mix master myths

Mixing and Mastering Myths in the Music Industry

Mixing and Mastering Myths are just a few of the mis-perceptions that plague the music industry. When this mis-information spreads like fire across music professionals and music hobbyists, there is a huge problem that results. Lack of creativity, inspiration and a misguided focus.

Mixing and Mastering cannot be done without music production…
If your music production and recording is poor, the mix and master is going to be poor…

So why are so many concerned about mixing and mastering?
Doesn’t it seem like the focus should be on music production?

My question is what’s more important: the equipment used on a project, to mix, and used to master or the end results?

Do you find yourself looking to others to fix the problem? Do you think that someone else has something your missing? Do you feel like if you had one more piece of equipment or learned one more thing you would be ready to really get serious and do something in the music business? If you say yes, to anyone of these you have been duped by the mis-information of the Mixing and Mastering Myth.

Mixing and mastering myths say “you don’t have the right audio mastering software, you don’t have the right mixing plugins, only professional results come from a mastering studio” and so on.

But today is different:
You have the tools to mix and master but may not realize it.

If you don’t have the tools, it’s as simple as they are inexpensive. However the investment isn’t the money it’s the time it takes to learn them and develop your ear training. I recommend locking the door in your studio, shutting the phones off and learn… You can have all the greatest gear but knowing how to use your equipment / tools during the music production process is the key to mixing and mastering.

Make sure first and foremost the song is different. It’s not saying the same thing that everyone else is talking about. Give the music ‘your’ touch that only you can give it. Start with great samples and great sounds. Get all instruments you choose in the proper frequency spectrum when making the track, adjust mix volume levels, use EQ settings to separate frequencies and use compression to make each individual sound come to life. The mix should sound industry standard, just quieter. That is the process of audio mixing before achieving a perfect master.

Afterwards, the mastering process is very simple. Using mastering tools such as multiband compression, eq, sonic maximization, limiting and metering tools are just a few of the weapons of choice. Whether they are hardware or software does not matter nearly as much as your ear training.

Last and most important is your ears. Making sure you can hear all the subtleties of each tool, volume level, etc. The thing that’s cool is you already know where you’re trying to get to – that is what you hear on the radio, movies, etc. So the elements are there in the pot, it’s now up to you to stir them up correctly.

The final missing ingredient is you.

You have to show up, get in your studio and figure out the details it takes to get your music productions sounding like what you hear on the radio daily. There are no results if you dont’ put the time in. Stir the pot every moment you get, keep focused until you start seeing the results you’re after.

To stay successful at what you love you must keep doing what it took to get you there.

When you reach that stage, CELEBRATE!!! …Then get back to the grind cause the journey never ends. There are many victories won, battles fought and land you conquer in the world of the new music industry we are in..

Now the last point to address is the first thing you’re probably wondering… Why does every person I speak with and every book I read on mixing and mastering tell me NOT to do it myself?

I got a reply from someone about this article that I thought was great to reference this overly common response:

“I recently finished reading a book which contained extensive interviews with something like 25 of the industry’s leading mixing professionals. These are people that make a living my doing nothing but mixing. 6 figures a year Grammy award winning people… The list of artist they have mixed for was amazing… We are not just talking about old school analog guys either. Many of today’s leading mixers are mixing “in the box”.  The average time they take to mix a song is between 8 and 16 hours. How can an amateur expect to get their results in less time with inferior equipment? None of the above mentioned mixers would even consider trying to master their own stuff.”

This is a great question. However, it only clarifies this article all the more. No one starts at this level – these professionals results started from previous successes and those previous results are what are keeping them in their current business success.. They are living their music dream.

It’s all about the results. Is your music on the level of what’s on the radio and does your music inspire everyone who listens to it?

It’s funny because for over 13 years I have read and studied all the same greats, read the same articles about not mixing and mastering your own stuff. I have read over 50-60 books on the subject… I have also engineered, mixed and mastered for over 8-9 years now and NOT worked a day job in over 6-7 years… It has taken me personally over 13 years to develop this course. I have personally done in studio/classroom style education too.

With all of this experience, I am telling you they are wrong. We have many students who will tell you the same thing.

The industry is not the same industry that those books are referencing. As a matter of fact, the majority of educational institutions today are still teaching as if the major label music industry is still profitable and studios are still in business.

These ‘industry producers’ didn’t start out recording and doing music the way they are doing it now and they definitely didn’t start with the money they were making either.

These are exactly the myths I’m talking about. EVERYONE and their mother is doing music today. I speak with 13 year olds to 30 year olds to people in their 50s on a daily basis wanting to do our course. At the end of the day the focus on these myths, the focus on gear and technical perfection are a waste of time.

I have seen so many people focus on this so much so and finally get to a perfected mix and master… but their music sucks! Getting creative, professional, radio ready results quickly and efficiently is only the beginning for anyone trying to make a career in the music industry. Anyone of those professionals will tell you the same. Success is not fame. Fame is a part of success. The definition of true success is doing what you love every moment of the day. That is where your music career must begin otherwise the path to fame will never come upon you.

I have seen so many student’s lives change from moving past these myths.
It’s these myths and SO many others are what keep many people from moving forward in their dreams…

Tutorial: Mixing and Mastering Myths in the Music Industry
1) Finalize your studio with equipment you can afford. There are some things you can skimp on and other things you cannot. Do not overextend what you purchase because ‘everyone is using it’ or ‘this guy’ who has great credentials told me to…. They are not paying for it – you are… especially if down the road you realize its the wrong equipment..
2) Learn and Grow, Period. You cannot learn by listening to others. Its important to take action while you study and learn from others. This gives the experience and ear training required for you to mix and master.
3) Stay Content with what you have and do the best with what you have. If you stay focused and don’t quit, you’ll see results. You’ll acquire new equipment, you’re ears with mature and you’ll get the results you’re after. The only way you can fail is if you give up…
Don’t let others determine your success.

If there is anything we can help you with, setup a free training consultation below.

doubling vocals

Doubling Vocals

How to double track vocals is a common question. Some recording engineers know the power of doubling vocals and others barely play with it. What are double tracked vocals? Double tracked vocals are recording the vocal twice or ‘stacking’ vocals in order to thicken the vocal sound in the recording. Vocal doubling has been traced back to the Beatles when they were on four tracks and recording in mono!

When is vocal doubling called for? In my opinion, vocal doubling can be used all the time unless you have a strong vocalist. If you’re working with Cristina Aguilera or Mariah Carey they are both very dynamic singers. Doubling vocals on a simple hook melody or to emphasize a word is recommended but vocal doubling on a verse vocal would take away the uniqueness of their vocal range.

Double tracked vocals are recommended in most hip hop, reggaeton, dance and pop music productions. The goal is to get the vocalist to execute two really good vocal takes. It’s important to get the first one perfect. If the second vocal take falls short, this is where a great audio engineer can edit the first vocal take to align with the second take. This not only saves the vocalist’s strength but leaves more time for mixing, effects and seasoning.

Vocal Stacks
Vocal Stacks

In this screenshot you can see that each of the vocal stacks are even with each other. These are four vocal stacks. Sometimes on hooks using four stacks gives a thicker sound for the hook vocals to stand out. The idea is to get all the stacks even so the listener doesn’t get distracted by an extra syllable, breath or word.

Mixing vocal recordings with stacks is the last part of how to get a good doubled vocal recording. You’ll want to set the main vocal take to your desired volume. The best way to get a vocal in the pocket is to turn the level down and then gradually life the volume until it gets right in the pocket – not too loud or too soft. Keep that setting for the first perfect vocal take. Now set the vocal doubled takes -8db to -10db before the initial lead vocal. For example, if the lead vocal is at -10db, you’ll set the stacks to be at -18db or -20db. This is a guideline for mixing vocal stacks. Around those decibels you’ll find the sweet spot where the doubled vocals thicken the sound and blend together well.

The goal in using this vocal doubling trick is to get the vocals thick, up front and in your face without hearing the stack. If you hear an echo, the stacks could be turned down. If you hear a reverb, chances are the vocalist didn’t stack the vocals consistently.

To get the best double vocal results, do what I like to call ‘a benchmark vocal test’. Just spend an hour on this trick until you get it sounded great every time. This will save a lot of time during session and give instant results every time when recording vocals.

Remember, you must apply these techniques to get results. It is not enough to read articles all day and never do the work. Applying what you have learned is your personal hands on training. Don’t fall for the hands on training myths in the industry today.

Tutorial: Doubling Vocals
1) Determine if the vocalist has a strong, unique voice and if the song calls for doubled vocals on the verse, hook or on all the parts.
2) Walk the vocalist through what you’re going to do. Get a solid first take, double check and have them listen to make sure they are happy. After completing the first take, start recording to get the stacks. Make sure to listen in detail to make sure all the parts are syncopated.
3) During the mixing phase, remember, you don’t ‘have’ to use all of these stacks. However, having them available always makes great options if the vocals need to sound full on a word, phrase, or all parts. Using these steps will help you get a great sounding vocals on every song.

If there is anything we can help you with, setup a free training consultation below.

vocal recording tips

Vocal Recording Tips and Techniques

The best vocal recording tips and vocal recording techniques are not what you may expect.
Because of technology, it doesn’t matter where you are recording vocals.

I have recorded vocals in the middle of a room, in a hallway, bedroom, practically anywhere and always end up with great results.
Here are some Vocal Recording Tips and Techniques that will dramatically improve your vocal recording quality and give you the same results:

The secret is having a hardware preamp, hardware compressor and a condenser mic. They don’t need to be expensive. From there, have a popper stopper about 2″ away from the mic and make sure the vocalist is always an inch from the popper stopper. By using this method, you can record vocals anywhere so that you capture that great performance. This gives you the option to be creative and inspired anywhere the creative vibe chooses you. After everything is recorded, then you add compression, maybe some limiting and EQ to boost them just right.

The goal is to make sure you get the hottest recording signal level without clipping or any vocal distortion. Many clients who sent us their project to mix have vocal recordings that are distorted, noisy or clipping. Something ‘just wasn’t hitting’ but they couldn’t explain it. The goal is to have the preamp input set to where no clipping can happen on the input, through the compressor and into the recording system. Once that was explained to the client, they re-recorded the vocals and the mix and master came out great.

If you use a mic directly plugged into an interface, you don’t get enough volume and end up with a lot of noise. When the signal gets compressed after recording, more noise is heard while increasing the volume of the vocal.

When using a preamp and compressor while close miking the vocals, you’re getting nothing but voice. In most sound proofed rooms, they don’t close mic but instead get the room sound in the recording with the vocalist sometimes a foot away from the mic and many others in the same room too. This works and sounds great but its not the only way to get a great vocal sound.

On a final note, I do not recommend USB mics. While having a USB mic is a great advantage, if the mic doesn’t have an XLR connection to use with the preamp and compressor, don’t go for it. The limitation is not worth the investment. For the condenser mic, what to look for is a mic that has the hi pass filter on it and then the 3 recording modes – Directional, Omnidirectional and Figure 8. Getting a mic with all these features will give you advantage in any recording situation to get the best results for minimal price.

Presonus makes some of the most affordable and great sounding mic preamp and compressors for next to nothing. These are great to start with at any level. I also recommend Art too. The main difference between inexpensive and overpriced compressors and preamps is this: inexpensive units do their work. They process the sound, boost it, add warmth and are very transparent – what you hear is what you get. Expensive units add a ‘sheen’ to it. They ‘color’ the sound in a way that only that specific piece of gear can. At the end of the day, having that ‘sheen’ is great but really, if the vocals are crisp, clear and the performance is on it, thats all that matters. Music is getting released way too fast to get hung up on validating your music by what equipment is used..

Here are a few inexpensive options to start practicing this vocal recording tutorial.

Single Channel:
$100 PreSonus Comp 16 mic compressor
$100 PreSonus TubePre mic preamp

Dual Channel:
$179 ART TPSII 2 Channel Preamp
$289.95 ART MPA Gold Mic Preamp (2 channel digital ins and outs)
$399.95 DBX 1066 Dual Compressor Limiter Gate (2 channel)

Tutorial: Vocal Recording Tips and Techniques
1) Research a hardware mic preamp, mic compressor and condenser mic in your price range. You can always upgrade later down the road but having this combination will make a HUGE difference at any level.
2) Benchmark your mic recording setup. Test the settings, tweak the preamp and compressor with one vocalist until you get a good solid sound consistently. Afterwards, test 1-2 different vocalists to make final tweaks.

If you need specific details on vocal recording and settings, setup a free training consultation below.