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Podcast 75: Genre Conventions and Dancing with Stars

In this podcast, we are talking about mixing different musical styles.  I use the reference of “Dancing with the stars”…

What does dancing have to do with mixing? In dancing, each style of dancing, the cha cha or the tango, has certain rules that the dancer needs to adhere to in order to get a “high score” while dancing that style.

Listen to this episode for a more detailed explanation.

Raw Transcript:

Announcer: This is the Mixcoach Podcast, episode 75.

Kevin: On this episode of the Mixcoach Podcast we’ll be talking about genre conventions and why you need to know what conventions are traditionally kept within each genre.

Man: And why you need to watch Dancing with the Stars.

Man: If you want to become a more confident mixer …

Man: Now you can get the training, tools, and community you need to achieve a better mix and workflow.

Man: Mixcoach Member is a growing community of versatile mixers led by award winning engineer/producer, Kevin Ward.

Man: Each month, you’ll get access to …

Man: Downloadable session files so you can build your confidence and hone your mixing skills. Mix tutorials so you can see how a Pro-Mixer approaches each month’s new mix. The forum where you can get real-time feedback on your mix from a huge community of mixers, just like you.

Man: Members only webinars where you can get your questions answered and get advanced training.

Man: Plus hours of Mix critique videos so you can see what the Mix coaches say about the monthly mix submissions.

Steve: Hey, it’s Steve Borden, from Los Angeles, California. I’m a Mixcoach Member. I’ve been involved since its inception and my game in mixing has elevated greatly through the excellent tracks provided the feedback and the community. It’s a great group of people.

If you’re thinking about joining Mixcoach membership, and you have any question or any hesitation, just do it for one month. Mix Coach will start you on a course that will only elevate your game in mixing.

Man: Become a more confident mixer now.

Man: Go to

Jon: Hey Kev, how are you doing today?

Kevin: Jon, I’m great, how about you?

Jon: I’m doing good.

Kevin: Good.

Jon: This week, and I guess for a series here, I wanted to talk a little about genre conventions as far as mixing goes. So a lot of times there’s mixing things that you’ll do in one genre that you may not do in others, or you may, in fact, do the exact opposite of in other styles of mixing. And so I just wanted to kind of address some genre specific mixing conventions.

Kevin: Okay. Well, we’re not going to mention all the genres in this podcast, surely, because there is a lot of …

Jon: No, no. We’ll break it out just a little bit.

Kevin: Okay, well, I was doing a mix feedback just the other day for one of my members on Mixcoach and it just dawned on me finally. Okay, don’t take my man card on this.

Jon: Okay. [laughter]

Kevin: But my favorite show on TV right now is Dancing with the Stars.

Jon: Okay.

Kevin: I know, you’re kind of snickering right now, I can tell.

Jon: Not at all, not at all. [laughter]

Kevin: And I wondered, what is it about this show that I am just so wild about? First of all, the thing about the show is that it’s live. It is the pinnacle of production. You’ve got a live band, live singers most of the time, live dancers, live TV shots. I mean, if you look at some of the shows, even the dancers know exactly which camera to look at.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: You’ve got live feedback from the judges. You’ve got … and then they’re even working in social media now.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: But the cool thing about this show, in my opinion, and this is where it applies to Mixcoach. I know you thought I was on some kind of a tangent here, but here’s the thing. When it comes to Dancing with the Stars, there are different dances. There’s the rumba, the cha-cha-cha. There is jazz dance;. There’s several different kinds of dances, and I can’t name them off to you, but I just did several of them.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: So I’m really showing what kind of fanboy I am. But the thing that I thought about … This is where the light bulb went off for me was each style of dance has a certain set of rules that you have to go by, like … I can’t remember what kind of dance it was, but there was a guy dancing the other night on the show, and one of the judges says, “You know, this was a X kind of dance. Your feet are never supposed to leave the floor, so the spin you did I’m going to have to deduct all kind of points on that because that is not traditionally a … whatever it is.

On this kind of dance, you’ve got to hold your shoulders back, and there’s a certain stance you have to have. There’s certain flicks and kicks, they say. You have to do your hands a certain way. You have to hold your head a certain way on a certain … and I think that’s the way it is with mixing.

And when we started Mixcoach Member three and a half years ago, the thing I wanted to do the most is I didn’t want to train people how to mix one style of music. I wanted to train people how to mix and how to … you know? Because a dancer, if you think about how limited you would be as a dancer if you were trying to make a living as a dancer for you to go an audition and for them to say, “Okay, I need for you to do this on this song, and this on this song, and dance this way on this song.”

And you would say, “I’m sorry, but the only thing I dance well is the rumba. That’s the only thing I do well. I can kind of do everything else. You probably are probably not going to like it, but I rock at rumba. So you’re not going to make a living as a dancer if you can just dance one style.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: So my thought process, and this is where the light bulb … You know, this is why I was like, that’s why! I’m just justifying why I like Dancing with the Stars. [laughter]

Kevin: But that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to train mixers …

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: … to mix all different styles of music, and the kind of music that I mix the most is gospel music. And people will look at that as like it’s its own subgenre, and maybe it is. But in my opinion, when you mix Southern gospel music, which, you know, that’s my bread and butter most of the time.

You think about any typical Southern gospel album, you’ve got an a cappella song on it, usually. You’ve got this rocking country thing on it. You’ve got a big ballad with real orchestra on it most of the time, depending on the budget. You may have a bluegrass cut on it that’s got, you know … And you’ve got to be able to mix each style as if it’s its own dance with its own set of rules.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: So when I started Mixcoach Member, I wanted to make sure that I’ll train the most versatile mixers in the world, and I didn’t know when I said that, I didn’t realize that people would be joining from around the world.

I just didn’t. It’s a small world because of the internets and the world wide webs, but anyway, that’s the reason that I was just drawn to this show, Dancing with the Stars, because each dance has its own convention, its own set of rules, and I think …

Jon: And working within them is definitely something that is a challenge, but it’s something that also increases artistry, I would say. It’s because in that one dance per se, you can’t take your feet off the ground. You have to work within those guidelines, but there’s so much that you can put in creatively, to not take your feet off the ground, where it increases artistry, where it forces you to think within those terms. And then come up with the coolest possible routine and the coolest possible thing you could do within that subset of rules.

Kevin: Know when to stay within the rules, and know when to …

Jon: Push the envelope.

Kevin: Strategically push the envelope a little bit, and when just to do everything within the rules the best you can.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: And that’s one thing, we mix a different style of music every month on Mixcoach.

Jon: Yeah, and we plan out, you know, months in advance, and we try to shift it up a lot.

Kevin: Yeah.

Jon: But then we come back to a lot of the same styles to say, “Hey, what have you learned from these other mixes that you can put into this, you know, next mix?

Kevin: Right. So I guess, over the next few weeks we’re going to be talking about each style of music.

Jon: Yep.

Kevin: And I guess what the dancing rules are, when you shouldn’t lift your feet off the floor …

Jon: Right.

Kevin: And when you should show your holders back, when you should hold your shoulders back, or whatever. So hopefully this’ll be a good series.

But to sum it up, every style of music has its own set of rules, and you should know when to stay within the rules, and what the limits are, because I believe that the limitations, you know … In the past podcasts we’ve talked about, you know, not having the huge toolbox of plug-ins. It actually makes you better. The channel strip channels that we did on Mixcoach member actually made the mixers better because they didn’t have a huge amount of things to choose from. It was one thing and they did that one thing as best they could.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: I think it’s improved the mixers as a result of that. So in the next few weeks let’s talk about the different styles of music and what the rules kind of are.

Jon: Absolutely.

Kevin: Thanks for listening. This has been the Mixcoach Podcast, the podcast dedicated to making your next recording your best recording. For more tips, tutorials, and even a free course, be sure and visit us at

What are some “rules” that you can think of for mixing styles?  example:  In Bluegrass, the Mandolin chop is like the snare drum.  In Jazz, never let them hear your compressor…

got any more?

Where do I put the lead vocal in a mix?

I had a great question to come to me from a new subscriber. It’s a question that we all have at some point.

Where does the lead vocal go in a mix?

I answered with the method that I use to place the vocal in a mix.

Finding exactly where to put the vocal is the trickiest of tricks. I think finding that place just comes from comparing your music to other radio artists’ music…And trying to match it.

Don’t try to”beat” it right now because if you are like most of us, You are still trying to find out what the industry-standard is.

So, find some good music, and compare it to your latest mix. Make sure your vocal is in the same space and place of that music and you will be off to a great start.

Question: Name a mixer who always seems to get the vocal right in a mix. Do you compare your mixes to theirs?

When to buy new plugins [podcast 74]

Sometimes you just need a plugin “fix”.  We talk about when WE buy plugins and what the mindset is behind it.

Raw Transcript:

Announcer: This is the MixCoach podcast, episode 74.[Music plays]

Male: On this episode of the MixCoach podcast, we’re going to talk about what is important when selecting what tools are essential to you.

Announcer: If you want to become a more confident mixer. Now you can get the training, tools, and community you need to achieve a better mix and work flow. MixCoach Member is a growing community of versatile mixers led by award winning engineer/producer Kevin Ward. Each month, you’ll get access to downloadable session files, so you can build your confidence and hone your mixing skills; mix tutorials, so you can see how a pro mixer approaches each month’s new mix; the forum, where you can get real-time feedback on your mix from a huge community of mixers just like you; members-only webinars, where you can get your questions answered and get advanced training; plus hours of mix critique videos, so you can see what the MixCoaches say about the monthly mix submissions.

Steve Borden: Hey, it’s Steve Borden from Los Angeles, California. I’m a MixCoach member. I’ve been involved since its inception, and my game in mixing has elevated greatly through the excellent tracks provided, the feedback, and the community. It’s a great group of people. If you’re thinking about joining MixCoach Membership and you have any question or any hesitation, just do it for one month. MixCoach will start you on a course that will only elevate your game in mixing.

Male: Become a more confident mixer now.

Announcer: Go to

Jon: All right, Kev. This week I wanted to ask you, whenever you’re picking a new plugin, what’s important to you, what would it take to make that new plugin essential to you? What would that be; what would that look like?

Kevin: [Laughs] Oh man.

Jon: So how do you go about trying out a new one?

Kevin: You know, that’s a great question, Jon. I’ve never even thought about this really. Let me say this, for someone who’s been mixing as long as I’ve been mixing, sometimes you don’t pick plugins just because you need plugins. Sometimes you pick new plugins just because you want to make things a little interesting. You know, that doesn’t happen that much.

Jon: I mean there’s so many plugins on the market. There’s just so many to choose from even just stock plugins or anything. I was just curious as to what your take on that was, and I guess that’s really interesting is that, “Hey, I’m going to go about this mix, and I need or I want to try something new, or just a new flavor or just a new thing to help me out.”

Kevin: Yeah. Well the last time I did this, I was trying to choose between the universal audios 88 and Neev [SP] channel, and their vision. I tried the Neve first, so I used it on a mix that I was doing at the time, and consciously I was thinking, “This is going to expire, so I’m going to either need to print this or be able to replace it.” I was looking for something that was just hands down better than what I had already. I didn’t feel like that was that much better than the SSL that I use. It had maybe a slightly different quality and it compressed slightly different but I don’t know. As we’ve talked about on some of the previous podcasts before, I don’t think having a huge box of plugins to go to is necessarily good when you’re trying to get a mix done. Because you can tend to get into this analyzation mode and you have analysis paralysis, where you won’t commit anything because you’ve got too many choices you could make and you’re afraid you’re going to make the wrong choice.

Jon: And I’ve even, on the opposite of that sometimes whenever you’re mixing with a new plugin you can just think because it’s new it’s better, or because it’s new you’re going to hit it harder and it’s a compressor for instance. If it’s new you’re like, “I really want to get the tone of this,” and then by the end of it you don’t really know what to compare it to because you’re not using the same work flow you’ve used in the past, that sort of thing. That can be a factor as well, is that new is always better.

Kevin: Yeah, and you have to be cautious about that because that can really cost you a lot of money.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: I’m thinking back to how do I know if it’s essential, and I’ll have to go back a few years when I first started using the SSL. I had done a mix already, and here’s the bottom line. If my wife can tell there’s a difference, and she says it’s better, then it’s essential. I wouldn’t have let her hear the mix before and after unless it made that much of a difference, and it was an obvious difference. But the time I started using the SSL plugin, I just put it across the channel, and this was before I had the instant awesome preset that I kind of go to. I just filter it a little bit, and I used that auto makeup game on the SSL that just makes everything stand up in the mix, and I let her hear the first mix I did, and then the second mix did with the SSL. It was like, “Oh yeah, that’s awesome. Oh yeah.” That was how I kind of decided that was the one.

Jon: There was something you mentioned a while back about you had heard that base writer was good for a super dynamic base or something, but you really didn’t use it and didn’t have a need to use it so you kind of logged that information away, and then finally whenever something came up, and it was like, “Man that base has really got a dynamic, how do I even this out?” And you reached for Base Writer, and in that situation, it became worth it to you, to make it essential for that particular mix.

Kevin: Yeah, and it just so happened that it was on sale that week, I think. [Laughs] I think it was less…

Jon: You were like, “Hey, I’ll try this.”

Kevin: I think I’ll try this, it’s worth trying. And even if I don’t, you know, I don’t know if it was a trial; I don’t think there was a trial. I just bought it because I had used Vocal Writer to know that it’s pretty close, and Base Writer is supposed to be better; the Base Writer plugin would be a little easier to use than vocal.

Jon: Just because it’s a little bit more consistent.

Kevin: Well, the problem I was having with the base at that time was, when you’re doing an acoustic base, if you don’t like it just right, if you mike any acoustic instrument too close…

Jon: That’s right.

Kevin: It will have hot spots, basically. Some notes will sing out really loud…

Jon: Resonance.

Kevin: Some notes will disappear. That’s the problem I was having, is like the G string on the base was really low or normal, I guess. And then the D string was just really loud.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: And no compressor, and I think, we talked about the 88, the Neev 88, that’s when I was trying this. So the Neev 88 wasn’t doing it for me. The vision, the API vision was okay, but it still wasn’t getting it for me, and I thought there surely, and I tried about eight of the things to make it feel right. It never did.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: Not without making it sound messed with or compressed, because it was bluegrass so it was a timeless form of music. I didn’t want it to sound like, “Oh that’s back when compressing a base like crazy was in style. It must have been the 2010s,” or whatever.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: I didn’t want to do that so what I did was, surely there’s a plugin that will actually write it before it gets to the compressor.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: And that’s what I did. I used the Base Writer plugin just before the API vision plugin. So the vision wasn’t carrying the whole load of keeping the signal down. It was the base writer, which is actually pulling down on the fader.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: I felt like that was an essential plugin for me, especially at that time. I haven’t used it since, and I may only use it two or three times, but there’s a set of plugins like that, like the Isotope Arcs 3. I hardly ever use it, but when I need that plugin…

Jon: You need that plugin.

Kevin: There’s no other plugin that will do. So, that’s kind of how I decide if it’s essential. Like you said, I’ll store it away in my database of like, “oh that’s really cool, what that’ll do.” I will buy that plugin when I need to.

Jon: Yeah, definitely.

Kevin: So that’s kind of how I decide to do it.

Jon: Yeah, and I think all of this kind of comes down to knowing why you’re using a certain plugin, because if you’re just strapping on a Base Writer on every base and every situation, that’s probably not the way to go about it, but if you have a reason why, “hey I need this base right on this particular song.” Putting it on there, then that’s a good plugin to use then.

Kevin: Right.

Jon: There’s one other thing that I wanted to mention before we get off of the idea of essential plugins, and that was: mixing being similar to art or to painting, and it’s whenever you…

Kevin: Yeah.

Jon: So it’s whenever you are working on a mix. For instance, a lot of times you buy a bunch of plugins like people will buy a ton of plugins thinking, “hey this is what the pros use,” and then whenever they don’t turn out the way that the pros mixes turn out, it’s as if you bought some oil paints and said, “Well why didn’t that turn out like the Sistine Chapel?”

Kevin: Right.

Jon: “Why didn’t that end up like the Sistine Chapel? I have the paint.”

Kevin: Yeah.

Jon: Buying the plugins, the plugin being the paint, a lot of times.

Kevin: Well, you know it kind of applies to what we talked about in this podcast, and I think a couple of podcasts ago, or last podcast, or something like that. Where I talked about, it’s not really the kind of tools that the mechanic uses; it’s how he uses the tools. When you buy plugins that everyone else uses, that just happens to be the kind of tool they use, but how they’re using the tool and why they’re using the tool is really what you need to analyze. I’m an advocate of having your paint by numbers set, but make it yours. This is the set of numbers or the set of tools that I use. Don’t necessarily copy somebody else’s plugins just because they use them. These plugins that we’re talking about are what we consider essential to us. I’m trying to think of the name of the plugins the green. People use them, I can’t think of them.

Jon: I can’t think of the name right now.

Kevin: Because I don’t use them. I have been real reluctant to even use them, because I don’t want a whole new set of tools in my toolbox at all, that I won’t know what to do with, I guess. I’m kind of limiting myself, too.

Jon: Well, also whenever you get a great sound out of something, you can get a great sound out of one of your set of plugins, and somebody who uses a completely different set; they’ll get a great sound out of those as well. So it’s not really, like you said, the pay to win or something like that, where you buy plugins in order to get a great mix. It’s not really a one to one exchange there. It’s more of, “hey, you got to know how to use this, and you got to learn to put in the work to figure out what your work flow looks like.”

Kevin: Yeah. I’m all about; I’ll leave it at this. It’s all about ears over gear. I know that’s a rhyming thing I guess, but I’m a big believer in that you should develop your ears before you go and invest a lot of money in gears because my friend and mentor, Kevin McMahon, has told me this when I first got to town. I think somebody else told him this. He said, “A good recording engineer can make a wall and sack sound good.” I didn’t even know what a wall and sack, and that was before I could go and Wikipedia, but go check it out. Maybe we should put a link to the show notes under here what a wall and sack is. It was a not so good recorder, I think. It was just a base priced recorder that really didn’t sound that good. I think a good engineer who really has the ears developed over the gears can even make stock plugins sound like they should.

[Music plays]

Announcer: Thanks for listening. This has been the MixCoach podcast, the podcast dedicated to making your next recording your best recording. For more tips, tutorials, and even a free course, be sure and visit us at

Click HERE to become a MixCoach Member today!

Essential Plugins [podcast 73]

This week we are talking about what we consider “essential” plug-ins.

Raw Transcript:

Kevin: This is the MixCoach podcast, episode 73.

Jon: On this episode of the MixCoach podcast, we’re going to talk about what plug-ins we consider essential.


Hey Kev, how’s it going?

Kevin: Jon.

Jon: I was asked the other day what group of plug-ins I considered essential. I liked the question so I thought I would pose it here and we can talk about what our essential plug-ins are, but what plug-ins would you find essential?

Kevin: Are we talking about what types of plug-ins or are we talking about?

Jon: You can talk about go-to just in general, specifics, or all the way down to what do you need when you’re trying to assemble your toolbox, that sort of thing.

Kevin: Well, you know, I know you probably weren’t planning on this but let me talk about two different things here. I want to talk about the kinds of plug-ins that are essential.

Jon: Perfect.

Kevin: And then I’ll talk about the brands, because really, you know the brands…

Jon: The brands everybody has their own kind of, “Hey what do you use?” Or that sort of thing, but I’m right there with you where you can get a great sound out of so many different types of plug-ins but let’s talk about the types that you’ll need.

Kevin: Okay, so the types, just off the top of my head, you need a filter, you need something with a low pass filter on it, that’s essential, and preferably an E.Q. with a low pass filter on it.

Jon: And a high pass filter as well probably.

Kevin: I’m sorry, I meant the high pass filter, exactly. It’s confusing and I will always be confused that a low pass filter passes highs. Wait a minute.

Jon: See?

Kevin: See? It’s obvious I’m confused. You know what I’m talking about.

Jon: Yes.

Kevin: The thing that trims off the lows. What is that called?

Jon: The high pass filter.

Kevin: You need that, even though I don’t know how to say it I do know how to use it. Of course, and you need E.Q., so E.Q. with a low pass filter and then I would say you need some kind of limiter and then you need some kind of ERB.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: I mean to me, that’s really the kinds of tools that you use and you need the mono switch. In my opinion, that’s the plug-ins that you need. If there’s another plug-in that I can throw in, the kind of plug-in is you need some kind of plug-in, whether that plug-in’s a piece of hardware like my Mackie Big Knob over here or some kind of monitoring system to where you can bounce between the mix you’re doing and the mix you’re ABing your mix to.

Jon: Well you could even drop that into a session of some sort and then just leave it muted and solo it, that sort of thing.

Kevin: You could.

Jon: So I mean, yeah, yeah. Yes I would agree with you.

Kevin: So it would be a mute switch or whatever.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: But to me those are the essentials of the kinds of plug-ins.

Jon: Agreed.

Kevin: Now if you want to talk about the brands and stuff, first of all let me say this, and I think we talked about this the other day, when you’ve got a mechanic working on a car, what makes the car run well is not the kind of tools that the mechanic is using. He can use very cheap, even free tools and still make the car run well until the next time you bring it in. It just so happens that most of the professional people that work on cars, mechanics, they use Craftsman or Mac, not the computer, but Mac Tools.

Jon: A lot of times it also depends on what type of car they specialize in working on.

Kevin: It could very well mean that. So just because I’m using these tools or just because you heard C.L.A. use these tools, or Massenberger.

Jon: His even has his name on it.

Kevin: Or somebody that’s endorsed a certain tool. It doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the tool that you need to go with. With that being said, I will say that the Waves S.S.L. Channel Strip has been my go-to for probably five years now.

Jon: Yeah, that’s on my list as well.

Kevin: It’s a great plug-in, although ever since I heard the Universal Audio, is it the A.P.I. Vision?

Jon: I think so.

Kevin: Channel Strip?

Jon: Yes.

Kevin: That things is amazing and since I’ve heard that I want to hear their version of the S.S.L. now because to me the S.S.L. and the Vision both are kind of in the same category. It’s one plug-in that does almost everything and it kind of takes some of the pressure, you know we talked about this a few weeks ago, where the pain that comes along with having made the wrong decision on something. To me it kind of alleviates that pain because it’s like, “Hey I’m running through an S.S.L., whatever I can get done on this is going to get done and I’ll feel better about it because I didn’t stress out over should have used the S.S.L. or should have used the A.P.I.” You know, you kind of develop that…

Jon: What your go-to is.

Kevin: …what your go-to is after mixing. The main thing is just to keep mixing. So with that being said, the S.S.L., the A.P.I. and the Channel Strip that the Renaissance Channel is invaluable to me when it comes to toms and snare. I don’t use the S.S.L. really that much on the snare, I use the Waves Renaissance Channel on the snare. So between those three and then I use iZotope Ozone 5 on just about every mix.

Jon: Yeah, that’s on my list as well.

Kevin: And I’ll really be glad when Slate comes out with F.G.X. for A.A.X., I know that sounds like a bunch of letters but.

Jon: F.G.X., A.A.X., no absolutely.

Kevin: What does that spell? I don’t know. Yeah, but I’ll be glad when that comes out because to me that was one of the plug-ins that was like, “How did I ever make anything sound good without this?” I don’t really get into the whole console emulation that much, I’ve used it before and it does make a difference, it’s just not a part of my workflow right now, but the F.G.X. is like the ultimate limiter, [inaudible 06:12] limiter. Let’s see, verbs, I really don’t have, I used to use Altiverb quite a bit and then I don’t know. I just got tired of.

Jon: Well, it’s a big processor hog as well, you know.

Kevin: I think it was. I don’t think it is as much now.

Jon: Right on.

Kevin: But the problem I was having with it is that there’s no, if I pull up a mix I did from the last version of Altiverb I have to figure out what I did now.

Jon: Yeah, because they don’t really transfer from one version to the other. I guess that’s kind of where I’m at with verbs and stuff. It’s like while I do have my go-to, mine is Space, it used to be T.L. Space, I think it’s just now because Avid has it, it’s just Space. While that’s my go-to, I don’t necessarily say, “Hey another verb won’t work,” it’s just a verb. As long as it sounds right or even if it doesn’t, even if it’s D-verb or something, you can make them work in a mix. You can make them sound really good in a mix. Very clean, that sort of thing. You know the verb is a less of a go-to thing. I know the only other one that I wanted to add to your list that I use a lot is the 2007 Massey Limiter. It’s the Massey Mastering Limiter.

Kevin: It’s great.

Jon: It’s a very transparent limiter, loudness maximizer, that sort of thing.

Kevin: Are you mixing in Pro Tools 11 yet?

Jon: No.

Kevin: I am and I haven’t been able to make…this is me paying stupid tax here but I use the, when I went to A.A.X., I upgraded my 2007 to A.A.X. versions.

Jon: Got you.

Kevin: For some reason it didn’t upgrade and I didn’t notice that all of the settings that I had put in on 2007, when I would open up the session again, they were gone.

Jon: Oh, no.

Kevin: So anyway, I have stopped using it temporarily until I can figure out what’s going on with that so I’ve been using the L1 L2 instead of that, but I do like the Massey quite a bit.

Jon: Definitely. Whenever I was compiling the list for the guy it was surprisingly a small set that I had in the toolbox. You develop these kind of go-tos as a mixer, and I guess if you’re looking for, “Hey what are my go-tos?” you can use a lot of the same things that they guys use, but like you said, it’s not really the exact tools that you use, it’s more like what do you do with them? How are you using them? And coming up with your reason for using these different types of plug-ins as well, because even if you’re using the same plug-in that I’m using a lot of times your reasoning for using it might be a little bit different than why I like to use it. So coming up with these good reasons why is always good as well.


Kevin: Thanks for listening. This has been the MixCoach podcast, the podcast dedicated to making your next recording your best recording. For more tips, tutorials, and even a free course be sure and visit us at

Click HERE to become a MixCoach Member today!

What to listen for in a reference mix

I had a question from a MixCoach Member wondering what he should be listening for in a reference mix.

Here is his question:

What would be a list that you could give me to be mindful of when listening to other songs. I was watching a Dave Pensado video and he was interviewing someone (can’t remember who) but he told them that he learns a lot from their mixes. What is it that he’s listening for so he can learn something new and apply it?



The first thing I would listen to in a reference mix is “how does it translate to other places?”

Does it sound good in a car?  On your stereo at home?  On your home entertainment center?  If you can find a mix that you are happy with on all of those places, you definitely have a contender.

The next thing I would listen for is, “Does it make your ears tire after listening for a while.

Songs that you can’t get enough of are usually not limited too much.  There is a fine line between “loud-enough-to-hang-in-the-ongoing-loudness-wars” and “that song is so distorted and it makes my ears tired”

One of the last things I look for in a song is kinda silly, but still relevant.

How does the song make you feel?

I think the best response you can get from a listener is physical movement.

I was in the studio with a producer and we were tracking.  There was a short turnaround before the last chorus and the guitar lick that he had the guitar player play reminded me of a good old fashioned western movie.  Every time I heard the lick, I acted like I took off my pretend hat and said “yeeeeeee haaaaaa”.  I couldn’t help it.  That experience has stayed with me because it was a tribute to the producer’s arrangement of that song… it MADE me move.

I can’t speak for Dave, but I know that mixes that I “learn from” are usually mixes that fit these criteria… especially the last one.

Question:  What do you listen for in a reference mix?

Creative ways to repair phase problems in your mix [podcast 72]


Last week we told you how to detect phasing problems in your mix.  This week, Kevin gives a few tips on creative ways to fix phasing problems in a mix.

Raw Transcript:

This is the Mix Coach podcast, episode 72.

On this episode of the Mix Coach podcast, we talk about a bunch of ways that you can fix phase problems in a mix.


If you want to become a more confident mixer, now you can get the training tools and community you need to achieve a better mix and work flow.

Mix coach member is a growing community of versatile mixers, led by award winning engineer producer Kevin Ward.

Each month you’ll get access to down downloadable session files, so that you can build your confidence and hone your mixing skills; mix tutorials, so you can see how a pro mixer or a coach’s each month’s new mix, the forum; where you can get real time feedback on your mix from a huge community of mixers just like you.

Members only webinars where you can get your questions answered and get advanced training.

Plus hours of mix critique videos, so you can see what the mix coaches say about the monthly mix submissions.

Steve Borden: Hey, it’s Steve Borden from Los Angeles, California. I’m a Mix Coach member. I’ve been involved since it’s inception and my game in mixing has elevated greatly through the excellent tracks provided, the feedback and the community. It’s a great group of people. If you are thinking about joining Mix Coach membership and you have any questions or any hesitation, just do it for one month. The Mix Coach will start you on a course that will only elevate your game in mixing.

Become a more confident mixer now.

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Jon: Hey Kevin, how’s it going?

Kevin: Hey Jon.

Jon: This time I wanted to talk a little bit–last episode we talked about phase and we talked about how to determine if something was out of phase in your mix and some ways to hear those things. This week I wanted to talk about the idea of fixing those. So how do you go about correcting some phase issues that you might have in a mix? Like what tools do you use whenever we go about doing this in a mix situation?

Kevin: Right. Well, you know the biggest tool you can use that we mentioned on the last episode is your ears in mono. If something sounds thin, then it’s out of phase.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: But it’s not always cut and dry. It’s not always, you know, one over the other. Sometimes it’s a little bit out of phase, so…

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: And sometimes it’s way out of phase. The way out of phase thing is easy to fix because you just flip…

Jon: You just flip the phase?

Kevin: You just flip the polarity of the microphone or switch it in…

Jon: In your EQ Plug-in or whatever.

Kevin: Yeah.

Jon: Or even a phase plug-in.

Kevin: You could, yeah. So one of the things I use too is my eyes, you know, like if you get a kick drum–or let’s just say, let’s do non- conventional things because, you know, drums are pretty straight forward because…

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: The drums, you know the mics don’t move from the drums.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: So once you get phase fixed on that, usually you are good. Let’s talk about…

Jon: Piano’s and other multimedia instruments.

Kevin: Okay. And we’ll talk about that a little–but first, let me talk about bass guitar.

Jon: Okay.

Kevin: Okay. So I was mixing a jazz mix, a record for Marshal Wood.

Jon: Yes.

Kevin: The guy who actually plays bass now for Tony Bennett.

Jon: Awesome.

Kevin: And I was just–he taught me a lot during that mix. And I was really, you know, it was down to 88.2 I think.

Jon: Wow.

Kevin: And then he came down from Boston to mix it, so I was really trying to–I mean I was, everything I’m preaching, I was practicing and this is where I learned a lot of this stuff it’s like, you know, trying to make the mixes exceptionally good. So one of the things that we noticed was the bass guitar.

Jon: Yes.

Kevin: He is an upright bass player and the guy who recorded it, they recorded it in I think Holland.

Jon: Okay.

Kevin: And the guy recorded a DI, which sounded really good on his bass, and he also recorded stereo, I think it was stereo. I think it was a pair of…

Jon: Like an XY?

Kevin: Like an XY configuration on like KM84s or just something like that in front of the bass guitar, so you got three signals happening now. Two of which, you know, if they place the XY mics or in phase…

Jon: Right.

Kevin: I mean they are just physically in phase with each other, but the thing is, which signal do you think is going to the earliest if you have a DI and a microphone that, you know, is maybe a foot or two feet from the bass? It’s going to be the DI. Well, I was noticing that I wasn’t getting the clarity out of the bass. It seemed to be getting lost in the mix and sure enough, I zoomed in, used my eyes–used my ears first–and then I used my eyes to see yes, this direct signal is earlier than the microphone signal. So all I did was just delayed it until, you know, no rocket science here. No scientific…

Jon: So you kind of just nudge it over [inaudible 4:54]

Kevin: I just nudged it over, yeah. And what I may have done too since I was mixing what, 10 or 11 songs, is instead of nudging it, manually nudging it, I think what I did was I put a delay plug-in. You know, a lot of people wonder why do people put the delay plug-ins, I mean, if it only goes up to, you know, samples or whatever, this is what its for.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: So I was sure that the bass was going to be equally out of phase…

Jon: In every song.

Kevin: In every track, so instead of going back and having to remember to nudge the direct signal, instead I put a plug-in that compensated for it.

Jon: Excellent.

Kevin: For the delay, so there is a good way on bass, you know, I use my ears, I use my eyes and then I used a plug-in just to delay it ever so slightly.

Jon: And that way it was reproducible on multiple tracks in your workflow

Kevin: Exactly.

Jon: [inaudible 5:44] if you are importing tracks or not.

Kevin: So then let’s talk about the piano. Okay. I have, and I used to do this is the reason I’m so sensitive to it.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: The first studio I worked in, we didn’t mic the piano with two matching microphones because we didn’t have two matching microphones. I mean it was, I think we had a KM84 and we had a U89, a Norman U89.

Jon: Okay.

Kevin: Okay. Two KM84s would have been great. Two 89s would have been great. The problem was there were both great microphones but they would not…

Jon: Did not match at all.

Kevin: They would not match phase wise.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: I don’t know how to explain it but I can always tell…

Jon: Well, the diaphragms would work a little bit differently…

Kevin: They’d probably react [inaudible 6:26]

Jon: a little bit different and, you know, yeah.

Kevin: Yeah. That probably has something to do with it too. So, you know, I think I finally started using matching pairs for the piano but the thing I’ve noticed since I’ve gotten to Nashville is that I can tell when that happens and it’s almost uncorrectable or in-correctable whatever the right use–whichever one is the official word.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: We’ll edit out the wrong word. Now, whichever one is–it’s kind of not…you can’t correct it.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: So I found a hack around that and that is this, you know, I used a mid side plug-in.

Jon: Okay.

Kevin: So if you are familiar with mid side I’m sure, but just for the guys who are not, when you mic something mid side you get a dynamic microphone and that is a mono mic. And then you get a figure of eight mic right underneath it or as close proximity as you can to the {inaudible 00:07:18] mic and then you put in a figure of eight and then you melt it and flip the phase of one of the sides and then you add that back in. It’s actually a really underused, phenomenal way to mic something. If you want something to sound wide and convert to mono very easily, it’s my favorite way.

So as I’m struggling with this piano I’m going, “Why don’t I just make one of these microphones the mid, and make one of them the side.” So, I think I was using digital performer at the time. I just put the mid side plug-in across there and you can switch which microphone is the mid and which microphone is the side, so I put it in mono and I kept switching, I switched AB until I figured out one sounded better than the other and then I just used the other mic for the wideness. That’s one way that I’ve been able to correct that.

I think it’s probably as nonconventional ways to correct stuff.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: Oh, there is one other plug-in that’s really cool too.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: In my jazz and big band mixing videos, one of the first videos I did, it’s extensive, I think it’s like seven or eight houre long.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: It’s crazy long and it’s like, I don’t know, it’s cheap compared to how many hours I spent doing that first video.

Jon: Some really good content in there as well.

Kevin: But I covered–it was acoustic bass, piano and there was a piano–there was a phase problem on the piano. So if you want to hear any of this stuff, go grab that video. It’s called “Mix Coach Guide to Jazz and Big Band Mixing.”

Jon: That’s it.

Kevin: But let’s see, one of the things I did in the video was I took all the drums and I not only made them phase align or phase, you know, everything pushing in the right direction, but I actually nudged things around. I actually own the drum, so you know, most people don’t do that. I don’t think they won’t align the snare drum up with the overheads or the kick drum up with the overheads, but in Jazz music, you know, what I call in Mix Coach the timeless forms of music, which just a side bar here, in my opinion timeless forms of music are music forms like Jazz, Bluegrass, Classical; the only things that will change in that in the next 100 years will be the way it’s recorded. It won’t be the instrumentation. As a matter of fact, most of the instruments…

Jon: [inaudible] microphones either really. I mean, most of those guys are using microphones from…

Kevin: From the 50s. Yeah.

Jon: Exactly.

Kevin: So the only thing that will change will be the way it’s recorded and…

Jon: What version of the [inaudible 9:50] you are using or whatever.

Kevin: And you know what frequency align. If it’s recorded at 44.1 or 44.8. So those are timeless forms of music. Trendy kinds of music, you know, like a …

Jon: Like a lot of rock or EDM [inaudible].

Kevin: All that stuff will change in the next 10 years and then it will go out of style and then it will come back in style and so, anyway, so when you are mixing, that’s the end of the sidebar. So when you are mixing the timeless forms of music like Jazz, Bluegrass and things, you want to be careful that it’s representative of the best that instrument can sound. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to change is the way you record it.

Jon: I lost time in those timeless styles of music as well. You don’t go in and you don’t replace the drums with like a big sample or anything. A lot of times you want the sound that they recorded because that’s the what they recorded. You know, there was all a big performance. It’s one performance a lot of times and so you don’t– with rock music or whatever, a lot of times you can go in and you can go, “I’m going to replace that snare with this big gigantic snare.” You know, but that doesn’t happen a lot of times in what you are calling the timeless styles of music.

Kevin: Right. Well, let me mention one other thing that, you know, I mentioned that aligning things up and making them sound the way they should sound in timeless forms of music, it took a lot of work and you can see on the video because, you know, it’s seven hours long.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: But I showed you how I fixed the phase of the piano, probably the phase of the bass guitar, the drums and then I got insight on this new plug-in called The Soundraticks Auto Align, which is really did in, you know, a couple of [inaudible] of this plug-in, what took me several hours to do. And what you do is you take–let’s use the drums, for instance. You take one of the overheads and you call it the master. It is the master phase. It’s the benchmark that you are measuring everything else against. And then you make everything else be kind of the slave to the that. I don’t know the lingo that they use, but you run and you plug it in and you say this is the master and all these other seven mics are the slave and it will take and put everything else. It will delay the things that needs to the delayed in accordance to the overhead. And most of the time I would use the overhead because the overhead would be the thing that you wouldn’t delay. You could delay everything else to match with the overheads, but you can’t delay the kick drum to match the overheads if the overhead is delayed already.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: So that’s why we use the overheads on that. And that would work in a lot of instances with, you know, multi-mic situation. So, you know, the three ways would be, you know, you could use just nudging things around. I think we talked about…

Jon: Flipping the phase.

Kevin: Yeah. You know, with the bass we talked about just nudging things around.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: Simple as that. Then we talked about…

Jon: You talked about plug-in with that one too.

Kevin: Right. You could very easily use that. The second way we talked about was, you know, maybe not using both mics.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: You know, maybe limiting yourself. You don’t have to use all the mics.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: Another way would be to take a bad stereo mic pair if you had to use both of them for width, you could use one as a mid and one as a side. If you have the plug-in and if you know how to use it, how to do it without the plug-in, it’s very possible. And then there is the Soundraticks Auto Align that you could use too, so there is a bunch of ways that you can fix phase but the main thing I want to drive home is there is no way to make something that is out of phase sound good with a plug-in unless you fix the phase first.

Thanks for listening. This has been the Mix Coach podcast. The podcast dedicated to making your next recording your best recording. For more tips, tutorials, and even a free course, be sure and visit us at

Click HERE to become a MixCoach Member today!

How to detect phasing problems in a mix [podcast 71]

In this episode of the podcast, Kevin gives a few tips on how to detect whether or not you have phasing problems in your mix.

Raw Transcript:

Jon Wright: This is the MixCoach Podcast, Episode 71.


Kevin Ward: On this episode of the MixCoach Podcast, I’m going to show you two surefire ways that something in your mix is out of phase.

Man 1: If you want to become a more confident mixer…

Man 2: Now you can get the training, tools, and community you need to achieve a better mix and workflow.

Man 1: MixCoach Member is a growing community of versatile mixers, led by award winning engineer producer, Kevin Ward.

Man 2: Each month you’ll get access to…

Man 1: Downloadable session files, so you can build your confidence and hone your mixing skills. Mix tutorials, so you can see how a pro mixer approaches each month’s new mix. The forum, where you can get real-time feedback on your mix from a huge community of mixers, just like you.

Man 2: Members Only webinars, where you can get your questions answered and get advanced training.

Man 1: Plus hours of mix critique videos, so you can see what the MixCoaches say about the monthly mix submissions.

Steve Borden: Hey, it’s Steve Borden from Los Angeles, California. I’m a MixCoach member. I’ve been involved since its inception and my game in mixing has elevated greatly due to the excellent tracks provided, the feedback, and the community. It’s a great group of people. If you’re thinking about joining MixCoach Membership, and you have any question or any hesitation, just do it for one month. MixCoach will start you on a course that will only elevate your game in mixing.

Man 2: Become a more confident mixer now.

Man 3: Go to

Jon Wright: Hey, Kev we’ve talked a lot about phase on both the nonmember site, as well as on the member site. And I just wanted to address it a little bit on the podcast here. In a webinar it was a couple of weeks ago, we had the question posed to us, “How can you tell something is out of phase, aside from the crazy kind of shifting, phase shifted, phasey sound?” So whenever you’re mixing through something, how would you know whether the snare is out of phase with like the overheads and things like this? Just talk about that for a little bit.

Kevin Ward: Well, you know, when you talk about phasiness, I have rarely ever heard a phasey sound that told me something was out of phase.

Jon Wright: Right.

Kevin Ward: That I didn’t think should be there because usually you run things through a phaser and it’s kind of what it does.

Jon Wright: [sound effect]

Kevin Ward: That’s very nice. There’s our whizbang plug-in number one right there. No, but the biggest indicator to know that something is out of phase, in my opinion, the biggest plug-in you can use is the mono switch on your monitors.

Jon Wright: Boom.

Kevin Ward: Boom. No, the boom switch is something different. The mono switch is probably the most underutilized environment that you can put your mix in. My interns when they start here they say, “Why do you mix in mono so much?” And I know I’ve talked about this to my members too, but the reason is you mix in mono to hear the absolute worst case scenario that people are going to be listening to. And they say, “Well, nothing is ever . . . nobody listens in mono anymore.” And I said, “Really? Come over here with me. Okay, let’s leave this music playing.” And then I take them to another part of the studio, and I’ll say, “Now tell me which is right and left.” Because it’s mono.

Jon Wright: Yeah.

Kevin Ward: If you’re listening to your truck speakers at a tailgate party chances are you’re listening to it in mono. So things are in mono, mono is very real world. So the biggest indicator, I’m saying this wrong I know, but the biggest indicator that something is out of phase is that it sounds “thin” in mono. And what happens is you’ve got the left speaker, or the left signal, and the right signal, and if one is pushing the speaker out simultaneously while the other one is pulling it in, if it’s in stereo you won’t hear it. It’ll just sound wide. But if it’s in mono, they will cancel each other out because the sum of a waveform going up and a waveform coming down at the same time is zero. So it’ll sound thin, now in most cases it’s not 100% or 180 degrees out of phase.

Jon Wright: Right.

Kevin Ward: Usually it’s out of phase somewhat. Which if you’ve got a big hefty kick drum spike, we’ve all zoomed in, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’ve probably zoomed way into a waveform.

Jon Wright: Yep.

Kevin Ward: And you know how big and fat and wide those low end waveforms are. So those are the biggest, the low end is where you’re going to hear the most phase cancellation.

Jon Wright: Right.

Kevin Ward: So you’ve got one signal canceling the phase of another signal.

Jon Wright: Right.

Kevin Ward: Or kind of subtracting volume from it.

Jon Wright: Right.

Kevin Ward: Basically I guess is a good way to talk about it. So a lot of guys ask, “So when does this happen?” It happens any time you’ve got multiple microphones on any instrument.

Jon Wright: Yeah.

Kevin Ward: It can happen any time. For instance if you’ve got an inside kick drum and an outside kick drum. Or the best scenario would be when people mic a drum kit, you’ve got two mics above the drum kit.

Jon Wright: Yeah.

Kevin Ward: Are those mics in phase completely? Probably not because, time the distance from the snare to the microphone, if it’s different from each mic, then it’s going to be somewhat out of phase. So listen to it in mono and just in AB whether one side in or out of phase is going to sound better than the other.

Jon Wright: Yeah.

Kevin Ward: Then you’ve got all the individual things coming in there like the snare drum, the kick drum, all the toms, if they’re reaching those mics at different times, and they will be because you’ve got one mic really close to the snare, and then you’ve got another mic that you’re using significantly loud of the overheads and are they in and out of phase? So the best way to tell, the absolute best way to tell, is just to do two things at a time. The overheads and the kick, put it in mono, flip the phase of the kick, more often than not, one will sound bigger than the other. Sometimes it’s a taste thing.

Jon Wright: Yeah.

Kevin Ward: And sometimes you may choose…

Jon Wright: One that’s a little bit more out of phase just because you like it better with the song.

Kevin Ward: Let’s just say you’ve got a sparse track and the drums need to sound huge, then you might go for the in phase kick sound that’s just really big and hefty in mono. And then you might have a track that’s real orchestral and same kit, same mic’ing and everything, and you may choose to use the out of phase signal because you want it to sound a little tighter.

Jon Wright: Yeah.

Kevin Ward: That’s not in every scenario I’m saying that’s probably…

Jon Wright: That’s kind of an extreme…

Kevin Ward: That’s an extreme scenario.

Jon Wright: That’s an scenario. Yeah.

Kevin Ward: Yeah. But, I would say most of the time you’re going to be able to listen and go, “Oh yeah, that’s the one I prefer.”

Jon Wright: Sure.

Kevin Ward: Usually that’s the one that’s in phase with the rest of the mics.

Jon Wright: There is something else that you’ve mentioned before, and it’s something that rings true, I think, with everybody’s mixing. If you’ve mixed for a few mixes, a lot of times you’ll have, for example, a snare, and you’ll be listening along through the track and you’ll be maybe into the guitars, with the guitars in the kit, and you’re thinking, “Man, that snare’s just not treating how I want it to be. Just doesn’t sound, doesn’t have the low body. Doesn’t have some element that I want it to.” And then you go over and you solo the snare and you go, “Man, the snare sounds awesome soloed.” But then you unsolo the snare and it’s like it’s back to, “Man, where did the snare go?” And that is, I would say, 99% of the time that’s a phase issue. And that’s something that you mentioned a while back in a webinar, and it just seems like pointing at that and saying, “Hey, that happens,” and rather than using an E.Q. or just saying, “Well, I’m going to replace the snare.”

Kevin Ward: Yeah.

Jon Wright: Or something drastic like that, if you check on the phase, you might be able to solve the issue.

Kevin Ward: Absolutely. More often than not, that is the problem. Okay, here’s two indicators that you’ve got something out of phase. If something sounds “thin” when it’s in mono, but it sounds fine when it’s in stereo? It’s out of phase, more than likely. If something disappears in the mix in mono, and it sounds fine in stereo? It’s usually out of phase. That’s the two biggest indicators that something’s out of phase. You will rarely ever hear a phasey sound that something’s out of phase, unless there’s a microphone moving.

Jon Wright: Right.

Kevin Ward: Or something like if you’ve got somebody actually moving a mic in real time.

Jon Wright: Or moving closer to or further away from a microphone or stuff or something like that.

Kevin Ward: If something’s moving while you’ve got it mic’d then you may hear a phasing thing. And you know what? Here’s the ultimate thing that I think, the biggest choice that some mixers can make, just because somebody gave you 18 mics for the drums, does not mean you have to use all 18 mics. You don’t have to mix all those in. You can pick the ones that sound the best, and most of the time the more mics you have the more you have to worry

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