Mixing Master Class


Mixing Master Class


Lesson Info

Recap and Order of Inserts

So I was just going to kind of recap, on everything that we have, so EQ, you know, define your clarity and your focus of your sound and you can also use it to create holes in your mix, so that things are easier to understand. You can filter out the low end so that your kick and your bass come through. And you can add mid range to instruments that need more mid range, which allows them to kind of stick out over top of other sounds. You can use distortion and saturation, to create weight and to allow certain elements to be more audible in your mix when combined with others. As well as an effect, you can use it like to make your doubles more aggressive. Which will make your whole vocal sound, you know, increase your vocal... Power, the power of your vocal. You can use compressors to solve performance problems, but then you can also use it to sound design your kick drum. You can use expanders to increase the dynamic range, you can use an expander as an automatic volume knob that turns down...

the bleed or the background noise of your sound, you can use a limiter to remove peaks from performances, peaks that were too loud in comparison to the rest of the performance, but you can also use it to create less dynamics within a sound so that it can be turned up, and therefore have more weight or more volume. You can use panning to create emptiness within the center channel for which you can then use to make your vocals and your drums more clear, excuse me, you can use automation to automate EQs and volumes up and down to create space for other elements to come in and out of play. And you can use delay and reverb to create additional space and additional ambience as well as width and those are kind of the elements of a mix I mean these are the tools that you use to interact with those elements, and I think we covered the... Balancing issues that you come across, trying to get all these things to work together. These are the kind of, these are the tools that you need to understand to create those, the proper balances, now, actually finding the balance is, is the skill that comes with mixing, like that's what you will learn the more and more you do it, and unfortunately, you can't just teach balance, it really is just something that you gain with experience and time, you have to mix song after song before you can realize, you know what, that's too much bass, or you have to listen to a lot of music to kind of get a feeling for what it is in your ears. And I think I wanted to wrap this up with sort of the orders, the insert order. Because I know this is a question that a lot of people ask, should you put a distortion before a compressor, after a compressor, do I need to put EQ before or after, this is kind of the final frontier of combining all these things that we've talked about together in how do you actually combine compression, distortion and EQ on a single channel. So there's a lot of different ways, I wanted to show you, I wanted to demonstrate sort of what they do. So if we look at this vocal track, I actually have some EQ, some compression, some DSing and then some more EQ, so we're thinking, like, well why, why do you have like some, some EQ here, and then some EQ there, well, it depends on what stage of the... Of the sound sculpting that you're in. So when you're in the create clarity and create definition or create space, when you're in that phase, I like to do things like high pass, low pass, frequency carving, I will not do my editions in that phase, so I want to, if I want something to have like let's say something has a nasal character, I want to have less nasal sound in it. That'll be the first thing I'll do, is I'll go in with an EQ and remove that. Because I'm trying to get the sound to a point of unity, like I'm trying to get the sound flat, to the right now it sounds weird because it's got this weird resonance in the mid range, which I'm calling nasal, if I get that back down to zero then I've got a flat sound that I can work with. So from there then I'll start to treat the sound as if it's, you know, I'm ready to mold it now into the creative version of what I want to hear, so if I'm taking a vocal performance that has a lot of dynamics, I'm trying to flatten that, so I'll do my corrective EQ first, and then I'll do my compression. I find that that works best, because if the compressor's trying to react to the weirdness of the EQ, then it will not react the way that I expect it to, so I'll do that corrective EQ first, then I'll do the compression, and then on this song, we had the unique problem, well I can't show you because I don't think it loaded, but the unique problem was that half of the vocals for this song were recorded in like, 2013, and then the other half of the vocals were recorded in 2015, and the difference between that span of time, the vocals, the voice change, the vocals changed, the microphone was different, the preamp was different, and so I had to do an EQ match, to actually get half of the vocals in the song to sound like the other half. So I had that before my compression, too, because I was trying to correct that problem with the vocals, so once you've got all your corrective stuff done, then I like to move into the dynamics, then from, I like to do my DSing after the compressor, because I find that the compressor will bring out the S's more, and if you DS before the compressor, it feels like there still needs to be more DSing, and it's like you can never find that perfect balance, I don't really have a scientific explanation for it other than it's just what sounds good to me. So if I show you here's the compressed vocal, with no DSing. ♪ Footprints in the ground ♪ ♪ No I'm never falling down ♪ Okay, and then we add the DSing. ♪ Footprints in the ground ♪ ♪ No I'm never falling down ♪ So let me try putting that before the compressor and let's see what's different. ♪ Footprints in the ♪ It didn't even do anything, but that's because it's not set for the volume change of the signal after the compressor, so now that it's before the compressor, I have to change that threshold. ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ So what's interesting about this is even though I'm DSing it a lot... ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ It seems like the vocal is darker now, and also it's not really reacting like, it seems like it's not happening when I want it to happen. ♪ These footprints in the ♪ Do you know what I'm saying? So like, having it after the compressor, now I have that signal that's been completely balanced out, the S's are really sticking out now, because they're just as loud as the normal parts of the vocal, and so I can, since this is a frequency DS or like you set the frequencies in which it works, then you can control when it actually reacts to the signal because now all the parts of the performance are the same. ♪ These footprints in the ♪ ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ ♪ These footprints in the ♪ So yeah, and then you can hit the side change to hear... ♪ These footprints in the ♪ How it's reacting, that's why I like to have it after the compressor is because, the S's are more balanced and so it will always strike the S's evenly, whereas doing it before the compressor your vocals are still in that dynamic range a very wide dynamic range, so some S's are here, other S's are here, and it reacts to them differently. So if you have it after the compressor, all the S's are here, and it'll always clamp down on them like that. And then you know, there's the argument, well, should you EQ before compression or after? I like to do EQ after, and I have a very interesting EQ on this part here (laughs) let's see what it sounds like without it. ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ So if I put this EQ before the compressor... ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ Reverses after. ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ There's not a ton of difference but let's try, let's try something on the drums, I want to show you. Let's increase, let's add some treble to the drums. (drumming) And let's add compressor. (drumming) Let's add some low end. (drumming) So what's happening here is, when you add like this low end for example, before the compressor, it causes the compressor to react to the signal as if that signal had more low end because it's happening before, now what that will do though, the result of that is the volume differences, the dynamic changes that the compressor makes are reactive to that signal having more bass, which will cause it to fluctuate in a different way, so if we just watch it. (drumming) Now versus doing it afterwards, now if we do it afterwards the compressor's going to react to the original drum signal and then we add the bass in and what will be interesting is that you'll hear those volume changes are different. (drumming) So especially on that buildup, like... (drumming) You hear the compressor, like almost shaking. And then when you, if you put the change after the compressor that shaking disappears. (drumming) There's like a little bit at the end, but it's more dramatic when it's before. (drumming) So it's just different goals, you know, what are you trying to accomplish. You can actually influence the compressor to react at different times by doing the tone shifting beforehand, but in the way that I mixed, I'm doing all corrective stuff prior to dynamics, so I'm fixing, I'm removing the nasal frequencies, and removing the like the low end, or removing the high end whatever it is, I'm doing that precompressor, and then I'm also doing my tasteful adjustments, my boosting, my additional EQ after the compressor because I don't want to influence the compressor with those changes, those are just like, overlays, I guess, to the sound. Now I am asked this all the time, should you compress reverb? I really think the answer's no. Now, you can if you want to, and maybe that sounds cool in some way for some purpose, but I think the idea of compression is to either solve the performance problems, or to have the sound design you wouldn't do that post reverb, same thing with delay I get asked a lot, should you have delay after or before reverb, well delay, I think should be before reverb, because you're echoing the signal, you don't want to be echoing the reverberated signal, want to echo the signal into the reverb, because that's what happens in real life. So if I clap my hands, it goes through the air and bounces off the wall and then it's in the space of the room, it's not like the space of the room is in the echo that flies around the room, right. So you have your delay before your reverb. And then there's the distortion before or after compression. So the answer to that is you just get completely different results depending on what you're doing. So let's say I add a little bit of distortion on these drums. I'll use a different part. Actually let me do this on a vocal part. ♪ These footprints ♪ Okay, if I put distortion here. Thing about distortion is, it is also, I mean if you really want to technically understand distortion on a fundamental level, it is removing dynamics, it is saturating the signal and also clipping it, too, so you're getting like, you're basically like limiting the dynamic range, the more distortion you add, you get to a certain point where it just becomes solid and there are no dynamics at all. But if you distort the signal before it gets compressed, now the differences between all of the sounds, and the levels of the sounds, becomes limited so the compressor does less stuff to the sound. ♪ Footprints in the ground ♪ ♪ No I'm never falling down ♪ So as I distorted more, it's not really, the compressor's becoming less and less important. ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ Right, and then... Let me just put a tiny bit of distortion so we can hear that real quick. ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ Okay, so now let me put, let me move that to the end of the chain, and you'll hear, now it's going to be distorting the doubler, it's going to be distorting the stereo delay, it's going to be distorting the compression. ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ So it sounds, that sounds a lot different now because it's distorting the result of the delay rather than the delay echoing the result of the distortion so you get two completely different sounds. ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ Versus this. ♪ These footprints in the ground ♪ So really there is no answer, it's just what are you trying to do. So a lot of times when I am doing distortion parts, I still don't know the answer and so I just experiment, I'll put the distortion before the compressor, and I'll listen to it, and I'll just say to myself, do I like that or not, and if not, try it after the compressor, do I like that, yes or no, and then move on. So just experiment. What's the other one, transient process before or after compressor, I like to do, transient processing after compression. I find that it's more effective, because if you're doing your transient processing before compressors, the problem is, is you're modifying how the compressor reacts to the signals, so if you're increasing the attack for example on your snare, now the compressor has to work that much harder, or let's say you're adding sustain. Now the compressor is pumping, or reacting you know, negatively to the signal. So I like to compress first, and then do transient processing afterwards. And if you're wondering should you put transient processing before or after distortion, I think it makes sense to have transient processing, processing before distortion because the distortion is removing the dynamics, and again, a transient processor is reacting to the dynamics, so anything that destroys the dynamics, needs to be placed in the proper, you know, in the proper position. Do we have any questions? Here's one from Kuron, they said I've heard people say that you shouldn't mix while using any mastering plugins, is this especially true or can that rule be broken from time to time? I prefer and always advise to mix with a mastering chain on, because the problem with doing it the other way is you're going to get surprised, no matter what you do, you're going to mix the song, you're going to love it, and then it gets mastered, you're going to hate it. And you won't hate it if you mix the whole song while it's going through a mastering chain because what you hear is what you get. And I tell my clients all the time, because well, we'll actually work through the whole album, we'll get to the end and they'll be like man I can't wait to hear what it's going to sound like mastered, and then I have to break it to them like well, it's been mastered the whole time because every mix I send you is mastered because I don't want you to have to wonder, oh, is that going to be loud enough, or is it going to be competitive, or will that sound as heavy as we want it to sound? Just to eliminate all those worries and doubts by mastering pretty much every mix that you put out. And I'll make little mastering tweaks, and little mixing tweaks, I'll come across the scenario where, you know, maybe a song sounds like it has too much bass, but I feel like my mix of my actual music and my bass is in the right place, so maybe I make a mastering adjustment, or I come across a song where vocals are getting drowned out or something, maybe that's you know, after you take your mastering settings you copy and paste it to your next song and then you hit play on your next song and the mix falls apart, it's like well okay, now you have to go back and make a bunch of mix adjustments, and it's a constant battle between mixing settings and mastering settings when you're doing both of them at the same time and eventually you get to a point you know after all these back and forth and all these revisions, you get to a point where it sounds perfect, but for me, the process is not mix the song, and then master the song, it's overlapping the whole time. So you know, follow whatever advice you agree with, but I think the best way is to just work in an environment where what you hear is what you get, and I think it's the same thing for even like, the film industry, I think, don't they, you know, they tend to edit in post and work with you know, they don't know what the scene's going to look like until they compile the whole thing together so that's kind of important to work within those, within that environment. For sure, yeah, I think we've got a question right here in the room. So basically, so when you put the, put the compression, EQ, or whatever across your stereo bus then you find that you probably wind up treating the individual parts differently by mixing into that chain? Absolutely so. So you'd make different decisions than you would... In fact I'm probably, I'm pretty sure that I would be a little bit oblivious to what some of the things I'm doing like I'm oblivious to what I actually sound like unmastered for example. I don't know what a lot of my mixes sound like unmastered because I've always heard them mastered even from the start. So you could potentially turn my mastering chain off and then all of a sudden my snare drum becomes the loudest thing ever. My mix sounds, I don't care if the snare drum is 12 DB over the vocal, when I turn the mastering chain on it sounds right, so, to me, that's right. You know, so maybe the guitars have tons and tons of 2K but then when you turn the mastering on, it sounds right, it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what the song sounds like, you know when you export it. And since like the way that I work, everyone let's me master my stuff. They don't ever take you know, they don't ever involve another mastering engineer or anything like that, they don't take like the mixes and have someone master them, so. It just makes sense for my workflow to just have mastering always on. And I kind of have like a starting point, you know, it's not always the perfect settings, but it's enough to where the song is being mastered, it's louder, you know, it's being limited. All those things are actually happening, so that I know like, okay, my kick sounds soft with the way I have the mastering set right now and the way that I have the mastering set right now is kind of soft. So I know the mastering's only going to get a little bit more aggressive so then I know that my kick has to get way more aggressive, right. I know that just because I'm using the settings and I'm hearing the playback, and I'm like, okay, when I play this, when I play my mix right now, the kick sounds weak and I play this other mix on YouTube, this other band, in the same genre, and their kick sounds crazy, like okay, so now I know I've got to make those adjustments because instead of sitting there wondering, well maybe the kick will get louder when I master it. Because you don't know that and then you do this whole mix and you go and get the song mastered, and now the kick's still not powerful enough, what are you going to do? It just allows you to make more instantaneous decisions, and yeah, I think you get a better outcome because of it, I hope that makes sense. Cool, we've got a couple more questions online here. How much time does it usually take you to mix a song and to mix an album, and depending on the different type of mixing that you're doing, whether it's creative or placement. Okay, so yeah, going back to the three types of mixing, the creative mode or the production mode are a little bit, I would say, kind of the same time frame, creative takes a little bit longer, especially if you want to think about the song more. For example, if you're adding like, you know, guitar layers and stuff to make the guitar sound bigger, you have to actually go pick up a guitar and play the parts, and there's people who specialize in that like that's what they do, they get a song, like the guy who mixed the new Paramore record, he added like 100 guitar parts to the album or something, and he's just a mixing engineer. So he was sitting there at his mixing board playing the guitar parts, and of course that's going to take longer, the production mixing is the quickest, and you know, people like Chris Lord Alge for example are known for being able to mix songs in three hours or something like that. Now of course when he comes in, the whole song has been prepped and set up and completely ready to go, for him, you know, he's not sitting there like routing stuff and you know plugging and unplugging compressors, all that stuff's done for him, he just comes in and mixes the song. So that's the, that's like the production mixing mode. And then the replacement mixing takes forever, I mean that's like the process of building an entire, building all the guitar tones from scratch, building the bass tones from scratch, you know EQing compressing the snare drum. Maybe even having to blend it with another sample and then having to EQ that sample, and then you know, it's just a whole process of creating every single track, the sound of every single track from scratch, it takes forever and a lot of songs nowadays have tons of elements and you know, this song even is 80 tracks, so. If you had to open 80 tracks and have none of it mixed, at all. No sounds decided, that would be overwhelming (laughs) you have a question? Do you have, like different templates that you use for different records, or do you start like one song from scratch and then apply that mix to other songs, and so on and so on, or? So if I'm producing a record, my process is to just start somewhere, so open a session and just pick a tone, and here we go, and then we start to play parts, and then we start to decide, oh, okay. This tone has too much treble, because when you listen to this part, you can hear, you know, you hear that there's too much treble, so we dial that back down. Then when we go to the next song, we take all that stuff that we've learned from the first song and we copy and paste it into the second song, and then we go through the whole second song and learn more about the sounds and tones that we're coming up with and we tweak them more and more and so, as we go we're mixing, you know, basically every step of the way, we're like oh, the drums are too loud here. Blah, blah, blah, so we make these tiny little adjustments and then once we get to like song 10, we've almost mixed the record. I mean because everything's been scrutinized over and over and then you go back to the first song and you're like wow, that sounds crazy, look at this journey we've been on. So then you can take everything from song and put it into song one, and then go back through the process, but even then, you still end up with weird, you know, not every song's the same and so obviously you have to make different choices for different things, but... Now if I'm mixing something, that I didn't produce, it's a process it really is it's like throw a dart at the wall and just see where it lands and if that's not the right spot try again. And so it is a lot of like, you know, make a mix, listen to it in your car. I didn't like the guitar sounds, so I'm going to start over, I open the mix up again, do the guitar sound again, take it back out to the car, or listen to it on earbuds or whatever, and just repeat that process over and over and over until you're happy with the song, and sometimes I'll have like 10 or 15 revisions before I even show the band the first mix because I won't even be happy with it, you know. So it just depends, do you have a question? When you're trying to get all the levels sitting well with each other in the mix and stereo, do you think it's good to also mix in mono, to see where it sits between stereo and mono, like as far as all the levels between drums bass and guitars and stuff like that? Yeah, when I mix I like to have my, I have a controller right, usually sits right here. And what I do is I have a button that's mono, and when I hit that button, it gives me the summed mono and I like to check, you know just check, I don't mix in mono, I don't keep it on for very long, but I will, when I'm doing stuff, like when I'm making changes, I check in mono and another thing you'll see me do, because I'm going to mix a song tomorrow, every single change, or every single decision that I make, I am constantly comparing it to something else. So if I'm adding treble, I'm comparing it to what it sounded like without the added treble, I'm doing back and forth bypass and unbypass, you know. And then check that in mono, too. So it's like a checking system, and you come up with like five or six different checks and you do them for every decisions that you make, like you add a little distortion, okay, check that in mono, sounds cool. Check it in stereo, sounds awesome. Check it without the distortion, okay, check with the distortion. Like, it's like a process that you get used to doing. And I try to keep just keep my perspective fresh. On everything that I'm doing, so, mono is a very good action to have, because you can make sure that you're not like making the vocal favored in the mono version. Make sure that your guitar, you know, like one thing that's really useful with it, is if you have a lot of leads or solos, you can make sure that they don't get lost. Because you can turn it on mono, and all of a sudden it's gone, and you turn it back in stereo and it's there and you're like, what's happening. So you can adjust, you can you know, react to that information by checking in mono. Okay, Joey, how about one more question before we wrap it up for the day. But I know this is not a mastering class, this is a mixing class, but we're just totally blowing up with questions right now, the mastering chain, so if you could give us like a 60 seconds or less type of basic mastering chain that you might have at the end of your master bus. I think the basic like if we're comparing to the elements that we're talking about, the different elements of mixing, what really is mastering, so it's really just, for me it's compression, it's EQ, and it's limiting. It's kind of those three things, and then sometimes you can throw in saturation, or like harmonic excitement, now I'm doing a combination of pretty much all that stuff, when I master, but the way I master things is a lot different than other people so I will start with the mastering template so to speak, something that is pretty neutral, it's not very, you know, it's not treble heavy it's not bass heavy it's not super distorted it's not super compressed, it's not limited really crazy. And I'll put that on the song and I'll start mixing the song and then when I start getting into a kind of confidence level where I feel good about the sound of the song and the sonics, I'll reach into my mastering bin and I'll make it a little bit louder, and that will effect you know, that will make a drastic change on everything so I'll start to hear like okay, now that I did that, my snare got a little softer, so I'll go in, and maybe try and make my snare have a little bit more energy more attack and then I'll get more and more confident with the song, and I'll start to maybe feel like it needs a little bit more treble in the master bus, so I'll go and add some more treble. And then that might cause me to feel like the cymbals are too loud so I'll go back and turn the cymbals down a little bit, and so it is this back and forth process. To answer the question specifically like the order of the mastering I feel very strongly about this order because I've played around with the stuff forever and I think it makes sense to do compression first, because that is the blend and the balance of the overall you know, dynamics of the mix, the energy and the volume level you want to attack that first. And then, I go into either EQ, or dynamic EQ which would be like multiban compression, you know, how do I want to react to that low end, how do I want to react to that mid range. Set those things how I want them and then I will go into if I'm going into the multiban then I will go into the EQ next. And if I already did the EQ, I'll just move straight into limiting, and on the limiter, the limiter is going to be last in your signal. Because the thing with limiting is you're creating the final loudness, the final limitation of your dynamic range, and you're creating the final loudness of the song, so limiter is last and also the limiter that I use is like it doesn't destroy transience. So it's really great, like for I use the ozone limiter, I don't know if you guys are familiar with ozone but it's a great plugin and if you have to put it in order you know compression, EQ, if you are doing saturation that would be next and then limiting, so limiting is always last saturation would be just before that and then EQ or multiban compressor, compression and then the compressor first, so that's kind of my chain, and as far as exciters, like if you don't have any exciters, there's a couple of different ways that you could do it. Well tomorrow I'll probably show how to do this, where you take your mix and you split it into four tracks so you take it and you bounce down your whole mix into a stereo track and then you duplicate it four times. And then you create high and low pass filters to separate out your mix, and then you can use different distortion modes on each band. You're creating a multi ban basically, and you can saturate your mix in different frequency areas by splitting it out into four different crossovers. So I'm going to actually show that tomorrow.

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.