Friday, 1 June 2012

The Most Powerful Mixing Tool: Music

I believe in choosing instruments and melodies very carefully. This is an integral part of mixing in my opinion - that most people forget! Way before you are putting compressors, eq and fx on the mixer, choosing the instrument and playing notes that fit in the mix is a great start.

With this attitude, adding 'candy' becomes a lot easier, because the candy will be musically in the right place. The sound and technical stuff then becomes easier!

I also believe in a strong attitude towards believing crazy things will work, rather than sticking with the boring old standards. This usually brings more sparkly and interesting results!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Tidbit: Less synths, more sounds

I'm greedy for fresh new sounds, which is why I choose to stick to fewer synths than I have before.

It seems silly, but the more synths I add to the studio, the less fresh new sounds I will have at my disposal.

When you know what you want, new synths can hinder the journey towards getting what you want, whereas the synths you know well tend to support this journey.

Ask yourself this question before you explore the rabbit hole of new instruments :)

I hope this helps!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Choose your compression destiny

One of the most useful pieces of mixing advice I've received lately, is categorising compression into two main purposes:

1. Levelling Compression
2. Enhancing Character / Shaping


1. Levelling Compression

Soft, gentle and transparent, you don't hear the compression, you are taming the 'STABS' of sound that you want to sound more controlled, and allow you to turn up the channel safely. Allows you to have loud and soft material on one channel, and always audible. Useful as a first stage compressor.

Examples: LA-2A, CL1B


- Taming wild vocals, or a wild bass guitar performance.

- Digitally controlled instruments such as synths, may not benefit as much from this.

2. Enhancing Character / Shaping
Driving, shaping and colouring. You hear the compression, you are shaping the sound envelope and in some cases, driving a vintage compressor hard to add harmonics. Anything from subtle to dramatic changes here.

Examples: Fairchild 670, 1176, default compressor in your DAW


- Give instruments that recognisable 'compressed' sound.
- Use the character of vintage compressors (including software emulations) to add colour and warmth.
- Use the character of digital compressors to bring out a clean, sharp quality.
- Use each compressor's unique envelope for shaping:


Emphasise the attack, sustain or release of an instrument.
Attack: Bring out a punchy quality
Sustain: Bring out phrases with long, held notes. 
Release: Bring out the breath noise / vocal breaks at the end of each phrase, or even the room reverb of a recording (give a perceptually bigger sound).


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Your Perfect Songs May Need To Be Broken

Do you think your audience will prefer to receive perfection? or imperfection?

A perfectly cut lawn can be relaxing for one, 
then sterile and uncomfortable for another.

wild lawn can be exciting for one, 
then disgusting for another.

An average lawn can be comforting for some,
then boring to others.

All of these lawns are both right and wrong, depending on who is experiencing them.

What I find interesting is that songs generally need vulnerability to connect. They need to have a breach, a broken part, an unexpected leak.

As a producer, if you seal these all up with beautiful make up, perfect mixing, and masterful editing. What have you done to the connection of the song?

On the other hand, if you embrace the imperfections of both the song and the artist, you might find a stronger connection start to come your way.


Saturday, 25 June 2011

Love For Battle: Breaking Down The Mix

Love For Battle by Reflekshun

Basically, everything is done in the box with software here, running Logic Pro 9. Most of the orchestral instruments are played on Vienna Instruments Pro, using the VSL Special Edition Bundle. I layered the VSL Glockenspiel with Tonehammer's Circle Bells to give it a nice full bell sound. The Grand Piano is from Synthogy Ivory II (Huge fan of this)

The key to the sound of the instruments I'm using here was layering, I often stacked as many as 8 different articulations together. The violins include both solo and 14 Violins sampled articulations of: sustained, legato, portamento and tremolo. Normally it would be questionable to stack such a variety of articulations, but I feel it works in this setting because of the dreamy waveyness of the song itself.. Much of the workflow speed came from this method. Having these layers with polyphonic legato turned on (Thanks to VI Pro) allowed me to play one take for a polyphonic violin section and it would sound fairly natural and interesting straight away.

I used 2 x VSS3 reverbs (using TC Powercore) for the space. I had set as a short reverb and the other set as a dreamy long reverb for those instruments i really wanted to add dreamyness and wash to. Because I wanted more of a surreal and glossy sound, I chose to use synthetic reverb instead of convolution.

As for mixing I chose to use Waves SSL plugins for the EQ and Compression, and the occasional Waves API plugin for EQ and Compression. I also used a mix of Waves and TC Powercore plugins for mastering. I mastered this track fairly loud for an orchestral track, to be more listenable outside of a game setting (I think this is different to what many pros do, but it felt right).

You may notice the choirs feeling like they fade in unnaturally, it was a choice between that slow attack or a fairly unnatural and musically inappropriate (for this song) sounding sampled choir attack.. It is important to remember that the musicality of a sound (i.e. it has a clear purpose, even if that purpose is to be purposeless) can sell a feeling to the listener, which is often more important than the realism of the sound itself.

I used VSL Soprano Choirs for the choir, I'm looking at buying Tonehammer's Requiem for that added depth and realism!

I hope this gives some of you a few ideas and context for some of the work you're doing. If you have any more questions, tips or opinions for me, please leave me a comment below!

Thanks for reading :)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Stealing the spotlight with mixing

You can have a mix so amazing that the original artist no longer has the spotlight.

This is potentially good for:
- Your Ego
- Comments you may get from your mixing peers
- A few people that value a good mix over a good song

This is potentially bad for:
- The Song
- The Original Artist
- Most people who end up (not) listening to the song

Just remember what comes first - the song

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Treasure Chest: Zero Vector

White Noise Audio is a small company that makes very unique PC audio plugins.

A personal favourite which left an impression on me is Zero Vector. A synth I used years ago for strange and boutique use. If you aren't so much into making those strange noises, this synth might pursuade you otherwise.

Heres why it's special to me:

- Unique fluffy, soothing, strange quality
- Unique Oscillators and Waveforms
- Vector Pad (a 3-way triangle modulation pad)
- Memorable interface

If you have a PC, you can try the demo here: