Hey everybody, these tips are personal lessons that I’ve learned over the years and I’m sharing them here with you. You don’t have to follow all of the tips but if you implement only a few of them your mixes will already get so much better. In general, mixing is a skill that takes a lot of time to develop but with patience and perseverance, you can get to a very high level in a relatively short time. Mixing is a long and complicated process, it’s good to have a plan that’ll help you to get the mix down in just a few hours. Get ready to be a much better mixing engineer! 1. Use Groups, Busses, And Folders Prepare your mix before you start working on it. If you have a visually nice and clean project, it’ll make it a lot easier to make it sound good. In most DAW’s you have the option to arrange your project in track folders. For example, all the drums channels in one folder. Guitars, vocals and synths, each group of channels get a folder of its own. This way every time you work on a certain group you keep the others closed. If you can keep yourself and your project organized you’ve already done better then most people. Make sure to send similar content channels to groups and busses on the mixer. It helps you to control their level, automation, and plugins much more easily and it helps you save CPU power. 2. Scenes clapperMost songs, especially pop songs are divided into parts. I call them “Scenes”. Verse, Chorus, B part, Bridge are all different scenes in one song. It’s a lot easier to work on each scene separately. This is how you get stuff done faster and you don’t get lost or overwhelmed by the project. Divide the song to different scenes with colors and markers. When you treat every part of your song as if it is its own little project it’ll be more organized and you will get to the finish line much faster. 3. Start With The Busiest Part Of The Song If you can get this part to sound the way you want it, it’s much easier to get the other parts to sound good. Do This and your mix is at least 60% done. 4. Gain Staging If you make sure to mix in the right levels, you’ve already done a big percentage of the work. Gain staging starts at the recording stage. Make sure your levels are right. That means you have to look for unity gain in every device or outboard equipment you have in your recording chain. Every device, hardware or software, has its unity gain which is a sweet spot in which the device sounds best. It’ll not change the source that much and will sound clean and detailed. Sometimes like with preamps, you would want to stress the device and get it out of its comfort zone. This will give you different sound characters to work with. My recommendation is to only do it if you know exactly what you’re doing and looking for. It’s important to know, as, with hardware, unity gain and sound sweet spots are things you can also find in software. With plugins, never go beyond the digital 0db point, Input and output. Some plugins, usually those which are emulation based will give you interesting sound character if you get them to work in higher levels above their sweet spot. You should try everything, but at this stage, I would recommend going for the cleanest sound you can possibly get. Sometimes you look for coloration in every channel in your mix and you end up losing the focal point of the mix because everything is “colored”, so start clean and simple and go on from there.
 5. Filters Filters are like club bouncers, If you’re problematic, look like trouble, too ugly, too unnecessary, you’re out! Yeah, I know it’s a bad analogy but it makes me laugh and it actually works here. In fact, think about your song as a small club for VIP members only. The more we let in, the more quality we lose. This tip is more for the production stage but it’s definitely true for the mixing stage too. Most channels and sources will come with a lot more details and information that you actually need. For example, if we have a full range stereo piano channel, this channel will take most of the frequency spectrum. It won’t leave a lot of room for vocals, guitars, strings and practically anything that sits on the same frequency range. Again this is also a production thing because it’s important to build the piano part around or with the other parts working with it. Harmonic content can be very domineering and take a lot of important space in the mix. The more you filter out information, the more space you’d have for other elements in the mix. The critical filtering is done in the lower frequency range but the more you high cut unnecessary higher frequency content, the more clean and clear your mix get. 6. Make Room For Air Air is a very important factor in good mixes. Sometimes the more we add to the mix, the more cluttered it becomes. Examples for “Air hogging elements”: Piano, strings, pads, long full range Reverb, and practically any legato or long notes instrument parts. The shorter notes you have in your production, the more space you’ll be able to work with. This depends on the genre. Sometimes you just have to have all those long note harmonic parts in order to achieve the right emotional impact. The thing I love the most about airy productions is that in the mastering stage the air becomes a critical factor for the overall sound and the levels we will achieve. The airy productions are usually sound more punchy, more detailed, higher in levels and more impressive in general.
 7. EQ Curving Things Out As I wrote in the air paragraph, the more you take out, the more space you have for air. It’s the same with EQ. The thing is trying to understand where you want every instrument on the frequency spectrum and curving out or lowering the things you don’t want clashing with other elements in the mix. For example, If your piano plays on the higher register (higher octaves) you can peacefully take out its lower end frequencies. Say if the majority of the piano part is between 600hz and 4k you can lower the level for 500hz to 150hz and make space for the male vocals, electric guitars and whatever you have on that exact frequency range. I will suggest not to cut stuff but only to lower in level. At first, cutting out information from the source will feel like the wrong thing to do, trust me, I’ve been there. Once you click out of solo mode, you hear how clear things become.
 8. Lower The Levels In general, If you don’t get your signal too compressed and too close to the ceiling it’ll be able to “breathe” and be more dynamic. If your channels are not too squashy it’ll automatically breathe new life in your mix. Sometimes you don’t have to do so much, a little filter and eq and that’s it. Trust the process and don’t try too hard to perfect every channel. Keep the peaks of each channel at around -14db more or less and make sure your whole mix peaks at around -10db on the master bus, that’s a good start. 9. Start The Mix On Headphones Yeah, this is a little too out there I know, but keep going. I usually start the mix on my headphones, looking for a place for the different elements in the production. After a quick fiddling with the song and about half an hour of coffee in front of my computer, I see the direction my subconscious is taking me. If you’re using a good per of mixing headphones, you won’t be too far from liking what you hear on your speakers. When you start on headphones, you can easily find the direction you want for the song. It’s just like that somehow, try it. 10. Room Correction With EQ There are two ways to correct or at least try to balance a room with an EQ. There is the new way, using systems like the IK Multimedia Arc System with a special microphone and plugins you put on the master bus and everything goes thru it. The second way is the old school way, this is how I used to do it back in the day. I will tell you here only about the second way of the old school me. Today I use tools to do that and I get much more accurate results but you can still get a pretty good result with the old school way. The Old School Tip:
 So it’s like that, You find a few reference songs that are commercially and professionally mixed, mastered and released, and that are ON THE SAME KEY as the song you’re working on, preferably in the same genre also. You put them on your DAW, put a real transparent EQ on the master channel, hit play and listen to the songs while trying to understand what’s missing from all of them. For example, if you hear any overload in the low midrange in all the songs, it means that you have an acoustic problem in your room in that area on the spectrum. Now you can just take it down a notch on the master EQ. So basically you play with the EQ until all these songs sound good to you. What you did is you adjusted the listening sweet spot to sound like it should for you to get a good result. shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes. Do the same thing with the other songs. Again, a song in the same key and same genre. There will be a little bit of back and forth between the songs to get the exact EQ curve that minimizes the acoustic problems in your room. Eventually, you’ll get there. Switch the EQ On and Off a few times and you’ll understand the effect. Although it is not the most accurate method out there, it’ll get you right in the ballpark. 
11. Listening Modes Ok, this tip originally comes from professional mastering engineers. Look for a plugin that will let you hear your mix in different listening modes. The one FREE plugin I can think of now is Braiworx bx_solo. This is a sweet little plugin you put on the master bus and it lets you hear your mix in the following modes: 
Mono - Left and right channels are mixed into the middle. Sides - Only left and right information, with no center. L&R Switch - Flips the left and right channels. Solo L - Plays only left channel Solo R - Plays only right channel Stereo Width Knob - Widening/Narrowing the stereo image. Listening to the mix in different listening modes can point out problems in the mix, little things you want to change and you had a real hard time finding inside the full stereo mix. It’s like looking at a picture from different angles. It makes it a lot easier to “see” the problems. 
12. Reference Songs This is basic common sense in the world of mixing and mastering but you’d be surprised to know how easy it to overlook this important method. You can work for hours on a mix and after you think it’s finished, you listen to a reference track and you find out you’ve made a lot of progress in the wrong direction. Happened too many times. Every professional mastering engineer will listen to reference songs before and during the process of mastering. A good mix engineer will do the same. This is because our memory is very short when it comes to audio and we can’t really trust it to point us in the right direction. So as I said earlier on this post, you should pick the right reference track for your current project. One of the most important factors for a good reference track is for it to be on the same key as the song you’re working on. Sometimes this is the only reason why you can’t get your mix to sound as good as your reference track. The write reference tracks are on the same key. The same genre, and the same production or at least the same general artistic direction.
 13. Focal Point This is a very known term in the mixing world. Every song has its focal point. This means that there are a few elements in the song that gives it its character. The regular human brain can’t concentrate on more than 2 main musical elements simultaneously. A good producer knows and will work around it. A focal point is usually two or three elements in the song that are making the most impact. Usually, it’s vocals, beat, and harmony. The beat is the groove element of the song and harmony can be anything that plays the chords around the main melody, which is the vocal. Every other element that is not in the focal point you can put farther back in the mix or throw it to the sides. Every good mixing engineer will know to recognize the song’s focal point and make sure it’ll stay in its safe place. Sometimes a producer will give you a rough mix of the song. This is his take on the mix. This rough mix is very important because it gives you a critical glance into his mind. You should take that rough mix seriously if you want to keep him happy. Of course, you can take it farther and make it even better, and that’s your job. But if you already have a rough mix and the producer loves it, this is your bible. 
 14. Take A Break My personal suggestion is to take a break from mixing every 25 minutes even if you don’t feel like it. Just set up an alarm clock on your phone and make yourself take a break. Go out, breathe, restart and come back in. This will keep you mentally sharp and prevent ear fatigue which will allow you to work and stay fresh for literally hours. If you don’t do it, you lose focus, you become tired and your mix will suffer. The tricky thing about is that you don’t really feel tired, it sneaks up on you and you suddenly find yourself with a bad mix. 15. Export This is one of the best things you can do to find things to fix in your mix. I don’t know how it happens but for some reason we are able to hear new things to fix in our mix after we export a file. So you take the file and you listen to it over and over again and you make a list. After you do that, you go back to your project and you do the whole list. Trust me, do this a couple of times during the finishing process. This will save you literally hours. 16. Mix Into A Limiter This one is a personal preference. In my opinion, when you do that you get a sense of how your mix will sound after the mastering process. This changes the whole dynamic behavior of your mix and pushes you to make different and better decisions during the session. Just put a simple limiter on your master bus, L1 style, compress about 3 to 8db and try it. Be careful not to overdo it because you might lose your sense of what’s right for the mix. Every once in a while bypass the limiter and work without it, then come back to working with it. 17. Professional Mastering What Is Mastering A SongSend your mix to a professional mastering engineer with a real mastering studio and a lot of experience and resume. Not only it’ll give you another layer of supervising, but it’ll also take your mix to the best place it can go to after it finishes. Don’t trust yourself with the mastering, it takes years to get good results. Mastering is not that expensive, so most people can afford it, especially if the song is important to you and it has professional requirements and goals. 18. Ask For Opinions Send your mix to other people and ask them for their opinion. Even if it’s not a professional opinion it still has a lot of value. When I was younger, I used to ask my mom what she thinks about my mix and most of the times she gave me real good advises just out of intuition. Try it. 19. Come Back Tomorrow Last but not least... actually this is a very important tip. Usually, when you finish working on a mix you’re so tired, way too deep in the process and had lost almost all of your objectivity. If you leave it today and open it tomorrow with fresh ears, you’d find a lot of small and even big things you’d want to change and improve. Let's be honest, a mix is never finished, especially if you’re a crazy perfectionist like me. But you can definitely make it a lot better if you use the “Come back tomorrow” tip. That’s it. Good luck and happy mixing!

19 Mixing Tips That Will Make Your Mixes Sound Better Today!

19 Mixing Tips That Will Make Your Mixes Sound Better Today!​

19 Mixing Tips That Will Make Your Mixes Sound Better Today!

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Hey everybody, these tips are personal lessons that I’ve learned over the years and I’m sharing them here with you. You don’t have to follow all of the tips but if you implement only a few of them your mixes will already get so much better. In general, mixing is a skill that takes a lot of time to develop but with patience and perseverance, you can get to a very high level in a relatively short time. Mixing is a long and complicated process, it’s good to have a plan that’ll help you to get the mix down in just a few hours. It’s never too late to be a better mixing engineer. 

1. Use Groups, Busses, And Folders

Prepare your mix before you start working on it.

If you have a visually nice and clean project, it’ll make it a lot easier to make it sound good. In most DAW’s you have the option to arrange your project in track folders. For example, all the drums channels in one folder. Guitars, vocals and synths, each group of channels get a folder of its own.

This way every time you work on a certain group you keep the others closed. 

If you can keep yourself and your project organized you’ve already done better then most people. 

Make sure to send similar content channels to groups and busses on the mixer. It helps you to control their level, automation, and plugins much more easily and it helps you save CPU power.

2. Scenes

clapper
Most songs, especially pop songs are divided into parts. I call them “Scenes”. Verse, Chorus, B part, Bridge are all different scenes in one song. It’s a lot easier to work on each scene separately. This is how you get stuff done faster and you don’t get lost or overwhelmed by the project.

Divide the song into different scenes with colors and markers. When you treat every part of your song as if it is its own little project it’ll be more organized and you will get to the finish line much faster.

3. Start With The Busiest Part Of The Song

If you can get this part to sound the way you want it, it’s much easier to get the other parts to sound good. Do This and your mix is at least 60% done.

4. Gain Staging

If you make sure to mix in the right levels, you’ve already done a big percentage of the work. Gain staging starts at the recording stage. Make sure your levels are right.

That means you have to look for unity gain in every device or outboard equipment you have in your recording chain.

Every device, hardware or software, has its unity gain which is a sweet spot in which the device sounds best. It’ll not change the source that much and will sound clean and detailed. Sometimes like with preamps, you would want to stress the device and get it out of its comfort zone. This will give you different sound characters to work with. My recommendation is to only do it if you know exactly what you’re doing and looking for.

“Sweet spot” is a thing you can also find in software. With plugins, never go beyond the digital 0db point. Some plugins, usually those which are emulation based will give you interesting sound character if you get them to work in higher levels above their sweet spot. You should try everything, but at this stage, I would recommend going for the cleanest sound you can possibly get.

Sometimes you look for coloration in every channel in your mix and you end up losing the focal point of the mix because everything is “colored”, so start clean and simple and go on from there.


5. Filters

Filters are like club bouncers, If you’re problematic, look like trouble, too ugly, too unnecessary, you’re out! Yeah, I know it’s a bad analogy but it makes me laugh and it actually works here.

In fact, think about your song as a small club for VIP members only. The more we let in, the more quality we lose. This tip is more for the production stage but it’s definitely true for the mixing stage too. 

Most sources will come with a lot more details than you actually need.

For example, if we have a full range stereo piano channel, it won’t leave a lot of room for vocals, guitars, strings and practically anything that sits on the same frequency range. The more information you filter out, the more space you’d have for other elements in the mix.


6. Make Room For “Air”

“Air” is a very important factor. Sometimes the more we add to the production, the more quality we lose. Examples for “Air hogging elements”: Piano, strings, pads, long Reverb tails and such.

The thing I love the most about “Airy productions” is that in the mastering stage the air becomes a critical factor.  “Airy productions” usually sound more punchy, more detailed, higher in levels and more impressive in general.


7. EQ – Take Things Out


If your piano is playing on the higher octaves, you can peacefully take out its lower end frequencies. I will suggest not to completely cut frequencies out but only lower the level. In general, cutting out information from the source will feel like the wrong thing to do but once you click out of solo mode, you hear how clear things become.


8. Lower The Levels

If your channels are not too “hot” or too high in level it’ll automatically help to keep your sound clean. Sometimes you don’t have to do so much, a little filter, a little EQ and that’s it. Make sure your whole mix peaks at around -10db on the master bus. Leave some room for the mastering process.

9. Start The Mix On Headphones

Yeah, this is a little too out there I know, but keep going. I usually start the mix on my headphones, looking for a place for the different elements in the production. After a quick fiddling with the song and about half an hour of coffee and crazy cats on Youtube my subconscious starts to point me in the right direction.

If you’re using a good pair of mixing headphones and you like what you hear, you won’t be too far from liking it on your speakers, try it. These are some of my favorite headphones for mixing.

10. Room Correction With EQ

There are two ways to correct or at least try to balance a room with an EQ. There is the new way, using systems like the IK Multimedia Arc System with a special microphone or the Sonarworks Refrence 4 with dedicated plugins to put on the master bus.

The second way is the old school way, this is how I used to do it back in the day.
You need two things: A transparent EQ plugin on the master and your ears.

Room Correction With EQ – No Special Tools, Only Your Ears

This method is not for everybody, you have to really trust your ears and have some experience with these things but it worked PERFECT for me so just try it yourself, it’s ok, no one is going to die.

You start with finding a few reference songs that are professionally mixed and mastered, preferably in the same key. Put them on your DAW, throw an EQ on the master channel, hit play and listen to the songs while trying to understand what’s missing from all of them.

For example, if you hear any overload in the low midrange in all of the songs, it means that you have an acoustic problem in your room. Now you can just fix it with the EQ. So basically you play with the EQ until you get a balanced result.

What you did is you adjusted the listening sweet spot to sound like it should. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Do the same thing with the other songs. I have to say, this is not the most accurate method out there, but it’ll provide a quick little solution for now.


11. Listening Modes

This tip originally comes from professional mastering engineers. Look for a plugin that will let you hear your mix in different listening modes. The one FREE plugin that comes to mind is Braiworx bx_solo. This is a sweet little plugin you put on the master bus and it lets you hear your mix in the following modes:

  • 
Mono – Left and right channels are mixed into the middle.
  • Sides – Only left and right information, with no center.
  • L&R Switch – Flips the left and right channels.
  • Solo L – Plays only left channel
  • Solo R – Plays only right channel
  • Stereo Width Knob – Widening/Narrowing the stereo image.


Listening to the mix in different modes might help finding little problems in the mix. It’s like looking at a picture thru different filters. It makes it a lot easier to “see” the problems.


12. Reference Songs

This is common sense, yeah, but you’d be surprised to know how easy it to overlook it. You can work for hours and hours on a mix only to find out you’ve made a lot of progress in the wrong direction. Happened too many times…

Every professional mastering engineer will listen to reference songs before and during the process of mastering. A good mix engineer will do the same. This is because our memory is very short when it comes to audio and we can’t really trust it to point us in the right direction.

So as I said earlier, you should pick the right reference track for your current project. One of the most important factors for a good reference track is for it to be on the same key as the song you’re working on. Sometimes this is the only reason why you can’t get your mix to sound as good as your reference track.

The right reference tracks are on the same key, the same genre and with the same production or at least the same general artistic direction.


13. Focal Point

Every song has what I like to call a “focal point”. There are a few elements in every song that define the whole production. The human brain can’t concentrate on too many musical elements simultaneously. 

A “focal point” is usually two or three elements in the song that are making the most impact. 
Most of the time it’ll be vocals, drums and harmony. The beat is the groove element of the song and harmony can be anything that plays the chords around the main melody, which is usually the vocal.

Every good mixing engineer will know how to recognize the song’s focal point and make sure it’ll stay in its safe place. Sometimes a producer will give you a rough mix of the song. This is his take on the mix. This rough mix is very important because it gives you a critical glance into his mind. You should take that rough mix very seriously if you want to keep him happy.

Of course, you can take it farther and make it even better, and that’s your job. But if you already have a rough mix and the producer loves it, this is your guide.


14. Take A Break


My personal suggestion is to take a break every 25 minutes even if you don’t feel like it. Just set up an alarm clock on your phone and make yourself take a break. Go out, breathe, restart and come back in. This will keep you mentally sharp and prevent ear fatigue which will allow you to work and stay fresh for literally hours.

If you don’t do it, you lose focus, you become tired and your mix will suffer. The tricky thing about is that you don’t really feel tired, it sneaks up on you and you suddenly find yourself with a bad mix.

15. Export

This is one of the best tips that will help you reveal little flaws in your mix. I don’t know how it happens but for some reason we are able to hear new things to fix in our mix after we create a mixdown.

So you take the file and you listen to it over and over again and you make a list. After that, you go back to your project and fix everything. Do this a couple of times during the finishing process. This will save you literally hours.

16. Mix Into A Limiter


This one is a personal preference. In my opinion, when you mix into a Limiter, you get a sense of how your mix will sound after the mastering process. It changes the whole dynamic behavior of your mix and pushes you to make different and better decisions during the session.

Just put a simple limiter on your master bus, L1 style, compress about 3 to 8db and try it. Be careful not to overdo it because you might lose your sense of what’s right for the mix. Every once in awhile bypass the limiter and work without it, then come back to working with it. Learn more about compression and multiband compressors. 

How to use a multiband compressor like a ninja – 9 tips

17. Professional Mastering

What Is Mastering A Song
Send your mix to a professional mastering engineer with a real mastering studio and a lot of experience. In addition to another point of view, it’ll also take your mix to a better place.

Don’t trust yourself with the mastering, it takes years to get good results. Mastering is not that expensive, most people can afford it, especially if the song is important to you. 
If not, you can skip this one. If you’re new to mastering you can start learning about it here.

>> Best Mastering Plugins

18. Ask For Opinions 

Send your mix to other people and ask them for their opinion. Even if it’s not a professional opinion it still has a lot of value. When I was younger, I used to let my mom listen to my mixes and most of the times she was giving me incredible ideas that didn’t even cross my mind! Just out of pure intuition. It’s cool, try it.

19. Come Back Tomorrow

Last but not least… actually, this is a very important tip. Usually, when you finish working on a mix, you’re so tired, way too deep in the process and had lost almost all of your objectivity.

If you leave it today and open it tomorrow with fresh ears, you’d find a lot of small and even big things you’d want to change and improve. Let’s be honest, a mix is never finished, especially if you’re a crazy perfectionist like me. But you can definitely make it a lot better if you use the “Come back tomorrow” tip. 

That’s it.

Good luck and happy mixing!
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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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How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

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Let me tell you a little secret that most sound engineer will agree on, The best compressor for vocals is a good vocalist! But since we are not talking about vocalists here, I will give you some of what I know about compressing vocals and show you a few of the compressor plugins I work with.

The more I know about compressors the more I do less with them. When we’re beginners, we overdo pretty much everything. I also like to over compress from time to time and use it as an added effect to a vocals track. But it shouldn’t be our default. 

The Hammer

If EQ’s are the sound engineer’s sculpting tool, then compressors are the hammers! Sometimes a good hammer can take a vocal from “ok” to pretty much amazing. Even though I always say don’t over compress anything, the only way to learn what a compressor really does is to over compress things. It’s like putting your hand on the stove to learn that it’s hot and getting to the conclusion you don’t want to do it again. 

What Really Is  A Compressor?

When I was in sound engineering school, I remember my teacher’s (The great Yoram Vazan) first words: “A compressor is only an over glorified volume fader”. This got stuck in my brain and every time I work with a compressor I think about the statement and it helps to remind me of the most basic things about it.

Compressor – How Does It Work?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you the whole preach about the basics that bloggers usually do. All we need to know for now is that a compressor receives a signal and run it thru a few parameters when the end result is a dynamically reduced representation of the source. The compressor’s job is to compress the dynamic range of the signal. That means that it controls the channel’s volume based on a few pre-defined rules.

Compressor Features

These are the most basic features you’ll find in most compressors. Some of them will have more, some less but these are the most basic ones:

Input – The level of input gain goes into the compressor.

Output – The level of output gain goes out of the compressor

Attack – Determines how quick the compressor starts compressing since the signal goes above the threshold.

Release – Determines how quick the compressor stops compressing once the signal goes below the threshold.

Ratio – Determines how many compression will be applied to the signal once it goes over the threshold.

Threshold – Determines the specific spot on the level meter that tells the compressor when to start compressing. In some compressors, the Threshold is determined by the input Knob

Types Of Compressors

All of these compressors do practically the same but each in its own unique way. I won’t get too technical on you but I’ll give you the highlights of each type and go over their sound characteristics.

Optical compressors – (Opto Compressor) These basically work with an electrical light element that determines how much of the signal will get compressed. These have a smooth sound, slow compression and natural sounding behavior. The optical compressors usually shine on vocal tracks. With their slow features and a smooth overall sound, they’ll sound good on almost any vocal source. A good example of an optical compressor is the legendary Teletronix LA-2A, which had almost too many virtual plugin versions. Two of my favorite virtual replicas are made by Universal Audio and Waves. Use an Opto compressor if you want your vocals to sound smooth and natural.

FET Compressors – (Field-Effect Transistor) This is a compressor that uses transistors. Its characteristics are the opposite to the Opto compressor. It’s considered to be fast, flexible, colorful and punchy. The FET compressors are used a lot to control drums and any instrument with fast transients. With vocals, the FET compressor allows very accurate results due to its very fast attack and release. The most famous FET compressor is the classic Universal audio 1176 which a lot of plugins today are modeled after. Use this type of compressors if you need your vocal to be 100% dynamically controlled and full of character.

VCA Compressors – (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) This compressor is based on relatively modern technology. As with the FET compressors, it also gives you control over the attack, release and ratio parameters. The VCA is a versatile animal that can tackle pretty much everything. From shaping a snare sound to controlling a very dynamic vocal. The most famous VCA compressor is the mighty SSL G series Console Bus Compressor which is responsible for a lot of timeless recordings. These behave pretty much like FET compressors but to me, they sound a little less aggressive. So I use them when I want something to be very controlled and without too much coloration and harmonic distortion. This is just how I perceive it.

Variable Mu Compressors – These are tube based compressors. We all know tubes are characterized by warm, slow and colorful sound. This is a very old technology that was first introduced in the 50s. These compressors are commonly used for bus compression although it’s been used for pretty much every sound source we can think of. From breathing new life into electric guitars, squashing a vocal or tightening a whole mix. The most famous tube Compressor is the legendary Fairchild 670 which is maybe the most expensive piece of audio gear today. If you want coloration and vibe, this is the way to go. Most of the Fairchild emulations I had the chance to work with, sounded amazing. So it doesn’t really matter which one you use to give your vocals those majestic colors.

How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

What To Do When I First Put A Compressor On The Vocal Track?

I assume that you already know what each and every parameter does, so when I use the known terms you know exactly what I mean. Now, if you’re looking for rules and guidelines in that particular subject, to be honest, there are none. All I can do is tell you what I personally do and look for when I first put a compressor on my vocal channel. So the first thing I look for in a compressor is the initial introducing of the “character” and how it affects the vocal. Every compressor doesn’t matter if it’s a plugin or a hardware compressor, has a “sound”. Especially the ones which are modeled after the old and legendary hardware units. So I’ll try to give you a basic starting point.

1. LA2AWaves LA2A CompressorIf it’s a classic LA2A for example, I first lower the output and increase the input to hit the compression circuit harder to be able to point out the effect for myself. If I like the effect, I keep playing with it until I hit a sweet spot. With the LA2A most of the parameters are controlled by the level of the source going into the circuit so it’s relatively simple, you just play with it until you reach a sweet spot. 

2. 1176 With FET type compressors, such as the 1176 I start with lowering the output again, increasing the ratio to a high enough spot, and the input until it shows compression on the VU meter. Then I play with the attack and release knowing that I’m controlling the dynamic envelope of the vocal. It’s very important to learn what each an every parameter does so you can look for the change in the right places as you’re playing with the compressor.

3. Ratio – With LA2A type compressors you don’t have a separate ratio knob. You change the ratio by simply increasing the input gain into the circuit. With a 1176 type compressors you start with increasing the ratio. 5:1 is good as a starting point. Always look on the gain reduction meter. This whole thing is just pointing out the obvious because a compressor is a simple device, but it’s important to know what you’re doing because it’s so easy to take your beautiful vocal recording and turn it into pure shit, with a bad compression setup.

4. Gain Staging – Remember, gain staging is one of the most critical parameters for getting a good output out of any audio device. Make sure your input signal sits in a good place around the 75% more or less. This will put you in a safe place, far enough from the noise floor and not too close to the algorithm’s level ceiling where it starts digitally distorting, and we all know how a digital distortion sounds.

In the early years, I used to over think every little change on the compressor. Today the whole process of compressing vocals is much more intuitive and done almost subconsciously while I hover with the mouse over the whole plugin to find it’s sweet spot. All this will come in time as you gain more and more experience.

One Channel, 3 Compressors

I usually use more than one compressor on the main vocal channel. To be exact, I use 2 compressors with a limiter at the end of the chain. So the first compressor handles the heavy duty. The second one is there to round the edges and sometimes to add another color to make the vocal sound a little more 3D and harmonically interesting. The last compressor I use on a vocal channel is actually a limiter. I love controlled vocal channels. This still doesn’t say I compress too much. It only helps me to achieve what I hear in my mind without sounding too processed. This is usually followed by tons of meticulously crafted lines of automation all across the channel.

Digital Compressor Plugins

There are those plugin compressors that are not modeled on any hardware device. Some of them are really good and although digital in nature, they are not lacking on mojo. 

These are some of my favorite digital compressor plugins:

Waves C1 Compressor

I absolutely LOVE this compressor, it sounds great, and it has tons of character. There’s something special in how it handles transients. Very snappy and accurate. as far as dynamics go, I can get exactly what I need with only this compressor alone. I like it on side chain applications. For example, compressing a bass guitar channel that’s being triggered by the kick drum.

Waves Renaissance Compressor

Another amazing digital compressor from Waves?? hey, they’re great, what can I say? This one is even better, visually. Its design is pure genius. The gain reduction meter is brilliant, and it shows me exactly what I hear, which is amazing and not that common. It has a few modes, Electro, Warm and Manual. Each one of them makes the compressor sound a little different.

McDSP Compressor Bank CB303

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This is an ol’ trusty dog. It’s a part of a pack of three different compressors that sound so good! I’m proud to tell you I have a lot of mixes based almost entirely on McDSP plugins. Compressor Bank is one of the most impressive digital compressors I’ve ever laid a mouse on. With all the newest plugins that are coming out each year, I can’t seem to give this old dog up. If there is such a thing as “Classic vintage plugin”, this is definitely one of the few ageless plugins out there. These days its price is so low (No justice) it’s a no-brainer. Just go out and get it!

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How To Use a Multiband Compressor Like A Ninja – 9 Tips

How to use a multiband compressor like a ninja

How To Use a Multiband Compressor Like A Ninja - 9 Tips

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Everybody knows what is a Multiband Compressor so I’m not going to get too deep on what it is, but I am going to help you use it like a pro.

The thing about Multiband Compressor (MBC) is that it’s like a ninja sword. It’s not the smartest move to start using it until you’ve mastered the wooden sword first.

In this post, you will learn everything there is to know about the MBC- how to use it on vocals, different instruments, and more. It is the perfect tool for controlling and even somewhat automatically mastering a lot of different sources. That’s why it has taken its first steps at radio stations.

Real Quick – What Is A Multiband Compressor?

AudioStreetsYeah, I know I said I’m not going to teach you what it is, but this is only a short section for the new guys. Basically, a Multiband Compressor is a 3 or 4 (or more) compressors in one plugin, spread over the whole frequency spectrum.

Each compressor is working at a different frequency range, giving you the ultimate dynamic control over the channel. You can also think about it as a type of dynamic EQ that allows you to separately compress each and every frequency range.

It’s all About Control

The Multiband Compressor is a great tool for controlling and shaping a simple or complicated source with one tool. For example, if you want to shape and control a vocal channel and you want to surgically compress every frequency band while getting a very specific result, the MBC is the best tool to do it with.

Think about compressing a single vocal channel; You can compress the low range in 5 db to get a very controlled low end while leaving the mid and high bands a little bit more loose. 
It’s an express lane straight to dynamic heaven.

Getting Your Channel Ready For Process

I always suggest starting with leveling the dynamics for the whole channel. Sometimes it takes a little pre-fader automation work or changing the levels for each event on your channel, which is my preferred method.

The goal is to create a stable RMS level for the whole channel and work your way up from there.

After that, I add a regular digital and transparent compressor for a little more control over the dynamic range. This compressor is shaving the top 2 or 3 db- that’s it. Only do that if you feel like the raw vocal is all over the place dynamically.

The Channel Is Now Balanced – Great!

This is the part where you throw in your favorite MBC on the chain. Keep in mind, I don’t suggest going with “The best sounding Multiband Compressor” but with the one that you are most familiar with. This is important.

First, try looking for problems. If you need to, you can open an EQ plugin before the MBC just so you can find problems by easily swiping across the frequency range.

For example, if you find a harsh high mid frequency, you can immediately set up one of the high-frequency bands on the MBC to shave 2 or 3 db’s off of it.
Remember, everything we do with a Multiband Compressor should be done in a corrective manner and very subtly, unless we’re looking for something else other than control.

After that, you can put a regular LA2A or a 1176 style compressor and get an overall processed and controlled vocal. I think I did that on almost every vocal I’ve ever mixed in the last few years.

For me, the trick with multiband compressing is not to overdo it.
It’s best if you use it only to dynamically shape your source and, only then, maybe do some heavy lifting with a regular compressor and a limiter after that if you feel the need for it. When you’re done processing your vocal channel, bypass only the MBC, does it sound like you lost some of its magic? Great, you did a good job.

In some cases, it’ll sound better without the MBC, even after hours of fiddling with it. In this case, turn off your ego and the MBC and move on to the next channel in your mix.

In most cases, a regular good compressor would be just fine.

Color


Now that you have control over the different frequency bands across the whole range, you can use it to shape and create a certain color for your channel. It’s very similar to an EQ shaping of the source but it is more dynamic and alive.

You can create a bottom-heavy guitar sound without crowding the entire low range, or a vocal sound with a nice bright character that cuts through the mix without it being too harsh. You can add in the pretty stuff and cut out the ugly and unnecessary garbage.

Do I Have To Use All The Bands All The Time?

Of course not. As a matter of fact, in most cases, you won’t have to use all the bands because you’d only need to shape and control one or two areas. Let’s say you want the mid-range section to breathe and be free while you do want the low and high ends to be tighter. Easy- go for it.

Multiband Expander

AudioStreetsAs we all know, in most Multiband Compressors you can also expand certain frequency ranges. 

In short, an expander will expand the dynamic range of a source once it goes above the threshold. 

Let’s say you want the high band to be compressed and controlled, the midrange to bite and be more aggressive, while the low mid is compressed and the low end is pumping and kicking you in the stomach- You can do that. It works beautifully with bass guitars, different synth sounds, and with almost any other source, really.

The real secret in expanding is finding the sweet spot for the attack and release. 

Every source needs its own settings and, once you find it, you can make an electric guitar or bass much punchier and help them jump to the front of the mix more easily. On vocals, you can really affect the performance and give it more bite and aggression with the right settings.

It’s important to know that there are no specific settings for each source, you just need to tweak and find it for yourself.

Tip #1 – Multiband Sidechain

This is a cool one- I call this “compressing without compressing”. Meaning, the processed channel will not get affected unless something else covers it. Let’s say you have a cool electric guitar riff that holds the song and you want it in the middle of the song together with the vocal but they are both sitting on the same frequency range and you don’t want them to clash for the whole song, this is what you do.

Step 1
Send the vocal to a parallel bus and the bus to trigger the sidechain in the MBC on the guitar channel, it’s easy to set it up. It’s a little different on each digital audio workstation application but the idea is pretty much the same.

Step 2
Look for the frequency range where most of the vocal sits and set the sidechain on the guitar’s channel right on that same range. Now, every time the vocal plays, it triggers the compressor for that same frequency range on the guitar channel and compresses the guitar without losing it in the parts where there’s no vocal. Lovely.

Tip #2 – Adding Punch To A VocalMultiband Compressor

I can only tell you how I personally do it, Here it is. First, you have to get the overall dynamic of the vocal settled. You don’t want the RMS to get too crazy because you need a steady level going into your Multiband Compressor. So you do a basic compression on the vocal before it goes to the MBC.

Make sure to keep it loose, meaning slow Attack and fast Release. After that, you need to set the bands to expand instead of compress. Usually it’s only changing the Ratio parameter to a positive value. This tells the band compressors to create a boost every time the signal’s going above the threshold.

You don’t have to engage all the bands. You only need one or two, sometimes three.

If you use more than that, the source might break and not be as powerful, if that makes any sense. Most of the “punch” power is located in two ranges: it’s the low mid and high mid. I don’t usually touch the middle of the range, because that is where the natural fundamental is living and I don’t like changing it.

So if it’s a deep male voice, the “low punch” is between 80hz and 300hz and the “high punch” is around 2k to 5k.

Try these ranges as a starting point for every male voice. If it’s a girl, the highs are pretty much the same and the lows are a bit higher- let’s say from 150hz to 350hz. Turn off all the other bands. Now, solo the low band and set the ratio to an exaggerated value like +6db, the Attack on 30 milliseconds, and the Release on 70. This is just to put you in the ballpark.

These parameters will probably change along the way as you’re searching for the sweet spot. Let the vocal play and start lowering the threshold. At some point you will start to hit the point and the meter will show a few db’s of gain each time the threshold is being crossed. It will sound like the peaks are jumping out of the monitors- this is what we’re looking for.

When you finally find the exact timing for the Attack and Release, set the threshold to be a bit higher, and set the Ratio to 2-3 db max, depending on how aggressive you want it to be. Do the same for the High section.

Usually the Attack and Release will have to be shorter because the higher frequencies are faster. This also works great on synth channels, basses, and guitars. I don’t recommend doing it on acoustic guitars, although I’m learning new things every once in a while so never say never.

Tip #3 – Balance A Drums Overhead Stereo Channel

When you record drums, the overhead microphones will pick up more highs than lows. To me, the idea is to get the overhead channel to sound almost like a full range drum set. Yes you can do it with an EQ and leave it there, and you can also use the MBC for a little more dynamic result that sounds a bit more “Alive”. This is how I do it.

I don’t compress before the compressor. I just do a high cut and low cut with an EQ before I send it to the MBC. Now you start with “EQing” with the Multiband Compressor. Yes, you heard right. You can shape the channel’s EQ curve with the gain feature on every band. After you do that, you start compressing a few db’s on every band. Play with the Attack and Release until you like how it sounds. Remember, these are fast sounds, so shorter Attack and Release will get you there more easily.

Make sure to work in solo mode on each band and take your time with it. Remember to be gentle, we are not trying to break the source, only to make it sound a little bit more alive. After you finish processing, try to switch the MBC in and out and look for what it does against just doing the same with an EQ. If you like what you hear better with the MBC, we did good 🙂 Next.

Tip #4 – Shapeing A Rhythm Acoustic Guitar

You’d be surprised to know that acoustic guitar is one of the hardest instruments to mix, let alone record. Of course, you can use an EQ and compressor to process an acoustic guitar, but how about having both of them in the same plugin and work their magic in a much more intelligent and dynamic way? Ok, the truth is that a rhythm acoustic guitar channel is made up of few different processors so the MBC is just a small part of it but still, it really helps the guitar to find its place in the mix.

This is how I do it- I start with an EQ to give it a basic shape and high and low cuts. Then, throw in the Multiband Compressor and start working on the “dynamic shape” of the guitar. You can make an acoustic guitar breathe and move naturally on the spectrum with no sudden peaks or crazy holes in the frequency range.

Let’s take a rhythm acoustic guitar for example. With the right process, you can make it sound like a steady warm acoustic wall of chords that wraps the whole song in sweet harmony. So we use all the bands and we start with the ratio for all the bands on 5db. From there, we start lowering the threshold until we see some compression. At this stage, we can already hear what the MBC is doing to the guitar.

Now, this is a big one for me- although we compress each band separately, I still find it very important to keep the same Attack and Release values on all the bands. If we don’t do that, in some cases the guitar might break and lose it’s energy and drive because we messed with its internal dynamic properties, which we don’t want.

We only want the whole frequency range to be consistent and balanced. With a rhythm acoustic guitar, you’d generally want to have a fast attack and a slow release, Play with it until you find the right timing for your acoustic guitar part. You don’t have to work on each band in solo mode. Remember, the goal is just to have balanced rhythm acoustic guitar across the whole song. When done the right way, it can make a world of difference in the final result.

Tip #5 – Compressing A Ballad Piano

In cases like this, where the piano takes a really big place inside the song, it’s very important to control its dynamics and use it as an emotional ground for the whole song. This is the perfect scenario for using a Multiband Compressor. Again, we are using all the bands here and we start with the main section for the piano which is the low mid to mid frequencies. Most of the energy in pianos is living between 150hz to 2Khz, so we can start there.

As a starting point, we set the Ratio to 5db on all the bands and lower the threshold to see some compression. If the part is consisting of long chords, you want the Attack to be around 50ms+- and the Release to be around 200ms+-.

You should always play with these parameters and not take these numbers as gospel. The reason for that is that every piano has it’s character and unique properties. The main goal here is to find the right inner groove for the instrument and the way it plays. It’s very important to set the Release to the right value. You don’t want the piano to “Pump” out of rhythm or be too lose. You have to look for the right timing.

When working with Multiband Compressor on a piano, you don’t want to stay in solo mode all the time, because you’re EQing and compressing at the same time, so you want to know exactly what you’re getting out of your speakers. Also, make sure that you keep the same Attack value for all bands so you won’t “break” the energy of the piano. As for the Release, here, you have much more freedom because of the nature of the piano.

The lower notes tend to sustain longer and have more energy, so you can try and set the release for higher values.

After you find the right timing for the Attack and Release, make sure to find the right Ratio. I, personally, don’t like to squash the piano too much, so, for me, it’s between 2 to 3db of gain reduction on each band. It is very subtle, but inside the mix it makes all the difference.

Tip #6 – Reduce Bad Frequencies On Acoustic Guitar

As I said in the last acoustic guitar tip, it is one of the hardest instruments to mix, and even the most experienced audio engineers and producers will sometimes struggle with that. Sometimes acoustic guitars can have unpleasant and shrieking high content frequencies, especially when the strings are new. You can fix that with an EQ, but when you just create a hole in the guitar’s natural frequency response you might just lose good information. You want to fix that in an automatic and intelligent way. Of course, the MBC to the rescue.

Usually, these shrieking frequencies are between 2Khz to 8Khz.

Tip #7 – Adding Energy To A Mix

So, it’s going to be very simple. First, yes, this is a mastering tip, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it if you’re not yet at that level. Assuming that you have healthy levels and good balance across your mix: no distortions, no clipping and you’re entering the final stage of the mixing process, throw in your favorite MBC on the mix bus and start here. It might change from genre to genre, but it’ll give you a good starting point. E

ngage only 2 bands, the lowest frequency range and the highest frequency range. Bypass all the others.

Low Band
Set the Cross-over point to 150hz. Set the Ratio to 3db, Attack around 50ms, and the Release at around 120ms. Now, start lowering the threshold in solo mode. Now you see and hear a little compression. If you feel that it’s not enough for you, try increasing the Ratio. Remember, don’t get the threshold too low or compress more than 2 or 3db’s, because you might break the energy for the whole mix. After you get the required compression, increase the gain for the low band in 2db. That should make your lows more collected and controlled.

High Band
This band should range from 2k to 10k. Set the Ratio to 3db. Attack – 3ms, Release 6ms, and start lowering the threshold to see some compression. Once you have reduction, increase the gain in 2 to 3db to compensate. Again, try to play a little bit with the parameters to get the timing right. Remember, it should be very subtle. Bypass the MBC on and off to hear the changes. If you like it, we did good.

Techniques for Mixing with Multiband Compression

Tip #8 – Controlling An Audio Channel From A Video Shoot

Yeah, it’s not a music production tip, but we all do everything these days, and it’s a pretty amazing tip, so I’m not going to leave it out. It’s simple, assuming that you have healthy levels, no distortions, no clipping, and you’re entering the final stage of the mixing process, throw your favorite Multiband Compressor on the channel and engage all the bands. Now, look for the busiest part in your signal and set the ratios on all the bands to 8db. Next, look for the right threshold level for your signal until you start seeing some compression. Do it on all the bands and let it go.

Try to look for unpleasant peaks in the signal and work from there. This is not a steady and repetitive audio source, like music, so it’s all over the place. But it’s enough to have 8db of gain reduction on all the bands, and you already have good dynamic control over the signal. Some MBC’s have an automatic Attack and Release control. This will be the perfect application for that.

Tip #9 – Getting Rid Of Painful Frequencies In Female Voices

It’s a little funny, but some female singers have some kind of an annoying high frequency that makes them unpleasant to listen to, and it might ruin the whole performance. I don’t like to name names, but I think one very good singer that has an annoying high-frequency thing in her voice is Jorja Smith. She is a great singer, but if you listen to her natural voice on her show in Tiny Desk Concert, I couldn’t take more than 2 minutes. It’s just painful.

So what do we do?? Easy! We drop an MBC on that joint 🙂 Usually, the annoying range is right between 3k to 7k.

How do we find it? We first open an EQ on the channel and create a narrow band with a boost of 10db. Then, we sweep across that range to find the painful spot. Once we’ve found it, we set one of the high-frequency bands to live right on this area with a narrow band if possible. This is a good starting point:

  • Ratio – 4db
  • Attack – 50ms
  • Release – 100ms
  • Gain compensation – Increase accordingly

Again, start lowering the threshold to see some compression and go from there. Make sure you’re not overdoing it, because you don’t wanna kill the natural character of the vocalist. It is important to understand that every MBC is working a little differently, so you might get different results on different MBC’s. That is why you should play with the parameters around those starting points to find the sweet spot for your source and your Multiband Compressor.

Fix Muddy Guitars – Great Tips

Always Be Comparing

Don’t forget to compare your work with the work of others from the same genre. It makes a world of difference if you’re aiming to the level of other professionals.

Switch It On & Off

Remember! Always switch the MBC on and off when you finish editing, it’ll give you an overview and let you know if you like the result or not. There will be some cases where it’ll not work, don’t fight it. Switch it off and go on with your mix.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Play with it, have fun with it, tweak for hours until you’re able to use the MBC like playing an instrument. As a matter of fact, this should be your way of thinking throughout your whole musical journey.

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How To Record Vocals In Logic Pro X

How To Record Vocals In Logic Pro X

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Hey everybody, In this article I’m going to give you my take on vocal recordings in Logic Pro X. More specifically vocal recording for a typical pop song.
Logic is known for its amazing midi capabilities but it also offers a few cool features when it comes to audio recording and editing. Comping in logic is one of the coolest features. I seriously can’t go back to edit any other way.

Quick video guide, keep reading for more info

So this is how I do it.

1. Creating a great basis for a vocal recording session.
2. Choosing the best takes using comping.
3. Fixing the timing.
4. Pitch correction.
5. Work with B vocals, doubles, and harmonies.
6. Importing all the vocal channels back into the main project.

So let’s start

1. Creating a great basis for a vocal recording session.

First I open a project specifically for the vocal recording session. I usually prefer to have the vocals recorded on a clean project and not on the song’s main project. It gives me a clear view of what I do and it also helps the computer work more flawlessly and glitch free.

Then I create the setup for a full vocal session. It means that I open all the needed tracks with most of the plugins already on them. The tracks are as follows:

A. Lead Vocal
B. Lead Left (Double)
C. Lead right (Double)
D. B Vocal Left
E. B Vocal Right
F. Monitoring channel
G. Playback Channel (Stereo bounce of the playback)

After that, I choose the main basic plugins I want to use for the recording session.
Usually, the plugins are EQ & Compressor. During the recordings, I use the plugins with the shortest delay time because I need them to react to a real-time signal.
>> Best EQ Plugins For Vocals
>> How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

In 90% of the times, I like using Logic’s own EQ & Compressor for that.
The signal is being recorded on the engaged channels but played thru the Monitoring Channel.
This way I can use the same plugins and have the same sound for all the recording session.
When I playback the recordings I hear the recorded signal going thru the plugins that are open on each of the channels. I also add a reverb & delay sends if needed.
>> These are my favorite Delay plugins

That’s it, we have all the takes we need for the lead vocal and a few takes to choose from on each of the other channels. Now we are ready for my favorite part, THE COFFEE!


You must let your ears and brain rest for a while to regain your strength and your ability to concentrate.
Sometimes I even save the post-recording stage for the day after.
Note: after I finish recording, I make a backup of the whole project to another hard drive.
DO IT BEFORE THE COFFEE and thank me later.

2. Choosing the best takes using comping.

In this stage, I start with listening and working only on the lead vocal while all the other channels are muted. The reason for dealing with the lead vocal first is because this channel is our guide for all the other vocal channels. Yeah, this is common sense but I guess I still feel the need to point out the obvious.

When the lead vocal will be ready, all the rest of the channels will sync to it in terms of take selection, timing, and pitch. So that way we can get one strong and accurate vocals wall pushing the front row of the song.
This is a general rule of thumb for a lot of pop genres.

So, I like to divide the song and work on each part separately. I start with the first verse in most cases even if the song starts with a chorus. This gives me a sense of a fresh and new beginning.


I start with listening to the whole verse and then I listen to the first sentence on all of the takes and choose the one that sounds and feels best to me. After that, I listen to the second sentence and then the third and so on.
That’s basically the whole process of choosing the right takes for each part. Before I “Flatten” the whole track I always open a new channel and copy the whole open comp on it and then hide it. You can never know when you’d want to go back to it.

3. Fixing the timing.

This is the part where you want to get rid of all the takes you didn’t use and leave only the chosen once. On logic this option is called “Flatten” and it is located inside the comp’s menu.

Now you are left only with the regions you’ve chosen. This is the right time to start tightening the timing.
I usually turn on the click for this part and listen to each separate region by itself to make sure it is exactly synced to the playback and click. 

I love this part because I have a huge thing with vocals sitting on the beat with perfect timing. On this opportunity of working on the separate regions, I make sure that there are crossfades between them, placed on silent parts only. It is very important not to cut breathing noises and little natural sounds in the human voice.

After I have the whole channel done I consolidate it or how it’s called in Logic, “Bounce in place”.
This will take all the regions and export them to one long file. Before you do that make sure to place a small region part on the exact point where the song begins on the grid. That way after you’ll have the lead vocal file no matter if it moved by mistake, it’s starting point will always be on the grid and in sync with the song.

4. Pitch correction.

Ok, in terms of tuning and having everything right on the money I consider myself a complete FREAK. I like everything to be in perfect pitch but still sounding very natural and human. This is a very demanding task. Of course, I can just throw an Autotune plugin on the channel which I commonly do but this is only for the online tuning part of the vocal. Some of the heavy lifting are done with offline tuning before the signal even goes to the Autotune.

In Logic Pro X there’s a feature called Flex Pitch. This is very similar to Melodyne in nature but is embedded in Logic’s audio engine so it is much more flexible then Melodyne in my opinion. I must add the as for this version, Melodyne’s algorithm still sounds a little bit better than Logic’s Flex Pitch. So you can choose whatever is best for you. I find that if using lightly, Flex Pitch sounds just as good as Melodyne so it’s good enough for me.

Remember, the offline tuning must come before the online tuning in the signal chain.
But I always do the offline tuning while the Autotune is working on the channel in a relatively slow response time and every once in a while I turn of the Autotune to get a sense for what is going on with the signal just with Flex Pitch activated.
This allows me to find the perfect sweet spot between offline and online tuning.

After I finish with the tuning and pitch correction, I bounce the track to a clean channel once more to print all the process I did with Flex Pitch on the offline tuning. This way I can turn off the Flex Pitch option and save my ass from possible glitches in the future.

So what do we have now? We have a PERFECT VOCAL TRACK ready for the mix.

5. Work with B vocals, doubles, and harmonies.

This part is usually like the second born child, this is much less stressful for me. Now all I have to do is to make sure I choose the right takes out of all the doubles and harmonies in relation to the lead vocal.

I do it pretty fast and it always comes out perfect. every once in a while I need to fix the timing for specific parts but it’s not a big deal. On these channels, I only use online tuning. One Autotune plugin for each channel with the right settings and it works like magic.

All the extra vocals are going to one bus channel on the mixer so that way I can control it’s levels and automations in one strip.
Of course, I also do ‘bounce in place” to all the B vocals to have them organized in single files and not have every channel scattered across multiple files. So that way I have one final vocal file for each channel.

6. Importing all the vocal channels back into the main project.

Now that we have all the vocal channels, tunes, timing perfected and organized we can import them back into the production’s main project and continue to mix the song.

We do it by opening the main production project and importing the vocal channels from the vocal recording project. Easy.

THAT’S IT.
Thank you for reading.

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How To Make Your Voice Sound Better When Recording

https://www.maxpixel.net/Studio-Headphone-Singing-Music-Microphone-Guy-2590812

How to Make Your Voice Sound Better When Recording

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Hi everybody, here are some basic things you need to know for getting good vocal recordings. Since I’ve been a teenager I’m recording myself playing and singing. My friends and I had a rock band in high school and since then I’m making music every day for myself and for others. That passion and drive for making great recordings led me to be what I am today at age 37, a music producer and sound engineer. As in every article I write, I’m giving you all this knowledge based only on my own experience.

The human voice is one of the most complicated “instruments” to record.
It is very rich in terms of tone, wave shape, dynamics, and overall sonic qualities.
Luckily there are few basic rules that will help you achieve great vocal sound in most real-world situations. In this article I’m going to teach you a few things:

1. How to prepare yourself for a good sounding vocal recording.

2. Basic technical rules for getting a good recording.

3. What microphone and accessories to use in different situations.

4. How and what to process on the computer after you finish recording.

Most of the process is not rocket science. You place the microphone in front of you, hit record and go. And you will probably get good enough results. But here are the things you can and should do in order to make it even better. So let’s start with number one.

1. How to prepare yourself for a good sounding vocal recording.
If the vocal recording you are about to do is important to you, I suggest a vocal warmup.
Just like before going to the gym, there are a few things you can do before you start recording to get your vocal cords in the best shape for the task.

It’s important to know that climate control is a critical factor for a good performance.
I suggest you set the AC to a neutral temperature for your body. with most people, it is about 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sometimes it is a personal preference. If you’re about to do a vocal recording session of a few hours you might change the temperature according to your stress level. Simple as that.
Make sure to not set it to be too cold or your vocal cords will get affected by it and the session will be over sooner than planned.

It’ll be a good idea to put a glass of water in the room temperature next to you and drink a little during the session. Not only for your body but also for your mouth moisture. If your mouth is dry it’ll be hard to move it and sing flawlessly.

Before we start singing there are a few vocal exercises we can do to make the session a lot easier.
It’s a little hard to give you an example in writing so here’s a good starting point video.

how to make your voice sound better when recording.

2. Basic technical rules for getting a good recording.
I won’t get into room acoustics on this article because this is an article subject all by itself. So assuming you have the right environment for the recording we go on from here. Should I sit or stand when I record my vocal? This is a very good question that is brought up every once in a while.

My personal opinion on that subject is simple. If you sing an energetic song it will be much easier to sing while standing up. But in my experience, most of the best vocal recordings I’ve ever done was when I was sitting down in front of the microphone. I find it easier to let the body loose and work only the singing muscles. Basically concentrate on the muscles that are working the hardest. Most of them are located in the centre of your body, throat and mouth.
I found out that sitting down gets me a little less stressed about the performance and allows me to last longer while recording.

https://www.maxpixel.net/Equipments-Audio-Condenser-Microphone-Close-up-1839126

Always use a pop filter.
Even when singing to a dynamic microphone it is highly suggested to use a pop filter.
It gives a more controlled signal in terms of dynamics in the high and low frequencies and I use it all the time.
Never the less if you are using a condenser microphone.
I’m also all about shock mounts, it’s very important to use one.

When standing or sitting close to the mic stand’s legs, make sure to turn the legs away from your legs as far as you can. this might sound weird and not important but I promise you, you will kick the mic stand while recording your best take! it happened to me so many times 🙂
With that, of course, put your phone on silent mode and get it far enough from unbalanced cables in your system because your mom WILL call you at the most critical moment in the session and you WILL get that funny cellular noise in your recording that no plugin will ever take out.

3. What microphone and accessories to use in different situations.
This can probably come down to a personal preference. I personally like to use a good condenser microphone for 95% of the time, but sometimes I will want to use a dynamic microphone such as Shure SM 57\58, SM7B or similar.

Every time I use a dynamic microphone I get something interesting in terms of some kind of magic in the sound. It works best on loud male vocals, hip hop, rock etc.
Sometimes a less known microphone from a good company can surprise you very much.
For example, I had this dynamic microphone lying around for ages, and never actually used it because I had an SM 58 for every time I needed a dynamic mic.

One day I’ve decided to give it a try and recorded a whole song with it. It was amazing! dare I say better than the SM 58? YES! I love it and use it to this day.
This was the JTS NX8

IMG_E7696-nvpt1gu56vv2h4kt62ptlpcwv5inyjgjn2em6gq7js

What external gear do I need more than that? Of course an audio interface and a preamp.
In most cases, you will have a mic pre on most audio interfaces. You can have nice quality even without a 3000$ preamp, altho that would have been nice to use one.

And last, a good cable can make a real difference in your recording.
I remember when I started recording I used whatever cables I’ve had lying around at that time.
One day I a friend gave me a very expansive cable to try out and I could really hear a difference in sound quality. it was not a huge difference but meaningful enough to get me out and to the store and buy the most expansive XLR mic cable out there 🙂 This was a good investment no doubt.

4. How and what to process on the computer after you finish recording.
There is some sort of magic in the moment you stop recording and start editing your materials.

I also love the raw sound that you get straight from the microphone, the cable, the preamp, and audio interface.
After I finish recording I first make a backup of the whole library and files I’ve just recorded.
And then I take a big break of a few hours or even a whole day to let my mind and ears rest a little bit. It is very important to start editing and shaping the end result with “new ears”.

Basics
Choosing the right takes for each part of the song can take a lot of time and can be a very tiring job.
Eventually, it’s over and you start “mixing” the vocal into the playback.
Usually, I start with an EQ, automatically creating a low cut and a high cut.
At what frequencies? it depends on the source material. But with male vocals, cut at 60hz and 17khz. With female vocals, it’s about the same only the low cut point is a little higher, depends on the singer.

After the EQ I use a compressor to control the dynamics, I’m a sucker for controlled levels.
I don’t like it when things are too “loose”, after the compressor I can use whatever I like to shape the vocal sound. De-esser (If needed) Exciters, Multiband compressors, Analog emulations for coloration and more. I will have another article and video expending about this subject.

EQ & Dynamics are the two most important factors for a good sounding vocal.
If you’re new to this I suggest you get good at those first before you do any other manipulation on the signal. You can do almost everything just with EQ and Compressor, I promise.

Final output levels
After you finish shaping the vocal sound you should get the overall levels to a nice place in terms of levels. There is nothing more frustrating than to hear something in a low level, it requires you to turn up your levels too high and forget you did that. After you finished listening to whatever that was, your system gets kicked by crazy sudden volume from the next track on the playlist. Please, guys, get your levels up, it’s easy, just use any simple limiter. I’m not even calling in mastering.

So this is a very simple and basic article for dealing with vocal recordings.
I hope you got even one good tip out of it. Have a good day and enjoy your recordings guys 🙂

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Use iPhone as a Microphone

Use iPhone as a Microphone

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You can definitely record a professional sounding vocal with today’s iPhones. I did it myself! It’s important to note, I’m not talking about recording ON your iPhone but using it as a microphone to record on a computer or any other recording device. Of course, you can record a good vocal using an App, but this is not today’s topic. All you really need to do is to download an app that lets you monitor your output in real time and a cable to connect your iPhone to your Input on your recording device. In this case, your computer. I used a MacBook with Logic Pro X on it and the built-in input jack. You need the right cable for that. iPhone’s output to your laptop or any audio interface. So let’s start!

Can you believe it? Use iPhone As a Microphone and Record a professional sounding vocal?? no way… Yes, Way!
Hello to all my readers, Avi here, audio engineer and music producer for more than 15 years.

Not long ago I found myself away from my studio equipped only with my laptop with logic, small per of in-ear headphones, a cable and my trusty iPhone 6s.
I had a song I really needed to record a vocal for. I thought about recording on my iPhone just like I’m recording my little demos and immediately dropped the idea.
Later that day I thought to myself “why the hell not? I hooked up my iPhone with a small PL cable to the input on my MacBook, downloaded a small free app called “iTalk” that allowed me to use the iPhone mic with real-time monitoring and started recording the first takes.

I was blown away and so surprised by the results that I immediately decided to send audio samples to all my producer friends and asked them what mic it is in their opinion.
All of them told me that it sounds like a legit condenser microphone from a good company. This was really amazing.

I then continued my recordings and finished a whole song. This wasn’t in a studio or in an acoustically treated room. Of course, my mom called 3 times during this session and then I realized I need to put my phone on flight mode 🙂 At this point, I still can’t believe I can Use an iPhone as a microphone.

Eventually, I finished the session and started comping and editing.
During the whole session, I had a weird feeling that I can’t really trust it and it is going straight to the trash. But the deeper I got into the editing session the stronger was the feeling that I’m on to something really interesting here.

Finally, I had a finished lead vocal for my song. I was so excited by this that I finished working on the production mix and half of the mastering on that specific day. So this song eventually meets the finish line and I felt like a true hero.

I think that this experiment proves a few simple stuff:

1. You don’t have to break your bank to have a good sounding microphone, It might be in your pocket.

2. Never underestimate your gear, whether it is cheap or not.

3. Apple proved themselves again as the greatest company ever! Just kidding don’t kill me for being an Apple boy 🙂

I did not use a pop filter and a microphone stand, I just stood in the middle of a small bedroom and sang to my phone.
I held the phone with the microphone on the bottom of the device pointing to my mouth from the side so I won’t be needing a pop filter.

Because this is an omnidirectional microphone, meaning it picks up audio signals from all directions, I had to close all the windows, turn off the AC and record only between noises of passing cars outside the window. I remind you it was a non-isolated or acoustically treated room.

Final conclusion

I liked this setup so much that I’m looking for stupid reasons to get out of the studio and record demos on the beach, in the field near my home, in my car, in vacations and in every opportunity I have to use my lovely iPhone as a microphone again.
But I have to be honest, of course, I won’t record my clients with an iPhone. It was a nice adventure and a really good thing to learn. I still use my Audio-Technica and Neuman mics.

Here’s another article I wrote filled with tips on how to make your voice sound better when recording.

Thanks for reading

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27 Mixing Tips That 113 Engineers Wish They Would’ve Learned Sooner

27 Mixing Tips That 113 Engineers Wish They Would’ve Learned Sooner

Hi everybody, Avi here. 

I went and researched in Facebook groups about the best mixing tips that sound engineers wish they would’ve learned sooner. I was expecting the same old regular things, but I was very surprised to find out how helpful their tips actually were! So this is the list I’ve made for you.

1. Learning About Crest Factor

The Crest Factor is defined as the ratio of the peak to RMS value of the signal.

In simple words, it is the distance between the highest RMS and the highest peak of the signal. When you have a high Crest Factor value, it means that the signal is more dynamic. When you have a low Crest Factor value, it means that the signal is more squashed or compressed. It affects the way we perceive loudness. Keeping a good RMS to Peak ratio might help you get higher levels while still keeping the dynamics intact.

For example, in low frequencies like bass, a high crest factor value won’t mean you have more level or more energy, in fact, when you have high-level low frequencies you might lose some of the overall perceived loudness. But low RMS to Peak value in the mid-range will increase the overall perceived loudness. A well-balanced Crest Factor across the mix will give you the best results. It takes some time and practice but in the end, you will nail it. This will allow you to get clear and loud mixes without sounding squashed and lifeless.

2. Don’t Mix In High Levels

Most of the time, we want to crank up the volume to enjoy the music while we mix. This will probably be a bad idea, and here is why:

* You get tired very soon without noticing, a great recipe for a bad mix. 

* The music gets compressed just by the physical limitations of your speakers so you don’t really hear the actual source.

* Room acoustics problems and unwanted resonances become very significant and distort your perception, leading you to wrong judgment and eventually bad mix.

* Protect your ears by mixing in low levels. Over the years you will lose big parts of your hearing that will never come back. So you better delay it by not exposing yourself to high levels daily.

3. Bus processing and Groups

This will not only save you a load of mixing time and CPU but it also makes things a lot simpler. For example, If you’ve got multiple “background vocal” tracks, for instance. Route them all to a bus and do your processing (EQ, compression, etc) on the buses instead of the individual channels, same with ad-libs, harmonies, doubles, etc.

Of course, you can always do SOME processing on the individual channels, but you won’t end up with 7 plugins on each channel and this will save you a lot of CPU and a lot of headache.

4. Gain Staging

This is something we all have a tendency to forget. Every plugin, and every outboard equipment is built to have a “Unity Gain” or a “sweet spot”. This is the spot where this particular device will sound the best. This means that if a certain device has an input, you want it to be set high enough and away from the noise floor to give a healthy signal but not too high in order to keep it far enough from distortion. This “sweet spot” usually sits between 60% to 90% gain.

Even plugins and DAW’s have these “level sweet spots”. when it comes to inputs in general, you want your signal to also live between 60% to 90%.

With outputs it’s a little different, you can even get it to 10% and still be ok. 

So when you’re mixing, it’s important to build a good gain structure and make sure every device or plugin on your chain will work at its sweet spot. This builds up along the mixing process, giving you clarity, punch, and overall more professional sound.

5. Mixing Templates

Basically, the idea is to have a template with all your routings, plugins, sends, aux’s and groups already laid out for you, so you won’t have to spend the time to create them from scratch with every mix you start. Don’t be lazy and do it on your next project. Start with a list of what you use every mix, open a new project on your DAW and start building your first mixing template.

6. Subtractive EQing

I believe that this is the right way to work with an EQ for at least 80% of the time. The idea is to listen to a source and start with taking out the frequencies you don’t like instead adding frequencies that you do like. The thing is when you subtract some frequencies from a source the things you do like about it are almost automatically come out without you having to boost them. This leaves you with a more natural sound overall. Subtractive EQ may also help create more space and room for other things in your mix.

7. Less is More

Just because you have tons of plugins doesn’t mean you have to use them. Some mix engineers feel the need to use tens of plugins to finish a mix, this can’t be further from the truth. Most of the time we can use one or two EQs, and two or three compressors and one delay and one reverb and this is more than enough as our bred and butter. It works the same for almost everything in the music production and mixing world. You don’t have to EQ or compress everything, you don’t have to emphasize any little channel in your mix, it’s ok. This is what I’m saying to my OCD self every time I start a new mix.

8. Multiband Processing

Think about it, you can do multiband distortion, multiband saturation, multiband compression, multiband delay… you can pretty much divide any source to multiple bands and shape each and every one of them separately. If this is not the ultimate control, then I don’t know what is. Back in the old days when we were using mostly hardware, it wasn’t the easiest thing to achieve, but today, when everything is virtualized, the possibilities are literally endless. even though I’m a minimalist, I can use a cool ninja trick here and there every once in a while.

9. Mid/Side EQing

The Mid/Side EQ is the mastering engineer’s best friend. Most of the applications I can think about with this method are mastering related but there are things you can use it in mixing. Let’s say you have a stereo piano channel. This piano is playing a part that is very midrange biased and it happened to clash with the vocals a little bit. Of course, we can just poke a hole in its frequency spectrum with a regular EQ and make a lot of room for the vocal. But we can also do it only on the center channel and leave the stereo’s midrange “open”. This will make room for the vocals while leaving the stereo’s midrange untouched. If this is not having our cake and eat it too, then I don’t know what is, I love cake!

10. Mixing In Mono

I refused to do this for such a long time, didn’t see the point in that. If everybody is already listening in stereo why would I care about how will it sound in mono?? Well my friends, as musicians we have to keep our minds wide open. In your next mix, try to switch the master channel to mono from time to time and stay there for a while. After a few minutes, you’d start to hear what is missing in your mix. I’ll let Graham do the rest, watch his great video.

11. Stop Overthinking

Just go with your guts, let the universe mix for you, I’m completely serious. I have hours and hours of obsessing and feeling bad about my mixing abilities and we all have that. Especially when you compare yourself to grammy-winning, world-renown mixing engineers. Don’t do that! Just mix. Use your intuition and your instincts to quickly find the right place for all the elements in your mix, it is totally possible.

Some of the best engineers I know are not even tech guys, they are using there intuition and gut feeling more than everything. Of course, you have to have a lot of experience to get to this point but trust me, if you practice enough you’ll get there in no time.

12. Invest In Good Equipment

Yeah I know, we always hear how equipment is not the most important thing and it’s true, but when you get to that high enough level you’d be able to actually understand the difference between the cheap stuff and quality gear. This is why I always suggest not to start your music-making journey with high-end equipment. If you work with cheap and even bad equipment, after a while you start to feel like it’s not enough for your needs anymore. This point in your mixing evolution is priceless! The minute you decide to buy a new preamp, or new monitors, or a new microphone, or even better cables, and developed the ability to actually hear the differences… this is exactly why we enjoy and appreciate quality gear. Some of us can’t stop the obsession and become collectors of quality gear and I know at least 4 guys that are crazy like that 🙂

13. Make a List

It seems very simple and you would think that just listening to the mix over and over again would be enough for you to remember exactly what to fix. It may be right but I promise you that writing down some things will save you a lot of precious time. So this is how I do it, I keep a pen and paper on my studio desk and making a list listening only to my exported files. You can do it with a text file opened in the background and just make a list there. This might seem like a small thing but it’ll greatly improve your workflow.

14. Keeping The Rough Mix As Reference

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Sometimes there’s a certain magic in the first mixdown we do. It’ll be a smart move to keep the rough mix, and not just the mixdown file but the whole project. That way, if you lost your way during mixing you would always have an older basic version to roll back to. Just like time machine backup for your mix.

15. A Good Input Will Grant You With Good Output

Well, it’s kind of obvious but it’s something we need to remind ourselves from time to time. Our output quality can only be as good as the input. Making sure you check all this list will help keeping you in the safe zone.

* A good room acoustics

* Good microphone, DI or pickup.

* High-quality cables.

* High-quality connectors.

* Healthy input level into the preamp.

* Good input level into the audio interface.

* Keeping a good gain structure throughout the whole signal path.

16. Always Keep Your Sub Bass Information In Mono

The very low frequencies are nondirectional, meaning, you can’t easily detect where the sound is coming from, left speaker or right speaker. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep this information in stereo. Usually if you focus your sub 100hz information to the center channel (mono), it’ll help you get a more solid low range. better kicks, more focused bass sounds and equal distribution of energy across the stereo field.

17. Use Automation To Boost Specific Things

This is one of the best things you can do to emphasize emotions in your song. As a music producer, you create a lot of small ear candies inside the production that help increase the emotional impact of the song. These things are often get hidden behind the big and basic things. For example, a pop song is composed of drums, bass, harmony element and a melody element. This is practically what holds the song and makes it what it is, the pillar elements as I like to call them. With these basic channels, you add a lot of little things that are adding a lot of value and even magic to the song. It can be samples, percussion sounds, background vocals and add-ons, small melody parts like guitars, synths and even a cool riff in the bass channel. All these sweet things are making our song a lot more interesting and fun to listen to. With automation, you can boost these things and bring them to the front of your mix to enhance the listener’s experience and make it richer.

18. Solo Things Less

Sometimes when we mix we have a tendency to obsess over one random channel. we try to make it perfect as we listen to it in solo mode. But after a while it might lose its place inside the mix, it might clash with other elements or just get out of context. A lot of mix engineers believe that if you use the solo button less you will never lose your way inside the big picture. I like this tip because it’s not that obvious and it might have a big impact on the end result.

19. 10-20Hz Is Useless For Music When Trying To Go Louder

Ok, let’s tell the absolute truth about it, no one can hear these frequencies but the system itself. There is no benefit in keeping them, they’re only a waste of important energy that can be invested in more audible frequencies that are actually valuable to the production. To be honest, when I’m working on a master I just cut everything under 25hz without even thinking about it. And if I want to go louder I cut even more. That’s just me.

20. Listen To Your Mix OUTSIDE of Your Studio

Yeah, I’m not just saying listen to your mix on more speakers or more headphones, this is too obvious. When you get to the final stage of your mix try taking it out of your studio. Listen to it in your car stereo, try different headphones, try a friend’s studio, try your mom’s car, your girlfriend’s phone speaker, and try every possible system you have available around you. Also try to listen in different locations. It’s all about human perception. The human mind is very complicated and you always find new things when you change the viewing angle. Make sure to make a list of everything you find and want to change or fix, this alone might drastically improve your mix.

21. Good Usage Of Panning

Panning can not only create width but also consequently creates focus in the sum image. Try to create the stereo feeling with high-frequency content channels. Things you can throw to the sides are percussions, high guitars, high strings and high-frequency channels in general. 

With the lower frequency channels you should be more careful and not drift too far to the sides, this might create a “too much weight on one side of the boat” effect and throw your mix off balance.

Tip: Try to pan things to the sides based on energy. That means that low-frequency content channels won’t go too far away from the center unless you have another channel that is similar in content to pan over to the other side. This will make sure the your mix will stay well balanced.

22. Master Bus Processing

Most mix and mastering engineers will tell you to not touch the master channel and they won’t be wrong. But when you reach a certain level as a mix engineer you can allow yourself to do that with confidence and be sure your mix will sound better. If I feel like doing some master bus processing I make it very subtle. Usually, I only use a special compressor that fits my mix in character and style. And even then you can hardly see the reduction needle moving. Sometimes I might use a nice EQ to gently boost some nice high frequencies, just for the extra added color and “glue”. Remember, all master bus processing is done very lightly.

23. Parallel Compression

These days we don’t have to fiddle with complicated routing to get a parallel compression, almost every compressor has a Dry\Wet button. Life is GOOD! Parallel compression is not an obvious effect, it takes a lot of practice to actually be able to hear the differences. I remember my first time doing it, I expected a lot more. But after an hour of testing I started to really notice the differences and learned to create it the right way. The idea is to “compress very hard without compressing at all” I know this makes zero sense but it’s exactly what it is. In simple words, you create a mix between very compressed and very dynamic versions of the same signal. Somewhere in the mix, you’ll find a magic sweet spot that will allow you to enjoy both worlds, simply put, you’d have a super compressed channel with nice dynamic properties. It’s so freaking cool!

24. Range Allocation

This is a fancy name for a very simple thing. Range Allocation is one of the most basic concepts behind mixing music. The idea is to find the right place for each instrument on the frequency spectrum. I’ll let this great video explain this for me.

25. Saturation

Something very interesting and unique happens when the signal passes through a good saturation plugin. In my ears, the light distortion effect brings out some hidden qualities in the signal that you didn’t even know were there. Sometimes you’d like the effect and sometimes you won’t but you should try regardless. Some plugins are not even designed to saturate but they have this feature just because it’s a part of their overall sound. Plugins like analog emulations of old hardware EQs and compressors. There are a few dedicated saturation plugins that give you a range of different colors to choose from. You should try them and go with what you like best. Remember, we don’t have to saturate everything, if everything is special then nothing is. Use it wisely.

26. Pushing The Bass Notes Forward

Putting the bass notes forward, slightly off the grid. That helps to make room for the kick transient helping it cut through the mix a lot easier. The very short delay on the bass channel is not noticeable and that way, it doesn’t clash with the kick. You don’t have to do it on any bass part, only on the parts which the bass and the kick are playing notes at the same time.

27. Don’t Over Quantize!

When we start making music it’s so easy to hit that “Q” button and have “perfect timing”. In some cases, this is exactly what we are going for, but in most cases, especially when it’s a real player, playing a real musical part with real human groove, the quantize feature might suck out the life out of the piece. If you didn’t play tight enough, just do another take but try to get it as good as you naturally can. It makes all the difference. 



Tip: You can also use under 100% quantization. It means that when you hit that Q button it won’t stick the notes to the grid but give them a little wiggle room. So you can make it 70% accurate, or 80% or however you like it. It’s a great feature that helps you tighten up a part without completely sticking it to the grid.

That’s it my friends, happy mixing! 

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HOW TO SPICE UP YOUR PRODUCTIONS Small

How To Spice Up Your Productions

HOW TO SPICE UP YOUR PRODUCTIONS Large

How To Spice Up Your Productions

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Every successful producer out there has its own secret weapon for spicing up their productions. My secret weapon is always percussions. I buy every little squeaking toy, every wooden soundbox and every two pieces of metal that make a cool sound when you bang them together. I’m obsessed with making new sounds out of everything. I once sampled myself hitting vegetables with a drumstick and made drums sample pack. I will give you guys a download link when I find it. I took the idea from some cool and talented producer who connected midi triggers to vegetables that triggers cool sample when you touch them.

Almost in every production, there’s a little place for some percussions. A good example for a producer that use a lot of percussion sounds is Timbaland. He’s one of the more interesting producers out there. He always sounds like himself and it doesn’t matter what year it is. He never swims with the rest of the salmons.

Do You

This is what makes you who you are. You don’t have to be the most talented producer in the world for creating interesting and artistic stuff. If you have a vision, and if you have courage, you can make it. I always say that the production of a song is an adventure. You know where to start but you don’t always know where you’ll end up. I personally love this feeling of unknowingness. If you try to force the song to be something you have in your vision without letting it flow out of you and actually happen by itself, it’ll sound like you tried too hard and you won’t like the result. Every one of us has a producer or an artist or a band that we look up to and try to sound like them. This is a bit dangerous because it makes us lose our own identity. Eventually, if you do you, people will come work with you for your style and not your ability to sound like someone else.

Every once in a while a client asks me how is his song going to sound at the end, almost every time I say “Dude, I honestly don’t know” It is an adventure, let it happen to you too.

Sample Everything With Your Phone

One of my favorite thing to do is sample stuff with my iPhone and then heavily manipulate it to create freaky stuff to use on my productions. A lot of people don’t know but the microphone you have on your cell phones is a very good condenser microphone that you can actually use for a lot of things.

I wrote this article about recording professional sounding vocals with an iPhone! Give it a try. So every once in a while you’ll come across an interesting sound or a weird instrument that you can sample with your phone. I’ll give you an example. My neighbor has a dog who has the weirdest bark ever, I recorded it with my phone and used it in one of my productions as the second lair for a snare drum. It was freaking awesome! If you have a static sample that repeats itself over and over again and you don’t want it to sound machine-like you can always throw a phase morphing plugin like a Phaser, Flanger or a Chorus on the track, tune it to the minimal setting and it will come to life. Even though it’s not a thing you can really hear beneath the other production elements, our subconscious mind can pick up on things like that.

In Reverse

One of the things I like to do is to start productions with a reversed chord progression. Meaning, I play something on a synth or guitar and then I drown it in reverb and more weird effects and then I bounce it to make an audio file that I then reverse. In most cases, it turns out to be very interesting and I end up building an entire production over this weird little trick. You can hear this on a few of Drake’s songs, His producer Noah ‘40’ Shebib does this a lot.

Background Noise / Room Tone

This is a nice trick you can use in minimal productions, If you have a song that has little instrumentation, say drums, bass, vocals, something to hold the harmony and mostly air (big gaps between the notes). It can be very cool to add some kind of a room tone underneath it all. I have a small library of room tones and background noises like Humming machines, a quiet street, pink noise (with a high frequency roll off), or any room tone you record with your iPhone. You can also try to cut the high frequencies out of any room tone so it won’t interrupt the other elements on the song. You can nearly hear this in the song but when you mute it, something very crucial is missing from the overall. It’s like a sound of the air around your head, moving and morphing. It feels natural and nice and also, It takes away the urge to add more elements to the production. I found out that when you have a little instrumentation in the mix, all of the cool quiet magic that sits below the track is coming up in the mastering stage. I used this song as an example in another article but it fits just right in here also. 


I just found this nice singer on Facebook, downloaded a video of her singing to a camera with her guitar and it’s filled with background magic. I tried to keep the production at a minimum so this little magic will easily come out.

Toys you must have!

I’m a big believer in adding soul to your productions by recording live weird percussion instruments, and I’m gonna say it now, I don’t care what genre you’re into, you have to have a Cabasa!

No, I’m just kidding, but I’m also kinda not 🙂

I LOVE adding little weird percussion sounds to my productions. Shakers, tambourines, bells, rain sticks, wooden percussions, metal percussions, and weird noisemakers. These can really make your productions come alive and give your sound a quirky and unique character, just get crazy and see what you get. I’m sure you’re going to be surprised.

My List

Today’s sound is very wild, even in the most conservative productions you can find a weird and quirky instrument that fits right in. So in this list, I give you a bunch of cool stuff that you just have to have in your studio.

Cabasa

So let’s start with the wonderful Cabasa. You can add it to whatever production you have, you can play it the traditional way, and you can also find new ways to make interesting sounds with it that will be cool in your rhythm section. I really love how Tyler The Creator uses the Cabasa in his Tiny Desk Concert show (min 1:30). It’s a small rhythm part that has a big place in the groove section. Cabasa on Amazon

Egg Shaker

Plastic Egg Shaker
Wooden Egg Shaker

I find myself adding an egg shaker to my productions from time to time. If you’ve never used it, this is your chance to try. It’s made of plastic. It is so cheap that I don’t see a reason to not have it. Such a small sound with such a big impact.


Tambourine

The “tambourine man” is an old and important companion to any rock, folk or acoustic style productions. But you can definitely go crazy with it and add it to a pop production, or even electronic style production, who knows what you will get, it might just turn your song into something a bit more special. Tambourine on amazon.


Bongos

This also is a no brainer, it’s small, it’s not expensive and you have no reason to not have it. As a matter of fact, when you use the Bongos the right way and you play the right groove it can be the one special ingredient that makes your body move. Bongos I like on Amazon.


Cajon

This one is special, the Cajon can sound like a cool percussion element, and if you mic it the right way it can sound like a whole drum set. It is a beautiful instrument. You can take it with you anywhere and it serves as a whole rhythm section. I love it! Choose the Cajon you like.

Finger Castanets

It’s always the little things that make the most difference. When I hear those I can’t help but think about Timbaland’s productions. He has a tendency to use those and a lot of other little percussion instruments in his productions. Finger Castanets.


Xylophone

The Xylophone belongs to the same family together with the Marimba, Balafon, Semantron, Pixiphone Metallophone and the Glockenspiel. It is a tonal instrument so you can play real notes on a real musical scale. This instrument adds a lot of emotions to the production, even a little musical part can make a big difference. You can find it in wood and in metal. Try it. Xylophone.


Chimes

We all know it, yes it’s a little corny but I still love it. Especially for ballad songs, special effects, movie scores or just retro stuff. Gotta have it. Chimes


Claves

The Clave is the wooden knock sound that you hear a lot in Latin music. It is a very simple instrument with a lot of character that you can use in a lot of genres if you’re ballsy enough. Claves

Kalimba

Every one that goes to India comes back with one of those. I love this sweet instrument. I used it in one or two productions and it added a lot of sweet magic. Can’t recommend it enough. Kalimba

More Cool Instruments that you just gotta have and find on Amazon.
Wrist Bell | Bell Sticks

Kids Percussions Pack

I’m not kidding, this pack of kids percussions toys has so much production value. Just go for it.
Kids Percussions Pack

I’ll add more tricks and tips in the future. The main thing about this post is don’t be afraid to break the rules, do crazy stuff even if it’s not natural to your genre. If you have a crazy idea just go for it and if you have nothing you can always turn off the computer, take a day off and start over tomorrow. We are artists, it’s ok to not be brilliant every day.

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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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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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