All Posts by Kevin Ward

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Quickly Tuning Vocals In Melodyne

Melodyne can be a daunting program to master, but in this age of “perfect it in the mix”, it’s one of those tools that you can really benefit from knowing.

I want to show you in this video how to ‘easily’ tune a track using Melodyne as a plugin in Pro Tools or whatever your flavor of DAW.

  1. Clean up your track. Clean up punches, do crossfades… whatever you need to do so that when you track it in to Melodyne, you won’t be bothered by punches. It’s easier to fix them in your DAW and almost impossible in Melodyne unless you track it back in again
  2. Track your vocal into Melodyne. You can track multiple tracks at once with the new Melodyne but for our example, we are looking at one track. You can also edit multiple tracks at once but that is for another video.
  3. Double click the licks. Melodyne will take the average of the note that it detects. If there are actually two notes in one “blob”, then Melodyne will “tune” that note to a note between those notes… so you need to separate any notes like “quick licks”, “Fall offs” and “Yodles” and “Scoops” so that Melodyne understands which part of the note to tune.
  4. Double click the track When you are in note selection mode, Select All (right click) and double-click. This will quantize the pitches to the right place. When you separate the licks out in step 3, you will be (mostly) happy with the results.
  5. Listen. Melodyne will get most of the notes right, but depending on your singer, it WILL tune notes to the wrong place. Listen line by line and adjust as necessary.

After this, I usually print the tuned vocal to a separate track. I recommend that to you too unless this is an ongoing project that you need to go back and tweak for the producer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cYdZXiJW2Q

How do YOU tune vocals?

Three Ways To becoming A More Consistent Mixer

Let me ask a question… do you think that McDonald’s has the best hamburgers in the world? They are certainly good, but not the best in the world.

So why do billions of people go to McDonald’s to eat lunch? No matter where you are in the world, you will find McDonald’s on some busy corner packed with hungry patrons. Why has McDonald’s been so successful? It’s probably not the flavor of their burgers…

I think the reason McDonald’s has been so successful is consistency. No matter where in this world you go to get a big Mac, it’s going to taste about the same as anywhere else. It’s consistent.

I’m trying to sell you on being a McMixer, but being consistent is a game winner.

Here are three ways that you can become more consistent in your mixing.

Use References Mixes

I know you’ve heard me talk about this time after time, but it is THAT important. Our ears change over time. Not just a lifetime. They can even change over the course of a day.

I’ve worked with “challenged” singers and musicians before where at the beginning of the day, I perceived their performance as, well… bad. But by the end of that same day, I found myself saying things to them like, “very good”… and meaning it!

It’s not necessarily that the singer improved over the course of the day, but my ears adjusted to the level of their ability.

My ears changed over the course of the day.

On the other hand, I have worked with awesome singers that blew me away within the first 10 minutes of our session only to find myself later that day saying, “I think we can get that better”… and meaning it too!

My ears changed over the course of the day.

Your ears change too. When you’re mixing, why not reference something that you believe to be consistently good no matter where you are listening to it.

Referencing your mix gives you a chance to reset and center your ears. – @mixcoach

Build workflows

I found over my years of mixing that if I mix what’s most important or what I want to hear the most in the mix, it tends to be louder. this is part of my workflow now. I just naturally makes what needs to be loudest last. It’s a workflow. It my mixes more consistent.

I tend to use the same reverb settings almost every mix. I’ve also discovered that some of my favorite mixers do the same thing. Why would you want to waste your brainpower coming up the next big reverb that probably sounds just like the last big reverb.

Find the reverb you like, and save it as a preset. Better yet, build this into your template. These are all part of your workflow. It helps you be more consistent.

Meet your deadlines.

No matter how good you are, if you can turn in a master to your artist or producer when you say you can, then you are considered To be inconsistent. “Well, I would love for so-and-so to mix it, but there’s no telling when we begin the master back”.

The way that most engineers brains are put together, we would probably mix recalls from now until Kingdom Come. But in the real world, we live and die about what we turn in as finished. No mix is ever really perfect, Only perfect enough.

Don’t just be a good mixer. Be good at finishing your mixes on time.

This is definitely not and all-inclusive list of ways to be more consistent in your mixing. So, in the comments below, share your tips with me.

How to improve your mixes virtually overnight

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The hard truth is, progressing as a mixer does take time, but it doesn’t have to take YEARS.

I’ve seen people improve dramatically within one mix using three principles I’ll share with you in this post.

But first there’s two truths you absolutely need to know…

TRUTH #1:

No one I know who mixes at a high level has ACTUALLY finished learning.

After 25 years in the studio, I learn something new about mixing every time I get behind the console. The longer we mix, the more we solidify habits… good and bad.

TRUTH #2:

Your mixing can improve within days, or even hours, instead of years because of something called the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule was discovered by Wilfred Pareto, an Italian scientist, who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. After closer study, he (and later the scientific community) concluded there was a law in place. That law? The Pareto Principle (a.k.a. 80/20 rule).

Screenshot 2015-10-16 15.50.55

photo credit – jlspartnerconnection.com

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  • 80% of your improvement will come from 20% of your efforts.
  • 80% of your frustrations come from 20% of your mistakes.
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When you’re starting out in mixing, it helps to see progress and see it quickly. So, as promised, here’s three principles that when applied only take 20% of effort but yield 80% improvement.

Here’s your first 80/20 mixing principle…

Principle #1. Get a Reference: Don’t Mix Blindfolded

Find a reference that inspires YOU.

Listen to mixers who are killing it and try to emulate what they are doing.

If you’re asking, “Why would I want to copy another mixer’s epic mix?” my answer is, “Why in the world would you want to reinvent the wheel?” At this stage, identify what’s working instead of trying to improve mixing as an art and science.

Don’t let your ego say, “I have to create my own way of compressing!” Start by doing it the way everyone else does it… at least for now.

Don’t worry, you’re not plagiarizing their mix. Truth is, they’re doing so many “little” things that you could easily spend the rest of your life trying to emulate them all. But again 80/20 rule, remember?

[feature_box style=”18″ title=”Tips for comparing your mix to the reference mix” font_size=”22″ content_font_size=”16″ top_margin=”30″ bottom_margin=”30″ alignment=”left”]

NOTE: Usually, the mix you will be referencing will have already been mastered. Keep that in mind. You will drive yourself crazy trying to get that kind gain out of your mix. Leave that to the mastering engineer if there is one or leave the final volume for later. For now, just turn their mix (the reference mix) down by about 3 db. Then, listen to key points in comparison to your mix.

  • Is their snare fuller? Is it brighter?
  • Where does the vocal sit?
  • Is the bass louder or softer?
  • How do the mixes compare at softer control room volumes?
  • How does your mix and theirs sound in mono?

Start with the big picture and then later, start zoning in on subtle vocal/ drum/ bass treatment.
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IS REFERENCING A MIX REALLY COPYING?

I’ve heard it said that copying from one source is plagiarism, while copying from multiple sources is research. So do your research, it will only make you better. How will you know how far you’ve come or how far you have to go without a reference to shoot for?
One of my mentors, Zig Ziglar, tells the story of an archer named Howard Hill:

The famous archer, Howard Hill won all of the 267 archery contests he entered. He could hit a bullseye at 50 feet, then split first arrow with the second. Would it be possible for you to shoot better than him? YES, if he were blindfolded. How can you hit a target you can’t see? Even worse, how can you hit a target you don’t even have? You need to have GOALS in your life.
– Zig Ziglar

When you are influenced by a mix try to emulate it. Think of it as setting a goal for yourself.

Find a reference that inspires YOUR CLIENT.

It’s very important that when you are mixing for someone else (your band, a producer, a record company, etc. ) that you know what inspires them too. Before starting to mix their song, make sure you know what they want.

Just ask, “Are there any mixes that inspire you I should listen to before I send this back to you?”

If you nail a mix in your mind only to discover it’s not what THEY had in mind, you’ve totally missed the mark.

 

 

Principle #2: Recover Invisible Tracks: Don’t Forget Your Phase.

Has this ever happened to you?

Your snare sounds flat in the mix so you push it a little, but nothing. You solo it and magically it sounds FAT… even amazing! You put it back in the mix only to have it disappear again.

What’s going on?

The other day a student wanted to know what compressor to use on a snare to give it more punch. I asked him for a little more information. Come to find out he had 3 snare tracks, the live snare plus two snare samples. Isolated, each one sounded huge, but in context, left him craving more punch… even after 2 extra samples.

What’s the deal? By all rights, that track combo should have been super-fat!

Well, one or more of the snares was out of phase with the overheads.

What a simple fix that led to huge results!

BONUS TRUTH:

There are not many plugins that can fix phase problems!

Phase cancellation doesn’t care how much money you’ve spent on plugins. The fact is that there’s only one plugin that fixes it… and you already have it. – @mixcoach

click to tweet this

Have you ever wondered how those classic rock or country recordings stand the test of time? Even today, those mixes still set the bar.

The engineers didn’t have a list of plugins and triggers that would magically fix anemic drums. That’s because their “fixes” were more core and basic.

There were several basic practices that they used that we tend to overlook in modern recording. The first of which is phase.

 

recover-invisible-tracks

Is your mix sounding a little flat? Download this free mini-training and learn how to quickly identify if phase issues are crippling your mix and how to correct them. Get it here.

Take action on this >> Recover Invisible Tracks

Principle #3: Mixes Aren’t Biscuits: Don’t Start From Scratch.

Whether your session comes from MixcoachMember.com or some other source, save yourself a TON of time and promise me you won’t start your mix from scratch.

Granted, you may have to start from scratch the first time, but as you go save save things like:

  1. Custom plug-in settings
  2. Modified plug-in settings
  3. Mixing templates

Leave the 80% of your work to these presets and templates. This will free up the biggest part of your creative brain to make improvements that make up the other 20%.

[feature_box style=”13″ title=”Three Examples Of Jump Starting Mixes” alignment=”center”]

Improve_your_mixes_overnightExample 1: Let’s say you’ve crafted an EQ that really sounds good on the snare. Save it as a custom preset in your EQ library as, “Your Awesome Preset.”

Or, suppose you stumble upon a factory preset. It sounds amazing, except that it has too much bottom end. Just remove the bottom end and save it as a modified preset called, “Your Awesome Kick Preset.”

Either way, you won’t lose yourself in a mix next time by scrolling through a hundred factory presets.

Sure, it may not work every time, but it probably will 80% of the time (see the pattern here?).

Drum BussExample 2: I personally route all my drums to an aux named, “Drum Buss.” Then I put my go-to compressor on that aux because I know it well and it sounds great. In a similar fashion, I always route my vocals using this type of chain. It saves me tons of time and allows me to start with a set-up I’m very comfortable with.

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The best mixers I know use mix templates they’ve created over time and that work for them over 80% of the time (hey, this is a pattern for sure).

Here’s my point. If you don’t have presets and templates, start creating them NOW…on the next mix… like today. You’ll thank me later.

Stop re-inventing your wheels.

See you next time,

Kevin

recover-missing-tracks

Is your mix sounding a little flat? Download this free mini-training and learn how to quickly identify if phase issues are crippling your mix and how to correct them. Get it here.

Get it today >> Recover Invisible Tracks

 

MixCoach Podcast 126 – Interview with Drew Ramsey – Part 2

This episode is part 2 of Kevin’s interview with Drew Ramsey! They talk specifically about Drew’s experiences co-producing artist Jonny Lang’s album “Turn Around” (one of Kevin’s absolute favorite albums), as well as Jonny’s upcoming album “Signs” (releasing September 8th).

Topics include: The creative process and inspirations behind the album, songwriting, what gear was used in the production, how did these albums come about, and more!

This podcast is brought to you by MixCoach Pro Member (www.MixCoach.com/Member)

If you would like to check out an extended video cut with a minute or two of bonus content head over to MixCoach Member.

Preorder Jonny Lang’s “Signs”: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/signs/id1243234143

Download This Episode

MixCoach Podcast 125 – Interview with Drew Ramsey – Part 1

In this episode Kevin interviews Drew Ramsey! They talk specifically about Drew’s experiences co-producing artist Jonny Lang’s album “Turn Around” (one of Kevin’s absolute favorite albums), as well as Jonny’s upcoming album “Signs” (releasing September 8th).

Topics include: The creative process and inspirations behind the album, songwriting, what gear was used in the production, how did these albums come about, and more!

This podcast is brought to you by MixCoach Pro Member (www.MixCoach.com/Member)

If you would like to check out an extended video cut with a minute or two of bonus content head over to MixCoach Member.

Preorder Jonny Lang’s “Signs”: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/signs/id1243234143
Download This Episode

Tips for Mixing Orchestra Sessions – Or Any High Track Count Song

I love mixing Orchestra music.  To me, it’s the pinnacle of mixing live music.  You have 40+ highly skilled musicians playing and you have the challenge of making sure they are heard, but at the same time, you don’t want to “lose the groove” of the rhythm section. Right?

Here are a couple of quick tips to help you navigate the numerous tracks that strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion can bring to a mix.

  1. Don’t get overwhelmed – Try to mix quickly like a musician would play a song.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the smallest EQ changes while losing the big picture. In this modern day of double-clicking and recalling a song, you should take advantage of mixing a whole song in a short amount of time knowing that you can pull it back up in a cinch.
  2. Mix In Stages –  Orchestral songs can really take it out of you.  If you try to import all of your settings or recreate your mix on every song (if you are mixing multiple songs), you can lose steam in the end where most of the critical changes happen.  Try mixing in stages.  Think static mix then print. Listen in the car or on the old earbuds and then come back and  mix a little more.  There’s no reason to mix the whole song in one sitting.
  3. Always Use A Reference Mix – I do it.  So should you.  Your ears forget pretty quickly.  Sometimes you think there is enough low end in your mix until you hear a Michael Buble mix… that’s why we have reference mixes… it keeps us pressing toward the mark.  You shouldn’t try to recreate the wheel here…. use someone else’s ears to keep yours tuned up.

If you want more (like 8 videos) tips on how to mix a high track count orchestra session, you could check out my course that I created a while back called The MixCoach Guide To Orchestral Mixing.

Hopefully this will keep you pointed in the right direction when it comes to mixing Orchestra.

Have fun!

Kevin

MixCoach Podcast 124: Interview with Andy Peck of Dirty White Couch Studio in Niles, Michigan

 

In this episode Kevin and Jon interview Andy Peck! They talk about Kevin’s trip to Andy’s awesome studio in Niles Michigan, how Andy utilizes his unique space, what Kevin learned on the trip, what Andy got out of Kevin’s visit, and what listeners can learn from Andy’s experience of opening a studio outside of a large music industry city.

Topics include: How to handle recording multiple instruments in a large open space, how great instruments and mic placement can do, how Andy stays busy with work in his studio, and more!

This podcast is brought to you by MixCoach Pro Member (www.MixCoach.com/Member)

Reach out to Andy Peck at Dirty White Couch Studio on Facebook!

You can also find out more about the studio at the website!

 

Download This Episode

Podcast 123: Interview with Grammy-Winning Producer Joe West

In this episode Kevin interviews Joe West! They talk about Joe’s background in the recording industry, his influences, and what led him to the many accolades and awards he has received (including working on a Grammy Award winning project).

Topics include: How Joe got his start in the music industry, the difference between learning things right before you need them and having years of experience, his work with the Grammy Award winning “Joey and Rory,” mentoring, songwriting, and how being a jack of all trades is like running a triage.

This podcast is brought to you by MixCoach Pro Member (www.MixCoach.com/Member)

Kevin is at his studio in California and Joe is on the porch of his studio “The West Barn” in Tennessee. Check out Joe’s website here.
Download This Episode