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Fix It In The Mix

Lesson 1 of 17

Intro and Overview

Kurt Ballou

Fix It In The Mix

Kurt Ballou

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Lesson Info

1. Intro and Overview

Lesson Info

Intro and Overview

Everybody welcome to creative live my name's true consummate and I'm your host for this course this is called fix it in the mix with curt blew uh kurt has been in the recording industry for more than twenty years and runs god city studio in boston massachusetts he's worked he's one of the most prolific producers in the genre he's worked of bands like champion high on fire and nails he's also the guitar player and a band called converge one of most influential hardcore bands over the last two decades and we're really lucky to have him back here at creative live esso I hope that you're tuned in and ready to go take it away kurt thanks drew coming back yeah, I happen to be here again I hope you guys were picked up something cool from this course um and I'm excited to be here and, uh you know, before we dive in I'd like to welcome a live audience that's here and, uh like for them to all sort of introduce themselves maybe spend a few seconds just kind of letting the people at home know what...

their own musical experiences both in terms of like playing and recording so if you guys were just walking down the line tad you wantto go set it off hi my name's tad doyle I own and operate which ape studio in a seattle I played in the band tad hog molly and currently with brothers of the sonic cloth I do recording mixing mastering hi my name's matt jan ah I play in the band into the storm and I do ah recording mixing no mastering yet but something still interested in I ah I'm joel grind I play in toxicology cost and do ah mixing in recording I'm grab all right uh audio siege in portland ah run the mastering studio there master full time and ah I play guitar and from ashes rise and get to work with you a lot yeah I I'm dean swanson I have ah recording studio in seattle called magnets large and small um I've recorded in ah bands such as a hidden number currently um chapel supremacists and ah yeah um a record label that I produce and ah release all my music on bandcamp um and its magnet sergeant small I'm kyle morgan I play in ash borer predatory light and van um and I'm doing some live type of recordings pretty frequently so that's why I'm here ben prosser and I mean the band to the delusion will play gets our and working from a home studio right now often thanks guys eso for everybody here and also for everybody at home if if azem azem speaking today if any questions come up or if any sort of even suggestions or alternate ideas for maybe things that I didn't consider or I'm not talking about other other techniques come up feel free to chime in the creative life people will be sort of sorting through all the different questions that come in and then, you know, sense any questions my way when they feel like it's appropriate so feel free to chime in I want to make this stuff it's sort of fun and informal and interactive as we can make it so I guess that leads us tio the course um let's talk about what we're going to be covering today um, so a lot of times you know, you you're dealing with a recording that was maybe recorded under less than optimal circumstances and there's a whole number of reasons that that could happen it could be that you know, the engineer's a bit green or maybe, you know, though the mikes and mike preempt at their disposal weren't so hot or the acoustic space wasn't so hot or things needed to be done really quickly it was all kinds of different reasons why you might have a subpar recording and are not in a a situation where you could just have the musicians redo it with, you know, better takes or with more time or or or what have you and none of this is meant to be a dig at any of the engineers that were working with in this course is just like you know, if you have something that's a really cool performance and you want to try to salvage that performance here here's going this this this course will cover some of the techniques that we can use to salish some poorly recorded audio um and it's important to always maintain perspective when when doing this there's sometimes you know you just can't take it all the way to where you want it to be and but maybe there's something great about the character of the original recording while it may be in perfect that you don't want to lose, you know all those you know, you know, early punk records for example like would you want like, a black flag record to be recorded, you know, with modern production techniques? No, you know, like this it's it's in perfect and that's what makes it great? So don't forget about that as you're doing this thing, uh, I also hope to help people learn sort of new ways to think about the tools that they have at their disposal in their studio, new ways to employ all of their various plug ins and outboard gear. And what not in a way that can be used creatively to help salvage the recordings and one of one of the themes that I'm going to keep coming back to is my idea about sort of dividing tracks into separate components like in a lot of the cases of what we're going to be working on today, there's um, a lot of minimal miking happening. So how can we take that minimal miking and find ways to maximize what the or unlock the potential of these middle mole mike two scenarios? And we can do that by sort of dividing a single track into different components. You can divide it in frequency bands, we can divide it in dynamic bands, if, if any of you have seen my my previous creative ally, of course, I talked kind of extensively about a tom editing technique I do where I divide, I'll edit all the tom tracks so that all the symbols are kind of removed from the tom tracks and then take the remaining edited tom thing and then kind of duplicate the tom track. Put put, roll my own crossover, so I've divided the tom into a high component in a low component, and then I will adjust how I've edited the decay of the high versus the low. So the tom, the high component of the tom, gets out of the way of the next symbol hit, whereas the low component that tom is allowed to sustain so the tom still has, like a natural feel. But you don't have a sort of harsh bleed of a symbol coming into the tom like so that's that's one kind of divide and conquer technique there's a lot of other things where you know you can split you can split a track into into different dynamic range is so like an overhead for example if you were tryingto sort of level out the volume of different symbols you can really heavily limite that overhead track uh or heavily limited duplicate of that overhead track but then you can have another one with like an expander on it or something like that just sort of pull attack out of the snare and tom's from the overhead and then you know combined those two tracks together you might have a bit more independent control of the drum component of the overhead versus the symbol component of the overhead um we'll also talk a lot about various multi band techniques where within a single plug in you can divide a track into low low mid mids and highs and process those independently in some cases that's going to be multiple compression in other cases that's going to be a dynamic and in other cases that's going to be multi band envelope followed andi you know there's additional things you can do if you want to go ahead and duplicate those duplicated track and put a nick you want to sort of make your own cross over you can bend you could have even further control over that, so we'll do a lot of that kind of stuff in this course um and uh, we're gonna look at some bit of audio restoration tools and in particular akkus honest drama tom it's pretty neat stand alone audio application that enables you to remove bleed from from existing drum tracks and doesn't always work but when it works it's really cool. So, um the other kind of neat thing we're going to dio that is black match to some people is revamping a snare drum where we take an existing snare sound that's maybe not so hot or, you know, we're there's no snare wires in it or it's you know, really super pinkney or something like that and physically run that signal through speaker into another snare drum and use that speaker to excite that snare drum to create a new acoustic snare sound without resorting to triggers or something like that. Um and we're gonna also talk about how stereo widening can be used as a creative mixed tool and find ways two way makes it a lot of ways we mixed with with frequencies and we mixed with level, but we can also mix with pan and in some cases you you when you're dealing with a lot of mono tracks there's some stereo widening techniques you can do to give yourself pan mixing options that you wouldn't have otherwise so we're gonna talk about that and well also dive into using sort of harmonic distortion through through saturate er plug ins to make cheap, cheaper microphones are overly dynamic singles a little bit classier sounding and kind of real that stuff in and also simultaneously filtering out some of like the the frequency extremes that we don't want a lot of cheaper microphones are almost like too full on their frequency response maybe they're bit mid starved or maybe they just have the top end is can be kind of crispy and cheap soundings and we'll look at some ways we can address that make this stuff sound a bit class year and okay, red means bad uh what we think's we won't be covering in this course and, um, I should should say with this caveat that I'm I'm not against any of these techniques and I think there's a time in a place where everything but I think that a lot of the techniques that I won't be covering, I'm not covering just because they already been discussed a lot I'm tryingto cover some new ground here and in a lot of cases like you know, triggering drums and rehabbing guitars is the best way to recover a bad performance, but today I'd like to have a bit more fun with the organic sounds and try to focus on um you know restoring these these tracks in a way that preserves the tone of the original performance so I'm not gonna be doing any editing to make anybody's performance is any better I'm assuming that these performances are cool and there's just something wrong with the recording and that's why you want to salvage the recording um and you know, obviously not gonna be doing a drum replacement not to be reacting any guitars or base as I said, those techniques are fine and I do them sometimes when I need to I don't set out to do them but it's, you know, perfectly perfectly valid technique it's just generally not in line with my taste um and I think that there's some things we can do where we don't have to resort to that stuff um and I'm not going I'm not going to try to do anything or change anybody's performance in the vocal department and I'm not going to try to do and he, like a lot of people are starting to do middie programming to the low component of their bass guitar I'm not gonna be doing that in this course, but it is, you know, another another valid way to get cem cem solved low and from your bass guitar all right, so um the key takeaways for this class as as I mentioned before, is what we want to help you learn you know how to reimagine the tools at your disposal if you understand all this sort of little little nuances of what they can do you're better equipped to say like oh yeah maybe we can try you know that idea but imparted to you know this other scenario I'm hoping that in trying some of what I talk about today that you will find new couldn't creative ways to impart these techniques on other types of sources or it'll inspire new ideas and you and you know all the ideas that I that I have here that some of them some of which are mine and some of which are not that I've picked up from other people you know, even the idea is that feel original to me or not really original their their modifications on other techniques I've learned from other people so I hope that I hope to just sort of in prove our hive intelligence by sharing some of some of what I've learned the other important thing as I mentioned before we need to maintain perspective on the material we're working on so it's important to always be kind of a being against the source material and make making sure that what you are doing is not sort of pushing the recording or shoehorning the recording into something that it's not meant to be let's let's let's make sure that like we're presenting the correct feeling and we're not just like um you know, doing much created crazy audio stuff, you know, to show off on, uh, yeah, of course, yeah, check phase often. Of course. Every time you do something, you double check that double. Check your polarity, make sure that what you're doing isn't, um, fighting against, um, how, how it, how it combines with the other tracks.

Class Description

The best way to get a great recording is to start with great source material, but that’s not always possible. Occasionally you are stuck with a less-than-perfect recording and the only thing you can do is to try and clean it up. 

Lucky for you, there are reliable techniques for restoring poorly recorded audio, and Kurt Ballou will teach you everything you need to know in Fix it in the Mix. 

While replacing drums with samples and reamping guitars are often effective ways to rebuild a sub-par recording, they are time-consuming and can diminish the uniqueness of the original recording. 

Fix it in the Mix will explore organic approaches to recovering and enhancing the natural tones from the original performances. Kurt will use recordings from real-world scenarios and walk you through, in detail, the audio restoration process. 

In Fix it in the Mix, Kurt will show you how to think outside of the box to come up with creative solutions to audio restoration problems every engineer has faced. 



An absolutely fantastic course for anyone who is new (or even experienced) on how to use very innovative techniques to help bring some life to an otherwise poorly recorded demo. Thank you Kurt!


another fantastic course in the creative live audio section, kurt kills it,!! thank you!

Ashton Thebault

Definitely some handy tips in here that are useful for mixing live music, poorly recorded tracks and anything else that couldn't be rectified during recording. Kurt gave some tips I had never thought of and there were some valuable insights that came out from his discussions with people in the room. Very valuable if you deal with any sub-standard recordings and if you just want to get some tips.