Dueling Mixes-6 Months in

Hello everybody,

In a recent blog post I talked about the best additions to my recording studio in 2015. I thought I would share my impressions and go a bit deeper on one of them:  DuelingMixes.com.

If you do not know what Dueling Mixes is, it’s basically a website where two guys mix a song and they provide the individual tracks for the song so you could mix it yourself. On top of that, they provide videos on what they did to their own version of the mixed song.

It is run by Graham from the TheRecordingRevolution.com and Joe from HomeStudioCorner.com. What they have done is something truly special; Not only do you get multi-tracks to practice on and use in your portfolio, but you also see what they did to their songs while they were mixing them. Also the tracks they provide are not some low quality cheap recordings: you can tell all of these songs where recorded at a professional recording studio.

During their videos they go though the most important parts of their mixes and then, most importantly, they tell you why they decided to do that. So in the end you have two different people mixing the same song and using different techniques to get different sounds. I think this is the most important part because you can develop your own mixing technique based on what you like about the different sounds achieved. On top of that, you can vote on which mix you like most on the website, so it adds a little sense of community and feedback.

Going further into this, the forum is awesome because you can have other professionals critic your mixes, further improving your audio mixing skills and discussing mixing techniques. Personally I have felt that after joining Dueling Mixes, my mixing has improved and my audio mastering techniques have changed for the better. Now I can take the tracks I mixed and practice my mastering skills on it.

Although there is a membership fee, with everything that you get from Dueling Mixes, I think that it is well worth the $27 per month. If you are serious about mastering your skills, this is a great way to do it. 

The 3 Microphones You Have to Own

Hello Everybody,

Last week I wrote about the 5 Plug-ins I can't live without. This week I thought I'd share with you the 3 microphones that you HAVE to own.

So, if you are looking at purchasing some microphones or wondering which microphones you should start your collection with,  here are my top 3 microphone recommendations.

1. ETL Edwina

etl edwina microphone

This is the newest microphone in my collection and boy, do I feel horrible that I didn't discover this mic earlier. As you can tell from the photo above, the mic looks beautiful and it sounds just as amazing as it looks. I discovered this through a gig I was on and when the artist brought out this microphone, it was love at first sight.

I was expecting this microphone to cost over $1000, but to my surprise it cost only $499 (given what you're getting and the style, I thought that was a doable price).  You can also personalize it like I did. All of these mics are hand made in Portland, Oregon. I love this on vocals as well as on my guitar cabinets. This mic is going to be a mainstay on my vocal and guitar recordings. The Edwina has it own signature sound to which I have yet to find anything sounding bad going though it. It's clear, it's bright, and it sounds amazing. 

2. EV RE320

If you need some body in your vocals, guitar, kick drum, or anything else this is the microphone. The younger brother of the fabulous EV RE20, this mic takes what we all love about the RE20 and makes it better. When using this on a vocalist with a deep sounding voice, it will help bring out the body in the voice. The same for the kick drum. I like to mic the outside of the kick with this mic and using another mic, Shure Beta 91a, for the inside of the kick drum.
But what I like to use this on the most are my guitar cabinets. In use with the ETL Edwina, you can blend the 2 microphones together to get the desired sound from your guitar. You have the nice, clean and bright Edwina then you have the darker, warmer RE320, It's the perfect combination. Also, it is more affordable than the Edwina at $299.

3. Shure SM57

shure sm57

There are no words to describe this. This mic is a workhorse and an industry standard. You can use this on anything and it will sound good. Not to mention these are built like tanks. If you're able to break one you should get an award because in all my experience I probably have seen, at most, one broken SM57. Do yourself a favor and buy this mic, it is only $99 and will last you forever AND sound good no matter what.

So there you have it: THE 3 microphones you have to own. Please feel free to throw in your suggestions in the comments below.

Victor

5 Plugins That I Cant Live Without

Hello everybody,

I thought I would make a little list for my plug-in staples. I use them in almost all of my mixes and masters. So without further adeu, here are the five plug-ins I can't live without:

1. Waves SSL E & G Channel Strip

I love these plug-ins. I put these on almost everything and it sounds amazing. Waves did an amazing job recreating these plug-ins. What I love to use these on are vocals, but I also find myself using these often on drums. It's just a regular channel strip: It has a EQ, Compressor, and a gate. However, the way all these elements work together, the way you can change the sound so you can have the EQ or compressor first in the chain, and the sound that comes out of this is awesome. Just having it just there adds a warmth to the tracks, which I love. 

2. Slate Digital VCC Collection

I have to admit, ever since I bought my Phoenix Audio Nicerizer I haven't been using this plug-in a lot, but before it was on every one of my channels as well as my mix bus and sub-mixes. What it does is basically emulate recording consoles, but the best thing is you can have different consoles for different instruments. So I have can my drums going though a Neve console while I have the guitars and bass going through a SSL console. For that reason and for the subtle differences it makes to the sound are why I can't live without it.

3. Waves CLA-76 Compressor

I love this compressor, whether it be my Warm Audio WA-76, my Hairball Audio Rev A compressor, or this compressor which has both the Rev. A & D of this compressor. Ultimately, you can have the warm Rev A version or the darker Rev D version. I throw these on my vocal chain and my snare channels without hesitation. 

4. iZotope Ozone 7 Advance

Not only is this a stand-alone application but it is also available as a plug in.  Something new that iZotope has done for version 7 is being able to use any module as a single plug in. So for example, if Iwanted to just use the tape emulator, I can now. I loved using version 7 of Ozone, but all the improvements they have done (as well as lowering the price) has made this a no-brainier for me when I'm beginning the mastering process. But I believe  the stand out feature is the ability to, in real time, listen to how your music will sound as being an MP3 or AAC. I believe this will greatly improve my masters as I can hear how the MP3 will sound before I export the song. 

5. Waves Puigchild Compressor

Ask anybody and more than likely the Fairchild 670 compressor is in at least the top five pieces of hardware they want to own. I know because I am one of them. I barely use this on any instruments. The only place I use this on is my master bus. It really helps glue my mix together. I can just insert this onto my mix bus and even with out compression, it automatically makes my mix sound better. Then when I start to compress my song together that's when the magic happens and just glues everything together in my mix.

So there you have it. These are the top five Plug-ins I can't live without. These plug-ins are staples of my mixes and masters. Let me know of the plug-ins you can't live without In the comments below.  

Victor

Top 5 additions to my studio in 2015

Good news everyone!

As we close out 2015 I decided to reflect on my studio's changes. This year I added a whole bunch of new gear to my studio so I decided to make a list of my top 5 favorite gear additions in 2015.

1. Adam Audio P11A Studio Monitors & Adam Audio Sub8

This undoubtedly this has been the most important addition to my studio in 2015. Before I had a pair of KRK speakers as my main monitors. After I added these boys, WOW did I find my mixes improved! I find when I mix through these guys, my mixes and masters transpose much better. 

2. Phoenix Audio Nicerizer Summing Mixer

I don't want to get into the debate of "Analog Summing vs Digital Summing". All I'm going to say is that this little guy has added a vintage vibe to my mixes. For you guys who don't know what a summing mixer is, basically I send out 16 mono or 8 stereo signals and it combines them into a single stereo signal.

3. Warm Audio WA76 Compressor

I admit, I was iffy when I first bought it.  After using it for a couple of months though, I can definitely say that this was one of my better buys this year, so much so, I bought TWO this year! But that being said this compressor gives you the sound of the sought after UREI 1176 Rev D compressor at under $1000. The 2 WA76's have become main stays on my snare and vocal tracks. 

4. Hairball Audio Rev A Compressor

This one, like the WA76, was also an iffy buy mainly because it was my first DIY project (where they send you all the parts and you build the compressor yourself). It definitely was an experience since this wasn't an easy build and it was my first time doing something like this. But when I have used it in mixes, I find that it brings a certain brightness to what ever I run through it. 

5. Joined Dueling Mixes

This is a little bit different in that this is not a piece of gear, but a website. One of my friends turned me on to this website. It gives you music to mix with videos on what they did and little tips and tricks that they used in mixing the same song. This has helped me immensely. Not only did it give me more practice, but it also gave me insight to see what other people do when they mix. Some of the stuff I learned, I plan to use in my future mixing.

So overall this was a very productive year for Empty Road Audio. I added alot of new gear and has some new clients as well as some returning clients. I hope that 2016 is better for all of us.

Victor

Using The Surface Pro 4 with Pro Tools

Hello Everybody,

I thought I would make a quick video on using my Surface Pro 4 (i5, 8GB, 256 SSD) running Pro Tools 11. I was looking for a mobile solution to basically bring my recording studio with me and not have to use a mouse to mix or bring along a control surface.

When it came to the mixing, i like how responsive the faders where to the movement of the pen, and loved how easy it was to make changes. It is an enhancement of the touchscreen control surface. In terms of how many plug ins I can use in a session, I haven't gotten the dreaded computer "out of power" pop up yet, so I think I'm in pretty good hands. 

Overall I found mixing with the surface pen to be really useful and being able to control some of my plugins (not my Waves plugins) was a plus.

Thanks to Dueling Mixes for proving me the track. (“100” by Javie)

Building Hairball Audio Elements Cooper Preamp

Hello Everybody,

I thought I would share a time lapse video I made while building my 2nd Hairball Audio product. This time I purchased a Elements Cooper 500 series Preamp. I got it on sale during black Friday, where I also purchased a 500 series compressor from Hairball Audio.  It took me about 4 hours to build and you can see all that condensed into about a minute and a half. I had a blast building this preamp and I cant wait to use it in my studio and using it for future projects.  Check out the video below.

7 Tips for Musicians First Time in the Recording Studio

1. Make sure you’ve made all the final decisions for your songs and that they’re complete  

Many new musicians want to rush in and record their first album or EP. While I know this is an exciting event, by doing this, most of the time, songs may not be as thoroughly thought-out or incomplete. This leads to a lot more money spent because extra time goes into trying to figure out where (for example) the band wants to go with the song, which could have been done during the band’s rehearsal time where you don't have a studio engineer on the clock. 
To avoid these headaches and to keep the extra change in your pocket, every song that you want to record should be completed and be up to par by the time you come into the studio for your session. Your final decisions and impressions for your song should be completed. The WORST thing that you want to do to the studio engineer is have him spend all this time tracking and mixing a song just to throw it away because the band ends up deciding they dislike their song. 

2. Make sure all your band members are ready to record

It is extremely important that all of your band members know the song inside-out. Don't get me wrong, you’re probably not going to nail your part on the first take (especially if it is your first time in a recording studio and the nerves kick in) and that's ok! But if you can get your part done in a couple of takes, compared to spending 2 hours recording a guitar part and “fixing it in the mix”, it will save you time/money. I also can’t emphasize enough how much better the sound will be in the end if you avoid the “fixing it in the mix” mentality. That is not the mind set you should have going into recording. 
My favorite saying holds true here, “You can’t polish a turd”. 

3. Make sure your gear is ready to record

This step is often overlooked. If there is a buzz in your guitar amp or your snare has a horrible ring to it, it can be a headache to remove from the mix and sometimes we can’t remove it at all! So it is paramount that all your gear is in working order. If you feel that your gear is not up to par or is damaged, you can also ask if the studio has in house gear you can use or see if you can rent locally. 
Also, a tip for you guitar players out there: change your strings a couple of days before your session. The reason I say a couple of days is that it gives your strings time to stretch out and wear in. Having old strings on your guitar is bad for recording because it will affect your tone and have a greater chance of breaking, again adding to the time-wasted and money-spent problem. 

4. Don't be afraid to bring in demo recordings or influences 

Let’s say that you recorded a demo previously and really liked the vibe or feeling that you got from it and want your upcoming professionally recorded song to have that same effect: Bring it in! It will help the mixing engineer get the closest sound that you want. 
Likewise, don't be afraid to bring in recordings of bands and artists you like the sound of. Some examples of reference requests I have gotten: “I like the vibe of this album and I want to have the same vibe on my album”, “I like the way the drums sound in this song and I want my drums to sound the same”, etc. 
That being said you should not expect your recording to sound exactly the same to the references you brought in, nor would you want to! Close to the reference is fine, but you definitely want to have your own unique sound.

5. You’re there to work, not to party

This is hopefully a no-brainer for you guys: You’re there to work, not have a party. Show up to the studio sober and ready. Don’t dress like a lawyer but have the mentality of a pro. It’s fine if we have a couple of beers while we record, but the engineer is there to work on your songs, and that will be nearly impossible if he has to look after a completely-wasted-you. 
This leads me to another point: Bring only the people necessary to record the album! Once you start inviting friends, family, and significant others into the studio (although we like to meet them), it can become distracting and like I said before, you’re there to work.  
Lastly, VERY important, is to respect your engineer and their studio. I can personally say, as I can guarantee other studios and engineers have, that we have spent a lot of money on equipment and gear. So understandably, we would be beyond upset if someone where to break any of our gear or equipment because that's the “rock star way”.  It’s not the “rock star way”.  They’re just a douche.

6. Know the process of making a record

There are 3 main parts in recording a song/record: Tracking, Mixing, and Mastering.

  • Tracking- This is the step where you record all of the instruments that you would like to have on your song or album.

  • Mixing- The processes of taking everything that you recorded and creating a song that sounds as good as possible.

  • Mastering- The process of making the collection of songs, making them sound good across all audio devices, and turning them into a final album. 

I found this funny picture that helps explain mixing and mastering a little bit better:

7. Last but not least, stay positive

Rome wasn't built in a day, and a good album is not going to be finished in a day either. It's a slow process but in the end it will be worth it. Also, recognize that this is not a solo project (unless you're a solo artist). Making records is a team effort, so don't try and be a tyrant and take full control of the band. Rather, encourage your band mates to get the best out of them. Also don't aim for perfection. No matter what you do, you’re not going to play the song perfectly the way you want it. I’m not saying completely half-ass the song, but the little mistakes are what make your song human. If not, might as well get robots to be your musicians. 

But overall, just have fun and make something special out of the process! 

On the Road, Mexico, September 25-October 11

Good day everybody,

Thought I would show you some pictures of my last run on tour. This time I was in Mexico. I was there supporting Julio Iglesias and his new album "Mexico".

Upcoming Release-"EP-KLR" by The Keys to Lincoln Road

Hello Everybody,

Hope everyone is doing awesome. We have another upcoming release, this time from Miami based alternative rock band, The Keys to Lincoln Road.  They had there upcoming EP Mixed and Mastered at Empty Road Audio. Check them out at the links below.
 

Facebook
Reverbnation

You can purchase their ablum on iTunes

You can also check it out on Spotify 

Here is "Sailing By" From their EP

On the Road, May 16-May 31

Hello everybody, 

Wanted to share some pictures from my last run on tour. We went to Nice, France, Cluj, Romania, Sofia, Bulgaria, Lisbon, Portugal