Before You Mix


Fundamentals of Mixing Rock and EDM


Lesson Info

Before You Mix

Let's, talk a little bit more about mixing process um, so obviously before you mix, you want to commit and prep all this try so you keep your heads clear, the door runs wait way worse where there's all those that its audit so, like I said, you gotta get you get that down, I cannot impress it enough that you want to consolidate these files. Um, so what's actually get into a little bit of a devil of this? So if we could go up to the pro tools, I want to show what I mean by saving alternate playlist if you're not confident you're edits or something because I know for a lot of the people who are a little bit younger, they could be a little bit apprehensive about committing at its and, uh, you know, consolidating it down because what if you're at it? You know, you've been burned when you committed at it there's a quick and a pop it it or something like that or you two did you didn't to do the right note or has one of those weird auto two glitches where it sounds like a gremlin is attacking ...

your vocal or something weird like that? So if you look on my pro tools screen right here is the playlist few so what you see here is all this vocal I'll give a nice little play you could here so this is the third group nobody does this we're going to do it a bunch of doubling with today they this year is the lead vocal for the course so as you could hear um I think we didn't mellow dine on this for pitch correction but you know it's a pitch corrected so you here obviously they've been submitting done so what? I actually did this if you look at the way form is you know I did some white timing I didn't become like one of those pop music you know this needs to be every way form needs to look exactly the same I did not vocal what I just went by year it got it a little bit tighter on each track so when I do my edits though the first thing I have is I have this track here that as you can see since there's a loop here you don't even see this track here anymore that this is the original instance of what he sag this has no it's this is just what I recorded from the audio down and then what I do after that is I make another playlist and I run through I ended it and then I tune it and I save it here so if at some point the singer says you know I think that's a little too tude can I go to a different note? I think that we over added that if the singer says that I think I can always go back and it's a simple is me just copying, you know, highlighting that going back to another playlist and doing another reacted you know I can pace that it and then I can pace that around the song wherever I have to fly it in again use playlists your vantage so thatyou congar back I know it's really hard at first when I was younger, I'd mess up at its all the time now I'm really confident I don't get scared you can save as many edits you could save one after the timing editing you could save another play list after that it's not going to bog down your system no matter how white your system is every one of these tracks if you look has a playlist of the unedited version I'm able to go back and the other thing too is if for some reason let's say the band's gets picked up in your you did a great enough producing the job, producing this track that they say hey let's, get this really great mixer and his team to do it they're like, hey, we love untutored tracks you have the ball sitting there ready to go, you could send it to this big time mixer and able to make your mix out even better if it's your something you produced or something you wrote yourself, you have a spare copy of it there, especially if, like they really loved it. But they thought you two do the vocal a little too hard or something like that. You haven't uncommitted version of that so that's a really simple way of making all this good out it's the same thing for drug but it's, what I tracking sawed down a drugs, I should have the unintended version on this. If you look here, this is all the different performances he did other drugs that I comped it toe one performance, but you could also see here is that each of these had a different take number, so that takes one a one or two or three or four or five six or the different takes that I go back to the take that has no dubbers, and I keep copy get back to that take so that I always know that that's where my best take has saved is on the one with no number, and I'll continue duplicating that playlist and saving alternate playlists that bringing it back there, so I always know which what is the good one, which helps a lot when you're going back to projects like, you know, sometimes if you're a songwriter, you abandon a song for six months that all of a sudden you figure out the bridge sometimes a bad he needs to take a break for three months and save up to be able to pay you before they book more time having that nomenclature down, we'll make it so you could always remember these things makes it really easy. The same goes on all these other tracks whether it's the guitar bass before I do any edited aside from gay tigger anything like that, I have him on alternate pointless I actually don't have it on this session because we track the guitars and based in a different room in my studio there's two rooms there and so on the other session we have all the alternate guitar be said its air there it's a really, really simple thing the tip that could make a huge difference and you be able to get good results of your mix and keep your clyde it's happy what they don't like the way that it would down the other thing I'll, uh, make a big impression upon too is that, you know, once you're done with a lot of these tracks is you can make them inactive and save them for later, so if we go back to pro tools real quick as you could see here there's a whole bunch of track staved things like kick ass's deep red stair assist deep print that's for the slate drummer I used so this track has live drums as well asleep trump's in it um so because I was coming here at this computer doesn't have slate drugs, I do I need to print it out, but no matter what what I mix a song down, I always print my soft, said stout, and that includes by soft, troubling samplers by seven guitars anything that's in amps him anything that's running the instrument that takes up a lot of process and I'm going to put it down. So what do you do though when you put it down and then there's something that you want to tweak later, all you have to do is make these tracks and active, so if you have a soft said track, so for example, if I was feeding this mini and as you could see, I should also explain I still have the middie up there, so a lot of the time what I'll do is I'll push the midi tracks that I don't need to look at a more to either the far left or the far right of my mix or the top or the bottom, so they're not getting in the way of what I'm scrolling around for things I can look at everything really easily makes it so you can get around your session way faster we'll get into a little bit more than a second but so let's say this had you know whatever instrument will call this will pretend that this was easy drummer the easiest way to get rid of this having taking a pure dsb is just go into here and go make inactive then if you need to tweak the sound and you're really unhappy with your mix later you could just go back and get it other programs like a bolton and I believe logic have these freeze functions that make this so much easier I think pro tools might have put that into a version eleven I can't quite remember because I don't use version eleven but it's so simple to make this stuff in active and then pro tools has thes high track functions over here you could just hide it it's out of your way if you need to go back that you go get it get it out of your head space commit to something if you need to go back you could always go back so with that um I want to talk about the same thing we're talking about a little bit before is getting an idea and establish a good goal so what? I hear a mix and so this one's a prior a great example to is that I come in I write out a goal and I get a goal with my head and I also discussed the goal with the bad so what say a bad comes in you know, yesterday we talked a little bit that man overboard one of the kids had a question and like one of the things I had with every group is we like try to get an idea of what we could do to make this group unique and stand out from the pack and not be engineer another generic band that everybody's heard three thousand times with man overboard this is a group that like you know wrote really you know bubble gum e pop and really like kind of silly and childish lyrics but they also had a really heavy side to them so we decided that we would not make this a super polished pop product and try to make the instruments really, really aggressive while we have these really you know bubble gum pop lyrics going on we figured that would set them apart from all the bands there just going oh it's because poppy pressed even papa as possible with this song everybody's cool you know this song is obviously not meant to be the most serious song in the world but the one thing is is because it's a satire and you know they made the great video for the song will have a you are all up for it in the next segment but you know, this song was the whole idea was, like, kind of satire, rising like a motivational speaker and how posy kids are today with the pop home song, but we had to make it sound just like a really well produced pop hugs on while still selling the vocals, so one of the things I also do is that nothing could get in the doorway of the smoke, all because the song doesn't work unless you can hear every single word of his vocals, so I had to make sure this vocals crystal clear and that's. One of the big things with planning these songs is, you know, I worked with a lot of indian hardcore bands, and, you know, they don't want their vocals loud, and they don't even really always care if you could understand with the cigarette signage now that's absolutely the opposite of how I feel about almost anything in music is I want to hear every single lyric of a song, but if that's the plan that's, the plan that we were just want the music to be as powerful as possible, there's tons of records that were great like that. I think you really need to figure out what makes a bad interesting, like, you know, I go down the wide of like any song you can usually listen, you could say like actually yesterday was a great example is fit and talked about how edger wade said there was no e q of the ghost inside record if you have like one thing that you think works are no you cured the guitars I should say if you have one instrument that you're like you know this is really what's going to sell people on this bad like the idea that you know this guitar told the guitar work of this record you could sit and say you know what nothing is going to get into the way of this you could also do it think of like you could say you know I want this record to be as aggressive as you know a converge record but then with the vocals of katy perry you could sit there and find a way to treat all this stuff and make a plan and that's really, really, really important that's what you always see the interviews after any track is like the mixer talks about the idea of that there's something you needed to preserve was there a fantastic vocal performance? Okay, we have to make sure that shines and nothing gets in the way with that is the drummer of the reason people within this bad like say blake would be too if you listen to their self titled record the drums just are there's never a moment that they're not so far out front and there because they know that everybody's listening for the vocal abilities ed for what travis barker's doing of the drums of that record because he really stepped up the creative ball in that record you have tio figure out what it is about each song that you think is going to be interesting and go with that now sometimes it could be just I want my head to bop as hard as a kids I want this to be the ultimate had bagging truck I want this track to feel good on a dance for make me dance I do that all the time is that sometimes it's just I wanted to the motion it doesn't have to always be so intellectual like some of the stuff we're doing tomorrow, it's just I wantto be able to you know, by the time this mix is done, I wanted to make me move as much as possible to keep making decisions that give me an emotional response all that could be the thing I mean there's another great example is that like, you know, some songs, they're just these heart wrenching like if you're mixing in elliott smith sog like off of xo, you're just going to try to make sure the emotion stays there at that you know, if it's ballot of big nothing, how do I make sure that nothing gets in the way of how sad this salt is and make sure that you know his vocal emotions coming through that there's nothing too aggressive that it still sounds weak and vulnerable all these things are a consideration and I think it's really good sometimes to just sit and think about you know what is the emotion, what is the best things in the song and how you do it before you just go? What did you just start throwing around favors what's going to make this song work and that's? Why it's also great to always have a rough mix of a song before yet it's not always going to happen but I sometimes don't liketo whistle the rough mix, especially if the bad says you know, we really hated the perspective of this mix and we want a fresh perspective I might throw up the figures and not listen to the rough mix till I'm halfway done it I mostly have the song there that I get the perspective and see if I missed it and then I'll re evaluate this plan so I give a fresh perspective to the band but at some point in the process you have to think about what makes this so good what's going to make it interesting how doe I accentuate make sure those things come out as much as possible so the other part we talked about it this is that you want to pick five or so references part of this plotting for me too is just that, you know, one you know, what is the cue curve on a song that usually like this that usually works? You know? Am I getting as much trouble on base as they are? Am I getting the same levels you wanna have five or so records that you could go through and like we just made? The point is five is better than one because then you're going to just chase that one not a rabbit hole and it's never going to sound exactly the same get it in the realm of five things that sounds somewhere no matter what I do every style of mix I have the same border now this is the order that makes sense to be you could do any order you want, but the importance is having good order so you know where everything is, what you're being creative you could just fly or other screen I do all my drugs and I also do it by which trouble is so my kicks or next each other by stairs or next to each other. So that's all my drums that it's all my symbols that it's all my drum processing that its base that its rhythm guitars that its lead guitars if there was since I'd have them here and that I do a thing where I have all of my miscellaneous shared effects and by master fader then I do my vocals at the end of that that's just the way I like to work, you could do it anyway, but the point is knowing and having a process for this means you're able to fly around the screen you always know where track is you're not sitting especially you know, this song doesn't have that many tracks, but you know there's some songs that we had up yesterday that are eighty tracks I get songs all the time from people that are so over tracked or they just have every part of the different track and you want to be able to get around that screen now there's also some prep work where you could combine tracks where if somebody put each verse and all the versace is going to sound the same on separate tracks, you could pull the ball up and put about it the same track, but you want to be able to get around and be prepared to get around your storm as fast as possible I'm okay we can go back to the keynote now so what I get levels um the first thing I'm going to do after a song is just good up after I prep it I may have put my tracks in order and I may have put in q what every track I may have put what I normally do for clipping or compression on every truck but I have them either and bypass or set to a neutral boat so there's no set it got them my next thing will be to do is I'm just going to get some rough levels and try to find with this song is about you hear what the rough sounds are and try to get a plan for it I know there's a lot of people on the internet will say you know your kick drum should hit it might a seven v you that's absolutely not true please don't listen to anybody who has a formula like that this is all about emotion it's not about the u meters now yes yesterday I talked about having the six to ten d b of headroom you should maintain that and that's about a view meter but where are your drums or you? Your vocals should hit out ofyou meter there's no truth that every song works different every mix works different and it's really about what you emotionally feel coming out of the speakers there's no right or wrong it's no conforming it to a certain mixing style that you hear on the radio I will always hear about how every mix of the radio is like this there's no truth to that in a world where there's a goatee a mix next to a nickel back picks it's, just not the case. Rock radio, dad's, radio, pop, radio even pop, we could all make fun of how much of song sounds the same is this to say it sounds the same? Is that? And yes, there are characteristics that they share, but they don't share view meter readings that aired similar throughout the mix a lady gaga vocal to be way bit were buried that aki perryville all these days, I'm shocked at the despair ian, creativity and it's all about how the emotional response for each song works and what really works for each song is, and you'll hear it over and over again. If you study mixes and put up playlists of number one songs, they don't all have the vocal off the same volume, the tons of different volumes and different truck, which there was a different panning styles it's just that the song works emotionally. At the end of the day, there's been a million songs that have been spit at us and market us and had tons of music. What matters is the songs that emotionally, emotionally responded in every one of these mixers. If you watch, they're waiting till they get that head bopping woman, you have to just mix about what makes you feel good, and I'm sorry like it's, just it there's no template of yes, I properly got that in the thought. This is not playing the legend of zelda, and if you play the video game properly, you get to the next level it's about emotions. This is actually our even when it's pop music, so my other advice for getting rough mint mixes is to take out all the year candy if the tambourines and death isis every part of the group, that may not be your candy, but if it's just a tiny little thing that's making the chorus that the end feel a little better leave it out, we'd we'd guitars out if there's a subtle pad of city the course take it out. You know the basics elements of a mix, you know, rhythm, lead accompaniment work on getting that some people like to work out instrumental alone, I sometimes do that sometimes it's easier for me to not get distracted by the vocals because I'm a really lyrical person, I work a lot on vocals, I sometimes we'll just get an instrumental after I hear the vocal for a little bit, sometimes I work with the vocal lead, I will not work with all the oohs and ahhs and I will not work with like sixty four tracks of harvard, he said, I just try to get the basics of a song when it first goes. So that we could get the basic shape of a mix and then try to start adding those things that you want to start macro and then get micro later this is not the time to be adjusting excuse by one point six decibels or point three decibels and just cutting and fighting that first thing you want to be getting an overall picture of the mix you start to feel and understand what it is if you get to bike wrote to early on you're just going to go down a rabbit hole forever and as you change big things later it's not gonna work out you want to get your broad stroke said there you want to get the outline of the painting there? Um so like I say is that after I get my rough levels I try to just get a vibe this is point where I might add some compression q, but I'm not going to get into like, tweak this compressor to the degree and try to find their exact millisecond that it really should be at it's still tried to get a feeling pick the broad strokes and make sure that everything's feeling good overall because all the micro e q you're going to do if you start getting into the tiny moves and doing little surgeries it's going to just get changed when you keep doing these big moves and you decide no the drugs should come up a whole lot of this song and all that you've got to kind of adapt as it goes get smaller movements as you go this should just be big things like is that guitar overall too bright or dark to basie great put a shelf make that move but you're not gettinto turning the queued up to a twenty two q would fighting the one bad frequency that's there that you could get to knock out the vocal but you have a question well, actually just kind of a comment I mean, this is a really great advice just for the creative process overall, I mean, I found myself in a lot of scenarios, not just mixing starting micro yeah, you cannot can't do that. I lose my mind as it like an amateur beginner editor in general, um I've wasted so much time trying to get the perfect at it, you know, just immediately like jumping right in, you know, it's really great idea to start overall on this is really just kind of like a hot thing for me and I really appreciate all you're saying here, thanks so much. I think it quiet everything like even when I wrote my seven hundred page long book it's just like I did not worry about every comma at first I did not make sure every bit of grammer's there I spewed all my ideas out I got him I kept moving the order around and then I went through ten times zoning in on every sentence of making sure those sentences were good and that's the process for just about anybody who does this is in most creative forms don't get too into the details see the forest not the trees over and over and over again so the next part of this is spicing up so this is where we get the fun stuff this is where you could start to get more micro put on the reverb care about the reverb tale you want a course the guitar solo you wantto put a spanner on the vocal start putting some spices and and I actually I would even say that the one of the best things is you definitely want to do this stuff like my thing in mixing is that I always want to go too far and pull back too far and pulled back because then you never know if you didn't go far enough I will always when I'm like guitars feel good I think they're really rocket and the really up front I'll push him up a little bit more than say come back down a little bit that crazy effect on a vocal I'm going to try it I'm gonna make it crazy but then I might take it back two steps and make it a little bit more subtle it's always good to know that you win too far and then pulled back that's the happy medium get experimental really tried and find some fun, lively things. And you know, the other thing I will say is is that like, you know, this is this is the best part of mexico. Enjoy it, do it as much as you can and, like, have fun with it. And this is also like, why talk about the fifteen minutes of experimentation every day? This is the time to do it just spices up see what you could do see if you could find something new and interesting that no one's ever heard before to put in your mix and get a good so the next part of this is to start to depict this is probably the time that you want to start listening to other records and a being a lot and seeing what you could zone in and getting micro you want to get surgical, you want to use these narrow bad cues and find a little places that you can not shout of sounds so that you can get the mix a little bit clearer? Um, you know, tiny little level adjustments, you know, for me, I might have done a little bit of automation at this point, but I haven't gotten into the really micro automation yet but I'm going to go in and I'm going to say, you know, maybe I could modify that compressor a little bit more and I'm gonna get really, really, really micro and just move around tiny little things see if the reverb up a dvd or down a d b with a little bit more pre delay what's working and what's not really zone and then and this is the time to, like, make the fine refinements that people are going to be able really appreciate when they hear it in a better system than the laptop or the jam box or the apple speakers I mean, granted all of these little changes do accumulate toe a better thing even on those dumb down formats, but this is the time to really with that mix shine and really optimize it, so the next thing I'll do after that is I'll go in and I'll start to a tiny, tiny little bit of automation, you know, once I feel good about my static mix and I've gotten everything and I've gotten all these details, I'm gonna start to do some really subtle automation basically wising around finding my favorite parts of the song bring those up down, fighting my least favorite things or things that I think could have been a little tighter the editing or maybe we're a little ugly and turning them down a little bit maybe automating a plug in if one part's getting a little bit too out of place, we'll get into all of that in the next segments, but you know, this is the time that you're basically after this you've heard that you're on par with other mixes, let's just give it a little bit more wife let's do a little bit more accentuation with this stuff and then after that we're going to test it. This is the time to cleanse your palate. I think if you feel good here, you could go take a walk, take a shower with all those things we talk about clubs a good palate, then we want to also listed at a variety of formats you know, be tested in your car on your jam box on your headphones, whatever it is, start testing on as many things as possible and make sure that you're mixed totally works and you're ready to show this to the world or your client or your manager or your collaborators, whoever it isthe so let's talk a good amount about this printing thing so obviously it's kind of silly that we call predicting a mix printing it, but for some reason that's become the nomenclature so let's move past that I like to make a bunch of mixes in fact, what I do for a lot of my clients is I do a couple different mixes for them sometimes will be that thing of you know, one of the songs were to get into later is like they talk to me about how the singer likes dr vocals, but they like I'm really wet vocals, so I was like, you know, I would make a dryer vocal mix and a wetter vocal mix on a lot of songs I make the hey, I did way too many vocal effects, but this kind of felt cool to be but here's a dryer mix where I don't have a crazy flanders to weigh on the chorus, I might make a mix where it's like these really aggressive, distorted drums sounded good to me, but I know you guys might like this cleaner I'll print a couple different things and sometimes to me the one I liked when I was sitting in the control room when I put about head foods and I'm walking away two hours later, I'm like, you know what? I was wrong that one doesn't work, but I think there's it's a great thing to do anything you're debating that if you're like, I don't know if the kick drum levels right printed two different ways in three hours you're and you, once you have a listen to this song, you're probably going to know it a little bit better the other great thing is I don't think I'm not a big fan of sending in the mastering engineer and I know kurt talked about this too that like, you know, like mastering engineers I hate having options I can't say that for myself I actually don't mind getting vocal up in vocal down, but a lot of people put vocal up vocal down then you wish that the record could sit still you choose those words the vocal level kick it's their level are obviously really, really differed from track to track a times you wantto leave yourself some options and let people you know, especially if you're mixing for another group or another musician let them have some options so they could make an emotional response. You know, one of the biggest things about mixing is your objectivity, especially if you're just mixing something for somebody else that they tracked is that your coming in and saying, I know you've listened assault watch here some fresh years, but the other thing is you've now lost all your objectivity mixing this song and it's one of those things that I think we have to be humbled is mixing engineers about is that by the end of this process we have lost a good amount of objectivity we may have walked into it with some, but by the end they might be hearing it a little better that we missed the mark and that that vocal is a little too high and I don't think it's good to be stubborn and say, you know, this is my genius. I knew exactly what I was doing. This is exactly what we've lost, some perspective and that's inherent in the process, so having alternate mixes so that people have some options and even you yourself have some creative options later with it could be really good. So that way you're not reprinting things and doing a thousand exchanges, especially if you have recall bowl analog gear. We have yourself some leeway. Some people like to make stems like I showed with that color, nothing file I made, you know, a kick base rhythm guitar, we'd guitar vocal stem. You could do that if you want, and then you can have the ability to turn things up it down later, I'm much more into commitment. I'm really a big fan of sitting and saying here's, my few options. I don't want to commit to much, but that's your own personal choice. The great thing about dogs today is that we have an infinite amount of options for this stuff.

Class Description

While it’s easy to get distracted by the latest and greatest gear, plugins, and flashy tricks, the real key to a great mix is mastering the fundamentals. In this online class, veteran producer/engineer/mixer Jesse Cannon (The Cure, Animal Collective, Senses Fail) shows you all the essentials of mixing rock and electronic music.

In this 3-day class, you’ll learn how to set up a session the RIGHT way — including routing, gain structure, listening techniques, and other best practices. He’ll show you how to mix vocals, bass, drums, guitars, and synths. You’ll also learn how to use compression, reverb and EQ to make your mix come together, while achieving the punch and separation that takes it from good to great. The class is taught with Pro Tools, but the concepts easily translate to any DAW.

Whether you’re new to mixing, or are a seasoned pro looking for a refresher on the basics, this class will teach you how to seamlessly merge individual sounds into polished, cohesive tracks.