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Mixing Master Class

Lesson 15 of 27

Replacement Mixing - Snare

Joey Sturgis

Mixing Master Class

Joey Sturgis

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Lesson Info

15. Replacement Mixing - Snare

Lesson Info

Replacement Mixing - Snare

Let's move on to the snare. Okay, for the snare, we have a snare close track and a snare room, and let's see. Let's make sure that's everything. Yes. So, I will take that snare track and I'm gonna duplicate it. And I'll call this snare hard. And we're gonna do the same thing we did with the kick. Click the track, right click, Advanced, Detect Silence. And the object is to try and capture every snare hit. Now, with this kind of song, there's a lot of ghost notes going on, and trying to capture every ghost note might not be possible, so I'm gonna go ahead and try it. If it doesn't work, I'm gonna show you how you can do the snare into two different layers. So you have one layer where it would be all the hard snare hits and then another layer that would be all the ghost notes by themselves. So, but first, I'll see if I can capture every snare drum hit. Same thing with the kick, or same settings as the kick, 32 milliseconds, time open, 32 milliseconds, time closed. One millisecond, pre-rol...

l. Let's try it. I'm gonna actually look at the reference. It actually looks like it captured all the snare hits pretty good. I'll keep going. Yeah, cool. So we'll stick with that. If you can't capture these smaller hits, especially with a real drummer, it becomes really hard, you wanna set your threshold. You'll go into Advanced, Detect Silence, and just set your threshold to capture those big hits, like this. Hit Process, and then as you're working through the song, and let's say you have your snare layers right here, for example, and you can see that there is, these ghost notes here. What you can do is you can cut them out of the reference and then drag them down into the soft layer like that, and then you can go in on that soft layer and you can take these little bits of audio, these little ghost notes and normalize them like this, and the reason why you would do that is, these audio tracks are only to trigger the snare drum hits, so normalizing it doesn't hurt anybody. All you're trying to do is get these peaks to go past a certain point, so that the processing plugin will actually pick up the hit, but since this snare drum sound allows us to capture every hit, we're just gonna do it the normal way. So here we go. Just double checking to make sure it picked up all the hits, and then whenever there's two hits like this, just separate those, just like we did with the kick. Being careful not to move any of the hits in the wrong direction or anything like that. Cool, cool. And you can scroll through the project like the way that I'm doing it, by holding Shift and moving your scroll wheel up and down, and I'll go left and right, and then holding Control and doing the scroll wheel up and down to zoom in and out, so you can switch between zooming in and out and scrolling left and right. And to cut, I'm using a quick shortcut. You hold Alt and you click, and that allows you to cut, so you can switch your tool. Okay. Looking pretty good. And the reason why I'm fading the audio back is if you leave it like this, it's possible for the, for when the sampler goes over the drum hit, it'll trigger once here, and then it stops triggering, and then when it gets to the end, if you have a pop or a click here, it can trigger it, it can trigger an accidental hit, and you might not even know that it's happening because the next hit will come in, and you can create these almost transparent flams, where there's a sample triggering here and a sample triggering here. They're so close together that you can't tell that it's happening, and it actually weakens your drum sound. So I always make sure that, fade the audio back, and I try to stop close to zero crossing. Zero crossing is when you see the amplitude goes up and down like this. When it goes past the DC offset, which is zero, then that's zero crossing, so that's where you wanna leave your audio, or the end of your event. You wanna leave it somewhere within zero crossing. If you're really anal, you can turn this button here on, called snap to zero crossing. If that's on, it basically, when you try to cut the audio, it'll only let you cut it on the zero crossing point, so you can't even, if you wanted to, you wouldn't even be able to leave it in the middle of an amplitude peak. You'd have to, even as you change the size of the audio, it sticks to the zero crossing, so, that's just a little pro tip if you really care about doing that, but since we're using this audio to trigger the drum samples, it doesn't really matter if it's snapping to zero crossing or not. Oh, it actually missed a hit, so when this happens, you can take the hit next to it and just roll it back. Or forward, or whatever. Okay, that's cool. So now we're gonna create our snare lanes. I'm gonna go Add Track, Audio Track, and I'm gonna do five mono tracks, so we have five snare layers. We're gonna do snare track, which is the hardest rim shot hit. Snare hard, snare medium, snare soft, and snare softer. Load Drumagog on the first one. I'm using the fixed latency of Drumagog, so that I don't have to worry about latency. Same thing, we have to go to triggering mode, higher detail. Use actual peak instead of psychoacoustical, and then this time, we're gonna optimize for snare drums. Go to Main, turn off auto-align, dynamic tracking, and just leave random multi-samples on. And then we'll go and pick a snare sound. (snare drumming) Then like I said, it doesn't matter a whole lot which sample you pick. You can change it later. And the other thing too is when you're choosing a sample, (rapid snare drumming) you don't wanna really be choosing it (snare drumming) in solo mode like this anyway, (snare drumming) because you don't have any reference of what it sounds like with the rest of the music, and you can waste a lot of time sitting here, going through samples, and listening to samples in solo, and then mix your song and realize, oh, that's still not the right sample, so, (snare drumming) don't spend too much time picking the solo, or picking the sample in solo, I guess. I'm gonna use all the hard hits on here 'cause snare, (snare drumming) really easy for a snare to sound robotic, so we're gonna need as many samples as we can get. However, as we're working on the song, if any of these samples stick out to me, as I'm playing back the drums, I'm gonna start a process of elimination where I remove the samples that I don't like as I'm listening to the performance. Okay, so, got our first samples chosen. Gonna copy and paste this over. Let's do the next layer. Copy that over. Next layer. Got a question? Yeah, a bunch of people in the chat are asking what the main difference would be between the process that you just showed us and editing velocities via MIDI to trigger multi-sampled drums. I don't like it, and I'll tell you, I think it's a sloppy way of doing it because this is, I've experimented a lot with both, and for me, this is the way to have the most control, but also have the best sound because, I think like a drummer so if I'm thinking about sitting behind a drum set and performing a part, I know that there's sort of six layers or five layers of hardness that I can hit the snare, and I'm deciding how hard I wanted that snare to be hit on each hit with my drumstick. So I basically, when I learned how to do all this stuff, I translated that exactly to this. When I'm selecting each hit, I'm deciding how, it's the same decision I'm making when playing a drum set. How hard do I wanna hit? I'm making that same decision when I'm moving into the lane. Now, if you're using, let's say you're using Easy Drummer, and you're using MIDI, and you're trying to decide what velocities. You could do this exact same thing, but you're working with MIDI. The problem with MIDI is that it's, if you can find a way to get these, to get the MIDI notes to line up exactly where the snares fall with the drummer's hits, then I would say, you could do that, but it's harder because MIDI, at least when I work with MIDI, it's on the grid, it's exactly every beat. If you're working with a real drummer, you're working with real audio, so I like to trigger the snare drum hits that come through the microphone, I like to use those to actually trigger the snare drum because for me, it comes out to be more realistic. Now I think there's ways that you could, you definitely can go in, if I go to the snare track here, open it up, go to, what is it? Vary audio or hit points, yeah, and move the threshold around like this, and then hit create MIDI notes, and then that gives me a MIDI track of snare hits, right? And then you, so then you're gonna be going through here and picking the snare drum hit and then changing the velocity of it, right? (piano key sounding) I feel like this is a sloppier way of doing it just because my brain wants to think about five layers exactly, rather than trying to move, if I'm thinking of five layers, I'd have to pick five numbers, and then I'd have to click on this thing, and then go, okay, the first layer's gonna be 32, so I'll type in 32. Go to the next hit, okay, this one, click here, 32. Next hit, click here, 32. It's just a different way of doing it, I guess. I don't know what the advantage is on either one. I don't like doing it with MIDI though. So that's my answer. (chuckles) Any other questions, so far? We had another one that was kinda related. Hey, Joey, do you like to print drum audio when you're done replacing so that you have more consistency? Yeah, so once we get towards the end here, and we get happy with everything that we've done, we will print it, and the reason why is every time you hit play, I'll show you. Every time we hit play, the sample selector's gonna choose different drum hits, so check this out. (drum beating) So we watch these light up. You can see where it's choosing the hits. (drum beating) So the first time I hit play, it chose this hit first. And the next time I hit play, it chose that hit. These are really minor differences that are happening in the audio, but when you send the song to the artist, they're gonna listen to the song and they're gonna either approve it or not or whatever, but let's say they approve it. Now, if you send the song back to them with a mix revision, and the snare drums are different hits, you could be creating another variable layer of acceptance of the song, so I like to get it bounced down to audio so that it's always the same hit in the same spot of the song every single time. That way, that's not an additional variable that you have to worry about when you're going back and forth on the song, so yeah, for consistency, you definitely want to bounce this stuff down. So let me go through, finished choosing all the samples, yup, I did that. Okay, so now we're going to start picking the snare drum layers. (drum beating) And when your ghost notes don't trigger, you can go into Drumagog here, and choose, where is it? So you go to Main and you click on the button that says Visual, and you can actually just change the sensitivity. (drum beating) There we go. (drum beating) So I'm gonna take, I'm gonna actually take all the snare hits and just put them into the track lane, and then we'll move them from there. (drum beating) And another trick that you can do if you really want to avoid the process of trying to get every single hit to trigger properly, you can select all of your snare hits and you can just right click and go to Process, and then go to Normalize, and it's gonna normalize every individual hit. Before I do that, though, I wanna make sure that I have some lead way into every hit. Some pre-roll. Okay, we're good. So yeah, Process, Normalize. It's gonna take a minute to do. And what it's doing is it's going through every single hit. It's finding the peak point of the hit and it's raising it up to zero, so that it will, once it goes up to zero, then that means it'll definitely trigger. So it's gonna sound weird, sound like this. (snare drumming) But we're using it to trigger another snare drum, so. (snare drumming) Right, so then we can keep an eye on our reference to know now they're all normalized so they don't, you have no idea if this is a hard hit or if this is a soft hit or what, so you have to keep an eye on the reference to know where the hits fall. And then you just drag them up and down as you see fit. So let's go like this. (snare drumming) This might be too soft. (snare drumming) So yeah, snares are definitely a lot more dynamic and they take more time to get right. (snare drumming) I'm gonna turn my kick back on, too, and maybe throw in a guitar as well. (lively rock music) So you have just a process of going through every single hit, deciding which lane it goes in. (lively rock music) And then we all pray for parts like this that are just super easy. (lively rock music) (Joey chuckles) (lively rock music) Cool, so basically, carry on the same concept to doing the toms as well. However, I'm gonna just check out their toms sounds just to see if it's something I might be able use anyway. (drum beating) Cool, so yeah, it kinda sounds like maybe Steven Slate toms or something. We'll just go ahead and stick with those and we'll keep those as audio. So, the last step for the snare is to create five more layers and to use a snare room, unless they have their own snare room. Let's see if they do. (drum playing) Okay, there is a snare room. Let's see what this is like. I'm just gonna normalize it because I'll set the volume a little later. (lively rock music) Yeah, not something that I'm going to use, so I'm just gonna get rid of this track. I'm gonna create my own snare layer. You can do this by taking all of the snare tracks, select them all, right click, Duplicate Tracks. And then drag them down. Now we're gonna call this snare room track. Snare room hard. Snare room medium. Snare room soft. Snare room softer. And then all we have to do is choose new samples. (drum beating) Cool. So here we go. Got a question? Yeah, another quick question while we're doing this. Do you quantize your drums 100% to the grid, or do you leave some room so it'll create more of a natural feel? When I quantize my drums, I try and keep it as close to the grid as possible, but it depends on the goal because if you do that to some kinds of music, it can make the music sound sterile, so if you're working on a band like this, having deviation from the grid can be a huge, it can sound very sloppy very fast. So many hits in such a condensed amount of space, that if you don't have even spacing between your hits, it will start to sound just sloppy. So that's more of a production choice. It would decide, is this something where I want to, do I want this to sound more human? Do I want it to sound more perfect? And kind of make that decision beforehand. It also depends on the drummer. So if the drummer plays really perfect, then maybe it makes sense to have things whenever he does fall off just a little bit, makes sense to have it corrected because in general, he plays perfectly to the grid. I've had guys play so good that it sounds programmed. The guy from, his name is James Cassell from Ask Alexandria. He plays so perfectly that it almost sounds like it's not really happening. It sounds like program drums. So I'm not really editing his drums that much. Just a little bit. (lively rock music) So you can see now we've got the snare room track going on and it's triggering at the same points as the original snare. (lively rock music) (drum playing) So that's our, kind of our basic drum sound so far. Let's see what the original drums sound like. (lively drum playing) And then our new sound. (lively drum playing) It's cool. So, do we have any other questions before I keep going? Not at the moment here. What about here in the room? Any questions in the room? When you use Drumagog, do you sometimes have to tune the pitch of the drums to the tuning of the song or is that just sample selection process? Yeah, I think that that is a cool tool that you can use, depending on what kind of music you're working on. Now a song like this, I probably wouldn't give that much thought. I wouldn't mess around with the pitch or the snare or anything like that, but if it is a pop song, or maybe something more melodic or not distorted guitars and stuff, it might make sense to actually play around with the pitch and try and get it in key, and I know, the same thing with the toms, try to get the toms in key in the kick to have some kind of sense of melody, so yeah. I don't really do that a lot with metalcore or metal music, though. However, there has been a couple of times where I did do it, but I would have to say, in the last 10 years, I probably have done it maybe twice ever. So it's pretty rare. We just got a really good question in here from Swan PA. Hi Joey, how would you approach replacement techniques for intricate and very dynamic snare flam with real drums? Sometimes they can be equal volume to the drum bleeds. What would you do to trigger that? So then at that point, you would have to be looking at it from just using your ears. You would have to listen to the performance and be, okay, I hear what he's doing. It's not picking it up on the track. It's not, the computer's not picking it up, so what you would do is you would go into these tracks here and take a hit, just a normal snare hit, and just move it into place based on what you're hearing with your ears, like this. And that just takes a technical understanding of knowing there's four beats in a measure there, you can break it up into 16 different hits and you got 16th notes. He's hitting it on the third and sixth 16th notes, so I need to drag my snare hit into those sections on the grid. And I would not recommend attempting doing any of this if you don't understand grids or drum beats or beats and measures because it's very, this is, I mean this is like programming a mix, basically. So you have to have a pretty good understanding of every single, how drums work, how they fall on the grid and stuff. You got a drummer who's doing really dynamic stuff. I would say this, I would argue that this is pretty dynamic. This is pretty, lots of ghost notes and stuff. You can, usually you'll be able to see it. If you've done your engineering work properly, so if you've got it miked up really well, you will see the ghost notes. And if it's hard for you to see them, and it's hard for you to tell what the drummer's doing, then you kind of messed up somewhere. It should be clear enough, I think. You could always use triggers as well. Put a trigger on a snare drum.

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.