HOW TO SPICE UP YOUR PRODUCTIONS Small

How To Spice Up Your Productions

HOW TO SPICE UP YOUR PRODUCTIONS Large

How To Spice Up Your Productions

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

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

Do You

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

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

Sample Everything With Your Phone

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

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

In Reverse

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

Background Noise / Room Tone

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


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

Toys you must have!

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

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

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

My List

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

Cabasa

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

Egg Shaker

Plastic Egg Shaker
Wooden Egg Shaker

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


Tambourine

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


Bongos

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


Cajon

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

Finger Castanets

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


Xylophone

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


Chimes

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


Claves

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

Kalimba

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

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

Kids Percussions Pack

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

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

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MIXING

Mixing On Headphones

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MASTERING

What Is Mastering

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production

plugins & instruments

Best Drum Plugin

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Best Amp Simulator

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Ear Training Methods

Ear Training Methods

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

Absolute Hearing (Perfect Pitch)

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

Relative Hearing

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

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

Does Good Musical Hearing Make Me A Better Musician?

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

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

Do I Have To Be Born With It?

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

Play Musical Games With Yourself

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

Musical Memory

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

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

Ear Training Methods

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

Learn To Play A Second Instrument

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

Play And Sing Melodies At The Same Time

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

Find The Key

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

Sing Harmonies

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

Extract Single Notes Out Of Chords

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

Best Ear Training Apps

ChordProg

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

EarMaster

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

Quiztones (For audio engineers)

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

More Ear Training Apps For Audio Engineers

Ear Training Games

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

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

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Best EQ Plugin For Vocals + Tips & Videos

Best EQ Plugins For Vocals + Tips & Videos

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

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

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

The Basics – How Does It Work 

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

EQ Basic Parameters

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

Types of EQ

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

Graphic EQ

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

Parametric EQ

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

Paragraphic EQ

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

Filters

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

Two Groups Of EQ Plugins

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

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

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

How to make your voice sound better when recording.

Main Factors That Will Affect Your Frequency Response Before The EQ

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

Best Condenser Mic For Vocals (On a Budget)

Gain Staging

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

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

Best Digital EQs – Group one

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

Best Emulations Of Old EQs – Group Two

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

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

7 Best Analog EQ For Vocals

1. Waves Kramer HLS



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

2. T-Racks EQ 73

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

3. Softube Trident A

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

 

4. Waves API 500 Series

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

5. Waves VEQ4

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

6. Plugin Alliance Maag EQ4

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

7. Waves Scheps 73

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

7 Best Digital EQ For Vocals

1. Cambridge EQ UAD

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

2. Waves HEQ

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

3. FabFilter Pro-Q2

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

4. Eiosis AirEQ

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

5. DMG Audio EQuality

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

6. Waves F6

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

7. Waves Renaissance EQ

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

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MIXING

Mixing On Headphones

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MASTERING

What Is Mastering

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production

plugins & instruments

Best Drum Plugin

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Best Amp Simulator

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

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

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

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

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

1. Use Groups, Busses, And Folders

Prepare your mix before you start working on it.

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

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

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

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

2. Scenes

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

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

3. Start With The Busiest Part Of The Song

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

4. Gain Staging

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

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

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

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

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


5. Filters

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

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

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

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


6. Make Room For “Air”

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

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


7. EQ – Take Things Out


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


8. Lower The Levels

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

9. Start The Mix On Headphones

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

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

10. Room Correction With EQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


11. Listening Modes

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

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


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


12. Reference Songs

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

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

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

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


13. Focal Point

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

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

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

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


14. Take A Break


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

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

15. Export

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

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

16. Mix Into A Limiter


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

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

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

17. Professional Mastering

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

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

>> Best Mastering Plugins

18. Ask For Opinions 

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

19. Come Back Tomorrow

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

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

That’s it.

Good luck and happy mixing!
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How To EQ Vocals Professionally

How To EQ Vocals Professionally

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

First! a quick EQ lesson from the great Dave Pensado

How Important EQ Is?

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

What is an EQ?

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

What Are The Main Uses For An EQ?

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

Where Do I start EQing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

EQ Basic Features

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

Different Colors On The Spectrum 

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

Low Cut –  Cut from that point and down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

High Cut – Cut from that point and up.

Dynamic EQ

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

Mix With Your Eyes

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

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

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

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

Shelf EQ

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

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

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

Cut When You Need To Boost

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

Always Filter

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

Sweep For Gold

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

Sweep For Dirt

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

Check It On Headphones

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

What EQ should I Use?

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

Practice Practice Practice!

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

Thanks for reading and happy EQing guys.

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How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

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

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

The Hammer

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

What Really Is  A Compressor?

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

Compressor – How Does It Work?

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

Compressor Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types Of Compressors

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

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

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

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

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

How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Channel, 3 Compressors

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

Digital Compressor Plugins

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

These are some of my favorite digital compressor plugins:

Waves C1 Compressor

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

Waves Renaissance Compressor

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

McDSP Compressor Bank CB303

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

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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

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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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