Mixing On Headphones

Mixing On Headphones

Mixing On Headphones

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Is it possible to mix a whole song and get very good results only on headphones? Yes, it is!
I’ll gladly tell you everything I know about mixing on headphones but first I have to say; 


Headphones will never replace a good set of monitors in a studio environment. Does it mean that your mixes will sound bad? HELL NO! 
You can definitely pull out a badass mix only on headphones.

Hi everybody, in this article, I’m going to give you my personal philosophy on mixing with headphones. In almost every mix I did, I used headphones at some point to have another point of view on my mix. Of course that most of my mixes were done on a good set of speakers in an acoustically treated room. But the reality is that there are things that you can hear on headphones and can hardly hear on speakers.


Let’s start with the Pros & Cons

Pros

  • With headphones, you don’t have to worry about room acoustics.
  • You save a lot of money on speakers and acoustic treatment.
  • You can work in the middle of the night without worry about your neighbors.
  • You can travel and mix anywhere, you have the same reference everywhere you go.
  • It’s easier to hear the small details on headphones.
  • The stereo information is much more noticeable.
  • Every spot is the sweet spot and you can move freely.

Cons

  • Mixing on headphones at high levels for long periods of time can cause permanent damage to your hearing.
  • Ear fatigue is more common when using headphones.
  • You don’t get the physical “full-body” experience that you get when using loudspeakers.
  • The signal comes from the sides of the head instead of the front, which is less natural in most cases.

Basic Rules

In general, if you ask me whether I prefer good speakers in a bad sounding room or a good set of mixing headphones? I would probably go for the headphones. But there are some basic rules I would follow.

What Headphones?

First, not every set of headphones are good for mixing. You probably won’t have a good mix on your Apple earbuds. You should have balanced sounding headphones with a flat frequency response, preferably a dedicated open back mixing headphones. So in the last part of this article, you will find a list of my preferred mixing headphones.

Open-Back or Closed-Back - What's The Difference?

Closed-back

These are built with isolation in mind. The objective is to isolate the listener from the surroundings and help him focus only on what the headphones are playing. This is good for recording in the studio, where you don’t want the leakage from the headphones to reach the microphone. 



This also helps to prevent noises around you from reaching your ears. Another example is if you don’t want people around you to hear what you are listening to. 

Closed-back headphones are naturally boosted in the low range, so they have more bass. In most cases, they will introduce ear fatigue much sooner and you will have to take more frequent breaks to let your ears “breathe”.

Open-back


As the name implies, the back of the headphones is open and there’s no physical acoustical barrier between the driver and the back wall of the headphones. 

This means there’s no isolation and everyone around you can hear what you’re listening to. But this is the only drawback. 

Open-back headphones give you a more natural sound, and most of the time they are aimed towards more professional uses.

Because it’s open it allows you to listen to music for literally hours before you get tired. They also give the natural feeling that you get when listening to a set of speakers. 

This is called a “Wider soundstage” where you can almost hear the location of the musical instruments in the room around you.

How Does It Feel On My Skin?

Try not to use headphones with non-breathable materials, use headphones cushions with an exposed foam covered with some sort of cloth. Similar to the classic Beyerdynamic DT 990.



If your preferred mixing headphones does not have such a foam, you can always create it yourself somehow, it’s not a big deal. This will prevent over sweating and itchy feeling on your skin.

What Levels

Never go above a certain level, it’ll help delay the ear fatigue that will inevitably show up. Once you’ve reached the point of ear fatigue, your mix is only going downhill from here. 

Remember to lower the levels all the time, because we have a natural tendency to increase the volume without even noticing. 

If you need, even write it in front of you, so you’ll never forget it. 

One good trick is to set the volume to a level that allows you to handle a conversation with a friend while the music is playing. You’ll know you’re at a good level when you won’t feel the need to raise your voice when you talk.

Don’t Use Your Emotions While You’re Mixing

Yeah I know, this is a very bold statement but the minute I stopped using my emotions, I got better and much more accurate mixes. Sometimes we feel like the music is more enjoyable when we turn up the levels. This is a lie! 



Try to be as technical and as accurate as you can be, you’ll thank me later. 
By the way, this is also true for mixing on speakers.

Tips

Reference Tracks

When it comes to audio we can never trust our memory. Always keep a few of your favorite tracks as a reference. Listen to them from time to time. That will give you a reference point, so you’ll never lose your direction while in the heat of mixing. 



The best thing you can do is pull up a professionally mixed track with the same musical key as the track you’re working on. Not a lot of people are talking about this, but using reference tracks with the same musical key will bring you much closer to your end goal.

Take A Break

Every 25 minutes of mixing, you should take at least 5 minutes of complete silence. Sometimes it’ll feel like you don’t need it but trust me, you’re going to. This is like Viagra for your ears. It’ll make you last longer!

Use More Pairs of Headphones

Just as working with speakers, you would want to have more pairs of headphones for reference.
This will give you another important perspective on your mix, so you could make small adjustments and hear stuff you couldn’t hear on your main headphones. 



This time you can use your Apple earbuds. They will give you a real-world perspective on your mix. I would also have one of those cheap Bluetooth speakers next to me to serve as a shitbox monitor.

Calibrate Your Headphones

In the old days, I used to put an EQ on my master channel in the DAW and set it to make my headphones sound flat. I usually give it a little boost in the lows, a little deep in the high mid and a little touch in the highs.

This gave me a more balanced output from the headphones relative to my hearing. 

Today we don’t have to do it manually. With the Sonarworks Headphone Calibration plugin, we can achieve a much more accurate result. We just choose our headphones from the preset list and we’re all set. Watch the video for a full demonstration.



You should also check out Waves NX which simulates an actual room inside your headphones. The plugin is working with your camera. It follows your face and head movements and makes micro-adjustments in the plugin accordingly, It’s a crazy concept, give it a try.

So, can you pull out a great mix on the right headphones? Hell yeah! 
Happy mixing guys!

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MIXING

Mixing On Headphones

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MASTERING

What Is Mastering

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production

plugins & instruments

Best Drum Plugin

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Best Amp Simulator

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Ear Training Methods

Ear Training Methods

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Well, hello everybody. I have so much to tell you about this subject and we’ll take it step by step. Some people are born with the ability to calculate Intervals (distances between notes) on a very intuitive level, just like people who are good at mathematics. This part of their brain is just wired to do that, somehow. Those people are divided into two groups. Those who have Absolute Hearing and those with Relative Hearing. Both of them can possess pitch perfect abilities. Personally, I prefer having Relative Hearing, and I’ll tell you why it’s probably better in most cases. Over the years I’ve tested myself and many other’s hearing abilities and have come to a pretty solid conclusion on that matter.

Absolute Hearing (Perfect Pitch)

This is a very impressive and interesting skill. Basically, it is the ability to tell exactly what note is playing without the need for a reference. For example, I play one random note for you and you can tell me exactly what note it is and what octave it is on the keyboard. Usually, people that have absolute hearing can pick up even the slightest change in pitch. It’s like they have all the chromatic scale on a pitch grid flawlessly mapped in their brains. In most cases, if they’re keyboard players, they would find key transformation or pitch shifting very annoying. On one hand, they can see that they’re playing C sharp but they hear D sharp for example, and that can drive many of them a little crazy. It also happens with string instruments that are tuned incorrectly, higher or lower than the standard 440Hz. The absolute hearing ability is great for people who are making classical music, play a classic instrument like a violin or cello. It also a great thing to have if you’re a composer or a conductor. It is great to be able to “see” the music in your mind like a picture. That’s Absolute hearing or perfect pitch.

Relative Hearing

This is a more common skill owned by many musicians. It is more trainable and more achievable even if you were not born with it. Basically, relative hearing means that you have the ability to identify a given musical note by comparing it to a reference note. For example, if I play you the note C and I tell you that it’s a C, and after that, I play a different note, you would be able to tell what note it is, based on the relative musical distance between this note and the C that you heard before. This skill is also one you are born with, some would be able to sharpen it and take it to the maximum and some will stay limited. Many people say that relative hearing is better than absolute hearing because it allows you to “move” freely on the chromatic scale and use key transformations whenever you like without it driving you crazy. You’re practically not bound to any rule. Personally, I prefer having a relative hearing and that’s what I have. Over the years I’ve sharpened it and trained it to a point that allows me to quickly find chords and notes, based only on how they feel in my mind relative to a reference note.

A trained and good relative hearing is very similar to absolute hearing in nature. I can listen to a song for the first time and tell you what chords are playing in real-time as long as I know what key it’s on.

Does Good Musical Hearing Make Me A Better Musician?

As a producer, yes. It’s a tool that can help you a lot. You’ll find yourself working with that skill all the time and it usually saves a lot of time. I can compare it to reading with and without glasses. When you don’t have your glasses you’d have a little hard time to focus on things but eventually, you’ll succeed. So most music producers have Relative Hearing and it helps them achieve their goals and visions. When you have your glasses on, everything is a lot easier. 

“What about songwriting?” you ask, the simple answer is you don’t really have to have an exceptional musical hearing but it definitely helps. It’s important to say, it’ll never stop you from writing the best songs ever and I saw many cases like this. In fact, the best songwriters I’ve ever worked with were complete musical morons with very strong emotional intelligence. Hopefully, they won’t read it:)

Do I Have To Be Born With It?

Well, it’s a bit complicated. The simple answer is NO. You don’t really have to be born with Relative Hearing to be good at it. Absolute Hearing is a different thing though. Again, this is my personal opinion on the subject based on years of testing myself and other people’s hearing abilities. In my mind, it is very similar to mathematics. Some people will be good at it without burning steam and some will spit some blood before they’ll be able to do the basic stuff. I guess there are does who will forever stay in the musical darkness and would not be able to tell which notes are playing in any situation. That does not say that they don’t have good intuition and the ability to say what works and what doesn’t. The plain truth is that 100% of the most brilliant musicians I’ve ever met had an extraordinary musical hearing, even the drummers. So yes, I guess it is a necessary tool for musicians.

Play Musical Games With Yourself

I’m sure you can come up with ear training methods and cool musical games yourself. It’s all about not being restricted and let your creation Juices flow. You can even play musical games in your mind. Every time you hear a song or a noise with musical qualities you can sing with it and even sing harmonies. It helps your ear develop musical intuition. Hell, I even try to find the notes of barking dogs, screeching doors, sirens and a wide range of weird sounds with tonal properties. 

Musical Memory

Some people can keep musical events in their brains for very long times. Take me for example, I can’t tell you what I did last weekend, no matter how fun it was but I can remember a melody or a chord progression that I’ve heard only one time 20 years ago. I can replicate it note by note. Don’t know why and how I do it, it just happens.

There are people with much more complicated and deep musical memories. Those people can remember and recreate melody lines, mods, polychords, bitonal chords, harmonization and different musical parts of a song that they listened to only one time. I’ve even heard some stories of people who hear notes and sounds that gets translated to shapes and forms in their brains. The way I see it, this is savant territory.

Ear Training Methods

Learn To Play The Keyboards
Over the years I’ve developed unique ways to sharpen my musical hearing. The main thing that helped me create my understanding of music is the fact that I play the keyboards. When you have all the notes in front of you and you can put your fingers on them, your brain somehow creates neurological connections that work like a map of all the notes in your memory. This is how I see it. 

Learn To Play A Second Instrument

In my opinion, when you play the keyboards you create a certain music map in your brain. This map helps you translate what you hear to musical understanding. When you learn to play a second instrument, like a guitar, for example, it creates a whole different music map in your brain. This gives you a different angle at the things you hear. When you “see” the music from two different angles it’s like seeing something in 3D. So more angles, deeper understanding.

Play And Sing Melodies At The Same Time

This is a fun game to play and we all know that games develop the brain. The idea is to play a melody on your instrument and sing the melody at the same time. This creates even more connections in your brain. The more you do it the better. Every time you practice on your keyboards of guitars, just sing along with it. If it doesn’t come easily for you don’t give up and keep doing it. It’ll happen eventually and it will turn you into a musical beast.

Find The Key

Install a little keyboard app on your phone. Every time you hear a song, play the note C to yourself and try to calculate the distance from that C to the key of the song that’s playing. At first, it’ll confuse the hell out of you but slowly you’ll start “seeing” it. all the musical maps and the keyboards in your mind will start to appear and then you’d be able to see the song’s key in your mind. Beware, this can be very addictive.

Sing Harmonies

This is one of the best ways to help you understand melody, harmony, and spaces between notes. Always try to find the best harmonies to sing along with your favorite artists. In my case, it’s John Mayer. I love his music and his songs. In general, he is like a whole music school for me. Great songs, great lyrics, great productions, great sound, and mixes. I always learn new things when I listen to him. Do it with your favorite artist or with any song you know and like.

Extract Single Notes Out Of Chords

As the title implies, find an app that plays whole chords for you and try to guess all the notes and find the root note. If you can’t find an app you can simply go to this cool website and just click on the chords names and start playing. It’s one of the best tricks for developing your musical hearing.

Best Ear Training Apps

ChordProg

This is a cool and simple ear training app and one of its options help you develop your ability to identify chords. In general, it plays a chord and you click the right chord name. Simple, cool and pretty much like a game. You can see the chords by their names (Letters) or you can choose to see them in roman numeral chords (First, second, third, etc). It has a lot more options that you can explore. What I like the most about this app is that the sounds are real samples. Which means that it contains real audio recordings and not just lifeless midi notes. ChordProg’s interface is clean and simple, just the way you need it. Small price, huge value.

EarMaster

This app also has a desktop version for PC & Mac. EarMaster is a training tool, built for musicians that want to improve their knowledge of music theory. EarMaster is one of the first applications out there (since 1996 on a DOS system) which means it had all the time in the world to improve and get better. I must say that it’s very music theory oriented so if you’re “that type” this app is for you. It is full of cool musical exercises to complete that analyzed and creates statistics that you can track and improve in time.

Quiztones (For audio engineers)

This one is a little different and not really topically related but it’s here just because I think it’s awesome. It’s built for us, audio engineers. It allows you to practice frequency recognition and to train your ears to easily tell which frequency you hear. Basically, the Idea is that the app plays a note in a certain frequency and gives you a few options to choose from.

More Ear Training Apps For Audio Engineers

Ear Training Games

These are cool musical games for 2, try it with a friend.

Check out this little YouTube video, it’s like a little musical game.

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MIXING

Mixing On Headphones

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MASTERING

What Is Mastering

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production

plugins & instruments

Best Drum Plugin

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Best Amp Simulator

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Best Analog Synth Plugins

Best Analog Synth Plugins

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These are the plugins I like the most,  my personal favorites. 
Hey everybody, Avi here. This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about.

I have been a synth collector since childhood. I’ve had synths from Yamaha, Korg, Roland, Nord, Access Virus, and even a custom made 303 style synth which I loved and shouldn’t have sold. 

In the last few years soft synths are getting SO MUCH BETTER. That’s not an easy decision to just sell all the hardware and join the future. I was heartbroken for a while, I’m not going to lie, but just like with love, you are most likely to find a new one eventually. 

In this article I’m not going to get too much into technical details, because you can get them wherever you want on the web. So expect only my own personal take on this subject.

MS20 by Korg

So this is one of my first eye openers and it’s the Korg MS20 Plugin. This guy had me sitting for hours and hours listening to every little knob and patch. It is simple and complicated all together. First, I used it for all kinds of analog parts, and then it was my go to bass synth. I love the rawness of it. I’m also a big fan of design, and the Korg MS20 had always been a great looking beast.

After I realized the power of this synth for bass parts, I could do anything I wanted with this, and I always ended up with a big psychotic smile on my face. I must admit that I never thought it sounded even remotely close to the hardware version, it was pretty small sounding. But I could get it to sound very good and crazy big with EQ, Compression and stereo tricks. One thing this synth did amazingly well is to get me deep in the creating zone. It is very inspirational, and this is one of the most important factors about synths. 

I think not enough people are talking about this. This synth has the ability to get your creative juices flowing, especially if you’re a real synth head like me 🙂 Korg’s analog synth bundle is pretty much amazing. I loved all their stuff back at the time and use them to this day. I think it’s ok to say that these are the real first “vintage soft synths” of our time.

In the meantime, I got my hands dirty with some cool sounding synth plugins like: Vanguard, FabFilter one, Synth1 (NOT Sylenth1), Reason synths, and more,  then I stumbled upon this.

Zebra by u-he

This amazing synth plugin had introduced me to a whole new generation of audio engines. It sounded so good that I could swear it almost sounded better, fuller, and richer then my friend’s virus C at the time. 

At first glance, this modular synth looks very intimidating and complicated. I started only with presets and downloaded a bunch of them. This was enough for couple cool parts in few of my tracks. Then I started learning this synth, and it was amazing. 

The only problem I had with it on my mac was that it wasn’t too stable. It crashed too many times in the middle of projects, and that made me really angry until eventually I dropped it. I must say that this was an original version, not cracked. But anyway, times were changing for me and I needed faster simpler synths that I could just twist two knobs and create magic.

Sylenth1 by LennarDigital

OK,  Everyone knows this guy and I can’t add anything to it. I was in love with this synth. I did almost everything with it. I filled a whole external drive with demos of this synth. So much inspiration, so many sounds, banks, presets… literally endless. 

I once compared it with Virus Snow and the snow killed it 🙂 But it wasn’t enough for me to drop it and get the Snow,  Nope. The Sylenth1 opened me to a new EDM genres. These were the years of Avicii, David Guetta, Zedd, big dance hits, catchy euro drops, and but choruses,  I was hooked. 

Remember I talked about synths that spark creativity? The Sylenth1 was the soft synth that got the most amount ideas for songs out of my head at the time. I still have demos that I’m in love with today. Don’t ask me why it’s not out. Most of the songs I produced were for other people. 

The only song I ever produced for myself with mostly Sylenth1 was this. I was very influenced by Zedd back then 😉 This wasn’t promoted or signed anywhere. I just released it for my own fun.

With the Sylenth1, I started also playing with Massive, which was very special sounding but very weird for me to work with. I couldn’t fall in love with the interface, and you already know how much it’s important for my creative juices. But one thing I have to say about Massive, it is the most natural sounding beast. 

It always sounded like a quality hardware synth to me. I also played a lot with the big Romplers like Nexus & Omnisphere. In between, I had small romances with Rob Papen’s synths which I really like.

Spire by Reveal Sound

Spire is my 3rd synth plugin love. Now, this is a synth that can get my creative juices flowing so easily. 

BEST leads, CRAZY PADS, Amazing BASSES, and all this yummy stuff under a super friendly and beautiful interface?? 
GIVE ME MORE! I spent too many nights with headphones going thru the amazing preset banks I had. My girlfriend, who was sleeping in the other room sometimes asked me to turn my headphones level down!

After some time in this new age EDM of tomorrow land 2016, I felt like it’s getting too boring, too much like everybody else. I stopped trying to create the next mega hit and turned to little productions that I like to do. 

I wasn’t trying to impress anybody. I didn’t have to have the best, sharpest mix in the market, I just wanted to go back to the simple analog minimal, but emotional productions. So I started looking for new emulations of old synths. So I found this:

Diva by u-he

This gave me a few synthesis colors under one beautiful interface. This synth is, without a doubt, the most heavy on the CPU synth. It has few resolution modes so you don’t have to work with the highest one, but while offline exporting a song it is very recommended to put it on the highest quality mode. This is a very impressive sounding synth, and I remember the first time playing with this and comparing it to other synths on my system, it sounded otherworldly.

TAL V2 U-NO-LX

Now, this is a weird one. At first, I didn’t realize how good it sounded until I watched a video that compared it to the real synth that it is modeled after, the Roland Juno 60. It is very minimalistic like the original. It has a small polyphony, so it requires you to be very selective with the part you’re playing. 

I like that, especially in my minimalistic age. If I remember correctly, there’s a controller that works perfect with this synth. Sounds amazing.  It has round analog bases, lush old synth strings, and a lot of very cool and usable sounds to work with.

ImpOscar 2 by Gforce

This beautiful synth is also based on an analog hardware synth that had found itself in almost every production I’ve ever done,  even if it wasn’t electronic by nature. This synth made itself right at home next to electric guitars, bass, and live drums. It was a bit unstable on my specific system, but it was worth every little crash I’ve had with it. This also has very warm and deep pads, beautiful stereo basses, really amazing cutoff filter, and very good effects section. I just wish they did the interface a little bit bigger.

Mini V by Arturia

Ok, I feel like when I speak about this company, I have to bow down like a kung fu student. Since the first Mini Moog emulation, I was fascinated by the sound engine and the designs they were able to create. The hardware, Moog, was a legend I always wanted to own, and I could never really get to buying this expensive synth. This is where Arturia worked their magic on me. Every time I’ve played with this synth and closed my eyes, I could smell its wood and old plastic knobs under my fingers. It’s just beautiful.

Modular V by Arturia


This one has always got me a little scared. No, let me rephrase it, I was SHIT SCARED to even look at it. To me an A modular synth is the most terrifying creature out there, and Arturia made it even scarier. So, I must admit I almost never changed the existing presets. Maybe only a little bit with the filter and that’s it. But this synth has the most beautiful synth bass sound I’ve ever heard! And conveniently, it is the default preset that opens with the first loading of the plugin. It is pure magic. Go try it.

Prophet V by Arturia

I don’t have a lot to say about this synth other than AMAZING. I really love it. A pure classic; beautiful, simple, and inspiring. It sounds magical. I would go there and say that it sounds very close to the original hardware version.

Kick by Sonic Academy & Nicky Romero

This one is a kick synth. After getting to know this weird, hybrid, sample based synth, I stopped wasting my life searching for the right kick sound in my never, ending sample libraries. This is a life saver. I stopped looking for kick sounds. In 95% of my EDM productions and demos, I just use this plugin, change the presets a bit, and BOOM. A great sounding kick that JUST WORKS.

Lounge Lizard EP-4 by A.A.S

Yeah I know this one is not a traditional synth really, but it’s a tool I use in so many of my productions. I love the unique fusion of synth sounds and electric piano. So, this one has really cool sounds and colors that can give you the fullness and emotions of a big and warm chord wall that is not too heavy on the mid and high range section of your production. It is warm, authentic, and natural. So, if I want to create a “Chords Hug” as I call it, I just play the chords on the Lounge Lizard EP-4 and I’m all set.

That’s it for now guys. In the future I will give you more articles with more synth love stories 🙂 Thanks for reading.

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MIXING

Mixing On Headphones

Mixing On Headphones Share on facebook Share on google Share on twitter Share on linkedin

MASTERING

What Is Mastering

What Is Mastring Share on facebook Share on google Share on twitter Share on linkedin

production

plugins & instruments

Best Drum Plugin

Best Drum Plugins Share on facebook Share on google Share on twitter Share on linkedin

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Best EQ Plugin For Vocals + Tips & Videos

Best EQ Plugins For Vocals + Tips & Videos

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So you’re looking for the best EQ plugin, the one that does everything better than all the others? 
The simple answer is: There is no such thing as one EQ plugin that does everything best. The perfect EQ consists of a few different types of EQ plugins that complement each other. Here you will learn everything there is to learn about EQ plugins, which to choose, in which situation, how to work with them the right way.

I know you came here to learn about software so I will not talk about hardware EQs at all.

This article is going to give you an overview of the world of EQ plugins. We base this knowledge on our 20 years of mixing and mastering experience. Which plugins are amazingly useful, which have the coolest colors and tones and what plugin to choose in each situation.

The Basics – How Does It Work 

In simple words, two of the biggest factors in the world of sound are Frequency & Amplitude. You can control both of them with an EQ. A boost in a certain frequency will enlarge the amplitude creating a level increase. A cut in a certain frequency will make the amplitude smaller, meaning, the level will decrease. Before you make a cut or a boost, you need to choose the frequency and the Q that you want to work on.

EQ Basic Parameters

  • Boost – Increasing the level of a selected frequency.
  • Cut – Decreasing the level of a selected frequency.
  • Frequency – Choosing which frequency to work on.
  • Q (Bell Width) – How wide or narrow will the selected frequency range be.

Types of EQ

In general, there are three types of EQs. Every type serves a different purpose or a different style of EQing. You would want to have each of every type in your arsenal. That way you’d have maximum flexibility while working on a mix.

Graphic EQ

This type of EQ is divided into different fixed frequencies in fixed ranges with fixed Q’s. Not all graphic EQ’s are born the same. Some have more slides, which means more control, and some have less. Either way, you have only those fixed parameters to work with. 

Parametric EQ

These types of EQs let you choose the frequency that you want to work on and manipulate it in a more specific manner. In most cases, the parametric EQs will come with three bands to work with. On the parametric EQ, each band has a frequency knob and a Boost/Cut knob. Some of them will also have a Q control to control the bell width. This way you can be very specific and “surgical” with your process.

Paragraphic EQ

This idea was brought to us with the digital era. This means that the EQ controls are made with sliders while also having a graphic representation of each band. Practically they are combined and working simultaneously. Plus there are more parameters that can be set.

Filters

Most of the EQ plugins will have Filters. This means that you can cut the higher or the lower part of the frequency spectrum. If you don’t want the bottom range (Basses) of your channel you use the Low-cut, and if you don’t want the higher range you use the high-cut filter. Low-cut is also called “High-Pass” and high-cut is also called “Low-Pass”. 

Two Groups Of EQ Plugins

Digital EQs – Transparent, functional, surgical and accurate. In this group, you will find all the plugins that are usually not based on any hardware replications. These are Paragraphic EQs in most cases. You would use them in situations where you don’t need the extra character to your sound and only want to fix or shape a source. 

Analog EQs – Colorful, minimalistic, gives character and mostly modeled after old known hardware. Every modeled EQ in this group has a different style and a different character. Most engineers use them as artistic tools. Each has their own “thing”. A good plugin company not only models the output stage but every component inside the box to create an indistinguishable replication from the real thing.

Before using any EQ, you must make sure that you’ve recorded the source the right way. In many cases, the best way to EQ a source is just to record it better. Each recording method sounds a little different. The recording process has a few main critical factors. Learn more about recordings here: 

How to make your voice sound better when recording.

Main Factors That Will Affect Your Frequency Response Before The EQ

  • The type of microphone.
  • The microphone placement.
  • The type of preamp.
  • The space in which the recording takes place.
  • Proximity, how close are we to the microphone.

Best Condenser Mic For Vocals (On a Budget)

Gain Staging

This is an important factor in audio production and in the plugins world in particularYou should be aware of the input levels that you’re getting into the plugin. If the levels are too “hot”, meaning too high in level, this will distort the algorithm and prevent the plugin from performing at it’s best. 

Every plugin has a slightly different sweet spot in which it sounds the best, but all the plugins have a distortion point. I shouldn’t tell you how horrible digital distortion sounds.

Best Digital EQs – Group one

These are the sharpest tools in our toolbox. We use them in every production and almost on every channel. These plugins algorithms are mostly based on precision and functionality. Their goal is not to sound like any other EQ, but to be as accurate as it can be.

Best Emulations Of Old EQs – Group Two

It’s warm, It’s tasty, It’s smooth and it’s analog! So these are the best emulations that we believe are really great for coloring your channels with the sweet colors of classic analog gear. These are emulations of old analog EQs. They are built to give you the exact experience of using a real outboard classic EQ. Each emulation’s algorithm is based on a different circuit design and is unique by itself. That’s what gives the plugin its character and “coloration”. Some of those EQs are so authentic that just opening them on the channel without changing any parameter gives a nice subtle effect.

Here’s a list of my favorite vocal plugins. Remember, these are not full reviews, I will not get into all the technical details here. This is only a brief description and my personal experience with these beautiful pieces of software.

7 Best Analog EQ For Vocals

1. Waves Kramer HLS



I found out about this EQ long after I had it installed on my system. I remember opening it for the first time on an acoustic guitar channel. I played with it for a good hour, trying it on several sources like acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass and vocals. I fell in love with it. First, I have to say that the waves version of it is much more special sounding than the UA version which I also like but never owned it. It gives the vocal channel a rich and sheen quality without distorting or making it harsh. It does add a little noise but I believe it’s a part of its magic. I wouldn’t use it on drums but it is way too good to not include it on my list. So for coloration and adding an analog sweetness and 3Dness to a vocal track, it’s truly amazing.

2. T-Racks EQ 73

This is the T-Racks take on the legendary Neve 1073 console EQ. This is such a beautiful plugin! I almost want to shout it to my screen. It has a place in every production I do. It is brilliant on everything I use it on. Drums, guitars, bass and any other musical instrument and vocals. The T-racks EQ73 is a very musical sounding plugin that adds magic to everything that goes thru it. It is not a surgical tool, it won’t give you that super narrow Q for fixing stuff in your source. I use it mostly for coloration, small boosts, and wide subtle curving out of frequencies. This EQ can give your vocal channel that thumping quality in the lower range, and that edgy high end that will cut thru any mix without even trying, while still sounding extraordinarily musical and expensive.

3. Softube Trident A

Now, this is a weird one. At first, I didn’t know how to look at it, and it always felt a little off to me. The Trident A is considered by many engineers to be a “guitar eq” but allow me to respectfully disagree. This EQ is just amazing on vocals, it is subtle, aggressive and accurate all at the same time. the Softube Trident A is based on the unique Trident A Range console that was first introduced in the early 1970s. Many great albums ware recorded and mixed with that console, quite a few of them are in the rock genre. That’s why this EQ earned its respect among rock producers and engineers around the world. On vocals, it gives a very unique tone, much different from all the others that are more popular. It reminds me a little bit of the API style of coloration and vibe. I get this punchy midrange and “tasty” low end. You can really crank up the low-end slider and it still sounds right and not boomy as expected from extreme settings. The saturation knob gives a smooth and subtle effect, I find myself cranking it all the way up to really enjoy it.

 

4. Waves API 500 Series

This is a whole series of 3 EQs and one compressor. I want to start from the most obvious thing and it’s THE SOUND. These EQs sound like an API! I’m saying “Like an API” because I have experience with the real thing and I know it quite well. If you ask me, the Waves API 500 series is as close as you can get to the real thing. It’s punchy, smooth sounding and it brings things to life. I especially love it on vocal channels. Somehow it brings out all the beautiful tones and qualities in the human voice without making them harsh or two dimensional. It is a parametric EQ so the frequencies are fixed but the 500 give you so many options that you don’t feel the need to ask for more. The algorithm has nonlinear qualities that make you feel like you’re working with the real thing. I also think that Waves had done a wonderful job with the design, which is also very important in my opinion. Although the 550A and the 550B are the more widely used API EQs, I personally find myself using the 560 a lot more. I love how it shines on vocals and lets me color any vocal with those sweet API colors.

5. Waves VEQ4

This is also a part of the V-Series consist of three different plugins, two EQs and a bus compressor. The VEQ4 is based on the Neve 1073. For a long time, I was ignoring this plugin although I had it on my waves bungle. I was using the UAD Neve 1073 and didn’t really pay attention to the Waves version. One day I gave it a chance and everything changed in my little Neve emulations world. I started using the Waves version and never looked back. The VEQ4 is one of the best vocal plugins out there without a shadow of a doubt. I use it on every production on many channels and especially on vocals. It sounds like a Neve yes, but the thing I like the most about it is that it is very smooth. It does not sound like a plugin at all. I love how it handles the high-frequency boosts. Sweet and musical.

6. Plugin Alliance Maag EQ4

This is without a doubt one of the best EQ plugins for vocals on this list. A lot of engineers swear by this EQ. It earned its good name first with the hardware version which came out on the 500 series. This is a very aggressive sounding EQ. I use it every time I want to give something grit and teeth. Especially when it comes to the “Air Gain” knob which is pretty harsh but in a good way. I love to use this plugin for boosting the midrange in vocals. It has very little phase shift, so it’s considered to be a lot more accurate than most EQs out there. Its low and high ends are also aggressive and it is not suitable for all vocal types but when it fits the application, it’s right on the money. In my opinion, the Maag EQ4 is one of the closest replications to its original hardware version. The thing that I love about Maag company is it’s a small family business who manifested its vision and made a very big name for itself. I love how it sounds on vocals that were recorded with dynamic microphones.

7. Waves Scheps 73

Yes I know, another Neve 1073 emulation? Well, this one is special. Not to take from the other 1073 EQ plugins on my list, Waves are getting better and better every year in hardware modeling. The first thing I’ve noticed about the Scheps 73 was that it sounds VERY 3D. I remember thinking to myself “This is on a whole different level!” I would even go there and say; it does not sound like a plugin. It’s totally alive. The most unique feature in the Scheps 73 other than its sound, is the ability to work in M\S on the stereo version. Like all the other analog emulations on that list, the 73 EQ is not built for surgical uses. It’s here to give its brilliant Neve colors, musical midrange, silky highs, and perfect low-end section. The VU meter is also a nice little feature. It’s a known fact that not all the hardware 1073 EQs are born the same. So this leaves a lot of room for the others on the list, but this one is the new cool kid on the block. 

7 Best Digital EQ For Vocals

1. Cambridge EQ UAD

The Cambridge EQ is considered to be a classic EQ in the plugin world. I can’t even count the number of productions I’ve used it on. From drums to guitars, acoustics, synths and of course, vocals. It is a very clean and sharp sounding EQ with great precision and the ability to dig deeper into any problem. It is the perfect sculpting tool. The Cambridge EQ is one of the first plugins on the first UAD card that came out back in the early 2000s. The Cambridge EQ is not just a digital EQ, it also has an analog emulation algorithm. So whether you need to sculpt a source or to give it an analog deliciousness, the Cambridge EQ will do it, no problem, even in today’s high standards.

2. Waves HEQ

If you take away all of my EQ plugins and leave me with only one, it better be the Waves H-EQ. It does it all. It gives you two different analog algorithms, (American and British) and it also gives you one of the most impressive digital EQ algorithm out there. The asymmetrical bell filter is a feature we hadn’t seen yet on other EQs and I already found great uses for it. The Waves H-EQ also features M\S which gives you the option to apply different EQs to mid and side content when working on stereo sources. You also get a great real-time frequency spectrum analyzer with multiple display options.

3. FabFilter Pro-Q2

I always felt that there’s something special about FabFilter products and this EQ is one of the greatest reasons for that. It is the successor to the already amazing Pro-Q. My favorite feature on the Pro-Q2 is not even one you can hear, it’s the frequency spectrum analyzer. It just looks so smooth and nice that It almost makes this plugin sound even better! But in all seriousness, this is a very powerful tool with a really great design. It quickly became my first-choice EQ plugin for acoustic guitars, don’t know why, it just sounds the best on my Yamaha guitar but we are talking about EQs for vocals here, and the FabFilter Pro-Q2 is the perfect vocals EQ. It has a great big design that allows you to easily make the smallest adjustment. The natural phase processing mode lets you make big narrow cuts and boosts without that weird phase shifting effect that you sometimes get on other digital EQs. This sweet EQ is packed with many more great features. The Pro-Q2 and I are going to be friends for many productions to come.

4. Eiosis AirEQ

This piece of great software was designed by Fabrice Gabriel who also wrote the algorithms for many of Slate Digital’s greatest plugins. My first try with the AirEQ wasn’t too successful, I couldn’t get it to work on my system without crashing every 10 minutes so I gave up on the first version and promised myself that we are going to meet again in the future. The most unique feature in this EQ is the names of the frequency bands. The names are a bit tricky to understand, “Earth”, “LoClean”, “Clarity” and such. But Eiosis also gave us the option to name the bands ourselves, which is quite cool. Now, to my ears, the AirEQ has a “smooth” and “deep” sound. It feels as if it’s got more resolution, maybe even an internal higher frequency rate. This, of course, is just my own feeling about it. It has a “Character” slide, the upper end is named “Fire” and the lower “Water”. It controls a few features for all the EQ bands all at the same time; Q width, bell size, bell shape, and gain. It changes the whole character of the EQ in one slide movement which is quite cool. Give it a try.

5. DMG Audio EQuality

This was my main EQ for a very long time. Yes it’s OLD and there are new and better EQ’s coming from DMG today and still, I like the EQuality and I used it on everything. It sounds natural, it looks great and it’s very simple to use. It offers analog algorithm along with a digital one. The DMG Audio EQuality is very light on the CPU when using the digital algorithm. When moving to the analog algorithm it makes the CPU work a little harder and you can feel it on some systems. I like the design and the blue interface is easy on the eye. It always looked to me like the successor of the Cambridge EQ. Other than that, let your ears decide. 

6. Waves F6

Ok another weird and beautiful beast, the F6 combines dynamic abilities along with the static regular EQ behavior. It’s pretty much like a super smart Multiband de-esser which is a great idea. You can activate or deactivate the dynamic properties of this EQ based on where you want it on the timeline. This EQ is not only for vocal, of course, any other source will also greatly benefit from it. In addition to that, the Waves F6 EQ sounds absolutely brilliant and it if you’re open to the new age of plugins and not only looking back, this is definitely one of them.

7. Waves Renaissance EQ

If we’re talking about the new age plugins of today, I want to remind you where it all started. The Waves Renaissance EQ is definitely considered to be a new classic. It was and still is, a basic tool in the toolbox of great engineers all around the world. Although being old and classic, the Waves Renaissance EQ performs better than most of all the new digital EQs out there, and you can test it yourself. This baby has stood the test of time and is still being massively used to this day. The Waves Renaissance EQ is solid, CPU efficient and most of all, it sounds amazing.

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Electronic Drums Vs Acoustic Drums

Electronic Drums VS Acoustic Drums

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If this was 1998, I would have told you, “Dude, NO! Go to a studio and record a real drummer on a real drum set and let’s move on with the project!” But, it’s not 1998, and we are here, today, thinking about which way to go with the drums. So, if you’re asking me; 

“Electronic drum set in the studio for serious productions?”
YES PLEASE!


Hey everybody, Avi here. As you can understand from this intro, this post is leaning heavily to the electronic drums side. So, if you’re a hardcore, old timer, “acoustic drum recording in big studios” kinda type, this may not be for you. 


I won’t forget the first time I recorded acoustic drums. I had a high school-type band, and we went to this dude’s house to record our drummer. We set up the drums in the middle of his living room on a brown carpet that smelled like cat food and beer.

We recorded the whole set with only 3 microphones. One for the bass drum, one for the hi-hat and the snare, and one as an overhead mic for the whole set. It sounded like pure shit, but we were high on it! This was my first drum recording experience. Since then, I’ve recorded quite a few drummers in big studios, and although it sounded nice, I really hated the whole process.


Acoustic Drums Recording – The process from back in the day.

I used to take my drummers and drive for an hour to get to my favorite studio. We would set up the drums and microphones for an hour, or even more, and then start recording. After that, we would export the files and all the takes from Protools to my Cubase.

At the time, I was doing my beat detection on Protools before I would open the files on Cubase, but sometimes I would fix the timing on Cubase manually, which was an exhausting process that took me literally hours. After that, I sometimes replaced some drums like the snare or toms or bass drum, or just added extra samples and sounds to it with midi. And then, after all this work, I’m still stuck with one set, one sound, and one drum take for one song.


Electronic Drums Saves The Day

Around 2007, I really started exploring new continents of creation with electronic drums. I produced my first electronic drums punk rock album. It was an 8-song album. I recorded all of them with a complete toy drum set: Yamaha DD-65.

The first drum software I ever used was Addictive Drums. It took a lot of work to actually convince my client that this is the best option for the budget and that he should close his eyes and give this option a real chance. He did, and he eventually loved it and even told me that out of all of his four albums, the one we recorded with a toy drum machine and a drum plugin was his best album.


My First Real Electronic Drum Set

Roland V-drums TD-9sx. I didn’t really need more than this drum set for all of my music productions. Drummers used to come to my studio, sit on this drum set, get used to it, and then record.

 The sessions were short, the sound was amazing, and the artist and I were happy! This is exactly what I needed. After the session was over, I could change everything. From the playing, timing corrections to adding or changing whole parts. The most important thing is, I could change the whole drum set to whatever set I liked. This alone was enough for me. I was hooked.


Kill The Drummer?

No way! I’m always saying this. Electronic drums are maybe replacing the traditional instrument of the drummer, but they won’t replace the drummer. Yes, we have recorded midi parts, but they can never replace a real drummer on the set that is playing his parts for our specific song, at least in my humble opinion.

There is something special in getting a real drummer to play on our production, and this won’t go away soon. So, no, the drummer is not dead. We just added a more versatile instrument to his arsenal. I also want to say that I still think that real drum sets are cool and definitely necessary, mostly on stage, or if you just really want to record them.


The Module Sounds VS Plugins.

Today’s modules are pretty much amazing, no doubt. But, there is some magic in the plugins world. So, the way I see it: on stage, it’ll be a smart move to use the steady and trusty drum module. But, in the studio, plugins are taking the lead. As producers, we love to fiddle with interfaces, different sounds and samples, effects, and mixing components, which you can find on any drum plugin today. Here’s a post I wrote about the subject.

The Best Drum Plugins


Electronic Drums Sets

Roland really nailed it with their electronic drums technology. Everything from the modules, the drums, the looks, and the sounds of it, is amazing. So, they are on the top of my list, but they are not the only company to look for while searching for an electronic drum set.


New VS Old

This really comes down to personal preference, specific needs, and of course, budget. When I first bought my new Roland V-drums TD9sx, I bought it from some nice rich dude who didn’t know what to do with the set. He sold it to me for a very small price, and I didn’t really need more than that. It had everything I wished for in an electronic drum set, and every time I needed more, I just added extra components like cymbals, floor toms, extra pedals, and such. 

You can always extend and build your own kit, as long as the module allows it. If you’re are on a limited budget, you can really find a good condition V-Drums set for a great price. The second-hand market is full of great options. If you’re a “New everything” kinda person, you can go for a new drum set, of course.


Electronic Drums Vs Acoustic Drums

Roland V-Drums TD 25 (via Amazon)
Electric Drums Roland TD 25

This is a mid-level kit from Roland, I really like this kit because it’s relatively small and doesn’t take a lot of space in the studio, which is a big factor for a lot of us home-studio-based producers. It comes with all mash pads, which is a must for me.

It’s very important for drummers to get that real feedback from the instruments, and mash pads are the way to do it. The TD25 has a great module with great sounds, but most of us producers prefer using drum software, so modules are not the most important thing in my opinion. If you’re into bigger and more expensive V-Drums, you should really check out the Roland V-Drums TD50K.

 

Features:
• Dynamic, expressive playability and quick customization
• Advanced SuperNATURAL sound engine based on the TD-30
• Sound quality and expressiveness equivalent to the top-of-the-line V-Drums
• Logical interface for easily swapping and customizing each drum and cymbal in a kit
• PDX-100 10″ mesh-head snare pad with support for rim-shots and cross-sticks
• 3 mesh-head tom pads PD-85BK 8″ pads for rack toms, 1 PDX-100 10″ pad for floor tom
• VH-11 V-Hi-hat mounts on a standard hi-hat stand; offers realistic motion and natural feel
• 2 CY-12C 12″ crash cymbals with natural swinging motion, edge/bow sensors, and choke control
• CY-13R 13″ ride cymbal with natural swinging motion and edge/bow/bell triggering
• KD-9 kick pad with cloth head for great feel and solid playability
• Play along with WAV/MP3 songs and capture drum performances as audio on a USB stick
• Build drumming skills with the onboard Coach functions
• Quick-access metronome with a dedicated screen, on/off button, and tempo knob
• USB host port for audio/MIDI communication with a computer

 

Yamaha DTX720K (via Amazon)

The funny thing about Yamaha is that other electronic drums manufacturers are sampling Yamaha’s acoustic drum sets, and they will never tell you about it. This one is a mid-level electronic drum set. Much like the TD25, it is small and doesn’t take a lot of space in our little home studios.

 

The Yamaha models are different, mostly, in the way that their electronic drum pads are built. They don’t use mash pads like most of the others. They have a different technology called “DTX Pad”. Yamaha worked with top drummers to achieve that unique feel and natural feedback out of the DTX Pad. In my personal opinion, this is the best electronic drum pad out there.

 

The engineers in Yamaha just nailed it with the drum pads and also with the cymbal pads. They feel great, they look great, and they definitely respond great to every little touch of the stick. The DTX module has amazing sounds and some of the best acoustic snare samples I’ve ever heard on a module.

 

Features:
• Includes KP100 kick, XP80 snare, 3 XP70 toms, 2 PCY135 cymbals, RHH135 hi-hat, HS740A hi-hat stand, DTX700 module, and RS502 rack
• Textured Cellular Silicone (TCS) heads provide realistic performance
• 3-zone cymbals deliver authentic playability
• 2-zone hi-hat with edge and bow sections yields open, closed, and foot splash sounds
• Real hi-hat controller and included hi-hat stand for realistic feel and playability
• Piezo trigger sensors and dual-zone rim switches allow for expressive playing
• DTX-Pads are matched for consistent performance
• 1,396 voices include 1,268 acoustic drum sounds and 128 instrument voices
• Acoustic drum sounds were taken from Yamaha’s inventory of legendary drums
• Instrument voices include sounds taken from Yamaha’s MOTIF XF synthesizer
• Onboard mixer makes setting kick, snare, tom, cymbal, hi-hat, and click levels easy
• Load your own samples from a USB flash drive to create a custom e-drum kit
• Record MIDI into your DAW and play it back using your favorite virtual drum software

 

Alesis Strike Kit (via Amazon)
Alesis Strike Kit drums

First, I didn’t like Alesis’s electronic drum sets at all, but they’ve made a lot of progress over the years.

The Alesis Strike Kit is one of their top models. It is not a small set like the others and not that compact, but will give you the amazing feel of a real size acoustic drum set. It also has a slightly lower price. The thing that I really love about Alesis is that they give you a lot more for the money. For example, standard size snare drum, bigger floor drums, bigger hi-hat, and more cymbal pads. Alesis uses a black mash on their drums, which is very cool when you get used to it. The drum bodies are made out of real wood, which gives the set a very cool and beefy look. This set will look amazing on stage and in the studio.

The module is full of great sounds and features. More than you’ll ever need for an electronic drum set in the studio. So, if you have room for a full-size drum kit and you really want to give your drummers a good and authentic drumming experience without breaking the bank, this is the one to go with.

Features:
• Designed to look and respond like an acoustic set
• Holds its own with some of the industry’s premier e-drum kits
• Comes loaded with 100 complete drum kits and 1,760 sounds
• Wood shells and tuneable mesh heads respond like acoustic drums with low noise
• “Hammered” cymbals have a controlled bounce and good stick response
• Fusion drum sizes provide a comfortable transition between acoustic and electronic kits
• Dual-zoned toms, snare, and cymbals and a 3-zoned ride yield dynamic performances
• Includes a 14″ snare, 8/10/12″ toms, and a 14″ kick
• Includes a 14″ crash, 16″ ride, and 12″ hi-hat
• Strike drum module with 4.3″ color LCD lets you edit drum sounds with ease
• Mixer faders give you complete control of your mix into headphones or speakers
• 8 direct outputs allow for studio-quality record editing
• Strike Software Editor lets you import new drum sounds into the module over Mac/PC
• Onboard sampler lets you capture organic sounds right from the module
• MIDI and USB connections communicate with your virtual instruments and samplers
• Includes a drum rack and double-braced snare stand for dependable setups
• Included cables, drum key, and cable wraps get you up and drumming in no time


So these are my recommendations for small, affordable, and yet professional electronic drum sets for the small production studios. Thank you for reading.

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How To EQ Vocals Professionally

How To EQ Vocals Professionally

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Hello, my EQing friends! If you’re looking to learn the basics of professional EQing, stay right where you are because I’m going to show you a lot of cool things that will help you improve your vocal sound by the end of this post! The EQ is like a sharp knife to a decorative salad. This is the only tool that will help you cut and arrange your veggies on the plate like a pro. Now let’s try to understand it from the basics all the way to the pro tips.

First! a quick EQ lesson from the great Dave Pensado

How Important EQ Is?

Although EQ is a very basic tool and one of the first audio tool that was ever invented, it is still to this day, the most important tool of any audio project. I can get a mix to work and even sound fantastic, using only EQ! You can’t say that about any other audio processor and I don’t care what tool it is. That’s how important EQ is.

What is an EQ?

As we all know, in our physical world, audio is made out of different frequencies. The higher the frequency, the higher the tone. The human hearing In general ranges from 20hz to 20Khz. EQ is the one tool we use to boost or cut any frequency on the spectrum and this is the only audio tool that does that. Any other tools that do the same have EQing abilities built into them. For example, with only an EQ we can turn a boomy vocal into a decent sounding one, and a muffled voice into a bright, airy and angelic vocal. The other most important tool in the audio processing world is of course the Compressor. You can learn more about that here >> How To Use a Compressor On Vocals

What Are The Main Uses For An EQ?

Cutting stuff out, adding stuff in, fixing a specific frequency problem, shaping a signal source, giving character to a flat source and even completely change the way it sounds. Much like a sculpting tool for a sculptor. We can take a shapeless stone and turn it into something we recognize and even love.

Where Do I start EQing?

A real audio pro knows that EQing doesn’t start with an EQ but with the recording method at the beginning of the process. In the case of vocals, the first thing we have to think about is what microphone are we using and what character does it have. Learn more about how to make your voice sound better when recording.

In general, Dynamic microphones and Ribbon microphones have a tendency to sound less bright, with an emphasis on the low end and a sensitivity to how close are we from it, it’s called the proximity effect. A condenser microphone in most cases will sound a lot brighter, it will be much more sensitive to every little sound we make and will sound more bright and detailed.

Basic Rules We Don’t Always Follow But It’s Good To Know Them

In most cases of using an EQ, we will cut more and boost less. It’s easier to cut out things from a source than to add things to another one. This will keep the source sounding more natural. That’s the right way to go about it, but as I said, no rules. 

The other thing we always do is filtering. The human ear has a natural filtering system. If you’re a kid with good hearing, you can probably hear all the way from 20 hz to 20Khz and in the top and bottom, you’d have your natural filter. You probably won’t be able to hear above and below that. With EQing an audio source we will cut the head and the tale of any source. 

Let’s say you have a female vocal that rarely goes lower than 100hz, you don’t need the information that’s been picked up by the microphone under that frequency. It’s the same with the top end, we usually cut the super high frequencies because we don’t really hear them and they might interrupt other critical things in the mix.

 

EQ Basic Features

  • Cut – Lowering a selected group of frequencies.
  • Boost – boosting a selected group of frequencies.
  • Low Cut (High Pass)  – Cutting out everything BELOW a selected frequency.
  • High Cut (Low Pass) – Cutting out everything ABOVE a selected frequency.
  • Slope – How many DB’s per octave we cut after the selected frequency point.
  • Shelf – A shelf shape cut or boost at the edges of the spectrum. High shelf, Low shelf.
  • Bell Width (Q) – Determines how wide will be the frequency range we want to work on.
  • Frequency Band or Select – Selecting the fundamental frequency of the range we want to work on.

Different Colors On The Spectrum 

Every area on the frequency spectrum has a different character, I’m going to give you some general guidelines for how to emphasize or to blur a certain feature in the human voice. I’ve made a basic chart just to get you in the right direction.

Low Cut –  Cut from that point and down.

1. Fullness – Boost to give low-end body to a vocal.

2. Boominess – Cut to get rid of low-mid boomy sound and mud.

3. Warmness – Boost to make a vocal sound warmer.

4. Midrange Bite – Boost to make a vocal cut thru the mix.

5. Presence – Boost to give a vocal high-frequency clarity.

6. Air & Details – Boost to give a vocal air and openness.

High Cut – Cut from that point and up.

Dynamic EQ

I won’t go too deep on dynamic EQ’s but I will talk about the basic form of it, and it’s the mighty De-esser. Many times, after boosting a vocal’s high range, there will be some side effects. The Sibilance, high frequencies that jump out every time the singer uses the letters “S” “T”, will come out and poke holes in your eardrums. This is the perfect time to drop a De-esser on the channel and set it up to compress the problematic areas. Usually, it’ll be between 5Khz and 8Khz, depending on the singer.

Mix With Your Eyes

Sometimes using a frequency analyzer can help you find a certain problem a lot faster than if you were using only your ears. A lot of EQ plugins these days has that feature and I definitely recommend using it. 

But be careful, these tools can easily get you deep into the lazy zone and before you know it, you’re trying to make a whole mix with your eyes, and that won’t cut it. Trust me. A frequency analyzer is only a tool that helps to get you in the right direction and the real secret is to work with your ears and with your eyes at the same time.

Bell Width “Q” – How Wide Should It Be?

As a general rule that’s not written anywhere, you want your boosts to be wider and your attenuations to be narrower. Somehow the when you boost with a wide Q it sounds more natural.

Shelf EQ

“Shelving” is a term used to describe a boost or a cut from a certain frequency by the same amount. Shelving is done in the higher or lower edges of the spectrum, this gives it the shape of a shelf. 

Sometimes we tend to use shelving EQ when we want to create a high-frequency boost, but that’s the wrong way to do it. 

If you want to boost the high end of a vocal, it’s smarter and more natural sounding to use a band EQ and just work with the bell width to determine the range of frequencies that will get affected by the boost. That’s how you don’t just boost a bunch of high frequencies that you don’t even hear and your mix is better off without them. Here you’ll find 19 mixing tips that you must have.

Cut When You Need To Boost

Many times we feel the urge to boost the highs to give a certain vocal more air or to make it sound more detailed. But the thing is that when you have a tendency to boost every time you lack some information on the track, you pay for it with sacrificing other precious frequencies on your track. So my suggestion is before you boost the highs, try to cut the lows first. And only then boost the highs accordingly. This will give you a more natural sound. Especially with vocals.

Always Filter

No matter what vocal you mix, you always have two ranges of frequencies you don’t want in your mix. These frequencies are on the edges of the spectrum. This is where we use the filters. A low cut filter on a vocal track alone can save a whole mix. Under a certain frequency, depending on the singer, you’ll only get that low rumble and unnecessary low-end information. It’s the same with the high edge of the spectrum. Take a look at my charts and find out exactly where to place the cutting points.

Sweep For Gold

These next two tips are very important if we want to learn how to eq vocals professionally. Sometimes boosting a specific frequency in a vocal can bring out hidden magic you didn’t even know exists. The way to find this lovely magic frequency is to do a frequency sweep. In most cases, you’ll find this hidden magic spot between 500Hz and 8Khz. How to do a sweep you ask? You just boost a certain band by 5 to 10DB and drag it across the spectrum. In the first sweep, everything might sound cool and you’d want to boost it all, don’t do it. Just pick one spot out of the whole range and give it a touch. Then click the band On and Off and see if you like the difference. If you like it, great! If not, sweep again. It’s ok to not find the golden frequency. It just means you have a well balanced vocal recording and a good vocalist.

Sweep For Dirt

The same as sweeping to find the golden frequency, you can also sweep to find problems in the vocal track. Here the problem can be everywhere on the spectrum. It can be an annoying frequency, a weird overtone that clashes with the song key, or any unpleasant tone somewhere along the spectrum. Again, you boost a certain band by 5 to 10db and you just drag it across the spectrum. If you hear something you don’t like, just cut it. In most cases, a 1 to 3db cut will be enough to balance it out. You might find more than one problematic spot on the track. Do it with as many bands as you need. I usually open a separate EQ instance just to fix the problematic frequencies on a track. But make sure to not get dragged into a “fix fest” where everything sounds like it needs to be fixed. If you do that, you can easily take the life out of a track. If it’s a decent recording, you won’t have to fix more than two or three problematic areas.

Check It On Headphones

Here you can find a lot of information about Mixing On Headphones. If you really want to be on the safe side, double check everything you do on a good pair of headphones. Sometimes an unbalanced room or the wrong monitor can cause us to make faulty decisions along the way, so always double check your mix on more than one reference source >> Best Headphones For Mixing

What EQ should I Use?

Different tasks require different tools. In general, digital EQ types are good for fixing stuff in the vocal track, Finding the gold and taking out the dirt. Every vocal track can use a good surgical treatment with a digital type EQ. For “coloration”, “vibe” and “mojo” on the other hand, it’s much cooler to use an analog emulation type EQ. So I’ve made a list of the best EQ’s that I’ve ever worked with and that I recommend using.
The list >> Best EQ Plugin For Vocals

Practice Practice Practice!

Like with any craft, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the better you get. With EQ, at some point, you’re not even looking at what you’re doing because your intuition and ears are getting so good it becomes second nature to you. Just keep doing that more and more and the whole EQing process will get almost completely automatic.

Thanks for reading and happy EQing guys.

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BEST MIDI KEYBOARD FOR BEGINNERS Small

Best Midi Keyboard For Beginners

BEST MIDI KEYBOARD FOR BEGINNERS Large

Best Midi Keyboard For Beginners

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KEYBOARDS! How I love midi keyboards!

Hi everybody, Avi here. On this post, I give you a list of the best midi keyboards for beginners. Every beginner has its own style of music creation so I tried to touch every genre of music and which midi keyboard is best for it. I’m sure you will find a midi keyboard you like on my list.

First, I’ll tell you that the midi keyboard is the king of all instruments for music production. Most music producers are starting with a keyboard and that is a great thing. You can not play drums and strings on your guitar. If you’re a real producer, you need to be very comfortable around the black and white keys next to your computer keyboard and that is a hard fact.

What Is Midi

MIDI – “Musical Instrument Digital Interface” is a language. It is not notes or sounds, it is just data, transmitted by digital instruments and audio systems over to digital instruments and audio systems. The data that is transferred is telling the receiving device what to play and which parameters to change. A midi keyboard sends this data to the computer which sends it to the receiving instrument, whether it’s a virtual synth, any outboard device, plugins or DAW’s. A midi controller or a keyboard usually doesn’t have sounds of its own.

The History Of Midi

Midi was first developed in the 80s, which was a very interesting decade to grow up in for us music producers and electronic musicians. The midi standard was offered to all the major companies and in an act of unification and for the greater good of all of us, they started implementing it in all of their instruments. Midi has changed the music world for ever. With the introduction of Midi technology, a lot of musicians could create new styles of music and complex sequences without the need of actually playing the instrument.

Different Midi Keyboards

Basically, you can use any midi keyboard to make almost any kind of music you want. But there are some keyboards that are more suitable for certain styles of music. For example, if you want to play a piano part, it will be best if you pick a midi keyboard that most resembles the size and feel of a real piano. That’s how you can get the closest result to the original instrument. If you’re an electronic music producer on the road for example, you would want to travel light and maybe go for much smaller instruments. 
On this list you would find the best midi keyboard for your needs.

Best Midi Keyboard For Beginners

Mini Size, Mini Keyboards

Akai MPK Mini mk2

The MPK Mini mk2 is a great little portable controller that you can easily fit into any backpack, along with your laptop and take it with you around the world. It requires only a usb cable to work. It is also a brilliant controller to have on a busy studio desk. Sometimes you just want to record small and simple parts. Or just go over presets and sounds and you just need a little keyboard to trigger them and still have enough space for your coffee cup or other small controllers and instruments. The MPK Mini mk2 also has a beautiful design. I love this mix of red and black colors, hey just look at my logo. A visually good designed instrument helps you feel more creative and have more fun while making music. As for the price, the MKP is a very low-cost solution for music production on the go.

Main features:

 • 25 Mini Keys
 • 8 Backlit Drum Pads
 • 8 Assignable Knobs
 • 4-way Joystick
 • USB Powered Only
 • Software Package Included

Check latest price on Amazon

Arturia Minilab MK2

This sweet little keyboard is special, It is made to be the perfect companion for “Analog Lab”, Arturia’s synth software, but it works with any music software.

The Minilab is a full-featured MIDI controller designed to work with any music software that supports Midi or DAW. It has a brand new pitch and modulation touch strip controls. It takes a little time to get used to it but eventually you get it and it allows you to do things you can’t do with a regular pitch and modulation control. This keyboard has the best feeling mini keys I’ve ever tried on a mini keyboard. You can actually play complex music parts on this keyboard and get a very good feel out of it. The design is pretty special and it reminds me a little bit of Access virus snow which I LOVE. The Minilab mk1 had bigger wooden cheeks that give it a more organic look. On the mk2 version, they made the wooden ends a little smaller but they’re still there along with a few added features and upgrades.

Main features:

 • 25 Mini Keys
• 16 Endless Rotary Assignable Knobs
 • 8 Backlit Drum Pads
 • Touch Pitch & Modulation Control
 • Analog Lab Included
 • USB Powered Only

 

Check latest price on Amazon

Normal Size Keys, Small Keyboards

Alesis v25

Simple, built to last and super affordable. These are the Alesis v25’s main strong points.

This is a straight forward device, the design is very simple and cool. All black with blue lights. I also like the Alesis big logo on the back. First, the v25 is in the standard size keys category. It has two octaves of velocity sensitive 25 keys. It is a little bigger than the mini keys keyboards so it is a little harder to fit into a backpack but it’s definitely possible. The Alesis v25 needs its software in order to fully assign all of its controllers. The 8 backlit drum pads have very good sensitivity and the keyboard is pretty good also. Overall the Alesis v25 it’s just a keyboard you wouldn’t expect for this money.

If you like this keyboard but want more keys, you can check out the 49 and 61 versions of the Alesis V series.

Main features:

 • Compact USB controller for controlling plug-ins and virtual instruments
 • Full-sized, synth-action keys with a square front
 • 8 velocity and pressure sensitive backlit pads
 • 4 illuminated, assignable knobs and 4 buttons
 • PitchBend and Modulation wheels
 • USB bus powered
 • Includes Ableton Live Lite Alesis Edition

Check latest price on Amazon

Akai Professional MPK225

Now, this is a small keyboard for big boys, it is a complete midi workstation for the working producer, a professional product, it’s literally the model’s name. Although its price tag is aiming for professionals, I think this is a perfect 25 key midi controller to start with if your budget allows you. Ok let’s start with the design, the Akai Professional MPK225 is a beautiful midi controller. Again, Akai’s colors are amazing, and this mix of black and red is so cool in the studio. The keyboard is pretty big and sturdy and the built quality is superb. If I remember correctly, this is the first product in the professional series that has an LCD screen. The MPK225 has a backlit RGB drum pads, which means that they change colors according to the application they’re connected to, and work hand in hand with Ableton Live. The keys are semi-weighted which means that their mechanism is built a little stronger and they feel a little heavier. Akai’s professional series products also come with a NICE software bundle. Overall, the MPK225 is a cutting-edge production tool that will last for years to come and will have very few limitations in the studio. If you like it and you’re interested in more keys and controls, check out it’s bigger brothers, the MPK249 and the MPK261.

Main features:

•LCD Screen
•25 Full Size Semi-Weighted Keys
•After Touch
•8 Backlit RGB Drum Pads
•4 Assignable Knobs
•5 Pin MIDI In&Out
•Pitch & Modulation Wheels
•Foot Switch & Expression Input Jacks.

Check latest price on Amazon

Normal Size Keys, Small Keyboards

Novation Launchkey 61 MK2

Novation is a classic name in the music production industry. They are responsible for few of the most classic and famous products out there. The Lunchkey 61 MK2 has a great set of features and controls. It comes in a very cool black body and blue base and 16 backlit RGB pads. The pads support color feedback from Ableton live and they are also velocity sensitive. The Lounchkey is a great companion for your DAW. The Lounchkey has what’s called Synth-weighted Keys which is similar to semi-weighted keys and they’re also slightly narrower than the standard size keys so it may take some time to get used to. The keyboard has very high-quality keys, knobs, and faders. This is a great Midi controller and not only for the relatively low price. If you like it, you should know it also comes in 25 keys and 49 keys versions.

Main features:

•16 Touch sensitive multi-color launch pads with RGB-LEDs
•2 Launchpad control buttons
•8 Rotary knobs
•9 Faders
•LED Display
•Transport control
•Transpose-keys
•Pitch and Modulation wheel
•Backlit mode keys
•8 Mute/ solo keys
•Connections: USB
•Sustain pedal
•Dimensions: 990 x 120 x 320 mm
•Weight: 3.5 kg
•Including: Novation V-Station and Bass station software, Loopmasters Sample-Pack and Ableton Live Lite

Check latest price on Amazon

M-Audio Code 61

I am an avid M-Audio user for a long time in the studio. I always liked their instruments and the Code 61 is no different. It is a great controller for the studio producer and also for the live keyboard player. It is lighter than other big M-Audio midi controllers from the past but still built just as strong. There is something different, special in the design of the Code 61. First, it is a beautiful keyboard. The first visual thing that pops up is the square overall shape of the keyboard. M-Audio used to make rounder designs but I guess they went for a new look, and you know what? It’s very cool and I like it. The drum pads on the Code are backlit RGB pads and they are big and sturdy. The pitch and modulation wheels are located in the upper left corner of the keyboard which is a little weird for me personally because I come from the old world of synths and midi controllers but I guess M-Audio are trying to promote a new approach. In the bottom line, this is a great midi controller for the price.

Main features:

•61-note velocity-sensitive synth-style keyboard
•16 full-color RGB backlit velocity sensitive drum pads
•Eight knobs
•Nine sliders
•Six dedicated transport controls
•Pitch bend and modulation wheels
•Two Octave/Transpose buttons
•7-segment 3-character LED display
•Two Track/MIDI Channel buttons

Check latest price on Amazon

88 Keys Midi Keyboards (Piano Style)

M-Audio Keystation 88 II

This 88 keys M-Audio is a semi-weighted piano size keyboard. It is on my list because it is great for beginners, It is simple and very budget friendly. It’s relatively light and easy to take with you to live shows without breaking your back. I like it’s USB single cable operation, which means it gets the power thru the USB and you don’t have to worry about another power cable to carry on with you. The M-audio Keystation MK2 has enough features for every basic need and a little more. Features like pitch and modulation wheels and transport control for controlling your DAW without the need to reach the mouse and keyboard every time you need to play, stop or record yourself.

Back panel includes ON\OFF switch, volume pedal input, sustain pedal input, 5-pin midi output, USB plug and of course DC power input.

•88 semi-weighted keys
•Pitch, modulation and other control sources
•USB power for convenience
•Use with your computer or iPad

Check latest price on Amazon

M-Audio Hammer 88 Weighted Keys

This thing is built like a tank! The Hammer 88 is a full size, fully weighted piano style midi keyboard. With this keyboard, you’ll have a professional product with a friendly price. It is one of the smaller fully weighted midi keyboards out there so it can be great for live shows and in the studio, it won’t take a lot of important space. The interface is pretty simple, only pitch and modulation wheels, 2 buttons for changing the octaves and a volume slider. Some will say you don’t need more than that if you’re a real piano player. Another important thing with piano style keyboards is they need to be quiet and this one definitely is. Very quiet. So if you don’t care about the weight and you need a real piano feel with an affordable price, this is definitely for you. 

Main features:

•88 fully-weighted, hammer-action keys
•USB-MIDI connection for playing virtual instruments, controlling music software, and more
•5-Pin MIDI DIN port for triggering external MIDI hardware
•Pitch bend and modulation wheels, volume fader, and +/- controls for expressive performances
•Multiple keyboard zones for layering, splits, and playing 4-note chords with a single key press
•Sustain, Expression, and Soft pedal jacks
•USB-powered; power adapter available separately for stand-alone use
•Class-compliant, no drivers required, plug-and-play connectivity with Mac/PC
•iOS compatibility via Apple Camera Connection Kit (available separately)
•Included Hammer 88 Controller Editor and premium software suite
•Music rest included

Check latest price on Amazon

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How To Produce Music At Home

How To Produce Music At Home

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Hey everybody, I wish I had this article when I first started producing music, back in the mid-90s. If you’re just starting out, the only thing you need to have on your mind is that everybody starts somewhere. Yeah, I know it’s a cliche but it would’ve never been a cliche if it wasn’t true. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy or fast, it is quite a big project to take on but these days it doesn’t have to take years for you to master it. I really believe the world is progressing much faster, and with it, the young generation of new musicians.


Who Can Produce Music At Home?

The answer to this question is pretty simple; Anybody who really want to. Real passionate people who want to be musicians don’t wait for someone to give them a pass or any validation. They just get up and go for it. That’s exactly what you need to do. Hack, These days it doesn’t even cost you money. You already have a computer, and you already have a cool microphone on your phone if you really need it. So you already own a small studio.

How Long Is It Until I’d Be Able To Make Music?

Well, as you’ve already guessed it, it’s a personal thing for each and every one of us. The pace of progress is very individual. But if you want an actual timeline, I can tell you I’ve seen people who are making music for literally years and they’re only “ok”. And there are countless examples for kids only 17 years old that are making international hits on their laptops. 

When Is The Best Time To Start?

The minute you decide it with all your heart. If you’re not 100% crazy about it, don’t start because you’d get tired and drop it forever, It should be pure fun.


Is It Too Late For Me To Start?

I have a good friend who was a Gardner for most of his adult life. He’s playing guitar here and there and loves it a lot. At age 45 he decided to start producing music and doing live shows as an engineer. Today, after 5 years, he makes his living off of music production, mixing engineering and live shows. He’s very happy about it and has mowed no lawn for a long time.


What Tools Do I Need?

First, you have to decide what kind of music you would like to create. For most cases, if you have a computer, you’re already halfway there, and I’m totally serious. If you’re planning to make electronic music that is only computer-based, you practically need nothing else more than that to start producing music.

If you want to make your first recordings, really use whatever you have around you. If you have an Apple Macbook, you already have a very nice sound card. If you have an Apple iPhone, you already have a very cool Mic setup. iPhones have a brilliant microphone! Now don’t let it sound as if I’m an Apple fanboy. There are a lot of good phones and laptops from other companies.

If you think I’m kidding about the iPhone mic, you need to know that I’ve recorded a whole song and released it to the world using only my iPhone 6s Mic. This was long after I already had my studio with very expensive microphones and preamps. “Why”, you ask? I needed to make a point to myself and for some people who don’t really understand the power of these little microphones on our cell phones. Check out this post – Use iPhone As A Microphone

After you learn to record with what you have, it’s safe to buy more advanced gear. That way you’d be more appreciative about what you buy and you’ll know the difference right away. This is also an important growing stage. If you start with the best, you sometimes can’t appreciate what you have.


DAW – Free or Paid? 

This is not about money, it’s about your relationship with the tools. Let’s talk about marriage for a second here, finding the perfect mate is a real challenge. No one can promise you the first try will be successful forever. It’s the same with DAWs. You can try three or four until you find the one that’s perfect for you. 


To be exact, the DAW is a direct extension of your creative mind. So it’s very important for you to find that perfect correlation between your mind and your DAW. When I first started producing music I started with a little DOS application called “Impulse Tracker”. It was all I had, and I loved it! After that came new and much better applications and moved on and my creation got a lot better.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, learn and try few DAWs for a while, until you find the perfect match for you. For me specifically, it‘s Logic Pro and Cubase. 

Learn To Play The Keyboards

That’s your main instrument if you want to produce music. You don’t have to be a professional pianist, you just have to learn your way around the white and black keys. Just the basics. The better you get on the keyboard, the better you’ll get at understanding music. I wrote about it more in these two articles. 
Ear Training Methods
Music Producer Requirements

Can I Produce Music On My Phone?

Absolutely! I even think that limitation is a good thing for music producers. It encourages creativity and an open mind. Today’s phones are so much more than what the Beatles had back when they first started with a 4 track tape machine…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those producers who like to have every possible tool in their arsenal. But guess what, 90% of the times I get stuck it’s because of too many tools in my toolbox. I often get myself creatively unstuck just by limiting myself with much fewer options. Trust me, it works. Check this guy out, he produced a song for Kendrick Lamar and used his iPhone as a DAW. 

Acoustic Treatment – Does It Matter?

As a matter of fact, it does. If you want to record live instruments and use speakers, you have to have some kind of acoustic treatment. I’m not going to get too deep on this subject because there’s a lot of information outside. 

But it’ll be a good idea to think about it and definitely do something with it. If you want to build an actual studio in your house, ok, go for it, even get a professional to build something specifically for you. If you don’t want to get into too many expenses you can start with a carpet on the floor, a sofa or a bad in the room can help. In general, the more you fill your room with stuff that breaks the sound waves the less reverb you have in your space and that’s a good thing.

You can also locate your setup in different places around the room to look for a good sweet spot. Treat the corner with bass traps would also be a very good idea. Make sure that the surrounding of the speakers will be the same on both sides. The whole secret for a stereo balanced setup is what you have around the monitors.

How To Learn Music Production? 

Well, this is really all down to personal preference. Some people can do everything on their own, some need someone to show them the way, and some can mix between the two methods. This is probably the best way to choose. 

You must be able to learn stuff on your own and poses that skill, but you can also save a lot of time by just learning from others instead of just taking years to learn on your own as I did. Back in the 90s, I don’t think we had a lot of sources to learn from. The best I had was music and audio magazines and my own personal trial and error.

I recommend purchasing online courses for the specific things you want to learn and all the rest just does your own thing. Of course in these cases, big ol’ YouTube is your best friend.

Conclusion

Starting making music is exactly like starting a hobby. If you enjoy it, you just start doing it and get better as you go. Some will only get so far and some will rise to greatness. The main point of this post is to get you to understand that it is not unachievable, and it’s not reserved only for the super blessed or the very educated. Some of the biggest producers and musicians started with zero formal music education or any academic knowledge. You can become a great musician or a producer or a songwriter if you really want to do it and work for it every day. It reminds me a will smith quote:

“You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”

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Best Drum Plugin

Best Drum Plugins

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Hey everybody, Avi here. FOR YEARS, I was looking for the best drum plugin, not an easy task, let me tell you that. I’m one of those producers who really prefer doing everything by themselves. I play the guitars, bass, keyboards, and yes, DRUMS! This is my favorite part of the whole production process. In this article, I’m going to show you the best drum plugins, in my opinion. These must sound amazing, authentic, and be easy to use. This is, of course, based on my own personal taste and preference. So, keep an open mind and look for what you think is the best sounding plugin out there.

First, I have to tell you that this is not a replacement for a human drummer, maybe only for acoustic drums. For me, personally, it’s way more than enough, and I even prefer it to a real drum recording in a studio. There’s nothing like the feeling of finishing a good drum track, built on a click and a guide track. It feels like going on a new adventure. So, whether you’re a keyboard drummer, as I used to be for years, or a V-Drums fighter, this is for you.

In a chronological order.

Addictive drums – Check out the latest version

This was the first plugin that made me go “mm, maybe I don’t really have to record drums in a studio”. In 2008, I started working on an Israeli, punk rock album by an artist called “Amir Lazarov”. This was a head-first jump to the sampled based drums and drum plugins. This was an 8-song album, in which I played all the drum parts on a Yamaha DD65, electronic drums pad, which is practically a toy. It started with saving money and turned into falling in love with this workflow.

Addictive drums 1.0 was my first option because it was easy to use, it had a great collection of great recorded sets, which I could mix and match between, and I was able to mix everything inside the plugin, which I loved back then.

You know what they say about almost any tool, It is only good until it’s not enough. After this album, I went on a crazy ride looking for drum samples and plugins. It was the start of an everlasting search for the best recorded sets and the best snare and bass drum samples. Back in 2008, my mix abilities weren’t the best, but I absolutely love the production to this day.

Studio Drummer (Kontakt) –  Check out the latest version

I was jumping for joy in my home studio when I first found out about Studio Drummer back in 2011. This was the start of a whole, new era; Non-stop rock productions, demos, and amazing sounds. This one is a Kontakt library, and it offered 3 main kits, recorded at Teldex Studio in Berlin. Out of the three kits, my favorite, and most used, was the Session Kit. I also used the studio kit in one of the Israeli songs I produced.

The Studio Drummer Library also came with a lot of Midi parts, played by a real drummer on an electronic drum set. I’ve never used the recorded midi drum parts included in most of the plugins. I knew how to think like a drummer, and always preferred my drum parts tailor-made for my productions. There were other drum libraries I tried back then, but they were not good enough for what I was looking for. Among them were libraries like Abbey Road, 70’s Drummer, Modern Drummer, and such. This was played on a keyboard with the Stadium Kit. Again, an Israeli song, written in Hebrew. Listen to the dynamics when the drum part is starting to play. It’s beautifully recorded.

EZ Drummer 2.0 – Check out the latest version

Although I’ve heard a lot about EZ Drummer 1.x, and even demoed it a few times, it never felt like a good enough tool for me. But then version 2 came along and changed the whole drums-in-the-box game for me. For months, I was trying every possible setup I used against EZD2, and nothing could beat it. It was the new, undisputed champion of my box. It offered a crazy good collection of toms, cymbals, hi-hats, and bass drums. But most of all, it gave me the best snare samples I’ve ever heard. At this point, I’ve already worked with V-Drums, an old TD9 that felt like everything I need to suit my purposes.

EZD2 also gave me the option to mix inside the plugin’s interface and gave me an amazing output. I actually feel like this plugin’s audio engine is on another level. Much more than Kontakt’s, Addictive Drums, or any other plugin sampler I’ve tried, and trust me, I have tried all of them. The big ones that I don’t mention in this article are the ones I’ve tried and never liked. EZD2 is definitely the Best Drum Plugin I’ve ever used.

And for those who are die-hard believers of recording drums in a big studio with a recording drummer, it is amazing, yes. I’m not taking anything away from it, but I love the choices given to me by the digital option. I can change everything whenever I need, and I never get stuck with one sound and one recording per song. This alone is a good enough reason to love these plugins and the endless possibilities they introduce. Of course, at the end, it is everybody’s own opinion about how it sounds, and whether or not it’s good enough for them. Also, not having to deal with bit detection and aligning those audio recorded channels to the grid is a big deal for me. I promise you that you have heard amazing drum productions on the radio before, that were produced completely in the box with plugins and samples, NO DOUBT.

So, since then, Toontrack brought us EZ Drummer 3, which is a dream for producers like me. I highly recommend that you try it for yourself and let me know what you think 😉

Drum Kit Designer
I can’t close the Best Drum Plugin list without this beast. This is a special one. Every time I wasn’t happy with some of the snares or bass drums on the other Plugins I used, I immediately opened another channel with Drum Kit Designer, and it totally saved my ass. I was using this, mostly, to replace drums in an existing set or add to it as an added layer.

This plugin is my go-to drum sampler for demos. It is very simple, quick, and sounds amazing!
I must add that this one is exclusive to Apple Logic, so you can’t use it on any other DAW, but it is a good enough reason to move over to mac and Logic, my friends 🙂

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BEST SMALL SYNTHESIZERS UNDER 500$ Small

Best Small Synthesizers Under 500$

BEST SMALL SYNTHESIZERS UNDER 500$

Best Small Synthesizers Under 500$

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If you’re a synth lab rat like me you are going to love this one. In this list you will find the coolest small size synths available today. Some people can take cool little machines like these and create real magic. This is what we’re here for. First, there are no rules and no guidelines other than the price.  These are the coolest synths you can find under 500$ according to Audio Streets. So let’s start.

Roland JD-Xi

So much sexiness in one little machine. Roland had done it again. Somehow everything they do comes out so sexy, or is it just me?? Anyways, this little beast is a frankenstein style fusion of:

  • Analog Monophonic Synthesizer 
  • Digital Synthesizer 
  • Drum Machine
  • 4 Track Sequencer
  • Digital FX Power House
  • Amazing Vocoder

It has a super nice sound engine that is capable of delivering deep low basses and beautiful and punchy sound across the whole frequency. I also think that this synth is beautifully designed and well built with great and durable materials. It can easily stand the test of time and make it to Roland’s wall of fame.

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Take a good look at this one, It’s weird, it’s interesting, it’s unique… well, it’s a MicroFreak. This is a Paraphonic synth that’s based on Arturia’s analog modeling technology. Its most interesting feature is definitely the keyboard. It feels like playing on a touch screen but it has a 3D feel to it. The MicroFreak is a hybrid, it has digital oscillators and analog filters. It’s a very sweet sounding synth, most of it’s presets sound very lush and sweet. So if you like to make electronic music that is not too aggressive and sharp, you might like the MicroFreak.

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Korg Monologue

Get ready for a true analog beast that has the classic character of the most amazing Korg synths out there. It doesn’t have any problem shooting you like a canon ball straight to the 70’s. Everything about the Korg Monologue screams quality. It is a close relative of the Korg Minilogue and It’s a monophonic true analog synth. That means real analog oscillators, filters and lots of analog components that directly affect the sound. It comes in several different colors: black, blue, red, silver and gold. The design is perfect and it also has a wooden panel which is always welcome.

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Novation Mininova

This is an ol’ trusty dog, it’s based on the older and bigger Ultranova. Novation synths have something very special about them. Solid design, easy to use, aggressive sound and excellent built quality. The Mininova is no different. It also comes with a microphone that connects through an XLR on the front panel which you can connect any dynamic microphone to it. It has great vocoder sounds. The Mininova comes with dedicated software for editing and controlling all its features through an easy and convenient interface. This is a brilliant synth.

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Behringer Model D

When I started making music back in the mid-’90s, Behringer wasn’t a name to call home about. But it seems that things are starting to change for the company. The quality of the Model D is nothing short of amazing. The design is clearly based on Moog synths but although looking like the Minimoog, the Model D holds it’s own in the category. So what do we have here? a great and familiar layout, easy to use interface, great built quality, and the sound is pretty much amazing. The Model D gives us the full analog experience at it’s best in a fraction of the price of its competition. Give it a try, you are going to love it.

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So many analog components in such a small and cute box. But don’t be confused by the small form factor, the SE-02 is a complete analog beast and it will undoubtedly give you Roland’s goodness at it’s best. This one is a collaboration between Roland and Studio Electronics, so it has an impressive legacy. It is controlled digitally but the sound itself comes from all analog high-end components. This will obviously remind you of the Minimoog but it has its own thing. The box is based on Roland’s boutique series, only it’s not a digital recreation of other old analog synths, it’s the real thing. It has amazing bass sounds, warm and lush leads, beautiful filters and overall very nostalgic sound. At that price point, the Roland SE-02 is definitely a must-have.

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I don’t think that there is one producer on earth that doesn’t know the MicroKorg. It’s considered one of the most popular synths in recent history. The MicroKorg has created a name for itself by standing the test of time. It was first introduced back in 2002 and is selling like crazy to this day. This is a digital-analog synth, it has a great sound engine is it’s capable of creating amazing deep analog-style sounds. Its interface is very special and unique but very simple. You learn how to use the synth in your first half an hour of playing with it. It has relatively big knobs and buttons which is very convenient. 37 micro keys that cover 3 octaves, and not surprisingly, it’s very nice to play on. The design is also very special, the grey or light green with the wooden panel on the sides give it an old punch and a wonderful possession feeling of a good quality product. The MicroKorg also has a nice vocoder which you can play thru cool presets or create your own. It’s also an FX power station, you can plug in any external audio source and run it thru the MicroKorg’s internal effects that sound simply amazing. I really believe that the MicroKorg is special enough to have in any working studio.

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Roland SH-01A

Remember the amazing, crazy, heard in countless hit songs, beautiful monophonic Roland SH-101? The SH-01A is kind of its advanced digital son. It’s more capable, more flexible and still sounds amazing! I sometimes judge a synth by its ability to wake your creativity up and get your creative juices going. The SH-01A is doing exactly that. It has a smooth interface, with cute little faders that are based on the design of its father, the SH-101. One of the new features that I really like is the gliders for pitch, modulation and other custom-configured features. The SH-01A is a polyphonic synth and it can play up to 4 notes at the same time. It has a rich sound and if you own one of those you will definitely enjoy it for years to come.

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MIXING

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MASTERING

What Is Mastering

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production

plugins & instruments

Best Drum Plugin

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Best Amp Simulator

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