Commit to working chronologically. Try not to jump around too much while mixing. Mix in passes. Start at the beginning and go to the end, tweaking as you go, without stopping, without soloing, without changing your monitoring level. Work on it like it's music, not like it's a photoshop project.

7) This technique is best suited for sessions that are clear. Meaning, if you were mixing along the way, this technique might not work as well for you. If you want to try it on an existing mix or one that has already been started, save that as a copy, and open the session up and clear it. Take off all the inserts, sends, panning, filters, EQs, trims, compressors, automation, everything. The only exception to this is if the insert is integral to the sound, for example, an amp simulator on a DI guitar track.

8) Make priorities. Who's the most important character in this song? Who is supporting actor? Who needs to be featured and who is simply an extra in the background? Every song has a different story, and so every mix has different priorities. Never lose focus on the most important things. (I'll give you a hint, the most important are probably going to be vocals, the main instrument, bass, and drums).

Now let's get mixing. 

Step 1: Start with a basic balance of the song. We're talking 15 minutes tops, or about 3 listens through. Really it should only take you one or two listens through the song. Work those faders and pans. I like to start with my faders at -10dBFS, which gives me a good amount of room to go up and down. The first things I will push up (as you might expect) are vocal, kick, snare, bass. They usually get bumped a little bit right out of the gate. If you gain staged your session well, they should be sitting pretty happy together.

Step 2: Once you've got a balance that seems to be pretty nice, check out your master bus. How does the song sound overall? Is it going to need to be brighter overall? Is it too fat? There are two options here. If it needs to be brighter, feel free to add that to the mix bus. If it needs to be thinned out, save that for individual channels. In general I don't try to do much bus EQ, just a dB here and there if needed. Keep it light, keep it simple, and use a good EQ. Your entire mix is going through it. Don't use EQ if it doesn't need it. Next move on to compression. Does the mix need a bus compressor? Audition a few if you need to, and try to set it to where the song starts to gel a little bit. Sometimes 1-2dB is enough. Use your ears. What about saturation? Are you into tape emulations and the like? Add it if you feel like the song needs it, not just because you want to! Listen to the song as a song and the mix as a whole. Big picture.

Step 3: Once you've got the master bus situated, take a look at your groups. Drum group, guitar group, bass group, BGV group. etc. Basically everything should have a group. Listen to them as big picture elements. Do the drums need compression as a whole? Do they need some EQ? Do the guitars need some EQ or some widening? Do the keys need some filtering or compression? If so, apply these things to the groups as needed. You can be a little more liberal this time (as opposed to our conservative bus processing). If you want to group things further or use parallel processing, do so now. An example of this might be sending drums and bass to a parallel buss to compress them together as one unit and blending them in with the originals.

Step 4:  Take a moment to pause. Are there any glaring issues that still exist? Anything you can't get over? Hopefully the dry sounds you got to mix were tracked well, but if there are any glaring issues, this is your chance to use your get-out-of-jail-free card here: you may now use the solo button, BUT...it's only to fix issues. Things like using de-essers on a vocal, filtering out unneeded sub information or room rumble or 60 cycle hum, filtering out hiss, severe boominess, pops, etc., removing noise, ringing, humming, etc., noise reduction or gating, etc. This is not a time for shaping things. It's only a check up. If there are any problems with the audio, fix them now. They should have been fixed in the tracking stage, but I digress.

Step 5: Once you've fixed any glaring issues (hopefully there weren't too many), give the song a listen from start to finish again and check your balances and bans. Again, when balancing try to work big to small. Need more drums? Turn up the drum bus. Still need more snare? Turn up the snare.

Step 6: Now that you've got a pretty good balance of the mix, you've worked with the master bus as a whole, the group channels, and fixed any glaring issues, then rebalanced, you're ready to start shaping the tracks. Again, commit to working big to small. Instead of reaching for a bell EQ, try a gentle shelf first. Use wide Qs. I can't tell you how to process your tracks in this stage. This stage is all about getting them to blend well together, and admittedly, it's a hard step, and it will be the longest part of your journey. A lot of novices start here and immediately try to shape the tracks together without getting a frame for the mix as a whole. You have to start with your foundation, build a frame, add the walls, put up the drywall, and THEN paint them. So go ahead, EQ, compress, add effects, do what you need to do. But always try to avoid the solo button, try to mix chronologically, and try to remember that you are mixing a song and not a collection of sounds. 

Step 7: Once you've got a nice blend that you're digging, Automate your mix from good to great. Too many novice engineers avoid automation. It's possibly the most important tool we have for making mixes direct the listener's attention. We can manipulate what they're focusing on at what moment, who is important, who needs to take a backseat. We can jump out at them and grab their attention by automating up a vocal phrase or a drum fill or a guitar riff. We can suck out the low end on something only to bring it back later. We can add effects to a certain part. Truly automation is one of our best friends in the mix and you should use it. If you're not using it, you're probably wrong. Not everything needs to be full spectrum all the time, and not everything needs to be full loudness all the time. You need to give things little moments to be featured - they won't necessarily do it on their own. Not everything can shine the entire song - you need to give everything it's moment to shine so that it creates the illusion that everything is shining. 

I hope this mixing theory helps you make better mixes. I know it may seem crazy to some of you, but this is exactly how I mix. Like I said, I wouldn't just make this up and throw it out there. Mixing big to small helps me mix quickly, effectively, and not lose sight of what's important. It helps me minimize my "tweaking" phase down to half of what it used to be, and it helps me use a lot less processing on my mixes in general. Nobody wants their stuff to sound overmixed, overprocessed, overtweaked to oblivion - it just sounds terrible.

For more mixing tips, helpful hints, and rants about audio, check out my book, Three Dimensional Mixing, and of course, the podcast, Recording Lounge Podcast. 3DM, The Second Edition, will be releasing later this year in digital and print form (finally), and if I may plug myself, I highly recommend it!  ;)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Mailing List

Hey friends - I've just created a new mailing list for the Recording Lounge Podcast. It's 100% free to sign up, and if you know me at all, you know that I'm all about no-nonsense, no fluff information. I won't spam your email account, I am primarily using this as a way to send you updates about shows and also great companion information about shows as they come out. Like I said, it's free to sign up and you can unsubscribe at any time. Just need a few pieces of information and you're good to go!

Check it out!


alternate link (in case the first doesn't work - I think only the second link works on mobile)


Friday, June 20, 2014

Days of the Week = Opportunities for Growth

Hey all. Perhaps this is a bit formulaic of me (or even downright stupid) but I've come up with a bit of a business practice that I've found helpful to me in the studio environment. The idea is basically that I have a one hour thought experiment every day of the week targeted to a specific area of the studio. Working 70 hours a week as an audio engineer, having a studio, teaching classes, and trying to grow my business can be very daunting, and hard to find time to really focus on what's important, and focus on what needs improvement and when. If you just look at everything in one huge sum, it seems very overwhelming, but if you have a specific task every day of the week on which to dote, you can really accomplish much greater things. Think of it like a 1hr workout, but for your business, every day. I'll give you an example of what I mean.

Mondays - Marketing. I spend an hour thinking about ways to get the word out about the studio. Could be something simple, could be something complex. I try to brainstorm ideas and come up with new ways to not only attract new business, but stay in touch with current clients and continue to bring value to their lives as they have brought value to mine.

Tuesdays - Talkback. On Tuesdays I try to send an email, text, FB message, or make a phonecall to a client, just to say hey, see what's up, ask how they are doing. Could be a simple hashtag on Facebook or Instagram - just to let people know they matter to me as clients.

Wednesdays - Wash day. On Wednesdays I clean the studio. Sweep, vacuum, mop, clean the glass, dust, etc. Not exactly a thought experiment, but certainly good practice.

Thursdays - Throwback - but not how Instagram does it. I try to listen to old mixes and see things I liked, things I didn't like, how I could have done them better. I just listen to a few and think about them a bit, maybe make some notes on cool things I did that I haven't done in a while, or open up the session to take a peek under the hood.

Fridays - Finance. On Fridays I take a look at my finances, make some predictions and calculations, and try to plan ahead as much as possible. You may find it hard to believe, but I actually went to school for business management and accounting - and if it says something about how nerdy I am, I particularly LOVED accounting...but I digress. Anyway, so in addition to looking at data, I May do some gear shopping or pricing out, making plans for the future, trying to figure out what I need, what I don't need, and what's most important. Sessions will often tell you the gear you need - when you run into situations where you say "man, if I had X, we would have accomplished a LOT more in the studio today" - those are usually high priority. Things that you say "oooh...pretty..." those are usually low priority. ;)  Because the studio is often an unsteady income varying vastly week to week, month to month, I have to make a game plan to keep the lights on while still improving the studio.

Saturday - Seven Improvement Ideas. I spend an hour trying to come up with 7 things that could improve my studio, and I do mean the physical building. Maybe building some shelves for more storage, reorienting a room for better usage of space, adding on, consolidating, re-routing things on the patchbay, reworking the headphone system, need some new XLR cables --- ANYTHING. Whatever seems to need improvement, or anything I can do that will make my job easier and make the experience more enjoyable for clients.

Sunday - On Sundays I try to take an hour to listen to my favorite music coming through the Barefoot speakers at a low volume, drink a glass or two of whiskey, and just chill out. Making time to relax is very important to me. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your business is to step away from it a little while and recall why you got into it in the first place; in my case, it's because I love music.

As simpleminded or cheesy at it sounds, I've found it to be very helpful. I once watched a seminar about "removing everything in your life that causes you anxiety," and how people should strive to do so. It's very interesting to me, the idea that you CAN conquer all of the problems in your life either by fixing them, or removing them, and that anything you dislike, you have the power to change. Although this isn't always true, it's a positive message. The studio is a very stressful job, and doing this is almost like a meditation for me - just to take an hour of my day to really sit and think about something, with nobody around, no phone, no distractions. Just quality time. Give it a shot, whether you're a business owner, a musician, an engineer - you may find it very rewarding.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Recording Acoustic Guitar and Vocal At the Same Time

Hey guys - this is a post with info and pictures from episode 60 of the podcast entitled "Recording Acoustic and Vocals Together." Check it out on iTunes. This post will help you visualize the mic positions and understand some of the thought processes that go into this. To hear sound clips of all of these positions, please check out the podcast.

Considerations -

1. When using one mic, having the performer sit, or raise their guitar close to their face usually works best. When using two mics, it's usually best to have them stand, and separate their guitar as far away from them as comfortable.

2. All of these methods have compromises. Compromises in tone, in isolation, etc. At the end of the day you need to make a decision about what you really need, and just go with it! This however does not mean you can't get a good sound! You absolutely can get a great sound recording a singer and an instrument at the same time. Stop being obsessive about the details that don't matter - what matters in the end is a good performance, and sometimes that is best accomplished with having the person play it live.

3. The more mics you start adding, the more phase problems will arise, especially in close proximity, so be careful. If you can get away with just one mic, go for it. If you're doing two and you want the least phase problems, I'd go for method 5, which seems to have the best phase coherency (to my ear).

4. Small diaphragm condensers will generally have less off-axis coloration, which is great in some cases, but bad in the case of isolation. That means it will make the bleed sound more clear / audible. Large diaphragm mics tend to have a colored off axis sound, even in cardioid, which works to our advantage when recording acoustic and vocals at the same time by rejecting the higher frequencies easier off axis.

5. If you're recording a paying client, be aware (and make them aware) that you can't do too much trickery later on in the mix. If they hit a wrong note, it can't be easily tuned without artifacts. If they miss a chord, or miss a word, they can't just punch in that on the vocal or the guitar - they have to do both. You, and they, need to be aware of this compromise. If they say later "can we add some reverb to my voice?" you will get a little bit of reverb on the guitar as well, just because of bleed. If they want you to cut out the vocal, or turn up the acoustic a lot, you may not be able to deliver. HOWEVER - the performance is everything. It's more important to get that right than it is to have a "perfect balance."


Clips 1 / 2 (Fingers and Pick) - A Single microphone, positioned around the player. This method is great if you only have one microphone, and the player is good. In the example on the podcast, there was quite a bit of room sound in this example, but that of course would vary depending on the room in which we record, and the position is something that depends on how he's playing in the exact take, on that exact song. The closer the mic is to the guitar, the louder the guitar gets; the closer it gets to his mouth, the louder his voice gets. It's as simple as that - you put one mic around a player and balance it by moving the mic. One pro of this method is that is stays out of the way of the singer, and they don't have to worry so much about moving.

This is my favorite one-mic method, which involves an omni microphone, very close to the player, with them sitting. The mic is positioned sort of in between the guitar and the mouth, and in this case, we used a DI to help support the sound. There's a trade off - the mic is in omni, so it's not super sensitive to movements, however, it's sort of up in the singer's space, which can be distracting. It's easy to knock with their guitar, and it's easy to be a distraction while they're trying to play. BUT - it sounds great.


This is my favorite method for recording acoustic guitar and vocals. It involves two large diaphragm mics in figure 8 pattern, placed around the singer. Notice how, the null of each mic is facing exactly what we want to reject: the null of the vocal mic is facing the guitar, and the null of the guitar mic is facing his mouth. The downside - the acoustic guitar mic ends up being fairly awkward to position, and sometimes can sound a bit boomy, however, the isolation between the mics is great.


I see this method a lot, and I'm honestly not a big fan of it. The bleed is too strong, and it sounds kinda funky if you try to pan the SDC mic. The sound of the guitar and vocal seems to be the most upfront, but the bleed is annoying, and it seems a bit more phasey sounding than the others. Again, we're dealing with a compromise. Notice that the cardioid SDC is facing downward to try and reject as much as possible from the mouth, however, the null point on a cardioid mic is the rear, so it's not doing a ton. The bleed is very clear - it's not a dull bleed, which makes things harder. 


These two methods were really great sounding. The isolation from the SM7 is great, as is the isolation from the E700. The TONE of the vocal mic is not as good as from the LDC, but the pros outweigh the cons. In Method 6, we did basically the same thing, except we added the DI, which helps to support some low end, and of course, has no bleed.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Feel, Passion, and Delivery

Hey friends -

One thing has been plaguing my mind recently in regards to studio work. I truly believe that music is a life changing thing, and some people just don't seem to take it very seriously. Allow me to explain.

Perhaps the most impressive thing to me in regards to producing music is when a producer has the foresight and knowledge to hear the song as it will be completed, not as it is in the moment. My question is this -- why is this the producer's job? Shouldn't bands be trying to do this more often?

Don't get me wrong, it does give the producer a certain importance and influence - a certain voice above the band that helps him deliver his best work, and really showcase the band in such a way that brings out the good, no, the best, and makes a record shine. But at the same time, I love it when bands come in and have a cohesive direction for what they're trying to accomplish. Not a whimsical, vague, "storybook" image of what their record is going to be, but instead an honest, thought out, carefully arranged set of songs that truly showcase the best that they can do.

THAT is talent to me.

It's so easy in the digital age to lay down the drums, lay down some guitars, lay down some vocals, do some overdubs, and call it a record. I once read an article about a well known producer and his methods for producing a band; it was very inspiring. His method was as follows: the band comes into the studio, they set up, and they begin to warm up. They set up a few mics in the room and have the band play. They spend the next few hours working out the best arrangement for the song, moving some parts, altering some dynamics, altering some parts, maybe even changing a few lyrics, and then they play it again. And again. And again...with tiny bits shaved off or added on each time. They would add a mic here or there, casually, while the band would continue to work out the song and really LISTEN to the feel, the passion, and the delivery of what they were doing. Not only were they listening to their parts, they were really listening for everyone else. Listening for things to pop out and inspire the band and the producer. Listening for tightness, groove, dynamics. Moving together, breathing together. They became a single unit.

The producer then says "okay - that's it. That's the arrangement. Do it JUST like that." He presses record, they play it just like that, and the producer says, "alright, that's a wrap. Next song."

What an inspiration this was to read - that records are being made like this today. After all, anyone that has been doing this a while will tell you that it's ALL about the performance. Such a small part is the equipment, the actual mics or the gear specifically. Sure, that's important, but compared to the delivery, feel, passion, performance, and arrangement of the music itself - it's nothing.

I once had a similar experience. I was working on a track with a band that just wasn't sounding right. The tones were fine, we worked really hard getting these great drum sounds and a beautiful haunting vocal sound, even the guitar sounds were "perfect" to everyone in the room, but the whole thing just felt weird. Not really "sounded" weird, but we really asked ourselves, how does this FEEL when we listen to it.

I said to the band, you know what, maybe we should try this another way. We set up the band live in the room, tried to recreate some of the mic techniques that we did while tracking the original version (although we forgot some of the chains, didn't have enough mics to do some of the things we wanted to do) and we just found a good spot, and recorded a take. We then listened to it raw, unmixed, and said, "okay, when you're playing it together - what do we like, what do we not like?" We sat and talked about music. Not about mics, not about tones or compressors or EQs, about MUSIC. We talked about a few things, and I had the band go out into the studio again to try it.

I hit record, they played it, and boom - that was it. We then compared back to back the previous take, which had the same mics, the same setup identically, to the new one, with a couple of changes, and the band being more aware of each other, and the difference was so astonishing it would make you sick. EVERYTHING sounded different.

It's so hard sometimes to differentiate between what we're really hearing. We might hear something and think that it simply "doesn't sound right" but it's something subtle, elusive, and or, a combination of a few things, that are sort of clouding up our judgement of what is truly wrong with the sound we're hearing. Is it the way we recorded it? Was it the performance? Is it a tonal issue? Is it an engineering issue? How's the song working?

So I challenge you guys - next time you're working on a song, take an extra hour before you hit record to record a quick demo, and listen to it as a music listener would. Listen to it from the ears of a consumer. What would they think? Would they like it? Some musicians say they are their own worst critic, and that's very true for many creatives, but the truth is, that doesn't mean you simply criticize and pass it off as "me being overly critical." It means you constantly improve, adjust, alter your own methods to be better than they were a few moments ago. It means you are always learning, improving. It means you care.

Some things to think about - see you next podcast!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

How To Overmix a Song

I thought I would make a funny post today, but with an underlying lesson. This is "how to overmix a song."


1. Start by mixing the song. Then mix it again, then clear your faders and go on to step 2.

2. Spend the next three hours going through each track, obsessing over tiny resonances and things that need to be fixed.

3. Fix the tuning and timing on every single track, make it all perfect. So perfect, it actually becomes wrong again. THAT is how perfect.

4. Duplicate every track and process them all differently. That makes it more interesting.

5. Make sure to use up every single pan spot between 100L and 100R. You should have about 200 tracks in your mix so that's about right.

6. If there are not 10 effects on every track, your mix will be boring.

7. EQ, Compress, and Gate every single track, even if it doesn't need it. All the pros do that.

8. Spend at least an hour messing with the master bus compressor, or add up to 15 compressors in series, each compressing 0.2dB, it sounds better that way.

9. Automate every measure of every track - get those dynamics going....

10. ...then crush all the dynamics with an L2 on the master, cutting off anywhere from 2 - 25dB of reduction.

There you have it. That's how to overmix a song. I hope you've learned something!


The lesson here is this: it is REALLY easy to overmix a song. Obsessing over details, feeling the need to do things to every track, feeling the need for tons of effects, feeling the need to add a master bus compressor, honestly feeling the need to do anything arbitrarily -- it's not a good thing. We are mixing MUSIC, we're not splitting atoms. There is usually no need to obsess over these things. Sure, some mixes need a lot of work, and there is no denying that. But really, the longer you spend with a mix, the worse it will get. It's like a bell curve -

Imagine the X axis as "time" and the Y axis as "how good is your mix." There WILL BE some time required to get your mix good. As you move up this curve, the mix improves, stuff becomes clearer, the song really starts to take shape. The problem is, the longer you tweak, almost 100% of the time, the mix just gets worse. I have done some mixes in a few hours that were more exciting and focused that mixes I spent days on. Why? A few reasons:

1. In the short mix, I wasn't worried or stressed. I was just thinking "no big deal, just a quick mix."
2. In the short mix, I wasn't worried about details. I didn't have the time to stress over them.
3. In the short mix, I didn't have time to fix everything.
4. In the short mix, I had to make quick decisions and condense things down.
5. In the short mix, I really listened.

In general, it takes me about 8-12 hours to mix a song start to finish. If you add in the extra time making corrections and fixes from the artist, on average a total of 10-14 hrs for a single mix. This stuff takes time, and I've been doing it every day for the last 7 years. I'm no expert, and I'm no legend. I'm just a guy like you trying to do the best I can with my skills and my setup.

Back in the day, mixing wasn't nearly as complicated. Now, a LOT of work is done in the mix. People back then weren't recording much in homes, they were recording in professional facilities, almost EXCLUSIVELY. In retrospect, they were some of the best musicians of all time, and they were using some of the best instruments and recording equipment ever made, and they were doing it all on tape. Decisions had to be made. Things had to be worked out before ever setting foot into the studio. It was a cutthroat world. Now it's different - people can make stuff in their untreated bedrooms and work on cheap equipment.

The point is, what you put in is what you're going to get out of it. The room matters. The instruments matter. The playing and emotion matters. When you really grasp that, when you really understand that the source -- meaning the song / instrument / performance --- is the most important thing in the chain, you will worry a lot less. The MIX is a function of making these elements have emotion. It's not about "how much 3khz does this have." It's never been about that. The specifics don't matter.

When you're EQ'ing something, try to think less about "this needs less 5k" or "this needs some compression" and instead try to look at a mix more creatively, saying things like "this needs to be warmer" or "this needs more punch." You wouldn't think this would make a difference but it does - when you think in generalities, you don't sweat the details, and you often will come up with a better mix. It's quicker, it's more focused. You're worrying less about frequencies and attack times and more about "does it sound good or not?" Because that is what matters.

And for Pete's sake, don't spend days or weeks mixing a single song! Set yourself a time limit, let's say two days, and give yourself HOURS. So if you only have a few hours each night to mix, then say "okay I'm going to mix for 3 hours tonight, 3 hours tomorrow, and it should be pretty close." Don't just mix for 30 minutes and then stop, then come back to it in a week, then reset everything...don't do that! You will lose all emotion and creativity for your mix. Mixing a song is like playing a gig. You can't just play a song and then take a break. You have to put in the hours and really PERFORM. That's what mixing is. It's a performance just as much as a song is a performance. Doing it in a single block of time often yields much better results than spending days upon end, or even doing little by little for a week...