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MixCoach Podcast 065: Expanders

expanders mixing gate

In this episode we talk about how we use expanders in mixing… the answer may surprise you.

Raw Transcript:

Kev: This is the Mix Coach Podcast, Number 65.

Male: This week, we’re going to be talking about expanders. We have some
fairly interesting thoughts about expanders, as well as when we use
them or when we don’t use them.

This week, Kev, we’re talking about expanders. This is something that
is on almost every channel strip plug-in. Whenever I asked you about
it, you had an interesting response and I had an interesting response,
as well. Expanders; how do you use it? What do you do?

Kev: The joke was whenever I see EXP for expansion, I always click it
until it says GAT, because I hardly ever use expanders. You know what;
you asked that and I was thinking, “Have I ever used an expander?” I
think I have, back in the day. I think there was a piece I used to
use, an expander that I used, I think on toms back when I worked in
the first studio I worked at. After . . . when I first dove into DAW
world, or DAW world, I got [inaudible: 01:10] digital performer and I
sent it through a Yamaha 02R. There was preset on the Yamaha 02R that
was an expander. I think it was called ‘hip comp’; I think that’s what
it was called. It was my instant awesome preset before there was . .
before I . . .

Male: Before you had any SSL . . .

Kev: . . . before I had an SSL plug-in. I used it on every vocal. I think
what it did was it actually expanded; it was an expander of some sort.
I didn’t get into the details of how it worked, but I know that it
sounded great and it was in my workflow all the time.

Male: We were talking to . . . actually, Joseph who’s an intern here, and
he was talking about how using it to where . . . rather than
compressing like if you have a snare with lots of ghost notes, rather
than compressing the actually big hits to bring up the ghost notes,
using an expander with the right timing and the right attack on it and
everything, it would boost the ghost notes as opposed to compressing
the big one and how that could sound a little bit more musical.

Kev: I could totally see that. I’m probably going to do that because it
makes a lot of sense . . .

Male: It does.

Kev: . . . if expanders are the opposite of compressors. What you use a
compressor for is to bring down the hot sounds, or bring down the loud
sounds, then an expander if setup correctly, would bring up the soft
sounds. That makes a ton of sense, and that may be something that I
try here pretty soon because I’m a little bit intrigued by if it would
work for this as just such an occasion.

Male: Definitely spending some time to get a decent preset, template, or
workflow on an expander would be a really beneficial thing I could
see. I could see that being helpful.

Kev: I could see where it would make the snare sound a little less
manipulated, and instead, make the ghost notes sound a little bit more
manipulated. I can see how that would be. For the most part, you were
asking about when I use expanders. I can’t remember past the 02R,
which was 10 years ago now for me. I can’t remember in the recent
history ever using an expander, because when it comes up, it just
doesn’t seem like . . . on my tom preset that I use for the R-channel
from waves; it’s great, but the expander just doesn’t seem to be hefty
enough. It doesn’t seem to be . . .

Male: Give it that punch.

Kev: . . . as aggressive enough as I need. When I gate a tom, I don’t
want it to just suggest that in between the ghost parts or the rumble
from the toms is just a little bit lower. I want it to take it out.
I’m like an assassin when it comes to sound in between the notes I
don’t want. Therefore, I use a gate because a gate seems to be either
on or off. Expanders seem to be a little more fru-fru and not really .
. . but with that in mind, I think I am going to use it on the . ..

Male: On some snares.

Kev: . . . the ghost notes, yeah.

Male: I think, honestly, there’s some times whenever I’ve needed it and
I’ve done other things to get around it, where like I’m doing parallel
compression on a snare just to get those ghost notes out. I think
something like expansion would help because even with parallel
compression whenever you hear that snare hit, again like you said,
sometimes it can sound manipulated. You can hear the compression on it
where it’s like ‘That snare’s been compressed.’ Avoiding the time that
it would take to get that out would be ideal, I think. Definitely, I
think we’re both going to checking out some expansion.

Kev: What about the listeners? Do you guys use expanders? If you have a go-
to expander setting or something you always use an expander on, tell
us. Tell us in the comments below this, or go to and tell
us in the comments section.

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

Question: How do you use expanders when you’re mixing? Or do you ever use expanders?

MixCoach Podcast 064: EQ Before or After Compressors?

EQ Before or After Compressors?

With this podcast; we ask ourselves, should we put our EQ before or after our compressor?

Raw Transcript:

Kevin: This is the MixCoach PodCast, number 64.

John: On this week episode, we’re going to talk about EQ before or
after the compressor.

Hey Kev, how’s it going?

Kevin: Hey, John.

John: We’ve got a cat in the studio with us today, if you guys hear
any meowing, then you can say hi to Tigger.

Kevin: Say hey, Tigger[SP]. She won’t say anything of course

John: [ss]…She’s not going to say anything, no. All right, so, this
week we’re gonna actually talk about EQing and compression and kind of the
relationship there, so I guess, I guess kind of the big question most
people have is, well, like, “Okay, do you EQ before or after your
compressor?” So Kev, kind of, what do you feel like you do when it comes to

Kevin: Well, on compression, I mean I usually, you know, I’m a big
advocate of using filters (Which is very basic EQ).

John: Right.

Kevin: And so I almost always, well, I will say that I always at least
filters before compression, because if you’re EQing a vocal mike and you
know there’s a plosive or a p-pop.

John: Yeah

Kevin: You don’t want compression, you don’t want your compressor to
work on that on that when it’s not going to be there anyway….

John: …Right…

Kevin: …because you’re going to filter it out so you may as well
filter it before hand. Usually I’ll at least filter before I EQ.

John: Right, I think the same could be said for acoustic guitar, as
well, where it’s like if there’s a boomy acoustic guitar, you’re gonna take
out some of that boom in with the filter, then you don’t want that boom to
like actually trigger the compressor, that sort of thing. Something that
isn’t actually there. So, then do you most of your other EQing after the
compressor, that sort of thing?

Kevin: Well, if I was going give someone a formula for when to
compress and EQ and what order to do it, I would say, most likely, it would
be to cut or correct before you compress. So cut before compress. I don’t
know if that’s a…

John: Yeah, you know, that’s kind of the conclusion that I’ve come to
as well. Where as like even sometimes though like if you’re just doing a
mild, kind of a like where you’re just taking a little bit out maybe like a
dB. of gentle, you know, cut out of something just to kind of shape it.
Sometimes I’ll do that after, just because it’s easy to do after, that sort
of thing. Where it sounds right still to do it after. But if I’m doing
like, if there’s a massive ring or some sort of a frequency that’s just off
the charts that you want to cut, I would always cut that before, for sure.
Because you don’t that triggering the compressor.

Kevin: You know, I guess if there’s a rule of thumb. I’m thinking back
to any for instance that I would use that I would EQ before, and the only
time I would EQ really guess 80 percent. We talked about the 80/20 rule.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: 80 percent of the time I EQ before I compress. Unless, there is
some kind of, like you say, maybe some air to some vocal.

John: Yeah

Kevin: You probably wouldn’t add that before the compressor because
your compressor may look at that as sibilance or look at it as something
that needed to be compressed, so I would probably, at the very least, cut
before you compress and boost after you compress.

John: …Yeah….

Kevin: …That seems to be more…

John: Whenever I was early mixing, I basically heard that and then
used that as kind of as rule of thumb. Or not a rule of thumb necessarily,
but hard and fast law, where I had an EQ on my chain, then compressor, and
then another EQ. The only problem I had with that was that I would separate
EQs that were reacting to each other creating a whole new EQ curve that I
never actually saw graphically, or never actually had it in one place. And
I would have open two, plug-ins, “Oh, where is that one at to change?” You
know, that sort of thing.

So the only problems you run into with that is if it’s not all in one
place like a channel strip plug-in it can get kind of confusing that sort
of thing. But, again, I agree with you for sure. Of you’re doing anything
corrective, if you’re cutting out, especially if you’re cutting out big
frequencies, cut before, and if you’re boosting like some air or something
like that, always boost after for sure. That’s kind of the way I’ve looked
at it.

Kevin: I would also say, with that in mind, don’t over think it too

John: Oh, yeah.

Kevin: …because I would think this where the analytic side. This
kind of stuff sometimes needs to be done when you’re not actually in the
heat of the battle…

John: For sure…

Kevin: …of mixing. You know you need to kind of think, “Okay, this
is big EQ boost that I’m doing right here. Maybe, I should duplicate this
plug-in and bring it to the end or or bring after the compressor.” I
wouldn’t probably wouldn’t as a rule of thumb…

John: Right.

Kevin: …have two compressors on each channel.

John: Exactly.

Kevin: I mean 2…

John: Two EQs?

Kevin: EQ compressor then an EQ, again.

John: Right.

Kevin: I wouldn’t do that as a rule thumb because I think that’s
taxing to your system. It probably is not benefiting you in any way. I
would only do that when there is something out of the ordinary like you
have to add a huge curve, or something after. Then I would probably think,
“You know, do I need to do this after or before I compress it?”

John: Right.

Kevin: So i wouldn’t over think it but as a general rule would EQ
before you compress almost all the time.

John: Right on, right on.

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 to visit us at

Question: Does this help you decide which order to use your EQ and Compressor?

MixCoach Podcast 063: Noise Gates

noise gates, gates, gate

In this episode we chat about how we’ve used noise gates in the past, as well as some other possible uses.

Raw Transcript:

Kevin: This is the Mix Coach Podcast, Episode 63.

John: On this week’s podcast, we’re going to talk about noisegating: When
to use it, when to not use it. What are some options whenever you do
use it? Everything related to noisegating. Hey, Kev. How’s it going?

Kevin: Hey, John.

John: This week on the podcast, we’re talking about some of the more
technical aspects of mixing. The topic today is noise gates: When do
you use them? When do you not use them? When have you seen other
people use them? Noise gates; Kevin, when do you use them?

Kevin: When do I use noise gates?

John: Yes.

Kevin: I don’t use . . .I used to use noise gates a lot before Pro
Tools made it so visual. These days, I don’t use them as much. For
instance, a go-to on a noise gate for me would be toms. Toms,
depending on how they’re tuned, the player, the kit; sometimes they’ll
sit there . . . we talked about low frequency. That’s one of the
things that eats up low frequency, is toms. While they sound great
when you have a lot of low-end like . . . you want them to sound big
and thunderous. When they’re sitting there without a noise gate on
them, they’re muddying the low end up.

John: Just introducing a lot of noise.

Kevin: Most of the time if I have enough time to do this and I think
it warrants it, I’ll go through and just do strip silence on Pro
Tools, and I’ll just mute the whole track and then un-mute the toms. I
do have a preset and it’s on a tutorial video that I have on YouTube,
where I will actually go and use the frequency of the tom, the
fundamental frequency of the tom, to key open a noise gate. I’ll do that
sometimes. Sometimes I use . . . it seems like I never use a noise
gate conventionally. I never just set the threshold and just set it. I
usually make it depend on a certain frequency to make it open a little
cleaner, because noise gates, while they can clean up a mix, they can
also make it sterile. You have to approach it from a musical
standpoint. Other than that, I hardly ever use noise gates.

John: I know that there’s a lot of people who use . . . even like Chris
Lord-Alge, I feel like; he says he always uses a noise gate
on electric guitars, which again to me in the Pro Tools age, I don’t
necessarily know that that’s necessary, because any time there’s not
something going, you can always go in and trim off the silence and do
a quick fade or something. That’s essentially gating it and having
more control over the specific use of the gate. Even on some mixes, I
think there are some mixes of peoples that I’ve heard the gates pop
open on electric guitars. It sits wrong with me to hear the gate pop

Kevin: I’m a big fan of Chris and I love his mixes. I actually studied
his mixes for a period of time in my life when I would put headphones
on, listen to it with different kinds of speakers, and I did notice
that he does use noise gates. The speed and his workflow, the speed at
which he mixes, I imagine he uses noise gates as part of his workflow,
and he doesn’t want to sit around and do the left-brain, right-brain
thing of . . .

John: Trimming.

Kevin: . . . analyzing, trimming and muting. Maybe he’d let an
assistant do it. I think when he was mixing, that’s back before . . .
I don’t even know if he uses Pro Tools now; maybe somebody on the . .
. one of the listeners can comment. At the time he was using a Sony
3348, and I’m pretty sure that noise gates would have been pretty
helpful with that. I can see why he uses noise gates because it does
keep it clean.

John: His point was the electric guitars, whether it could be the quietest
amp in the world, but it’s introducing at least a little bit of noise
whenever it’s not playing. That makes perfect sense, especially in
some of the rock recordings; they’re introducing a lot of noise. It
raises the noise floor of your mix, muddies it up.

Something that whenever you mentioned toms, a reason to gate or at
least to trim off the silence, in addition to just making a little bit
cleaner, it helps you localize where the drums are and the cymbals are
whenever there’s not all this bleed coming through into the tom
microphones. It helps for localization. That way whenever the toms pop
open, you literally can point exactly where the toms. That’s really a
nice thing, as well.

Kevin: There was a, on a ‘Mix Coach Minute’ episode on YouTube, I
mentioned mixing the thick part of the song. I think visually, you can
see where everything’s playing at once, where toms are going.
Sometimes, it’s nice to see where you . . . make it a little easier to
see where the thick part of the song is so you can just mix that
section and know that 80% of the work is done for the mix when you get
that section . . .

John: Sounding right.

Kevin: . . . balanced.

John: Yeah, absolutely. That covers the . . . do you have anything else

Kevin: The bottom line is that noise gates are cool. They’re very
useful and there’s no replacement for them if you need them. As part
of my workflow, I hardly ever use them unless it’s on toms, usually.
That’s when I need to move through a mix pretty fast. I even have
presets for a high tom, a mid tom, and a low tom.

John: Nice.

Kevin: I used to before I changed systems.

John: Right on. That covers the talk on noise gates.

Kevin: 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


Let us know: Are you using a noise gate for anything?

MixCoach Podcast 062: Kevin’s Biggest Mistake

biggest mistake Pro Tools 11

This week Kevin talks about the biggest mistake he has made recently. It may surprise you!

Raw Transcript:

Kevin: This is the Mix Coach Podcast, Episode 62.

John: All right, this week on the podcast we’re going to be talking
about the biggest mistake Kevin ever made, or at least made in recent
history here.

John: Hey Kev.

Kevin: Hey John.

John: All right, so this week we’re going to be talking about
something kind of interesting here. I don’t know if we’ve ever kind of
phrased something this way before. So let me just ask, what is the biggest
mistake you’ve ever made as a mixer, as a professional mixer.

Kevin: Oh, it’s a timely subject. Honestly, I’m not trying to slam
anything or anyone, any company, but…

John: Yeah.

Kevin: …probably the biggest mistake I have made in my recent
career, I’ve made a bunch of them, but my most recent one, the one I keep
doing the palm to forehead thing, and why did I do this was, I upgraded to
Pro Tools 11 (sp). I shouldn’t have done Pro Tools 11, I lost.

We talked about the 80/20 principle a couple of podcasts ago, and I
lost 80 percent of my plugins, and then I had to do another mix. I upgraded
to Pro Tools 11 because my system, it felt a little clunky. I was using
nine, it felt a little clunky, and I had this moment of stupidity and said
‘You know what, I’m just going to change everything. I’m going to upgrade
my operating system, I’m going to upgrade Pro Tools, I can print off in
faster than real time, and that will be awesome.

John: You sold your control surface too.

Kevin: Well…

John: Your control surface didn’t have functionality with 11…

Kevin: No.

John: …so you swapped that guy out too.

Kevin: Swapped it out, now my Avid Artist Mix (sp) does not want to
talk to my Avid Pro Tools 11. Half the plugins, more than half of my plugins

don’t work.

John: Right.

Kevin: My interfaces are not working, the whole system is just pieced
together. You want to talk about a workflow interrupter? You should try
spending, you know I get up early in the morning and I mix early in the
morning, and you should try spending from 5:00 A.M. to 6:00 A.M. wondering
why your control surface does not want to talk to your… and then by the
time 6:00 rolls around the last thing I want to do…

John: Is mix.

Kevin: …is mix.

John. Yeah.

Kevin: I want to go and like watch the Disney Channel with my daughter
or something.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: Something that’s like I don’t have to think about it too much.
So, recently the biggest mistake I made…

John: Yeah.

Kevin: …was not upgrading to Pro Tools 11, because…

John: It was changing everything.

Kevin: …I’m sure that Pro Tools 11 is going to be awesome.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: The faster than real time, which is 1.1 times faster than I
would have been exporting in real time, which is laughable, especially
given the fact that I used to print four and five mixes at a time in that

John: Yeah.

Kevin: I’m sure that Pro Tools 11 and Avid’s going to work on all these
bugs, but my biggest mistake was changing everything at once, and thinking

John: Before it, and thinking that it wouldn’t have any effect on
your, you know, that sort of thing.

Kevin: You know the whole Avid thing, Pro Tools thing, was only one
aspect of it. I was working on, let’s see what was the operating system,
10.7 or 10.6 maybe? It was an older system…

John: Was it Snow Leopard, or Leopard, or older?

Kevin: I don’t even remember what the cat’s name was.

John: Gotcha. [laughs]

Keving: I do remember that everything pretty much worked the way it
should. I had a few bugs where the system would crash for no reason, which
is typical for my setup for some reason. It would take longer and longer to
reboot, so I just thought ‘I’m going to put a new operating system in, I’m
going to put Pro Tools 11, I’m going to do it just as if I had just gotten
into it. I’m going to work through this whole process again.’ Well, none of
my password things worked…

John: No.

Kevin: I’m having to constantly re-install something or track down a
serial number. It was just a huge time waster for me. I don’t know that how
I, honestly I don’t know how I could have avoided it, but looking back on
it, a big mistake. If I can guide you in the right direction is, think
three times, four times about upgrading a system that is working fine. If
my system would have been working fine, I probably wouldn’t have changed
anything until everybody says ‘ oh man, you’ve got to go to Pro Tools 11,
you’ve got to do this, it’s awesome the way it works.’ I think I was
expecting more than…

John: Than what you got.

Kevin: …than what I got.

John: That’s something that I’ve talked to guys before where, we’re
tech based guys. We all have the technical mind, where it’s like the new
iPhone is out, and you’re thinking about the new iPhone, and all these
things. You’re thinking about new products, and you like to be on the
technical edge of things. Sometimes it’s good to be on the technical edge
of things, but not on the bleeding edge of technology. You don’t want to be
the first guy to necessarily jump in and just change everything, and get
that new thing. I always kind of wait to upgrade my phone operating system,
just because I know that maybe the next upgrade or whatever will suck your
battery life, and sometimes that happens. You try not to be that guy, so
maybe that’s kind of the lesson learned here, is don’t necessarily jump on
the new thing just because it’s the new thing. Don’t automatically assume,
especially if you change everything in your rig, don’t just assume that
it’s just going to solve all of the problems and all of the issues that you
have. It’s just going to bring in a whole new bag of trouble.

Kevin: It solved a lot problems, but it created more problems than it

John: Yeah.

Kevin: I can understand if you’re listening to the podcast and you
can’t seem to be productive, you can’t seem to finish a song, look at your
workflow. Make sure that your system, because it made me, is relish the
right word? It made me relish the day that I could just come down here,
double-click, open a session, mix it, set my watch, set my timer, my
stopwatch until I’m going to mix this song for an hour, going to take a
break, and come back and listen to it.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: Those days are gone, at least temporarily.

John: Right.

Kevin: It’s one of those things where it’s become an effort to mix,

John: Yeah.

Kevin: …if you’re thinking about upgrading. I have to say that was
the, what did we call it, dumbest thing I’ve ever done?

John: Yeah.

Kevin: Well the smartest thing I ever did, was in the same time frame.
I didn’t just upgrade, I bought a brand new hard drive.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: I put the new operating system on the new hard drive, and I put
Pro Tools 11 on the new hard drive.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: This could have been some of the source of it thinks it’s a
brand new system. I can always go back, and I did that this morning, I had
to go back to Pro Tools 9 this morning. In the same time period, I made a
very stupid mistake of upgrading everything at once, but the same thing is
I left, like I always say, I always leave me a plan B.

John: Yeah.

Kevin. That was my plan B, and I’ve back to it a couple times and…

John: Absolutely.

Kevin: …really kind of looked around like ‘I wish I was still here
in Pro Tools 9.’ [laughs]

John: So for example, to kind of give you a flip side of this, I just
recently upgraded my computer from one computer to another computer.
Whenever I upgraded, I upgraded operating systems, essentially it’s a brand
new computer, brand new kind of rig. Again, it was like you, I left myself
a way out, where the old computer is, I still have it. I didn’t sell it,
didn’t re-format it or anything until I knew for sure that the new system
was working, and working well. I left myself that back door. I would say,
whenever you do upgrade things, upgrade things maybe one piece at a time,
or as needed. Also, like you said, make sure you leave yourself a way out
because you’ve got to make sure that you have that option. Especially for
guys who upgrade to Pro Tools 11, you want to still be able to open those
old sessions just in case somebody asks you ‘Hey man, what was that plugin
chain that you had back in the day? Can we use that again?’ It’s like,
‘Well I don’t remember, let me go look it up.’ You’ve got to always leave
yourself a backdoor to be able to access old files, that sort of thing too.


Kevin: 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

Question: What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?

MixCoach Podcast 061: Our Mixing Workflow

mixing workflow workflows

Today at MixCoach, we are talking about our mixing workflows and the power of having a workflow. Enjoy!

Raw Transcript:

Kevin: This is the Mix Coach Podcast Number 61.

John: This week on the podcast we’re going to be talking about the power of
workflows in mixing and not just the power of workflows. We’re going to be
talking about why you have workflows and the answer might be different than
what you’re thinking. Hey, Kevin, how are you doing today?

Kevin: Hey, John, I’m good.

John: All right. So this week we’re going to be talking about thing that’s
kind of close to the Mix Coach hearts, as far as that goes. We work with
workflows a lot and we talk about workflow, so we’re going to talk a little
bit about that today and kind of address the power of workflows in mixing.
So Kev, as far as workflows goes, we talk about that a lot. What do you
mean by workflow and what exactly do you do to get a workflow?

Kevin: I have been fascinated lately with systems and really, if you
look at something like . . . I promise I’ll bring this back around. But if
you go to McDonald’s or Starbucks, let’s just say McDonald’s, that is not
the best hamburger in the world. You can get hamburgers just about
anywhere, but the beauty of McDonald’s is its consistency, in that you can
go to a McDonald’s – I’ve been to McDonald’s in Europe, I’ve been to
McDonald’s in California – it sounds like I go to McDonald’s a lot. I
really don’t.

John: I’m in a new place. Let’s hit the McDonald’s.

Kevin: Well, if I was close enough to California, I would be in In and
Out and never darken the door of McDonald’s, but anyway, I digress. The
thing about McDonald’s is they have system which makes it consistent. You
know about how much time you’re going to spend in the drive-through line.
You know about what the burger’s going to taste like – no better, no worse
than the one you had before – and really, systems fascinate me because
that’s the beauty of what that is, is they have a system in place. And it
makes for good consistency.

So that’s why I advocate workflows in your mixing because if you’re
going to be a professional or at least a highly regarded mix engineer in
your local town, in your church, in your band, one of the key things that
you’ve got to do is consistent. You’ve got to be consistent. You can be
consistently okay, consistently good, consistently bad, but if you’re all
over the map, then nobody’s going to really know what they’re going to get
and what you’re worth paying for if you’re not consistent.

John: Yeah, that’s a Jekyll and Hyde thing, where it’s like, I don’t know
if I’m getting Jekyll or if I’m getting Hyde whenever I hire him.

Kevin: Right, right, right. And that all revolves around having a good
system. And my system has to do with, “Oh, that’s a great-sounding reverb.
That sounds great on a snare. I’m going to say that is Kev’s snare verb.”
Or “I use this all the time. I’m going to say this is a preset and call it
Kevin’s instant awesome.” Or better yet, have it come up whenever you
instantiate the SSL plug-in, it always comes up now.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: And I vary from that from presets right up to whole mixing
templates. I’ve got templates that have . . . a couple of podcasts ago we
talked about split tracks. I’ve got a template that has all that stuff
already in it so now when I go to mix a big orchestral piece that they’re
going to need this many tracks, that template comes up with my presets and
then I vary it from that, because in my opinion, your brain as a mixer, you
can be very analytical.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: And that’s good to be sometimes, but you’ve got to be creative
at the same time.

John: Oh, yeah.

Kevin: And it’s hard to be both at the same time. So it’s kind of like
the myth of multi-tasking, where you can’t actually do two things at once.
You’re actually doing one thing or another. So what I try to do with the
systems or the workflow is just try to separate those two things to where I
can get my . . . where everything is routed, the kind of presets I use, and
then I can switch and go over to my creative mode and say, “Now, how does
this sound?”

John: Yeah.

Kevin: “How can I make this sound better?”

John: Absolutely.

Kevin: And you don’t have to worry about, “When I’m doing the split
tracks, am I hitting it three and a half dB too high?” I don’t know cause
it’s built into my system, my template, my workflow, which makes,
hopefully, my mixes consistent.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: You know what you’re going to get when I mix a song for you.

John: And a lot of people will just assume – what you just made was a great
point – because what a lot of people will assume is they assume that it’s
about saving time and it’s about that sort of thing, where it’s a
timesaver. While workflows and coming up with a good system is a timesaver,
it’s not necessarily the first concern that I have or that you have
whenever you do a workflow. The first concern I have is separating out the
technical side of things. I think you mentioned routing.

Something I work into all my presets and my templates is a routing
thing, where everything’s kind of named, where I don’t have to think about
the routing. Where, especially if I’m bringing in – like programming a loop
or things like that – I always have it routed the way I always have it
routed. I’m sending to the right bus with the same name with all the same
things in it. And so that way, literally my brain doesn’t have to think
about it, where it becomes an ears-to-hands thing, where there’s no
separation of ears, “Wait is that routed right?” And then you get out of
the moment, you get out of the art of it, and you get out of the creativity
of it. And you have to go hunt down the routing. That always just kind of
takes you out of the moment. So while it does save time to do work close,
that’s not necessarily the first concern. The first concern is the art and
coming up with the best product possible.

Kevin: And consistency.

John: And consistency.

Kevin: I just finished a fascinating book, called “The 80-20 Rule.” It
was written by Perry Marshall. And the 80-20 Principle or the Pareto’s Law
– we’ve talked about it before in videos and on Mix Coach Member.

John: Maybe even a podcast, I don’t even know.

Kevin: Probably even a podcast. But I just really . . . the more I
study the 80-20 Principle, the more I’m convinced that it’s not actually a
rule, it’s almost a law like gravity.

John: Yeah, something that happens.

Kevin: Basically what the Pareto’s Principle says is that 80% of your
results are from 20% of your efforts. And that’s what this workflow is. I
mean, the templates and presets, because 80% of what you do to any mix is
going to be the same from mix to mix. So why not build it into a workflow
to where with the click of a button, you’ve got 80% of what you would have
done? And another thing, most mixers right out of the box, right out of
school, right upon opening up Pro Tools or Logic or whatever, you can get
80% of the way to a mix. But the 20% that’s left over is where the men are
separated from the boys and where the pros are separated from people who
are not pros yet.

John: Right.

Kevin: And so why not, since you’re going to have to put 100% of your
effort in there, why not let your workflow dictate what 80% of your work
would be? And that way you can really concentrate on what the 20% that
really makes the difference in your mix.

John: Absolutely, absolutely.


Kevin: 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

Question: What does your mixing workflow consist of?


MixCoach Podcast 060: Common Numbers in Mixing

Common Numbers, db, Mixing

This week on the Mix Coach Podcast, we talk about ‘magic’ or common numbers we’ve come across while mixing.

Below is a transcript of the Common Numbers in Mixing Podcast

Raw Transcript:

Announcer: This is the Mix Coach Podcast Episode 60. This week on the
podcast we’re going to talk about magic or common numbers when mixing.
These can be things like common frequencies that you find [background
music] or common amounts of DB that you’ll find while mixing.

John: Hey Kev.

Kevin: Hey John.

John: On this week’s episode we’re actually going to be talking about
kind of magic or common numbers that kind of come up a lot in mixing and
this is always kind of an interesting thing to me. The fact that a lot of
people, these are their like common numbers. These numbers come up from
numerous different sources that I’ve talked to, you know, they kind of come
up. So, you know, let’s just kind go through. They cover a wide variety of
topics here. So, what’s kind of the number one thing, a magic number that
you kind of always come back to?

Kevin: Well I guess, I heard you talk about this a while ago, about
that magic number, about you know something’s just below the surface.
That’s a good line, you know. 7 tenths of a DB is usually where I’ll bump
things or pull things back. If somebody says, “I need to feel more of
something”, that’s kind of an indicator to me that 7 tenths of a DB…

John: Yeah.

Kevin: …or if they say it’s just not loud enough usually it’s
multiple of that…

John: Right.

Kevin: …[inaudible] a half.

John: Yeah, yeah, yeah, like a 1.4 or something like that?

Kevin: Yeah it’s usually not 1DB, usually.

John: Right.

Kevin: Unless they specifically say that because it seems like 1DB is
kind of that…

John: Just a little bit too much.

Kevin: …it just too much sometimes…

John: Just a hair too much.

Kevin: …or not quite enough.

John: Yeah, or not quite enough that sort of thing. I know and it
also works the opposite of that where it’s like, “Oh that’s just, it just
seems like it’s just barely too loud”, if somebody says something like
that. You can always bump it down by 0.7 and that kind of helps out as
well. Where it just kind of barely puts it back a little bit. It’s almost
like somebody took like a half a step back…

Kevin: …Right. Right.

John: …into the mix. That sort of thing. So what are some other ones that
you’ve come across, other numbers, frequency numbers, DB levels, that sort
of thing?

Kevin: I would say probably 3K, 3000 hertz, 3000 cycles…

John: Yeah

Kevin: …is kind of like a go to frequency for a lot of things. I
mean 3K adds definition to a vocal and it makes whatever you put 3K on
usually sound a little bit more in your face.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: 3K is a number that adds a little bit of snap to the kick mic.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: 3K is kind of like a go to frequency for definition, I guess.

John: Yeah, absolutely, and as far as that goes, for me, on vocals a
lot of times it’s that 3 to 4K range there that’s been like,
scientifically, they’ve said that’s most closely related to lyric
intelligibility. Where like, if you can boost that or if that’s more
prominent you can understand more of what they’re saying, and a lot of that
I imagine comes down to like the sibilance [??] and sort of thing, that’s
present in there. Yeah it’s that presence for sure.

Kevin: Well right down [inaudible] is something I always mix through
my mastering processors…

John: Right.

Kevin: …I use Ozone almost exclusively.

John: Right.

Kevin: In addition to some Slate stuff now, but sometimes if
someone sent me some files to mix and it’s just a dull sounding mix,
instead of adding 3K to every track, which I inevitably…

[simultaneously] John: Will do.

Kevin:…will do. I’ll just add 3K to the whole mix and that way it takes
away a lot of the cone filtering that you could get if you add 3K with
different kinds of EQ’s and things like that…

John: Right.

Kevin: …within a mix. Usually I’ll just do, “OK this whole thing
needs a little definition”, and I’ll add a little 3K, and sometimes I’ll do
a shelf above that, but 3K is like a great go-to frequency.

John: Right on. Are there any other, I mean there’s obviously a
couple others that we talked about before we started here.

Kevin: Well, let’s see, if we’re talking about definition of things.
3K is a little too high for electric guitars. So 1K is usually a good, is a
grit frequency. It’s kind of like if you want some more nastiness about
something. If maybe a vocalist is not really having the snarl that you
want, you know, it’s not definition, it’s more attitude?

John: Yeah.

Kevin: 1K is a great, anywhere from 800 to 1K.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: You know, that adds a lot of warmth, but punch to an electric

John: Yeah.

Kevin: You know, another thing I’ve notices too, whenever mastering
engineers don’t feel, at least the ones that I know, when they don’t feel
like the vocals cutting through the mix enough, they’ll usually add 1K to

John: Great.

Kevin: 1K on a snare drum.

John: 1K on a snare. I’ve done that before yeah.

Kevin: Take it out.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: Take 1K out of a snare drum to make it…

John: Where you just need the high end and then kind of that low end
tone, almost.

Kevin: You know, talking about epiphanies and figuring this kind of
stuff out. A few years ago I was trying to make my snare drum sound like
one of Chris Lord Alge’s snare drum when he was mixing Jo Dee Messina and
some of the country stuff. I was like, “Why is his snare so beautiful and
mine is so nasty”, that nasty thing was 1K. I took 1K out of the snare drum
and all of the sudden it came alive.

John: Nice. Nice.

Kevin: 1K’s a nice frequency to go to.

John: It really is. As far as kind of the mud goes in a mix, kind of
is there a range that you kind of go to for the mud, like for me it’s
around like 320, 315, is that kind of accurate?

Kevin: Yeah, between 3, between 250 and 500 is kind of the, where most
of the mud is in a mix.

John: Right.

Kevin: Sometimes, although I don’t do this a lot, usually I try to
figure out exactly where the mud is, because usually you won’t find, unless
someone’s recorded with a bad signal chain, and it’s the same signal

John: Yeah.

Kevin: …and they have the same mud on it every time, you won’t find
the mud in the same spot.

John: Right.

Kevin: So cleaning up muddiness in a mix usually has to do with the
low pass filter or the high pass filter…

John: Right.

Kevin: …first, and then if it still muddy usually you see the low
pass filter coming up on an EQ.

John: Yeah

Kevin: You know when you see, graphically you see it coming up.
Usually, right at the top of that there’s usually an extra little thing
that, it gets thin, if you don’t, and sometimes that’s right around between
250 and 300, a lot of times.

John: Right.

Kevin: If you’ll notch out, you know, not very narrow, but kind of a
wide, between 250 and 300.

Kevin: You said yours…

John: Right.

Kevin: …was what?

John: It’s 315 or so is kind of, what I shoot, I mean that’s the
automatic gut response is I boost up about 315 to hear if that’s where it’s
at and it tends to be, you know a little bit above or a little bit below,
but that’s kind of the general middle range that I start in and then just
kind of roll around and find it and then I cut a couple of DB’s

Kevin: That’s really the best way to do it. I mean we can give you
general directions, but you’ve got to find the front door.

John: Oh yeah.

Kevin: You know, and usually you find the front door by boosting your
frequency at a very narrow bandwidth and finding it until you can almost
sing where the mud is…

John: Yep.

Kevin: …and then you pull it out, and wind [??] as much as you need.

John: Yep you find that tone and you can kind of hum it a little bit
and it’s like, “Oh it’s right there’, and you find it. Yeah.

Kevin: Yeah.

John: As far as other magic numbers, kind of to touch on a mono to
stereo kind has a break down, like if you hit something to mono from stereo
it kind of boosts the volume a little bit.

Kevin: Well, yeah. One of the things that I do. When I mix a lot
people ask me to do split tracks, and a split track is where you basically
split the track in half and it’s two mono stems. One of the stems will be
all vocals and one of the stems will be all band. Well when you get this
big wide stereo, orchestral sort of thing and you try to cram it down to
one track it’s always too hot and my magic go to number there is three and
a half DB, and I think that’s probably a pro-tools…

John: …like a summing thing.

Kevin: Some kind of a summing algorithm…

John: Yeah.

Kevin: …they have where you know when you sum things down, but I
have noticed that when you buss things out from stereo to mono it’s usually
smart, unless you want to really hit your limiters and compressors and
whatever you’ve got and really make it sound different you need to pull it
down about three and a half DB.

John: Right on. Right on. I think that covers pretty much all the
magic numbers of mixing or common numbers that you kind of find here and
there. [background music] Kind of just those averages, things to shoot for.
I think that covers pretty much everything there.

Announcer: Thanks 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

Question: What are some common numbers you’ve found for mixing?