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Mixing Master Class

Lesson 9 of 27

Dynamics Q&A

Joey Sturgis

Mixing Master Class

Joey Sturgis

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Lesson Info

9. Dynamics Q&A

Lesson Info

Dynamics Q&A

We have any we're so far? Yes, we for sure have some questions. Okay, awesome (laughs). Roger Mendez wants to know in your normal workflow, do you ever automate the compressor for individual sections of the song, or do you set it and leave it? And he's referencing specifically to drums. Absolutely. There are times where the drummer could be playing something. For example, tons of double bass and tons of kick drums, and snares, and toms all at the same time. Those might be sections of the song where I don't want to compress that much. I might want to back of the compressor because there's so many elements coming into the compressor that it's reacting to the signal too much. And you could either, there's two ways you could do it. You could turn down the input, so you could turn down the volume of the drums going into the compressor, so you would have to set it up to where you had a volume knob that could control how much the signal goes into the compressor, and then that would ca...

use, the make up gain would stay the same so your compressor would react less and less as you turn in your input volume. I think I could probably even demonstrate that, let me see. So I have my drum mix here and then let's say I create a group track. Okay, and then I'm going to send my drums into that group. And then on my group, I'm going to put a compressor. Let's just make it fast attack and fast release. (percussive music) Right, okay, so, if I move my fader right now, what will happen is it will change the amount of volume of the drums going into the compressor. (percussive music) So as I raise the volume, it compresses it more. You can watch the needle right here. So as I turn it down, the needle is barely moving. And as I turn it up, it compresses the crap out of it. Now you can use a tool that way, or if you want to maintain, I guess, constant volume, you could change your threshold settings. They could be automating your threshold like this. (percussive music) Actually, with this compressor in particular, the way it was designed is the input is the threshold, so there is no way to maintain constant volume. You would have to use, let me try something else. You'd need to use like, something that has auto make up gain like this API compressor. (percussive music) Okay, so as I change the volume going into this, (percussive music) it compresses it more and more. And then if I change the threshold, (percussive music) I maintain volume balance, but the amount of compression changes. So it depends on which tool you're using, but what was the original question? The original question was in your normal workflow, do you ever automate the compressor for individual sections of the song, or do you set it and leave it? Yeah, so I would do that pretty sparingly, but it is definitely a tool where, like, for example, this part of the song, which is basically a drum fill. (percussive music) So this part's already compressed, so we don't really need any compression or anything, but I'm just going to demonstrate how you could use some compression automation in this section. So let's say just a really basic compressor setting for drums. (percussive music) What you could do is, it's kind of like short and long, so you have these long parts where it's just kick, snare kick like. (percussive music) So during those sections, you could have more compression, which would create almost like, a really heavy effect because you're (laughs). You would be increasing the sustain so much because there's so tiny amount of hits. (percussive music) Right, and then you could back off your threshold during the little fill sections. So I'll actually automate it like this. Wrong track. So compressor threshold, right. So on the slow sections, let's leave it affecting it. And then on the fast sections, it's like, basically turn it off. (percussive music) And then you could have it come back in. (percussive music) That comes on. It comes in a little too quick, so we slow that down, and then just decrease the effect a little bit. (percussive music) So that's like, a creative way that you could use a compressor to make a performance more interesting because I guarantee you now, that sounds. I bet these sections here, these slower ones, probably sound really powerful now. (rock music) We'd have to actually also adjust your make up gain as well. But a lot of mixing really is just a ton of automation anyway. (rock music) (singer shouts) Not really the effect I would I go for in this song, especially considering that the signal's already compressed, so this kind of is only a demonstration, but you can see how you would be able to make cool sounding adjustments that way by just opening your mind to the fact that you can automate the attack, you can automate the release, all that stuff, the threshold. So Brett Anthony Stokes has a couple of questions I'm going to merge into one and on the topic of compressing drums, do you compress the snare and the kick individually as well as compressing them within a drum bus? And in addition to that, do you ever compress cymbals? Is that a good idea? Yeah, so there's a lot of different reasons why you would want to do compression on all those different things. So for a kick, you're going to be setting a compressor based on the actual hit and not on the performance. At least I would because the way that I would mix my kick sound is it would start with the interaction of the compressor with the kick itself. So I could change the balance of the transient with the body and I could also change the balance of how much sustain and how much attack there is in the signal. And so I'm molding and adjusting my compressor to interact with those parts of the sound at the instrument level, and then once the, and I would do the same thing with the snare. And then once those two things go into a bus, now you have a kick and a snare that are interacting with each other, right? So you've got kick heads that are coming in and snare hits, and the volume of those things can be modified with the compressor as well, which would be completely different settings. And then you could even have a compressor. I mean, sometimes I have done like, compression on the kick, compression on the snare, and then put all the shells together and compressed the shells, and then put the shells with the cymbals and then compressed those and I have these intricate layers of compression that at each step of the way I'm controlling the interaction of each instrument with the other ones. And so by having those layers of complexity, I have ultimate control of volume balance and dynamics of the performance and the sound. Now you could also have it to where you could have a compressor that every time like, a double bass section comes into the song, like, the volume goes down a little bit because the drums are so chaotic that it makes sense to have them turned down, and then when the double bass stops, like, the compressor rises back up. So you have a really slow moving compressor that's over your entire sound. Or if you prefer, you could just automate a volume knob up and down so that uncertain sections like those, the volume comes down. It all depends on what you like as a workflow. For me, I like to use compression as a sound sculpting tool and not really as a problem fixing tool. I prefer to fix problems with my own directive automation. I'll do my own volume automations and my own, you know, those kind of things to get the problems fixed and then I'll use compression as a way to make my kick drum sound cool. You know, make he body and the transient interact with each other in a cool way, so. Great. Do you want to take one more before we keep going? Okay. Let's see, so Nathan Danger Prince asked a question that we get all the time, especially when we're talking about mixing and mixing heavy music where it's kind of the wall of sound aesthetic. He asks, "Would you recommend using side chain compression "in metal to create ducking in the baseline like they do "in dance music?" Yeah, absolutely because metal and metal core and even some rock is such a wall of sound that you do have to use creative tricks like that to be able to balance all of those elements because everything is fighting for attention. You have guitars that are completely saturated and loud, and usually loud in the mix and taking up a very wide frequency range. Same thing with the drums and the vocals. And so you get these three or four elements together that are basically all just solid, giant blocks of audio that are fighting for attention and the only way to really make it all work together is to create holes at certain moments. So every time that kick hits, the bass goes down a little bit and that's the only way to get those two things to be audible at the same time. But it also depends on your kick sound. Let's say you're working on a band that's a little bit more indie rock and the kick drum doesn't have a bunch of treble, it doesn't have a bunch of punch. Well, it's got low end punch, but it doesn't have high end punch. That thing's not going to be audible when you start putting bass and guitars over it, but you can create a hole in your music mix by using a side chain compressor so that every time the kick happens, everything turns down for a split second to allow that beginning part of the kick drum to come through and then the volume comes back up, and if you set it just right, it's almost a transparent thing. Like, you can't even notice that's happening. It just makes the kick sound like it's more audible. So I would absolutely recommend playing around with side chaining and if you're not sure how to do side chaining and your (mumbles), just look it up on YouTube. I mean, there's tons of side chain tutorials. It's very simple once you learn how to do it. So yeah. Great. Do you guys have any questions in here? What about a parallel compression to get like, a wall and a flac to blend into it? What drums would you put into it as far as kick snare, toms, probably not cymbals, or would you, I guess? Right, right. I would recommend making sure that you don't go too far into dynamic experimentation until you've gotten comfortable with your basic volume movements, your basic compression, expansion, limiters. Once you've got those things down and you're very confident with those tools, then I think it does make sense to start diving into parallel compression and stuff like that, right? But as far as using parallel compression effectively in something like metal, for example, you would probably stick to shells. I would probably not even have the toms. I would probably just have kick and snare. It depends. You might even have a section in the song where it's mostly toms and kick and snare, like, no cymbals being played. You could actually automate your toms to be a key for your side, or for your parallel compression. You could have it come in and be parallel compressed for only that section and then drop it out for the rest. You know what I mean? So you do want to keep in mind that you can even automate your routing. You can have it to where this end is coming in and out based on the parts in the song. I typically don't do very much parallel compression, but I think the way that I compress the drums ends up sounding like parallel compression because I will use so many layers of compression. It just ends up like, almost happening just organically. But you could probably achieve similar results, but with less control by using parallel compression. If anyone has like, my plugins, you could use, you can actually use gain reduction, for example. Let me see if I can find it on here. I know there's like, someone watching this or they can see it on their screen and they're like, pointing to it. It's right there! All right, so this has a built in mix knob. So you have parallel compression. It's set up immediately. (percussive music) Now this. (percussive music) So there's no compression. (percussive music) And there's compression. So you can, just by turning this knob, you can change how much parallel compression you are using. (percussive music) You might notice too because we just talked about compressors, you might notice like, why isn't there any threshold, attack, or release settings on your compressor? Well, my design of a compressor was to basically combine all of those elements into one knob. So you have a knob that's called slay, which is like, how much are you slaying the signal? So if you put a slay on zero, you're not affecting the signal at all. (percussive music) you put it at 100, it's maximum compression, and then you could have any degree in between. (percussive music) So if you're curious about any of those kind of, or if you're curious about that plugin, you can check it out at

Class Description

Joey Sturgis is the producer behind some of the biggest names in metalcore, including Asking Alexandria, Of Mice & Men, and I See Stars. His sound is one of the most sought after sounds of the last decade and in this class, he’ll show you the unique mixing techniques that are key to getting it.

This class picks up where Joey’s Studio Pass class left off: you’ve got your session tracked and edited, now how do you turn it into a polished, world-class mix? 

He’ll show you how to get his signature sound, including: 

  • EQ and compression strategies for drums, guitar, bass, vocals, and synths/effects 
  • How to use automation to fix problem areas and bring out the song’s dynamics 
  • Tons of little tips and tricks to take your mix from good to great 

If you want to elevate the quality of your mix, don’t miss Mixing Master Class with Joey Sturgis.

Ratings and Reviews

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I don't work exclusively in the same genre as Joey but I always make sure to clear my schedule when he's on CreativeLive. This class definitely didn't disappoint and it was awesome getting to see Joey work on a track from start to finish and what his approaches and thought processes are. And not only that, but I appreciate that he briefly touches on client communication in regards to production, mixing, etc, and the business side to the mixing process as this is an area I'm just now dipping my toes in. Even though I often find myself on the rock, indie or post-rock side of things, a lot of these ideas can apply to anything you're working on and I definitely picked up some ideas to try and work on myself. Joey gives you enough to inspire you and make that light bulb click and does it with an admirable humility that I respect. He gives you more than enough on how and why he does what he does, but I never feel like he reveals all his secrets or magic; I honestly prefer it that way as it leaves a fun challenge of taking the ideas you've learned and figuring out how, when and where you're going to use them in your own mixes. Especially if you're not doing predominantly metal, like I am. The ideas are inspiring. This class isn't about those perfect settings to that phenomenal mix or tone; it's about why you do this and how you do that. It's cool to be able to watch his process and pick his brain, start to finish and all in the box. Joey definitely doesn't need to do these classes for us, but the more I see him getting active on social media the more I get this vibe that he genuinely wants to help make the creative and mixing processes easier and help us expand our knowledge and skills. I get that it's smart business, but I respect and appreciate the hell out of him for taking time to do these classes and answer our questions... Even if there are shameless plugs here and there. I love when these great engineers take time to show us you don't need school, you don't need thousands of dollars of outboard gear, etc. It's your ear, not your gear. We live in an amazing day and age with the Internet and awesome resources like CreativeLive. I love it and these are great classes to watch and get in their heads. It set gets the hamster wheel in my head spinning and I always keep CreativeLive classes on my calendar. They're motivating and inspiring. Looking forward to the next one!


I’ll start off by saying this a amazing class not just for those looking for or interested in “The Sturg” production, but for anyone interested in mixing or mastering. You get everything from the must have fundamentals and basics of mixing and production, to the more advance technical aspects, and of course Joey’s personal approach and method to mixing. Everything from EQ, to compressors, multiband compressors, automation and chain signals. If you ever wondered whether you should place delay in front of your reverb, or reverb in front of delay, or other common chain effects, chances are they get answered in this class. The class is organized in several lessons following a logical order, each covering different topics. All the techniques are shown with examples and Joey does a great job of making it easy to understand and follow as well as explain the reasoning behind the techniques. And it’s not just mixing or production that is covered, but the importance of good songwriting, good communication with artists and good workflow. I highly recommend this for anyone looking to take their mixing or production to the next level. Regardless of skillset, if you’re a noob, intermediate or advanced mixer or producer, you’ll find very helpful and informative lessons, regardless of what style or genre you do.

a Creativelive Student

I own both of Joey`s courses. While both are full of useful information to get you started in the audio production world with lots of good technical explanation and awesome concepts for a fast and individual workflow, Joey actually comes up with average or "mediocre" mixes and tones. If you want some really detailed information about how Joey works, this class is for you. If you want to know what plugins Joey likes to use and wanna see him promote his own plugins, this class is for you! If you expect to learn how to create or come up with outstanding guitar and bass tones (which Joey is famous for) you won`t learn much and won`t hear anything in this particular regard, unfortunately. However, I`d still recomment them, especially the first course he did but again, if you expect to hear a typical Joey Sturgis mix quality, you won`t find what you`re looking for.