Producing and Mixing a Rock Song From Scratch

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Learn how Ian Vargo produced and mixed a track just from a scratch guitar and vocal in Pro Tools for his band Ugly, Ugly Words.

My name is Ian Vargo and I’m with theproaudiofiles.com. I’m gonna show you how to produce and mix a rock song literally from scratch. This song is Ray Gun by Ugly Ugly Words. I was given a scratch vocal track and direct guitar track. Let’s listen to the guitar.

[scratch guitar]

I’ll turn off these plugins to show you what it sounds like direct.

[DI guitar]

Got this vocal right here. I’m gonna turn off any plugins and mute the sends.

[vocal scratch track]

Add guitar there. It was sort of my vision to take it and make it fuller and sound more like Motörhead Ace of Spades. I’ll turn these plugins back on. What I started with was those tracks and added drums. I actually programmed the drums to sound real. I guess at that time I couldn’t afford a drummer, didn’t have a drum set. Didn’t have a studio on that particular day I was working on this track.

I created the drum performance using a combination of VSTs on this instrument track. I’m not gonna load Reason, but you can see this is actually my performance. Kick snare, kick snare. And we’ve got a bunch of hi-hats. Let’s see if we can load a virtual instrument like BFD2 which is a great one. Let’s load a drum kit.

[BFD 2 programmed drums]

That’s me drumming on a MIDI keyboard. I’d get the individuals sounds I like, let’s go for a more direct sound, and print multiple layers of kick and snare until I was happy with the sound. We’ve got a kick right here.

[kick drum]

It’s more of a direct sound. A roomy snare. Overheads. Running out memory, awesome. Let’s get rid of BFD. We’ve got hi-hats, room, cymbals, direct — let’s just get all of these drums going you can hear what the final print sounds like. I do this because I want to be able to — even though they are created from virtual instruments — I want to have control and be able to mix them like I would a natural drum set. This is what they sound like after printed.

[BFD 2 drums]

Fortunately the tempo was 204 and this original guitar track and vocal was tracked to a click. And these guitars in. I actually recorded the bass next. We have the bass which was direct. I’m gonna mute all of these plugins on this bass. I wanted sort of a grainy aggressive picky bass sound. Here’s the original bass sound.

[bass guitar]

So we sorta have that very picky sound. Good for rock music. Let’s add in these drums. And does not quite cut through. Especially once we add the guitars later you’ll hear the bass was not able to cut through with the current setting. What I did was add some harmonic distortion with decapitator. I’m not gonna go through these settings. That’s for another tutorial. We’ve got some EQ, some drastic boost at 3k to bring out the pickiness. More EQ, drastic cut at 4k. Don’t always know why I do these things but here we go. We’ve got the CLA-76 compressor. More EQ, some multiband compression and limiting. Limiting on bass is something I do every so often.

[bass guitar with EQ and compression]

Cuts way better. Next step was the guitars. Let’s solo this guitar, change our output.


I actually recorded these guitars direct, not very rock and roll. Whatever. So this is the original sound. You’re gonna hear some clipping because I’m a bad engineer. What I was going for is a loud crunchy aggressive in your face sound, so what I did is I started with some compression, added this SansAmp plugin. I apologize if I’m going through these really quickly. Decapitator. Some more compression.

[guitar + compression + SansAmp + Decapitator]

And then what I did was print directly onto an audio track from this track. Let’s change this to no output and the final sound is this. Sounds like I did a little more distortion, maybe some decapitator. And the other guitar. Add in bass. Get those drums going. Bring in the lead vocal. A big part of this song I know we wanted to have a blistering guitar solo. I did the same technique where I have a direct sound. Lead guitar direct.

[lead guitar solo]

Sort of a crazy distorted broken sounding guitar. Sounds like we have some cowbell created with BFD 2. Thrown in for good measure, I was able to capture the sound of — my cat makes this weird sound, you heard him make a cameo before — makes this weird sound before he throws up. He was actually about to throw up while I was working on the song. So I synched that up and looped it. The cat throwing up sound is really what made it all what it is.

I had a great time producing and mixing this track. It’s Ray Gun by Ugly, Ugly Words.
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Advanced Dj Tutorial- Mixing Non-Electronic Songs into a Set

I this tutorial we demonstrate how to prep old songs that float in time so you can seamlessly mix them into your electronic sets. Visit this post for more info and the mp3’s used:

Advanced Tips- Mixing Rock/Live Tracks into a Set

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Check out the page where you can order the entire ProTools 10 Advanced DVD here:

Host Andrew Eisele begins the program with a tutorial that introduces you to how synthesizers work in preparation for using the onboard soft synths in Pro Tools 10. You’ll learn how to set up and use Rewire instruments, and you’ll get acquainted with each of the synths in Pro Tools 10, including the Boom drum module, the DB-33 organ, and the Mini Grand piano. You’ll also explore Structure Free (an RTAS sample player), and the Xpand2 (a multi-timbral virtual synth).

Using sounds from these modules, Andrew will build up an arrangement using a variety of tools, such as combining analog and electronic drum tracks, working with loops and groove clips, and using the many onboard audio and MIDI editing tools, sound-processing effects, and utility plug-ins. In the mixing segment, Andrew explains advanced production techniques such as setting up busses, inserting dynamic and real-time effects, writing automation and applying effects, both to tracks and to the stereo bus during mastering that will give your tracks a professional edge. Throughout this video, you’ll learn many tips and tricks you can use right away to make your own productions sound amazing!

Mixing Tips #1: How to widen your Bass in Logic Pro

Here’s a tip on how to give your bass a wider sound when mixing music, and some thoughts on mono/stereo.

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Please note I am by no means a professional,
if you have an easier way or any further suggestions
I’d love to hear about it!
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Tips for creating depth in a mix.

Transcript excerpt:

In this tutorial, we are going to be talking about depth. How to create a sense of front to back image inside your stereo mix.

Now, a stereo mix is essentially a two-dimensional plane, not unlike a painting canvas, and much like any painting, we can create the illusion of three dimensions.

Obviously, in a painting, we do it using things like shading, perspective, size. Well, in music, we do similar things. We use signal processing, like level, EQ, and reverb.

I think it’s fairly obvious how we use level. Things that are louder generally appear closer, things that are quieter generally appear further. That’s pretty self explanatory.

EQ’s a little bit more complicated. There’s something called the dispersion effect, where over distance, high frequencies damp out faster than lower frequencies, except for in very interesting and weird acoustic environments, but for the most part, we’re going to lose more high end over distance, and so if we have things that are generally EQ’d to be darker, they will also appear further away, and things that are very bright are going to appear close.

The last one is going to be reverb. Reverb is sort of complicated, but reverb is the illustration of sound inside of a space, and where you locate that space comes down to a number of different settings, and they are: the level of early reflections, the level of late reflections, and the pre-delay.

And everything sort of plays into it, like the absorption qualities that your individual reverb unit allows you to setup, and things like this, that, and the other, but these are the three main ones.

So, early reflections. Early reflections are the first-order echoes that happen in a reverberant space, so when I speak, the sound waves go out, they hit a boundary, and they bounce back. That’s the early reflections.

The late reflections are my voice goes out, hits a boundary, reflects, hits another boundary, reflects, hits another, and it bounces around this room forming all of these complex reflections. Those are our late reflections.

When we are closer to a source, we generally hear a greater proportion of the early reflections, and a smaller proportion of the late reflections, and conversely, the opposite is true. When we’re further away, we hear more of the late reflections and less of the early reflections, and they seem to blend together more, and it makes sense if you think about that.

You get more of a “boom, slap” type of thing if we’re close to something, and you get more of a convolution of echoes coming together when you’re farther away.

The other thing that happens is the predelay. If I’m very close to a source, you don’t hear any reverberation until that sound travels out, and bounces back, and at about a foot per millisecond, if I’m say, five feet away from my nearest boundary, then I’ll have about a ten second predelay before my first reflections get back to this microphone.

However, if I’m on the other side of the room, the first reflection that say, hits the floor and then bounces back up into the mic is going to get there almost at the exact same time as the actual direct sound of my voice.

So, as we get farther away, pre-delay goes down. When we’re very close, predelay goes up. All of these things come together, and we formulate a system of creating an idea of depth by using all of those processes.
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