91: Q&A – Mixing Workflow, Headphones, Vocals, Drums & DIY Mastering

91: Q&A – Mixing Workflow, Headphones, Vocals, Drums & DIY Mastering

It's time for another Q&A episode!


These are some of the questions and struggles from our community members that we've covered on the show:

"How do you know what decisions to make after you have a basic rough mix?"

"What do you do if you have to work in an untreated room? People have traditionally said to not mix on headphones, but it’s 2021 so maybe that’s not true anymore?"

"I understand some of the basics for balance and gain staging, but I’m sure there's more than just that. I know topics such as “side chain compression” might not be the game changer for a mix, but is there something else people should consider after the balance and gain staging to really make their mix stand out?"

"How do you get the vocals to sit 'in' the mix, but also be clear? And what about the push/pull of compression vs reverb/delay and EQ (I’m using LA2A and 1176 compression as inserts, then reverb and delay as FX channels in Cubase) 

"I'm struggling with getting drum levels right, as I'm not a drummer"

"I have no idea where to start at all, when it comes to mastering. At the moment I just have a mastering vst on the stereo out." 

Book A Free Coaching Call With Benedikt:

This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.

Benedikt's voice on this episode has been recorded with the Antelope Axino Synergy Core.

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

Podcast Episode 91: Q&A - Mixing Workflow, Headphones, Vocals, Drums & DIY Mastering

[00:00:00] Benedikt: Yeah, I think it's less of a, how to do something every single time.

[00:00:08] And it's more of a, how does that song feel? How do I want it to feel and what can I do to make it feel that way? Hello, and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I am your host Benedict tine and my wonderful friend and cohost the Malcolm Owen flood is actually not here with me today. Malcolm can't join us unfortunately for this episode. So I'm doing a quick solo one, but I still want it to make it as helpful as possible for you.

[00:00:47] Of course. So. What I'm going to do is I'm going to do a Q and a episode. I have picked some questions that I got from people from our community that I'm going to answer today. So I'm going to read through those questions and give my answers and. [00:01:00] It could be that Malcolm and I will do like in-depth episodes on some of these questions.

[00:01:05] So I'm going to give a quick, actionable answer today, hopefully helpful, but we might dive deeper into some of those topics because those were great questions. And I got these questions after I did a poll in our Facebook community. So if you go to the self recording, bet.com/community, or just search the self recording band community.

[00:01:23] You'll get to our Facebook group. And in there, I sometimes do polls, sometimes ask people like, what is the main thing you're struggling with right now? Or what John do you typically typically produce and stuff like that. So I try to figure out what is the most helpful content for our audience? How can we help them best?

[00:01:41] And how can I also shape my coaching programs and all that stuff? So the last time I did a poll, I asked them why. I asked you basically you and the listeners and our community members, what your biggest struggle was at the moment. And people voted in the categories. There was mixing vocal, recording, drum, recording, [00:02:00] drum, mixing, acoustics, workflow, all sorts of different things.

[00:02:04] Some people voted multiple things and some people commented and gave more uh, uh, specific answers or. Questions, depending on how I look at it. And then I reached out to people and just ask, Hey, what is it exactly that you're struggling with? And in doing so I got these answers or these questions from me and some of them, I answered on our one-on-one coaching calls.

[00:02:24] Some of these I answered in the DMS and some of these I will answer now. So next time I reach out to you or next time I post a poll or a question in the community, just know that your answers are really helpful to everybody because. This will fuel our content. Like we get ideas from that. We get inspiration from that.

[00:02:43] We learn how to help you best. And like today we might do Q and a episodes where we actually answer your specific questions. I wasn't able to reach out to everybody and ask for permission to share their names on the episode. Yeah, I'm not going to tell the names today just to, [00:03:00] to protect everybody's privacy.

[00:03:01] So I hope that is okay, but you can go to the self recording band.com/community submit questions anytime there. And um, if you want me to mention you on an episode, just add that in your comment or DME and add that in your DM. Anyway, let's start, I'm going to read the questions as they were sent to me, and then I'm going to answer them number.

[00:03:24] When you receive a mix, how do you know what decisions to make from a rough mix? How in this is a two-part question. Part two is how can you mix as you are recording? So it doesn't sound like shit as you are adding layers probably has a lot to do with space in the mix and frequency. Right? Okay. So I think the core of the question is.

[00:03:45] After you've done an English, an initial rough mix, like a a balance faders, any cue, what do you do next? Like how do you know what decisions to make from a rough mix? It's the question? At least part one of it. So, yeah, that's a good question. There's a lot to do after you've done that. [00:04:00] And it's interesting that a lot of people struggle with the actual like process and workflow part of it.

[00:04:04] So they, they don't, it's not about techniques. They don't really know how to actually start how to approach. Okay. So when I got get files to mix, I do an initial balance, just volume levels and pants. I try to keep the faders around Ciro and I just adjust the clip gain or the gain knobs on the individual channels.

[00:04:25] So I get a pretty decent rough mix of balanced rough mix with faders at zero that's the first step. Then I save that rough mix and then I'll list it, have a listen and, and, and try to figure out what is the most. W what is the biggest problem? What bothers me most usually it's the rooms. If it's raw recorded drums, like real recorded drums, because drums in my genre is at least like the rock in the more heavy music genres Rodriguez.

[00:04:51] Don't sound anything like mixed drums, oftentimes depending on the genre a little bit, some, some stuff can sound a little raw, even when mixed, but most of the [00:05:00] time, the rod rooms, especially when they were recorded in the rehearsal space, if it's the DIY recordings, they don't sound like a finished mixed record.

[00:05:08] So it's usually drums that bother me. And then vocals, probably. So I'll start with the drums typically, and I'll just quickly like solo, a couple of elements, a couple of different things. I might brighten up the symbols a little bit, just broad strokes to begin with. I might take out some nasty resonances if I don't like a certain ring on this near, for example, or like a cardboard sort of sound and the kick drum.

[00:05:29] Take some of that out, do a little cleanup, like reduce some harsh resonances in the symbols and the overheads, the clean up work, basically after I've done that, I sort of immediately start polishing the drums a bit. I added a bit of low end. I had a bit of top end. I yeah, I do like a lot of Q basically cue moves first, I guess then I make sure I do the same with vocals and guitars probably need the least amount of treatment.

[00:05:53] Most of the time, the base needs a lot of. So, but I go through it very quickly and do like broad [00:06:00] strokes, broad corrections. And after I've done that, How do I want the, to shape the dynamics? How, how do I get the maximum amount of impact without it sounding too pokey? Um, So I try to choose compresses that give me just the right amount of attack set.

[00:06:19] Right. And I try to use compressors that give me the right amount of density. So. I like to queue into compressors. So I start with EKU first and then into the compressor most of the time, especially if I boost top end, that prevents it from getting too harsh. Yeah. And then I start shaping the dynamics, the attack and sustain of it.

[00:06:38] Sometimes I might use strategy and shapers, whatever. And after, after I've got a decent balance of like levels pans, EEQ shaping dynamic shape. Getting the attack and release rights. I start adding some color. I start listening for like, what, what color did the compressors already give me? Like how much saturation did I already get from the queuing and compressing [00:07:00] and how much do I still need?

[00:07:01] Do I need like a tube style situation? Do I need transformers? Do I need. Tape, what color do I want? Do I need, do I want color at all? Do I want to it to be very clean and transparent? So that is the next question. And I try to find unique sounds and unique ways of making things feel a certain way. That is, that is that.

[00:07:20] And I spent quite a bit of time in that stage and that part of the process, just because the feeling, the impact, the character, like more, how it feels than how it actually sounds technically is what matters most to me. So I spent quite a bit of time getting the characterize and finding what is special about the raw tunes, finding ways to, to put emphasis on that, finding ways to, to shape the character and the.

[00:07:44] Sometimes doing unconventional things. And then yeah, and then from there it's like back and forth. I might go back a little bit on individual channels, adjust a little something. I go to the buses a lot once the initial like cleanup and carving of frequency has been done. [00:08:00] I go to the buses and work from there a lot.

[00:08:01] So I might shape the whole rhombus, the whole guitar bus, the whole vocal. And the mixed bus. And I do most of my tweaks there then like really broad strokes, always listening to the field. So yeah, that's basically my approach. I hope that wasn't too confusing. It's I think I I'd have to show that in like, sort of a mixed walkthrough to really get, get the idea across, but I, I think I have a process or a thought process that I go through.

[00:08:25] So it's, it's rough mix, clean up Polish with the cue, shaping the dynamic. Getting the character and the vibe. Right. And then balancing decisions on the buses. And somewhere in between, I, I deal with like effects stuff. So I dunno where that actually is. I think that is in the vibe and character part of it where I start to add like delays reverbs slapped delays rooms, that sort of stuff.

[00:08:52] Sometimes I have to do that in the very beginning, just because it's so much part of the sound that I have to hear it all the way through. Sometimes I [00:09:00] can work with a very dry mix and only add those effects as like icing on the cake. When I'm closer to finishing the. Yeah, somewhere in between there. And I it's important to know that, that I fairly early, my mix buss chain starts to work as well.

[00:09:14] So I'm all the time while I'm doing all of that. I'm mixing. Uh, Mixed bus gene. So that means I have a bus compressor. I have a saturation on the mixed bus that I choose for. The song is choose a style and type and color of saturation that I think fits the song. I have a template that's pretty much dialed in.

[00:09:31] So when I hit the gain staging, right. And the levels in the mix, my mix bus will. Right from the beginning, I get like two, three to be of bus compression going, not too much. I have a little bit of multi-bank compression, but just the DB or so per band, maybe I have a little bit of saturation going and yeah, depending on the song, sometimes a little bit of widening, but I'm very careful with that.

[00:09:52] Sometimes I'm more. The low-end information. Also very careful with that. Yeah. But I, I mix into that chain [00:10:00] from the beginning and then after the mixed bus, there is a master bus. That's sort of my full mastering that I do while I'm mixed, just to get some feel for the loudness and how eliminator affects my mixing decisions.

[00:10:11] So I also mix into that a clipper and the limiter that's both of those are only doing like one, two, maybe three to be max or. Um, So just to get a feel of how I had to have to shape my trends in. So they still work after a mastering. Limiter is applied and S yeah, that's just how I mix. And if I master my own mixes, I do that actually as part of the mixing process most of the time.

[00:10:36] So it's sort of one, one thing. Sometimes I separate the two, but most often it's just one process because Does it some mixing decisions, inform mastering decisions when I mix my own stuff, because I'm just not objective enough to do a real mastering separately from the mix. If there is a lot of times, That I have.

[00:10:56] If there's no tight deadline, I might just mix, leave [00:11:00] it there for two weeks and then come back and master in a separate session that works better most of the time. But if, if it's a tight deadline, I don't even bother I'm separating the two. Most of the time I do it in one go sort of. So that's just me.

[00:11:13] Okay. That was a long answer to that question. And yes, it has to do with space in that mix and frequency. So part of the cleanup and the shaping in the beginning is actually making space for everything and putting stuff in their right spot in the space. So with ACU you can pull things forward and backwards.

[00:11:32] You can make things narrower and wider in a way, even You can make space for other things. Compression also pulls stuff closer or pushes it back. Also changes the perception of width and depth to me, and then obviously effects. So yeah, it all has to do with space in the mix and frequency. Okay. Next question.

[00:11:51] I think as far as room acoustics, go, I know that can make a huge difference on how your mix is sound and I don't really have a good room to make sense.

[00:11:59] It's also not [00:12:00] exactly a good option for me to just move for the time being so to just move to a new apartment, I guess I have cylinder works, but that's about all I have for compensating that I don't know if I should just get slate V X headphones. Those are modeling headphones by the way, or something like that.

[00:12:14] And just learn to mix with that. I know people have traditionally said not to mix on headphones, but it's twenty, twenty one. So maybe that's not true anymore. So that's part one of the question and there's a second one that I got to. Okay. Room acoustics. Yeah. That makes a huge difference to your mixes.

[00:12:31] Like you need to be able to hear what you're actually working with and what your, the changes you apply, what those actually do to your materials. So you need to be able to hear properly too, to be able to make good decisions and, and, and judge and Chapman judgment basically. So that, that is absolutely true.

[00:12:50] If you don't have a good room to mix in, and there's no way to treat it and you cannot just move. Then yeah, headphones plus don't know works is what I would recommend. [00:13:00] If you have very high quality headphones, you can get away without Sono works. But in most cases, actually, and I've tried a couple of headphone models.

[00:13:08] In most cases, I find sonar works, especially on headphones and very, to be very, very helpful, helpful. Are downsides to it. Like some things can, can suffer from applying IQ corrections, but, but in general, most headphones benefit from that a lot. And I, I highly recommend it. I highly recommend it. I would take the flat frequency response over like the most accurate, like transient response or imaging any day.

[00:13:34] So the flat frequency response is the most important thing to me, especially when you're starting out. I think you'll benefit more from that than like whatever quality your headphones might have without an org. So sonar works is basically a calibration software that makes your headphones sound flat.

[00:13:50] If you don't know what that is. So just check it out. See if that is something you want to try. I have it on all the time. I mix through it on my monitors. I mix through it. Different [00:14:00] sets of headphones. And what it gives me is a consistent listening environment. So whenever I switched to another pair of headphones or if I switched between headphones and the studio monitors, if I switched between here at home, in my little podcast home studio, when I have to do a quick revision, when I switch between that on headphones to my actual studio control room with my monitors, I have pretty consistent monitoring in age is know what it's supposed to sound like on all these different monitoring devices.

[00:14:25] So I highly recommend the works. And I think, yeah, the advice that you shouldn't mix on headphones, I think that's not true anymore. I don't know if it's, if it was ever true. I think it's different to mix on headphones and it's challenging. The stereo image is different. You have speakers attached directly to your ears, so that it's definitely different from mixing on monitors, where sound travels through air and arrives at both of your ears all the time.

[00:14:50] So it's definitely different in some decisions you have to make before. Or you have to take into account what that actually does. So stuff on the extreme sides [00:15:00] sounds much louder on headphones and much clearer because those speakers are attached to your ears directly. So we hear guitars, for example, that a hard pan or symbols, we hear those very clearly on headphones, just because they are.

[00:15:13] At our ears. And when we listened to that same mix on monitors, there is crosstalk. Some of the right stuff arrives at our left ear and vice versa and like some stuff cancels. And we don't hear the sides as much. So in headphones, we tend to mix. In a way where the center is too loud, we bring up the cake, the snare, the bass, all that stuff a lot in order to compensate because we think the sides are super loud when they're actually not.

[00:15:36] So what you have to do when you mix on headphones is you need to take that into account and always make sure that you don't end up with a much too loud center. So the cake, the snare, the vocals, the bass, typically that stuff doesn't have to be so loud on headphones. In the beginning, it takes a while to get used to that because it like a good mix on headphones sounds wider.

[00:15:57] And the side sound louder compared to listening to the [00:16:00] same mix on speakers. Usually that's what I found. So, and I think a lot of people will agree with that, but that being said a lot of great mixes these days. Are being done on headphones like Zach Areni mixed, phenomenal, sounding heavy records on apple, like your birds or the like Andrew chef's mixes on headphones all the time.

[00:16:20] There are a couple of examples of people who just make meat that work for them and it's totally possible. And I think, yeah, the most important thing was monitoring is always just to know. Whatever you, you listening on. Think, you know, your monitors, know your headphones, whatever you'll use your using. So, yeah, it's 2021 mix on headphones.

[00:16:40] Just learn them. It's true. You can do it. And you don't have like, what's, what's your option here? What's your alternative. If you can't treat the room, if you can't move, I take calibrated or good headphones over a crappy room with crappy monitors. can't even make that work, though. If you really know your room and your monitors, even that can work, but it's definitely challenging.

[00:16:59] So I [00:17:00] take good headphones over that any day. So yeah, that's my 2 cents in regards to mixing that's part two of this question in regards to mixing, I understand some of the basics for balance and gain staging, but I'm sure we'll put any is doing more than just that I know topics such as side chain compression might not be the game-changer for a mix, but is there something else people should consider after the balance and gain staging to really make them extend out?

[00:17:25] Okay. It's good that you understand the basics of balance and gain staging. I think that's where it all starts and that's the foundation. And if you don't get that right, everything else is is, is not going to help much. So you need. The volume levels, the panning and against aging rate. Yes. That's at least half the battle and most amateur mixes have are, are not well balanced.

[00:17:49] So volume balance sounds trivial sounds easy, but it's actually something that most people struggling with. So yet that's good that you, you understand those basics. Yeah. But sure. [00:18:00] People like will Putney, like any professional mix engineer do a lot more than just balancing against aging. Um, You mentioned side chain compression.

[00:18:06] Yeah. That's something you can do. I don't do that on every mix. I do it on some mixes these days it gets less and less relevant to me because there are plugins like track spacer or. Other intelligent tools like sooth or spiff, or like these sort of dynamic EQs and, and yeah, it's a mix of IQ and dynamics, plugins, basically these intelligent mixing tools that detect resonances that can make two elements work together pretty easily.

[00:18:32] Like since we have these sort of tools, I rely less on gains on onsite chaining, but I still do quite a bit of. Um, I just had a coaching call a couple of days ago with, with someone where I explained that concept to him too, if you want a really big, low, and then you don't really want to sacrifice any of the base, for example, you don't want to cue the base too much because you're afraid you're losing a certain note and you will lose some musical information if you ACU base.

[00:18:59] If you're afraid to do [00:19:00] that and you don't want to carve out certain frequencies in the base. But in order to keep the balance, then you can for sure side chain it with the kick drum to make space. So every time the kick hits the base ducks for a second, or like a. A couple of milliseconds basically.

[00:19:15] And you can do that to a very specific frequency where the bass drum lives, or you can do that to the whole low-end down from a certain frequency, or you can do to the whole base, whatever you want. So PSI chaining still is a thing that I do quite a bit, and it's super helpful, but there are also other tools these days.

[00:19:32] But when I actually wanted to say is that this is not the most important thing you should worry about right now. So sanctioning is, as you said, it's not the game changer for him for a mix. Is there something else people should consider after the balancing gain staging to really make them extend out?

[00:19:44] Yeah. As I said in the first question, It's your choices. It's shaping the dynamics, it's shaping the attack and release of things. It's making sure some that the right stuff is upfront and close and other stuff is further back. [00:20:00] Like the perception of depth in the mix. It's getting the width right. Um, And I don't mean like using images or widening tools and stuff like that.

[00:20:08] People always think about that immediately. If you talk about with, I don't mean that I don't, I mean, by clever panning decisions and queuing stuff in a clever way. So most often you, you can make something wider by just adding top end to it because typically the more low end heavy stuff is more in the center and the brighter stuff is more on the outside.

[00:20:27] So if you add top end to your guitars and top into your symbols, the sides of your mics, get a little louder. If you pan those apart. So your whole mix starts to get wider. So you can do that with Ms, but you can just literally just eat, just add top end to stuff. That's on the sides and it will make those things appear a little louder in the mixed, wider, without clashing with what's in the center, that's typically more mid range or low end focused like kick drum, bass vocals, stuff like that.

[00:20:55] So the width, the depth, the shaping of the dynamics, the impact. So compressors are not [00:21:00] just to squeeze something into reduce dynamics. They, they shape the way like they shape how hard things hit. Basically, at least that's how I think about it. So when I shaped rums with a compressor, I don't really think about controlling the dynamics as much sometimes that's that needs to be done.

[00:21:16] But I think about how it, it, it changes the sound. I get additional attack and crack out of a snack room. If I compress it in a certain way, I got additional like smack out of a kick drum. I get additional explosiveness. Sustained from room sounds. I can make a room sound bigger than it actually is with compression.

[00:21:36] I can add grit. all these things I can make a low, a Boomi low-end tighter and smaller. I can make something more boomy depending on what compressor I use, depending on the box tone of that certain. Piece of gear. And depending on how I said it, I can, I can change how things sound and what most importantly, how they feel so playing around with those dynamics and the transient information.

[00:21:58] Transients are the [00:22:00] first part of the sound like the initial attack of a drum, for example, or the pick attack of a guitar. You can shape that with a compressor. You can completely eliminate that and make the S and push the sound. Um, In doing so. So if you kill the, the attack of the drums and kill the attack of a guitar, the, the sound of that, of that element will be, will sound more distant.

[00:22:22] It won't be as direct and close. Whereas if you leave the attack through. Control the sustained part of it. It might sound pretty aggressive and upfront, and you might have all the, the pretty close to your ears and it's like, you can shape how upfront something sounds, how aggressive something sounds, the siblings and the voice, the, the plosives, all of that can be shaped with the attack of a compressor and how aggressive it is, can be shaped with the release of a compressor.

[00:22:49] So I think about it that way, I think. And then. To really make a mixed stand out. Yeah, you can make that corrective ACU moves, but you can also make pretty bold IQ moves. You can shape things. You can make something sound aggressive and [00:23:00] ugly. You can make something sound muddy on purpose.

[00:23:02] You can make something sound like big, and Woofy almost in a way in the low end, you can make something really like you can add rumble, uncontrolled, wild rumble, or you can make something. Like that that's creative, bold IQ moves there's polishing and there is correction. And all of that that goes together.

[00:23:24] All of that is, is, is, is done after the initial balance and gain staging part. I think so, but like, I hope that you understand that the most important thing is the vibe, the character, how it feels. So it doesn't matter what the meters say, doesn't matter how many plugins you need to achieve it. It doesn't matter which gear or plugins you use.

[00:23:48] It doesn't matter what any sort of book or rule says. I don't believe in any like rule in audio or any like hard rules to follow all the time. It only matters like what comes out of the speakers. [00:24:00] That's the only thing that matters. It's good to know the rules so you can break them on purpose. Yeah, I think it's less of a, how to do something every single time.

[00:24:09] And it's more of a, how does that song feel? How do I want it to feel and what can I do to make it feel that way? So, yeah. There's, there's that? I hope that it was helpful. Now, next question. How do you get the vocals to sit in the mix, but also be clear. And what about the push pull of compression versus reverb delay and the Q uh, he says I'm putting LA two, a and 1176 compression as an insert, then reverb and delay as effects, channels, and cubes. Mixing wise, it's mainly drum levels I'm struggling with, because I'm not a drummer with mastering.

[00:24:42] I have no idea where to start at all at the moment just to have a mastering VST on the stereo out. Okay. So there's a lot of different angles to this. A lot of different questions, lots to unpack here. Let's start. How do you get the vocals to sit in the mix, but also be clear. Good question. But I think it's really a good [00:25:00] question because clear vocals usually means bright vocals usually means dynamically controlled, compressed vocals.

[00:25:08] So you show that they are upfront and like on top of the mixed, most of the time, that's what makes a vocal clear and crisp. And like, I, yeah, that's just it. But the risk is that dangerous to make it so upfront and clear that it is. On top of the mix and not, it's not a real part of the mix anymore. So there is indeed this balance of a vocal being very clear versus it like sitting in the mix.

[00:25:33] Well, so what I do is when it comes to frequencies, To meet the mid range and lower mid range does a lot of that. I love, and I, that's a tip I've given to a bunch of my coaching students and like people I had one-on-one calls with a lot that is there is this plugin called the mock IQ or Mac Q a M a G.

[00:25:56] Mark is the company. And then the plugin is called . [00:26:00] It's a hardware piece actually, but there's a plugin by plugin lines. That actually sounds pretty phenomenal. This ACU has a 650 Hertz. Not there's no queue, no bandwidth. There's just one knob set, fixed frequency. You can turn it up or down. And that just is the perfect spot for me and the perfect cue to do that, to bring a vocal forward or backwards.

[00:26:22] So if I die, if I turn that up, that like mid range, six 50 on that ACU it sounds like the, the, the singer stepped a step forward. And if I turn it down, If I take some of that out, it immediately pushes the vocal back into the mix. So I dunno what it is that this specific plugin or this specific ACU does so well, but I love it.

[00:26:43] I don't, I don't know. And I don't care. It's just awesome. I can achieve a similar effect with other plugins, of course, but I really like the way this particular queue does it. So this is my. Back and forth dialogue and in my mixes, but it's in general, the lower mid range or the mid range that does that for me also like a [00:27:00] very broad boost from like, I don't know, 800 or like one K or so in very broad uh, in the mid range, just boosting that a bit brings the vocal forward, makes it more aggressive too much, and it gets honky or nasal, but a little bit, especially with aggressive vocals can really make it sound upfront.

[00:27:16] Again, scoping some of that out, pushes it back. So that's part of it. You got to find the balance there. Oftentimes it's not a volume thing. Oftentimes you need to make it loud, then it sounds too loud. And then you'd just need to dial a little bit that mid-range down a little bit to make it sit better, or you think you might think, okay, this.

[00:27:34] Actually sitting pretty well, but it's not like clear and upfront enough. So just instead of like making it louder, a little mid-range push might do the trick if it's already sounding fat and full and forward, but not clear enough. So not intelligible enough. An upper mid-range boost is usually what helps like two K three K 4k 5k, whatever, make sure it's not getting sibilant or harsh, but usually you need clarity in that area.

[00:27:59] Not so much [00:28:00] the real top end, like the, the real top end, like 10 K and above is like, err, is. Um, That airy pop vocal thing, or it can also lead to the perception of a vocal being very, very close. If you have a lot of the mouth noises, the siblings pronouns, if you add a lot of top end, that stuff just gets louder and it sounds more intimate and close, so that can help with bringing something a little to the front, but usually that's more air and a certain quality and, and expensive sound that that adds in a certain point.

[00:28:31] More than it making it really like sit on top of the mix more. So when I want to make it clearer, I go for the upper mid range instead like two K three K 4k 5k somewhere there. I searched for a spot where I can boost broad if possible. That's also where the guitars have a lot of energy usually. So you gotta find the balance there and you don't want to get the whole, you don't want to make the whole mix sound too.

[00:28:55] Then compression is obviously part of it. You have to control the dynamics enough. [00:29:00] So that even the quiet vocal that sits well in the mix is audible and clear at all times, if a vocal is too dynamic and Malcolm is said that a couple of times on the podcast that a lot of amateur mixes have just two dynamic vocals or tonight, Emmy everything, And that is a problem because. We as much as we love dynamics stuff has to be controlled in order for it to be clear all the time. And I'd rather squeeze something and take all the dynamics out of it and make it clear and consistent, and then add the necessary dynamics intentionally by hand. Then leaving the original dynamics if they are not really.

[00:29:37] Intentional. So what I mean is usually that the dynamic changes in a raw recording are not a hundred percent intentional. They are, they are dynamic variations and therefore all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it's on purpose, but oftentimes it's not. So I'd rather. Flattened all of that make it consistent, make it sound explosive, make it sound upfront to make sure the transients, the [00:30:00] plosives just hit right and sound right.

[00:30:02] Make it sound as close as I want it to be, or as dynamic as I want it to be, whatever works. And then. Whatever's lacking in dynamics or whatever I killed and dynamics. I add that back with automation. So I'm on purpose. I might make certain roads louder or quieter, certain parts, louder or quieter. So I like to control it first and then bring in whatever dynamic movement I need.

[00:30:23] And that is a big part of the clarity for me. Yeah. Vocal clarity comes with like controlling the dynamics in the right way and shaping the frequencies. Right. hope that helps. There's much more to that, but for now I think that that will give you some, some things to experiment with. What about the push pull of compression versus reverb delay and EEQ okay.

[00:30:44] I kind of answered that. I think your chain here with the LA two, a and the 1176 compression as inserts, this is the tried and true classic. So you have the concept is you have a faster compressing. Followed by a slower compressor or a slower compressor followed by the faster one, both can work. [00:31:00] The faster one will take off the peaks and we'll react very fast to see that transients plosives, and then the slower one will be more musical and we'll do a general leveling.

[00:31:11] So whatever the, like, if you, if you start with the fast limiter sort of, or fast compressor, you control the, the very fast stuff that the dynamics of the. And the transients. And then you follow that with a musical compressor that does the overall leveling and add some, some tone and stuff. If you reverse the order and start with the slower one, you can shape the overall dynamics.

[00:31:36] You can add tone, you can squeeze it as much as you want and whatever that slower compressor is. Able to control whatever it gets through in transit information that will be caught by the faster limiter or faster compressor that follows the slower compressor. So both can work. You have to try what works for you in your song, but this is a tried and true chain classic chain.

[00:31:57] You add reverb and delay as effects, channels. Yeah. That's the [00:32:00] way to do it. Reverbs and delays on Oxys or effects, channels, like send in return configurations and not on the inserts. Some people mix with that stuff on the inserts and use the mix knob. Instead. I prefer not to do that because I don't want my vocal IQ changes or anything.

[00:32:16] I want to change after the. To effect my reverb. So you'd have to be careful to make the reboot last and the chain probably if you don't want that, but there's more reasons to why I don't like that setup, but Hey, whatever works for you. So the classic thing is dynamics and EQs is inserts and um, reverb, delay, stuff like that on sense and returns.

[00:32:37] Yeah, you correct you. I think if there's something like correct now the push pull between. And the push pull of compression, whereas reverb and DQ. Yeah. I mean, all of that is part of it, as I said, the frequency and the shaping of the dynamics is that most important thing for me. But of course, a delay, a slap delay a reverb can help make something sit in the mix [00:33:00] better.

[00:33:00] That's totally part of it. Like a small slap delay, a short slap delay, very subtle. Can can create a little ambiance and room sound around a vocal that just makes it blend better with everything else. And you might find that at the exact same volume, it all of a sudden sits better in the mix and it's not on top as much anymore.

[00:33:18] So yeah, that's, that's also part of it and it's, I don't know what you mean with push pull, but. Yeah, it's, it's this balance of all these things. That's what you probably mean an injury, right? So part of it is the ACU shaping part of it is dynamics. Part of it is automation. Part of it is effects and you got to combine those things, right.

[00:33:35] And you get to learn how to identify what it is that, that your specific song or part actually needs in order to, for it to feel. Right. And I can't give any advice here without hearing the song. I hope that helps still now the last part or night, there's two more parts to that question. Mixing wise, it's mainly drum levels and struggling with, he says as I'm not a drummer.

[00:33:57] Yup. That's pretty common. [00:34:00] So two, two thoughts here. Two approaches. If it's a modern, heavy polished Clearly defined sort of sound that you're going for. Then I would focus on the close mikes and start with those and get a good balance between kick snare and the Toms. You can look at an analyzer and just, just for starters to get a good starting point, you can see like how much low wind energy is there.

[00:34:22] If I solo the cake, like where does the cake peak? Like, what frequency is that? And how loud is that on the analyze on the frequency analyzer, then you can bring in the snare and you'll find that if the cake is at say 60 Hertz us. And then you pull up the snare and this is at 200, then you can sort of, of course, balance by year.

[00:34:41] But you can also look at the analyzer and see that. How, how well they are balanced. Uh, If there's, if this, if this is a sort of house healthy relationship, or if one is way louder or more energetic than the other, you got to learn, you analyze, of course you got to know how it's set. Like there's different slopes to the analyzer.

[00:34:58] Like. Depending on how [00:35:00] you set that it's equal energy looks equal, or it doesn't look equal. It can be tilted, like there's different settings for different analyzers, but maybe watch some of your favorite mixes on the analyzer, learn how a great kick and snare balance, what that looks like typically. And then look at yours.

[00:35:18] And I say, look, because of course you shouldn't mix with your ears, but in the beginning, if you're not so sure. Whether or not you hear the correct stuff or whether or not you're you're able to identify problems and whether or not your monitoring is good enough, analyzers can help a lot at least to get to a good starting point.

[00:35:35] I would start with bringing in the kick and the snare and then the Toms. And I would make sure that this is somewhat balanced. And so it sounds balanced, but also look sort of balanced on the analyzer. Then I would shape those things, make them sound impactful. And when it comes to drama levels, I would then bring in the overheads photo them.

[00:35:52] So I would focus. I would view them as mostly as mainly like symbol mix and get a decent balance. Of [00:36:00] symbols versus close max. That is the approach that I use for like heavy, modern, polished, very defined sort of sounding stuff. If the other approach is if you want a more raw organic dirty sort of sound, I'd start with the rooms and the overheads and make sure the whole kit sounds balanced in them.

[00:36:17] So that requires a good recording or a good programming um, and setting the mixer in the, in the virtual drums just right. So that. The overheads, the kit mix and the rooms give you a great balanced sound. It might lack impact. And, and yeah, it's like this upfront yeah. Impact basically, and direct sound, but it should sound pretty balanced and then you'll fill in whatever is lacking with the close max.

[00:36:45] So you add a little kick Romulus near around little Toms, but you don't filter the kit or the rooms. And you view them more as kit mix, as opposed to like only symbol mikes. So that is the approach for the more dirty [00:37:00] classic sort of sounding more organic sort of sounding drums stuff. So when it comes to levels, these are my two approaches.

[00:37:07] Either get the balance between the close mix, just right. And then bring in the symbol mix or start with a well miked, overheads and rooms. And then Yeah. And then reinforce basically whatever is lacking power with the clothes. That's that's my approach there. And if you're not a drummer and that's B that's the reason why you struggle with that, then I just watch, I would just watch a ton of videos of people playing drums.

[00:37:32] I would record my own. I would like videotape my drummer of the band and just watch him play and, and like, listen to what it sounds like in the room. Listen to. Balanced between the individual lamp uh, elements is watch how he, how hard he hits or she hits certain elements of the kit. I would watch videos and YouTube of good drummer.

[00:37:51] That you like, and I would just learn what a good drum bell and sounds like I would analyze my favorite songs, looking at an analyzer. Um, I would do a lot of [00:38:00] research and learn it that way. I think there's no way around. I know people, I know engineers and producers who actually took drum lessons, not because they wanted to be drummers, but because they wanted to understand drummers better.

[00:38:10] They wanted to know why drummers play certain things a certain way, why they don't play other things. What is actually possible. What are, what is like a good take? Like how dynamics should things be? How hard should you hit? So I know a couple of people who took drum lessons just for the sake of understanding drummers better.

[00:38:27] So if that's something you want to do, that's very, very, very helpful. I didn't ever take drum lessons. I taught myself to play drums and I'm not a good drummer, but I can play decent enough to be able to talk to drums and understand them. And I can track um, drums. Like if it's not something too complicated, I can do a pretty okay.

[00:38:47] Job if tracking grounds. So that helps if you can do that, but whatever you want to do doing research, we'll get you a long way. So yeah, with mastering, I have no idea where to start at all at the moment. I just have a mastering VST [00:39:00] on the stereo out. So to be honest, I think for now that is enough. You should focus on the tracking and the mixing more than anything.

[00:39:07] Mastering is. People blow mastering way out of proportion. It is important, but it's also so challenging and difficult to get, right? That I wouldn't even speak of like proper mastering. If you do it yourself in a DIY situation, that's not mastering. That's just part of the mix. Even. I know how to master and I think I can do a pretty good job mastering other people's stuff.

[00:39:27] That's part of my job. Even I have when I mixed my, my stuff, like it mixes for other people. And I also do the mastering, I view mastering, as I said before, as sort of part of the mix almost because I think true mastering is really a separate step. It requires a different mindset. It should be done ideally in a different room by a different person with different years, because it's also that objective perspective and feedback and all that.

[00:39:52] That's not necessary every single time. And I do a lot of masters myself of stuff that I'm mixing and it works perfectly well in a lot of [00:40:00] hits are made that way. So it doesn't have to be that way, but that is what I would actually call mastering. Everything else is just refining the mix to me. So you've mixed it.

[00:40:09] You've made it as sound as great as possible. And you, you shape the stereo like infant, like the. Yeah, you're shaping your mix on the mix bus or the master bus or whatever you want to call it, essentially, but it's still part of the mix you're making it sound the best it can be. Right. So it's not really separate in this case.

[00:40:26] So long story short, I think you shouldn't worry about mastering too much. It's like the most complicated, most detailed sort of thing. It requires the best monitoring the best year of all the steps involved in the process. So just having a mastering muse T on the stereo out is, is good. If you use it subtle enough so that it doesn't completely destroy your mix.

[00:40:46] If it's just for some additional loudness and a little bit of like maybe cue correction automatically or whatever, then that's totally fine. Don't abuse it, use it in a very subtle way. Just use it to get some, to get the level up a little bit and to control [00:41:00] some of the dynamics. Maybe um, you can use some something like what is it called?

[00:41:03] The uh, what is it called? Master of balance. There's this? I don't know. Malcolm would know this, this, I don't use this tool, but I think it's pretty cool. And actually it's this, this also, I think this isotope tool that sort of shows you whether or not you're in the ballpark when it comes to like the frequency distribution or frequency, like content of the whole mix or master.

[00:41:23] So if you set that right, if you use automatic tools like. Totally fine. For starters, there's online, mastering services. Some of those are really bad as we all know, but there are now, there are some that are actually pretty decent. So there is one called master M a S T R. It's it's by Jay Mohs. He's a great dude.

[00:41:42] I, I interviewed him on my other podcast. He's a great engineer. Awesome. Due to. Yeah, you should go check out that interview by the way. It's uh, if you go to Benedict time.com/podcast, you'll find my interview episodes there. And most of those are in German, but there are some, some English episodes as well.

[00:41:58] And one is with Shamus. Who's [00:42:00] amazing. And he created this online mastering service called master. That actually really sounds pretty fucking good. I tried it and it's pretty amazing. So. You can use stuff like that. And even if it's just to compare it to whatever you can do, it's, it's great. So you can even use things like Lander.

[00:42:20] I wouldn't recommend using that for the actual release, but just try it. It's not expensive. Try it, compare it to your results and, and see what sounds better and just use it as a learning experience. I think. Maybe that's bad advice because you shouldn't try to mimic our lender, like what lender is doing, but maybe it's good advice because you see that you can do even better than land or, oh, you, you, you notice some real fundamental flaws in your master compared to those automatic things.

[00:42:46] So I would give it a shot, but yeah, don't worry about the mastering too much. Worry about the mix and just know that mastering is way more than just loudness and acute shaping it's. Quality [00:43:00] control. It's a lot of technical stuff like metadata and making sure it translates well, is that the most important.

[00:43:06] Thing that mastering needs to accomplish, I think, and it's very hard to do if you don't have super accurate monitoring as well. So there's almost no way you can do that really at home properly, at least compared to mastering engineers. So it's so much more than just applying compression, limiting and acute to a master it's sometimes mastering engineers don't do anything.

[00:43:25] If the mix is awesome, they just provide feedback on the mix. They do a quality control. Might do half a DB or so here and there or nothing at all. If the mix is just fine and then they might just trends, make sure the transfer works. They might just create all the final formats with great sample rate, convert conversion.

[00:43:43] They might up Semple down sample and, and like create all the, all the assets, basically all the deliverables, like the different way files, the vinyl master the DDP image for the CD manufacturing. Sometimes that's all they do. If the mix is awesome. And that's also part of [00:44:00] the skill of a good mastering engineer is knowing when not to do anything at all.

[00:44:04] And so there's so much more to mastering. And I think as a D a Y mixing engineer, there are such good tools out there these days that you can definitely use something automatic, or maybe just through a clipper and the limiter on do a couple of DBS to get the lever level up. And if you have a balanced mix and that's what you should focus on, if you have a balanced mix, That hasn't th th th that doesn't have like too, too many issues in any.

[00:44:27] Like that is that, I mean, that means a balanced mix, like where the low end is controlled enough where there's no honky nasal or Boomi or boxing mid range where there's no to harsh top end or upper mid range, like just a balanced, great mix. That feels awesome. If you have that and you just throw a clipper and, or a limiter on to get a couple of DB's more loudness, then that should actually sound pretty good.

[00:44:52] Like the balance in the mix is the most important thing. And you should be able to get it to whatever loudness you want pretty easily. If the mix is balanced, if the [00:45:00] mix is unbalanced, it's hard to make something loud. It's hard to make something feel great. It's hard to make something dense enough in mastering.

[00:45:08] So you're actually better off focusing on the mix. Then just bringing it up a couple of DB. Shaping the dynamics, making it as tense as you want it, or as dynamic as you want it. Maybe polishing it a little bit at a little bit of overall low end overall top end shaping the mid range a tiny bit more so, and then just bringing the level up and that's basically it.

[00:45:27] And if you do that and the mix is great, I think this will get you very far. And then once you've perfected that the next step is to take off your full mastering and send your mix to a real mastering engineer because it's not super expensive and have someone mastering a song. 50 to a hundred or 150 bucks, depending on who you go to per song.

[00:45:47] So even for like, yeah, bill like below a hundred bucks per song, you can get a pretty awesome master and yeah, I would just do that and then see if you can beat it or if it's worth it to [00:46:00] you, or just take it as a learning experience and then try to match it or take the feedback that they hopefully give you if you ask.

[00:46:05] So that's what. And I would send my, my mastered version plus the one without my mastering plugins on them. And I would sent both to the mastering engineer. So they hear what you heard, they can, they see what, what you were trying to do and they can use whatever version works best for them to, to, to get it to perfection.

[00:46:26] And, yeah. All right. That has been longer than I expected it to be. So, you know what? We'll do a second. One of these, this is fun. So I've answered. A couple of questions. Now I have plenty questions left, but this would be too long of an episode. So I'm just going to continue. How about that? Let me know if you enjoy these sorts of episodes and talk to you next week.

[00:46:46] Thank you for listening. Bye bye.

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