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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Music Inspiration

11 Great Tips! For Finding Musical Inspiration

Music Inspiration

11 great Tips For Finding Musical Inspiration

One of the most important things for any songwriter is finding musical inspiration. The inside of our minds can appear to be overflowing with inspiration. All it takes is a few minutes to be able to come up with a brilliant new idea.

However, sometimes that inspiration seems to ebb away, and no matter what you do in order to come up with new ideas for a song, everything remains blank. If you need help to keep that creativity flowing, I have written these tips to help find musical inspiration. 

To be inspired is so important for any creative person. This inspiration urges us to discover new ideas and keep our passion for our work.

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

I would like to first talk about what inspiration is before we talk about how to become inspired. Inspiration is this elusive mystery factor that always comes before any great piece of art. As if it’s something that appears from nothing. It comes upon us when we least expect it and suddenly everything becomes clear to us. 

It might begin with a new idea for a beat or even just one element out of a whole production. You may find yourself with it circling your mind right the way up to a crazy hit. Inspiration is and the beginning of something good in your studio will keep you up till very late hours or completely make you lose track of time. This is one of the most interesting phenomenons in the creative person’s mind. 

The problem is that our minds aren’t always prepared to think in a different way. We are so committed to our existing routines and habits of thinking. This makes it more difficult to find inspiration surrounding new experiences that cause our minds to think in a new way. I have put together some of my favorite techniques for creating inspiration for yourself in order that you can more quickly and easily write better songs.

1. Try A New Town

In order to find inspiration, you must break your mental habits and many of these habits can be tied up within the place that you live. 

Moving away from your regular surroundings can work wonders for the creative process. You change your location, you change the energy around you, and your luck is changing too. I’m sure there is a research on the subject somewhere, if you found it, let me know 🙂

There is no need to feel that you must go on a grand adventure. Heading to a new town isn’t about following a dream or excitement but more about moving away from what you have been used to.

Taking a trip to a town or city that you are not overly familiar with can give you the freedom to think more actively than you usually would.

New thoughts are sure to enter your mind such as where you might eat, if you aren’t familiar with any of the local restaurants, you’ll be sure that you are taking a gamble in any event.

You will have the opportunity to see new things and this will, in turn, create new thoughts. For example, seeing new faces around you, the way people dress, or just seeing a weird building that has a unique shape and wondering what it might be like to live there.

The great thing is that you don’t have to choose a town or city, it can be any new place that takes your fancy, a beach, the mountains, wherever you please. The point of the exercise is to remove you from your usual surroundings in any way at all.

This always reminds me of the great movie “Into The Wild”, where the guy just left everything behind in search of a new life.

Another idea is to spend some time in a part of your town that you wouldn’t usually frequent. Perhaps there’s an unusual café that you have never visited. Pop over there for a little while and see if any new lyrics spring into your mind.

To break your mental habits, you don’t necessarily have to do anything that is extreme or wild, the simple act of going to a new place that you aren’t used to will definitely make you think in a different way than you normally would.

2. Head Out For A Walk

I often find that going for a walk is one of the most effective methods for getting creatively unstuck. Something in the movement of the body, the increasing heartbeat, together with breathing new air and getting the blood flow going can be the only thing that separates me from my next great idea. It happens all the time. 

And I am not alone in this, a team of researchers discovered that the creative output of a person rises by up to 60% whilst out for a walk. Pretty amazing! I find, in my own experience that I feel less stressed about what I want to write while I am out walking. I’m, by no stretch of the imagination, a scientist or a researcher, but I would say that you become distracted by the physical activity just enough that it stops you from focusing too much on your work. Perhaps there is a nice local park if so, get out there and go for a walk!

I had some of my most proud songs come to me while out on a walk. It could sometimes be as though the wind were singing a beautiful, poetic melody into my mind as I walk. But sometimes it is not. I once wrote a folk song because I had that  thought, “What would it be like if my house was painted blue?” Have a go at wandering around your local area or a park. Ask yourself, whilst looking at houses, trees or the sky, what these things might sound like.

You don’t need to work overly hard at this. Sometimes you will find that nothing comes to your mind. But other times a song will come to you, inspired by your surroundings.

3. Educate Yourself More In Music Theory

So often, music theory can feel like the mind-numbing cousin of songwriting who you unintentionally began conversing with at a party. Music theory can actually be highly useful when looking for inspiration, despite sometimes being a bit dry. For example, if you have just been learning about Lydian mode, challenging yourself to use this to write something new will encourage you to create music that is totally different than what you would normally write. 

You might find that you don’t like what you write in Lydian mode and that your first try with music theory is not all you thought it would be. 

Having said that, there is a chance that you will discover something like a new chord change that you absolutely fall in love with. Then that new chord change may end up providing the inspiration for a whole new song. If you have an interest in learning more music theory, I would recommend trying Rick Beato. 

Rick Beato is an expert in music theory and he does an incredible job of turning complicated music lessons into ones that are easy to understand and easy to engage with. His focus is more towards scoring than songwriting but his lessons can be a valuable learning tool for all musicians.

4. Try Collaborating With A Friend

Being an introvert who is forgetful, I have to relearn this lesson at least every month. Being a creator doesn’t mean you have to work alone. Most of the time I do my work totally alone, in my room and most of the time that works well for me. Spending time with friends and making the effort to be sociable really is invaluable to someone doing creative work.

If you want to really expand your musical horizons then working alongside a friend can be an excellent way of doing that. 

Working with a friend means bringing different styles of music forward, this will challenge you into moving outside of your creative comfort zone. And, with the minds of two people adding to the message that the song brings, you may find that you will work on a subject that you wouldn’t normally give a lot of thought to. 

If you don’t have any musical friends then that is alright, you may find that the experience is something you will enjoy all the same. I have a very close friend who doesn’t know very much about music at all, but he is one of my favorite people to write with because he comes up with new ideas that I would never come up with on my own.

You might find that you and your friend don’t actually end up getting much work done, but it will still be a good use of your time because it is important to spend time with people that mean a lot to us. 

It is a great thing if you and your friend end up writing a hit piece of music, but even if you simply spend the time catching up with one another and hanging out, you will find that you are more likely to be happier than if you did all of your work by yourself, all the time.

5. Write With An Instrument That Is Not Your Usual One

A little lack of experience or getting out of your creative comfort zone can be very helpful for your music. Do you usually write on the guitar?

By trying a new instrument, perhaps the piano, or some exotic instrument like my favorite Kalimba, and switching up the way you write can be a refreshing change from using your usual instrument. Especially because it will be something that you aren’t as familiar with.

I wrote on the piano for the longest time. Until one day my brother gave me his old acoustic guitar and taught me how to play 3 chords. This has added a whole universe of music creation potential to my arsenal. Every new instrument you put your hands on, opens you to a world of new possibilities.

The guitar was totally free to me, there were no rules and no limits to what I could do. Each time I spread my fingers and made a random “chord”, things sounded so crazy to me, especially the random open chords I’ve mistakenly constructed. I didn’t know the names of the chords, I hardly knew the roots, but man did it sound beautiful… 

And coming from the very well organized piano, it took some time for me to wrap my head around the whole concept of the guitar, but once it happened, I knew that this relationship is going to last for a long time. 

22 years later and we are still going strong!

I was challenged to completely think outside the box due to the fact that I had no idea to play what I usually would on the piano. I forced myself to think outside the box. The habits that I had developed with the piano were totally thrown out and I was free to try out new sounds, that was completely exciting to me.

I would also like to point out that there are things that may be very easy on one instrument and almost impossible on another. If I had stuck to writing on the piano, I would never have discovered so many playing techniques that led to so many good songs.

Of course, I’ve never left the piano, it remains one of my favorite instruments to play. However, when you write with an instrument that you are not as familiar with, it can create a whole new lease of life on your music. You may find yourself doing it on a regular basis and getting cool results almost every time.

6. Write Music Based Around Fictional Characters

From the very beginnings of music and poetry, songwriters have been writing their pieces from the perspective of a fictional character. songwriting doesn’t always have to be based on your own experience or opinions. 

If you are struggling to think of something that has happened to you and incorporate it into your music, you could write a story.

You simply need to come up with a fictional setting that you would be keen to live in. Think about ideas, is the setting rural or urban? Is it day or night? Perhaps include politics or sports or some form of visual art. What is the setting known for? 

Next, you need to think about a character who is living there. Ask yourself questions about them. What do they do in their life? What is their life like?

Now that you have a good idea of who the character is and how they interact with their world, you are ready to make an attempt at writing a song about it. 

It may start off feeling less than sincere, but as you create the story, you will notice that it starts to really show your personality, after all, you are the one who has written it.

7. Laugh

This is not really a tip but more of a “life hack”. when we get stuck our minds are bound to a certain state. But when we start laughing our brain releases certain chemicals that help untie us from this state. Too me it’s a bit like adding oil to a dry engine. 

Things are starting to move much more easily and you find yourself in the creative process without even noticing that.

My favorite method is just to make a cup of coffee and watch standup comedy from my favorite comedians. After half an hour of laughing my ass off, the stress is just gone. I then go back to making music and things are just flowing. It works like magic.

8. 30 Push-Ups

Not kidding, this weird hack has proven itself to be very effective. This always gets my creative juices flowing. Do it without even thinking about is, just get and do 30 push-ups! Let me know if it works for you.

9. Meditation

If for some reason, going outside or doing some exercise or laughing doesn’t do the job for you, you can try meditation for 10 or 30 minutes. Some people have a very deep inner world and they can just dive inside their minds to change the channel on their consciousness. 

Or do real meditation by not thinking about anything. I find that after 30 minutes of deep meditation I’m almost a different kind of person with different creative forces. It’s super interesting.

10. Leave It For Tomorrow

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that creating artistic stuff is not on-demand and not always available to us. Sometimes today is just not your day and the only thing you can do is just turn off the lights in your studio and come back tomorrow.

11. Take Time To Reflect And Relax

Always open yourself up to inspiration. Your attitude plays the most important part of finding inspiration. you might be a little more prepared to think creatively.

If you are stressed out the entire time whilst on a walk, the walk will not prove particularly useful. There is no need to get continually frustrated with yourself over your NEED to find inspiration RIGHT NOW.

The practices that I have described can all help but there is no guarantee that they will work all the time. It is important to make peace with the fact that inspiration will not come each and every time you head out for a hike. This makes it all the more important to try to make time to do these activities on a regular basis.

If no inspiration is found when you take your next walk, you can hopefully, at the very least, give yourself some inner peace and a happier mental state. The time after that, you can prepare yourself to think in a more creative fashion.

It is also worth thinking about the fact that different people find that inspiration works differently for them. The ideas that I have talked about above may help a lot of people but they are certainly not the only things that will work to help you find inspiration.

It is a good idea to look back and remember the times that you felt excited about doing work on a particular project and try to draw inspiration from that as well.

Ask yourself the following questions;

Where were you at the time?

What activity were you doing?

Were you with other people or were you on your own?

If you can find answers to these questions, you will be able to find out from where your inspiration comes and what situations cause you to be more creative.

What should I do if inspiration for a song disappears?

Inspiration may be an integral part of music writing, however it isn’t a permanent thing.

The spark of excitement that happens within us is often the cause of inspiration to begin a new project. But you are going to need more than this to finish writing a song. Sooner or later that initial excitement that comes with the beginnings of a project, will fade away.

When this happens, it is easy to start doubting. You might start to think about the idea you had in the first place and whether it was ever any good. You must remain dedicated and have faith in what you can achieve in order to be able to finish the project.

It is perfectly normal and ok to wonder how good your work really is. But it is important that you push through these feelings and finish what you started. If you don’t do this, you will be stopping yourself from improving and you will never find out how good your work is.

If you are unhappy with the end result, that doesn’t mean that you have failed. Even if a song doesn’t turn out the way you had imagined, you will have learned something from writing it in the first instance.

Conclusion:

How to find musical inspiration?

Inspiration is all about changing your mental habits. Try these tips every time you get stuck and there is a very big chance they’ll help you find a way back to your creative state. Other than that, time heals everything, just give it more time. I believe in you.

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How To Produce Music At Home

How To Produce Music At Home

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


Who Can Produce Music At Home?

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

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

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

When Is The Best Time To Start?

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


Is It Too Late For Me To Start?

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


What Tools Do I Need?

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

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

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

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


DAW – Free or Paid? 

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


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

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

Learn To Play The Keyboards

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

Can I Produce Music On My Phone?

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

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

Acoustic Treatment – Does It Matter?

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

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

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

How To Learn Music Production? 

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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Mixing A Vocal To A Beat

How To Blend Vocals With A Beat (Instrumental)

Mixing A Vocal To A Beat

How To Blend Vocals With A Beat (Instrumental)

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Mixing vocals to an already mixed instrumental and making it sound natural is not always an easy task but if you implement all the tips and tricks in this article, you might just get there. This is really not rocket science. Recording a vocal on an instrumental is very common in Hip Hop. There are a lot of very talented producers who send beats to rappers all over the world. First, we have to understand the steps you need to take and we’ll go thru them one by one.

Note: You don’t have to execute every recommendation I make on this page to achieve a good sounding mix. Instead, just go over the titles and try to understand what issues you need to address in your mix and fix them.

Instrumental – Reduce The Level

Of course you have to lower the instrumental in order to blend in the vocal properly. The problem is that every time you decrease the level of an instrumental it’ll sound like you’re losing quality. Don’t worry about it, most DAWs of today are mathematically built in such a way that low level is not your problem.

I found that setting the RMS level around -18db is a good starting point.

 

Creating Space For The Vocal

Ideally, you’d want the instrumental only mixed and not mastered or too compressed. That way it’s breathing and still has enough room for mixing in the vocal. But most times we would get a fully mastered instrumental without the vocal taken into consideration. In such a scenario, we have to start “massaging” the instrumental a little bit.

EQ (Mid/Side)

Although it appears pretty early on the list, EQing shouldn’t be the first step you take. So let’s say the instrumental sounds amazing and it’s mixed and mastered by a pro and we don’t really need to change anything in its frequency response. We should only create little pockets for the vocal based on the vocal itself. 

I would highly recommend you use a Mid\Side EQ and start digging in only on the center channel, mainly because the vocal lives in the center.

Example, if the vocal’s main energy is located on a specific spot on the frequency spectrum, you can cut a little bit out of the instruments just in that area to make the vocal sit nicely in that pocket.

EQ Matching

The instrumental and the vocal should live in the same neighborhood in terms of the frequency response curve. For example, if the instrumental is light on low-end frequencies and your vocal is too heavy on low-end frequencies, you should boost a little bit of low end on the instrumental and cut the same frequencies on the vocal channel to match them. Every production has its frequency response curve. 

Color Matching

match the tonal qualities of the vocal and the instrumental. If the instrumental is slightly distorted, add some distortion to the vocal track. That way they will have the same “flavour” and not feel disconnected from each  other.

 You can learn more about EQing here:

 

Levels (Mid/Side)

When reducing the instrumental level in general, you can risk getting a “disconnected” effect of the vocal from it. So that is a great opportunity to utilize the Mid/Side leveling method. You can lower only the Mid channel a little bit to make some more room in the center for the vocal without taking a chunk of energy out of the whole mix. 

The best way to do it is with a mid/side EQ, this tool allows you to reduce the midrange frequencies only in the center, where the vocal usually lives. 

Dynamics

If the instrumental is only mixed and not mastered, this is great because then you can just mix the vocal in and master everything together. But in many scenarios, this is not the case. I will talk about every situation and what to do in every one of them. You can use a Multiband Compressor to gain more control over everything.

>> How to use a Compressor on vocals
>> How to use a Multiband Compressor like a ninja

Scenario #1 – The Instrumental Is Not Mastered

If the instrumental is not mastered and not too compressed, it’ll be a good idea to compress it a little bit, just to get a more controlled dynamics that will allow us to mix in the vocal more easily. This is a great opportunity to use a bus compressor on the instrumental’s channel and work that bus compression magic.

Scenario #2 – The Instrumental Is Too Compressed

Sometimes the instruments will be so compressed that you can’t add even a pins head into it, let alone adding the final master compression, you’re going to end up with a squashed, claustrophobic and a non-professional result altogether. 

Here you can use certain methods to bring back or even create some of the original dynamics with tools like Expander and Transient Designer. Or just try to get a better-mixed version of the instrumental.

Scenario #3 – The Instrumental Is Well Mastered And Sounds Good

In this scenario, where you want to preserve the dynamic properties and the overall sound of the instrumental you can use it as a reference to every process you do on the vocal. 

Start with lowering the level to where the RMS is around -18db and continue from there to processing the vocals using all the tips I gave you on this article.

 

Expander

Using simple words, this tool works as a negative to the compressor. Instead of squashing the signal and reducing the dynamics, the expander expands the dynamics buy doing the exact opposite. 

It simply means that it recreates some of the dynamics by increasing the level of any signal that goes above the threshold. You have to use the expender very lightly, or else you’re going to mess up the entire dynamic flow of the instrumental.

Transient Designer

With this tool, you can rebuild a little bit of the lost peaks shaved out by the limiter. The subtle use if the expander and transient designer can bring back the livelihood to the track and make it sound somewhat similar to the original non-compressed version of the instrumental.

Adding Your Own Samples

Sometimes the instrumental is so dynamically squashed and practically not usable and no other version of this instrumental can be found, then you have no other option than to add your own drum samples into the mix. You do it by taking some time and digging in your samples library until you find a matching kit. 

In most cases, a snare and a bass drum will do the job. But the more you do to rebuild the production, the better final result you get. If you do that, make sure your instrumental and BPM are nailed to the DAW’s grid so you can place the samples with maximum accuracy. 

I also recommend using tools to check the phase to make sure you’re not losing anything in the process. 

Automation

It’s all about consistency. A great way to “mix” a stereo channel instrumental is to ride it with automation. Levels, EQ, Send Effects and anything you need to use in order to get a more controlled instrumental. You’re practically massaging the channel with all kinds of automation to get more consistent and professional output. 

Space Matching

If the production uses any Reverb, or a room simulation, you can try creating the same space and send the vocal over to it, to create the feeling that the vocal and the instrumental are “living” in the same space. This will also help to “glue” the instrumental and vocal together. 

Don’t use that method if you’re going for the “Vocal is disconnected from the instrumental” kinda sound. You can also EQ the Reverb return to match the tonality of the instrumental’s overall ambiance. In many cases you would want to use a delay instead, or in conjunction to the reverb. 

These are the best Delay plugins for vocals.

Don’t Mix The Vocal Too High

This is a very simple and straight forward tip and yet it’s very easy to overlook it. It also works with any element in any mix situation. If the vocal’s level is mixed higher than the instrumental’s, It’ll give the sense of the disconnection between the two. Make sure the RMS levels on both of them are not too far off of each other.

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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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Audio Streets

Audio Streets is a home for musicians, producers, sound engineers and pretty much anyone who wants to learn more about music production, mixing and mastering. 
If you’re looking to improve your productions, learn new tips and techniques then Audio Streets is the perfect platform for you. Here you’ll find great articles, tools and gear reviews.

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Top 5 Musician Earplugs on the Market 2020

Top 5 Musician Earplugs on the Market

If you’re a musician making a living playing an instrument or using your voice, congratulations! A music career is rewarding, exciting and fun! There is one small problem however that, while preventable, many musicians still fail to address; hearing damage. 

The fact is, thousands of musicians have ignored the health risks associated with being exposed to continuous, extremely loud music, playing for years and even decades without proper ear protection. Brian Johnson of AC/DC is a prime example, being forced to give up touring because of the damage done to his ears over years of playing with no protection. 

Scientifically speaking, loud noise, including music will degrade your hearing ability slowly but surely, causing tinnitus as well as hearing loss. Even worse, once your ears are damaged and your hearing impaired, there’s no cure to get it back.

What that means is that, if you’re a musician looking to sing (or play) for your supper as a career, finding a well-made, comfortable set of earplugs is imperative. (Also, if you’re an avid concertgoer, you need earplugs too!) 

To that end, we’ve put together a list of the Top 5 earplugs for musicians, below, that will help you, as well as 3 Key Features that they must have in order to provide the best protection for one of your most precious 5 senses, your hearing.

Key Feature #1 - They Must Reduce Noise Sufficiently

The main reason to purchase a set of earplugs is to reduce the amount of noise that reaches your inner-ear and prevent damage. This amount changes from model to model and should be based on the type and location of music you’re playing. 

Playing hard rock or heavy metal at a nightclub? Then you’ll want earplugs that substantially lower the volume coming through. On the other hand, if you’re jazzing it up with a small group of friends in your garage, earplugs that let more volume through should be fine. 

Note that the average sound reduction on most brands of earplugs falls between 15 to 30 dBs and, with this in mind, choose the best earplugs for your musical situation.

Key Feature #2 - They Must Provide Excellent Sound Quality

Truth is, most musicians don’t use earplugs because, well, they ruin the music. It’s tough to know if something you’re playing sounds ‘right’ if you can’t hear it well and, if you have a low-quality set of earplugs, it can turn a joyous experience into something just plain awful. 

The good news is that there are several earplug models (as you’ll see below) that allow you to protect your ears but still hear your music well, providing a flat response that attenuates equally all the frequencies coming through. In short, they give you the ability to turn down the volume but still hear the musical nuances, protecting your ears while the music shines through.

Key Feature #3 - The Best Earplugs Must Be Comfortable to Wear

Let’s be honest, if the earplugs in your ear are causing you pain and discomfort, you’re going to take them out, defeating their purpose immediately. That’s why any pair of earplugs you buy must fit well and provide a good seal inside your ear. 

Knowing this, it’s a good idea to try on several models of earplugs so that you purchase a set that provides a good seal, reduces noise sufficiently, provides excellent sound quality and feels good when worn for hours, days or weeks at a time.

The Top 5 Earplugs for Musicians (in no particular order)

Etymotic ER20xs - The Best Musician Earplugs for Excellent Sound Quality

A highly acclaimed audio company, Etymotic is known as one of the best earplug makers in the industry, and one of their standouts is the ER20xs. 

Firstly, their flat response is excellent, allowing all frequency ranges to come through without lowering any one more than another. Wearing them allows you to turn down the volume without shutting out the true sound. Even better, they feel like there’s almost nothing in your ears. 

The ER20xs also does a very good job of blocking volume at 20 dBs, enough for a raucous band rehearsal or even a concert. They provide plenty of ear protection but allow you to still hear the music well. 

One drawback the ER20xs does have, however, is that they only come in sizes regular and large so, if you’ve got a particularly small set of ears, they may not be the best fit for you. 

Take a look or purchase them today on Amazon.

DeciBullz - The Best Musician Earplugs for Sufficiently Lowering Volume

At 31 dbs of volume reduction, the DeciBullz earplugs take the volume way down, even at the loudest of concerts. One of the reasons they’re so good at this is that, unlike other models, DeciBullz can be self-customized to fit your ears perfectly.

To do this you simply pour or dunk them in very hot water for a few seconds, which makes them softer and more pliable. While hot (but not too hot) you then place them in your ears, where they’ll mold to them like a cat molds to your lap. 

Voila! You now have earplugs that fit your ears perfectly although, truth be told, they do get a little harder once cooled and so might not conform to your comfort level. Plus, while better than most average plugs for hearing protection, the DeciBullz aren’t exactly the king of sound quality. 

In any case, if sheer volume reducing power is your goal, the DeciBullz fit the bill to a ‘T’. 

You can take a look or purchase them on Amazon, today.

LiveMusic HearSafe - The Best All Around Musician Earplugs

With 2 filters and an impressive 29 dBs of sound reduction, the LiveMusic HearSafe earplugs are the most well-rounded, and affordable, earplugs we’ve reviewed. 

They come in 2 sizes so you can pick the size that fits you best, deliver a relatively flat response so you can still hear all your music in high-def, and they’re excellent concert earplugs as well, letting great sound in while keeping your ears safe and sound (no pun intended). 

Another bonus of the LiveMusic HearSafe plugs is that, since they’re made from non-toxic, hypoallergenic silicone, most users won’t have any type of allergic reaction to them. In other words, they won’t itch while you twitch (to the music). 

All of this and a great price make the LiveMusic HearSafe earplugs our pick for best all-around. 

Take a look at them on Amazon to see for yourself.

Alpine MusicSafe Classic and Pro Earplugs - The Best Musician Earplugs for Fit and Comfort

Created using a softer, more malleable material, the Alpine MusicSafe Classic and Pro Earplugs collapse inward upon insertion, expanding into your ear canal to give you a snug, comfortable fit. They do this using a special insertion tool that, while a bit awkward, allows you to place them deeper than most other models, creating an excellent seal that lowers sound leakage considerably. 

The main difference between the Alpine MusicSafe Classic Earplugs and the Pro Earplugs is that the Classic comes with 2 sets of filters while the Pro comes with 3 sets. The Classic attenuates up to 22 dBs of volume while, with 3 filters, the Pro attenuates up to 27 dBs, both of which give you much more control over the amount of sound that gets into your ears. 

On the downside, both Classic and Pro models tend to cut high and low ranges more than mid, giving the impression of a louder midrange, something many musicians find annoying. 

But if fit is your most pressing concern the Alpine MusicSafe Classic and Pro Earplugs are a great choice.

Check them both out on Amazon to see if they’re the choice for you.

Custom Made Earplugs - The Very Best Musician Earplugs, No Hold Barred

Above you’ll find 4 sets of earplugs that, as you’ve seen, are very high quality and deliver excellent hearing protection. That being said, if protecting your ears like Fort Knox while getting the ultimate in sound is your goal, a pair of Custom Made Earplugs is what you need. 

To get them means seeing an audiologist, simply because they are the only people capable of creating the ear molds needed to get custom earplugs made. It also means your earplugs will cost upwards of $350.00, give or take a few bucks, so it’s a relatively large investment. 

That investment, however, will deliver protection and audio quality beyond most off-the-rack earplugs, because the seal will be perfect. With no leakage you’ll get true high-definition, with minimal change to the music that’s entering your ear plus customizable filters that allow you to raise or lower volume to your perfect level. 

If you’re a working musician, or you want to get the best concert experience while making sure your ears stay healthy, custom earplugs are your best choice, even if they are a little bit pricey. To get them, we suggest Googling ‘audiologist’ and seeing one close to your location.

Enjoy your music longer by protecting your ears with one of these excellent earplugs 

Music, whether playing it yourself or simply listening, is one of life’s greatest joys. To make sure you can listen as many years as possible, do your ears a favor and purchase one of the best earplugs for musicians, above. 

With any of them in your ears you’ll get the protection you need and still be able to hear all of that wonderful, soul-soothing sound, so pick up a pair today!

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Audio Streets

Audio Streets is a home for musicians, producers, sound engineers and pretty much anyone who wants to learn more about music production, mixing and mastering. 
If you’re looking to improve your productions, learn new tips and techniques then Audio Streets is the perfect platform for you. Here you’ll find great articles, tools and gear reviews.

Add AudioStreets to your favorites and don’t forget to sign up for our Newsteller and be updated with new posts,  reviews and new cool things we put out every once in a while.

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Mixing On Headphones

Mixing On Headphones

Mixing On Headphones

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


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

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


Let’s start with the Pros & Cons

Pros

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

Cons

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

Basic Rules

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

What Headphones?

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

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

Closed-back

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



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

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

Open-back


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

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

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

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

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

How Does It Feel On My Skin?

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



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

What Levels

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

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

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

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

Don’t Use Your Emotions While You’re Mixing

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



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

Tips

Reference Tracks

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



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

Take A Break

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

Use More Pairs of Headphones

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



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

Calibrate Your Headphones

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

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

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



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

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

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MIXING

Mixing On Headphones

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MASTERING

What Is Mastering

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plugins & instruments

Best Drum Plugin

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Best Amp Simulator

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BEST SMALL SYNTHESIZERS UNDER 500$ Small

Best Small Synthesizers Under 500$

BEST SMALL SYNTHESIZERS UNDER 500$

Best Small Synthesizers Under 500$

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

Roland JD-Xi

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

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

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

Check latest price on Amazon

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

Check latest price on Amazon

Korg Monologue

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

Check latest price on Amazon

Novation Mininova

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

Check latest price on Amazon

Behringer Model D

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

Check latest price on Amazon

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

Check latest price on Amazon

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

Check latest price on Amazon

Roland SH-01A

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

Check latest price on Amazon

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MIXING

Mixing On Headphones

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

MASTERING

What Is Mastering

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

production

plugins & instruments

Best Drum Plugin

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

Best Amp Simulator

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Electronic Drums Vs Acoustic Drums

Electronic Drums VS Acoustic Drums

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


Electronic Drums Saves The Day

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

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


My First Real Electronic Drum Set

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

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


Kill The Drummer?

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

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


The Module Sounds VS Plugins.

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

The Best Drum Plugins


Electronic Drums Sets

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


New VS Old

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

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


Electronic Drums Vs Acoustic Drums

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

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

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

 

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

 

Yamaha DTX720K (via Amazon)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Alesis Strike Kit (via Amazon)
Alesis Strike Kit drums

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

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

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

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


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

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