Category: Mixing

Another free SoundToys plugin

Little MicroShiftFollowing up on their release of the excellent Little Radiator (exactly a year ago), SoundToys once again are pre-releasing a free version of what will soon be a paid plugin. The Little MicroShift promises to add “massive width, enormous depth, and huge thickness” to whatever you put it on. Basically, it makes mono stuff stereo, using three different algorithms emulating two classic pieces of kit.

I have yet to try this baby out, but I’ve gotten my free copy, and you can get yours here until March 29th (that’s this coming Friday). Go get some free stereo!

Forget Tech, It’s About the Notes

Photo by John McNicholas

I’m a little slow on the uptake this week, but my latest SCOREcast Online post went up on Monday. This month’s theme over at SCOREcast is technology, but I always like to stir up trouble, so I went in the opposite direction. Here’s an excerpt:

I know this month’s theme is about technology and all the hot new gear out there, but I wanted to step back from all that and share a bit of wisdom I’ve learned the hard way: when you’re composing, compose.

Don’t orchestrate, arrange, record or mix at the same time. Writing, orchestrating, recording and mixing are four independent processes which use different skills and different parts of your brain. Trying to do even two of them at the same time is distracting and counter-productive. It takes you out of the moment and diverts you down numerous paths that beckon seductively but will ultimately waste your time and weaken your finished product.

Read the full article here, and step away from your DAW.

Quick Tip: Setting a Compressor

Here’s a quick tip on setting a compressor properly so you’re not overcompressing the signal. I got it from reading through the excellent posts like this one on Production Advice (mentioned in an earlier post). I’ve been using compressors for years and I can’t believe I never knew this bit of wisdom! Here it is:

In normal use (i.e. not for a special effect), set your compressor’s threshold so the gain reduction goes back to zero a few times each measure.

That’s it! That way you know you’re only compressing the loudest parts of the signal and not crushing the whole thing. It also ensures that the release time isn’t too long and the compressor has a chance to “let go” of the signal before the next loud bit. Continue reading

Production Advice

Photo by Thomas Helbig

Just found this great blog on recording, mixing and mastering: Ian Shepherd’s Production Advice. Shepherd covers all aspects of achieving great-sounding mixes, from getting the best sounds at source, mixing them effectively, and making the end result loud and punchy so it competes with commercial mixes. I stumbled onto the site a mere 24 hours ago and I already feel like I’ve spent a month in engineering school (in a good way).

Being a professional mastering engineer, Shepherd tends to focus on that end of the chain. But I also feel like that’s more misunderstood than recording and mixing anyway, so it’s a welcome addition to my trove of resources. Witness his discussion of dithering, an esoteric and confusing subject if ever there was one. Shepherd maintains that one should dither whenever you bounce, whether it be to 16 or 24 bit. This goes against conventional wisdom, at least the conventional wisdom I’ve read, but it does make sense when he explains it. Continue reading

Sloppiness

Photo by Heinrich Klaffs

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and posts lately about the importance of fixing timing and tuning, most notably in Sound On Sound’s excellent Mix Mistakes article from last September. There, author Mike Senior talks about how many amateur mixes he hears that have sloppy timing and dodgy tuning which ruin the impact of otherwise good songs. He does mention the importance of not going too far in this department, but knowing when too tweak and when to step back is a subtle art and definitely bears more discussion.

Listen to The Band’s awesome “We Can Talk” and imagine it would sound like in the hands of an overzealous Pro Tools user. Nothing in that recording lines up, and it’s an absolutely glorious thing. If you listen closely there are loads of “mistakes”—slight timing errors, missed notes, and general sloppiness—but none of it sounds wrong. Every smudge and inconsistency contributes to the overall impression of a hootenanny happening in the studio and the band having a ball doing it. Continue reading

FREE SoundToys Little Radiator

Until March 29th, plugin makers SoundToys are offering their new Little Radiator plugin for free. The Little Radiator is an emulation of the classic Altec 1566A tube mic preamp. The 1566A and 1567A were a big part of the early Motown sound, and the units are prized today for their colored, warm tone. Indeed, the plugin does add quite a bit of punchy fatness and it sounds especially good on drums. The controls couldn’t be simpler: the Pad attenuates, Heat adds gain and warmth, and Mix adjusts the mix of clean and effected tone.

As a bonus, by downloading a copy, you’ll also be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a Plugged For Life bundle—free downloads of all SoundToys plugins for eternity. Runners-up will win SoundToys plugin bundles and free upgrades to the upcoming Radiator plugin, the Little Radiator’s big brother.

One caveat: users must have an iLok USB key and iLok.com account. If you do, get your copy here: https://www.soundtoys.com/sxsw2012/&rc=401-2047-977. And the more you pass around your link, the more chances you’ll have to win!

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Stems

Photo by Rob Sheridan, L.A. Times

This just in: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have made the stems from five Girl With the Dragon Tattoo cues available at Tunecore. They’re up until March 31st, 2012, so download and enjoy.

Aslo, if you like these two, the L.A. Times  interviewed Reznor back in December.

Incidentally, I haven’t seen The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
yet, but I plan to sometime this week. I’m rapidly getting caught up on my list of possible best scores of 2011, and I’ll fill you all in soon. (For the record, I’m not anticipating GWDT will make the list, but Trent and Atticus did win the Oscar last year, so I feel obliged to consider it.)

Compressors Made Easy

To really hear what a compressor is doing, set the Ratio and Threshold at their maximum.

Compressors can be confusing little buggers. When I was a recording novice, I was often baffled by them and was never really sure if they were doing anything. Even now, with more experienced ears, it’s still sometimes hard to tell exactly whether a compressor is adding anything useful to a track.

A compressor’s effect on a track can be subtle—and that Makeup Gain knob doesn’t help, since we usually perceive “louder” as “better.” I’ve often discovered, after thinking I’d improved my audio by adding a compressor, that all I’d done was make it louder. A few years ago I learned this handy trick for setting compressors: go way too far with the compressor’s settings so you can really tell what you’re doing, and then back them off:

Continue reading

“Stairway To Heaven” Song Analysis

Bobby Owsinski has a nice little exploration of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” in his Big Picture Production Blog. Sure, we’ve all heard the song a million times, but it’s really interesting structurally. And as Bobby points out, it has a surprisingly huge sound for such a sparse arrangement (only 7 instruments).

Being a total theory geek, I wish he’d evaluated the chords and music, but perhaps that’s something I’ll do in the near future. In the meantime, here’s Owsinski’s analysis.