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Mixing Master Class

Lesson 14 of 27

Replacement Mixing - Kick

Joey Sturgis

Mixing Master Class

Joey Sturgis

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Lesson Info

14. Replacement Mixing - Kick


  Class Trailer
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1 Course Overview Duration:02:36
2 What is Mixing? Duration:15:56
3 Mixing Fundamentals Duration:06:10
4 What is EQ? Duration:38:36
5 Saturation Duration:24:08
7 Volume Balance Duration:15:25
8 Dynamics Basics Duration:16:23
9 Dynamics Q&A Duration:17:26
10 Limiters Duration:15:20
11 Spatial Balance Duration:39:57
12 Delay, Echo and Reverb Duration:26:29
13 Recap and Order of Inserts Duration:20:31
14 Replacement Mixing - Kick Duration:24:34
15 Replacement Mixing - Snare Duration:31:20
20 Creative Mixing Duration:28:10
21 Creative Mixing - Vocals Duration:22:34
23 Production Mixing - Guitars Duration:18:59
24 Production Mixing - Bass Duration:15:41
25 Production Mixing - Vocals Duration:23:34
26 Translating Artist Notes Duration:28:32

Lesson Info

Replacement Mixing - Kick

I'm going to basically mix a song from scratch. This song was given to me by my good friend George Christie at Nether Audio, and it is a song by Nova: Rebirth and it's called Scorch of Insanity. Now this song was given to me, basically, you know, there's drum tones, there's guitar tones, it's all there, but the way that we're gonna mix the song is by replacing everything. So we're gonna do like a replacement mixing demonstration. So, typically when you get a song, well, hopefully you'll get some kind of text file or something with a bunch of information that kind of tells me, you know, how they built the guitar tone, says the guitar tone is TSE X50 version 2. That must be some kind of amp simulator or something. The bass is TSE B.O.D. No clue what that means, but hey at least they told me something. Drums tells me what kind of samples they used. It looks like they used Drumforge snare seven, slate snare 22, slates maple toms et cetera, et cetera. Native Instruments RC-48 for the reverb...

on the lead guitars, and yada yada yada. And then we've got our tempo information, so I've gone ahead beforehand and lined the song up, you know, to the grid, and put the tempo changes in that they told me, and that's pretty much as far as I've gotten so far, so, you know, typically you're gonna get, it depends on who you're working with, but you'll get folders that break down all the different WAV files that you need to use to mix the song, and literally with Cubase you just grab all the files and just drag and drop them like this. And then you, you know, line them up to bar number one. So, the last thing that I imported here was the effects stems, I need to get that lined up. There we go. And also they gave me a MIDI track and so I have MIDI information for the drums and the bass down here, which we might use later, but since we're replacement mixing we'll see, so. When I get a song like this I typically will just listen to the reference, just to get an idea for, you know, what, what even is this, I don't, you know, what genre is it (laughs)? What kind of song is it? So, lets take a quick listen right now and just see what we're working with. (heavy guitar music playing) Cool. So ... Let see what the drums sound like without doing anything to them. (drums play solo) Cool. We'll see what the kick ... (kick drum plays solo) Yeah, so typically I'll just kinda like listen to different tracks, just to kind of see what the quality level is of the production, looks like this is all completely programmed drums. (snares play solo) (guitar kicks in) Yep. And ... Get an idea for what the guitars sound like. (guitars play solo) At this point I'm kinda trying to, you know, since we're gonna demonstrate replacement mixing, we kind of already know we're gonna construct everything from scratch, but if I was approaching a song and I wasn't entirely sure what what I was gonna do with this song, I might actually take this opportunity to email or phone call somebody and start a conversation about, you know, what their expectations are of the song and all of that, but since we know that we're gonna already replace this I'm just gonna go ahead and mute all of their guitar tones, but I'm gonna keep these because they could be a good reference for me. For example, this clean part, I might not have any idea what it's supposed to sound like without having that stem, so with the stem I can have a point of reference. (guitar plays solo) 'Cause the D.I is gonna just be, If I can find, lets see where the D.I is. Here it is. (digital melody plays) (laughs) so it would be anyones guess what that's supposed to sound like unless you had a reference, so always check in the reference to make sure we're in the ballpark of what they intended. (full song playing) And you can hear in their reference too that the that guitar part's actually really quiet, so maybe they intend for it to be, you know, kind of further back in the mix, so starting with the drums, I mean that's pretty much where you start with any kind of mix. For replacement mixing you have the additional task of having to break down all of the individual tracks, if you're going to do it how I do it, you break down all the individual tracks into hits. So, for this kick track for example I'm gonna go in here and just go to advanced, detect silence, and this is going to allow me to break down every single kick hit into an individual event. And you have to configure these settings to get it to basically ... basically what you wanna do is, it's based on threshold, so as the kick hit goes over a certain threshold point in amplitude, it detects it as a hit and then you can use these parameters here to determine how long each hit is. So, I know just from experience that most kick hits aren't much longer than anywhere between 32 to 100 milliseconds, but when you're dealing with, like, metal music like this, that have a bunch of quick little kicks, there are times when the kicks can be within 64 milliseconds of each other. So, I try to make the minimum time closed 32 milliseconds and the minimum time open 32 milliseconds, and that tends to work out pretty well. It will detect all of the hits, even the quick ones. Our post-roll's gonna be zero. And our pre-roll's gonna be one. The pre-roll basically allows you to, if it detects the hit like right on the kick it will roll back one more millisecond, so that you have a little bit of space before the transient and you don't cut it off. And then for the threshold we just try and find the number that, that catches all of the individual hits. So, that looks pretty good. And if it's not perfect that's totally fine. So, we're gonna hit process on that, and now we see on our kick track every single little kick hit has been separated into a new event like this. I like to keep a copy of the original kick just in case anything got messed up, so I'll show you how to do that. Just gonna take that first hit, I'm gonna hit Ctrl-C, and then I'm gonna click on the track here, for the original kick, and hit Alt-V, and that's paste in place. And then ... I'm gonna pull the, this box here, which changes the cut off point of the audio event, so just drag that out for the whole song. Now I have a little reference point that I can look at, so when I get into, like, like for example this one didn't get separated, but I can see that it's two hits, I'll just have to manually separate that myself like this. And I'll scroll through and double check to make sure each hit is properly accounted for. I like to do this manually, I just don't, I don't trust computers to do things for me. There's various other features that you can use, like I think for example like Trigger 2 is a Steven Slate plugin. Like, it's supposed to be able to read these hits, these audio hits, and turn them into a different drum, but what I've found is that every time I try and trust a computer to do that it seems to make a mistake, and then it becomes more work to babysit the plugin to make sure that its not making mistakes than it does to just manually force the computer to, you know, you're telling the computer exactly which kick hits you want to use by doing it this way, so you don't have to leave any guess work to the computer. So, basically going through the whole song, making sure every single kick hit is accounted for. Usually gets a little bit, when the kick hits get closer together that's when it starts to have a better chance of error, so, see like this one, these kick hits are really close. There's another one. And .... Looking pretty good. Cool, oh there's another, there's a ton more (laughs). And we're not mixing the whole song, so I'm just gonna do a little bit here. OK, so after you've done that, then you would, I'm gonna double check to see what that pre-roll looks like. So, to me it looks like that pre-roll either didn't kick in or, or something happened to where it's not there. I would like to have a little more padding, something around this, right. So, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna click on the track, right click, and then do Select All Events, and now I've selected every kick hit in the song. And then I'm gonna grab, I'm gonna go up here to my quantized bar and I'm gonna click on 128, and then I'm gonna go over here to my nudge bar and I'm gonna go Trim Start Left like that. So, that gives me a nice little padding at the beginning of every hit. And the I'm going to fade the hit in because, as you can see, there are a couple of moment where the original kick hit starts, the kick hit prior, starts to feed over, so I'm gonna grab this fade tool and go like this. And then I'm gonna make sure that that fade didn't fade over top of the transient on any of the hits. Cool. Alright, so now next step is to create a new audio track. We're gonna do mono. I'm gonna call this kick hard, and them I'm gonna use Drumagog, so I like using Drumagog. I know it's an older plugin, but for me it just makes sense. (drum kick sound) So, I have kind of a list of samples here. These are Steven Slate drums. Lets see ... (drum kick sounds) And basically I would just go through and try and find a kick that I deem, you know, appropriate for the song. It doesn't matter if you don't get the kick sample right at the first time. I honestly wouldn't spend very much time picking a kick. If it takes you longer than five minutes to pick a kick then you're doing it the wrong way. What you wanna do is pick a quick kick hit, something that just sounds like it's gonna work right off the bat, and you can change it later. So, as you get more and more into the mix you might find that you need to use something that has less body, or something that's, you know, deeper or whatever. Now, for the settings of Drumagog, I'm gonna take my triggering mode and put it all the way up to higher detail. And then on PyschoAcoustical, I'm gonna turn that off. I'm gonna switch it to actual peak, and then optimize for bass drum. Then we go into the main page. I'm gonna turn Auto Align off, I'm gonna turn Dynamic Tracking off, I'm gonna leave Random Multisamples on, and I'm gonna turn Dynamic Multisamples off, so the only thing I want it to do is randomize the kick and I want it to play the kick back at the same volume every single time because when you do replacement mixing, at least when I do it, I want to decide the power of every single kick hit in the song. So ... Now that we've set this how we want it, we're gonna go into samples and we're gonna choose specific samples that we want it to play back. So there's a group of samples here. (drum kick sound one) (drum kick sound two) (drum kick sound three) (drum kick sound four) So, I felt like these two seemed to be a little bit weaker, and these two seemed to be stronger. However, I think the second one has too much of a volume difference from the first one. (drum kick sound one) (drum kick sound two) See, it's too quiet. (drum kick sound one) (drum kick sound two) And what we're doing here is we're setting up our kick hard layer. So any sample that we leave in this lane is gonna be the hardest kick sound, so we need to choose the hardest hitting kicks. So, I'm gonna choose this sample. I'm gonna right click it, hit solo and then right click this sample and hit solo. Those are the two samples I choose for the hard kick. So, now when we take these kick hits here and we drag them down into this layer, we're gonna get this sound. (drum kick pattern) And here's the original kick. (weaker drum kick pattern) And then here's the new kick. (drum kick pattern) Now, you wanna basically, before we start putting kick hits into lanes we're gonna create more lanes because there's gonna be some levels of dynamic kick hits. So, for the kick hard I'm gonna just duplicate that track, and I'm gonna call it kick medium, and then I'm gonna open up Drumagog and then just select different samples. So, it's already set how we had it set in the last track. So, go to samples, right click this, uncheck solo, uncheck solo, and then we're gonna to the next layer of samples. (drum kick sound one) (drum kick sound two) (drum kick sound three) (drum kick sound four) I'm gonna choose the first one and the fourth one. That's the ones I like. And now you can create, by putting different kick hits into different layers, you can create little amounts of dynamic performance like this. (drum pattern) (drum pattern) (drum pattern) (drum pattern) So, by changing which lane the triggers in, you can make the kick sound different. (drum pattern) (drum pattern) (drum pattern) And this is really what I mean when I'm talking about replacement mixing. You have total control over the song, so I mean you're determining the power of every kick hit, the volume of every kick sound, like almost down to a performance level, and we're not changing the kick pattern, but we are going to decide, you know, what every single kick hit, which lane it's gonna be in. So, lets create our last layer, which is gonna be kick soft. Just in case there's any kick build ups or anything like that. And I'm just gonna use every layer for that. (drum kick sound one) (drum kick sound two) So, here's our three lanes for kick, and we'll start by taking this whole lane here. I'm gonna just hit Ctrl-C for copy, and then Alt-V, I'm gonna select kick hard track, Alt-V for paste in place, and then remove this track here, we don't need that anymore, and then we have our reference. Now, if this was a real kick drum, this is a programmed kick, but if it was a real one, we would be able to see, by zooming in on this original track, we would be able to see parts of the performance that were dynamic. You would see where the drummer was hitting the kick drum extremely hard and where he was hitting it soft, and then you would be able to copy that within your lane structuring, so whenever you see the softer hits you'd drag those down to the soft, and the harder hits, leave those in the hard lane. To make this sound, you know, less machine or robotic, we're gonna have to move a lot of kick hits because it's, you know, it's metal, so it's very easy for it to start to sound fake. (drum pattern) So, right here I'm gonna do this, and knowing where to move things just kind of comes with, I guess, experience and time, working on different songs. (drum pattern) And also paying attention to, you know, other elements in the song, so, for example, this guitar rhythm track, I'm gonna keep referencing that to make sure that it's, that what I'm doing with the kicks makes sense. (guitar and drum pattern) So, this feels kind of loud. (guitar and drum pattern) Lets turn the guitars down just a little bit. (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) That seems ... (guitar and drum pattern) And then at, sometimes when you listen to only the kick the drums start to sound weird (laughs) because there's other drums being hit in the actual performance. So, it's cool to bring 'em in and give an idea for what's going on. (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) So, just continue going on, moving the kicks around how you feel. (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) I kinda have the benefit of being a drummer first and foremost, so I kinda know what happens to drums, you know, when you're playing certain styles and, so like I know when you do a triplet into a snare that the last kick ends up actually being a loud hit, so I knew that when he did this on the drums that I should, you know, emulate that. (guitar and drum pattern) Versus like this. (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) It's all about accenting at the right moments too, and that all the choices you make in this stage too are gonna help determine, you know, the quality of your mix 'cause you're replacing everything, so you have to kind of get, every step of the way you're gonna have to get it right. (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) And I try, like on the sections that have a ton of kick hits going on, I try to vary it up, so that it doesn't sound machine. (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) And I experiment with different patterns of putting it in different lanes as well because they have different accents and so it creates like a different sound. So I like to try different patterns just to see if I like any of them better than the others. (guitar and drum pattern) So, I don't like that, so lets try ... Try like this again. (guitar and drum pattern) And then like even if I still don't like something I might go in and actually do a little bit of automation with the volume or something. So, like for this part I like the kick hits altering, but these still sound too loud, so I'm gonna just turn those down by like an arbitrary number like three Db or something. (guitar and drum pattern) That's cool. (guitar and drum pattern) Cool, so, that's a ... Lets do a little more. (guitar and drum pattern) And if you get into, like it depends on if you're working with programmed drums or real drums. If you're working with real drums you would have to, even on the parts that repeat, you still have to go in and move it to a new lane again because there's little tiny inequalities in the performance. The kick hits won't be in exactly the same place, they might be moved a little bit this way, a little bit that way and you wanna keep all that stuff in tact. So, I'm just gonna treat it as if it was a real drummer. (guitar and drum pattern) (guitar and drum pattern) Cool.

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.



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.