All Posts by Kevin Ward

About the Author

The End of the Faceless Mixer (Hopefully)

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I have a request for you guys. I really enjoy talking to you in the comments, int the email and in the “Mix Like a Pro” class.

But I’m getting confused. I’ve met some of you guys face to face. I’ve seen pix of some of you on your websites. But I want to see your mugs on my websites in my comments!

Don’t worry, I’m going to show you how.

There’s an easy way to get your picture by your comment. Not just on my site, but everywhere you would leave a comment. It’s called Gravatar. It stands for Globally Recognizable Avatar.

All you need to do is Go Here or click on the picture and sign up. It’s easy and you’d be helping me to put a name with a face…or a GRavatar.

Thanks for all of your support and encouragement!

Kevin

 

P.S. when you get your gravatar, be sure and comment.  Logos are fine, but I’d love to put a name with a face.

Mixer’s Toolkit is at number 33 on Amazon

screenshot of PT9:TMT at 33 on Amazon

Pro Tools 9: The Mixer's toolkit at number 33 on Amazon best sellers in Sound Recording

I just noticed that the book that I wrote with Nathan Adam is the 33rd most popular book in the Sound Recording section at Amazon right now. We are right behind Zen and the art of Mixing… which is GREAT company to be in.

Thank you to all of the MixCoach fans who have already purchased it.

Nathan and I thank you!

If you haven’t bought it yet, you can get it here.

MixCoach Podcast 020 : Bringing On The Electric Guitars

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On this Episode of the MixCoach Podcast, Kevin addresses the electric guitar and his typical signal chain. He talks about techniques for EQing and compressing electric guitars. Kevin touches on panning Fender Electric Guitars or Gibson Guitars to excite the mix in stereo.


Question:

How do YOU make your guitars sit in the mix with out them getting too loud?


Building Trust : Talking smack about your competitor

speak no evilNow that we’ve established that building trust is best done with the small things like being a little tidy, and giving credit where credit is due, lets talk about when it’s okay to talk smack.

Um, NEVER.

When you and your buddies get together and start talking about other musicians, other engineers, other experiences in the studio, be careful what you say about people that you have worked for in the past. I’ll tell you why.

Whether you know it or not, you are setting yourself up for failure by talking about another person’s weak points.

When you talk about how bad someone sings, how bad someone mixes or plays, you may think that you are making yourself look better, but what you’re doing is you’re showing your client how you are going to talk about them behind their back. That’s no way to build someone’s trust.

The best thing to do in a situation like this, first of all, is to try not to engage in the conversation at all. If you are asked to join in, try to defend the other person if it’s possible.

If your client is talking down  about their previous engineer’s horrible snare drum sound, maybe you could say “Hey guys, sometimes, it is really hard to get a snare drum to sound good. I know what he’s going through I have been through it myself”.

If you can take the high road and try to defend even people who are competing against you, maybe they will defend you the next time YOU have a bad snare day.  At the very least, you can rest at night knowing you’ve done the right thing.

Question: What’s a creative way to avoid “talking smack” and losing trust?

My first bad review

My first bad Amazon review

Since our book came out, I’ll have to be honest, I’ve been so humbled by your response to it.  I was pretty happy in knowing that Pro Tools 9: The Mixer’s toolkit has helped people from all over the world.

I read the reviews occasionally.  Today was one of those days.  But today was different.  I got a BAD review.

I’ll link to it here, but here’s and excerpt of what Personne said.  I just want to see if you guys agree or disagree.

The first third of this book is dedicated to rhythmically ‘correcting’ drums, basses and guitars. The authors seem to feel that the most important skill in the studio is to quantize nearly every note that’s played. This appears to be routinely necessary, when in fact it should only be done in very limited cases: when a group has disbanded or when the producer has a gun to your head. There seems to be little awareness that rhythmic feel comes from irregularity. Imagine the group ‘Cream’ without the enthusiastic ebb-and-flow (and slop) of Ginger Baker. The behind-the-beat singing of Sinatra is what made it swing. If a drummer needs that much fixing, he needs to be fired. Or the engineer needs to be fired.

Most of the remainder of the book seems dedicated to compressing every track in every way possible. Most experienced engineers lament this trend for the way it sucks the life out of contemporary mixes (if there’s any life in there to begin with). Compressors have been around for ages, but their relative scarcity meant that they were only used when there was a problem to fix. Now, with the advent of plugins, they can be slammed into every corner of a mix. ‘Can’ doesn’t mean ‘should’.

To their credit, the authors do spend some time talking about the importance of mono compatibility. They also go over the reasons why a great-sounding single track won’t sound good in a mix. They know the importance of working quickly with keyboard shortcuts. But their approach is a meat-grinder approach in which everything is treated the same–basically as rave room dance mix. The best mixers know how to mix for genre: a country mix sounds live and might carry some sense of the roadhouse. A prog rock mix might sound dreamy and a blues mix will be aggressively in your face. A jazz mix will be tight and crisp and a classical mix won’t even seem to be there at all. The focus of this book should be more clearly identified as “Making a garage guitar band sound like a MIDI sequence”.

So what should the aspiring mixer look for in a guidebook? Nearly all the great mixers I know have solid people skills. They sit down with the band and talk about previous mixes and favorite mixes by other bands. They make sure that they’re working to satisfy the desires of the clients–not to simply run them through a generic mix mill. A guidebook needs to talk about microphones and microphone placement (even if the mixer isn’t hanging mics herself), since those production choices can often significantly drive a mix. A guidebook needs to talk about mixing background vocals, horns, live pianos in a genre-appropriate way. And the guidebook needs to talk about a larger mix world. Mixing includes rock, country, commercial spots, television and film. Many skills, properly taught, can bridge multiple applications. For example, I lament the application of time correction in the second paragraph of this review. While questionable in music, it’s absolutely necessary in dialog-replacement (mixing for picture). Creating a sense of space by specific reverb choices and tasteful panning is the final bit of magic.

No one book can be all things to all readers. But it should be more respectful of the art than this one is. I hope there are better choices out there.

I respectfully replied this:

Hi Personne. I’m sorry you felt that way about the book. I really am. The sole purpose of this book (to me) was to help aspiring engineers (and pros who like to see other mixer’s workflows) make a band– theirs or their friend’s– sound better than they already are. I did this with the technology that is available in Pro Tools 9.

Also, if you are really interested in how to mix background vocals, horns, live pianos in genres such as Jazz and Big Band, I have all of that available in full-length tutorials that are very genre specific such as Orchestral Music, Jazz and Big Band, as well as Rock. Those videos are located at my website MixCoach dot com

I apologize if this book didn’t fit the “all-purpose” Pro Tools book that, in my opinion, rarely teaches anything specific about mixing. However, my mission is to help engineers reach their goals of becoming better at what they do… not just to please critics.

I would really love to have a conversation with you. If you’d like, you can reach me at mixcoach[dot]com/contact.

Hopefully, Personne will comment here and see that my heart really is to help aspiring engineers.

I realize that some (most) of you guys don’t own the book, but you know my heart because of the training that I offer on MixCoach.  If you agree with Personne, please do me a favor and let ME know so that I can improve what I do here.  However, if you’ve learned anything here at MixCoach and you are inclined to, you could leave a comment on Amazon.

This is exciting.

Kevin

MixCoach Podcast 019 : How I process an Acoustic Guitar

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On this episode of the MixCoach Podcast, Kevin addresses acoustic guitar, giving you his signal chain and approach to EQ and compression. He also talks about some production tips for acoustic guitar.

Question:

How do YOU keep an acoustic guitar from taking over a track?


MixCoach Podcast 018 : The Two Best Ways To Compress Bass

[audio_player style=”1″ url=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/mixcoach/18_MC018__The_Two_Best_Ways_To_Compress_Bass.mp3″]

On this episode of the MixCoach Podcast, Kevin discusses, the Nashville studio standards on bassists processing their instrument before tape. However, Kevin talks about how to process a bass when you don’t have access to great bass rigs before tape. He talks about his Compressor settings in-line, as well as with parallel compression.


Question:

How do you dial in your bass guitar?


Building Trust : Giving and Taking Credit

201105301546.jpgIs there anything more frustrating that picking up a record that you worked on and noticing that no one gave you credit for what you did?

Worse, that killer effect or drum loop that you played got credited to someone else!

Both of these situations are bad enough, but I want to talk to you about how you can use credits as a way to gain your client’s trust in the process of recording their record.

First of all, DON’T take credit for something that you had little or nothing to do with. If you take credit at all, take credit for hiring awesome people! 🙂

Whenever someone takes credit for something they didn’t do, it chips away at whatever trust you’ve built with your client (or the one you are bragging to 🙂 ).

Secondly, keep up with who did what in the comments section of your DAW session or in a spreadsheet. Whenever you can make the next person’s (producer, record company, client) job easier by keeping a record, you are adding to your “trust” bank account.

People have to trust you before they want to do business with you. The more seemingly small, miniscule things that you dominate for them, the more likely they are to hand you Bigger things. Check this out.

Question: What are some other ways that you can build trust where crediting is concerned?

MixCoach Podcast 017 : Overhead And Bus Processing

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On this episode of the MixCoach Podcast, Kevin talks about the two ways to process overheads, including the pitfalls of compressing the overheads. He also touches on room mics, from the many ways the room can be mic’d to how to utilize the rooms in the mix. Kevin talks about what he calls a “sky hook” too. Kevin also talks about using Parallel and Bus Compression.


Question:

Do you treat your overheads as cymbal mics or kit mics? Just wondering.


How bad speakers can make your mix sound better [reader Question]

The other day, I sent out an email asking what questions I could answer from my subscribers.

Here’s one question that I answered that I think will help more people:

The Question-(Used by permission)

Well, currently, my guitars are sounding wider in the stereo space than my drums. I use Reason 4.0 to program my drums. I’ve tweaked the samples myself but my drums in Reason never match up to the drums on cd’s I listen to. They aren’t as big and powerful and they are kind of stuck in the middle of the stereo field. I use a 20ms delay on my guitars to create their space but they end up wider than my drums. My drums sound very weak and are usually out powered by other elements of the mix.

I’m also having a really hard time getting my guitars to sound right as well. It’s difficult to get them wide enough, present enough and yet not overpowering. I love rock music and heavy metal so distorted guitars are where it’s at for me. I’m mostly concerned with distorted guitars vs. clean guitars. I’m recording guitars directly from my Boss GT-8 for now because I absolutely cannot get a great sound from the SM57 I’m using.
I get very discouraged when my mix sounds good on my studio speakers (KRK Rokit 5’s), it’s nice and sits well in the speakers, then I’ll take the song out to the car and the mix falls apart. It’s not nearly as powerful and present. It doesn’t sound as wide. It doesn’t sound as full. The vocals sound extremely thin and get covered up.

Another thing to think about is getting valid, useful, insightful, trustworthy advice from recording professionals. When I’m searching for answers it’s somewhat hard to find the correct information. That’s why I really appreciate guys like yourself! You’ve help me a lot and I haven’t paid a dime! haha. I’m grateful for your free help!!

– Andrew Lawrence



and my answer:


Hey Andrew. I know we’ve talked about this before (probably)… but are you comparing your mixes to mixes like the Breaking Benjamin stuff we talked about on YouTube?… I mean REally comparing..

I usually put my reference song on another track and flip between them to see what the difference is.

Your ears have a VERY short memory… and not very reliable. That’s why finding away to “bounce” between the 2 sources (theirs and your mix) is critical… I did it yesterday and it completely changed how my mix came out.

One more tip I can give you is to find a set of speakers that YOUR mix sounds bad and the other mix sounds good on… could be headphones, computer speakers, radio shack speakers… just find SOMETHING that your mix sucks on while the other one sounds GREAT or just good on…

You’ll be on the right track.

 

 

 

Kevin

Question:  What speakers have you found that good mixes sound really good and bad mixes sound really bad?  Computer speakers? I’m listening.

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