Real music for real people.
So you want to mix & master.
What’s going on good people? I assume if you’ve ended up here or just signed up, that you want to learn about mixing and mastering. Cool. Well let me get started. For those of you who think it’s an easy task, you’ll see soon how wrong you are. First off, mixing and mastering is NOT just about adding some EQ, compression, dropping the beat out on certain parts, turning the overall track up loud, and then putting it on cd. If you think it’s that, then you’re sadly mistaken. Over the course of this campaign, which will be a weekly update every monday, (unless something changes and I get enough people requesting more information quicker, lol), you’ll learn how to mix, master, but first and foremost, record. Record? Yes! How you record is a HUUUUGE part of how your mixing can come out. Ever heard of chain reaction? Well it’s the same thing in generally any profession. If you record wrong, then you’re not maximizing your sound quality, which then affects your mix, which then affects your master, which the affects how your overall project sounds, which then affects how you feel when people tell you that the sound quality SUCKS!!!! That was me a few years ago. I thought I knew what I was doing and had absolutely no clue. Keyword in that last sentence was MAXIMIZE! Here we go. Get a pen and paper and write this stuff down and get to work.
#1 – Don’t let how other studios look affect you. People see things, as humans, and generally want what they see, rather than being a good steward over what they have and using it to it’s full potential. MAXIMIZE!
#2 – In recording, check the acoustics of the room. The placing, positioning of your mic can be the reason you’re not getting a clear sound, or the reason why your sound is so clear. Once you find the sweet spot in the room, keep it there and what? MAXIMIZE!
#3 – Invest in a decent mic. You don’t have to have big boy equipment to get a big boy sound. When I learned about spacing, equipment, and proper mixing, I had a $100 mic, but it was a good brand, it was used, and I made it work by learning how to play off of it.
#4 – Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic, Nuendo, Cakewalk, etc….THEY DO THE SAME THING! It’s all about working with what you have. Granted, some programs do certain things that some don’t, that’s why they have different names. They might offer 1 thing that the others don’t. When I started, I had cakewalk and hated it because I was used to pro tools. Truth is, I didn’t have pro tools money. So, I learned cakewalk, MAXIMIZED it, put out a few eps and cds, sold enough to make a few chips, and invested in what I really knew how to use. Pro Tools. MAXIMIZE
#5 – (Where it really starts) Your mic input levels will affect your WHOLE mix. If you’re recording yourself, do a test run as you would actually record it so you can check your mic levels. It might take a few tries to get it correct. If you’re recording someone else, do the same thing with them. Only difference is that you have a lot more freedom to change the levels as they’re recording. The key is to keep the vocals from peaking, or hitting the red markers. Keep it in the green area as much as possible. A little yellow is fine
#6 – Here’s a big thing in recording. A lot of people do their verses and record 1, then record a second one. (For the sake of the argument, I’m speaking in terms where everyone can understand, but I’ll give correct terminology for them as well.) The second recording is actually called a “dub” (short for double). There’s nothing wrong with that but there is something wrong with that. In doing so, most people take the vocals and hard pan one to the left and one to the right (hard pan meaning, slide the slider 100% in a direction left or right). This creates a cool sounding effect, but it doesn’t do the vocals justice. There needs to be a vocal centered at all times for multiple reasons. Reason 1 and most important, it makes way for a cleaner sound, which makes way for a cleaner mix. Reason 2 is for technical reasons. You have to take into consideration that some people don’t have fully operational equipment meaning 1 speaker could not be working and it can be pretty irritating having all vocals in one ear, or even performing and having all the vocals coming out of one speaker. Here’s the tip. Instead of recording 2 vocals, record 3 times. It takes longer and is more work, but you can get a certain sound out of it. Record one, keep it in the center, record the other 2 and pan them to the left and right anywhere between 23 and 46. Once that’s done, turn the centered vocal up a bit, and turn the two that are panned down. What this will do is create an effect that sounds like one vocal, but a thicker sound. Works great. Or you can just record one vocal, center it, then 2 ad libs and pan them. Whichever works for you to get a cleaner sound. MAXIMIZE
#7 – Mixing! Once your song is recorded, you want to listen to it and compare it to the beat. You don’t want the vocals to overpower the beat or beat to over power the vocals. You want the vocals to sit inside of the beat to make a complete full sound. In other words, mesh the two and make them sound like one. This is where it gets difficult. There is a such thing as EQ. It can be your best friend, or your worst enemy in the mix. This is how. When you start to work on your mix, your brain and memory come into play. Remember that dull sound that you have when you record it? Well, we tend to overcompensate and add TOO MUCH EQ. When you do that, it thins out your vocals. On most EQ plugins there’s a low end, mid low end, mid, hi mid end, and hi end eq. Most people go straight to the high end because that seems “logical”. What you can do is “cut” on the low end. Cutting on the low end can do the same thing as boosting the hi end. You’re eventually going to have to boost the hi ends and everything but you won’t have to do as much if you do the right amount of cutting.
#8 -Once you get your Eq set on the low and high end, you can start to play around with the other filters of the eq. Normally what I do is cut the low end at a certain level, do a little cutting on the mid low end, boost a bit in the mid, cut a bit in the hi mid end, and boost the hi end. I do that because that what works for my vocals with my mic, but you’re going to have to play around with it to see what works for your vocals as well your mic. An easy way to find out where you need to cut in the mid frequencies is to work with each part of the eq by themselves. Take one of them, turn the gain all the way up, the turn the Q all the way up so that the EQ looks like a “skinny mountain peak”. Once you do that move the eq left and right until you hear a ringing noise. Once you find the loudest “ring”, cut that down below -3 dbs and spread the Q back out. You can do that for a few of the mid frequencies. I’ll upload a video of it soon.
This is just a basic starting point for recording and EQ’ing. Next post will be more EQ’ing and Compressing. By the way, there are NO RULES in mixing. Whatever works to get the sound you’re looking for, works. By the way, the presets that come with certain plugins are a good starting point so you can see how they’re really used, but don’t just load a preset. Reason is because whoever made those presets used COMPLETELY different equipment on a COMPLETELY different person. What works for them may not work for you.