Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 132
FREEINSIDE I INCLUDINGOVER3HOURSOFVIDEOTUTORIALS
FREEINSIDE
I INCLUDINGOVER3HOURSOFVIDEOTUTORIALS

MIXING

ALL NEW TECHNIQUES FOR YOUR PROJECT STUDIO 2013 EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING ISBN 978-1-909590-20-5 YOU NEED
ALL NEW TECHNIQUES FOR YOUR PROJECT STUDIO
2013
EVERYTHING
EVERYTHING
EVERYTHING
ISBN 978-1-909590-20-5
YOU NEED FOR
YOU NEED FOR
YOU NEED FOR
9 781909 590205
MusicTechFocus:Mixing2013
£8.99
A PERFECT MIX
A
A
PERFECT MIX
PERFECT MIX
132
PAGES OF PRO
MIXING
TIPS&TRICKS
Pro advice for mixing drums, vocals and instruments
Essential production tips for every major DAW
The best monitors and mixers reviewed
The professionals reveal their production secrets
25 tips for mixing, monitoring and programming

Mixing in

Logic | Cubase | Reason | Pro Tools | Live | And more…

NEW

F-SERIES

NEW F -SERIES F7 SubF F5 FOR AUDIO ENGINEERS FOR DJs FOR MUSICIANS FOR VIDEO GAME
NEW F -SERIES F7 SubF F5 FOR AUDIO ENGINEERS FOR DJs FOR MUSICIANS FOR VIDEO GAME

F7

SubF

F5
F5
FOR AUDIO ENGINEERS FOR DJs FOR MUSICIANS FOR VIDEO GAME PLAYERS FOR AUDIO LOVERS PROFESSIONAL
FOR AUDIO ENGINEERS
FOR DJs
FOR MUSICIANS
FOR VIDEO GAME PLAYERS
FOR AUDIO LOVERS
PROFESSIONAL MONITORING
FORFOR YOU.YO

ADAM-AUDIO.COM

Welcome MTF

Welcome MTF Welcome Welcome to a special Music Tech Focus on mixing. Firstly, let’s not get

Welcome

Welcome to a special Music Tech Focus on mixing. Firstly, let’s not get

into a fight over this, but I would argue that the mix is the most

important part of the music production process. You could say that the initial moment of musical inspiration might well be up there on the

importance ladder, but if you then bury it in a bad mix, you might just as

well

toss it to the back of your hard drive and never visit it again. A great

mix

will enhance your initial concept and help bring that lightbulb

musical moment to the masses. A great mix can, then, change the world!

But, and there is a but. Mixing in 2013 is all over the place: in the box, out of the box, and with a gazillion genres to cater to, so where do we start?

Why, at the beginning of course! So we open this special issue by mixing a track from scratch and, more importantly, going back to basics with the main elements of a mix – the vocals, drums, and instruments – and outlining some

of the main mixing rules. Then we go into the detail, with specific production workshops on every DAW scattered throughout this issue, and a long hard look at mixing in the box (on p54) followed by that next step of mixing: the remix and mashup (p102). And the most important piece of equipment when mixing? Again, let’s not argue, but I’d say it is the monitor – the direct connection between your mix and your ears. So we’ve ladelled in a load of monitoring tips on p110 and reveal some of the best monitors out there – and mixers, come to that – in our reviews section starting on p117. Everything you need for the perfect mix in 2013? I’d say so. Enjoy the issue!

I would argue that the mix is the most important part of the music production process

is the most important part of the music production process Paul Pettengale Editorial Director
is the most important part of the music production process Paul Pettengale Editorial Director
is the most important part of the music production process Paul Pettengale Editorial Director

Paul Pettengale Editorial Director paul.pettengale@anthem-publishing.com

Editorial Director paul.pettengale@anthem-publishing.com MUSIC TECH FOCUS MAGAZINE www.musictechmag.co.uk Anthem
Editorial Director paul.pettengale@anthem-publishing.com MUSIC TECH FOCUS MAGAZINE www.musictechmag.co.uk Anthem
Editorial Director paul.pettengale@anthem-publishing.com MUSIC TECH FOCUS MAGAZINE www.musictechmag.co.uk Anthem

MUSIC TECH FOCUS MAGAZINE www.musictechmag.co.uk Anthem Publishing Ltd Suite 6, Piccadilly House London Road, Bath BA1 6PL Tel +44 (0) 1225 489984 Fax +44 (0) 1225 489980 editorial@anthem-publishing.com

Editorial Director Paul Pettengale paul.pettengale@anthem-publishing.com

Operations Editor Jon Palmer jon.palmer@anthem-publishing.com

Art Editor Kai Wood kai.wood@anthem-publishing.com

Multimedia Editor Alex Holmes alex.holmes@anthem-publishing.com

Business Dev’ Manager Di Marsh di.marsh@anthem-publishing.com

Contributors Mark Cousins, Keith Gemmell, Tim Hallas, Russ Hepworth-Sawyer, Mike Hillier, Alex Holmes, Hollin Jones, Liam O’Mullane, John Pickford, Huw Price

Art Director Jenny Cook jenny.cook@anthem-publishing.com

Advertising Director Simon Lewis simon.lewis@anthem-publishing.com

Managing Director Jon Bickley jon.bickley@anthem-publishing.com

Licensing Enquiries Jon Bickley +44 (0) 1225 489984 www.anthem-publishing.com

Printed by Polestar UK Print Ltd Tel +44 (0) 1582 678900

Distributed by Marketforce (UK) Ltd The Blue Fin Building 110 Southwark Street London SE1 0SU Tel +44 (0) 20 3148 3300

Subscriptions to Music Tech Magazine Tel +44 (0) 870 444 8468 Price (12 issues) £59.99 UK basic annual rate

All content copyright Anthem Publishing Ltd 2013, all rights reserved. While we make every effort to ensure that the factual content of Music Tech Focus is correct we cannot take any responsibility nor be held accountable for any factual errors printed. Please make every effort to check quoted prices and product specifications with manufacturers prior to purchase. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or resold without the prior consent of Anthem Publishing Ltd. Music Tech Focus recognises all copyrights contained within this issue. Where possible we acknowledge the copyright holder.

issue. Where possible we acknowledge the copyright holder. DON’T MISS OUR GREAT SUBS OFFER! Never miss
issue. Where possible we acknowledge the copyright holder. DON’T MISS OUR GREAT SUBS OFFER! Never miss
DON’T MISS OUR GREAT
DON’T MISS
OUR GREAT

SUBS OFFER!

Never miss an issue by subscribing to Music Tech Focus. Turn to page 52 to discover a fantastic, money-saving offer.

focus Ableton Live 8 Volume 2 | 03

MTF Contents Issue 28 Mixing 2013 100% PURE PRO MIXING TECHNIQUE Pro advice for mixing

MTF Contents

Issue 28 Mixing 2013 100% PURE PRO MIXING TECHNIQUE Pro advice for mixing drums,vocals and
Issue 28
Mixing 2013
100% PURE
PRO MIXING
TECHNIQUE
Pro advice for mixing drums,vocals and instruments ● Essential
production tips for every major DAW ● The best monitors and mixers
reviewed ● The professionals reveal their production secrets ● 25 pro
tips for mixing,monitoring and programming ● And much more…
Workshops p68 p114 p44 p38 p26 4 | Mixing 2013 focus
Workshops
p68
p114
p44
p38
p26
4 | Mixing 2013
focus

Walkthroughsand programming ● And much more… Workshops p68 p114 p44 p38 p26 4 | Mixing 2013

p96 p80 p18
p96
p80
p18

Contents MTF

MTF Interview Goetz Botzenhardt on 5.1 surround p72
MTF Interview
Goetz Botzenhardt
on 5.1 surround p72
MTF Pro Tips 25tips forMixing Mix processing – p30 Drum sound design – p48 Bass
MTF Pro Tips
25tips
forMixing
Mix processing – p30
Drum sound design – p48
Bass production – p64
Monitoring – p110
Reviews
p118
YAMAHA O1V96i
UA The Boulder | Mackie DL1608
Adam A77X | sE Munro Egg 150 | More…
p122
p125
p120
p124

10 Minute MasterA77X | sE Munro Egg 150 | More… p122 p125 p120 p124 Surround sound monitoring Dolby

Surround sound monitoring

Dolby Stereo Dolby Digital 5.1 Sub LFE Centre Centre Left Left Right Right Left Left
Dolby Stereo
Dolby Digital 5.1
Sub LFE
Centre
Centre
Left Left
Right Right
Left Left
Right Right
p42
Left Left
Right
Rig
Surround rround
Surround
Surro
Rear Rear

Studio IconsRight Rig Surround rround Surround Surro Rear Rear Yamaha NS-10s p128 MTF Issue 28 Full listings…

Yamaha NS-10s

p128
p128
Surround Surro Rear Rear Studio Icons Yamaha NS-10s p128 MTF Issue 28 Full listings… 006 |

MTF Issue 28

Full listings…

006 | Masterclass

006

| Masterclass

Mixing a track from scratch

014 | Logic Pro 9 Workshop

014

| Logic Pro 9 Workshop

Exploring stereo

018 | Step-by-Step

018

| Step-by-Step

Buss compression

022 | Interview Tony Platt

022

| Interview Tony Platt

026 | Ableton Live 8 Workshop

026

| Ableton Live 8 Workshop

Mixing tips & tools

030 | 25 Pro Tips for…

030

| 25 Pro Tips for…

Mix

processing

034 | Step-by-Step

034

| Step-by-Step

Composing with sampled

instruments

038 | Cubase 6.5 Workshop

038

| Cubase 6.5 Workshop

Working with loops

042 | Ten Minute Master

042

| Ten Minute Master

Surround sound monitoring

044 | Pro Tools 10 Workshop

044

| Pro Tools 10 Workshop

Understanding gain-staging

048 | 25 Pro Tips for…

048

| 25 Pro Tips for…

Drum sound design

054 | Masterclass

054

| Masterclass

Digital mixing & production

064 | 25 Pro Tips for…

064

| 25 Pro Tips for…

Bass production

068 | Sonar X1 Workshop

068

| Sonar X1 Workshop

FX Chains

072 | Interview

072

| Interview

Goetz Botzenhardt

076 | Reason 6.5 Workshop

076

| Reason 6.5 Workshop

Extreme loop processing

080 | Step-by-Step

080

| Step-by-Step

Groove arrangement &

programming

084 | Ableton Live 9 Step-by-Step

084

| Ableton Live 9 Step-by-Step

Mix

& workflow tricks

088 | Masterclass

088

| Masterclass

Buss compression

096 | Step-by-Step

096

| Step-by-Step

Layering bass

102 | Masterclass

102

| Masterclass

Remixing & Mashups

110 | 25 Pro Tips for…

110

| 25 Pro Tips for…

Monitors & monitoring

114 | Logic Pro 9 Workshop

114

| Logic Pro 9 Workshop

Song structuring

117 | Reviews

117

| Reviews

128 | Studio Icons

128

| Studio Icons

Yamaha NS-10s

129 | Next Issue Recording 2013

129 | Next Issue Recording 2013

130 | What’s on your MTF DVD

130 | What’s on your MTF DVD

MTF Interview Tony Platt shares 40 years of experience p22
MTF Interview
Tony Platt shares 40
years of experience p22
130 | What’s on your MTF DVD MTF Interview Tony Platt shares 40 years of experience

focus Mixing 2013 | 5

130 | What’s on your MTF DVD MTF Interview Tony Platt shares 40 years of experience

MTF Technique Mixing from scratch Technique Mixing from scratch

MTF Masterclass

Studio Technique

MIXING

A

TRACK

from scratch

Mixing is both an art and a science, and getting it right can mean the difference between a good track and a great one.Hollin Jones guides you through the process.

M ixing is just one of the stages of the music production process but it’s arguably one of the most important. All the great songwriting, skilled playing and clever arrangement in the world means nothing if your mix isn’t good enough. A good final mix also means the best of starts for the next stage in a

6 | Mixing 2013

the best of starts for the next stage in a 6 | Mixing 2013 focus track’s

focus

track’s production: mastering. A bad mix, however, cannot easily be fixed in the mastering stage. There is as much art as science behind getting a good mix, and you’ll need a

grasp of both. Above all, a good pair of ears and an understanding of the kind of music you are mixing

will serve you well. You might be lucky enough to be working with an engineer who can do the technical stuff to realise your ambitions

for a production, or you may be engineering yourself, in which case you’ll be the one doing the automation, tweaking the EQ, compression and the many other small elements that combine to create the perfect mix. We’re going to look at how to mix the different elements of a typical track though, of course, no two tracks are the same, and all will require a slightly different treatment. The drums in a dubstep track will need to be powerful and brash, for example, whereas in a jazz production they will require a much more gentle approach. Nonetheless, there are some good general rules for carrying out the mixing process, both in technical and stylistic terms. Above all, sympathy to the kind of material you’re working with is crucial. If you are an engineer, this usually means being familiar with a very wide range of musical styles. As such,

Therearesomegoodgeneral rules for mixing process, both in technicalandstylisticterms

Mixing from scratch Technique MTF

Mixing from scratch Technique MTF MTF Pro Technique Moving material between studios   You might work

MTF Pro Technique

Moving material between studios

 
MTF Pro Technique Moving material between studios  

You might work for weeks or months on tracks but then, when it comes to the mixdown, move to a professional studio to take advantage of better acoustics and monitoring. If you have a limited budget, it’s worth considering spending it on mixing as it’s such a crucial part of the production process. We have mentioned that you could theoretically take your computer along and wire it into the studio, but it’s less disruptive and simpler to take exported audio files or OMF files on a drive or DVD. Your DAW project will almost certainly consist of audio and MIDI tracks, and some plug-ins. All the major DAWs allow you to export a project in OMF format, which is a sort of universal, cross platform file format designed to let you transfer material between systems. It works fairly well but has some significant limitations. OMF files store information about audio files and tracks, their position in a

To export stems, which is the most foolproof way to move material, set your left marker at zero and the right one a few bars after the end of the project. Then choose to batch export all tracks as audio, in the same full quality as the project is using. If you have the option, export both wet tracks with effects and dry versions without. In the mixing

project and the project tempo. You can choose to embed audio files or link to them. OMF also stores MIDI tracks, but that’s about it. They don’t store automation data or any information about plug-ins. This is because all DAWs deal with these differently so it’s impossible to account for them all.

studio you can then import all the files starting at zero

and get a pristine session for mixing. You lose editability, but in an emergency you can always return to your original project and re-export one or more tracks.

Exporting OMF files is one way to get your projects to different systems, though it has some limitations.

it never hurts to do your research by listening to commercially produced albums in the
it never hurts to do your research by listening to
commercially produced albums in the same style, or
even auditioning samples or loops of, say, rock
guitars or electric pianos, to see how they sound in
isolation and thus how a specific type of instrument
is supposed to sound.
Before you start
Before you get to the fader-prodding stage there’s
quite a lot to consider and understand. The first big
question is whether you are mixing in the box or on
a dedicated desk in a studio, and there are several
reasons why this is an important distinction. If you
are working in the box, as many people do these
days, you will almost certainly be working with raw
project data inside your DAW, complete with
plug-ins, automation and edits. You may well also be
relying on your DAW’s mixer to handle everything,
rather than a hardware mixer, with your software
feeding a stereo output to your monitors.
There are several upsides to working in the
Grouping tracks makes it easier
to deal with big, complex mixes.
It also helps you cut down on
the number of plug-ins you run.
Your project remains editable so if, halfway through
o if, halfway through
Why go pro?

mixing, you want to remove a couple of crash cymbal sounds from a chorus, it’s easy to do. That’s not to say you should be endlessly tinkering with arrangements at the mix stage, quite the opposite. But it’s handy to be able to make minor changes. You don’t have to export loads of stems, and you get to use your own plug-in collection, which you will be familiar with. If you have the budget, or are lucky enough to be able to use a professional studio, you will probably have to export your project as audio

you will probably have to export your project as audio stems – ie, groups of tracks

stems – ie, groups of tracks of pure audio, so that they can be imported into whatever system the studio is running. Even if you are running the same DAW, like Pro Tools or Logic, the chances of your having identical plug-in sets are small, so simply copying a project folder between computers is generally a non-starter. You would be well advised to export multiple versions of all tracks, one set with effects (wet) and one without (dry) and maybe even export a set pre-fader, so their volumes remain independent of your DAW’s mixer. The idea is to give you as many options as possible in the mixing studio. If you export wet tracks only, you will be unable to edit or remove the effects on the tracks, which can be a real problem. If you export only dry tracks you will have to re-apply all the effects from scratch, which isn’t ideal either. So having wet tracks and the option to replace any given one with a dry version for re-effecting offers the best of both worlds. Many leading DAWs now offer one-click batch stem export, so this process is much less time-consuming than it used to be.

The advantages of going into a dedicated professional studio to mix are pretty clear. They will have an excellent monitoring setup and probably acoustic treatment too, as well as a combination of high-end plug-ins and outboard processing hardware. They may well also have great metering facilities and multiple sets of monitors for testing a mix, which is something most home studios don’t have. Plus, if

sets of monitors for testing a mix, which is something most home studios don’t have. Plus,

focus Mixing 2013 | 7

sets of monitors for testing a mix, which is something most home studios don’t have. Plus,
MTF Technique Mixing from scratch Tech Terms ●   SOUNDSTAGE The overall sonic character of

MTF Technique Mixing from scratch

MTF Technique Mixing from scratch Tech Terms ●   SOUNDSTAGE The overall sonic character of a

Tech Terms

SOUNDSTAGE The overall sonic character of

a mix. Think of it visually – it’s about placing sounds in a

certain space and making the

end result make sense to the listener.

STEREO IMAGE The relation between the left and right sides of the sound, and the centre. Bass, drums and vocals usually live in the centre, while you can add interest by panning other elements a little, or a lot, off to either side.

other elements a little, or a lot, off to either side. i i b dl f
i i b dl f
i
i
b
dl
f

you

are working with a

mix

engineer, they can

Cubase 7’s new MixConsole brings together a range of tools and features in a single window, making managing mixes easier than ever.

usually offer valuable

insight into getting a great

mix, with experience and a

fresh set of ears – yours

will probably have been

listening to the track for months already. There is a third option

that has become

increasingly popular as laptops have become more powerful and widely used for serious music

production, and that’s to take your computer and plumb it in to the studio’s hardware. You can do this with a desktop of course, but it’s much easier with a laptop. The idea is that you retain editability and get to use your own plug-in collection, but can also use the studio’s outboard gear and monitors for mixing. There is one caveat, which is that you will need an audio interface with as many outputs as you have tracks that need to be fed to the hardware mixer. So if you have 24 tracks, you’ll need 24 separate outputs in order to use 24 separate hardware mixer channels. This can be a limiting factor since it’s generally only the higher-end models that have lots of physical outputs. You can get around this by using an interface with an ADAT option, which carries multiple channels optically, and also by submixing certain tracks like drums or backing vocals inside your computer, meaning they only need to be fed to a single stereo output pair. This can be fiddly because it introduces even more volume control stages into the signal path, so it’s worth asking yourself if you

might not be better off simply exporting audio stems and working entirely on the studio’s equipment. Whether you end up mixing in a home or professional studio, there are some good general rules to observe, regardless of the type of music you are

working with. The first is that you should go in prepared to mix, not to tinker with arrangements. Of course, there will be times when the odd tweak or minor overdub needs to be made and that’s fine, but don’t go into mixing expecting to have to move sections of songs around – your attention should be focused on the sound, not the structure. Your listening environment is crucial. If you are mixing in a less than perfect space, like a home studio, be aware of its flaws. People do produce great records in spare bedrooms but usually only because they know that the bass response or the stereo imaging is wrong and needs to be compensated for. Audio analysis tools like plug-ins from Blue Cat Audio can be invaluable in helping you to combat the acoustics of a bad room, by showing you what’s going on with your audio before it has even been passed to the speakers. If you are in a space like this, testing your mixes on other systems is absolutely vital, since it will quickly reveal if, for example, your monitors are under or over-emphasising the bass, or if the vocals get lost when played on a hi-fi.

You should go into the studio prepared to mix, not to tinker with your arrangements

prepared to mix, not to tinker with your arrangements Retain a sense of perspective There’s a
prepared to mix, not to tinker with your arrangements Retain a sense of perspective There’s a

Retain a sense of perspective

There’s a very physical side to mixing too, related to the tolerance of your brain to repeated listening of the same track. Be prepared to listen to a track tens, if not hundreds, of times while mixing it. It’s all too

MTF Pro Technique Files and formats You will almost certainly be working on a Mac
MTF Pro Technique
Files and formats
You will almost certainly be working on a Mac or PC
to create your music, and the mixing studio where
you do your work is likely to be doing the same, if
they are not running a custom recording setup like
Radar. If you are going to move your project to
another studio to mix it you will need to find out
what format they need the files in, since this can
head off the problems of turning up with a bunch of
files that won’t load onto their system.
Macs tend to use AIFF files and PCs prefer WAV
files. However, if in doubt you should export in WAV
format, since this is pretty much guaranteed to be
supported on any system, whereas AIFF is not. You
should be working in at least CD quality and
preferably higher, though this will depend on your
needs. 44.1kHz or 48kHz is standard, and many
systems now support up to 96kHz or even 192kHz.
There’s no point in upsampling however, as it adds
only file size, not quality. So if you’re working at one
of those sample rates, export your stems using the
same sample rate. 16-bit is the minimum bit rate
acceptable and you should probably be at 24-bit or
maybe even 32-bit. Again, upping the bit rate on
export will make no practical difference to your
audio quality.
It’s important to name your tracks properly prior
to export, as the resulting files will inherit the track
names assigned in your project. When you load your
stems onto the target system, you really don’t want
a load of files called “track 1”,“audio track 12” and
so on as you’ll only have to solo and label each one
manually. Correct naming will avoid confusion and
headaches at the mix stage.
Export your stems using the same settings at which you have
been working. This information can be found in your DAW.

8 | Mixing 2013

using the same settings at which you have been working. This information can be found in

focus

using the same settings at which you have been working. This information can be found in

Mixing from scratch Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step

Subgrouping drums for mixing

 
MTF Step-by-Step Subgrouping drums for mixing   01 CREATING A GROUP TRACK Here is a multitracked
MTF Step-by-Step Subgrouping drums for mixing   01 CREATING A GROUP TRACK Here is a multitracked
MTF Step-by-Step Subgrouping drums for mixing   01 CREATING A GROUP TRACK Here is a multitracked
01
01

CREATING A GROUP TRACK

Here is a multitracked drum kit which we are going to mix, but will be easier to handle if we submix it, then assign it to a group. Start by creating a group track in your DAW. Here in Cubase it is done using a right-click or the Add Track menu. From the resulting window, select a stereo track, as we want to group the drums to stereo.

02
02

REASSIGNING OUTPUT ROUTING

Next, name the group track and then go to the first drum track and reassign its output routing from the main stereo out to the drum group. Repeat this for all other drum tracks and you will find them all playing through the drum group channel. Alter the individual drum levels to balance the kit, and move the drum group fader to change the kit level in the main mix.

03
03

ADDING INSERT EFFECTS

As well as being able to change the kit level using the group channel fader, you can apply processing to the whole kit at once by adding insert effects to it. Here, a compressor has been added to compress the entire kit. You can also shape the kit’s sound using EQ and other tools on the group channel, as well as retaining editability on each individual drum channel.

easy to lose perspective and start to believe that a

mix is terrible, or that those tweaks you made to the

drum sound have had a negative impact. Of course, these things may be true, but after several hours of

listening to the same track it gets very hard to tell. Take breaks regularly, and don’t commit to saying

that a mix is finished until the next day if possible.

It’s common to leave the studio at night with doubts about the day’s mixes, then come back in the morning with fresh ears and realise they actually sound great. Comparing your mixes with commercial tracks is

another really important thing to do. You might think

you mix is sounding good but then fire up a

comparable track off a CD and realise you don’t have enough stereo width, or that your bass end needs tightening up. Bringing comparison and context to mixing sessions helps keep you focussed and assists

you with making the right call on mix decisions.

Remember also that the commercial track will have been mastered, and yours hasn’t yet. So you shouldn’t be pushing for absolute volume at the mix stage, but rather aiming for a good balance and blend of elements and a decent overall level. Limiting, widening and overall EQ will be added during mastering but that’s not something to worry about too much while mixing; just focus on the task at hand.

about too much while mixing; just focus on the task at hand. Tech Terms ●  
about too much while mixing; just focus on the task at hand. Tech Terms ●  

Tech Terms

AUTOMATION Changing parameters like volume, pan or effects over time. Much easier usIng software than hardware. Best used sparingly.

BUSS COMPRESSION Applying gentle compression to the whole output of a track with the aim of making it ‘glue’ together and sound balanced and coherent.

Beats mixing

You

can get now down to the business of starting to

mix

your track. You will almost certainly have a good

working mix going anyway, as most people tweak

and mix as they go along, while they are editing and

arranging. Mixdown is where you make the final decisions. If you are mixing in the box you may

already be pretty close to where you need to be. If

you have exported stems to mix in a studio, a little

more re-balancing is often necessary. There’s no hard and fast rule about where you start, but it makes a lot of sense to start with the

You shouldn’t be pushing for absolute volume at the mix stage, but rather a good balance

absolute volume at the mix stage, but rather a good balance drums, since they generally form
absolute volume at the mix stage, but rather a good balance drums, since they generally form

drums, since they generally form the backbone of

any track. If you have used drum loops or samples,

they will most likely be fairly well balanced within

themselves already, and your control over them will be limited to using EQ and compression to draw certain frequencies in or out of the signal. If you have beats being generated by a virtual instrument, like Battery, BFD, BPM, Maschine or something similar, it will have an onboard mixer, complete with faders, panners and effects that you

can use to submix the drum sound. There is also

usually an option to route any of the channels out from the instrument to separate audio channels so

they can be processed independently. This would be

a

good way, for example, to take a snare part and run

it

through a hardware effect like a Space Echo. This

Using master buss compression prior to mastering can help to cut down on the amount of processing that is necessary later, but it’s entirely optional.

is even possible when you are working in the box, as most higher end DAWs have the ability to incorporate external effects on a send channel with delay compensation.

DAWs have the ability to incorporate external effects on a send channel with delay compensation. focus

focus Mixing 2013 | 9

MTF Technique Mixing from scratch same kit, it’s not track-heavy single ele If your drums

MTF Technique Mixing from scratch

same kit, it’s not track-heavy single ele
same kit, it’s not
track-heavy single ele
from scratch same kit, it’s not track-heavy single ele If your drums are real, they will

If your drums are real,

they will probably occupy

a number of channels

across the mixer, with one mic per channel, and invariably some bleed between the various mics. Bleed is a natural part of drum recording and not really a problem unless the mics have been poorly set up when recording. Since the drum channels

all contain a recording of the same kit, it’s not

usually an issue if there’s a bit of the snare on the

tom track, or a bit of the floor tom in the hi-hat track

– drum mics tend to be very directional anyway. If it

bothers you, or the bleed is genuinely interfering, you can use gating on certain tracks to ensure that the track only sounds when that drum is struck. This works best for sharp, percussive sounds like the snare or higher toms, and can be used to tighten up the sound of the kit. Use a gate effect to keep the channel silent except for when the noise level crosses a threshold. You will want to use a very fast attack so that the gate opens quickly when a drum is hit, and a slightly slower release to allow for the natural sustain of the drum sound. Find a threshold setting where the gate opens quickly and only re-closes after the sound has tailed off. To find this point you will need to solo up the drum in question in order to be able to get it just right. If you do end up gating a few drums, be sure to listen to the whole

De-essing can be helpful on sibilant vocals, and splashy cymbal sounds. To deal with plosives, try multiband compression.

kit again, in case the cumulative effect of the various gates is to drain the life and ambience out of the overall sound.

Join the group

Drums tend to be the most

track-heavy single element of any production, often

occupying between six and ten channels, in comparison to one for bass, and a couple each for vocals or guitars. As such, they are a prime candidate for grouping, meaning sending them all to a group that is controlled by a single fader or stereo pair. The idea of grouping is to simplify your mix, and it can be applied to any sound where multiple elements are meant to work as one, such as backing vocals or groups of orchestral instruments. The aim is to balance the group of sounds within

itself, so as to get a great drum sound or choir sound, and then assign those channels to a group channel so that the whole group can be brought up or down in the main mix simply by using a couple of faders. If you’re having to alter eight drum faders just to make the whole kit quieter, you’re likely to mess up your drum sound fairly quickly. By grouping them, the risk is much less. Although software allows you to create as many group tracks as you like, there’s not much point in grouping just two channels. Increasingly, DAWs also have advanced track linking options so submixing is getting to be more of a hardware-centric technique. It’s more or less a given that drums need to be punchy, so you will need to compress the kick and snare at the very least, and probably apply some compression to every drum. Individual drums, like the snare and cymbals can benefit from a little reverb, though the kick should be kept solid, dry and central in the stereo field. If you do pan any drums, it may be the splashy top-end cymbals. Even then it’s rare to hard pan drums; you might instead choose to just pan them a little off to the left and right to create more of a sense of space. Use EQ to work on each individual drum, shaping its frequencies to better tune the overall sound of the kit. You might pull the top end off the kick, for example, to make it more dubby, or emphasise the upper mids to make it more rocky. A snare can be made to ‘crack’ more sharply by rolling off some bottom end and pushing the highs, or it can be made more meaty by bolstering the lower mids. Hi-hats need to cut through a mix and again this is often done by emphasising the most attacking frequencies. If your toms are too boomy, rein in the lower frequencies and use EQ to make ambient room mics more or less prominent. As well as processing each individual drum you can apply processing to the whole kit, either by placing effects across a group channel or, in the case

by placing effects across a group channel or, in the case Tech Terms ●   SIDECHAINING

Tech Terms

SIDECHAINING Using the audio output of one track, often a kick drum, to trigger greater compression being applied to another, often the bassline.

A/B’ING Comparing effect treatments, or comparing your mix in progress with commercially produced material to get a better idea of how your version is going.

MTF Pro Technique

Pre-mastering

MTF Pro Technique Pre-mastering

As we have noted, mixing is about balancing all the elements of a track together and placing every sound source perfectly so that it is not too quiet or loud, and not fighting with other sounds for space in the soundstage. This is easy to say, but in practice requires judgement, patience and, above all, a good ear. It’s important to remember that your mixdown isn’t

the

comes after mastering. So while it may be tempting to strap a limiter across your

stereo outs to add some power to the mix, it’s rarely a good idea. Separating the

final incarnation of your file; that only

Some gentle buss compression applied on mixdown can help to ‘glue’ your sound together.

mix

and mastering stages helps you to retain perspective and has other benefits

too,

like allowing you to send the mixdown to a number of different mastering

facilities, for example. During mastering you will compress, EQ, limit and perhaps add stereo widening, but some people like to perform pre-mastering at the mix stage. This mainly involves adding some buss compression to the mix, placing a stereo buss compressor across the master stereo outs of a project in order to ‘glue’ the

sound together and add coherence. It’s not about adding volume; that comes later with limiting. But some gentle buss compression, correctly set up, can magically make a track come together and mean that you have to apply less compression during mastering. Other processing like EQ and limiting should be reserved for the mastering process, and you should leave a little time between finishing mixdown and starting mastering.

10 | Mixing 2013

process, and you should leave a little time between finishing mixdown and starting mastering. 10 |

focus

Mixing from scratch Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step

Multiband bass compression

 
MTF Step-by-Step Multiband bass compression   01 SYNTH BASS COMPRESSION Bass invariably needs
MTF Step-by-Step Multiband bass compression   01 SYNTH BASS COMPRESSION Bass invariably needs
MTF Step-by-Step Multiband bass compression   01 SYNTH BASS COMPRESSION Bass invariably needs
01
01

SYNTH BASS COMPRESSION

Bass invariably needs compression on any track, but synth bass can be problematic, especially when it contains a wide range of tones from low to high. Typically, a single band compressor may not deal well enough with the whole frequency range, either sapping too much energy or allowing too much boom through at different ends. Try a multiband compressor to deal with it.

02
02

BOTTOM END COMPRESSION

This is specific to your bass sound and pattern, but often you might want to dial in more compression at the bottom end to tame the boomy part of the sound, while leaving the upper range more flat or with just a small amount of compression. You can alter the boundaries between the frequency bands to better account for the particular sound you are working with.

03
03

SIDECHAIN COMPRESSION

You can also use a sidechain compressor to achieve the pumping bass effect associated with dance music. Assign the input from a kick drum to trigger the compressor and set the frequency accordingly. Used with less extreme settings, sidechaining is a good way to make space for competing elements in a mix, like bass track and kick drum, without turning either one down manually.

of a loop or virtual instrument, as an insert across its audio output channel. This can be a good way of quickly changing the whole drum sound, to make it appear to be distant, for example, or crunchy, filtered or delayed. Some more conventional plug-ins, like compressors or EQ modules, have drum presets, so you don’t have to only use special effects here; you can use it as a technique for more general mixing. It’s worth paying some attention to the individual drum sounds first, but you may find that processing the whole kit in stereo saves a lot of time.

Big bottom end

The bass is the other part of a track’s foundation, so it is often the part you will turn to next. Solo it up and have a listen to how it’s working. Like every other element of the track, you will have to work on it both in isolation and then back in the context of the track. Something that sounds great when solo’ed up may not sound good with everything else playing at the same time. Mixing is about the track as a whole, so don’t worry if something sounds a bit odd on its own, as long as it sounds perfect in the context of the track.

By understanding bussing and routing you can take better control of a mix. Insert effects are vital for shaping and processing individual tracks.

are vital for shaping and processing individual tracks. Compression and EQ are usually the two main

Compression and EQ are usually the two main things to watch with bass, and maybe sometimes incorporated within saturation or amp simulation to crunch it up a little. EQ should stay centred in the stereo field, since the bottom end of a track is where the weight and energy lives; splitting this off to one side seriously compromises the overall sound. Again, the type of bass sound will determine your treatment. A rock bass might be quite pick-heavy and so need a decent top end and upper mid, whereas a fat dance bass sound might be bigger and rounder. As far as compression goes, you can use it to prevent the bass from booming too much in its lower reaches, while ensuring that it doesn’t lose energy if it gets higher. Compression can iron out the differences between the louder and quieter parts of a sound – this is especially important for bass, since lower sounds carry more energy and, without compression, can overwhelm the rest of the mix. Electronic bass sounds can be especially problematic because waveforms can generate very large, powerful signals which cannot be sufficiently tamed by a simple, single band compressor. In these cases you can use a multiband compressor to apply different levels of processing to the lower, middle and higher parts of the bass sound, or use sidechaining, if available, to make the compressor respond to only specific frequency bands. You should watch for conflicts between the kick drum and bass track, since both occupy the bottom end of the sonic spectrum. Sidechaining is often used to achieve the pumping effect in a lot of dance music, whereby the kick drum triggers compression of the bass track. Used to a less extreme extent, it can help to blend the two together, in conjunction with clever and careful EQ’ing.

Guitar mixing

Where you go after drums and bass depends on what’s in your track, but for many people this will be

you go after drums and bass depends on what’s in your track, but for many people

focus Mixing 2013 | 11

MTF Technique Mixing from scratch electric guitars. These typically occupy the middle and upper ranges

MTF Technique Mixing from scratch

MTF Technique Mixing from scratch electric guitars. These typically occupy the middle and upper ranges of
MTF Technique Mixing from scratch electric guitars. These typically occupy the middle and upper ranges of

electric guitars. These typically occupy the middle and upper ranges of a track and as such it’s important not to let them interfere with the vocals,

which do the same.

Electric guitars will usually benefit from compression, since they are quite loud – where there are several parts layered together, you can use EQ to make them fit rather than fighting for the same space. People often get creative with guitars at the mix stage – they can be panned around and effected more freely than other sounds. For indie music and rock, your guitars will probably need to be big, so you can experiment with tricks like double tracking them: duplicating the same part and then panning each one slightly left and right to thicken up the texture. You may also add amp or speaker simulations to bring more depth to guitar parts, and perhaps gating to silence amp buzz or hiss when there’s no signal. If you have recorded your guitar amps in stereo, watch out for phasing issues that can harm the strength of the signal. A simple phase meter plug-in will reveal any problems.

A simple phase meter plug-in will reveal any problems. Tech Terms ●   DYNAMICS Effects that

Tech Terms

DYNAMICS Effects that change the volume or intensity of sound, such as compression, limiting and gating.

PATCHBAY

A

hardware interface found

in

studios for routing sound

sources and effects into the

main mixing desk.

Bass and drum tracks, or indeed any track where single band compression isn’t doing the trick, can benefit from sidechaining.

having pretty clean, strong signal. Virtual instruments, synths or workstations never actually play their sounds into the real world:

they just go straight to the recording. As such they don’t have any specific requirements, apart from the general rules we have already looked at. Some compression may be required to make them sit nicely in the mix, and a little EQ will stop them fighting for space with other keys, guitars or vocals. Keyboard sounds run the gamut from very low to very high, so that’s something you will have to bear in mind. You can pan them around and add delays, reverb and other effects if required. One thing that can be useful with virtually generated keyboard sounds is to add reverb or space simulation and perhaps also some tape saturation, or very slight distortion, to make them sound more ‘real’, if that’s something you’re after. Real sounds, as in actual pianos, are much more complex to work with and getting a good sound comes mainly from mic’ing the piano up properly in the first place, which is an art form in itself. You will end up either with two or three separate tracks for the bass, middle and top ends of the piano, or one track onto which all three signals have been recorded. A bad piano sound is extremely difficult to rescue in the mix so you will be much better off concentrating on getting a really good take in the first place. With that much achieved, you should only really have to compress a little, EQ a bit and perhaps add a little bit of ambience.

Work the keys

Keyboards are used in many very different kinds of music and, when the sounds are electronically generated, you will tend to start from a point of

Gettingagoodsoundfroma piano comes mainly from mic’ing it up properly in the first place

mainly from mic’ing it up properly in the first place MTF Step-by-Step Vocal processing   01

MTF Step-by-Step

Vocal processing

 
MTF Step-by-Step Vocal processing   01 SOLO’ING THE VOCAL You’ll want to start by solo’ing up
MTF Step-by-Step Vocal processing   01 SOLO’ING THE VOCAL You’ll want to start by solo’ing up
MTF Step-by-Step Vocal processing   01 SOLO’ING THE VOCAL You’ll want to start by solo’ing up
01
01

SOLO’ING THE VOCAL

You’ll want to start by solo’ing up the vocal, though it’s also important to periodically listen back in the context of the mix as you go along. This is a male vocal, so we immediately need to drop some of the bass end out of it to make it sit better in the mix. You will need to tweak the vocal EQ again in the context of the main mix later.

02
02

DE-ESSING

Now apply some de-essing. Here we are using the DAW’s built-in model, which does a good job of pulling down the sibilance based on a threshold setting. You can use an auto threshold, or set it manually and specify the amount of reduction you want. Be careful not to de-ess too much because it can suck the life out of a vocal and make it sound artificial.

03
03

AUTO-TUNING

There are other vocal tricks, like auto tuning, you can use during editing, and during mixing you might want to double track a vocal to add weight to it. To do this quickly, try adding a doubler or cloner plug-in, which adds a second version of the vocal and lets you add slight delay and detune to make it sound like there are two versions of the vocal.

12 | Mixing 2013

lets you add slight delay and detune to make it sound like there are two versions

focus

Mixing from scratch Technique MTF

Mixing from scratch Technique MTF MTF Step-by-Step Electric guitar mixing tricks   01 AMP SIMULATORS

MTF Step-by-Step

Electric guitar mixing tricks

 
MTF Step-by-Step Electric guitar mixing tricks   01 AMP SIMULATORS Here’s a project with a single
MTF Step-by-Step Electric guitar mixing tricks   01 AMP SIMULATORS Here’s a project with a single
MTF Step-by-Step Electric guitar mixing tricks   01 AMP SIMULATORS Here’s a project with a single
01
01

AMP SIMULATORS

Here’s a project with a single electric guitar track recorded. Let’s say at mixdown you decide it needs to sound bigger, but aren’t able to do any overdubs. You can begin by adding a little warmth using an amp simulator plug-in, compression or distortion to the original track. If your original recording has lots of crunch already you may want to skip this step.

02
02

DUPLICATING GUITARS

A simple trick to fatten up guitars is simply to duplicate them and then pan them slightly, or give each one a different effect treatment. Select the track and choose to duplicate it, at which point the effects will be duplicated as well. You could choose to change the effects connected to the duplicated rack, or change the settings on the existing duplicated effect.

03
03

PANNING GUITARS

Now, in the mixer, pan one of the guitar channels a little to the left and the other to the right. You may need to drop their faders a little, since although they are now panned off centre, there are two instead of one, so their overall volume may be too loud. If you want to get really creative you could automate the panning of the guitars or their effect settings so they change over time.

Vocal mixing

Vocals are a vital part of many productions and they may well be the last thing you come to when you are mixing a track – many people find it’s better to get all the music nailed down first and the vocal last, as they are quite different to the other sounds. That’s not to say that bringing vocals in won’t necessitate some tweaking of other sounds, because it might. Vocals tend to occupy a similar frequency range to guitars, keyboards and some orchestral instruments, so you can find yourself going back to the guitars, for example, and backing off some of their mid range to make space for the vocals, which are often more ‘important’ to the listener. You can employ automation to achieve this, so that when there’s no vocal the guitars come back to the fore, then back off again when the singing starts. Automation is actually a really handy tool for making more dynamic mixes and dealing with frequency conflict issues, though it’s easier to work with inside a DAW than on many lower-end hardware setups. The key to mixing a vocal well is to make it audible and upfront, but also to make it sound like it sits in the mix properly. Once again, the trick here is

it sits in the mix properly. Once again, the trick here is to use compression and

to use compression and EQ. Compression applied at gentle to moderate settings should help to even out the levels of a vocal so that quieter and louder sections sound less wildly different, and if your vocalist has moved slightly towards or away from the mic during a performance, it should be less noticeable. Male vocals will often need a lot of the bottom end taken out in order to place the vocal within the soundstage; female vocals may need some

high end taming. Both usually sit mainly in the lower or upper mid ranges, and benefit from a little reverb

– though not too much as it can get washy. If reverb

Vocals may need to be gated, to mutebleedfromheadphones,and perhaps de-essed

be gated, to mutebleedfromheadphones,and perhaps de-essed Multi-output virtual instruments like drum machines usually
be gated, to mutebleedfromheadphones,and perhaps de-essed Multi-output virtual instruments like drum machines usually

Multi-output virtual instruments like drum machines usually allow you to route and process each of their many channels separately for greater flexibility.

isn’t working, try a little short delay – a trick used extensively in rap. Vocals may also need to be gated, to mute bleed from headphones, and perhaps de-essed. De-essing is a specific form of compression that only acts on the sibilant parts of the signal. Use it carefully. If your vocal takes contain plosives – ‘b’ or ‘p’ sounds where air has blasted onto the mic diaphragm – you may be able to lessen the effect of these by using a high pass filter or a multiband compressor to identify and pull down only the low frequencies that are resulting from the plosives. As we have remarked, every track will require a

treatment specific to its style and to your goals for it. But with the general rules and considerations we have looked at, you stand a much better chance of avoiding mistakes and of getting a great mix. Invest

a little time and patience in working on your tracks and, with a good ear, there’s no reason your mixes can’t sound great. MTF

on your tracks and, with a good ear, there’s no reason your mixes can’t sound great.

focus Mixing 2013 | 13

MTF Workshop Understanding stereo Logic Pro 9 Workshop U n d e r s t

MTF Workshop Understanding stereo

Logic Pro 9 Workshop

Logic Pro 9

Workshop

Understanding&

exploringstereo

On the disc
On the disc

It’s easy to overlook the stereo qualities of a mix, and Logic has some useful tools for better defining your soundstage. Mark Cousins has the lowdown.

W ithout stereo, the world of music would be a considerably more one- dimensional experience. However, despite stereo being such an important component of a successful mix, it’s

amazing how many of us – myself included – take it for granted. Scratch beneath the surface, though, and you’ll soon find that Logic has a range of tools that enable you to evaluate, refine and control the stereo image to create a realistic and engaging left-to-right soundstage. Equally, it’s also worth taking a few moments to consider the phenomenon of ‘stereo’, and what precisely we’re trying to achieve by feeding sounds to two speakers rather than one.

PRO TIP If you’re intrigued by the possibilities of M/S processing, take a look at
PRO TIP
If you’re intrigued by the
possibilities of M/S
processing, take a look at
Brainworx’s bx_control V2
plug-in. The bx_control is an
advanced M/S matrixing tool
that can turn any of Logic’s
plug-ins into M/S processors.
Just place the bx_control at
the beginning and end of the
plug-in chain – everything
between it works in M/S mode.

MultiMeter plug-in. In short, the Goniometer is a form of two-channel oscilloscope that provides a visual guide to both the phase and stereo qualities of a mix. Unless you’re in a perfectly treated control room, the Goniometer is essential for understanding how stereo works, and, in the example of this Workshop, how the mixing decisions we make influence the final output. The Goniometer is currently placed across the main stereo output, which is being fed by two instances of Ultrabeat routed to buss 1. Playing back the song reveals a completely monaural mix of the drum and snare, which is indicated by the strong central line in the middle of the Goniometer’s display. Add some reverb to the snare, using the instance of Space Designer patched across buss 2. Notice how the display ‘dances’ in response to the stereo information generated by the reverb. Even with the monitors turned off, therefore, we can gauge some important information about the mix, particularly in relation to the instrumentation’s positioning and the selective use of reverb. 2

positioning and the selective use of reverb. 2 1 Take to the stage Rather than focusing
1
1

Take to the stage

Rather than focusing on one plug-in in Logic, this Workshop will take a broad look at a number of tools that impact on the ‘stereo-ness’ of your mix. To best understand what’s going on, though, we first need to explore the Goniometer options as part of the

Logic has a range of tools that enable you to evaluate, refine andcontrol thestereoimage range of tools that enable you to evaluate, refine andcontrolthestereoimage

Down the pan

Turn off the reverb for now as we’re going to explore how the pan pot can control and influence the stereo image. Using the pan control on the first two channels, therefore, slowly reposition the kick and snare so that they’re hard-left and hard-right respectively. On the Goniometer, you should have seen the two instruments slowly move from the middle to either the left- or right-hand sides of the display, and you should now also be able to discern some of the sonic differences between the two sounds (this will help later on, visualising the impact of our mixing decisions). 3

on, visualising the impact of our mixing decisions). 3 2 The Goniometer is currently placed across
2
2

The Goniometer is currently placed across the main stereo output, which is being fed by two instances of Ultrabeat routed to buss 1.

1
1

14 | Mixing 2013

the main stereo output, which is being fed by two instances of Ultrabeat routed to buss

focus

Understanding stereo Workshop MTF

Understanding stereo Workshop MTF 3 4 5 Using the pan control on the first two channels,
3
3
4 5
4
5

Using the pan control on the first two channels, slowly reposition the kick and snare so that they’re hard-left and hard-right respectively.

so that they’re hard-left and hard-right respectively. In effect, what we’ve created here is a form

In effect, what we’ve created here is a form of stereo signal on buss 1, with the two instruments sitting at the two extremes of the soundstage. Of course, whenever you select a stereo audio track (or stereo virtual instrument) you’re effectively starting at the same point, although the precise makeup of the stereo image will vary (you might be dealing with just a touch of internal reverb, for example, or a collection of samples captured with a pair of stereo mics). What’s interesting to note, though, is how the pan pot, as simple as it is, influences the representation of this stereo signal. To hear the results, therefore, try moving the pan control on buss 1 while listening to the output and watching the movements on the Goniometer. What should be apparent is that the pan control doesn’t pan as such, but instead changes the relative levels of the left and right channels. Pull the pan to the left, therefore, and the snare gets gradually quieter and vice versa. At extremes, of course, the snare or kick (depending on which way you pan) will be completely removed, which may or may not be a good thing. 4

completely removed, which may or may not be a good thing. 4 The real world Thinking

The real world

Thinking this behaviour through, it’s easy to see both pros and cons to the pan pot’s influence on the stereo signal. In the real world, of course, this operation is much the same as what you’d hear in real life, with a greater emphasis on one instrument as you moved to either side of the soundstage (although, of course, you’d still hear the room ambience and a small proportion of the opposite side). However, if you’re panning a stereo piano sample that has a left-to-right positioning on the keys, the logic doesn’t carry through so well. In this case, the pan pot changes not only the instrument’s position on the stage, but also the relative balance of the left- and right-hand keys (the low and high notes, in other words), which could lead to some unforeseen musical deficiencies. So if we don’t like the behaviour of the pan pot, what other options do we have? Well, one simple but slightly drastic solution is to use the Gain plug-in, found under the Utilities and Tools folder. By mono’ing our signal before we pan it, we negate any relative level changes across the two channels. Of course, the cost of this action is that the stereo interplay between left and right is lost, but as we move to one side of the soundstage,

the signal becomes increasingly mono anyway. In short, therefore, extreme left and right instruments may well benefit from being mono’ed first. 5 While we’ve got the Gain plug-in open, it’s probably worth noting some other important features relevant to stereo signals. Arguably the most useful one is the ability to swap the two channels of the stereo signal using the Swap L/R button. This is an absolute godsend if your Virtual Drummer plug-in is panned from the drummer’s perspective; going back to the piano example, if the keys are arranged as if you were sitting at the piano (for reference, music should generally be mixed from the listener’s perspective). There’s also the ability to switch the phase of the left- and right-hand channels, as well as the ability to adjust the L/R balance ahead of mono’ing the output. 6

to adjust the L/R balance ahead of mono’ing the output. 6 Image makeover Another way of
to adjust the L/R balance ahead of mono’ing the output. 6 Image makeover Another way of

Image makeover

Another way of controlling the stereo soundstage is, of course, to use Logic’s various forms of Imaging Processor, most notably the Direction Mixer. The Direction Mixer solves the previously noted problem about panning a sampled piano, enabling you to reposition the instrument but retain the balance between the upper and lower keys. You can see how the Direction Mixer works by instantiating it across buss 1 and using it as a replacement for the pan pot. As you move the Direction control to the left, for example, the snare moves with the kick drum, so that both signals are present in the left-hand speaker. At extremes, of

PRO TIP Technically speaking,the Stereo Spread tool is best used as a means of creating

PRO TIP

Technically speaking,the Stereo Spread tool is best used as a means of creating stereo information from a monaural sound source rather than increasing the width of an existing stereo signal.The plug-in works by dividing the frequency spectrum and then

placing the respective bands

on either side of the stereo soundstage. It’s an interesting tool,but something that shouldn’t be overused.

ds focus Mixing 2013 | 15
ds
focus Mixing 2013 | 15
the stereo soundstage. It’s an interesting tool,but something that shouldn’t be overused. ds focus Mixing 2013

MTF Workshop Understanding stereo

6
6

The Gain plug-in enables you to switch the phase of the left- and right-hand channels, as well as adjust the L/R balance ahead of mono’ing the output.

7
7

course, the signal effectively becomes mono, but we haven’t compromised the musical information carried in either channel. 7 The prowess of the Direction Mixer doesn’t begin and end with the Direction control. The Spread control is just as useful, either restricting the stereo width or expanding it. The reduction of the width is easy to understand, especially when using the Goniometer. Imagine our stereo buss fader as two mono faders, panned hard left and right. In the case of a reduction of the Spread, the control works in much the same way as pulling-in the pan controls, with the signal effectively becoming monaural when the parameter is at zero. 8

becoming monaural when the parameter is at zero. 8 Going wide While it might seem like
becoming monaural when the parameter is at zero. 8 Going wide While it might seem like

Going wide

While it might seem like a shame to restrict the width of stereo signal, the Spread control is a great way of rationing the use of the soundstage. In truth, overpopulating the extremes of the soundstage can create clutter. Indeed, it is said that there are three ‘golden positions’ in a mix – hard-left, centre, and hard-right – and that these three positions should be taken by a few select signals. As an example, I often find that the stereo delay sounds too wide (the taps are panned hard left and right by default), but a quick instance of the Direction Mixer will bring the output closer to around 11 and 1 o’clock respectively. 9 What’s trickier to understand, though, are the results of moving the Spread control outwards. In short, the Direction Mixer uses a form of M/S matrixing (for more

the Direction Mixer uses a form of M/S matrixing (for more A better understanding of stereo

A better understanding of stereo will ensure your mixes have the width anddimensiontheydeserve

ensure your mixes have the width anddimension theydeserve WANT MORE? Music Tech Focus:Logic Pro 9 Volume
WANT MORE?
WANT
MORE?
WANT MORE? Music Tech Focus:Logic Pro 9 Volume 3 is available now. Find out more at

Music Tech Focus:Logic Pro 9 Volume 3 is available now. Find out more at www.musictechmag. co.uk/mtm/focus

FREEINSIDE INCLUDING OVER 2 HOURS OF VIDEO TUITION LOGIC PRO9 THE IN-DEPTH GUIDE FOR THE
FREEINSIDE
INCLUDING OVER 2 HOURS OF VIDEO TUITION
LOGIC PRO9
THE IN-DEPTH GUIDE FOR THE CREATIVE MUSICIAN
ISBN 978-1-906925-39-0
VOLUME 3
ALL NEW
9 781906 925390
MusicTech Focus: Logic Pro 9 Volume 3
£8.99
ADVICE &
132
PAGES OF
WORKSHOPS
LOGICPRO
TIPS&TRICKS
FOR LOGIC
22 essential Logic Workshops
The very best plug-ins for Logic
Extending Logic with hardware
Controller & monitor Round Ups
Four industry pros interviewed
Compiled by the Logic Pro experts from Music Tech

information see MTM 85’s Ten Minute Master on middle-side mastering) to break a L/R signal into middle (centre) and side (stereo extremities) components. The easiest way to understand a wide spread is by mono’ing buss 1, re-instantiating the snare reverb, then instantiating the Direction Mixer on the main stereo fader. Now move between a width setting of 0 and 2.00. With Spread at 0, the mix is middle-biased, with just the mono components of the mix. Move to 2.00, though, and we hear just the extremities of the soundstage; in this case, the ‘sides’ of the reverb. 10

in this case, the ‘sides’ of the reverb. 1 0 Panoramic vision Although there’s plenty more

Panoramic vision

Although there’s plenty more to explore, this Workshop hopefully introduces some of the key issues in relation to stereo in Logic. Ultimately, the result of the Workshop could just be that you’re more informed about Logic’s pan control, but equally, by using the Goniometer and your ears you might start to be more inquisitive about the stereo information that a plug-in offers and how

this is best carried through into the mix. Either way, a

better understanding of stereo will ensure your mixes have the width and dimension they deserve. MTF

10 8 9 The easiest way to understand a wide spread is by mono’ing buss
10
8
9
The easiest way to understand a wide spread is by mono’ing buss 1,
re-instantiating the snare reverb, then instantiating the Direction
Mixer on the main stereo fader.
the snare reverb, then instantiating the Direction Mixer on the main stereo fader. 16 | Mixing

16 | Mixing 2013

the snare reverb, then instantiating the Direction Mixer on the main stereo fader. 16 | Mixing

focus

MTF Walkthrough Buss processing Production technique Step-by-Step Gettingstartedwith bussprocessing If you’re

MTF Walkthrough Buss processing

Production technique

Step-by-Step

Gettingstartedwith

bussprocessing

If you’re working with multiple channels and need a more efficient way of manipulating them, you need to get bussing. Mike Hillier shows you how.

channels have additional parallel or triggered sampled channels added to the feed these also need to be added to the respective buss groups – a parallel compressor on the snare will also need to be feeding the snare buss channel, while a triggered 808 kick will need to be feeding the kick buss channel.

B uss processing is one of the most useful techniques at your disposal for making a mix sit together. It can help sections of instruments to gel and work together as a whole, as well as simplifying the mix by giving

you direct control over entire groups from a single fader and providing you with a quick-and-easy way to carve notches out of whole groups of instruments to make room for another group. In a standard mix we often have several group busses running simultaneously – one for drums, one for guitars, one for vocals and another for FX. However, it is likely that within each of these groups we will also have created several busses. If, for example, we have multi-mic’ed a kick drum, we will buss these two (or three) mics to a single (usually mono) channel; the same for the snare top and bottom mics. The toms will go to a stereo channel; the two overhead mics will go to a stereo channel, as will room or ambience mics. Each of these in turn feed the stereo drums channel. If any of the

Routing a drums mix

Sticking with the drums example, this provides you with plenty of control over your mix. If the blend of Kick In to Kick Out isn’t right you can remedy this with the

Mostmixengineerswillemploy at least a stereo buss compressor on the Drums Buss

at least a stereo buss compressor on the Drums Buss individual channels feeding the buss; if

individual channels feeding the buss; if the kick is perfect but too loud in the mix you can bring it down on the buss channel without altering the balance of the two mics feeding it. You can also adjust the EQ of each mic, using the Kick In mic to get lots of top end from the beater while rolling off the lows, and the Kick Out mic to get the bottom end while rolling off the tops. You can

MTF Navigation

Buss processes

off the tops. You can MTF Navigation Buss processes a SUB-MIX BUSSING Even within a sub-mix
a
a

SUB-MIX BUSSING

Even within a sub-mix we will often buss individual tracks to single channels for greater control. Here you can see how we’ve bussed the two Kick channels into a single mono Kick buss, which in turn feeds the main Drums buss.

b
b
c
c

FROM BUSS TO STEM

The two drums busses – the primary one and the parallel one – are fed to an audio channel, which we will use as an additional buss, enabling us to control the level of the total drums mix without adjusting any of the balances. Once we’ve

finished our mix, we will record this channel down to act as a stem. finished
finished our mix, we will record this channel down to act as a stem.
finished our mix, we will record this channel down to act as a stem.
b
d
a
c
BUSS PROCESSING
BUSS PROCESSING

PARALLEL BUSSES

b d a c BUSS PROCESSING BUSS PROCESSING PARALLEL BUSSES d Just because you are grouping
d
d

Just because you are grouping channels into a buss doesn’t mean you can’t process individual channels. A combination of channel EQ and compression with buss processing can define a sound in far more creative ways than either one alone.

Parallel busses are great for smashing and then blending in with the primary clean buss. Here we’ve used a UAD Fairchild emulation to smash the drums buss, which we’ll blend in with the primary drums, using different amounts of the parallel channel in different sections of the track.

18 | Mixing 2013

drums, using different amounts of the parallel channel in different sections of the track. 18 |

focus

Buss processing Walkthrough MTF

MTF Step-by-Step

Sub-mixes & processing

MTF MTF Step-by-Step Sub-mixes & processing 01 Nesting busses within busses can get a little confusing,
01
01

Nesting busses within busses can get a

little confusing, but if you keep to a sensible system it should make your sessions easier to navigate and enable you to process channels together. Here we have bussed two mics on a kick drum (an AKG D112 inside the kick and a Shure SM7 outside the kick) to a single channel. This enables us to EQ and compress the channels individually and process them together with tape saturation.

individually and process them together with tape saturation. 02 Any nested groups will in turn be
individually and process them together with tape saturation. 02 Any nested groups will in turn be
02
02

Any nested groups will in turn be routed

to the main group buss, in this case the drums buss, but you could do the same with harmony instruments, routing acoustic guitars to a buss, electrics to another buss and then all of these to a Guitars buss. How you organise your session will depend not only on the instruments, but the role each of them plays – an acoustic guitar might be used more as percussion than for harmony, while an electric guitar part might be used more as a pad.

03
03

While Pro Tools 9 and 10 include

automatic delay compensation, earlier versions do not, and even in Pro Tools 9 you have only up to 4,095 samples. In this mix we have already gone over that figure, so be careful to check the amount of delay you are building up and if you need to, add short delay plug-ins to compensate. Otherwise you may suffer from phasing issues, which will make your mixes sound thin.

from phasing issues, which will make your mixes sound thin. 04 With a quick static mix
04
04

With a quick static mix of the various

levels of the parts that make up the buss done, add the buss compressor and adjust the settings so that it’s giving you just the sound you’re after. Here we’re using the UAD SSL G-Series Buss Compressor, which is a favourite of many mix engineers on drums.

which is a favourite of many mix engineers on drums. 05 With the buss compressor and
which is a favourite of many mix engineers on drums. 05 With the buss compressor and
05
05

With the buss compressor and any other dynamic processing in place on the buss,

06
06

Once you’ve got your full mix working,

you can use the sub-mixes you’ve

you

should find that the overall balance of your

created to build a quick stems mix of your

mix

changes slightly. Go back and readjust the

track. Simply route the output of each group

individual levels of the tracks feeding the buss to get the balance exactly how you want it. Remember at this stage that every adjustment to any fader will adjust the whole tonal balance. If the snare comes up in the mix and triggers the compressor it will reduce the level of all the other instruments at the same time.

buss to a new audio channel and hit record. Stems can be useful for going back and making adjustments to a mix in future, as well as being invaluable for remixing and for the dubbing mixer if you are lucky enough to get your music featured in a TV or film production.

even shape the two mics differently using gates, with a fast attack and release on the Kick In and slower attack and release settings on the Kick Out. Once bussed, you

can further shape these sounds. A saturation effect, like a tape emulation, can glue the sounds and make the kick punch as a single sound rather than two discrete channels. Similarly, a little compression across the kick can glue the sounds together, and different attack and release settings on the compressor can shape the overall sound in very different ways than if you compressed each sound separately. For the overheads and room mics, the advantage of grouping two separate mono mics into a single stereo channel is that you can process each of the mics

rate. Even slight changes in time and level will cause the two sides to be compressed differently, creating a stereo image that wobbles with the compression. The overall Drums Buss will then be made up from feeds of various other busses, so ensure that your bussing hasn’t introduced latency issues, which would create phasing problems in the mix. In most DAWs the software will compensate for latency, but be aware of this problem and make sure that you have any automatic delay compensation (ADC) turned on. If you don’t have ADC in your DAW, look into manual ways of re-aligning all of the channels using very short delay plug-ins. The Drums Buss itself is another place where you can add additional processing. Most mix engineers will

employ at least a stereo buss compressor on the Drums Buss, and by pushing the various levels into this processor you can shape your sound as a single unit. We find that a combination of subtle compression on each of the individual kit pieces and on the Drums Buss is better than pushing

PRO TIP Riding levels into a buss compressor will change the way in which the

PRO TIP

Riding levels into a buss compressor will change the way in which the compressor responds and can be a great way of creating movement in a track.To get your guitars sounding huge when the chorus kicks in without too

much change in tone, try riding the level up 2 or 3dB

identically to maintain the stereo image. Stereo

into the buss compressor. n o e uss compressor. eo henever
into the buss compressor.
n
o
e
uss compressor.
eo
henever

compressors will squash both sides equally whenever

the signal goes above the threshold, whereas were you to compress each side individually, you may find your stereo image compromised as the signal in one channel goes over the threshold at a different

stereo image compromised as the signal in one channel goes over the threshold at a different

focus Mixing 2013 | 19

MTF Walkthrough Buss processing

MTF Walkthrough Buss processing

either one too heavily. However, we know plenty of other engineers who prefer to rely

either one too heavily. However, we know plenty of other engineers who prefer to rely more heavily on the buss compressor across the drums for compression. Getting the master buss right is the final key to unlocking a great mix. However, many inexperienced engineers will often get this stage wrong, either by applying too much compression at this stage and ruining the mix, or by ignoring it completely and relying on the mastering engineer to compress the mix for them. If you really don’t feel comfortable compressing your master buss yourself, leaving it to the mastering engineer is an option – and it’s certainly better to do this than to over-compress and ruin it. However, compression can have a huge tonal impact on your overall mix, and leaving this decision up to someone else is putting a lot of faith in their decision. As well as compression, we might subtly colour the master buss with a tape-emulation plug-in such as Waves MPX or UAD ATR 102. You might also want to shape the overall tone with an EQ. However, don’t try to

PRO TIP If you are struggling to hear the difference between attack and release settings

PRO TIP

If you are struggling to hear the difference between attack and release settings on your compressor,crank the compressor threshold (or input) so that your compressor is really pumping and adjust from there.

your compressor is really pumping and adjust from there. MTF Step-by-Step Group and parallel processing master

MTF Step-by-Step

Group and parallel processing

master your track from the master buss; leave this for another stage and export the mix here unmastered.You can, if you wish, add a limiter for reference, but bounce an unlimited version for mastering from.

Set up before mixing

If you are going to be using buss processing, particularly compressors, it can be useful to think backwards when adding additional processors to the mix. We usually add a buss compressor to our master buss early in the mix process, as any changes to the overall balance will change the way in which the compressor responds and there’s little point carefully balancing all the channels in your mix only to then add a buss compressor and find that you have to go back and re-balance the channels. Similarly, when approaching a sub-mix we will usually decide early on if we need a compressor across the buss and add it before getting any internal balancing sorted, leaving any channel compression to last, once we’ve already heard the signal through both the sub-mix

we’ve already heard the signal through both the sub-mix 01 EQ isn’t a natural tool for
01
01

EQ isn’t a natural tool for busses, as in

most circumstances any EQ changes that you may want to make will be better achieved by digging into the individual channels themselves. However, if you want to carve a hole in the spectrum for the vocal or

other lead instrument it can often be quicker,

if more clumsy, to carve it out of the busses.

You can also use EQ before a compressor to get it to respond differently, then another EQ afterwards to correct for this change.

then another EQ afterwards to correct for this change. 02 Buss compression is a great way
02
02

Buss compression is a great way of gluing

a group of instruments together. Even a small amount of gain-reduction (less than 3dB) will get the instruments moving as one. Pick the right compressor for the elements in a group. We’re fans of VCA-style compressors such as the SSL G-Series and API 2500 for buss compression. FET compressors like the Urei 1178 have an aggressive sound, while vari-mu designs like the Fairchild 670 are sought-after for their smooth tone and strong low end.

are sought-after for their smooth tone and strong low end. 03 Tape, tube and transformer saturation
03
03

Tape, tube and transformer saturation

effects are great tools for subtly colouring busses. Be sure to add the colouration subtly, as it can quickly add up over the different busses and leave your mix sounding muddy and unprofessional. If you think you’re getting too much colour, either pull down the input on the plug-in or pull down the output of the preceding plug-in.

plug-in or pull down the output of the preceding plug-in. 04 You don’t have to rely
04
04

You don’t have to rely on a single

channel to get the sound you want from

a buss. Sometimes it can be useful to route

the same buss to the input of two or more channels and process each one differently. Parallel compression is a common use of this technique, blending one fairly clean channel with another that has been heavily compressed.You can then use the relative levels of each of these two channels to get the sound you want.

of each of these two channels to get the sound you want. 05 There are plenty
05
05

There are plenty of tricks other than

compression to use with parallel buss processing. Distortion is one of our favourites on all manner of sources including vocals, guitars, drums and synths.This lets you really crush the signal with your distortion effect to get a distinctive sound, but retain some clarity by balancing the distorted and clean channels. It’s usually useful to decide what range of the signal you want to distort as full-band distortion can sound muddy very quickly.

as full-band distortion can sound muddy very quickly. 06 Parallel processing has the problem of splitting
06
06

Parallel processing has the problem of

splitting the signal onto multiple faders, so to regain control of the sound from a single fader route the output of all the parallel busses into a further buss on another channel. You don’t need to add any additional processing on this channel, but it means that, again, once you have balanced your parallel channels you can bring them both up or down from a single fader without having to adjust the relative balance.

20 | Mixing 2013

can bring them both up or down from a single fader without having to adjust the

focus

Buss processing Walkthrough MTF

and master buss compressors. If you start by compressing the individual instruments you can get a great sound, which is then spoiled by the sub-mix and master-buss compressors. Working backwards you will only add compression to individual instruments that still need compression after passing through the two buss compressors and you will likely add less compression, creating a more dynamic and more interesting mix.

What goes where

While it might seem sensible to buss all instruments by type – placing the drums into one buss, the guitars into another, the backing vocals into another and so on – it can be useful to mix up the routing a little to get different instruments to gel together. For instance, routing the bass and kick to the same buss and applying some compression can help the two instruments to punch together as one and has a similar effect to sidechain compression in that the bass will be ducked every time the kick hits. This trick can be expanded across the whole

mix, creating busses for each of three or four groups, sorted by frequency content: low-end instruments in one, midrange instruments in one or two busses of their own, and high-end instruments in a final buss of their own. Don’t high- and low-pass filter the various busses, leave them full-band, as a bass instrument will most likely still have some high-range information that you want to keep. Adding compressors to each of these four bands creates a rough emulation of a multiband compressor, but is much easier to control and can be pushed harder without sounding unnatural as each compressor is acting on the full-band information of those instruments. Buss processing can make mixing a much easier task, giving you control over groups of instruments from a single fader, but it also opens up a whole world of creative possibilities, helping you to make better mixes. Experiment with different EQs, compressors and saturation effects to see which of your tools works best on each buss – they’re not always the same ones you’d use on similar ungrouped instruments. MTF

MTF Step-by-Step

Master buss processing

MTF MTF Step-by-Step Master buss processing 01 While mastering can be done from within a session
01
01

While mastering can be done from

within a session on the master buss, we recommend that you bounce your mix. If you are mastering yourself, do it from a new session. However, it can be useful to shape your mix from the master buss before you get to the mastering stage. A quality outboard processor is great at this stage for adding colour across the whole mix. Plug-ins

are available too, including the excellent (free) Softube Saturation effect.

including the excellent (free) Softube Saturation effect. 04 Just like our sub-mix busses, you don’t have
04
04

Just like our sub-mix busses, you don’t

have to have only one master buss. You can create multiple stereo aux busses to act as parallel master busses and route your audio to these before going out to the stereo outs. This enables you to do all the parallel compression and distortion tricks you would use on an instrument or sub-mix to your master buss.

would use on an instrument or sub-mix to your master buss. 02 We like to mix
02
02

We like to mix into a buss compressor as

part of our master processing as this can have a huge effect on the tonal balance, colour and dynamics of a mix. We like to use a fairly slow attack so as not to cut off any of the transients and tend to rely on a compressor’s Auto release mode, which will follow the dynamics of the track rather than a set level. We can always fine-tune this later

once we have more of a handle on the tempo of the track, but it’s a great starting point.

the tempo of the track, but it’s a great starting point. 05 Stereo widening is probably
05
05

Stereo widening is probably best left to

mastering, especially if you are going to send your masters to a mastering house as they will likely have some dedicated tools. However, to get some sounds it can be useful to use stereo-widening tools followed by additional processing (EQ and compression) in parallel with your primary master buss. Here we’re using Flux Stereo Tool to add width to our master buss before rolling off the low end to

create a greater sense of width in the top.

the low end to create a greater sense of width in the top. 03 EQ is
03
03

EQ is something we usually leave until

the mastering stage, but as many modern mixes tend towards a bright top end, it can be useful to add a little ‘air’ to the master buss to save yourself from having to add it to every channel individually as you mix. There are some superb air-band-type EQs available, as well as some high- frequency enhancers if your source material

lacks top end from which to boost.

if your source material lacks top end from which to boost. The final processor is usually

The final processor is usually a limiter. If you are bouncing a reference track forif your source material lacks top end from which to boost. the artist it can be

the artist it can be useful to process through

a limiter so it roughly reaches the level of commercial tracks, but bounce another

version of the mix without the limiter for your mastering engineer. They won’t be too happy

if the mix they are sent is already crushed as

not only does it limit what they can achieve in

limiting, it also restricts what they can achieve with EQ and other mastering tools.

achieve in limiting, it also restricts what they can achieve with EQ and other mastering tools.

focus Mixing 2013 | 21

achieve in limiting, it also restricts what they can achieve with EQ and other mastering tools.
MTF Interview Tony Platt 22 | Mixing 2013 focus

MTF Interview Tony Platt

22 | Mixing 2013

MTF Interview Tony Platt 22 | Mixing 2013 focus

focus

Tony Platt Interview MTF

‘‘Being parachuted into the mixing stage in order to turn a mix around is a fairly flawed approach’

The MTF Interview

Tony Platt

flawed approach’ ’ The MTF Interview Tony Platt As he rolls into his 40th year in

As he rolls into his 40th year in the business, MTF asks this legendary recording and mix engineer about the key to achieving sonic success. Photography by Zen Inoya

S tarting his career as tea boy at Trident Studios, Tony Platt rapidly built a solid reputation as recording engineer on the successful Bob Marley & The Wailers album Catch A Fire in 1973. Before the decade was out he demonstrated his competence again, mixing the AC/DC release Highway To Hell. Since then he’s worked on timeless records for a variety

of artists, including Iron Maiden, Buddy Guy, Cheap Trick and many more. Having performed recording, mixing and production duties for a variety of projects, Tony is keen to talk to us about his methods for achieving a great mix. The first thing we want to know is what the mixing process is for him:“Well, there’s a tendency for people to think of mixing as a separate part of the music-making process. For me it isn’t, it’s actually part of a continuing process. The mix starts at the point you start to talk about arrangements and pre-production. At this point you’ll have had a conversation with the artist about the album they want to make and how they want it to sound. This informs the recording process, where you’ll collect the necessary audio information to be carried forward to the mixing and

mastering stages. The very beginning of the process allows you to establish a necessary dialogue with the artist, so you both know you are meaning the same thing when you say something like ‘I want this to be brighter’ and so on. Without that, the project can soon start to go awry. I’ve found that being parachuted into the mixing stage in order to turn a mix around is a fairly flawed approach. I’ve had to do this myself and the only time it works is if the material is already there with an existing framework already established. If you’ve got a less than good recording that’s not already pointing in the right direction you have to spend most of your time repairing and refocusing it, not spending your time on the creative side of things, which is probably why you’ve been asked to do it in the first place. It’s a waste of your time and their money.”

Mix and match

Tony has an example of how pre-production can affect the recording stage, which in turn heavily affects the mix. He tells us of a band he’s currently working with who are based in the sticks of north-west Canada. They needed some guidance to get their songs and sound in shape before the rest of the process began:“They started with hard rock songs that sounded similar to their heroes and the lyrics didn’t ring

started with hard rock songs that sounded similar to their heroes and the lyrics didn’t ring

focus Mixing 2013 | 23

started with hard rock songs that sounded similar to their heroes and the lyrics didn’t ring
MTF Interview Tony Platt

MTF Interview Tony Platt

true, as they were all about living in the city. So I tried to encourage

true, as they were all about living in the city. So I tried to encourage them to think about the whole thing differently. Three of the group are from Inuit families and they have lots of stories passed down to them from their forefathers. I explained to them how this would be really interesting to people listening to hard rock. Up until I met them they’d been rehearsing with everything cranked up, so I asked if they’d try working on acoustic guitars in order to make sure they were developing strong musical ideas first, before going loud. It was difficult for them at first and they had to start thinking of different types of chords and how the bass needed to underpin everything as well. After a few days they wanted to have a quick blast-out again with everything cranked so I said yes. The songs then really started to sound good and after 20 minutes they’d seen the results and went back to the acoustics again.They really embraced the approach and started to make songs that really represented them, with a sound that was much more original than they previously had. “On my second visit for pre-production we were really just adding touches to the songs, like deciding on playing in unison or at octaves apart for song sections and so on. This means by the time they record, it will be a simple process as we won’t be struggling with how we want it to sound and this then translates to the mix."

Rags to riches

Tony tells us about the humble setup for his first mixing gig on Catch A Fire by Bob Marley & The Wailers. He says he pretty much used just a few compressors and an echo plate. He then goes on to say, “The recordings were done in Jamaica and sounded absolutely fantastic, so you’d go with what the recordings had to offer you.”

MTF StudioEye

Strongroom Studios, London

a
a

PRISM SOUND ADA-8XR

We did a lot of interface testing when switching to using Pro Tools and decided on this. It gives us an absolutely rock-solid way in and out of our workstation. We were also impressed by the Lynx Aurora but that definitely added a character to things.

a
a
b
b

LYNX HILO

This is part of a test setup to capture my mixes at 192kHz on a separate computer. It runs directly out of the Neve summing mixer into here. I’m moving the computer to the machine room but the unit will stay here as it has handy interface settings and a nice VU metering.

b
b

‘‘Every time you start applying EQ and other bitsandpiecesyou riskdegradingthesound andshiftingthephase”

We then ask Tony for an example on how you can get a good recording in the first place. He shares a few tips with a modern example:“For mixing, one big lesson I’ve learnt is that 80–90 per cent of its sound comes from the studio floor. If you’re recording the sound that you want with the right mic and preamps you have to do very little else to it in the mix. The album I’m working on at the moment is mainstream jazz with Anthony Strong, recorded at Air-Edel Studios. We chose there because the resident piano was particularly good and I knew it was also an acoustically pleasant room to work in. I then proceeded to use some very good microphones to capture it. We chose musicians who already have a sound they know how to get and I only used EQ on two microphones when we

recorded. This was just to brighten-up the cymbals on the drums as the ceiling above was a little lower than I would have liked. When it came to the mix, this is where that planning was useful as we’re on a jazz budget so had little time for mixing, so the mix is pretty much pre-formed in the recordings and I haven’t done much in terms of EQ and

compression. In fact, if you look at the faders [on the project he has open on Pro Tools], they are pretty much lined up, barring a few because compression has brought up their level

a bit. Every time you start applying EQ, compression and other

bits and pieces you risk degrading the sound and shifting the phase. If you’re not careful you can be taking away from the sound you want it to be.”

Modern mixing

In Tony’s studio there are quite a few bits of gear and the

current jazz mixing session onscreen shows only the odd plug-in or two. We ask what his core essentials are for mixing in his modern setup:“What excites me about the tools now is how many are available to us. In a way it was much easier in the 70s and 80s as you had a limited selection of tools to use, so you’d make the best of them and your skill base was focused in a different place. Now there are not only loads of plug-ins to know about, there’s also lots of hardware. I think there’s more hardware now than there’s ever been. Compressors, summing amps etc are all being released on a regular basis. The biggest challenge in one respect is to know

Tony’s

best-of

Defining career

moments

24 | Mixing 2013

Tony’s best-of Defining career moments 24 | Mixing 2013 1971 | Luther Grosvenor Under Open Skies
1971 | Luther Grosvenor Under Open Skies This was the very first album I did

1971 | Luther Grosvenor Under Open Skies

This was the very first album I did all of the engineering on and it sounds terrible. At that point in a career almost everything is a learning experience and I learned a lot.

everything is a learning experience and I learned a lot. focus 1973 | Bob Marley &

focus

is a learning experience and I learned a lot. focus 1973 | Bob Marley & The

1973 | Bob Marley & The Wailers Catch A Fire

My most memorable experience of this was when I was visiting my home town and someone I knew shouted my name across the street and said they’d bought a fantastic album.

was visiting my home town and someone I knew shouted my name across the street and

Tony Platt Interview MTF

Tony Platt Interview MTF d c e c RUPERT NEVE 5059 SATELLITE After some blind tests
d c e
d
c
e
c
c

RUPERT NEVE 5059

SATELLITE After some blind tests I ran for summing mixes, the results were that they all just

had a sound of their own, making them another tool. Ideally, I’d like a few more summing devices so I have a choice of further colouration to the sound to choose from.

d
d

SPL MTC 2381

There are a few monitor controllers out there which didn’t match up to this. The MTC doesn’t add any character to what you’re listening to and it also has all sorts of monitoring options as well as a much-needed talkback facility for recording sessions.

RUPERT NEVE e PORTICO 5015 We do quite a bit of vocal, percussion, acoustic guitar
RUPERT NEVE
e
PORTICO 5015
We do quite a bit of vocal,
percussion, acoustic guitar
and other instrument

overdubs here. These pre’s are nice and offer lots of headroom. For vocals I use a little bit of compression so they can move in and out from the mic.

f I
f
I

M&K CR2401

heard a larger version of

these a while back and was really impressed with the detail, clarity and lack of colouration. We used those a lot at the time for surround sound mixing and when these models came out I wanted a pair for double- checking things. As we set up this studio they were just the right size for this size of room.

f
f
g I
g
I

TRIDENT AUDIO DEVELOPMENTS A-RANGE

recently tried this in comparison with the UAD and Softube

emulations and the software is in the style of it but isn’t exactly the same. This just means I have the hardware which I like, but also two other flavours in software to choose from.

g
g

about enough of this new equipment to use it creatively. In terms of the core decisions I’ve made to get to my current setup, I had to ask myself whether I’d persist to record things through analogue kit and then whether I’d mix through analogue. When the sonic quality and flexibility of digital workstations got to the point of having more advantages than disadvantages, that’s when I made the decision to switch across. This made it a creative decision as well as a technical one. Along with the microphone choice and preamps, the recording medium also informs the mix. I used to mix to 1/2-inch tape at 15IPS with Dolby SR. So I was getting a lot of warmth there, even when mixing in a digital workstation. But as budgets got shrunk, tape machines got harder to find in studios and the tape quality itself wasn’t always there. I then had to make the decision to work in-the-box. Other factors – like how you get your sound in and out of your workstation – are very important, along with using monitoring you know and trust. You need to know you’re hearing what you want. In a way the workstation you choose is really a matter of preference. I prefer Pro Tools because it’s more flexible for what I need to do and it’s set up for working with good practice, whereas other software can encourage some less than best practice.”

Analogue or digital?

When we arrive at the studio we immediately talk about a few bits of kit. It soon becomes evident that Tony doesn’t go with the analogue-versus-digital debate in respect of seeing it as

analogue-versus-digital debate in respect of seeing it as 1979 | AC/DC Highway To Hell I I

1979 | AC/DC Highway To Hell

I

I mixed this album as Mutt Lange needed someone with

experience of mixing British rock. I fed instruments

through speakers to get the ambience it needed.

t

e

an argument of one or the other. From hardware choice to processing in-the-box, Tony seems to judge his tools on their merit on a case-by-case basis. We ask him what he likes to use for software processing – he tells us about one of his favourites: “The Pultec EQs by UAD are great. Whenever you used a hardware version, you’d make the decision as to whether you’d use the programme EQ or the mid EQ. So you’d patch each one in and try it out, then re-patch it for the mid. More often than not you’d end up putting two units in a chain as you’d need a bit of each one. UAD have not only emulated each one, they’ve also done the Pro version, which is the two states combined. They also emulate the added character the hardware gave when used in bypass, too. “I tested the hardware against the software on these the other week at a seminar in Holland. They are different, but the essence is there. I think that the way plug-ins are going at the moment is really exciting. Although regardless of whether you’re using hardware or software, you need to be careful to not process things just for the sake of it. For instance, when I go to mastering sessions, there’s often a large array of wonderful hardware lying around, so we’ll go through a lot of compressors, which you obviously want to use when you’re surrounded by such lovely kit. The temptation, though, is to think it must sound good if it goes through that, but there are various times when we’ve ended up going through a plug-in instead, as it did the job needed for a particular track much better.” MTF

the job needed for a particular track much better.” MTF 2011 | Antonio Forcione & Sabina

2011 | Antonio Forcione & Sabina Sciubba Meet Me In London

I’d always had the idea of working at 192kHz in the back of mind, but this was the first chance to put it into practice as it was all transferred from tape at 192kHz. Lots of things had to be figured out and it was a good opportunity for experimentation.

192kHz. Lots of things had to be figured out and it was a good opportunity for
192kHz. Lots of things had to be figured out and it was a good opportunity for

focus Mixing 2013 | 25

MTF Workshop Mixing tips & tools Ableton Live 8 Workshop Mixingtips&tools in Ableton Live 8

MTF Workshop Mixing tips & tools

Ableton Live 8 Workshop

Ableton Live 8

Workshop

Mixingtips&tools

in Ableton Live 8

On the disc
On the disc

Live has a range of tools and routing options that can both improve and potentially destroy your mixes. Liam O’Mullane shows you around.

A bleton Live is a very capable DAW for both composition and audio processing. Even the most basic package has a good range of mixing devices to help you create a spot-on mix. Its drag-and-drop functionality makes

experimenting with certain processing combinations easy tasks to perform, enabling you to create intricate processing chains and routing setups that would take a lengthy investment of your time in another DAW. In this Workshop we’ll explore a few routing options

while also raising awareness of a few technical factors regarding how Live works. Without knowing about these potential issues you might end up with a bad-sounding

mix – and no clue as to why. So, pull up a project that

needs some mixing attention and we’ll show you how to

get better results from Live.

Improve your view

PRO TIP Another easy-to-use tool for playing with stereo balance is the Utility device. Use
PRO TIP
Another
easy-to-use
tool for playing
with stereo
balance is the
Utility device.
Use the Width
amount to
rebalance the
mid and sides
of a stereo
source, or keep it set to 0%
set to 0%
and
enable the device every
now
and then to check your
mix for mono compatibility.

The

first port of call for information about your mix is via

the

mixer in Session View. An often-overlooked option

here is the ability to grab the top of a channel and

Eventhemostbasicpackage has a good range of mixing devices to help you create a spot-on mix

range of mixing devices to help you create a spot-on mix expand the view to reveal

expand the view to reveal more metering information. Just left-click and hold the black horizontal line above the channel fader to expand it. 1 You will now be able to see two new elements located at the top-left of the channel fader: the current fader position and the highest signal level encountered in decibels (this can be reset with a mouse click). These are invaluable when you want your levels to be under 0dB on a channel or master track. You can make very minor adjustments to a channel fader by holding down [Alt]/[Cmd] (PC/Mac) while you left-click and drag the mouse to move the fader. Our favourite technique for making those incredibly minor adjustments, though, is to click the channel fader so that it’s highlighted, then use the arrow keys to move up or down in single-decibel increments. If you hold down [Shift] at the same time these movements are even finer (0.1dB increments). To us this just feels better than using a mouse as you experiment with fine level adjustments.

using a mouse as you experiment with fine level adjustments. On the level Although the obvious

On the level

Although the obvious control to use for automating volume fades and making real-time adjustments is the channel fader, this can actually cause problems if you want to make an overall level adjustment later (because Live doesn’t have any automation trim controls). Instead you have to highlight the whole automation lane and manually move it up or down, which makes accurate changes or just a quick tweak hard to perform. To avoid this potential nightmare further down the line, instead add a Utility device at the end of your processing chain for that channel. You can then

1
1

26 | Mixing 2013

chain for that channel. You can then 1 26 | Mixing 2013 Make the most of

Make the most of the mixer in Session View by expanding your mixer channels to see important signal level information. Also pay attention to which devices have Hi-Quality enabled to maintain the best sound quality…

focus

2
2
3
3

Mixing tips & tools Workshop MTF

5
5

…Sub-grouping your Return tracks in the correct way gives you easy control over how silent your silent parts are in a mix while incurring no signal delays…

6
6
4
4

automate its Gain amount instead, leaving the channel fader free for overall level adjustments at any point during the mixing process. 2

level adjustments at any point during the mixing process. 2 Behaviour awareness There are a few

Behaviour awareness

There are a few devices in Live which have a Hi-Quality mode that can be enabled/disabled by right-clicking the device’s title bar. EQ Eight, Saturator, Flanger and Dynamic Tube all have this option and selecting it will improve the top end for Flanger, the bottom end of EQ Eight, and reduce aliasing on both distortion devices. 3 Using this mode will incur a slightly higher CPU hit per device, but the main thing to watch out for is the fraction of delay added to the audio signal. This isn’t something you’ll notice straightaway as it is incredibly minor, but if you start to use Audio Racks for parallel processing, your signal will soon start to sound worse due to the comb filtering effect of the delayed and undelayed signal playing together. As an example, we’ve added an EQ Eight to the master buss of the DVD Workshop project. We then selected Group from the Edit menu to put it in an Audio Rack. Then we right-/[Ctrl]-clicked the space below the Chain strip in the Rack and created a new Chain. 4 This creates two parallel channels for the project to play through – one with the EQ and one without. To hear this in action you just have to activate the Audio Rack and you’ll hear the negative affect it has on the sound. So, if you want to use any of the devices mentioned in Hi-Quality mode for parallel processing, you’ll need to add another copy of the device to the parallel signal to act purely as a dummy processor so it will also add a delay and keep the two signals in-phase.

it will also add a delay and keep the two signals in-phase. Return control Another process
it will also add a delay and keep the two signals in-phase. Return control Another process

Return control

Another process that involves unwanted delays is when you re-route a Return track into an Audio track in the main mixer. The reason for wanting to do this would be to send all Return tracks to one sub-track so you can easily control their volume or process them with a single effect. Having a master level control for all Return effects is very handy if you want to be able to instantly cut all ambience effects in a song for moments of dramatic digital silence. But there is a way to perform this task without any delays, involving the use of a final Return track as the sub-track.

Right-/[Ctrl]-click and select Insert Return Track after the existing tracks. Rename it FX Sub to keep things clear. Now set all other Return tracks to Sends Only from the Audio To menu. This prevents them from going to the master channel. 5 Finally, enable the send to the FX Sub from each

Return track that needs to be rerouted from the right-/

each Return track that needs to be rerouted from the right-/ [Ctrl]-click menu. 6 the FX
each Return track that needs to be rerouted from the right-/ [Ctrl]-click menu. 6 the FX

[Ctrl]-click menu. 6 the FX Sub track. 7

Turn up each send to feed them to

Frequency control

Until Live 8 arrived in early 2009, the only option for multi-band processing was to split a signal manually using EQs or Auto Filter to create each band. Although this technique worked, it was very hard to get the crossovers to be audibly transparent. Fortunately, this is now a lot easier thanks to the addition of the Multiband Dynamics device. Once this is set up, you could try adding some light saturation to the midrange of a sound, compress just the high end to reduce sibilance in a vocal, or use a sidechained gate from a kick drum to cut out only the sub frequencies from a full-range bass instrument. But to process a single band you still need to create parallel signals so they can have devices dragged to them alone. Create a Multiband Dynamics device and Group it via the Edit menu. Before we duplicate the Chain to make more instances of this device, right-/[Ctrl]-click the Split Frequency boxes for High and Low and assign them each to a unique Macro number. This will enable you to fine-tune the crossover frequency points of all instances at any point. 8

PRO TIP Sidechaining isn’t just reserved for pumping house and busy D&B mixes. Try adding

PRO TIP

Sidechaining isn’t just reserved for pumping house and busy D&B mixes. Try adding a compressor to an FX Sub track as explained in the

main text and set its sidechain input to be the drum group. Now all of your effects will be slightly pushed back

group. Now all of your effects will be slightly pushed back rhythmically by the drums, rhythmically
rhythmically by the drums, rhythmically by the drums, giving everything a little more giving everything
rhythmically by the drums,
rhythmically by the drums,
giving everything a little more
giving everything a little more
impact and energy.
impact and energy.
focus Mixing 2013 | 27

MTF Workshop Mixing tips & tools

7
7
8
8

…The Multiband Dynamics device makes multi-band processing simple to apply in a mix with the help of Audio Racks and Chains.

Solo the Low band by clicking on the small S box to the right of the Split Frequency box. Now you will hear just a single band. Right-/[Ctrl]-click the Chain and select Rename. Call it Low. Click again and select Duplicate, then select the Solo for Mid on this second device and rename the Chain to Mid and repeat the process again so you have a third Chain called High that’s solo’ed for high frequencies. You will now have three bands spread over three chains. 9 You can solo the Chains to hear each band on its own and drag and drop devices to process each one differently. Just remember the delay and sound quality issues with devices set to Hi-Quality and again use dummy devices to keep the timing of each band aligned.

use dummy devices to keep the timing of each band aligned. Stereo EQ Live’s EQ Eight

Stereo EQ

Live’s EQ Eight is a very powerful tool as it not only lets you EQ a mono or stereo signal, but also enables you to easily EQ the left and right channels independently or the mid and the side elements of a stereo signal, all at the touch of a single button. Via the left/right mode you can create subtle or severe stereo effects while not adding any type of ambience, such as reverb or delay. Start by switching an EQ Eight to L/R from the Mode dropdown menu. 10 Use the Edit button to the right to change the EQ shape for the left and right channels. A good starting point is to find an area of mid–high frequencies that makes a noticeable change to the sound when cut or

that makes a noticeable change to the sound when cut or WANT MORE? Music Tech Focus:
WANT MORE? Music Tech Focus: Ableton Live 8 Vol 2 is available now. Find out
WANT MORE?
WANT
MORE?

Music Tech Focus:

Ableton Live 8 Vol 2 is available now. Find out more at www.musictechmag. co.uk/mtm/focus

WANT MORE? Music Tech Focus: Ableton Live 8 Vol 2 is available now. Find out more

boosted, then use the image of the left EQ in the background and roughly match it with the right. Try moving the frequency area a little to start creating a stereo effect. Subtle changes of frequency or gain amount work best if you want a stable stereo image. If you already have a stereo source, try using the M/S mode and play around with the Side EQ shape from the Edit menu. One approach is to remove low end with a low cut or shelf, then boost the tops or scoop out the mids a little. We’ve applied this to our drum track after a reverb that we added to deliberately make them sound muddy. After EQ’ing the Side signal, the drums become much more defined in the centre of the mix. To get a more airy stereo spread we’ve added another EQ Eight afterwards for a slight high-end boost on the left and right channels, which are slightly offset frequency-wise. 11 This type of treatment isn’t just reserved for source sounds, though – a bit of EQ control on your Return tracks can mould your reverbs/delays to fit your mix. This can be applied per effect or to a FX Sub track.

mix. This can be applied per effect or to a FX Sub track. An optimum future

An optimum future

Although much of what we’ve looked at here appears distinctly unsexy, having knowledge about what causes issues with audio quality will help you to get much better results in the future. After checking the EQ Eight Hi-Quality Audio Rack on the master track of our DVD project, we’re sure you’ll agree that it’s worth using a dummy to mix with from time to time. MTF

9
9
10
10

EQ Eight is an incredibly advanced EQ, enabling you to independently reshape the mono and stereo aspects of a sound.

28 | Mixing 2013

advanced EQ, enabling you to independently reshape the mono and stereo aspects of a sound. 28

focus

11
11
MTF 25 Pro Tips Mix processing P r o t i p s f o

MTF 25 Pro Tips Mix processing

Protipsfor

mixprocessing

There is a multitude of mixing tools and features to be found in every DAW, but how and when should you use them? Liam O’Mullane takes you through the options.

01
01

GAIN STRUCTURE

When working with any plug-ins, keep an eye on your input and output levels to get the best performance out of each processor in a chain of effects. Although floating-point systems enable us to get away with running into the red at various points in your DAW’s mixer and plug-ins, it can greatly affect the performance of your plug-ins as you are hitting them above their optimum levels of operation. For example, you might run a signal incredibly high into a compressor without any audible problems, but if the levels are coming in way above its threshold range you won’t have full control over what the compressor is reacting to. You can avoid this by adjusting the output levels of plug-ins or using a gain plug-in to keep the level down.

02
02

DRAG,DROP AND AUDITION

Although there are various pitfalls to avoid when working in a software mixing environment (and these include the inability to make a basic decision because of the huge range of options open to you), a big plus is that you can drag and drop

effects around to change the processing order. This is not only incredibly convenient for finding the best processing order for

a sound, it’s also a great help when it comes to understanding how the order of effects changes the sound and creates

certain tones and styles of production. A good example of this

is to move a low-pass filter from post- to pre-distortion.

Post-distortion gives a clinically clean filtering sound as

frequencies above the cutoff will be sharply rejected after the distortion. If the filtering is placed beforehand, it will still reject

a lot of frequencies but the distortion will add a coating of

extra frequencies above the cutoff, making it sound smoother.

30 | Mixing 2013

the cutoff, making it sound smoother. 30 | Mixing 2013 focus 03 SHAVING OFF THE TOPS

focus

03
03

SHAVING OFF THE TOPS FOR DEPTH

In the early 80s, engineers in the US were pushing the top end extremely hard to tape to get that hyped pop sound of the era, yet this would always be counterbalanced by the limited top end that analogue tape could take, resulting in a brighter but saturated top end. Today we’re in the opposite

situation: when we work in the digital realm we tend to have too much high end captured, which can make a mix sound

02
02
04
04

brittle, cluttered and lacking in depth. Re-create the classic 80s production tone by using a high-shelf EQ on each sound in the mix and roll off enough top end so that only certain sounds occupy the very high end (cymbals, vocals and so on).

Use a low-shelf or high-pass filter to leave a clear area for your kick and bass to sit in

to leave a clear area for your kick and bass to sit in 04 WHAT TO
to leave a clear area for your kick and bass to sit in 04 WHAT TO
04
04

WHAT TO DO IF A SOUND WON’T SIT IN THE MIX

Sometimes you will come across a sound that just doesn’t want to sit in-line with the rest of your mix. Although reverb, modulation effects and dynamics processing can all help to change the perceived positioning of a sound in your mix’s plane of depth, EQ is the best way to move sounds

back in a mix without adding other characteristics at the same time. A quick positive-gain frequency sweep with a parametric EQ set to a medium width can help you to find the frequency area of a sound that makes it instantly leap out of the speakers. Once you’ve found this area, gently tweak the width so that you are pushing all of the frequencies in this area that move the sound forward, then switch the gain from positive to negative to push the sound back with everything else.

05
05

CHECK FOR PROCESSING DELAYS

Although your DAW’s delay compensation should keep your audio signals in time, you can sometimes listen to your work towards the end of your track and wonder why it sounds less tight and defined. Certain plug-ins and configurations can cause delays that either accumulate as your effects chains increase, or will be bad enough to put a whole channel slightly behind the rest of your mix. A good trick to check for this is to occasionally flick on your click track to see if

07
07

Mix processing 25 Pro Tips MTF

click track to see if 07 Mix processing 25 Pro Tips MTF everything still sounds in-time.

everything still sounds in-time. You might also find delay in any part of a parallel processing chain. If one parallel channel is slightly off you will start to hear a comb-filtering effect from the sum of its channels. Comb-filtering will make sounds appear washed-out and they lose punch, so it’s always best avoided.

06
06

FLAVOURS OF SIDECHAINING

When sidechaining is mentioned, it’s probably fair to say that most people think of the obvious setup: pushing down the volume of an instrument from an on-the-beat kick drum pattern. However, there are many other techniques that can be used to get a better-sounding mix. Try sub- grouping your kick and snare separately from another group that contains the rest of your drum sounds, then add a compressor to the other drum sound group and set its key-input (external sidechain) to be the kick and snare group. This will increase the perceived punch of the kick and snare and keep it snappy no matter how busy the other drum elements get. The same approach can be used to get the kick and snare to push down all other sounds in your mix as well so they never get lost. Even just 1–3dB of gain reduction will make a noticeable difference to how clear things sound.

07
07

REMOVE LOW END WHERE POSSIBLE

Like Tip 3, another EQ treatment that’s worth applying to most sounds is a low-end cut. Use a low-shelf or high-pass filter and remove anything below 100Hz or above to leave a clear area for your kick and bass instrument to sit in. The bigger the bottom end needed, the more you’ll want to remove it from other sounds to avoid conflict of frequencies, which results in a loss of headroom and, therefore, overall track volume. This also applies to effects, so get into the habit of placing an EQ after each send effect so they don’t add any unwanted rumble to your mix. An EQ placed here is also handy for shaping your send effects to fit better in the mix.

08
08

HAAS EFFECT

This is a simple yet effective trick that you can use to widen a mono sound in your mix. All you need is a delay added as an insert effect with its feedback set to minimum so that only one delay is created. Set both sides to different times in MS between 1–30ms.

08
08
Set both sides to different times in MS between 1–30ms. 08 Be careful not to go

Be careful not to go too high as they will start to ‘flam’ when the mix is folded to mono. This will trick the ear into hearing this sound in stereo, but a downside is that you will get a comb-filtering effect when the signal is in mono. One way to minimise this is to use a filtered delay along with the original sound in mono. With the delays on the left and right being filtered so that they contain just midrange information, there’s enough information to create a sense of width but less frequency content to cause comb-filtering problems when summed to mono.

sense of width but less frequency content to cause comb-filtering problems when summed to mono. focus

focus Mixing 2013 | 31

sense of width but less frequency content to cause comb-filtering problems when summed to mono. focus

MTFMTF 2525 ProPro TipsTips MixMix processingprocessing 2525 ProPro TipsTips MixMix processingprocessing

12
12

PRESERVE DYNAMICS LIKE A PROMTFMTF 2525 ProPro TipsTips MixMix processingprocessing 12 09 Too much compression can flatline any energy there

09
09

Too much compression can flatline any energy there may be in a sound source. As an alternative to using it as an insert effect to process the entire signal, try to work in parallel, so that the dynamics of the original signal can be heard alongside your compressed version.This also enables you to apply heavier compression than normal to the parallel signal, giving extra energy and volume. If it’s an option, use your compressor’s dry/wet dial to blend between the original and the compressed version. Alternatively, use auxiliary sends to an effect channel, where the compressor will process a parallel copy of the original sound.

10
10

EQ ALL BUT THE VOCALS

Along with the sidechaining options mentioned in Tip 6, a good trick for achieving a clear vocal in a busy mix is to group everything but the lead vocal(s) and use subtractive EQ on this group to reduce frequency areas that compete with the vocal line. If it proves difficult to determine where to make

your frequency reductions on the group, try boosting areas of the vocal first to discover what makes it stick out most (see Tip 4), then take a note of the EQ’s settings and copy them to an EQ on the group, reducing these areas so that the vocal cuts through the mix better.

11
11

TRIAL MASTERING

There is an argument for and against having anything on your mix buss, so be your own judge after trialling this Tip. However, having a basic mastering setup that you can punch in and out occasionally can be very useful for gauging how your mix levels will change after some overall compression and limiting is applied at the mastering stage. This is where exploring presets can help you to get something of a ball-park overview of a ‘once-mastered’ version of your mix, but be

14 32 | Mixing 2013 focus
14
32 | Mixing 2013
focus

sure to make a habit of turning it off after a brief listen or you’ll soon start to get used to the mastered sound and potentially dislike your own.

12
12

USING REFERENCE MATERIAL

Whenever you’re in the process of mixing, have a few reference tracks to hand to keep your ears grounded. As well

as taking regular breaks every hour or so, having reference tracks inside your project that can be muted and then solo’ed gives you a quick reminder of factors such as the amount of

low, mid and high end you want in your mix, or how heavy your

compression is sounding against the reference material and so on. It’s easy to get used to how much you’ve pushed your EQ or squashed your tracks, so listening to some reference points will prevent you from making damaging decisions because you’ve lost your perspective during a session.

13
13

REVERB WIDENING

There are two ways to quickly enhance the stereo width of a reverb used on an auxiliary send, which are particularly

useful if you don’t get the width you’re after from plug-in settings alone. Firstly, use two reverbs on aux sends and have

one panned hard left and the other hard right, then tweak the

reverbs separately to give you a much more varied and therefore wide-sounding ambience.You can always pull back

the hard panning a little so that they spill to the opposite side

a bit. The other approach is to add a mid-and-side plug-in

after the reverb so you can lower the mid signal level to make

the side signal more dominant and therefore wide-sounding.

14
14

A TOUCH OF COMPRESSION FREQUENTLY Instead of applying compression to just your drum buss

(or even just piling it on at the mastering stage), try to apply

less compression but more often at various points along the

signal path. A little compression can be applied as you record external sources; you can add some to each sound source’s channel in the mix and a little more to a sub-group, then possibly more still on the mix buss. Compression is a lot more transparent when used in this way, and using different settings and flavours of compression will bring more and more tone to the mix, giving a richer sound.

15
15

FAVOURITE PROCESSING CHAINS Spare yourself the time it takes to set up your everyday

mix processing requirements by creating a template. This can

include favourite auxiliary effects such as two reverbs for short and long ambiences, two delays with different timings,

and a few parallel compression and distortion send effects as

well. If you use certain processing chains for insert duties, save these chains in a folder for recall later, too.

16
16

JUDGE FROM VARIOUS OPTIONS

It’s always best to make educated decisions when it comes to deciding how you should process certain sounds in your mix, and by using parallel processing (or features such as Audio Racks in Live) you can take a channel, apply a

16
16
22
22
22 A large bathroom is always goodforcapturing resonant- sounding reverb certain processing approach, then mute it
22 A large bathroom is always goodforcapturing resonant- sounding reverb certain processing approach, then mute it

A large bathroom is always

goodforcapturingresonant-

sounding reverb

is always goodforcapturing resonant- sounding reverb certain processing approach, then mute it and start afresh,

certain processing approach, then mute it and start afresh, processing the same sound but with different settings or processors on the next channel. Audition each attempt at processing afterwards in the context of the mix.

17
17

DYNAMIC MIXING

If you have a track with lots of different dynamics, be prepared to apply different processing settings or treatments to individual sections – for example, the compression amount and its timing settings of attack and decay for a verse may not sound right for a chorus, and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to move audio to different channels so that you can apply different processing treatments to different sections of a song.

MixMix processingprocessing 2525 ProPro TipsTips MTFMTF

21
21

DON’T OVERLOOK THE BASICS

If you’re struggling to comfortably sit all of the elements

into a busy mix, don’t be afraid to either remove some of them or heavily thin them out using EQ to get the space you need. Given the unlimited track counts of DAWs, there can often be too many tracks to deal with, and as a mix engineer you should sometimes remove or lighten the presence of sounds that don’t need to be in the forefront of a mix (or there at all). Remember that mastering will pull the levels of your sounds closer together, so if things are sounding incredibly clogged at the mix stage it may be problematic for the mastering engineer, too.

22
22

EXPLORE PRESETS

Although you may instinctively start to tweak a plug-in’s parameters from their default loaded state, don’t overlook the power and speed of working with presets. A lot of companies have taken the time to provide a highly usable range of settings that can often do the job straightaway (or at least give you a good starting point that you can then refine). Mixing as you produce is particularly useful for workflow and can give your track a pro sound while avoiding the momentum-crushing power of over-tweaking.

23
23

GATE TRANSIENT SHAPING

Gates can be great for re-building a drum sound when resources or time are in short supply. If you run a parallel copy of a drum sound through a gate, you can set it to let through only the initial transient and suddenly cut off any tails.Then you can balance this signal’s level with the original to get more snap. Explore the possibilities of adding EQ to this gated signal so that you focus on the frequency area that gives the most snap and single it out.

24
24

AUDIO INTERFACE PROCESSING

A simple yet often overlooked processing trick is to use

your audio interface’s preamps to reprocess a signal being passed from its outputs. Send out a signal (such as your drum buss), wire the outputs to the inputs, and find the sweet spot of analogue clipping while recording it back in.

This is also a good technique for creating a smashed, distorted parallel signal.

18
18

AUDIO EDITS OVER GATING

Although gating is a useful quick-fix for removing sections of unwanted lower-level noise, given the ease with which audio editing can be carried out these days it’s hard to find an excuse for not just quickly editing out any long passages of unwanted noise. You can even use a DAW’s

automatic audio-chopping tools to separate these signals from louder parts in the audio, then use fades to make each edit sound right for the particular source.

19
19

INCREASING MID DENSITY

If you need a sound to cut through the mix a lot more in the midrange, try using some distortion in parallel and limiting its frequency range using low- and high-shelf EQ so that only the mids pass through. Much like Tip 2, you’ll get a slightly different sound depending on whether you add the EQ pre- or post-distortion. This can also be useful to have set up as an effect send in general so that you can increase the midrange presence of an entire mix when required. Just send different amounts from different instruments to add more midrange, while at the same time preserving each sound’s original tone.

20
20

REAL AMBIENCE

Although reverb rooms and chambers used to be a necessity, real ambience is still very hard to emulate in the digital world, and you probably have a room somewhere in your house or studio that you can use for this. A large bathroom is always good for capturing resonant-sounding reverb; a furnished room can be useful for the type of ambience that makes a difference but is hard to detect until it’s removed. Place a full-range speaker in the room, send your sound to be processed out to it, and experiment with mic patterns and positioning for the best results.

25
25

COMPRESSION FOR DRUM SHAPING

Another approach to re-shaping a drum sound to achieve more snap is to apply extreme compression. With a high ratio and reasonably low threshold, set the release to 5–10ms and the attack to its minimum, then slowly increase the attack until you hear the transient slip through the compression. When this happens you can adjust the release to make sure that it’s long enough to prevent any strange changes in volume to the drum’s tail, but that the release isn’t so long that the compressor isn’t ready to act the next time it plays. MTF

25 focus Mixing 2013 | 33
25
focus Mixing 2013 | 33
release isn’t so long that the compressor isn’t ready to act the next time it plays.
MTF Walkthrough Composing with sampled instruments Production technique Step-by-Step How to work with the Download

MTF Walkthrough Composing with sampled instruments

Production technique

Step-by-Step

How to work with the

Download content www.musictech mag.co.uk/mtm/ workshops
Download
content
www.musictech
mag.co.uk/mtm/
workshops

sampledorchestra

There’s no longer any reason for your musical ambitions to be restricted by the size of your studio or available instrumentation.KeithGemmellexplainswhy.

W e’ve come a long way since the days when working with sampled instruments meant coaxing convincing sounds from a General MIDI sound module. Many of the sequencing techniques involved still

apply, of course, but the samples themselves sound so much better. Although there’s still a long way to go, you could say that sampled instruments have come of age. Most come with hundreds if not thousands of individual samples covering the commonly used performance articulations of a given instrument or ensemble. Even so, creating a convincing performance from such a wealth of raw material is a daunting prospect for many musicians, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the instruments. In this Workshop we take you through the process of composing a piece of music using sampled instruments. You can download the audio and project files from the MTM website. Lasting just over a minute, it’s typical background music and just three instrument groups are used: strings, brass and percussion. It’s the kind of music

that’s often composed in a hurry – as was this – and for that reason we took a broad-brush approach and initially sketched out the piece using Albion II, which is ideal for this type of work. A similar library is Symphobia, popular with media composers who work to tight deadlines.

Know the score

Most musicians working in popular music contend very well with the difficulties associated with sampled instruments. They usually play guitar, keys or drums and are familiar with the sounds and playing techniques of each. For them, sequencing these instruments within a DAW presents few problems.They know the score. Problems arise, though, when, like all of us, they step into an unfamiliar musical genre. This might entail adding sampled strings or a horn section to an existing pop track. Maybe they have been asked to write music for an indie film and an authentic-sounding orchestra is required. The key to working successfully with sampled instruments is quite simple. Get to know the instruments well. Study the playing techniques.This will help enormously when you’re confronted with a bewildering set of articulation choices. Study instruments’ playing ranges and musical sweet spots – how their timbre changes as they change registers. Only then will you know where and when it’s best to use them.

MTF Navigation Key tools (Albion II) MIC POSITIONING c KEYSWITCHES a Any keyswitched articulations that
MTF Navigation
Key tools (Albion II)
MIC POSITIONING
c
KEYSWITCHES
a
Any keyswitched
articulations that you record
live or enter in your DAW’s
piano roll can usually be
viewed here, in your sample
player. Audition the various
articulations on offer by
mouse-pressing these keys.
If your sample library was recorded with several different microphone
positions, their controls will appear in its GUI. Experiment with the different
types, combinations and volume levels to vary an instrument’s sound.
c
d
b
a
ARTICULATIONS
b
DYNAMICS
d
Avoid playing just sustained notes on your sampled
instruments and experiment with the articulations. They are
there to help you produce a convincing, realistic performance.
Dynamics are important when playing sampled instruments. Use your
controller to subtly vary long notes for authenticity. Use them, too, for adding
deliberate dynamic and emotional expression.

34 | Mixing 2013

notes for authenticity. Use them, too, for adding deliberate dynamic and emotional expression. 34 | Mixing

focus

Composing with sampled instruments Walkthrough MTF

Composing with sampled instruments Walkthrough MTF MTF Step-by-Step The string section 01 Let’s start with a

MTF Step-by-Step

The string section

Walkthrough MTF MTF Step-by-Step The string section 01 Let’s start with a moody string ostinato. Normally,
01
01

Let’s start with a moody string ostinato.

Normally, we would play this manually, but as we’re using Albion II we can automate the process with the Ostinatum tool. Five notes are assigned to low strings. After drawing them as a chord we define their note length (16ths), velocities and playing order in the Ostinatum. A short articulation is selected and the pattern is repeated and varied throughout the piece.

and the pattern is repeated and varied throughout the piece. 04 In step 3 we divided
04
04

In step 3 we divided the high strings.

Now the second half-section plays an inner line, triggering a legato patch. Overlapped notes will assist with realism, particularly if your samples were not recorded with legato transitions.The dynamic fade-down on the last note of the phrase is another realistic touch. Note, too, the addition of an ambient mic position, which further spreads the sound.

of an ambient mic position, which further spreads the sound. 02 After selecting a pizzicato articulation,
02
02

After selecting a pizzicato articulation, we

now play a bass line.To contrast the rhythmically precise ostinato, avoid quantization. If your library provides mic positions, for clarity, try keeping the close mic high in the mix. For more definition, experiment with compression. Here we use the excellent VSL Compressor with the ‘Basses Pizz – distinctive attacks‘ preset as a starting point (Attack 10ms, Release 225ms, Ratio 1.80:1).

a starting point (Attack 10ms, Release 225ms, Ratio 1.80:1). 05 Between bars 17 and 21 the
05
05

Between bars 17 and 21 the high strings

play a series of staccato notes. To create a ’rise and fall’ dynamic curve using velocity as

you play isn’t easy. Instead we used Albion’s CC1 Mapped Velocity feature, which enables you to control note velocity with the mod wheel. Key velocity is overridden so you can play as hard or as soft as you like or simply mouse the notes in.

as hard or as soft as you like or simply mouse the notes in. 03 Just
03
03

Just before bar 9, the high strings play a

soaring, slow-moving line. Not wanting anything too thick, we chose a half-section (one player tacit at each desk) for a transparent sound. Play these types of melodies live if you can. To breathe life into them it’s vital to vary the dynamics, which in many string libraries is assigned to CC1 and controlled using your keyboard’s mod wheel.

to CC1 and controlled using your keyboard’s mod wheel. 06 Our half-section violins have a beautiful
06
06

Our half-section violins have a beautiful

sound quality, but when mixed with the rest of the instruments are a little too prominent. Lowering the volume is not the answer. EQ is. By lowering the gain in the 3–4k frequency range they sound less direct. For the final chord, keyswitches are used to trigger tremolando and long articulations for the high and low strings respectively.

Listen to the best examples that you can find, both as solo instruments and as part of an ensemble. At one time this kind of information would cost you a fortune in books and recordings, these days it’s freely available online. Read books on orchestration, even if you don’t read music (Gary Garritan’s website has a free orchestration course). Once you’re thoroughly familiar with the instruments you intend emulating, working with them will be much easier. Don’t over-concern yourself now with EQ, compression and mixing. Knowing how to write for and play sampled instruments is more important. Get the compositional and orchestration balance right and any frequency range worries and mixing problems will mostly disappear.

Which library?

Musicians with ambitions to write media music frequently ask which libraries they should buy. Putting synths, pianos, guitars, electric basses and drum kits aside, we’ll stick to orchestral instruments here because our brief for this Workshop was to write solely for strings, brass and percussion.

PRO TIP Many sample libraries assign the mod wheel to dynamic expression, and if you’re

PRO TIP

Many sample libraries assign the mod wheel to dynamic expression, and if you’re playing monophonic parts manually you should usually use it (particularly for shaping slow-moving melodies). Without it,your strings,brass and woodwind parts will sound lifeless by comparison. Sometimes,though,the mod wheel is assigned to vibrato, in which case you could set up a foot pedal for dynamics.

in which case you could set up a foot pedal for dynamics. Broadly speaking, orchestral sample

Broadly speaking, orchestral sample libraries come in two types. Type 1 is complete recordings of orchestral sections such as strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion.These are further broken down into smaller ensembles – violins 1 & 2, violas, cellos and basses, for example. Solo instruments are often included, too. Type 2 consists mainly of ensembles. For example, Albion’s ensembles are recorded in situ, in a great- sounding hall, so you don’t have to worry about stereo placement and messing with convolution reverbs. What it may lack in detail, though, is made up for with a rich out-of-the-box sound and articulations carefully selected for cinematic-style composition.

String fellows

String players are probably the busiest session players in the music industry. With strings used so often for film and media work it’s no surprise that they are always in demand. They’re superb readers and will play just about anything you give them, no matter how complex. Working with sampled strings, though, can be tricky.

you give them, no matter how complex. Working with sampled strings, though, can be tricky. focus

focus Mixing 2013 | 35

you give them, no matter how complex. Working with sampled strings, though, can be tricky. focus

MTF Walkthrough Composing with sampled instruments

Slow attack times – the initial sound is heard a little later than it should – are a common problem. The solution is to set a negative decay time in your DAW’s track inspector. Staccato patches can sound too long. Unlike with synthesized strings, altering their lengths in a DAW’s piano-roll editor doesn’t affect the raw sample. However, some libraries, like VSL, offer time-stretching facilities in their sample players to remedy this. Writing convincingly for strings also requires a sound knowledge of music theory. Arrangements can be sketched on paper or in a notation program like Sibelius and recorded afterwards in a DAW. Another method is to export a MIDI file from Sibelius and import it into your DAW. From there you can edit and humanise it further. However, for non-readers, libraries such as Albion and Symphobia provide a broad-brush approach to string writing. Albion II’s strings, for example, are divided into high and low sections. Using these, convincing string melodies can easily be realised. Some libraries contain useful sequencing tools, such as Albion’s Ostinatum. We

MTF Step-by-Step

The brass section

PRO TIP Keyswitches are notes outside an instrument’s playing range that are used to replace

PRO TIP

Keyswitches are notes outside an instrument’s playing range that are used to replace one articulation with another.For a smooth transition,place them a few ticks before the change (they also show up as notes in score editors; if you intend printing parts for real musicians, place them on a separate track).

also show up as notes in score editors; if you intend printing parts for real musicians,
parts for real musicians, place them on a separate track). used this to kick-start our composition.

used this to kick-start our composition. It’s a form of pattern sequencing and in most cases wouldn’t work with strings. With a staccato patch, though, it does. The robotic quality provided the necessary sense of urgency. This technique is used frequently behind film chase scenes. String sections will often divide into two parts. This is known as divisi. Until recently, sample libraries supplied only full sections and if you wanted divisi you had to use the same patch twice, effectively doubling the sound not dividing it. As composers demanded ever more realism, developers began including divisi sections with libraries. In our Workshop composition two high string divisi patches were used. The result is very authentic because when these samples were recorded, one player at each desk remained tacit.

Brass facts

If strings are the mainstay of cinematic orchestral music, brass comes a close second. Low brass in particular is prominently featured when strength and power needs to

is prominently featured when strength and power needs to 01 Trombones from VSL provide the brass
01
01

Trombones from VSL provide the brass

stabs here. Each part was played separately. The four notes of each chord start and end in different places, which is how real players perform. Our strings are from Albion II and come with ‘baked in’ reverb, but the VSL trombone patches are supplied dry, so we treated them with the Vienna Instruments PRO built-in reverb.

them with the Vienna Instruments PRO built-in reverb. 02 Apart from the last chord, all the
02
02

Apart from the last chord, all the

trombone notes use staccato patches. However, some notes were too short-sounding (this is sometimes a problem with short string articulations too). To remedy this we lengthened them by approximately 0.3 seconds using Vienna Instruments PRO’s time-stretching facility.You can also alter the speed of pre-recorded string runs this way to make them fit a particular tempo.

string runs this way to make them fit a particular tempo. 03 As mentioned in step
03
03

As mentioned in step 1, the trombone

parts were played manually without quantization so humanisation is unnecessary, at least as far as timing goes. However, we loaded a preset tuning curve into VI PRO’s Humanization area. Each time a note is played, a slightly different tuning curve is used. ‘In tune fast’ is a good one for staccato notes because the curve affects only the very beginning of each note.

the curve affects only the very beginning of each note. 04 For the last chord a
04
04

For the last chord a sforzarto patch was

needed, where the notes are played with a sudden, strong emphasis. We also wanted the notes to suddenly drop in volume after the initial attack and then rise again over the two bars. So we simply drew the expression (CC11) into the Cubase controller lane. But we met a problem: the sfz patch was too short and died away.

we met a problem: the sfz patch was too short and died away. 05 To get
05
05

To get the sforzarto patch to sustain for

longer we used the Vienna Instruments PRO crossfade feature. By dragging a trombone sustain patch into the slot next to the sfz slot (top-right), the first patch crossfaded into the second patch, giving us the required two bars of sustain. Balancing the two patches is done using a slider (bottom-left).

the two patches is done using a slider (bottom-left). 06 Because of their stirring quality, four
06
06

Because of their stirring quality, four

horns or more in unison are often used in film and media soundtracks. At bar 19, four horns (an ensemble patch) take over from the trombones and play a short descending melody. Note the expression fade-downs at the end of phrases and, like the trombones, the drawn sforzarto on the last note.

36 | Mixing 2013

fade-downs at the end of phrases and, like the trombones, the drawn sforzarto on the last

focus

Composing with sampled instruments Walkthrough MTF

be projected. In our piece, four trombones play a series of closely voiced stabs over a low string ostinato. Close voicing isn’t generally recommended this low down and both instrument sections occupy a similar frequency range. However, because the trombone notes are short and sharp, for effect, the instruments project well and cut through the busy, fast-moving background. Dynamics sometimes present problems with sampled brass. As brass instruments increase in volume their timbre changes. Cross-fading is one way to simulate this. Our Workshop piece uses this technique on the final chord. Another way of creating a realistic-sounding brass crescendo is to assign a controller to both a low-pass filter and CC 11(expression). As the volume changes so does the timbre, which gets brighter.

Percussive adventures

For film soundtracks, thunderous cinematic percussion effects are the norm, but usually, orchestral percussion is most effective when used sparingly. One way to avoid

overuse is to write for just two players – one for the timpani and another for the rest of the percussion. It’s also in most cases a good idea to write the percussion parts last. It’s rarely used to drive the music. Instead it’s used to provide colour, drama and interest that complements the other instrumental parts. It’s also the easiest section to emulate with samples and presents fewer problems in construction. In our Workshop piece, to position our percussion instruments in the mix we first rendered them to audio tracks. We then placed a pre-fader insert on each track and bussed them to an auxiliary track containing a reverb plug-in set to full-on wet. After balancing, we then grouped them together as a group track. To balance the percussion along with the strings and brass, we zeroed the group track level and auditioned the reverb output only (the wet sound on the auxiliary track, in other words). We then raised the group track to an appropriate level. (Download the Workshop demo track from www.musictechmag.co.uk/mtm/workshops) MTF

MTF Step-by-Step

Adding percussion

MTF MTF Step-by-Step Adding percussion 01 When working with samples – for orchestral compositions
01
01

When working with samples – for

orchestral compositions anyway – it’s often best to leave the percussion until last. This leaves you free to accentuate and highlight specific events on the other tracks. As a rule of thumb, use it sparingly. Here, for example the timpani shadow the low pizzicato strings at important points. They don’t, of course, play the 16th-note runs,

which would sound rather ridiculous.

the 16th-note runs, which would sound rather ridiculous. 04 Once the horn line appears, musically, there
04
04

Once the horn line appears, musically,

there is a lot going on. The high strings, for example, are very busy with 16th notes. The piece needs rhythmic percussion at this point. However, drums might prove too heavyweight; the timpani have already paused. Something light is needed, akin to a conventional drum kit hi-hat. A tambourine is more in keeping with the orchestral flavour and proved the best choice.

with the orchestral flavour and proved the best choice. 02 The timpani samples here have a
02
02

The timpani samples here have a long

decay that complements the short pizzicato string notes that they highlight. Most of the notes, too, overlap slightly, making the most of that decay. To add more punch to the notes a compressor was employed with attack and release times of 5ms and 150ms respectively. With a low threshold and a ratio of 4:1 a fair amount of attenuation was achieved.

a ratio of 4:1 a fair amount of attenuation was achieved. 05 The percussion for this
05
05

The percussion for this piece is now

complete. However, after playing the track through it was obvious that something percussive was needed on the last chord, to accompany the timpani roll. Gongs were tried but they were too low-pitched and drowned out the timpani. A cymbal crash provided the ideal solution. Loud, brash and with a long enough sustain to cover the two bars, although, of course, it gradually fades.

cover the two bars, although, of course, it gradually fades. 03 Initially, the music occupies the
03
03

Initially, the music occupies the lower

frequencies. Because the timpani are used sparingly, there is room between their notes for something higher – castanets, perhaps. They occupy a higher frequency, catch the listener’s attention and maintain interest. When the trombone stabs enter, though, a percussion instrument with a sustained sound is required, for contrast. A

triangle is the answer and is struck once every two bars, until the horns come in.

and is struck once every two bars, until the horns come in. 06 All of the
06
06

All of the percussion came from the

Vienna Special Edition and, like all the VSL samples, was recorded without reverb. So to mix it with the Albion II patches, the percussion was routed pre-fader to an algorithmic reverb with a church hall preset. Why pre-fader? It helps provide the illusion of a more realistic space.

a church hall preset. Why pre-fader? It helps provide the illusion of a more realistic space.

focus Mixing 2013 | 37

a church hall preset. Why pre-fader? It helps provide the illusion of a more realistic space.
MTF Workshop Working with loops Cubase 6.5 Workshop On the & online www.musictech mag.co.uk/mtm/ workshops

MTF Workshop Working with loops

Cubase 6.5 Workshop

Cubase 6.5

Workshop

On the & online www.musictech mag.co.uk/mtm/ workshops
On the
& online
www.musictech
mag.co.uk/mtm/
workshops

Workingwithloops

Tips&tecnhiques

Loops might be most commonly associated with Ableton Live, but Cubase is perfectly capable of dealing with them too, as Tim Hallas explains.

PRO TIP When working with loops in Cubase make sure that the Snap control is
PRO TIP
When working with loops in
Cubase make sure that the
Snap control is set correctly,
as due to the default zoom
level of the Arrange window it
is very easy to end up with
loops out-of-sync with the bar.
To adjust the snap, switch it on
in the top toolbar and set the
precision level to Bar, Beat or
to link with the Quantise grid
for smaller intervals. As most
loops will be multiples of bars,
I tend to find that setting Snap
to Bar is the best option.

W hen it came to writing this Workshop I found myself in something of a quandary, having spent a day in the very pleasant company of the Steinberg crew previewing version 7 of Cubase,

which of course has now been launched. So, what can I cover that will still be relevant in the new version? My decision is to take a look at the loops and looping techniques available in Cubase. For those of you thinking, ‘Oh no, not loops! That’s not music!’ I have to remind you that loops are here to stay, so it’s surely better to know how and when to use them than to dismiss them out of hand. Loops have been around much longer than we remember: early electronic pioneers used tape loops to create sound worlds and to manipulate and mangle electronic sounds repeatedly. And we also need to remember that Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees utilised drum loops as far back as 1977. Following the tragic passing of the drummer mid-session, the band turned to drum machines but didn’t like them. They then listened to the

Electronicpioneersusedtape loops to manipulate and mangle electronicsoundsrepeatedly

already recorded drum part for Night Fever, recorded two bars of it to tape and looped it. The result is one of the most famous grooves of all time.

Finding your feet

The loop feature in Cubase is arguably not as well- advertised as it is in some other software; nonetheless, it is definitely there and probably the best place to start is with the Loop Browser, which can be found by choosing Media>Loop Browser. 1 When opened, this brings up a large dialog that looks very similar to the MediaBay window (they are essentially accessing the information in the same way). The Loop Browser is split into three main sections: the category selection section at the top; the list of available loops that fulfil those category requirements in the middle; and a preview panel at the bottom containing basic transport controls and a graphic of the waveform of the loop. 2 We’ll begin at the top and find the loops we want. The categories run roughly left-to-right, with instrument groups on the far left followed by sub- categories for specific instruments, genre, character and, finally, key on the right. A feature in this that I particularly like – and one that isn’t readily found in other DAW software – is the counter next to each category that tells you how many loops have that tag in the database – for instance, there are 633 loops in the key of C but only 158 in C # /D b . This constantly updates as selections are made and provides you with a live figure of how many loops are left with that tag rather than a static number (you may suddenly find that you have too many tags selected and there are none left with all the categories you have selected).

are none left with all the categories you have selected). 1 2 The Loop Browser is
are none left with all the categories you have selected). 1 2 The Loop Browser is
1
1
2
2

The Loop Browser is split into three main sections: the category selection section at the top; the list of available loops that fulfil those category requirements in the middle; and a preview panel at the bottom.

38 | Mixing 2013

loops that fulfil those category requirements in the middle; and a preview panel at the bottom.

focus

Working with loops Workshop MTF

Working with loops Workshop MTF 3 5 Filter loops via the buttons at the top (3),
3 5 Filter loops via the buttons at the top (3), which enable you to
3
5
Filter loops via the buttons at the top (3), which
enable you to select only MIDI or audio loops and
sort by key, tempo or name.
6
4

AudioloopswithinCubasecan be treated with its time-stretching andpitch-quantisingtools

As it is probably the most common use for loops we will begin with a drum loop, perhaps to use for the beginning of a dance track or – how I most often use them – as a placeholder during arrangements until the ‘real’ drummer turns up for the recording session. I’ve selected Drum&Perc to narrow down the options to just percussion and then also selected Beats>Pop/Rock to get the potential candidates down to a manageable number of files to audition. 3 Once you have all your preferred categories selected you can audition them to find the right loop. To do this, move down to the main list in the middle of the window and click on individual loops. As you do this the loop will automatically play back and a preview of the waveform will appear in the section at the bottom of the screen. There is also the facility to filter loops via the buttons at the top, which enable you to select only MIDI or audio loops and sort by key, tempo or name. You can also filter by ratings, but as I haven’t given any of my loops a rating – a loop might merit five stars for one project but be totally useless for another – this feature seems somewhat superfluous. Once the file is in the preview window you are presented with basic transport controls for playing back the raw loop. The all-important Cycle control is also present, enabling you to hear how well the loop links back into itself. On the right-hand side of the preview live two little controls which are often overlooked: the Align Beats to Project button and the Wait for Project Play button. The former changes the playback speed of the previewed loop to that of the project; the latter will play only the preview and the project at the same time. However, if you want to hear the previewed loop at the same time as the project and in time with the project you need to press both buttons. This might sound rather long-winded, but, on reflection, if you have a tempo-free loop you might not want the speed changed, so having the controls separate works well in this respect. 4

Finally, once you have selected your loop you can simply drag-and-drop it into the Arrange window. Alternatively, right/[Ctrl]-click on the selected loop and you are presented with several options for inserting it into the project at various locations.

Chop and change

After loading your loop into the Arrange window – either by manually dragging it in or by specific placing directly from the Loop Browser – you may want to do some additional editing to alter the way in which it works within the project. Obviously, the easiest and most commonly performed task is to loop the file, as that is the purpose of a loop! To do this, click on Edit> Functions>Repeat ([Ctrl]/[Cmd]+[K]) 5 and select the number of repeats you want. This is slightly different from those DAWs that have a simple drag system, but it works perfectly adequately nonetheless. The difference here to other loop copies stored by other DAWs is that each copy is just that, a copy, and can be edited totally separately from the others. Unlike most pre-programmed audio loops, those within Cubase can be treated with all of the software’s time-stretching and pitch-quantising tools. 6 To access these windows, double-click on the loop you want to edit and it will open in the Sample Editor.

loop you want to edit and it will open in the Sample Editor. PRO TIP If
loop you want to edit and it will open in the Sample Editor. PRO TIP If
loop you want to edit and it will open in the Sample Editor. PRO TIP If
PRO TIP If you want more physical interaction with your loops you can drag and

PRO TIP

If you want more physical interaction with your loops you can drag and drop them into Groove Agent One, Cubase’s drum synth,and use the pad feature for triggering

the loops. If you use Cubase in the live arena or like to record

your loop-mangling via drum your loop-mangling via drum pads this is a great way to
your loop-mangling via drum
your loop-mangling via drum
pads this is a great way to get
pads this is a great way to get
interaction in a different way.
interaction in a different way.
focus Mixing 2013 | 39
pads this is a great way to get interaction in a different way. interaction in a
pads this is a great way to get interaction in a different way. interaction in a
MTF Workshop Working with loops 7 8 Edit your loop as necessary via the Key
MTF Workshop Working with loops
7
8
Edit your loop as necessary via the Key
Editor and tidy up any timing
imperfections via Quantisation (Q).
All of the usual tools available for audio editing will be
available for you to use on your loop. However, as
already mentioned, if you have made any alterations to
your original loop and repeated it across your project
you will need to re-do the changes, as they won’t be
copied over to the repeat instances.
Browser and you’ll see that just above the main list of
loops is a search panel: if you search for your new loop it
should appear every time you need it in a project.
Mash it up
A
looping tool that Cubase advertises more prominently
is
LoopMash, an instrument for the live manipulation

Beyond pre-programmed

If you are bored with pre-programmed loops but want to

store some of your own for accessing later, Cubase enables you to do this with MIDI very simply, though

doing it with audio is not so easily achievable. To create

a MIDI loop, start with a MIDI or Instrument track and

record the part or pattern that you want to store. Once you have done this, edit it as necessary via the Key Editor 7 and tidy up any timing imperfections via Quantisation (Q). This is important when creating a loop for the obvious reason that it will be repeating over and over and the timing needs to be perfect in order to loop back into itself accurately every time – even a minor glitch will eventually become noticeable. Once the loop is in its finished state click on File>Export>MIDI Loop. 8 This opens up a dialogue box that enables you to name the new loop and associate relevant search tags with it. You can see from my example that I have used bass and electronic tags for finding it in the future. 9 Once everything has been named and labelled correctly simply press OK and the loop will be added to the loop library. To find it again, re-open the Loop

to the loop library. To find it again, re-open the Loop and deconstruction of multiple loops
to the loop library. To find it again, re-open the Loop and deconstruction of multiple loops
to the loop library. To find it again, re-open the Loop and deconstruction of multiple loops

and deconstruction of multiple loops simultaneously that can be used to create totally new sounds. It has good integration with the Loop Browser and supports drag-and-drop between the different tracks of the LoopMash instrument. 10 For more on LoopMash, see the article in MTM 106, Jan 2012, and use the techniques described in combination with those here and create your own loops to use with LoopMash.

those here and create your own loops to use with LoopMash. On the make Exploring the

On the make

Exploring the loop-based features of Cubase 6.5 is something I strongly encourage you to do, even if you don’t use loops in much of your everyday music-making. I find the ability to quickly load up a loop to play along to when tracking in the studio – even if it’s replaced later on – invaluable. For those of you who create music in electronic genres, listen to some of the more experimental sounds for inspiration and then adapt them for your own purposes. And since this article is about loops we need to get back to my first point:

Cubase 6.5 has now been replaced by Cubase 7, so let’s see what wonderful music we can make in preparation for the new incarnation of the software. MTF

in preparation for the new incarnation of the software. MTF 10 9 LoopMash is an instrument
10 9
10
9

LoopMash is an instrument for the live manipulation and deconstruction of multiple loops simultaneously that can be used to create totally new sounds.

and deconstruction of multiple loops simultaneously that can be used to create totally new sounds. 40

40

| Mixing 2013

and deconstruction of multiple loops simultaneously that can be used to create totally new sounds. 40

focus

MTF 10MM Surround sound monitoring Minute Master A controller such as SPL’s 2489 (around £550)

MTF 10MM Surround sound monitoring

MTF 10MM Surround sound monitoring Minute Master A controller such as SPL’s 2489 (around £550) enables

Minute

Master

MTF 10MM Surround sound monitoring Minute Master A controller such as SPL’s 2489 (around £550) enables

A controller such as SPL’s 2489 (around £550) enables you to switch between different 5.1 sources (a DVD and your DAW, for example).

Surround

soundmonitoring

If you want to break into surround sound, you’ll need to understandwhereandwhyyoushouldputyour monitors. Russ Hepworth-Sawyer is in the sweet spot.

B elieve it or not, surround sound has been with us for a great deal longer than you might think. During World War 2, a cinematic version of surround sound – Fantasound – was being

developed at a rate of knots by Disney, employing a rear stereo pair to the front stereo much in the way we’re used to with today’s surround sound setups. Shortly afterwards, Pierre Schaeffer, of Musique Concrète fame, was playing around with spatial sound in performances using his Potentiometer D’espace in the early 1950s, much in the same was as electro-acoustic composers exploit ‘diffusion’ today. Schaeffer’s technique included a speaker behind the audience and one above, in addition to two at the front. The sound could then be manually placed around this soundstage as part of a ‘performance’. Due to its sheer excitement – and I dare say permanent installations – cinema has found enduring reasons to sustain and develop surround sound, with technology such as Dolby Surround enabling four- channel audio to be decoded from two tracks. Later developments included Dolby Digital. Meanwhile, the music world failed to find a sustaining surround sound solution despite many near-miss attempts based around quadraphonic (quad, for short) in the 1970s. Early attempts at surround sound music such as Quad required extremely specialist and

sound music such as Quad required extremely specialist and expensive equipment and media, which hampered the

expensive equipment and media, which hampered the widespread consumer adoption of the format. One version even employed a matrix technique to squeeze four channels of audio into two channels on vinyl, making it backwards-compatible. In the 1990s, some clever solutions were developed permitting those listeners placed correctly in the stereo field (or wearing headphones) to literally hear 3D sound through the use of specific algorithms. By modelling the delay characteristics of a signal from one ear to the other it is possible to position sound in a wider space than the two speakers available to you. The main one of note is QSound, and a few albums (such as Roger Waters’ Amused To Death) demonstrate how sounds could be placed in a 3D space. Another system was Roland Sound Space (RSS). Although an

It has become tradition to refer to multi-channel systems in terms of the number of speakers utilised

systems in terms of the number of speakers utilised expensive and not widely adopted standalone system,

expensive and not widely adopted standalone system, the RSS research later became distilled into effects algorithms that found their way into some of Roland’s 1990s 19-inch rack processors. Despite a number of prominent albums being mixed in QSound to emulate three-dimensional space, this format was not universally adopted, and by the mid-90s it seems we were back concentrating on the plain old stereo CD. The next step was to face the ‘update’ question: should we look to high-definition formats or remain with the status quo? Developments for higher-resolution audio led to the notion of stereo 192kHz and 24-bit sound as a stereo benchmark, perhaps on Super Audio CD (SACD) or a lower-resolution surround sound signal.The DVD, already popular for video, led the way to the DVD-A (the ‘A’ standing for audio). Being literally a Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) meant that standards could be extremely flexible and permit all manner of formats to coincide on the same disc. One of these, of course, was six-channel surround sound.

Making the point

Over the years it has become tradition to refer to multi-channel audio systems in terms of the number of speakers utilised. A standard stereo set of monitors

Dolby Stereo Dolby Digital 5.1 Sub LFE Centre Centre Left Left Right Right Left Left
Dolby Stereo
Dolby Digital 5.1
Sub LFE
Centre
Centre
Left Left
Right Right
Left Left
Right Right
Left Left
Right Rig
Surround rround
Surround Surro
Rear Rear
Whereas Dolby Stereo offered only four channels of surround, the current 5.1 Dolby Digital format uses
a full six channels for the various speakers.

42 | Mixing 2013

the current 5.1 Dolby Digital format uses a full six channels for the various speakers. 42