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Readers' Letters: When you are mixing, what is the first thing you should do? What is the last? (And what should you NOT do?), and more...

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006
"An RP visitor asks what are the first and last things you should do in a mixing session? Well, that's not the average question, but we do have some answers..."
Readers' Letters: When you are mixing, what is the first thing you should do? What is the last? (And what should you NOT do?), and more...

In response to When you are mixing, what is the first thing you should do? What is the last? (And what should you NOT do?), Charlson Ximenes writes...

Hello,

I'd like to say that I find most articles on Audio Masterclass to be of great interest.

Now, I think we all have a pretty good idea regarding most "dos" and "don'ts" of mixing/mastering in the home-studio. However, there is always an exception to every rule...

I'd like to hear from people who broke these rules and got away with it. People who beat the odds by either recording, mixing and/or mastering at home without acoustic treatment, for example, or expensive monitors, and maybe simply using some basic recording equipment (with samples or links, if possible).

It would be good to know where we should draw a line...

Keep up the excellent work.


In response to What is the ONE thing you MOST need to know to make great recordings?, David Blanche/Twinsoul 2 Music writes...

I find panning or imaging along with volume works very well for me so far.


In response to The MP3 player is dead - here's what is about to replace it, Ryan writes...

The mp3 player is dead? it's going to be replaced by the gramophone!?!?! is this a joke?!?!

This has to be a joke. The success of the mp3 player can be attributed to it's portability and storage capacity. of course it's the lowest quality medium available but the consumer has easily demonstrated that he either doesn't notice the difference, or doesn't care. And I should not need to mention that the gramophone is far from new technology. Unless this is article is a joke recordproducer.com has lost 100% credibility with this reader.

RP response: There are some people in this world who just can't take a joke...


In response to When to pan left, when to pan right, Travis Kennedy writes...

I've experienced many engineers that always tend to pan their overheads hard left and hard right. They then also pan the reverb and stereo delays hard left and right as well. Wouldn't this be a negative application considering that you wouldn't want your reverb and delays masking, and clouding up the detail of the overhead mics? Considering that they are sitting in the same place in the panoramic spectrum.


In response to Shock news - Digidesign's Mbox 2 is lacking in bass punch!, Greg Macmillan writes...

I've just tested this idea for 0.1% distortion like so.

I use the program Samplitude which has a waveform generator and a good quality pair of Beyer headphones. All waveforms are 32bit float. Imagine a system that generates a weird harmonic distortion 440/235Hz. The next thing would be to test this with more musical ratios, eg intervals of a 3rd, 4th, 9th or sub harmonics and also some that aren't just intonation or are slightly more out of tune. I'm assuming 0.1% equals 1/1000 of the original signal strength or -60db.

1)generate a waveform of sine wave 440 Hz -6 db on the first track.

2)generate a waveform of square wave 235 Hz -6 db on the second track (it also works with a sine wave).

3) mute the square wave while playing track one, then adjust the volume on the master fader so that it's not to loud

4)now un-mute the square wave, you should hear a lot of dissonance.

5) reduce the fader for the square wave slowly to minus 60db

6) now mute and un-mute the square wave track. If you can't hear the difference increase the volume of the master fader while still remaining in the comfort range. You should clearly be able to hear the square wave.

7) If you can't hear the square wave consider getting your ears checked or changing occupations.

RP response: Interesting test. When performed double blind it may yield interesting, and perhaps embarrassing, results.


In response to "How do I make sure I get my royalties?", Mario Valenzuela writes...

Thats exactly what i needed to know... I had the same question.. thanxs


In response to What is the ONE thing you MOST need to know to make great recordings?, Tym Cornell writes...

I think the article is correct to a point. I want to comment on the "can't polish a turd" theory. Nothing in the recording process will do you any good if you are not writing Great songs. You can't polish a turd. Write a great song and it won't matter how you record it. So let me sum it up, write a great song first then go record. Writing great songs I don't think can be learned from a book. I think it depends on what you study and listen to and natural ability. Listen to shit and out come the turds.


In response to How to get started in the music business, Nikki Thomas writes...

This page really made me think and I want to be a solo artist. I'm 15 and I'm a Freshman in highschool. I have wanted to sing ever since I was about eight or nine. I'm not looking to be famous or have a ton of money I just want to do something with my life. This is my dream and I want give up until I get it I know it takes alot of work, but I'm willing to do it. If someone just gave me the chance I know they wouldn't regret it.


In response to Latest round of insults for David Mellor - has this become a competition?, Geoffrey Barnard writes...

Shoot me down, not so fast bell ringer gear? listen the simple truth plain and accurate, it's cheap tacky and dont stand the test of time. its ok for cheap users but hey the difference is that simple little word. QUALITY.

AND OH BY THE WAY mr hardrock studio. i would like to enlighten you to the fact that i use the service of studio pro's and if i spy any thing bellringer i walk away.

why? coz cheap euipment cheap minds.

cheap dont get it done.

so shoot me down?????

you guys aint quick enough on the draw.

thanks but no thanks hard rock studio.

(well the name say's it all.) dont you hard rock guys ever grow up.?

byebye.

RP response: We're not sure what you're on, but we don't think we want any of it! Peace.


In response to Three microphone tested on female vocal - the results!, Selahstudio writes...

I would like to make comment regarding the 3 mics tested. I'm not surprised by the results. The M-147 tube mic has a nice warm sound compared to the more flat sounding U-87 & the thin bright hollow sound of the SM-58. Although, with a high quality mic-pre, any one of these 3 mics would sound good with some tweeking especially the SM-58. Most younger people have no idea what a high quality tube mic sounds like and that's not entirely their fault. Some companies, which I will not name, put a vacuum tube inside cheap electronics and use cheap manufacturing techniques. The end result, a horrible sounding tube mic. The price will usually justify the quality. Final thought, you get what you pay for!


In response to Can you really master at home? Take 2..., Russ (Al) Pratt writes...

When you say you master "at home" the image conjured up is of spit and baling wire and egg cartons. I could master "at home" if I had an accurate room ($)and monitoring and the right basic equipment and lots of time. It depends on what "home" is. But to advertise a mastering service without those ingredients and succeed would require considerable luck. There is no substitute for an accurate listening environment and monitoring.


In response to $8.70 for a single download? How on earth do they get away with those prices?, Dean Milenkovic writes...

Currently they hold the audiophille market. I have purchased numerous songs from them and I do not regret it. And yes they can do it.


In response to Can you really master at home? Take 2..., Paul writes...

David -

I do agree with you; it depends on the core skills of the operator - I will comment that in addition to using a seasoned master professional because it is indeed their business, an additional set of fresh, acute ears can bring objective input during the mastering process. It allows yet another level of interpretation to your music, and I'm a believer that if you are truly educated and dialed in to what you are doing, you also understand that there are things you don't know. You have to be open to possibilities outside of your own vision. It's the forest for the trees concept . . . it holds because there is merit.


In response to When you are mixing, what is the first thing you should do? What is the last? (And what should you NOT do?), Ben Maddox writes...

One good thing, that I think I learned was to pull everything down to like -12dB and start from there. Sometimes mixes develop while recording and things get too loud. Headroom is good.


In response to When you are mixing, what is the first thing you should do? What is the last? (And what should you NOT do?), DanGtr writes...

As a mix engineer one of the most important things you can do during mixdown is not cook your ears in the first hour of the session with too much volume. It's true that you have to listen at a somewhat loud volume to get the mix set-up. After that you should do most of the mix at speaking level on the nearfields on the meter bridge. To make critical decisions about a mix 8 hours into it you have to be able to hear it.


In response to Can you really master at home? Take 2..., Avi Messica writes...

This comment will probably not get psoted......

Mastering is way over rated! It's a process of ancient times!

Moreover, mastering in its present form is a dying profession despite what people tell us! WHY, read this!

Audio mastering the way we know it today was first applied during the 1940s when they switched from direct cut recording (i.e recording directly to the master disc) to magnetic tapes! This was the first time that audio post production was feasible! SO WHAT's the difference between 1940s and 2000s?

60 YEARS of a difference!

In those days recording was analog and they could hardly control it, mics were barely 20 years old and of low pick up quality (there were no electric guitars back then, can you imagine!?), no mixing was possible at any stage and recording were single track and mono until the 1960s. Audio reporduction equip. was mono and low fidelity. Most playback systems were of low quality and speakers were lousy! Moreover, radio was AM!!!!!!!!!!

Low recording/mics quality,analog storage media, no mixing capability, and mono playback systmes !? This called for trying to improve the recorded material as soon as magnetic tapes appeared. Enters the CMOS integrated circuit + the digital age!

Superb mics, digital multi tracking, amazing mixing tools, amazing Hi-Fidelity speakers even in small devices such as cell phones, PC speakers and the like, and lastly FM and even digital radio. All these makes audio mastering a process of ancient time no matter what people say! You can have a final cut in the mix itslef and it will sound great on any speaker. I do it all the time. Try it for yourself.

Several years ago I have followed a corny - over used - advice that I read in one of the audio magazines. It said, compare your final mix spectrum to that of a professionally mastered song from a CD (today many S/W allows for that such as Harbal and the like). Well, guess what, I could not find any major difference. Moreover, most of the times when mastering studios ask you to listen to "Mastered" vs. "Mon-Mastered" the difference is mostly with the roll-off of the Highs.... This is typical to the 1960s recorded stuff..... and moreover, is mostly a matter of taste.

Sorry Audio Masterclass guys :-) I can't buy in.

I share the grief of the mastering pros becuase mastering won't stay with us long no matter what people try to convince us.

I am sure people will attack this point of view but someone has to say it.

Lots of Love

Avi Messica,ISRAEL


In response to Can you really master at home? Take 2..., Loren Dean writes...

How can we even determine this over the web with MP3 shit flying around?

My own stuff sounds vastly better in a 24 bit pro tools studio, even at 48 Hz.

I discovered a vocal recording technique that gives clarity, volume and presence that I cannot even translate to MP3.

RP response: Do tell...


In response to How can I get a good recording in my church, without hum, buzz and noise?, Josh Tays writes...

If you do wish to use a wireless system shure's UHF-R line has great companders that are nearly indistinguishable from a wired mic. Couple that with an E6 or any number of other great sounding headworn mics and you've got a great wireless combo that will hold it's own with it's wired counterparts. If you are more worried about the future of white spaces you can also try out the lectrosonics digital hybrid systems that are hands down the best out there. They sound fantastic and are so far future proof unlike traditional UHF systems.


In response to What is the ONE thing you MOST need to know to make great recordings?, Mitch Odom writes...

Well stated, David. I would add to that - make sure EVERYTHING is in tune! You would think that it is so obvious that it doesn't need stating, but I have heard countless examples of amature recordings with tuning problems.

The first and most obvious would be vocals. Get a singer that can nail the pitch - and you are miles ahead of the game. Use a guitar tuner! Pleeeeeeeeeze!

I once had a conversation with David Foster, and I'm basically reiterating his points here.

I enjoy your site, and am currently taking your Audio Masterclass. I'm enjoying the reading. My "hands on" experience has yielded good results for many years. I'm taking the class because for years I have been recording (professionally) but felt that I needed to understand some more of the "electronics" technicalities. Your class has been enlightening in that area.

Finally, I'm glad that you published the flamers. We are living more and more in an intolerant world. Many people feel that they must degrade others in order to support their own opinions. I have noticed that these types of people think that they MUST be right - even when they know they are wrong. And the best way for them to feel okay about themselves is to knock down others who don't share their (often misguided) viewpoints.

So kudos, David. Thank you for your provocative web site.


In response to Can you really master at home? Take 2..., Neil Porter writes...

The question is, "Can you master at home?" No discussion is needed - the simple answer is "YES". How do I know? Because people do.

The REAL question should be, "How good are home masters?" As all ears are different and all creative aspects suit different people in different ways, this is where you can have an infinitely long discussion.

The original article is still correct in that the traditionally accepted practice of mastering does work and is likely the best path to take.


In response to Can you really master at home? Take 2..., Tighe writes...

I don't think that mastering your own mixes is a good idea for a number of reasons. One being that a fresh set of ears on your mix can do wonders. Ever not listen to a mix for a week, go back to it, and suddenly realize that there are (almost) obvious problems? We all have.

There is, however, one mastering oriented application that I will apply before sending it off to a PRO. About two-thirds of the way through the mix I will put an L3 on my master fader. T

he reason I do this is because nearly every ME will put it on anyway, and it does change the sound of the mix. After listening to how it affects the instruments and frequencies (mainly the high's), I can change my mix accordingly.

This way the ME will not have to over-EQ my mix back to taste and there will be no surprises when I get it back.


In response to Vinyl record manufacturing - lacquer, master, mother, stamper and pressings, John Lake writes...

On the article regarding vinyl record manufacturing - records are traditionally black because the very first pressings were made of crushed and melted beetle shells.


In response to Mastering at home - an oxymoron?, Toby Cole writes...

Pram is correct.

All it takes is a little ingenuity and some trial and error.

I've been mastering at home with great success without breaking the bank. Don't be fooled into thinking you need expensive equipment to achieve quality results. Don't Believe me?

Listen for yourself:

www.myspace.com/truthaddikt


In response to When you are mixing, what is the first thing you should do? What is the last? (And what should you NOT do?), Dav Byrne, Melbourne. writes...

First thing - normalize the desk.

Last thing - normalize the desk.

And the only thing you should never do is clip your output amps. Clipping everything else is perfectly cool. Yes. Especially inputs. And ESPECIALLY digital audio. In the right circumstances. And don't let anyone tell you differently. Because they are wrong.


In response to Can you really master at home? Take 2..., Prometheus writes...

I am a professional mastering engineer, I have commercial quality equipment and I can master anywhere within reason...

Why?

Years and years of training and constant practice.

Mastering, like any other craft, is 10% down to the tools and 90% down to the man.

Not the stuff, the Man!

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)
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