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Life Audio Mastering Productions / Blog

Fast Music

In one ear, bypass the brain and heart and through the other ear, thats what "fast music" is. Where has emotion in music gone. It seems as though people don't care to feel anymore, they just get to bored to fast and just want the next song or next hit. People don't even know why they like a song anymore. It used to be that you liked a song because it made you feel a certain way, wether it be happy, sad, angry. Whatever the feeling you got, it made you remember that song and love that song. There are very few bands/artists that can do this with thier music or that even strive to do this. Today is mostly about the visual and popularity appeal. Along time ago bands and artists really didn't care about popularity. They cared about the music, about how it will effect the listener on an emotional level. Now adays we get the same sounding bands competing against each other releasing the same sounding singles each month My eldest brother Nate once said today's music is simply "fast music". Just like fast food, it fills the void for a bit, not creating any emotion. It's quick and emotionless. In a time when we all live faced paced lives with fast cars, fast Internet, palm sized cell phones with even faster Internet, mabe people just don't care to feel any emotion from music or mabe it's to stressful to have another emotion to think about every time they hear the song...I don't know!

Is it the listeners fault or is it the artist fault. I say a little bit of both are at fault. The listeners don't really care so the artists don't put forth the effort to produce something extraordinary. Now I'm not saying that there are no bands out there that produce truly awesome music that touches different listeners in different ways, because there are. But they unfortunately aren't winning the popularity contest. So in short "Fast music" is just easier to deal with...Simply put, "fast music" needs to slow down and become great music for people to feel and reconnect with each other like they used to ...

Commpression and Gating

COMPRESSION/GATING-How do you know when to use compression or gating technics? How much is to much? What is compression and gating?

Compressing a track is basically making the loud parts quieter and the quiet parts louder. Gating a track is cutting the decibels of that track only when certain parts reach a specified level. For example on a Volcals track the singer sings then stops singing and in between the singing is noise. A gate can be programmed to cut the volume completely as soon as the Volcals is done and then allow the Volcals to come through once the next Volcals spikes. Compressing is also used widely on Volcals as the voice tends to get louder at different times. When mixing a song we want the vox to be noticeable and easily heard all the time(almost all the time depends on the artist/producers vision). An easy way to do this is to put a compressor on the vox track either during recording(pre-production) or after(post-production).Like eqing use compression and gating appropriately, to much can lead to "out of phase" issues and will ruin your mix. You can put a compressor on any instrument but typically you should try to keep it to the instruments that have varying levels of gain such as vox, kick, bass, guitar( not always) and so on.

WHAT TO LSTEN FOR IN AN UNEDITED MIX

TIME-Make sure the elements of the song are in time with one another. The song will sound sloppy and from a listeners perspective will sound just bad no matter how good you get the tracks sounding by themselves. If a track was recorded in time with a click track/metronome we want to make sure that each track is in time with the metronome and also with each other. If something is out of time it should be rerecorded or corrected (if possible). It is possible to correct bad timing of an instrument without rerecording using certain tools inside your daw. But if possible always try to rerecord the audio, this is because some tools used in your daw will add a muffled or distorted sound after it has corrected the timing. If the song wasn't recorded to a click track again use your ears and ask yourself does this sound sloppy in any way, would this sound good if played over the radio? If its bad it should be rerecorded. Remember the master is only as good as the mix and the mix is only as good as the recording. Timing is huge in the overall sound of the mix. The engineer may say "well it sounds perfect" but the listener will say "I'm confused because that guitar sounds wrong and why did the drummer do that". Get the timing right before moving on with anything else.

CORRECTIONS-We want to listen for audio clipping, popping, hissing, crackling, and background noise such as air conditioning fans, paper tussling from the vocalist, dogs barking or whatever. We must get those noises or distortion of the audio out. we want nothing but the instrument to be heard. It's easier to do it at this stage than in the later stages.

TONE-When listening to the song ask yourself, is there too much bass, are the cymbals to loud, are the guitars hurting my ears after awhile, are the Volcals muddy, and so on. We want to find out what tracks are fighting each other for the spotlight. Almost all musical instruments will have a broad range of frequencies from 20 hz to 20,000hz meaning and acoustic guitar can play usually anything from 100hz and up audibly but in a mix we don't really need that 100 hz as they are inaudable and the bass will take those frequencies. So in short the acoustic guitar will fight with the bass guitar in that frequency range. Now is this audible in a full mix, not really but it's happening and needs to be fixed. This same thing can happen in any frequency range between any instrument.

EQING-When eqing a track, start with anything that sounds out of place, such as guitars that begin to hurt your ears after a period of time. The 2khz range is a very ear popping sound so to speak. Cutting this frequency range(2khz-3khz) (not completely ) will greatly improve the listening ability of your mix. Another frequency to cut is the 500hz range which can be called the mud frequency. All This is called eq cutting. It is better to cut rather than boost. Instead of boosting for example the low end on a bass track, try cutting the mud . Doing so will bring out the bass that is already there while at the same time cutting some noise. When you boost a frequency you not only boost that frequency but also the noise in that frequency range. Boosting and cutting frequencies should be used appropriately . Always try cutting first before boosting a frequency.

Mixing a song from start to finish

First things first, I am not a professional audio engineer, I am a musician of 15 years, and everything I say in this is completely my opinion as there is no set rules for mixing and mastering, only guide lines. So the First rule of thumb i have is if it sounds good you can prob use it . Second rule of thumb is, the master is only as good as the mix, as the mix is only as good as the recording. If the recording is bad you can only do so much to make it good. I will go through the basics of basics, I will not go through the details of mixing a guitar or bass or whatever because to me that is subjective. Knowing what to look for or listen for and what some of the tools are to use to get a clean sound is what I will talk about. So with that in mind each day i will post tips to mastering so let's get into this ....

Import and organize all tracks

You may be eager to slap some plugins on your track and get the audio sounding good, but you must refrain from this and organize your session first. Why should we do this. Simply to allow us to work faster later on. If everything is in order we will recall and access tracks quicker without confusing ourselves. So once your tracks are in session, mark them, name them, write it on paper whatever just make sure your kick track is called kick or whatever . In most daws the track name is displayed allowing you to find your the track you want quicker. Next map out the song by marking were the verses, choruses, intros, outros are. Most daws allow for all of this to be done within the daw but if not or if you don't know how just right it all down on paper the old fashioned way, it's worth it in the long run. Once your setup we can move on to tomorrows topic "Listening"...

Listen to the Mix

LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Listen to the whole unedited mix as a whole at least once, adjusting ONLY the volume faders and panning faders as you listen. Make a rough leveled mix of all the instruments. When your doing this you have to determine what's important and what's not as important. What's important is subjective and is relative to the song. Listen to the song deeply and ask yourself what is the drummer doing to make his drums sound the way they are, what is the guitar player doing, vocals, bass, keys. Each instrument is played by a human being so a song is basically a compilation of human emotions and must be listened to with deep respect, no matter what genre. Listen and listen at lower volumes. Alot of time is spent listening to a mix over and over and your ears will get tired. When your ears get tired you will start to hear things that arnt there. This will cause you to make some mixing mistakes like boosting the low end when you don't need to or boosting the volume of a track when it was fine before. Mixing at a lower volume will allow our ears to be more accurate for a longer period of time than when cranking the volume. The only time when loud listening is required is when mastering (my opinion) in mastering we need to determine what certain frequencys will do at higher decibels but we'll get into that later.

So we've determined that it is very important to listen and listen closely to a mix before editing it, but what are we listening for exactly. The second part of "listen to the mix" will cover this subject.