"The pros never don’t do the basics."
I love this quote, because reminds me every day that I shouldn't skip essential steps in the mixing process, even though they might seem trivial or less exciting than more advanced techniques.
Book a free feedback call with Benedikt, the host of the show!
In fact, if you take this seriously and get those seemingly basic things right, your mixes will already sound better than 90% of all DIY-mixes out there, because NOBODY is really doing that.
The perfect balance for every part of the song, including transitions, is the most important thing in any mix. More important than any individual tone.
Nobody cares about tiny EQ moves or a slightly different compression setting, if the balance is off. But everybody notices when the vocals are buried or the kick drum is too loud.
When every part of your mix is well balanced, it will translate well and (most importantly) connect emotionally. Nobody will question the mix.
Plus, your EQ moves, compression and other decisions will be much easier if you keep a good balance and proper gain staging throughout in your session.
But what is a good balance and how do we achieve it?
We know that this is the number one thing that makes most DIY mixes sound amateur, so we’ve prepared a free resource for you that shows you exactly how to do it, and what to watch out for. Including some powerful "hacks" and techniques that we use every day but you probably never heard of before.
It will help you make better mixes instantly, by focusing on what really matters.
It's a guide for the self-recording musicians who also want to mix themselves, that leads to more effective mix moves, more confidence, less tweaking and ultimately - better mixes.
So get this FREE resource now and do what most amateur mixers don't do:
Focus on the most important mixing concepts and techniques that really matter.
On this episode we give you an overview, show you what’s inside Standout Mixes and outline the process that is described in-depth in the actual video and checklist.
Mentioned On The Episode:
Benedikt: your mix even without extensive Processing will sound better than most people's mixes because nobody is really doing this. I know for a fact because I'm listening to so many mixes from people that I work with and from, people that I help and coach and teach when they start out, nobody does this. Hello and welcome to the Self Recording Band podcast. I am your host, Benedictine, and if you are new to the show, welcome, so stoked to have you. This is where we teach you how to make records at your champ space, at your home studio, wherever you are. DIY style. If you are already a listener, thank you for coming back. If you get any value. Out of these past episodes that you have listened to, please go to Apple Podcasts or your podcast app of choice that allows reviews and testimonials. And if you leave us a review there in a couple of nice lines like about, about the the show and five star reviews, stuff like that, that we would really appreciate that because that helps us reach more people like you and help more people like you make better records. So thank you for coming back and thank you for leaving us a review now today. I wanna announce something that is brand new and that I think will help you a lot with your mixes. And that is a free resource that I've put out. It's called Standout Mixes, and you can get it if you go to the self recording band.com/standout mixes. And it's called, the subtitle is The DIY Musicians Guide the exciting mixes that stand out and connect. And that's really what I think it is. And in this episode, we are gonna talk about that. So again, go to the self recording band.com/standout mixes. And yeah, as always, I'm here, not alone, but with my friend and co-host, Malcolm Olu. buddy. How are you?
Malcom: Hey man. I'm great, dude. Uh, yeah, had had a great week Stok to be on here. I'm just in music mode lately, so this is always, the highlight of my week.
Benedikt: Awesome. That's good to hear. Uh, it's the highlight of your week and it's also the first thing of your week,
Malcom: Yes, it's a great thing to start on
Wake up Monday morning, record a podcast, have some coffee, get going. It's awesome.
Awesome. Today, Malcolm's fresh, rested, coffee driven brain is like clashing with my very tired end of the day, brain. So I, I'm, we'll see how that goes. I'm not at my best
today, I'm afraid, but we'll see. , no. All good. I'm prepared. I'm ready. I'm stoked. So I hope you had a great weekend. First of all, Malcolm, sorry I didn't even ask
Malcom: Oh, no, I did, man. I did. But yeah, no. Let's, let's get into it. This episode is exciting. This, this resource is exciting, so I wanna get it out.
Benedikt: Cool. Perfect. All right, so let's dive into what I call the DIY Musicians Guide to Exciting mixes that stand out and connect. what it is, is it is a checklist and a video, and you wanna first download the checklist and then you wanna watch the video going through the checklist while you watch it. And in the video, I'm going through every single step on this checklist, and I'm gonna show you how to implement all of this. What it's actually. Meant to do for you. And um, yeah, it's a step by step action plan basically. And the reason why I made this, In mixing, and we often talked about this on the episode of the episodes on this podcast. By the way, the reason is that in mixing, most people, in my opinion, skip the most important things because what matters most is of often doesn't seem as exciting and fun to learn as some other things that are less relevant. So there's the saying, I think I said it before too, it's, the, the pros never don't do the basics, which is very, very true. And we never basically skip some of the essential foundational stuff because we know how important that stuff is. And in this resource, I'm gonna show you those basics, but trust me, you wanna still like, you really wanna download that and watch it. It's not boring, it's not like things you've already heard, because I think I'm showing you some concepts in there. And some actionables and some, some hacks and tricks to implement this that you might have not found anywhere else before. I think you haven't found it anywhere else before. This is really a unique thing that I built here, and it is around the concept of getting the right balance and doing things, making, doing things right without even touching plugins. And again, this sounds trivial, but it's. Very, very, very important. The most important thing about mixes that, plus great source tones, should give you a mix that is better than like 90% of DIY mixes out there, because a lot of people work with. Crappy songs, crappy source tones. And then they immediately go to plugins and, advance techniques and they immediately try to tweak things and, sort of cover up mistakes that they've made along the way. And what comes out is an overprocessed unbalanced mix that might have a little bit of punch and impact, but it's just not balanced. It's focused on the wrong things. It doesn't take you on an emotional journey. And if you have a. And you do exactly those things that this resource is about, then you are one of the very few people who actually do this. Right? And this will make or makes immediately better while still by at the same time being faster and easier in a way. So,
Malcom: Yeah, that, that's awesome. Like it it's a video with a companion checklist or vice versa, depending on how you look at it. But, you get both. and. Just to quickly clarify, there's gonna be, if you, if you don't remember that and, and you're worried you're not gonna, you're driving right now and you can't write down the link, it will be in the show notes for this episode as well. So you can just write through your podcast app, find the link to this resource as well. Check that out. and I wanna quickly add as well that if you are not interested in mixing at all, that doesn't really matter because knowing what makes a good mix. Helps you record good tracks as well. It's like it's reverse engineering in a way, so it's told the relevant and useful knowledge regardless to what you plan to do in the studio.
Benedikt: For sure. Absolutely. And by the way, the idea for this resource came from the following. I, I noticed that a lot of, like when we started out, I'd have to start this way, when we started out with the self recording band, We focused only on recording and producing, and we ignored mixing almost entirely. We talked about it sometimes, but we always said that we don't recommend you mix your own songs if you're not really experienced and you don't also work with other bands because if you only work on your own stuff, and that is the first record you ever mixed. It's very unlikely that you're gonna be able to make a really, really good professional sounding mix. But you can write great songs and you might be able to capture them well with some guidance, and then you can give it to somebody who knows how to mix. And that's the way we recommend. Um, you do it, that's the, the proper way of doing it. But, Of course people are interested in mixing and we received and still do, um, receive a lot of mixing related questions because people just want to learn and want to do it. And I did it myself. So I, I understand this so we started, talking about mixing topics on this podcast and. Of course answering mixing related questions, and I thought about how I could create a resource that was about mixing, but is not misleading and confusing and is not something that requires like years of experience. And because there's so many mixing checklists and guides and stuff out there that, that are true, like the content is true, but it's so hard to apply it without the experience and, and it doesn't give you immediately. Better results most of the time. And sometimes it's very confusing. It's conflicting information. So I thought about a mixing resource that is absolutely applicable for DIY musicians, DIY producers, that covers the, the essence of mixing the most important stuff. And I thought about what is the 80 20? Like what do you have to get right no matter what and uh, what do you need to get right first? And I wanted to make something that makes sure if you apply that you already have something that works and then you can continue to practice and develop your ear and techniques and polish it even further. But you have something that works that you can show to other people that gets your song across. And um, this is why I created, I did a poll online in our community and, um, I asked people what they wanted and I proposed this idea and everybody was soaked. So that's why I created this. That's the story behind it. It's a mixing guide for people who are not mixers yet.
And so that was the idea. And now on this episode, I think we should just walk you really quickly walk you through what's on that checklist and in that video. And the in depth teaching, the application of it and the, the how-tos and, um, the examples and all of that. You'll find that in the video, of course, and in these, and on the checklist. But we just wanna tell you what's, what's on there so that hopefully you will download it and you see the value in it, because I really think it helps you. yeah, and I'm, I'm also curious to hear your thoughts on all those things, Malcolm, because as always, with mixing music production, there's not one way to make a record or one process to, that you can, that you should go through when you're mixing. There's multiple different way ways and they are all, they can all work and maybe there's some things in it that you do differently or where the order is different. Because I always follow sort of, I've developed my own way of doing things and I follow a certain order when I produce and mix, but I know that some people don't follow the. Order and they still get great results. So if you have something else here, I don't wanna, I don't want this to be confusing, but if you have some thoughts on some of these points and or provide some context maybe for people or, you know, make it less of a rule book, then I'm happy to hear your thoughts on this too.
Malcom: Of course. Yeah, no, I, I, I've, like had a, a look through this pretty thoroughly and, I think we're, we're pretty aligned and as we've, we've actually discussed like our processes on, on previous episodes as well, and there's, there's always differences, but like you said, the, like the basics always have to get done, right. So it's kind of just a matter of what order they get done, not if they get.
Benedikt: Yes. Agreed. Exactly. All right, so it all starts with session prep. This is step one. this is preparing your. I have another video on how I do this. Actually, that is, the link to that is on the checklist. So if you wanna, check out that video, you can do it too. But you need the checklist first, or you're already on our email list, so you probably already got this video anyway. So, the first step is to properly set yourself up for mixing to set up the session. Then once you've done that, you wanna save a template so you can reuse that later. And you don't have to start from scratch every single time, especially if you're a band with the same sort of setup and arrangement. It's definitely wise to have a template and not having to start over again every single time you record a song, especially if things don't change as much. that's very basic.
Malcom: Oh, that's crucial actually, because it's like, it's all about removing the non-musical things from your path. so anything that is like slow, tedious, and, uh, not creative, you wanna just automate it if you can, so you can spend more time listening to music.
Benedikt: Yes, 100%. Then the next thing is That's something I don't, I know that not everybody does, but I swear by it. The next thing is you wanna define monitoring on a monitoring level. And I, I have monitoring levels in brackets because I have three different sort of reference levels. One is where I spent 90% of my time at, and then I have a quieter and a louder level that I switch to. But I think to me, at least to my workflow, it's crucial to have this reference level because that helps me learn my room and my speakers really well. And I. I just found out that over, I didn't do that for a long time, but I found that when I'm jumping around constantly and I mix at different levels all the time, it gives me perspective. But I also never really learned what my system and my room sounded like, and once I, I started sticking to one reference volume level. I started developing a much more detailed, hearing in a way I, I could immediately tell if something sounded loud or quiet, if something had an impact or not. It, I dunno, it's just our hearing is just not linear and it sounds different at different levels. So having one level that you calibrate, you're used to sort of really helped me. And I know mastering people do this absolutely all the time, like almost everybody. But in mixing, some people like to just have levels all over the place and I think it helps me in mixing too.
That's some, so that's why I recommend it.
Malcom: it speeds up the learning process and, uh, just makes it so you have a reliable kind of reference. Like you said, you know what your room sounds like, uh, you know what a, like a loudness translates to as well. it's kind of a hard thing to explain, but take our word on it. Try and stick to one level to start. I use two levels generally. I've got a dim button on my controller, so I'm just going down to quiet back up to loud. And then of course, my hand does creep over to the volume knob every once in a while and experiment. But
Benedikt: Yeah, exactly. That's pretty much what I meant with three levels. Like I have two set levels, and then the third one is basically I just crank it without sort of, I just, from now, every now and again, I just wanna hear what it, and feel, what it sounds like when it's So, yeah. Uh, and how would I exactly do that? The, the levels that I use precisely and what my thoughts are behind this, this in the video, so this would be an entire episode of itself. But it's in there. The next step is once you prepare yourself, you have your monitoring set up, you, your, uh, levels defined. You have your session set up and all of that. The first part of the real mix to me is the discovery phase is where I learn the song, basically. So it's a really quick part of it because I wanna react intuitively and quickly to the music, to the musical material. I don't look at any numbers or any, I. Listen to the song, and I, I get a feel for what's on the track. So I just throw up the fades. I make mental notes, as I discover those tracks. Um, I might make actual notes maybe, while I discover the tracks. Sometimes it's just something I re remember later. Other times I need to write it down. I mute solo, different groups of tracks or individual tracks, and. Basically just go through the song one, two passes maybe, and then I get a feel for what's actually in front of me and I have to do this really, really quickly and intuitively and some of. I don't know. There's something about this initial reaction and this initial very quick balance that you create that, is special because that's a, you know, that's a one time moment. This never happens again. You hear the song for the first time, exactly once, and that's how you, how every listener will react to it the first time. So the way you intuitively balance things is you should pay attention to that because there's a reason for why you react that.
Malcom: Totally. Yeah. Crucial. Crucial moment. Like you said, it only happens once you get to hear the. well, I guess it's tricky if you recorded the song, you've probably heard it all before, but in, uh, Benny and I's situation where we're getting the song to mix and it's our first time really getting eyes on it. It's like that's a, a super important part of the process.
Benedikt: Yeah, a good point actually, because you probably heard the song before because you've recorded it, but still with some distance between the recording and the mixing and all the way all the faders at zero again, like down to like, not zero, but like turn down again and you start from scratch. It's still a different kind of perspective and the more you dive into the mix, the more.
The closer you will get again. So even if it's not the first time, it's still probably the, the one time where you're most objective about your own song.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. That actually brings up the good point of giving yourself some time away from it before you start mix. And a lot of mixers or producers who also mix, will actually export their tracks into a new session to do this, to like, to have to start fresh, you know, like lose all of the volume fadings, like, like and mixing they've done on their tracking session because it forces 'em to kinda look at it fresh.
Benedikt: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. the next part is basic gain staging, which means. I explained this in the video, how I exactly do this, but this teaches you how to use how I use avu meter in the mix best and why I think it's useful. I show you how, why and why I start with faders add zero. So not all the way down, but at unity gain. So zero is like, you know, when you look at zero on a console doesn't mean all the way down. It means zero. There's default. Yeah, exactly. so, and I tell you why I do that and why I like to keep them there as long as possible. I'd show you how you set levels without moving the fats and why. I think that's a good idea. Up to a certain point, I show you how to use a view meter and uh, I show you how to use things like clip gain, gain plugins, or the input gain and how you get the gain staging between plugins. Right. And I know that some people, again, this is something, some mixers completely ignore that and just do whatever. I think that it's good to follow the sort of analog way of working and just. Basic understanding of gain staging because some plugins emulate analog circuitries and you can absolutely overdrive them without knowing. and unless you stick to purely digital processes and plugins with 32 bit float and all these things, I think you should pay attention to your gain staging. And there's other benefits to it too, like even if you don't get clipping, there's benefits to having a better fatal resolution and to not overloading your mix bus. And I explain all of that in the checklist, but this is something I know for effect a lot of people It's also confusing because a lot of people tell you that you don't have to worry about this anymore, and I don't think that is true, especially with all the analog emulations. I think it's definitely true and it's a good habit to just prevent the red lights from turning on and to, not only that, but send healthy levels into plugins, which doesn't only mean not clipping.
Malcom: totally. I do this differently, but to the same result. So , I'll leave it
Benedikt: Yeah. exactly. And by the way, in this video I also show you what I'm going for and if you find a better or different way to do it for in your workflow, feel free to do that. The result is all that matters. I'm just showing you my workflow and I'll definitely show you the why, so you can take that why and apply it differently
Malcom: Yeah. I would say though that how you do it is, is the, is like the, the quickest way to do it. If you don't really understand exactly what we mean here, like I can do it my way just because I can literally, probably just by looking at my session, I could gain. Staged it, like pretty roughly without hearing anything. but that's, you know, a long time, a lot of experience of looking at pro tools, right? Um, for, for people getting into this Benny's route is actually something you can follow and, and understand as you do it and hear. So, it's like a repeatable process actually. , which is a huge bonus
Benedikt: Yeah, it's, it's always wise, I think, to start with the process and then once you get comfortable with it, you can change the process, but don't start with your own process until you have one that actually works. It's, you know, like that. Okay, so that is that basic end staging. Then, um, the next step is finding the right balance. And this is, we made an initial balance, first an intuitive sort of reaction to the song. but then, but now it's like really finding the actual balance, like fine tuning that Now we, we have our main structure, we have our notes from the, from the initial discovery phase, but now we do the actual balancing. Balancing means. Correct level balances between, but level relationships between the individual parts. And I don't only talk about it in terms of level relationships, but also in terms of a frequency balance, like, base content versus upper midrange and presence and top end. And so there's a balance in the frequency spectrum and then there's a volume balance like between aick and a snare, for example, or a vocal in the bass or something, you know, Overall balance without plugins. Like, I'm not saying manipulate the EQ to achieve the frequency balance. That's part of mixing too, and we'll get to that. But in this part of it, it's like just balancing out what you already have, finding a good spot for everything because you can get pretty far without manipulating those sounds, especially if the source strikes are good.
So, I'm gonna walk you through why it's wise to start with the loudest part, how you set levels and panning there. Why I set up the mix bus early in the mix at this point, and why you can do that once you have the proper levels basically, and why that helps you and why, why? I think it helps if you use a mix bus processor, then. I show you how I use a spectrum analyzer to help you balance better in terms of frequency, but also in terms of volume. There's some tricks that I've u that I've, uh, that I use, and I'd like to say I developed some of them, but I'm sure I'm not the only one doing it. I just come up with my own way of doing it. But I use a spectrum analyzer for all kinds of things, and I know exactly what I have to look for to confirm or, sort of to confirm what I hear or to tell me that what I'm hearing is probably not right.
So, and I show you, I should show you exactly how I use those tools to achieve that. Because I think if you are in a less than ideal monitoring situation, and if you don't have years of experience, it's absolute absolutely beneficial to not only use your ears, but also look your eyes, uh, look with your eyes and use your eyes Sometimes, even though people might tell you differently, but I think it's a good idea to have to know how to use an analyzer and certain meters.
Malcom: These tools exist for a reason. , right? So yeah, make, make use of 'em if they're helpful for you. This, this whole finding the right balance step. Like, like you said, like starting at the, the loudest part and why that's beneficial. Setting up your mix posts. This is kind of like creating the, the outline or like the, like the framing, the picture you're gonna be painting inside of, you know, it's like a really crucial step. Cause otherwise, uh, you don't know where the borders are of where you can push things and stuff. So this gives you kind of a frame to, to paint inside of and is a hundred percent crucial.
Benedikt: Yes, absolutely. Exactly. The frame is a great analogy. Like you're, you Yeah. You're building the, the frame that you're gonna paint, um, inside of Absolutely. Okay. Then, uh, perspective, we touched on that step five or like Yeah, step five on the checklist. But this is a general thing throughout the process, we touched on it quickly. It's important that you don't get too close to your song, which is hard as a DIY musician, of course, a DIY producer, but it's very, very important in mixing so, I show you a couple of techniques that I use to keep that perspective. This includes, I think, and work in stems of groups and instrument of instruments. So I might mute certain types of instruments and only work on some, and then I might mute those and work on others to give me a completely different. Perspective, if you switch from a low end instrument to a high end, top end instrument, everything changes. Um, you focused on one part of the frequency spectrum a lot, and now you hear something completely different and it takes a little while to adjust to that with, which gives you a fresh perspective. So I, I try to do things like that. I check my balance on headphones and speakers. Um, sometimes I don't. To a lot of different playback sources, but, at least headphones and speakers. I go back and forth between sometimes, and I think you should do that if you don't, spend eight hours a day every day in your studio like I am. So you definitely should have a good pair of headphones for reference, I think.
Benedikt: And then I check balance at basically the three different volumes that I told you about in the beginning or that we told you about because. Ears in our brain can focus on different parts of the spectrum better when we listen quietly compared to when we listen loudly. So I, for example, most people can hear top end better when we listen to a mixed, quietly, we hear if the top end is clear, if there's distortion, if the symbols are just way too loud or buried, you can hear that very well when you turn it down, if you crank it a lot and you listen to the, you try to listen to the symbols. Our ears are sort of, it's almost like we're protecting ourselves. The, the symbols just. Are not clear anymore. Um, we feel the base a lot when it's loud, so that's good. But the top end is very hard to judge. It's almost like, yeah, it's just
a protection thing, I think.
Malcom: It's pretty bizarre
Benedikt: yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. So perspective, this is various ways in this video, to keep perspective and, and I think, I think this is really, really important. And I wonder, Malcolm, if you have any tools, tricks, and techniques to, to, to maintain, to keep that perspective when you.
Malcom: Uh, I mean, I'm, I'm very similar. I've got my couple volume positions that I check out always. I, I do like the even quieter, like turn it down until I can only hear one thing kind of thing. And, and that's generally tells you what's the loudest part of your mix. and sometimes you'll be surprised at what you can hear when you turn it as low as you can. I check on headphones, check on my speakers. I like to do a phone playback as well. I, I just kind of like, once a mix is done, I'm usually feeling pretty stoked. So throughout the rest of the day, after I've left the studio, I'm, I'll probably throw it on my phone, I'll throw it on my little Google speaker. I just wanna keep listening to it and hearing it in different ways. And then generally that might give me a couple clues, and then the next day I'll come back and actually just make one or two more tweaks and then send it.
Benedikt: Awesome. Yeah, really cool. The, the different, um, playbook systems is huge and in the beginning especially, I think I have to admit that I don't do car tests as much anymore. Like, not
Malcom: either. Car's pretty rare for me.
Um, I, I think this is actually something we should do an episode maybe on. Uh, but the, the listening on different systems things, people don't understand what they're meant to hear when they do that. And uh, I've had it where people go and listen on. They get the mix, they listen with their best headphones and they're like, cool. And then they go and they listen on, like their mono Bluetooth speaker, and they're like, it sounds totally different. Yes, , it's gonna sound totally different on everything. They're, they're different in different
places as well at different volumes, most likely. so people don't really understand that that's just how it is. It's more so that you're listening for something that's an issue on one of these. Like, you might find that like, like this, the percussion, like you got a tambourine that's just like so harsh when you listen to it on headphones. That just seems to be fine when you're on your like nice speakers or something. Like that's kind of what you're looking for. You're, you don't, don't expect it to just be like the same everywhere.
Benedikt: Yes, absolutely. it's, it's very interesting you say that. People say it's different. That's kind of the point, right? And you don't, you don't freak out about it. but it's pretty, it's pretty common actually, when, but when we send out mixes to, to clients as well, to mixing clients, they'll listen to it in the car or on their phone or something and then they will be like, it's cool, but when I listened on this or. Just the bass is crazy or whatever. And of course I double check and see if there's really an issue with the bass. But oftentimes they freak out because they've never analyzed anything else. The way they analyze their own music and they think that something's wrong with their mix. And then I tell 'em, Have you listened to other stuff on the same system and is the base crazy, maybe there too? And then they do that and then figure out, oh, actually everything sounds kinda low and heavy on this thing, but I've never noticed, you know? But they, for the first time, they pay attention really well when they're listen to their own stuff and, and oftentimes it's the, the system, they're listening on it, not the mix. But yeah, it's a pretty normal part of it.
Malcom: Totally. That's another good reason cars are kind of outta favor is because everybody's got their EQs on their car system all outta whack.
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. Totally. Totally,
Malcom: the base is cranked like 12 DB
Benedikt: Yeah. Yep. Yep. That's a good one too. Yeah. Okay, so, uh, perspective. this is one, one section that I think is really cool. This is, I call it balancing hacks. This is tricks that I use when I mix. So there's one that I call the beatbox trick. You gotta watch the video if you wanna know what that is. Uh, I think it, it really helped me a lot, and I'm gonna show you how to, how to achieve that, how to do that. It's about balance. I can't say that It's about balancing the, the finding the right balance between the kick snare and vocals, the drums and the vocals, because to me, the beat and the vocals are often the most important parts of a mix. The groove, the thing that makes you move to the song that drives the song. And then also the vocal is obviously important in most cases. So, and balancing those two is very important to me, even more so than finding the right guitar balance. You can get away with like slightly too quiet or too loud guitars, but I think the center of it, the groove plus the vocal that just has to sit right and, and there's something I do here that I call the big, the beatbox trick. I use a view meter. There's a view meter trick, and this is not, I didn't come up with that. I saw that from JQ King
Malcom: I know the one.
Benedikt: who, uses Avu meter to analyze the balance between the kick and the low and the base. So basically, or the low end of the kick and the base, how to get that part right when he comes to volume. It's not the end all be all, or the only method to do that, but I, it's fascinating to me how close I am every single time. These days, I don't often use the trick to get there. I just do whatever I do. But then I sometimes use it to double check or to just out of curiosity to see where I landed. And if I do this trick and I do the analysis with the view meter, I'm pretty much in the ballpark every single time. So there's definitely truth to that.
Malcom: Yeah, the, these hacks can be useful just as a piece of mind tool. Like you just trust your gut and then like if you're like kind of struggling with it and you can't really figure out what's going on, you can pull up one of these moves and be like, oh, okay, I see, like this is telling me, this is literally showing me that this bass guitar is too loud, and that once I've corrected that, it all kind of falls into place.
Benedikt: Yeah, absolutely. And then there's another trick that I think is, I saw multiple people do this before and I did it well. I also have done it for a long time, which. I sometimes I create a mix that I like, and the way I set up my session is I have five main buses that everything goes to. It's my drums, my bass, my guitars, so I have drum bus, bass, bus, rhythm, guitar, bus, lead, bus and vocal bus. These five buses that everything goes to. And so sometimes, most of the time, these day around zero, I don't do a lot of balancing on those faders at the beginning of the mix, I do most of it on other groups and individual tracks. sometimes I have a mix that I like, but I, I think I kinda lost perspective. I'm flying too close or I don't know what I'm doing anymore or whatever. And if that's the case, I don't wanna start all over again and, and mess up everything, but I can easily just turn down these five buses. And rebalance the mix on the buses. Again, just with a different perspective. And so what I'll often do is instead of starting with the cake and snare the drums, what I usually do, I might bring down all those main buses so I don't hear anything. And then I start by bringing up the guitars first, the rhythm guitars. So I start with this big block of midrange, basically. And then I bring in the base maybe to see if it adds low end to the guitars in a good way, and how those two go together. And then I might bring in. I dunno, maybe the vocals and see if they have space within that block of midrange. And then at the end I might bring up the drums and see if the pulse fits in, if the top end, if the symbols take over the top end in a good way and just doing it differently or in reverse basically, or I don't know what you wanna call it, but just differently on those buses gives me a new perspective. And I sometimes. sometimes it confirms what I, what I've already done, but sometimes I end up at a slightly different balance than what I've done before, and this just helps me, and I show you exactly how to do that. There's an, I do this all with an example song and the video, and so this is the third hack here.
Malcom: I don't think I've ever actually done that. And I, I like the idea of it quite a bit. there's so much information to fit into the mid range, so I, I think this makes a lot of sense.
Benedikt: It just, it's just different to me when you start with the drums and then you bring up the guitars. Well, of course that works too. And that's what I do most of the time when I mix. But it's sometimes different than compared to starting with that midrange and then try and then seeing what happens when you. Pull up the other things, because sometimes I feel like I have to, the, so first of all, this helps with the balancing, but this also helps because it shows you that there are, that it shows you if things are clashing. Because what, what happens sometimes is you start with the guitars and then you bring up the vocal, for example, and you find you have to turn up the vocal really, really loud in order for it to be really audible and intelligible and you know, and. It's just too loud. It's just, and if you, but if you turn it down, it's kind of buried. And so it's hard to find a sweet spot the way it is. And that tells you that you have to make space for it in the guitars or there's something, something else that needs to be fixed. And it's not purely a balancing issue. And I, I can focus on that better if I do it that way sometimes, or if I do it a different, in a different order.
Benedikt: yeah. Cool. All right. Then the next step. So you have at this point, you have a balance that works. You've used some different tricks and methods, and you've learned them to create a good volume balance throughout the song. Now all of this has been static. Basically you've just turned up the faders, you, you adjusted the clip gain and gain structure and all those things. Uh, you've discovered the song and now don't wanna static mix, of course. And most of us are aware, or like not most of us, I shouldn't say that. A lot of people are aware that there is automat. You can use, and you typically do that at the end of the mix. Most people do, where you ride fades at the end of the mix and make sure that it's not a static mix, but it moves, it's, you turn up certain parts, you turn down certain parts in certain areas, you, uh, automate effects and all of that. But I have an additional step at the, quite, at the beginning of the mix still, that I use. And this is what I, what I'm talking about in this bring it to life step here, which is I go through the song part by part and I identify and confirm. Focal points. So again, go back to your notes from the discovery phase where, you've discovered the song and you might have listened to the chorus and you're like, okay, definitely the vocal plus this harmony. This is really what the chorus is, this is the essence of this chorus. So I have to focus on that. And then there might be another part where you're like, there is this cool. That keeps, you know, repeating or whatever. And that's really what I need to bring out in this part because that's, that's the thing about this part. And, uh, so you go back to your notes and you either confirm the focal points you already found, or you, you now identify those part by part and now you. Without automating the fader, you now might want to bring up just with clip gain, you might want to bring up certain parts a little or bring down certain parts a little. You wanna manipulate the, just like manipulating the source tracks, the, the raw tracks that you have just to mimic what would happen if someone played quiet parts, actually quiet and. Played louder in the loud parts. You wanna create a natural dynamic throughout the song, like a band who has a natural dynamic. And, um, I, I liked that a lot because that pushes these dynamics into my processing, into the plugins, and I wanna get to a point where I wanna hit play and I wanna be. I wanna be able to listen through the whole song, and I wanna have the basic big picture macro dynamics there. I wanna hear a loud part as a loud part, and I wanna hear a quiet part as a quiet part, and I wanna make sure that I'm sort of on an emotional journey throughout the song. Before I even add any effects to touch anything, because that will make it so easy, so much easier for me to then, put even more emphasis on that with my processing. And I, I just wanna hear a finished song. I don't, I don't know. I wanna get to that point really quickly. So in this bring it to Life step, I do that you identify and confirm focal points, you create forward motion, and you turn the static balance into an emotional journey. and I know that when I sent this resource to some of my coaching students, they were. But don't you do that at the end with automation? And I'm like, yes, you do that too. But I like to have this additional step. And ideally, you don't have to do this. Ideally you have source tracks that already do this. That's the the perfect world, right? But if the source tracks aren't as dynamic as they should be, and if they just don't, if the parts just don't feel right, I absolutely go in and with clip gain, just turn down or up certain parts to just so that I can just hit play and listen to the song without constantly wanting to change everything when a new part comes.
Malcom: Yeah, I, I mentioned at the beginning that you can reverse engineer these tips and steps to make better recordings in the producing and engineering phases. And this is like exactly that. It's like if you get to the solo and it doesn't feel like the band is like kicked in to overdrive. And it's meant to, you know, you should try and make that happen while you're recording. Of course. You know, like, why isn't that guitar pushing a little harder? Why isn't the drummer hitting harder at that section? But with Clip Game, we're kind of like artificially adding a little, even like a step further if we need to. and just making things get louder there. So can totally take this and just apply it to your recording process.
Benedikt: Absolutely. yeah. Love it. And you have the luxury of doing that because you can go get. To the source material and, and change things, you know, um, you learn a lot about, um, your recording process, but you also can actually go back and fix things. When you discover problems in the mix, you don't have to, it's not the, the same as when, when Malcolm and I are mixing songs and we have to get back to the bands and ask them if they can redo stuff. That's always pretty tedious, but you can just be like, okay, you know what? Before we try and fix this s now let's just re-record it properly.
Malcom: Totally. Or, or add another track. You know, like, it's like if it doesn't lift when you're listening to it, what would make it lift, you know?
Benedikt: Yeah, exactly. This brings us to step eight, which is finish the rough mix. And this is, you'll listen to the rough, that you now have. It's still a rough because you haven't used any processing with the exception of like essential effects. Of course, when I say it without plugins, it means if there is something that's just part of the source tone, basically like an or something that's critical, of course keep them on, but like without any other mixing techniques that you might typically immediately go to, no EQing, no compression, none of that, you should be able to. Have a, you should now have a rough mix. That sounds like a song, not not polished maybe, but like a song. And, uh, now you listen to that, you identify problems and as we said, you fix the source if you can. And so you wanna arrive at the point where you have a, like a professionally produced rough, basically that, that sounds great. Without a lot of tweaking necessary. Now I'd. Reference carefully and quickly at this point too, up until that point I go with, I'd go with the gut feeling and flow and these techniques that I show you and some of the analyzes things, but I wouldn't spend too much time referencing too early in the process because it will be confusing. I think at this point. Now you can quickly, carefully. Like, use some references and see if you're in the ballpark. If some things are crazy loud compared to your favorite songs or way too quiet, but do it quickly and carefully. Don't let it confuse you because ultimately it's subjective. And sometimes listening to references can just be demotivating and it's not really, you know, it's the same thing as with knowing your speakers. You gotta know what you actually listen for. You gotta see it as like, I don't know, like the, the extreme boundaries maybe, or like, you wanna be in the ballpark, but. The goal is not to recreate another mix, and this is what a lot of people start doing when they reference a lot. Now, when the rough mix sounds like a song and you know that you are in the ballpark and you like all those decisions and the, it just feels right, save that and print it. Very important because you, now have, you've now gotten to a point pretty quickly, hopefully, Works and you worked on that really carefully, and it's easy to completely ruin that once you get to compression EQ and all the other mixing techniques, it's very easy to completely mess that up. It's very, it's pretty hard, especially at the beginning to be disciplined and keep your gain structures intact and compensate for any level changes you make and all of those things that you, that you do in mixing. And, uh, you'll get even closer to the mix you, you are working on. And before you know it, you have something different but you. All the stuff that you've worked so carefully on in those first steps here. So I'd definitely say save the rough mix so you can, it went in doubt. You can just go back and, and start from there again. And absolutely also print it as a reference that you can just, and load it up in your session so that you can go back and forth quickly between the rough and what you have right now, because now you know that the balances are right, you know it feels right. You carefully done the balancing, which is the most important thing about mixing, and now later you wanna be able to. If you still have that balance or if something got crazy louder out of control in the
Malcom: Yeah. And, and it might be like when you're comparing, it's fine if it's different, but make sure you like it more, you know, so it's like, oh, it, it, something did change. Do I like it more or less, you know? so volume match it, and then, and then check.
Benedikt: And then the final steps are, and this is. Yeah, I'm gonna say, but then I'm gonna tell you what I think about it. The final steps are refine the mix bus and other buses and groups. At least for me, this is what I do. First, I wanna make sure that the frame is correct, that I'm listening through and mixing through. So I might do some tweaking there and see if what I had initially still works. And then I go to the heavy lifting part of, of processing where I do clean up eq. So I go back to my mental notes or my actual notes from the balancing process, and I clean. Resonances, mud, things that clashed, things that I noticed that I couldn't solve with balance that I need to EQ to make them work, which is now way easier because you spent the time learning the tracks, learning what's on the tracks, making sure to get a balance without processing, and only once you got to a point where it's not possible. You know that you need to fix it with eq, which is now easier because you can do it intentionally then, uh, and you won't touch the things that already work. Then there's sweetening EQ where it might work, but it just needs a little more low end or top end or whatever to, to polish it. Then there's compression. If there are things in the discovery process, in the balancing that no matter what you did, they just didn. Sit, right. They were jumping all over the place, like sometimes too loud, sometimes too quiet. You know that you need to limit their dynamics. You need to know that you need to compress this more. So all of these first steps are giving you the information you need to then make, to then do the other things. And if you skip all of the stuff, all of the balancing, all of the things we've been talking about, it's way harder to make good acute decisions, good compression decisions. You won't listen in context, you will listen in isolation and you won't know what you actually wanna do. But if you did it properly, you can thenq better, more easily, faster. You can compress better, you know what to touch and what not to touch. The heavy lifting part of it is way easier for me. And then, and then, yeah, finishes off with, vibe and character and effects type of things. And I might add parallel processing. Might not do that. Sometimes I do it. This is kind of advanced because it also messes with the balance again. So if you do that and you bring in additional channels in parallel, they changed the volume. So might have to go back and check the rough mix that you hopefully printed. Then I have the final automation step where I do the actual fader rides and automation at the end to really make it move. And that's sort of my mixing process and the way I went through this checklist. Now you see, you saw that the emphasis, and this is also what this video checklist is about. Is really on the first steps, not on the queue and compression techniques and all of that, because that's the part that takes a lot of experience and time and where you, there's no way around experimenting there and, and learning that, but getting balancing right, The relationships, right between the different volumes, the different things on your fades, making, like defining what is the focal point. defining the macro dynamics throughout the song, identifying things that are clashing, all these things. This is really the, the most important part of it, and that's why I'm focusing so much on it in this checklist and in this video and the rest of it. Necessary, but can be learned quicker and easier once you've done that. And it just will take time until you get really good at it. And, and I swear, if you do the balancing part right and all the things that we've talked about on this episode, then your mix even without extensive like, Processing will sound better than most people's mixes because nobody is really doing this. I know for a fact because I'm listening to so many mixes from people that I work with and from, people that I help and coach and teach when they start out, nobody does this. they might be using five EQs on each track and three compressors and a lot of effects and all those things. But nobody has a really good balance and a, a really good panning and like a, a clear focal point and a, a movement throughout the song and all these things like nobody really. So if you do that and learn that your song will connect better with the audience than most other mixes, it's
Malcom: Yeah, and your job of doing all of, you know, the fun stuff like messing with compressors and EQs becomes so much more intuitive and easy and, and actually, like you'll, you have like, you know, a balance to work with you. You need that foundation to get started and actually be effective with all those fun tools. So it's, it's crucial.
Benedikt: and I'd like to again say that balance. A lot of people talk about balancing and how important that is, but to me, balancing is not a static thing where you find a fatal balance and that's your balance. To me, it really is also defining. These focal points, doing it part by part, creating a really good performance, manipulating the source tracks if necessary. and, and just making sure that the balance is right for every part, not for the whole song as a whole, basically. Uh, because it's, it's a thing that moves, ideally you, it's about this emotional journey. It's about the forward motion throughout the mix. And so balancing to me is not a static thing. Finding the right balance is an emotional thing, and it can. Yeah, it's not as, as simple as that. And I often see when people talk about balancing, it's too, too, it's not, I don't know. I think about it differently. I think about it as a con, as a thing that constantly changes and it starts with making the source track really work well throughout all the parts.
Malcom: Yeah, you gotta balance, you know, part to part and, uh, and it's something that you'll keep doing as well. Like this, this list is lists in their, you know, by virtue of what they are, are linear, ordered steps kind of thing. But every one of these steps essentially is getting gone back to, repeatedly throughout the process. Um, at least for, for me. And it's like, okay, I've. nailed the kick sound finally kind of thing. It just locked in a place, but that has made the verse a little bit more bombastic than I wanted it to be. So I gotta go back and alter that section to make it less bombastic or, you know, that's just a random example, but it's kind of like a constant revert to balancing mode thing that I constantly doing through the mix.
Benedikt: Yes, absolutely. For sure. So, yeah. Any other thoughts on this, Malcolm? Any, anything you wanna add?
Malcom: well, I mean, just, yeah, kind of what I, what I just said is that, uh, like for me, it's not as linear as this, but again, it, it's important that I'm hitting all of the steps, and, and that all of these are happening. so you'll, you'll kind of figure out your own workflow that works for you. But I highly encourage you if you grab this free resource. It's, again, it's free. There's nothing to lose by doing this, right? So you should absolutely grab it and follow along in order with, with what Benny outlines here. watch the video, go through it with him and make this your process in order. Even if you want to try and do it a different way and, and change up the order and create your own process, you should do that. But start with taking it in how Benny has laid it out here, because it's really strategic. By doing it this way, you'll kind of see the advantages of each of these steps, and then if, you know, once you're familiar with it, you can kind of go off and do your own thing. But I think to get the most out of this resource, follow along with the video.
Benedikt: Agreed. So thank you. now if you wanna have this, go to the self recording ben.com/standout mixes. And if you go to the show notes page of this episode, you'll find the link there too. And I can't wait to hear your thoughts on this. And, uh, I, I know that the reactions I got from coaching students were things like, and I, I'm reading this here like. True eyeopener for me. What a great resource. Never thought about balancing that way. Uh, mixes immediately got better. So these were the comments that I got from coaching students on this, on this resource. And so, so I can't wait to hear your thoughts on this. Again, the surf recording, bent.com/standout mixes. All right, that's it for today, and I can't wait to talk to you next week.
Malcom: Yeah, we'll see you then.
Benedikt: Thanks for listening.
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