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Mixing Master Class

Lesson 22 of 27

Production Mixing - Prep and Drums

Joey Sturgis

Mixing Master Class

Joey Sturgis

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Lesson Info

22. Production Mixing - Prep and Drums

Lesson Info

Production Mixing - Prep and Drums

Next, we're gonna dive into production mixing, which is kind of more the traditional method of mixing a song. You're given a set of audio tracks that have all been engineered by a producer or an engineer, and all the tones are dialed in. You've got guitar tones that you're actually working with. You've got actual drum sounds, miked drums. This is the traditional sense of working with a song. Now the song that I have to demonstrate this with, I think, did you submit it? It's called Wreck. The band is called Wreck. Oh okay, and what's the song called? Uh... That's okay if you don't know (laughs). Trying to remember which one I sent. So I'm gonna start by just playing the reference track, which should be basically the rough mix, and let's see what we're working with here. (upbeat heavy metal music) Sweet. Did you mix this? Yeah. Okay, cool. So that thing that we just heard here was actually mixed by him and, I think the tracks that I actually have are the unmixed, I have...

the unmixed tracks. So if I, basically what I did is, I took all the files that he gave me, and I just dragged them into the Cubase and that's it. So, sure. I was told the title of the track is Control. Okay, Control, awesome. Yeah, it's called Control. If you drag all the files in and just hit play, this is what it's gonna sound like. (upbeat heavy metal music) First of all, everything's panned into the center, and sounds really crazy that way (laughs). So we can see, we have all of these tracks. What we need to do before we really dive into this thing is to organize it so that it makes some sense on our screen. So I'm gonna start by finding all the drum stuff. And I can tell just by the way it's named if it's something to do with the drums. And I like to mix songs. I like to approach songs without knowing much about them. So I have no clue where it was recorded, how it was recorded. I don't know if these are real amps, or if they're amp simulators or what. But for me, it's more fun to just open a song and just go for it, and have no info. So here's, start organizing this, so I got the drums, got the bass. We got a bunch of guitar stuff. Put that all together. And vocals, pretty simple. Drums, bass, guitars, vocals. And then our reference at the top. I'm gonna start with the drums, so let's see what kind of kick sound we have first. (heavy drum beat rhythm) So yeah, good thing they took a kick out to add that extra low end. However, there is some mid-range in there that I don't like, so right away, I'm hearing frequencies and stuff that I want to change, just from hearing that first kick thing. (muted drum beat rhythm) So I'm actually just going to to put a good old low pass on here. (muted drum beat rhythm) And I'm gonna grab a limiter, and bring this up to volume. (muted drum beat rhythm) Now, let's check my kick in. (drum set and cymbal rhythm) All right, now I'm just gonna check the reference to see what kind of sound this ended up getting mixed to. (upbeat heavy metal music) Okay, so I noticed that the kick isn't changed a ton. It's still kind of the same idea of what it was recorded, which is cool. So I'm gonna go in and I'm gonna add a channel strip here just to do a little bit of compression and EQ on the kick. (drum set and cymbal rhythm) I'm just trying to find the, like we've been covering for this whole course, find the frequencies that I don't like, and remove those, and then focus on adding things that I do want to hear. (drum set and cymbal rhythm) I don't like this 3K. And I'm adding a little bit of low end, even though, and I'm still listening to my kick sub. My kick out, because I want to know how much low end is there so that I'm not trying to add too much to this track, because we listened to this track by itself. (drum set and cymbal rhythm) There's not a lot of low ends there. And then with the kick out. (deep drum set and cymbal rhythm) We get our low end back. Double check the phase as well, because once you do a kick in and a kick out, the phase gets reversed. Sometimes people don't record the actual phase flip. They do it on the mixing board. So you always want to check and make sure it's in phase. (deep drum set and cymbal rhythm) Yep, looks like it's in. Recorded it in phase? Sure. Or phase flipped? (laughs) So okay, cool. Just moving right along. Snare is next. (deep drum set rhythm with snare and cymbal) And just like I did when I was replacement mixing, I always like to start with clipping the snare, just to hear the harmonics better. (amplified drum set rhythm with snare and cymbal) And it looks like he tracked with some sort of expander or gate on. So you already have some of the bleed being cut out, which is kind of useful, especially for production mixing. It's like one less thing for me to worry about. I don't have to worry about cutting out bleed. (drum set rhythm with snare and cymbal) (drum set rhythm with cymbal and amplified snare) Okay so, in a real production mix like this, you do run into a lot of different issues that you wouldn't run into with program drums, for example. So every time the kick hits, you get this sound on the bottom snare like this. (snare drum rhythm) You hear that (imitates snare sound)? I don't like that sound. So to get rid of it, I'm going to take and put a gate on here. And I'm gonna set the side chain. I'm gonna turn this, activate side chain on, and then on the snare top, I'm gonna have a send that goes to the snare bottom. And that's gonna open the gate every time the snare hits. (drum set rhythm) Supposedly. (laughs) (heavy metal mix music) (snare beat rhythm) Yeah, there, there it is. The reason why I'm using the snare top to change the snare bottom, is because it has more attack. And if you go in here, you'll notice that it actually happens a little bit before the bottom, right here, so you can see. This is the, this is the best way to key it, and you can, if you really want to get crazy, you could take this snare track, duplicate it and then call this snare key, remove all the effects off of it, and then turn it all the way down, and then use it as a send to that side chain. Like this, and then, all we do is we zoom in like this, and move it back just a little hair, like this. And now, that's gonna key open the gate right before the snare bottom. And so we just created a key for our snare bottom by doing that, and then we can turn this off. We don't need this anymore. (drum beat rhythm) (sparse snare drum rhythm) So now you can hear it. So I turn this off. (snare drum rhythm) So that's the snare bottom, and then you hear the kick it's coming through. (snare drum rhythm) And then when we turn this on with the key. (sparse snare drum rhythm) There we go. So now we've got our snare bottom, without the kick hits coming through. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) What I'm doing with the snare bottom, I use the clip. It's pretty much cranked to the max, and then I took the trim down, just to level it out. Because you don't want, with the trim up, it's gonna be loud like this. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) It's too loud, so trim down. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) And then, check the reference. (heavy metal music) Got some nice crack on that snare. Let's see. (snare drum rhythm) So yeah, I need more crack out of my snare. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) Cool, there we go. All right, kick and snare is ready to go. Now we have some stereo files that we need to pan. So I've got a pair of overheads and a pair of rooms. When I am working in Cubase, I don't really like to have my stereo, my stereo pairs in separate tracks. So I'll show you how to turn these into stereo tracks. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna press F4, go to outputs. We're gonna add a bus, we're gonna put stereo bus. And we're going to set the audio device to not connected, and then we're just gonna give this a name, and call it stereo. All right, now take my overheads, and click where it says stereo out, and change that to stereo. This is the group bus that we made stereo. Set it to left, and then the next one, set it to right. Okay? Select those audio pieces, and then hit control + e. And then we're gonna type drum overheads. We're gonna bounce it into the project audio folder. And then our channel selection is gonna be that thing that we called stereo. File format, wave. Let's see, what did you record this in? 48, so our sample rate's gonna be 48, 24 bit and import into project. So here we go, hit export. And we end up with the overheads into one track. Stereo, so pull that up, take these, remove them from the project. And do the same thing with the drum room tracks. Okay. So now we have our overheads and our rooms. And I'm going to put my kick and snare back on, and then turn the overheads on, and get a feel for what the drums sound like with that. And then I'll go directly into EQing the overheads, and then doing some compression. But also, if the snare is too crazy on the overheads, then you'll see me using a limiter to kills those snare hits. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) Yeah, I can see that the snare hits aren't actually sticking out very much, so that's good. I want to hear the overheads just by themselves real quick. (muted drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) Sound's actually pretty good. Did you EQ on the way in? Some of the tracks. Use the mic, sorry. Some of the tracks I EQed for the stems. Okay. Oh, for the stems, gotcha. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) (adjusts cymbal softer and louder) So the overheads sound great. They're a little bit small. I'm used to bigger rooms, you know? I'm not sure what size room you recorded in, but I don't need to know, because I can change it (laughs) with this plugin. So this is Transify. We've been using this throughout the course. You can check it out at my website, With Transify, we have the sustain and attack controls of each band. And you can make your overheads sound bigger basically just by changing the sustain. So for example ... (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) (muted drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) You could also add a little bit of sparkle with this high end sustain. (high toned drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) And I have the overheads kind of loud on purpose. (high toned drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) So before... (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) And then after... (high toned drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) And that's just the overheads. We haven't even touched the drum room. So let's see what that sounds like. (muted drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) Yep, so small room. However, we can fix that. So I'm gonna start with Q10 just to get rid of some of those nasal frequencies there. (muted drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) (echoing drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) And then, I'm gonna use Transify to see if I can get this room to sound bigger. (high toned drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) Cool, and then, I'm gonna go with a pretty brutal compression on the drum room. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) I'm gonna get some of the high hat. I'm gonna try EQ a little bit of the high hat out of there. (varying tone drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) Back that off just a tiny bit. Okay, so we EQed it. We did Transify to make it bigger, and then we also compressed to make it even bigger. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) So now let's add it back into our whole drum mix. (full sound drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) (muted drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) Okay so yeah, I do not like that high hat track. Is that what that is, high hat? Yeah. We're gonna not use that, just take that out. (heavy metal music) (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) Yeah, I feel like the snare needs a little bit more body. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) (varying sound of drum set rhythm) (minimal snare beats) (varying sound of snare and cymbal rhythms) And when you're working with the snare key, you can hold alt and click on s, and that'll make sure that it always solos whenever you just need to listen to the snare bottom by itself. (snare drum rhythm) I'm still trying to get some of those kick hits out of there. (snare drum rhythm) It might even be a thing where I would go in, instead of using a side chain and a gate, go in and manually cut all the hits. If I was really digging that snare bottom, and I was really wanting to use it. Because we're clipping it so hard, we're basically distorting it. And you're gonna have to get all that garbage out of there, or it's gonna sound bad. So here's our drum sound so far. (full sound drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) And then, on our reference we have... (heavy metal mix music) Sounds pretty awesome. Kick is a little, still kind of soft compared to the reference. I'm gonna see if I can get a little more power out of that. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) Might just need, I think we just need more volume on it really. Let's go this. (louder drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) And if, just one thing to note about Cubase. The first inserts, one through six, those all go before the EQ and the fader, and then the EQ and the fader come after insert six, but before insert seven and eight. So you can actually, as I have my chain here, I've got my SSL channel going into my clips. So I'm clipping the signal. Then this clipped signal's being EQed and then fed into the fader. But if I move my clipper to insert number seven, now I'm EQing the compressor, which is going into the fader, then that's being clipped. So I'm clipping after the EQ. So you get different results that way. (drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) (varying sound of drum set rhythm with cymbal and snare) (higher\\ pitched drum set rhythm) Cool. So, I'm gonna probably dive more into that drum sound a little bit later, once we get guitars and bass going. Because it's gonna change everything. When we start to add all that weight in there, you're gonna notice. Your drum mix might start to fall apart. And so you can't really know that until you start to add those elements in. So I've taken it as far as I can, to the point where I don't want to hear it in solo anymore. I want to hear it with guitars and with bass.

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

Student Work

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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.