Full Mix Treatment

 

Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou

 

Lesson Info

Full Mix Treatment

That being said, all the sentimental stuff out of the way let's, get back into the final segment, which is about the full mixed treatment let's go, teo slides on that, and the first thing I want to talk about actually is about the timeless nature or the time bound nature of the music that you're working on. Um, when I'm when I'm making records, I realized that the sort of trends come and go, and both in terms of musical styles, is and production styles. I try to be aware that the music that I'm making in two thousand fourteen will not only be listened to in two thousand fourteen, that hopefully we'll we'll have legs and continue to be listened to for many years, so as a making, why aesthetic choices I try to make choices that are not gimmicky and not will not later in history be locked into a certain time period. So there may be things that are super trying to do right now, and you may choose to do them if that's what your client wishes. But I urge all of you to think about what you lo...

ve about music today, and also all of music of the past that you enjoy, and what is it about that music that really webster whistle? Is it a certain production aesthetic, or is it the songs and what can you learn from the past that you can impart on the president? And what can you do in the present? That's not going to damage this music's listen, ability in the future, okay? Uh, so the first thing to talk about when doing a mix is how you're gonna interact with your clients. Clients really hate being kept out of the loop. It is important that you get a chance to work on some stuff on your wrong where you don't have somebody leaning over your shoulder, but let them know that, you know, let them know that it's important for you to have some quiet time on your own, get the mix started and kind of happening and get a vibe for the mics going. When you're not thinking about the person looking over your shoulder, you might be focusing on dialing in the guitar tone, but all the person in the back of the room can hear is this, like, annoying high at thing happening? And, you know, they're, uh, you know, they're they're focused on that can distract kam, distracting your focus in that moment. So I think it's generally a good idea, unless you really require a lot of interaction from the from your clients, get started on your own, let them know that that's how you want to work and then when you get to a point where you either totally stumped and don't know what to do or or you're reasonably happy you know maybe a five percent happy with how things are feeling then bring in the client start soliciting opinions from them but also make sure they understand approximately what kind of schedule you're on you say like hey you know, give me all day tomorrow to work on my own I'll get you through rough mixes tomorrow night don't leave him in the dark or they'll feel confused and I don't want to do anything that's going to cause your client to lose trust in you you always want to make sure you foster on open relationship with them and build trust with them because the more that they trust in you the easier and better your working relationship will be um okay so clients have a good understanding about what you're going tio you have done all of your pre mix work you've got um your turbo tracks set up you got sir some rudimentary automation set up on overheads and room mike's so you're following sort of the character of the song with that kind of stuff you have your reverb sense that you want to use already set up and your palate of vocal effects ready to go you haven't necessarily applied a whole lot of them yet but there's a pallet ready to go and and then you start auditioning you start auditioning here one thing that I like to do actually right before I started auditioning here is determined what my panning philosophy for the song will be and I think about this a lot based on first on the quantity of guitar tracks a half if I have um you know, a mano guitar attract that's going to be panned say, in the center I might set up my drum set to sound super wide or maybe even hyper realistically wide if I'm going for hyper realistic wide drum sound, I probably tracked it that way with the figure eight overhead sort of aimed at the opposite side of the kids so I can really super hard pan the symbols if I have a really dense mix of loud guitars loud compressed sort of steady state guitars, they're going to be hard panned then my drum sound is going to be a little bit maurine the center I might even use amano overhead and maybe I don't used amano ring like or maybe I have my two stereo ra mike's pandan quite far and that's why I ended up doing this nice of a record the sort of the toms are kind of hard panned not hardpan but the times are kind of wide but then with each successive instrument happening are each successive element in time of the drums happening against near or narrow so the really close stuff in the drum set is happening in kind of a wide painting space not hard pan but a little on the wide side then the next thing that happens in time is the overheads and in the final thing that happens in time is the room mike's which are much closer to the centre so you have over time it sort of does this and has a focus you might want to take the complete opposite approach depending on the density of your guitars and you might want to have a panning scheme that goes out like that. I find that in my studio with the diffuse to remark that I use it's really easy to make the two rem ike's feel disconnected from another so I tend to mix those closer to the center. The other thing that you want to think about is within particularly within the overheads is where your pan controls are set is not really where the overhead panning really is because there's always going to cross talk between the the overhead mike's the left side of the overheads and the right side the overheads it for doing stereo overhead so if you have your overhead pants said it fifty percent the perception of that might only be twenty percent so sometimes even like like with for using like a x y type or our boom line microphone directly over the kid the stereo image of that is much more narrow inherently even if it's hard pan van if you have to figure eight sort of spread out over the kids so keep that in mind as you're setting your overhead pan and then the other thing to talk about is stylistic panning sometimes people are trying to paint a picture of you know, organic image of what the band really sounds like when you're feeling that band playing live in front of you but then other people don't care about that they're trying to present a more stylized version of what the song is maybe you're thinking about listening on headphones more than you're thinking about listening on speaker is you want to have a singer sort of whispering in your ear for a section or you might want to have the drums said almost feel like it's double tracked and super super hard pan you know, like some of the I love this band called pissed jeans I've never had a chance to work with them, but I know they have some records and I don't know they I don't think they double tracked the drums but it almost sounds like there's no ticket snare in the middle it's like really super wide and it's an interesting sort of stylized approach and so you got to decide if if that's right for the song or more of like a you know organic realistic representation of the band is right for this so once you determined your panting philosophy uh one more thing about panning before before I forget is dealing with the mono guitar if he had me and that's just one guitar player and they don't want to double themselves there's a few things that you could do to deal with that one just mix it mano straight up the middle that's fine if you want to do that but your center channel stuff can start getting cluttered so maybe might want to do a super wide trumps that thing or maybe you want to double the vocals or put a bunch of course on the locals to make the vocals wide you could do a ring mike amano room mic on the guitar pan the close mike to one side and pam and remind to the other side like a van halen style thing you can do a pseudo doubler ah popular way to do that in the eighties and nineties was with a lexicon pcm forty two which is a delay but it also has this like limiter built into the front end of the delay and I think it's like a twelve type digital processor so it really changes the tone of the thing coming into it. So between the tonal shift and the limiter if you have like your original guitar hardpan to one side and then the lady version of it going through the pc and forty two on the other side it really does feel almost like there's two guitars coming to you and you can do other things too you can do subtle pitch variations you can do other subtle delays and compression effects to make one guitar feel like a widespread stereo guitar, but if you do choose to do that, make sure you always check your mix in mono because you want to make sure that there's always a model compatibility with any mix that you d'oh ah, a lot of you know tv sets for example, if you song was played on television, a lot of tvs or mono, you want to make sure things don't collapse or sound weird if your song is played over mono and also if somebody has like hysteria system and there's sitting right in front of the other hearing stereo but the further they get from it, the more because the speakers, just from their perspective forgetting closer and closer together essentially becomes model at a distance. So if you use some sort of pseudo doubler effect, sometimes it feels natural when you're up close, but then when you get when you get far away it's got this weird coursed sound, so be careful about doing that's always a little bit of a challenge and sometimes I'll just kind of forced people to double tracked their guitars just to avoid that that headache of dealing with demonic guitar but monica tar certainly not wrong and if that's what works for the song? Hossam um, I talked yesterday a little bit about the headphones versus speakers thing and that's about, uh, recognizing that when you're listening to something on headphones, you're listening in an unnatural environment with not cross talk between left and right speaker, so you might want to add some reverb or room mikes to your guitars so that three guitars don't feel awkwardly isolated in anyone channel all right, so working with effects short verses long reverb, I like to set up a number of reverb is usually two to three river bs in my mix, so I have a short river that I used to sort of add ambience to the mix and gel or glue the band together make it feel like it's all coming from the same place sort of a similar role to what reminds doo but with a little bit more control, and I also like to use a long river from or special effects type of things, and I find that I'm sending sometimes lead guitar sometimes snare tom sometimes vocals sort of depends on the style of music. You know, a lot of like the metal recording side love from the eighties and nineties have seem like real super long re verbs, and I'm trying to conjure up that feeling I'll grab a super long river uh tempus think delays who sort of covered in the vocal section so skip over that and the final thing I'll talk about his gimmicks which really hearkens back to what is talking about about making your songs timeless you know we're in seattle right now and home of boche remember bosch put out a record that had a uh you know, for the name of the song but it had this like lo fi guitar drum radio thing that happened to begin a song and like I hadn't really heard that before that song well this is cool and then everybody was like that and then all of a sudden over the next five years everybody had lo fi intros and it was like, hey let's mess with kids and think it's a crappy recording of the crank of their stereo and then when the song comes in pam and then everybody was doing that and became this like very gimmicky thing I think it sort of was became married to a certain time period like the hidden track on cds we had to wait through ten minutes asylum exactly like yeah, we get it we've done this before and you know, I think I think the whole like the auto tune affect things is going to be that if not already in a few in a few years people going to know that that is locked into a certain time period so b o as bands make requests for that thing or bass drops or whatever it happens to be be aware that that that those gimmicks are going to be locked into a certain time period and if they're insistent trying to come up with a new way to do it, you know you could do lo fi interest by running a headphone mix and jamon like a fifty seven into the headphones and getting it that way you could do with accuse you can find some crappy old like I have about this crappy old crone height filter that's not even audio equipment it's like test equipment or run stuff through and get that effect and you know this is all different ways to do it, so try toe try to do it in new ways all the time, so at least if you're doing a gimmick you're you've found a new way to do the gimmicks you're not just repeating yourself over and over again and of course I always discouraged that stuff, but I like stuff pretty natural and organic other people like stuff more style last um okay, so um stereo bus processing I want to spend quite a time on this I will do a fairly lengthy stereo bus chain and it's one of those things where if you're not confident about it, you probably shouldn't do it because it sort of starts encroaching on the world of mastering um, just let me tell you what, stereo bus processing? Yes, so you're making a mix and you know, you balance out all the various tracks in your mix, and then you have some kind of rock in full nix. The dynamic range of that mix is much wider than what contemporary compact, this score and b three or whatever will play. Typically, people prefer to reduce that that dynamic range compressed the signal and get the is partially to make the perceived volume of that louder but it's, also partially to provide sort of a glue and cohesiveness, that kind of gels, the whole mixed together, we're starting, teo, sort of go against my my philosophy of making mixes timeless, because I think that hyper compressed mixes are starting, finally starting to go away. And when people hear ah, hyper compressed, super loud mics, they're going to associate that with a certain time period. So be a little bit wary of that, but, eh? A tasteful, well planned out stereo bus processing can do wonders for the cohesiveness of your mix, and if you're brave and you want to give it a try, I'm going to give you some tips on what you can do, so the pros for for doing it, one of the main reason that I like to do it is that mastering engineer is going to do some of that stuff they're gonna be doing a mix of queuing of your full mix compressing of your full mix, limiting of your full max, and sometimes they might even add really liberty yes, sir, full mix and that kind of stuff that they do can be a little bit hard to predict what the results will be from, you know, from nick's to master, if you do a little bit of processing on your own, then you'll have a better prediction of what the master engineer is going to do, even if that processing doesn't get used in your final mix to do sort of a bit of a fake master on your own mix might help you understand what's going to happen in the mix after gets mastered, he was the other reason to do it is if you do some stereo bus processing at your end, then the master engineer doesn't have to do is much at their end, they'll they'll process your mixed with a lighter touch, and it should give it a greater sense of transparency. Um, the reason not to do it is especially if you don't have nice quality gear or you're a little bit confused as to what sounds better worse, if there's any doubt in your mind be very, very wary of doing it because it does limit what a master engineer can do you're reducing the headroom of your mix when you do the stereo bus processing so the master engineer has less room to work, so an interim solution to that is actually print two versions of the mix print your your version that has hysteria, bus processing, that's your best guess as to what it should be and then also print a un processed version of the mix and send both versions to the mastering engineer and let that person choose which version is a better starting point for their master. So the solution that I have I kind of messed up actually I meant teo print mixes of my print versions of my mix with no master bus processing and with master bus processing so I could illustrate the difference and how that changes my mix I messed up I forgot to do it. I apologize for that because I think it's pretty enlightening so the chain that I've been using over the past couple years or from my master bus processing is fairly lengthy. The first thing I'm going to is a device called an evenson blend, which is actually a a wet, dry control of the stereo mics, so it has it has given out, but then it also has like a loop in and out and then there's the cross fader so it's like you're a deejay cutting, scratching that stuff s o basically all the way to the wet side is if the device is not in the chain, it all already the dry side asses if it's bypassed and then somewhere in the middle is usually where I live, so what I can do is do some kind of heavy master bus processing, be super heavy handed and really get a vibe, but then back off on that it's sort of like the parallel compression technique you hear people talk about a lot with with what they're doing. Another drums on lee, I'm doing this on the entire mix. Alan dodge is actually kind of turned me on to this people do it a lot with with ssl consoles or other consoles that have a lot of buses on, whether they'll have kind of like a ah cleaner bus and then, um or affected bus, and then we'll blend the two out there stereo out, but I'm doing it with this thing called the davidson blend, so then after the blend or in the in the loop of the blend, I have three devices. The first one is a tube tech smc to be, I believe, is the model number, which is a teo to compressor multi van to compressor, which allows me to compress the high, middle and low bands independently of each other. So I'll go in all kind of dial in crossover points, there's two crossovers in that one determines where the separation is between high and mid, another crossover point in terms of separation between mit and low kind of dial up what my crossover points you were going to be figure out where I want the high stuff or what would frequencies I want control from highs, mids and lows, and then we'll do some independent compression of each of those, so it lets me what that means is that you know when a snare drum hits, it compresses the mid range stuff, but it doesn't compressed the bass guitar, for example, but when the bass drum the bass guitar hit it's not going to cause symbols to duck out of the way so you can have a level that's more ranged controlled without with more transparency because individual bands air not affecting each other. So that's, the thing that really gets takes my mix from sounding like a rough mix to a finish. Next um, following that I go into an equalizer call the dangerous back seek you, which is really nice sounding equalizer. It has high pass filter that used to remove from rumble most you know, most speaker systems can't reproduce the ultrasound base anyway, so just get it out just get it out of the way so that it's not driving the compression too much and it's not in the audible range of most people's stereos so you don't need it in your necks I'll also boost a little bit of sparkle with that thing and I'll actually I'll boost a little bit of like the high base with that thing to sort of compensate for the sub base that removing so it actually had it it feels like it has a greater based content even though in actuality the it's not reproducing fundamental frequencies is as low as it did without that queue in the in the chain, then I'll add a little bit of sparkle on top if, uh if mixed needs it and and then finally I'm going into a dramatic audio obsidian, which is an s assad ssl style stereo bus compressor and that's operating pretty fast settings but low ratio and just kind of grabbing the peaks and tucking things in. So what happens a lot in mask traing is that things that are steady state like guitar, the volume of guitars pretty steady if you look at the look at the way form of a guitar, the volume of snare drums and bass drums, you're going up and down all over the place so combined those and you got all this stuff and then you start limiting it and now kicks and sneers air getting squashed in, so I like having this dramatic audio of city in there so I could do a little bit that kick it's near squashed in, and it was gonna happen in mastering at at my stage and then because of doing that during mixing, I can judge what the final balances of all the instruments will be after mastering a little bit better than if I was just guessing how much squash the mastering engineers going d'oh so unjust. Quick asylum on that topic, if in doubt, always makes the close mikes on the drums a little louder, because if they end up too loud in the final master, mastering engineering to squash a little bit harder and tuck the drums in a little bit more. If the drums are not loud enough, it's a little bit more involved process to try to bring out the drums. So, um, just stuff you through the three pieces of gear in my chain to check the backseat hue and the obsidian, and then kind of dial. Those seem to get the mixed feeling kind of hot and super rockin, and then go back to my evanson blend back off on the on the ratio control and restore some of the organic natural feeling of the of the mix. Without the two bus processing andi, finally after that usually goes either goes to tape with ivan impact safety are one or two half inch, three quarter inch tape machine or actually, the impacts plug and it's quite good. I've been using that a lot lately, so that's usually the final thing that I do in my mix, all right? And the other thing I should mention is, uh, stereo bus processing. I don't wait till the very end of the process to set that up. I do that sort of in the middle of the mix process, it's actually, one of the first things that'll patch in and I'll have kind of some basic settings on that, but I know that I like, and I'll be monitoring through that as I'm making my other makes decisions, so and a master engineer doesn't really have that benefit of being able to re balance all the individual elements of the mixes, their mastering. But since you have, like, a bit of ah pseudo mastering chain going on now, you still have the opportunity to go back and re balance all the individual tracks. I also find that using that master bus processing means that your individual tracks do not require as much processing on the road. So, um, now, huh? Now that we've got our master bus processing on there, we want to start listening to the mix as a whole, and at this point, you really want to start filtering out all the tech manu sha and start really listening to the song and figure out what the vibe of this song is. What what is this song need now? You know, I know that you've got great ownership over all of the awesome engineering that you did. All these super creative ways came about all these sounds, but none of that stuff matters anymore. The only thing that matters is what's the best results this song you're super proud of yourself that you recorded this near done through a vacuum cleaner hose with some weird mike on the other end, all that. But if it sounds stupid in the song, then you don't use it. Simple is that so listen to the song, listen to the voice of the song and make sure that everything this song does is supporting the voice and put yourself in the shoes of the listener and start thinking about how the song moz and what is going to resonate most with the listener of that song.

Class Description


In this two-day course, prolific producer Kurt Ballou will take you behind-the-scenes of GodCity Studios to show you exactly how the magic happens. This all-access studio pass will immerse you in every aspect of Kurt’s distinctive sound — from choosing and setting up gear, to tracking and mixing.

Kurt will show you the basic and advanced techniques he uses in his studio every day, and teach you how to apply them to your own recording — regardless of whether you’re working in a studio or at home with a DIY setup. Using anecdotes from his years behind the board, Kurt will also teach you his best practices for working with bands to extract the best and most inventive sounds.

Reviews

Keith Foster
 

First off, even though I'm neither a beginner nor a recording professional, this class is absolutely worth the money you spend on it - especially if you plan on making heavy music. There are enough tips, tricks and guidance in here to get your money's worth many times over. That said, as an indie artist who goes to a studio to record drum tracks, then does the rest ina home studio I found some of the things disheartening. Much of the class follows a "I do this thing using item / amp / microphone / plugin (X), it's pretty cool" vibe, and it sounds cool.... until you check the price. As an example, the 'stereo buss processing' section sounds fun to try, except for the part where the three pieces of gear cost about $8K. As a result I found myself figuring out how to incorporate the essence of what he was saying without the gear budget to do so. Maybe I'm not the intended audience but a little more concept and less gearhead would have been even better. That said you should totally get it, it's a low price for so many hours of great content.