Berklee Online: Mixing and Mastering with Protools review

Hello Everybody,

For today's blog post I would like to share my thoughts so far on the Berklee online music production degree experience. I just finished taking a course called Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools  (OMPRD-380) and I can easily say that taking that class was the best thing I could have done to help improve my mixing and mastering techniques.

How the class worked was every week we learned about a new technique. Like one week we learned about EQ, then next week we learned about dynamics, then about parallel compression, so on and so fourth.  Then we spent the last three weeks working on mastering. 

Having someone personally critique what you do to your mix is a really great help and my professor was very thorough with his critique of my mixing and mastering. Another great thing was, my professor was not "pushy" about his critiques. He would focus on giving me suggestions to try out, and only critique on genuine errors. That being said, I would consistently receive A's on my assignments but yet he would write a one page response to my mixing and mastering, giving me plenty of tips to try and improve the mix. He was impressively thorough in his analysis.

Now the big question is, would I recommended this to someone who wants to improve their mixing and mastering techniques? The answer is definitely YES. I can easily say that everything I learned I will use in in my recording studio and especially in my Online Mixing and Mastering services. So, if you're serious about improving your mixing and mastering techniques, I say, without a doubt, look into this Berklee online class.

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What is Mixing and Mastering?

Hello Everybody,

When you go to a recording studio, there are 3 important phases in making your album: tracking, mixing, and mastering. We all know what tracking is; It is the process of recording all of the instruments, but not a lot of bands and/or artists know what goes on during the other 2 phases of the music production process. So I wrote this post to describe what the mixing and mastering processes are about.

First, let's talk about mixing. Mixing happens right after you finish the tracking phase and this is when what you recorded finally starts to sound like an actual record.  During this phase, the mixing engineer starts to add EQ, panning, dynamic processors, reverbs, delays, or what ever else seems fit to make your song sound how you want it. This is why bringing in reference materials for the kind of music you want your sound to be like is always a help for the mixing engineer.

Mastering is both the last step in the creative process and the first step in the distribution process. It is the collecting of all the songs that already have been mixed and making them sound like they belong on the same album. Unifying their sound in other words. On the creative side, it is where you make all the final adjustments that you need to make to your music. On the technical side, it is preparing the the audio to sound good and be distributed by which ever means, whether CDs or MP3s.

Hopefully this blog was able to help you understand more about the process behind Mixing and Mastering! If you'd like to get a preview of what mixing and mastering can do for your own track, get a free sample from Empty Road Audio!


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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.


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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.  


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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)

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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! 

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