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


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

Raw Transcript:

This is the Mix Coach podcast, episode 72.

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


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Jon: Hey Kevin, how’s it going?

Kevin: Hey Jon.

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

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

Jon: Yeah.

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

Jon: Yeah.

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

Jon: You just flip the phase?

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

Jon: In your EQ Plug-in or whatever.

Kevin: Yeah.

Jon: Or even a phase plug-in.

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

Jon: Yeah.

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

Jon: Right.

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

Jon: Piano’s and other multimedia instruments.

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

Jon: Okay.

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

Jon: Yes.

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

Jon: Awesome.

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

Jon: Wow.

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

Jon: Yes.

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

Jon: Okay.

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

Jon: Like an XY?

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

Jon: Right.

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

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

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

Jon: Right.

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

Jon: In every song.

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

Jon: Excellent.

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

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

Kevin: Exactly.

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

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

Jon: Yeah.

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

Jon: Okay.

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

Jon: Did not match at all.

Kevin: They would not match phase wise.

Jon: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Jon: Right.

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

Jon: Yeah.

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

Jon: Okay.

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

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

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

Jon: Yeah.

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

Jon: Yeah.

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

Jon: Right.

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

Jon: Some really good content in there as well.

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

Jon: That’s it.

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

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

Kevin: From the 50s. Yeah.

Jon: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon: Right.

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

Jon: Right.

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

Jon: Flipping the phase.

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

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: Simple as that. Then we talked about…

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

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

Jon: Yeah.

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

Jon: Yeah.

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

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

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