Let's debunk 5 Music Production Myths That We're still hearing about all the time.
Book a free feedback call with Benedikt, the host of the show!
Almost daily we see people sabotage themselves without knowing because they follow bad advice based on these music production myths.
If any of the following has been holding you back, now's the time to change that.
Music Production Myth #1: "Don't EQ or compress more than "x" amount!"
Or else what?
It's true that a great performance with an amazing raw tone in the right context probably doesn't need a lot of treatment, but if it does - by all means do whatever is necessary!
If that means using 7 EQ bands, boosting 13dB of low end and applying 20dB of gain reduction with your compressor, then that's totally fine.
Just do whatever sounds good and whatever the song needs. There are no rules. And no listener ever said "This sounds phenomenal, I just wish they had accomplished that with less processing."
Or as Chris Lord-Alge (one of the most famous and successful mixers of all time) once said:
"No one's gonna die!"
The same is true for using a lot of plugins on a track or mix. I've mixed sessions with barely any plugins on my tracks and I've mixed some songs with 10 plugins on almost every track.
And every professional producer/mixer I know says the exact same thing about their sessions. There are no rules telling you how much you are allowed to do.
The secret is knowing how much a track needs and then not being afraid to do the right thing. Or nothing at all.
Music Production Myth #2: "My favorite classic records sound so good because they used all this amazing vintage gear back then."
Nope. They sound so good because they've been written by the best songwriters, performed by the best musicians, produced by the best producers, engineered by the best engineers, mixed by the best mixers... you get the idea.
People capable of creating and capturing magic moments.
Not technically the best, but exactly the right people at exactly the right moment in time, bringing the perfect energy, vision, creativity and skillset to the table.
And they sound so good DESPITE the fact that they didn't have all the powerful tools we all have today.
Engineers/producers 30, 40, 50 years ago would've killed for some of the modern gear and software we take for granted now.
It would have allowed them to focus on the art even more instead of worrying about how to reduce the hiss from the tape machine.
Don't get me wrong, the high end vintage gear sounds amazing, but it's also noisy, has limited functionality, needs maintenance and requires serious skills to make it work and sound spectacular.
Which brings me back to argument number one: It's the skill and the artistic genius of the people involved that made these records so fantastic sounding.
When we analyze what it actually is that makes a tape machine sound a certain way, or why we enjoy certain types of "imperfections" and distortion, etc. we can find other ways to accomplish the same thing. It might not be one plugin, but maybe a combination of a couple of things.
In the end it's always about the song and the performance. And when we capture it, we need to make sure that it makes you feel something when you listen to it. Which tools you use to do that doesn't matter at all.
If you now think you need to be a genius to make great records - don't worry, that's not what I'm saying.
What I'm saying is that instead of blaming the gear, you need to put in the work, practice a lot, work hard, find your voice, find your audience and use whatever tools you have available to express your creativity.
Your unique vision and taste will be what resonates with your audience.
You can absolutely do it with what you already have!
Music Production Myth #3: "You need a perfectly treated, flat sounding room and high end monitors to achieve great sounding mixes that translate well to the outside world."
Yeah, that makes it easier, for sure. And it's the first thing I would invest in (after investing in myself and honing my skills).
But do you "need" it? Especially when you're just starting out? That's a clear "no".
There are relatively simple ways to make a less-than-ideal space work well enough for high-level music production.
And after getting those basics right (which you can do in any space), it's all about learning what your monitoring environment sounds like.
Once you've analyzed dozens of productions and spent hundreds of hours in your room listening to music on your setup, you'll have a pretty good understanding of what it sounds like and how it translates to the outside world.
Thankfully there are very systematic ways to go about this and accelerate this process big time.
And some very successful, amazing mixers have learned their less-than-ideal system and/or room so well, that they can make hit record after hit record without ever worrying about building a perfect studio or upgrading their current situation.
So even though great monitoring is a very useful thing to have, don't let your bedroom studio or your headphones hold you back.
Music Production Myth #4: "The guitar tone is in the amp and you gotta turn it up loud to make those tubes sound really great!"
A: The guitar tone is not in the amp. In fact, the guitar, the player, the cab (!) and the mic are all more important than the amp head.
Yes, you need an amp that's appropriate for your genre and it definitely matters if you choose a Vox AC30 or a Mesa Rectifier for your high gain tones. These are two very different types of amps.
But within the same category of amps, just pick one you like and then compare different cabs (super important and vastly underrated!), guitars and players and you'll be blown away by the differences.
Swap out the amp and you'll be surprised by how small the difference can be, compared to all these other things.
B: Power amp tone is the last thing you need to worry about. 90% of the amp's tone is in the preamp, not the power amp. So how loud you turn it up doesn't matter nearly as much as many people think.
Turning it up can also have side effects and sometimes the "hotter" tone from the amp comes at a high cost.
The higher level can cause the speaker to compress (can be a good or a terrible thing), the mic to distort (mostly a terrible thing), or your room problems to become more obvious (mostly a terrible thing).
And if you're using a power soak / attenuator to bring the volume down after the amp so you don't have those side effects - well, then the attenuator might have a bigger (and less desirable) sonic footprint than the tiny bit of additional saturation from your cranked amp.
I've seen so many pro producers track and reamp massive, gritty and dirty sounding guitar tones at surprisingly low levels. And I do it all the time, myself.
Don't believe me? Do a proper test yourself:
- Record an amp at a reasonably low master volume level, using the best cab, mic position etc. you can come up with.
- Then turn up the master volume significantly, make sure your recording doesn't clip and use the exact same cab and recording setup as before.
- Compare those two results at equal volume in a blind test in your DAW.
You might find most of the difference was just because a loud amp feels awesome when you stand in front of it.
And you might prefer the quiet version in some cases.
The best way to do tests like these is to use a DI track that you reamp, so you have the exact same performance to compare in a true blind test.
Bottom line: If you can't turn up your amp, not all is lost.
Just record your amp at a lower level (you might even prefer it).
Or capture the preamp out and use a great IR.
Or capture the power amp out and use a great IR.
(IN BOTH CASES YOU NEED A LOADBOX OR YOU WILL FRY YOUR TUBE AMP!)
Or use an amp sim with a great IR.
Music Production Myth #5: "Drum samples, amp sims, editing, vocal tuning, etc. have sucked the life out of music! Robots are killing the vibe!"
I LOVE organic sounding productions. I love to "see" a band in front of me when I listen to a record and close my eyes.
But I don't care, at all, how they made it sound that way.
It's not the tools that are killing the vibe. It's people not using them properly or musicians lacking the necessary skills and therefore trying to use these tools as a way to salvage their bad performances.
If you use the tools properly and tastefully, you can create even more exciting, dirty, "real" and organic sounding productions, because you can emphasize what's already great and remove what's annoying or distracting. Without ever making it too perfect.
"But my favorite drummer didn't use drum samples, so I won't use them, as well!"
Are you sure they didn't? How do you know?
If so, can you play drums like your favorite drummer?
Do you have a the same amazing room, drum kit, drum heads, mics, drum tuning and engineering skills?
Does your song really sound better without sample enhancement? (Your favorite drummer probably made the decision based on the answer to that question)
If you answered "yes" to all of these - awesome! Then don't use samples.
If any of the above is not true, then at least consider trying out samples and do whatever sounds best.
The exact same is true for all the other modern tools. Editing, amp sims, pitch correction, you name it.
They are not crutches and they are also not meant to make music sound robotic or overly perfect. They are just tools.
Your skills + your available tools to fix whatever needs to be fixed = your results.
I hope this inspires you and you feel empowered now to just do whatever serves your song.
Mentioned On The Episode:
TSRB 140 - Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy
Benedikt: don't believe any of, of, like, don't believe in these hard rules.
I think, or at least be
skeptical when you see something like that.
There's rarely a hard rule or black or white thing in this world.
Benedikt: Hello, and welcome to the Self Recording Band podcast. I am your host, Benedictine. If you are new to the show, welcome for joining us. If you are already a listener, thank you so much for coming back. And if you got any value out of the past episodes that you've listened to, please go to your podcast app that you use. Preferably Apple Podcasts. Leave us a review. Five stars and like few nice sentences about the show. This would really help us reach more people like you. We appreciate that. So thank you for this. finally, if you need help making exciting records from your home studio or your jam space, go to the surf recording band.com/call and book a free first one-on-one coaching call with me to get personal feedback on your music recordings and mixes. Answers to your most pressing audio questions, and a plan and step by step roadmap to help you record and release exciting sounding music consistently. Now, as always, today, I'm here with my friend and co-host, Malcolm Owen Flood. Good to see you, Malcolm. Hello.
Malcom: Hey buddy. It's good to see you, man. It's been too long. We missed a week. Um, I guess listeners won't know that, but I missed you,
Benedikt: I totally missed you, . Absolutely. I missed recording this, uh, this podcast. This is such a, an important thing on a Monday, like to start the week. I don't know.
a fixture in our life now yes, it's been an exciting time since I've seen you, man. I've like been on boats working with the Coast Guard, doing some crazy stuff up Northern bc. couple plane rides went camping. It, it's been epic
Benedikt: Yep. Sounds like it. Sounds like, so was it all, but part of it was work and part of it was not.
Malcom: Part of it was work and part of it was not. Yeah. Um, it, yeah, it was, uh, work and pleasure. and then I, yeah, I even got the mix of song in there as well, or, uh, yeah, a couple songs I think actually. So it's been very cool.
Benedikt: So let, let me ask you, what's the ratio these days between like your, if you're new to the podcast? I need to explain Probably Malcolm does, Is it called location, sound,
Malcom: It's called location sound production sound. Um, but essentially like the, the, the easiest way to explain it is that I do sound for television on set. so I'm on location of wherever we're filming, wherever the camera is. I'm also there getting the, getting the audio.
Benedikt: you do post for that too, or do you just capture it on
Malcom: I just capture it. Yeah. I don't do post, I leave that to, uh, the specialists. It's something I've dabbled in before, not sure it's for me, I like music post mixing, mixing and mastering. Um, and, but like for television, I like being the guy on set, so I just kind of chose to niche down and specialize in that instead.
Benedikt: And you kind of have to, I don't know if that's true, but I think you told me at some point that you are in charge of, like the audio in general on set. You have to sort of sometimes build a team or, or like handle the whole thing. It's not just holding the mic, but you, you are in charge of making sure that it's captured properly,
whatever that takes.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. If it, it could mean putting together a team, um, it could mean many technical things that have to be figured out in advance. It, it can get pretty complicated to make it all work and make sure that the right people are hearing what they need to hear. cause not everybody needs to be listening to the same thing necessarily. Sometimes we're filming two different conversations at once, and I have to figure that out. You know,
Benedikt: Yeah, I've said it before, like this whole world is something I don't know a lot about and it, it scares the crap out of me. I stopped mixing live shows years ago because that would give me anxiety and like, would make me nervous and like the pressure and everything. But what you do on a, on a film set like that is like, Seems even worse. but to me at least,
Malcom: it's funny cuz I, I also don't do live music for that reason. I just like nothing. No, thank you . I like my controlled environments with music.
Benedikt: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally. Maybe it's a different thing. I don't know. But what I wanted to ask is what's the ratio these days between that and say, like mixing and music production. how much of, of each of those do you do these.
Malcom: most of this year it has been mostly television. definitely that's been the majority, but, uh, that said, I've been mixing, mixing songs every month. Um, so the by no means has, has music mixing and mastering stopped. It's just been, uh, a lot of big television jobs that have me traveling as well. and then, but I kind of think the end of this year it TVs all the shows have kind of wrapped. So I think I'm gonna be mostly doing music for the rest of the year, which will be a kind of cool change of.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. And I wonder if that is actually a good thing. I think it is actually a good thing that you have these completely different but some, but still somehow related things that you do because. And like most people that I know and myself included, if you work on the same thing or a music all of the time, I don't know. Sometimes you just need a break. Sometimes you need to do something else. And I, I think if you go out, do something completely different and then come back to the studio. You, I think it's, it's, you will do better work compared to someone who's like there 24 7 basically all the time. Uh, assuming that you have, of course you've reached a certain level of like experience and skill in the beginning. I think you have to just put in the hours until you get good enough. But once you're sort of there and can maintain that, and, and of course you'll still wanna grow, but you have, you've reached a certain level, I. , doing a little less but more focused and having breaks in between is actually good for your work. I was talking to, to, to Brian Mc turn on a show last, last week. I went to a show. Brian Mc Turnon is one of my favorite producers in the hardcore punk rock show world. And, uh, he was on tour in Europe with his band and I, I finally got to meet him in person. We've only talked Online before and on my podcast, my other podcast. And, um, I was talking to him about this and he says like, he's quite a bit older than me, but he says, for that reason he only produces two. He tries to only produce two records a year at this point, like full production. because he really wants to be fully present with the artists all the time, be there in pre-production and writing and the actual tracking and then mixing and all of that. And he wants to do that properly and, Like put everything he has into that. But he feels like doing more than that, plus having his own band, which is a thing in his case, feels like he's, he's, he doesn't have the creative, you know, enough creative energy or, or creativity to give for, for those big projects. And I mean, these are big bands and big projects and and stuff, but I found it interesting to hear that somebody would limit himself to. Record is a year, basically these days, and he does mixing on top of that additionally, but like the full productions where he really is involved a lot, no more than two, and I found that really remarkable.
Malcom: Yeah, I, I find that, I, I don't think it makes me quicker at mixing, taking these breaks, because you, like, you know, the muscle memory slows down a little bit and stuff like that, but the advantages that I come back really fresh and creative, having like, just not been really listening to music and. Not being in these four walls that I'm in right now, uh, for a time of period, I come back like really creative. And because of, uh, the break, I think some of my, like habits have been broken as well. So I might just, you know, reach for a different tool all of a sudden and, and try that out when that can lead to some really cool results as well. So, yeah, it's been good. as long as I keep uh, doing enough mixing, I think it's gonna work out just fine.
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Of course you have to do, you have to at least maintain it and ideally still grow because things change and you wanna get better, obviously. Uh, but I'm just saying, I find it interesting that, um, I, I think it's actually a good thing. Sometimes I feel like I'm spending too much time in the studio at a, at a time, basically without a break in between. But it happens to all of us. I mean, All right, so let's get to today's episode. Completely different thing again. Um, but it's always good to catch up, especially when we skipped a week, today's episode is It's like one of these, I don't even wanna say the title because it's like, so it sounds so clickbait, but it's, it's, I think it's a really good, it's gonna be a really good episode. the title of the episode is, Don't Believe These Five Myths About Music Production. And the idea for that episode came from an email that I sent out, last year that I got a lot of positive responses to. And, uh, I put some thought into this email, of course, and there there's substance to it and we're gonna go through that because. I sent this email out and I came up with this because a lot of people make music production more complicated than it needs to be. they or they limit themselves unnecessarily by following quote unquote rules that they should have ignored right away. And we are gonna give you five example of common music production myths and explain why they are not true and why you shouldn't let them get in your way. So we're basically going through these five and, uh, tell you why we think we shouldn't listen to.
Malcom: I think it's okay to have a click by title like we do with this one. Don't believe these five Myth about music production. If we're dispelling clickbait,
Benedikt: Yeah. Exactly.
Malcom: it's using clickbait to fight clickbait.
Benedikt: totally. Exactly. And, and to me, the definition of clickbait would be to have a title like that but then not, follow through with the content. Basically you click on it and then it's a disappointment, which is not the case in this case. So, uh, you won't regret opening that email or listening to this episode, hopefully. alright. Let's go. The first one is don't EQ or compress more than X amount.
Malcom: this one, Oh man, like this one actually hurt my, my, the growth of my career for a long time. I think like me trying to figure out how to both engineer and mix in, in the post as well, like it. It would just slowed everything down because I was too afraid to do what I needed to do to get it to be what I wanted. Because I'd read, uh, if like, you don't need to compress more than two DB or four db, you know, just, just tap the, tap the meters . That's all you need to do. And it's like, well there's that. It makes zero sense. there's zero sense behind that like it. You have to compress it as much as it needs is really what it boils down to, and, and you have to cue it. If you need it to be a certain like amount of brightness in, in your vocal or whatever, then you need to do more than the like little tiny move that some guy on YouTube told me to do. You know?
Benedikt: Absolutely. And I mean, I mean, I don't even get what we are afraid of when we listen to this. I mean, I, I did the same thing. I thought, You aren't supposed to do more than whatever. But then I'm like, thinking about it now is like, what, what have we been afraid of? Like, what, what could happen? You know? It's like Chris Lord LG , I've heard that in an interview once, and he's been quoted a couple of times. he said like, No one's gonna die.
Basically, like that's, that's, you know, if, if a guitar, I think in his case he was boosting, I don't know, 12 db top end on a guitar or something where everybody tells you not to do a lot to distort the guitars. But if the guitar needs it because it's not right enough, then I mean, by all means,
Malcom: No one's good to die. I love that .
That's so true. Yeah. Now I will say that I think that more people struggle with this on compression than EQ because compression is harder to hear and understand it. It takes some ear training to really know what you're doing with a compressor. So that's why it's scary to, you know, slam something and not really be able to tell what you did. Just know that it's different. But that is, again, if you ignore this myth, don't EQ or compress more than X amount. If you just ignore that and just go nuts, you're gonna figure it out sooner. You're gonna be listening to more extreme examples and hearing compression in the extreme is when you can really tell what's going on. I think that's how I learned is cranked it up then. Then when you're playing with your attack and release, you can actually tell the difference cuz you're really mangling the audio and, and hearing different results. So, Do the opposite of this rule to start and then work backwards.
Benedikt: Thank you for saying that because there's, I have in my coaching program, if you're part of the, the coaching program, you know, I have what's called action plans in there, which are, assignments that consist of content and then exercises, and then my feedback that I give to people, and one of them is called hearing, understanding and using compression. And there is like an exercise and video that explains com, like a method that I use to, to sort of unlock what compression actually isn't understand it. And then at the end of it, there is an additional, there's two additional steps When people go through that the first time, they often ask like, What am I supposed, Like what am I gaining from doing this? Why? Why am I supposed to do this? What? What's the benefit? Basically, because I don't get it. And the assignment is what you just said. It's like I'm literally reading it right now. It's like compressor trek heavily. To add color and make it really consistent. Then use volume automation to add dynamics back in. That's part of it, to really make something super consistent and then get the dynamics otherwise, just to hear what that sounds like and to really make like compress something until it doesn't move anymore, basically. Um, and this, this is not to say that you have to do that every single time. That's an additional after we got it right, that's an additional exercise. And then the last one is, Like squash something really hard. Pay attention to the unwanted side effects because some, sometimes you have to push things to the extremes, to figure out how far you can go. That's like a summary of what, what's in there. But like, but I'm saying go crazy here. The goal is to smash something as hard as you can in order to test the limits and make it sound. Exciting and figure out where it cress out basically. So this is literally an exercise in my program because of that reason that you just explained. You have to test the limits and see how far you can go, and then you're like, Oh, all right. Until this point, it made sense. But now it starts to become like, this is, now it starts sounding weird and you, you don't know how, you know if you stop before you reach that you don't know, have you applied 50% or 60% or 80%, Like how close are you?
Malcom: Yeah, exactly. that one, I'm passionate about it. It just
drives me nuts.
Benedikt: yeah. Me, me too. And yeah, and every professional producer that, uh, we talk to says the same thing because there's no rule in either direction. The secret is knowing how much attract needs and then not being afraid of doing the right thing or like nothing at all. That's have sessions. Where there is a huge plugin chain on every single track. And then there are other sessions with like 10 plugins in the whole song, whatever the song needs. And so there's no rule in either direction. I think that's, that's literally the secret, and everybody will tell you that. Like nobody has the one thing that they always do.
Benedikt: Okay, No, uh, myth number two. My favorite classic record sounds so good because they used all this amazing vintage gear back then.
Benedikt: Nope. . Exactly.
Yeah. I mean, it's part of it, It, it's it's part of it. Uh, it can be part of it if people have good gear and know how to use it. That's part of the magic. But it's definitely not the main reason why you love these records.
Malcom: No. No, definitely not. Um, I think if all those people were in a room again today, they would make an amazing record again using modern tools.
Benedikt: I would even go as far and say they sound so good despite the fact that it didn't have all the powerful tools we all have today. That's actually more accurate, I think, because. You know, they would have killed for some of the stuff that we, that we can use today. and maybe the limitations led to better records indirectly because maybe the gear was part of it, but not because it sounds so good, but because it forced people to, to capture magic moments, to perform better, to be better musicians. as much as I love the fact that everybody can do it from their homes now, obviously, I think for the quality of like the big records out there, it was, kind of good that not everybody could do it, so that you had to be good and you had to have access to a studio and you had to have this team and all of that, and it had to be right, because otherwise people would lose their jobs and money and all of that. So I think the limitations and the way the music industry was structured, Forced people to just be better in front of the mic and to write better songs. And that's part of why we love these records so much. And this can still be done today if you take it seriously. And it's great that the gatekeepers are gone and all of that, but I think they had to work around limitations, which might have had an effect on it. But it's not the gear itself, it's like absolutely ab actually irrelevant. I mean, yes, good gear helps, but it's not, it's never been the number one thing that makes records.
Benedikt: And you always have to think about like what an a listener thinks when they listen to your track. Like just with the first myth, nobody ever said like, This song's awesome, but I wish they would've achieved that with less processing or whatever. Nobody ever said that when listening to a record, You know?
Malcom: Be that most nerdy thing,
Benedikt: Yeah. Like whoever, Like, no, nobody ever said that. And, and, and with this myth number two, it's the same thing. Nobody ever listened to a record and was. I mean, music people maybe do or like studio nerds like we are, but like normal music listeners, they, they hear the song and they make a decision of whether they like the song or not, but don't care what gear you use and they, they wouldn't hear the difference most of the time anyways, It's, Anyway,
Malcom: Okay. Side tangent here. Have you seen the Netflix show Metal Lords? Oh my god. It's funny, it's , it's like a teenager coming of age, like high school movie, you know, But it's like these two guys and one's just like a metalhead, elitist, you know, like the type where he is like just like how, how fast can he like shred is like everything in his life and metal, his life kind of thing. And it's like he hates everything out. Oh God, it so funny. But it's kind of. there's a parallel to the people that are like, like analog tape is everything. It's like the only way kind of thing is just like, uh, so, so out of context,
Benedikt: Yeah, absolutely. But it's a really great analogy. It's actually the same thing. And by, because you said tape, if you think about it, this is all not like magic or, or some voodoo that we can't, where we, where we don't know what exactly happened. We exactly know what happened. So which means. If we like the sound of tape or tubes or a certain piece of vintage gear, we can easily analyze that. we can get to the core of, of why it sounds the way it sounds, and then we can reproduce the same result with different tools that we have now available. So you just have to know what it is. It's not magic. You have to know what it is that makes a certain piece of gear sound good? And then you can recreate. That might mean you have to put like two or three plugins together to create the same thing. But if once you know what it is that you're after, um, it's no longer that one piece of gear that can do it. it's just, you know, like not the tools. Not
all. And then, think also the final thing I wanna say about this. Just stop blaming the gear, basically, because a lot of people think say that or, or think that it's true. Because if they would have to admit that it's not the gear, then that would mean like it's them or their song or their, uh, performance or how they record. So, but as soon as you can do that, you'll get better because then you work on the right things and the people who always blame the gear and who chase plug enough, the plug enough to plug in. Analog gear or whatever, they rarely get better because they are investing in the wrong type of thing. And the sooner you can realize that it's not the gear, but it's actually you and your song and how you record it, the sooner you make progress. So just don't just stop blaming gear and put in the work.
Benedikt: Cool. Myth number three. You need a perfectly treated, flat sounding room and high end monitors to achieve great sounding mixes that translate well to the outside world. This is a hot topic because some people would agree, but I don't.
Malcom: it certainly helps, is the, what I'll say about this one. Uh, there's no denying that this one has merit,
Benedikt: nothing wrong about it.
Malcom: Yes, there's nothing wrong
this case, there's nothing wrong
Malcom: and, and if it's, you know, a worthwhile, if there's stuff that you don't need to invest in before this, then sure, go ahead. Invest in great flat monitors. But, uh, I know some people that mix on like literally Apple earbuds that do amazing work,
Benedikt: Yeah, for sure, for sure. I mean, as, as I said, the fact that it's, it helps, like nobody would argue with that. That's true, but, I don't think you need it. It's, it's the first thing I would invest in. If I start to invest in gear and stuff, I would, the first thing I would do is like, invest in the room acoustics and, and monitoring headphones
or Yeah, headphones or monitors and if monitors, then also room acoustics. So that would be the first thing I would invest in. Um, definitely. But if you ask the question if you need it, I don't think so, because there are relatively simple ways to make a less than ideal. Space work well enough. So this means, and the question was like a perfectly treated, flat sounding room. I mean, there is no such thing to begin with. Uh, every room is flawed, but as, as soon as you can control the sort of worst aspects of your room, you'll be able to learn what your monitoring system sounds like. You just have to spend a lot of time on it and really learn it. And then you will also learn how to deal with the flaws. That's one thing. So you just need to get close, which you can do relatively easily. It doesn't have to be crazy expensive. And then there's other things like headphones or headphones plus sono works, which is a very flat, linear sounding reference, and it's different to mixing on on speakers. But if once you've, you learn what a mix sounds like on those, you can absolutely put out great work. Only with those headphones and maybe Sono Works. and, and I've, I've just seen too many people at this point work out of spaces like that or just on headphones. And I, I just, I just know it works. And my, my room is far from perfect too. I've invested in it and I've built stuff, but it's like a standard room with some absorbers on the walls and it's not science,
Malcom: Yeah, neither of our studios are purpose built. They were already buildings, right? Um, so we made them work. And I will say that like, I think investing in like, like for if you're a mixer, like Benny and I are investing in room acoustics is probably the smartest way to spend our money. Um, especially when it's an empty room to begin with. Like there's a bare minimum you can hit really easy. That's like so insanely worth the money. but. Again, it's like they're not perfect. My room is like really small compared to what an ideal room is, and I have, you know, put money into making it sound as good as it can, to an extent. You know, I could tear down walls and rebuild the thing, but I'm not gonna do that. That's crazy. So I just did what I could do, you know, within a reasonable budget and stuff and time, and then got to work on learning it and, and just mixing in it and getting good at it, and that that's all you need to
Benedikt: Yeah, a hundred percent degree. Number four, this is also, this is one of my favorites and I've ignored that for the longest time, where I didn't know about it until I made the test and figured out, what I'm about to tell you. So number four is the guitar tone. Is in the amp and you gotta turn it up loud to make those tubes sound really great. That's what so many guitarists have told me over the years on live stages when I told them, turn their amps down or in the studio. that's what every guitarist sort of thinks, at least in the beginning. And it's just not true for various reasons. What do you think about it?
Malcom: I agree. I think there's some amps that sound totally sweet when they're pushed. but like, it's not all of them. And more so that I've only had good results in like the, the cranking it. As loud as I can thing in a room where I've got like a really good isolation, between where the amp is and where I am. So I can actually tell what I'm, I've micd up, you know, like when I was first trying to do it, I was like, the amp was in the room with me. I was like, Yeah, it sounds screaming, but like I couldn't even tell. If I had placed the microphone right, or if I'd chosen the right speaker, like all these things that are more important, I couldn't actually hear because it was so loud. So unless you've got like a, a really good isolated place to put your amp and you can tell what you're getting out of the speakers, what you're actually recording, it's, I think it's, you're better off actually recording quieter so you can tell what you're capturing.
Benedikt: Absolutely. and I've sort of broken it down into two parts, like my thoughts on this. The, the first part was that, first of all, the guitar tone is not the, most important stuff about the guitar tone, to me at least, is not even in the amp, let alone the power amp. It's just in fact, to me, the guitar, the player, The cab and the mic are all more important than the amp head to me. So of course you need an amp that's appropriate for the genre and it matters if you use like a Vox or a Rectifier, that's a different type of amp. But within the same category of amps, I'd say just pick one you like and then compare different cabs, compare different guitars and let different people play with the same rig and you would be blown away by the differences. If you just swap out the amp, you'll be surprised by how small the difference can be compared to all these other things. So that's the first part of it, that the amp is not even the biggest thing compared to everything else in the chain.
Benedikt: And, and then the, the second part is once you sort of, uh, you get to the amp, then within the amp, the power amp tone. is what you push when you turn it up loud is the last thing you need to worry about. Like 90% of it can be sweet. I totally agree with what you said, Malcolm, but 90% of the amp tone is in the Preem, but not the power amp. It's in the way it distorts. Like how, what the gain sounds like. It's in the, the equalizer. It's in all of the, That happens in the Preem and the, the power amp is actually was built to make it loud and drive a speaker. That's what it was built for, and it was built to be transparent. Yes, of course. If you push it really hard, it also adds distortion and it can sound really nice, but that's just a small part of it and it doesn't matter nearly as much as people think. And it can have side effects too. Some people. Don't realize that there is a sweet spot and that cranking doesn't mean cranking it all the way, most of the time that's too far. And like somewhere you have to figure out where the sweet spot actually is, which is pretty hard to do because that will be super loud in the room and it's very hard to judge that standing in front of the, the mp. So it requires a lot of testing at different volumes because you can't judge that standing in front of an MP that's like super cranked. Um, and figuring out that sweet spot is, is really. And then there's other side effects. It can cause the speaker to compress, which depending on the type of speaker you use, the speaker itself adds distortion and compression. When you turn it up loud and you don't, So you might think it's the end, but it's actually the speaker. And if you swap out speakers, it's gonna react completely differently. if you use a power soak or attenuator, something like that, it's gonna be completely different. So long story short, if you know what you're doing and you have an amp that reacts very well when you push. Then it can be sweet, but it is not the thing that makes the guitar sound great. And there's a lot of things that are more important. And I'd say just do a test yourself. and be be honest to yourself. Like record an app at a reasonable master volume level, reasonably low using the best cap, my position, etc. You can come up. Then turn up the master volume significantly. Make sure your recording doesn't clip, of course. Use the exact same cap, recording, set, set up as before, and then compare those two results at equal volume in a blind test in your doll. And then will find, we will figure out that most of the difference was just because aloud and feels awesome when you stand in front of it. And you might even prefer the quiet version, depending. Your, settings and the, the way the reacts, but it won't be a night and day difference in most cases. And it might be different than what you thought it would be. So use the same exact recording setup, recorded loud and recorded quietly, then level match the two in the do, and then listen and, and, and do a blind test and, see what you like better. And that's, that's what I would.
Malcom: Yeah. It, you gotta experi. We're, we're both big preachers of learning your gear. So if you got an amp you should be playing with it and figuring out different ways of recording it and, and just comparing and seeing which ways you like. Maybe you do have to have it out loud to get it how you like it, but
maybe you don't. And like, again, you probably don't have a great isolation chamber for your amp. So if you can record it at a lower level, you can play better cause you can hear what you're listening to.
Benedikt: Yeah, and it's,
also encouraging because that means if you can't return your amp up, not all is lost. You can take your beloved amp home, and use a load box or something and just capture the amp and then use an ir, and it's totally fine. It's like, It's not that you can't record because you, you can't turn it up wherever you are. Like, that's, that's the, the good news here, I
Malcom: Yes. It's great news.
Benedikt: All right. And then the final one, do you wanna add anything to this or can we go to the
final one? Malcolm. Okay, awesome. so this is more, this is probably one of those, more or less monologue episodes. I'm sorry for that, but I just, I'm, I was very passionate about this email that I wrote and about this outline, so I know it very well. That's why I go through this. alright. The fifth one is drum samples. not only drum samples, but it's drum samples, amp simms, editing, vocal tuning, et cetera. People say that this stuff has sucked the life out of music. Robots are killing the vibe. especially drum samples is the one that I hear a lot, but the other stuff too, so drum samples, amim editing, vocal tuning, et cetera. I have sucked the life out of music. Robots are killing the vibe. What do we say to that?
Malcom: I'm hoping that we don't really even need to say this, but we're gonna, we're gonna talk about it, but like I'm, I'm hoping that if you're a listener to this podcast, if we've been doing our job correctly, Benny and I here, You, you agree with everything or you disagree with that? That whole sentence already
Benedikt: Yes, Yes,
Malcom: and, and yeah. I, I was just thinking like the last like 10 mixes I've done, I've used drum samples, amp sims editing and vocal tuning on all of them.
Malcom: The robots I've done really well for me, apparently. yeah, it, it's. This, this shouldn't be a conversation in 2022 here. Um, it's just so obviously that these are powerful tools that can be so helpful, especially for self recording bands where they don't have every gadget and tool available to them. This can help us just like, take it the rest of the way to a professional result. so I, I don't even know where to start. Which one of these one of these do you think is still mostly considered? I, I think, I think most people agree now that this isn't an issue, that you can use all these, but if there's one on this that you think people still get hung up on, what do you think it is?
Benedikt: it's difficult because I would think depends on who you ask.
Benedikt: I kind of know what it is because I get, I talk to a lot of musicians and people and, and I know what they are sort of afraid of or think is wrong. I don't know if that is necessarily what I personally would think it is, but I'm, as I said, I'm, I'm, I'm biased here, but so what I think, what I know it is, or, at least from, I know from my bubble might be different for other people, but from my experience, musicians are mostly afraid of. I mean, I can't even tell because even within the musicians, guitarists are afraid of ems and drummers are afraid of drum samples. Yeah. Sort of. Everybody's afraid of drum samples a little bit. So I'd say within musicians, drum samples is the biggest thing for me at least. Maybe that's part of the genres that I'm in, but like drum samples is the biggest one where I get most, not pushback because most people agree that you can use it, but like that's the one that people are afraid of, sort of the most, I think. guitar players. Are sort of hesitant, withSo, but not as much anymore. But everybody sort of hesitant when it comes to drum samples in some genres. But when you ask the public, I think. It absolutely is editing and vocal tuning, like the fact that you are correcting someone's performance basically means that you're cheating and that you are to them. It means that you're cheating and that you suck the life out of it, and that it's not the original performance anymore and that imperfections are important and make music great and sort of, I think most people would say that vocal tuning and editing is. Is the worst. And musicians, I think will to at least in my world, often say that drum samples are the, the no go. Or like what makes things robotic.
Malcom: I think you're right. I think editing vocal and vocal tuning are the things that people that have no experience recording say
Malcom: And then, uh, and then as soon as they've tried to record themselves, they're like, Oh, please use those tools to help me. And then, uh, drum samples until, they've had a professional mixer, , they're scared of them, I think.
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah, totally. And I think you, I, I think you're right that most people have accepted or like, not accepted, but they are happy for these tools. It's not like something bad that we have to live with. It's like, great that we have it. So, and most people, I think, realize that and how powerful it is. that's good. and I think the people who are afraid of it or who, who think it sucks the life out of music, it's not, it's not your fault. If you think that, I think you've either had a bad experience because somebody maybe did something to your music who didn't know what they were doing, that could be the case. or you tried it yourself and didn't really know what you were doing, or you've heard some. Purest, um, YouTuber or podcaster or I don't know, somebody tell you that this is wrong because they are out there and you will always find those kinds of people. And you know, there's, we, we have, We rarely have a black or white sort of solution or opinion here because we know that it's about your ears and the way, your taste and the way you make decisions. It's never about the tools that are available to you. But some people will tell you, that using certain tools is plain wrong. And if you listen to one of those, then that's my, that might be where it's, where this comes from. But I think Some people also just have had a bad experience because it's not that drum samples or editing is bad. It's when you do it in a way that's not tasteful. It's when your drums sound like machine guns when they are not supposed to, or it's when you sound like T-Pain when you actually want transparent vocal tuning. That's what you don't want, and that might be what went wrong in your case, but you can use these tools very transparently, make it sound completely organic, or you can use them on purpose very obviously and create effects with them and everything in between. So it's never the tools, it's just how you use them.
Malcom: Absolutely. Yeah. They can further your vision in whatever direction you want, if you know how to use them correctly.
Benedikt: Yeah. And again, do be be honest to yourself and do make an experiment like record your drums. And then put drum samples on them or let somebody put drum samples on them who knows what, what he or she's doing, and, make two versions of a mix or whatever and compare the two. And then just be honest and to be like, Which one sounds better if you can pull it off. I'd say if you, especially in a DIY recording environment, if you can pull it off that your. Real recorded drums sound better and work better in the mix than, the same kit plus good samples in the hands of, of an experienced mixer. If you can pull that off, then kudos, like hats off to you because that's really, really hard to do. so just do the test and see what you sound better and then what you like better, and then just use whatever makes the song feel good.
Benedikt: Okay, these were the five myths. I hope this was, uh, helpful. I hope you agree. and the bottom line is . Don't believe in these hard rules. I think, or at least be skeptical when you see something like that. There's rarely a hard rule or black or white thing in this world.
Malcom: Yeah. If you just remember that your goal is to make things exactly how you want them to sound. You'll be fine . You can use whatever you want to get there. You know, use any means necessary to make it sound how you want it to sound and you'll be pretty happy
Malcom: as long as other people agree with that also. Sounding good.
Benedikt: Yes, exactly. That's that. That would be good
Benedikt: in most cases. All right. Thank you so much for listening and uh, we'll talk to you next week.
Malcom: for sure. See you next week, everyone.
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