If you’ve been mixing for very long, you might have noticed that the balance of your mixes might come out a bit differently after the mastering process. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s very noticeable. In the mastering process there is added compression, limiting and EQ done to the mix as per the individual mastering engineer and his/her preferences. This processing can and many times does affect your mix in ways you might not expect.
In my experience the lead vocal is one thing I’ve had to go back and adjust the most. As a limiter decreases dynamic range it leaves a much smaller spot in the mix for a vocal to sit. Without the limiter it might sound pretty good but if the vocal was just a bit low, it might be drowned out with the limiter in place. Conversely if it’s a bit too hot, it will sit too high in the mix once the limiter is placed.
I usually do all the mixing and mastering for projects that come to me so I have noticed this and developed a habit that helps me get my mixes where I want them in a quicker fashion. One thing that I do is throw a limiter on the master bus about 3/4 the way through the mix. I wont slam it but I’ll hit it with about 3 db of reduction and listen to my mix for a little while and see how the overall balance is affected. If everything is sounding great I’ll move on. If I feel I need to make some adjustments I’ll do that of course and move from there. I leave the limiter off for the remainder of the mix then I repeat the process and check levels and balances once more.
Since I started doing this I have noticed my mixes come together a bit quicker and when I begin mastering I know my mixes will not fall apart. The mastering process actually happens faster as well since I seldom need to go back and adjust a mix any more. Give it a try on your next mix and you might just start doing it every time. Have a great week and happy mixing!
When working on a given project, I often find myself reaching for all the different tools I have to work with. It makes sense doesn’t it? Why am going to keep this midi controller here if I’m not going to use synth pads, organs, effects and other virtual instruments? Why shouldn’t I add some piano parts? I’ve got basically unlimited tracks too, why not double track 3 guitar parts and pan them all crazy like for a giant wall of sound? Then acoustic guitars… then vocals… then a bunch of back ground vocals… Yeah! Lets do it!
NOT! I have learned from my last few projects that less can and most of the time WILL be “more”. The song I am currently working on really is teaching this concept moreso than others. So I got a basic format laid down. A single acoustic guitar, one rhythm and one lead electric, a B3, bass, drums and vocals. It’s really not a lot going on so far. At the end of my last recording session I was right about to add some piano parts and guitar over dubs but I had to leave for work, so I bounced a stereo file and converted it to MP3, put it on my phone and took off in the car. (the car test is kinda my bench test because I’ve listened to music in there so dang much I know how it should sound)
To put it quite simply I was blown away by how great the track sounded, even in the beginning stages and as an MP3. Tight bottom end, full sounding mids and just a bit of sparkle. I decided that there was no need for anything else other than the BGVs and a final vocal track. It’s still hard backing off from some piano but it sounds so clean to me and I like the simple feel and lack of muddyness.
Moral of the story is, if you find your tracks super busy, complex and muddy, maybe you’ve simply got TOO much crap going on. Isolate the basic feel and direction of the song and ask yourself if there is anything that can come out without affecting that direction. You would be surprised how far you can get with just a few well recorded, well performed tracks. This might not always be the right tactic but it helps sometimes when your song feels cluttered. Hope it helps you guys. It’s sure helped me!
Faster EQ and Compressin in Pro Tools
For those of you working in Pro Tools, or any other DAW for that matter, you’ll want to check out my friend Graham’s blog over at http://therecordingrevolution.com/. He’s a genius with Pro Tools and you will learn much from his videos. Here’s some helpful workflow tips that will probably work the same way in most DAWs. Check it out and go have a look around his site. Remember to leave comments and also you can now subscribe to my blog right to your email. Cheers!