All Posts by Kevin Ward

About the Author

One Simple Way To “Buy Time” While You Learn To Be a Great Engineer

I was teaching a group of High School students how to record and edit in Pro Tools this weekend.  One thing I said that really struck a chord. Something I’ve been trying to do for over 25 years.

Learning to mix is one thing.  It’s important for sure.  You have to know how to create workflows and systems that work.

But I think, one thing that will allow you to be able to practice what you learn.

If you can make working with you a catalyst for creativity… if you can have your clients and customers needs come first in what you do…

If you are prepared when they get there… when you have a plan for the day just in case no one else does..

Then people will give you grace and allow you time to get better.

People follow someone with a plan.

What are some ways that you cultivate creativity in your studio? I’d love your thoughts.

Dreaming Is The Easy Part

I heard a great talk last night from a great business leader, John C. Maxwell.

Anyway, what he said was profound and it hit home with me.. maybe it will you too.

He said, “Dreaming is easy, the path to your dream is hard”.

It’s so true.

I have a dream of helping mixers around the world become better…. and not sacrifice time with my family to do it.

It’s easy for me to say that. When it comes to HOW to do that, it gets a little hard.

For you to say that you want to be a great mixer or engineer, what path does that put you on?

Does it mean hanging out with different people?

Does it mean actually investing in yourself and not just skimming information on YouTube or Facebook.

I’m not saying this to necessarily challenge YOU… but me.

NO matter where you are, sometimes, the dream makes you “wake up” and actually look at the path you’re on.

Click to tweet that!

What is YOUR dream… and how bad do you want it?

How To Be A Better Engineer In 10 Minutes A Day

I don’t know about you, but I listen to audio books quite a bit.

I don’t read books ABOUT audio a lot though.

Sounds counter productive, I know. But, I just think that the BEST audio engineers are leaders first.

I love listening to podcasts, Ted Talks and Audio Books written by leaders because I am a leader. You are too.

If you are an engineer, or producer, you are a leader.

People look to you to help them get to where they want to go…. so whether you are ready for the job or not, you are a leader.

I’ve said it before, when you are in a studio working and there is no clearly defined leader, its most likely you.

Click to tweet this

Take this challenge.

Take 10 minutes a day and listen to some good podcasts (they’re free) or an audio book. It’s audible. It’s what we do. Listen and analyze, right?

In the comments, help me list some good leadership resources.

Saturday Summary

Below is a copy of the first email “experiment”… I found my self wanting a central place to comment… so I did a blogpost for comments.

I find myself wanting to connect more and more with people like me. People on a journey, learning, being inspired and trying to “capture” moments.

This is an experiment.

I’m still inspired by a book I read so many years ago from Tim Ferris called “The 4-Hour Workweek“. In fact, I’ve read it about 9 times.

Tim is doing something called the “5 Bullet Fridays“. It’s just a quick way of reaching out to his peeps (like me) and saying, “this is what’s going on right now”.

So, at the risk of exposing too much, I want to try an experiment. I want to reach out and tell you what I’m doing from time to time… not trying to do anything except say, “This is what I’m doing right now” in hopes that it will help you in someway to see parts (not just the ones I can brag about) of a sometimes mundane and messy journey.

What I’m reading right now

I’m reading “I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist” because my buddy Dan told me it was great. Anytime someone recommends a book they think I’ll like, I usually buy it and read it… and usually, I do like it! Thanks Dan.

What I’ve been working on THIS WEEK (in the studio)

Finishing up mixing several records from The Livingstons, a group from Texas called Maranantha 6.

What I’ve been working on (on MixCoach)

I’m reading some podcast notes because I’m doing a podcast today as a guest with Lij over at recordingstudiorockstars (and I’m more than honored and excited). Don’t know when it’s going to air yet. Also, working on building a “flagship” mixing product (as my friend Graham Cochrane calls it) to help mixers in a way that I haven’t been able to yet. Graham is a remarkable human and I’m glad I know him… I’m sure you do too.

A quote that has me thinking

You can have everything in life you want when you help enough other people get what they want – Zig Ziglar

Anyway, theres’ that! Not perfect. Not complete. But, sincere.

Talk to you soon,

Kevin

p.s. If you are reading this on the blog and you would like to get these updates to your email inbox, just subscribe here.

Ten Reasons You Should be Considering Mixbus Over Pro Tools

I just returned from a lunch meeting with Ben at Harrison Consoles. Ben has been showing me some of the new features of Mixbus 3.1.

I know I said “wow!” at least a dozen times. I think Harrison has it right.

There is definitely room for someone to give Pro Tools a good run as new “top DAWg” here in Nashville, so I wanted you guys to know why I think you need to look at Harrison Mixbus.

Here are 10 reasons why  I think you should be looking into what Harrison Mixbus is doing.

1. The Sound

Mixbus is the only DAW made by a company that makes $1M consoles. If your goal is to make a great mix, first think about tracks like Thriller, Back In Black, Another One Bites the Dust, Graceland, and Sweetest Taboo … do those mixes immediately evoke a sound to you? If so, then you may be looking for the sound of Harrison, because all of those tracks were recorded and/or mixed on Harrison consoles. In fact, if you ask any of my members who use Mixbus, they (and I) will tell you that Mixbus just sounds better. No plugins… just playback… it sounds better out of the box.

2. The Ergonomics

Mixbus_mixer

The Mixbus Mixer has 3 types of compressors, and the famous Harrison EQ built in to every channel. No need to look for plugins… just mix!

Mixbus puts all of the tools of a mixer’s trade: gain staging, levels, bussing, EQ, compression, metering, and monitoring … directly under your fingertips. Those are the tasks you are doing all day long; shouldn’t they be given top priority of your computer? After using Mixbus for a week, you’ll be asking yourself why other DAWs bury these most important tasks underneath separate windows or pulldowns. I guess somebody who actually makes consoles had to finally get it right.

I teach that you should try your best to “set up templates” and “use presets”… but I’ve found that when I use Mixbus, it’s already setup. There is a Harrison EQ and a choice of 3 dynamics processors on each channels… not to mention the tape simulation on the busses and the master bus… you don’t have to instantiate ANYTHING to make that happen.

3. It’s Full-featured

Mixbus provides all the features you expect in a DAW: audio recording and editing, MIDI, Virtual Instruments, plugins, and (new in 3.1) support for control surfaces.

Adding control surface support is going to be a game changer for me (Kevin). I find that I NEED a control surface to make mixing fun… Although Nashville is a “Pro Tools town”, you can bet that I’ll be looking for a way to mix ALL of my projects in Mixbus now.

4. Sharing is Simple

Mixbus works on the newest versions of Mac, Windows and Linux desktops. It also works on older systems like Windows XP. So you, and all of your friends, can have Mixbus on all of your computers and share session files. Even cooler: if you add a Harrison-provided plugin to your session, the recipient can still hear the effect of the plugin even if they haven’t bought it yet. They just can’t open the plugin GUI and change the settings. How cool is that ?!

5. Exporting is Amazing

The whole point of mixing is to make a great mix, right? Mixbus not only provides all the tools for polishing your mix, it also includes an incredible array of features to help you export your mix into multiple formats. They’ve also got the best stem-export features we’ve ever seen. And they’ve got some amazing new mix-analysis features coming soon. To get a sneak peek, check out this Harrison-funded development that is happening behind the scenes in the Ardour community.

We just finished exporting hundreds of versions of a record. Vocals out, vocals down, vocals up, Orchestra up, Orchestra down… The new “stem exporting” features (both with and without channel processing) would have saved us dozens of hours.

6. It’s Customizable

Mixbus allows you to customize the look (such as the size of the mixer strips), and operation (such as the keyboard shortcuts). But that’s just the beginning. Because Mixbus has an open-source element, it can be infinitely customized by users and developers. For example, we learned that an open-source developer recently introduced the beginnings of a ProTools file import utility (!) In an upcoming version, they say they will allow live, on-the-fly scripting. This will allow users to automate nearly any feature of Mixbus, and you can also write simple scripts that operate as plugins in the channelstrip, complete with auto-generated knobs and switches.

7. It has all the extras

Professional features like SMPTE clock, LTC generate & chase, a video playback window, and other features which are only available in other workstation’s “pro” versions are provided here in Harrison’s entry-level product.

8. Licensing is a breeze

No iLok, passwords to remember, or online activations. Just save the provided file to your computer, and you are done. Lost your license file in a hard-drive crash? Just email Harrison a request, and they will send you everything you need. Which brings us to:

9. Rock-star support

Harrison’s support is amazing. You just write questions and they answer directly in plain language. They don’t make you verify that you are a customer; that’s handled by Harrison when they recognize your name or email. No databases, ticket systems, or runaround! Furthermore, Harrison doesn’t have a dedicated “support” staff. Instead you just talk to the developers and engineers. Harrison allows the developers to be directly driven by -users-. Isn’t that how it should be??!

10. Price…

Mixbus is, incredibly, only $79.

Full disclosure.  I’m not using Harrison Mixbus on every session, but with these new features, the addition of control surface support, and the slightest possibility of Pro Tools import, you can bet I’ll be doing more and more in Mixbus v 3.1.

3 pivotal stages of becoming a better mixer

After listening to thousands of mixes on MixCoach Member – and through my own journey of trying to be better everyday, I’ve found that there are three phases of a mixer’s journey. At each time in our progress, we may be in one or all of these phases.

The “Everything is there” mix

I teach on MixCoach that you should “mix for the moms”. In other words, in the beginning, you should strive to get everything heard.

For example: If you gave every musician who played on a song your mix to take to their mom, their mom would actually be able to hear and pick out their part. (That is of course if their part was good enough to add to the mix… in that case, you should save the mom from having to hearing it 😃)

If you are a beginning mixer and overwhelmed by all the different ways to go about a mix, this is a fantastic way to think about mixing right now. However, I’m not so sure now that as mixers this is the best “use-all-the-time” approach.

As we mature as mixers, we start to fully realize that there is a “loudness war” and we try to stand out, so we try this…

The “Everything is Loud” mix

Like it or not, our ears will tell us that whatever is louder is better in quality. We know this is not the case, but our ears still tell us that.
If I were to take a snare drum… the exact same sample, and let you listen to each of them and make you choose which one was the best, if you are a human with ears, you will most likely pick the louder one.

It’s ok. “That’s just the way it is, some things will never change”.

I’ve said it before. The moment you have to explain why your mix is softer, but better because of some geeky technical reason, you’ve already lost the loudness war.

The moment you have to explain why your mix is softer, but better somehow, you’ve already lost the loudness war. (click to tweet)

At some point, we want to make everything loud, but still good. We just need to know how.

As a matter of fact, I can usually tell on MixCoachMember who is new. Obviously, these are mixers who want to progress… and they need guidance. Some of the mixers “Go for the Grammy” in volume alone. Not always the best approach.

More experienced mixer will make something seem loud not only by sheer brute force of a limiter, but finesse of an EQ or a fader.

In my opinion, the best mixers help a writer or artist SAY what they want to say.

The “Something is conveyed” mix

As mature mixers, we realize that the whole purpose of a song is to make someone feel something – and at best, be moved to some kind of action… whether that be bobbing of the head, clapping or even more. Sometimes you get to this by actually muting tracks or only featuring certain tracks.

One of the best records ever made (in my humble opinion) is the Jonny Lang – Turnaround record. Every time I hear it, I have church in my car. It’s not JUST a spiritual thing. From what I’ve read, Jonny was trying to say something different in this record. He formed the best team. Drew Ramsey and Shannon Sanders who produced and co-wrote most every song with him and F. Reid Shippen who masterfully mixed it.

Thank you guys. You moved me!

When you get to this stage of mixing, people tend to bring you songs that are important to them and say, “This is missing something… fix it”.

So, what phase are you in? They are all beneficial in some way. Each song needs some, if not elements of all 3 of these phases of mixing. Putting these phases and techniques is really something only you can do in your own way…just keep learning.

Did I miss a phase? Anything I can be more detailed about? Let me know here.

The downside of perfection

I love Al Schmitt’s mixing. I got to talk to him briefly at the NAMM show a few years back about our mutual friend Steve Genewick.

I wanted to share something he said at Mix With The Masters back in 2012 that really resonated with me.

Do you know anyone who buys a record because a snare drum sounds a certain way? You don’t. People buy records because it emotionally touches them.

here is the video (it’s cued up but if you have time, watch the whole thing).

[testimonials style=”16″ margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””][testimonial name=”Al%20Schmitt” company=”Mixing%20Legend” href=”” image=”https%3A%2F%2Fmixcoach.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2016%2F01%2FScreenshot-2016-01-22-13.08.13.png”]%3Cp%3EDo%20you%20know%20anyone%20who%20buys%20a%20record%20because%20a%20snare%20drum%20sounds%20a%20certain%20way%3F%20You%20don’t.%20People%20buy%20records%20because%20it%20emotionally%20touches%20them.%3C%2Fp%3E%0A[/testimonial][/testimonials]

Are you mixing music so that it has emotion over anything else?  How?

[Mixing Hack] Consistent Vocal to Music Ratio

Mixing in mono is a way to detect phasing and balance problems in your mix before the end user hears it.

Mixing vocals in mono on headphones is a hack that I have found that makes me keep the vocals slightly on top of the music.

I have found that if I mix vocals on headphones but in stereo, I tend to mix them a little loud (which is a whole ‘nuther hack).

When I mix on headphones and in mono and think of the vocal as equal and not really louder than the band, the vocal sits in the track.

When you come out of the mono and go back into stereo, usually find that the vocal is slightly lower than it needs to be.  I then can just raise it up by 1-2 db.  What this will achieve is a consistent vocal to music ratio.

If you are mixing pop or rock where the vocal is not quite as important, you may want to leave the vocal where it is when you come out of mono.  If it’s a more lyric driven style such as gospel or country, you’ll probably want to pull it up a little.

Having the vocal consistent to the music will allow you to avoid that endless tail-chase of “Raise the vocal… wait, now it’s too loud”.

I hope this helps you get your vocal just right in the mix.

Do you have any vocal mixing hacks?

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