Tips & Tricks

Frustrated Producer
Have you ever felt like this after a home recording or mixing session? I have. It's that point when you realized all of your hard work seemed to be in vain. I seriously felt this way for years! But all of that changed.

A couple of websites changed all of that for me.

This lead me to create my own music production blog, which can be found at www.audio-mastering.net

To make the most out of your mixing and/or mastering sessions, I have compiled a repository of the 10 best tips on music production I've found to help you get great results. I have added video links as well.

Recording Tips
  1. Use a click or metronome. This is SO important. Using a click track to make sure you stay in perfect time will really help if you want to add drums or other rhythmic elements to your mix. In case you didn't know, drum programming is my first love.
  2. Edit your takes to make them sit "in the pocket" with the click.
  3. Edit kick and bass takes to make sure the kick and bass notes hit at the same time. This helps reduce phase issues and helps to really tighten up the bottom end of a mix. There is not a lot of info out there on editing, but it's my specialty!
  4. When recording vocals, stand about 2ft away from the mic, use a pop filter, and angle the mic to the left or right to tame sibiliance. You can use plugins to tame sibilance, but it's always better to take care of sibilance during recording! (Video)
  5. When recording Acoustic guitar, try placing the mic 2-3ft away. Position the mic so that it is straight our from 12th fret, but then angle the mic so that the face of it points toward the sound hole. (Video 1, Video 2)
  6. When recording drums, watch out for phase issues!! Typically, phase issues can happen from overhead mics being slightly different distances away from the kit, and room mics. To test, solo your drums, and start flipping the phase of the overhead channels until you find the fullest sound.
  7. Be really careful to NOT CLIP the recording interface. You can always bring the volume up later during mixing.
  8. Record at 24-bit, and use at least 48khz whenever possible (44.1khz is also fine, but may produce nasty artifacts on sampled instruments).
  9. When recording electric guitar, use an sm57 or a basic condenser or ribbon mic. If you want a really bright sound, place the mic dead centre of the cab. If you want to tame the highs, place the mic out a few ft to the left or right, but then angle it in toward the cab. This gives a nice balanced tone in many cases. You can also record electric guitar direct, and use a free Amp package from IK multimedia or POD. Either way, make sure your tone works well with the mix.
  10. Record bass direct. It's just easier. I have oodles of Amps I can re-amp the bass with. But, if you have your tone and like it, by all means amp up and have at it! (Video).
Mixing Tips - No Magic Bullets
Here is a great resource for understanding the frequency spectrum: http://www.independentrecording.net/irn/resources/freqchart/main_display.htm
A great mix is the result of thousands of little decisions. 
  1. If you mix on headphones, make sure you mix at two volumes: low and really low. DO NOT mix at high volumes. If you need headphones, try anything above $100 from Senheiser, or these.  (Video)
  2. If you mix on speakers, it's really important to treat your room (Video) and place your speakers properly.
  3. Mix in Mono. I know, it sounds crazy but it works. This will help you make EQ descisions. 
  4. Get a rough balance f your mix in mono, using just the faders before you start digging in.
  5. If something isn't sticking out in the Mix, try this: Make sure you are mixing in mono, then adjust the fader until you feel you are close. Then use an EQ to start boosting slightly and sweep around until you hear what you want! Presto! This is mixing 101, but most people don't know about 
  6. Use compression with caution (Video).
  7. Use mostly Subtractive EQ rather than additive EQ (Video). Learn to find and remove Muddiness from your tracks.
  8. Use High Pass Filters to remove frequencies below 100hz on Everything except Bass and Kick! This will really help to tighten the low end of your mix.
  9. Eliminate resonance! (Video)  I have found a lot of the worst resonance happens in the 800hz-3khz range and the 100-200hz range. To find resonance, pull up an EQ on a single track and set the Q to narrow ... in Reaper, I set ReaEQ to 0.2 to start. If the EQ is graphical, just narrow it until you see a sharp point when you boost. Then, start slowly sweeping the frequency spectrum. You should hear single tones. When you hear a section that seems to really jump out, or that has a bunch of nasty conflicting tones, you have found resonance. Widen the Q a bit to see if the resonance gets worse. Then, cut that band by 3-6db, or until you get a natural sound. The key is to make fairly narrow cuts. If you use a linear phase EQ, you can avoid phase problems and once you are done, just commit the changes permanently.
  10. Leave LOTS of headroom in your mix. I recommend 6-12db. If you need to, select all of the tracks in the mix and lower all of the track's volumes simultaneously.