MixCoach Podcast 059: Unconventional Mixing Tricks

unconventional mixing tricks, mix

In this episode we discuss some unconventional mixing tricks and how to use them!

Raw Transcript:

Jon: On this week’s episode we’re going to actually talk about

unconventional recording and mixing techniques. Things you wouldn’t

normally see or situations that you wouldn’t normally get into in the



Hey Kev, how’s it going today?


Kevin: Hey Jon, how are you?


Jon: I’m good. Today we’re actually going to be talking about some

unconventional things that you could do in a mix or recording situation, or

unconventional situations even that you might find your self in. Are there

things that you do, they’re unconventional that other people would think,

wouldn’t necessarily think, ‘Oh, Kevin did this in a mix or did this in

this style?’


Kevin: I don’t know so much about a mix but I know that one of the

things I love doing is producing. I love producing vocals and I love the

challenge of taking a vocalist who is kind of already on, they’re nervous

about being in the studio and you want to make sure that you create a

situation around them that makes them less nervous so that they can perform

better instead of making them more nervous and then just taking the best

you can get. One of the unconventional…


Jon: Put the pressure on them. You’ve got to turn up that heat.


Kevin: It’s always a challenge for me, I mean getting a good vocal

sound is really not that hard. If you’ve got a good vocalist who knows how

to work a microphone, you’ve got a decent microphone, you’ve got a good

signal path, it’s really not that hard to do. The hard thing to do is to

get the performance out of the,m because they can sound nervous and they

can sound nervous on a $6000 microphone or they can sound just as nervous

on a $300 microphone.


Jon: Absolutely.


Kevin: It’ll still not be the best take so one of the unconventional

things that I do that I think, ‘This is kind of,’ to me it’s almost a, it’s

something I’ve never seen anybody do until after I did it but one of the

things that I’ll do, if someone’s having trouble singing a part. You’ve

seen me do this before. If someone’s having trouble singing a part I will

usually stop the tape and then without them even knowing about it I’ll go

to the end of the recording where there’s no click, there’s no nothing and

they think they’re just singing it to me and then I’ll just get them to

sing it a few more times. I get them to sing in tempo. I’ll say, ‘Sing this

note just a little bit higher. Stretch that note out just a little bit.

You’ve got it.’ Then I will have been recording the whole time and then

what I’ll do is I’ll just copy that phrase to the place that they were

having trouble with it and then at the very least they can hear how it’s

supposed to sound. At the most, it’s done.


Jon: It’s done.


Kevin: I think that’s one of the things, because one of the biggest

compliments I’ve ever gotten from singers that I admire is they’ll say, “I

love recording at your studio. It just sounds good.” I’m not sure that it

sounds that much better. Hopefully it does because good microphone, a good,

clean, a good headphone balance, a good headphone mix so that they can

sing, the right amount of verb and them knowing that I care about the way

they sound is one thing. But I think one of the other things is that they

say it’s easy to record here so one of the unconventional things that I do

is I’m always kinds of going around the back and trying to figure out how I

can trick this performance out of them without them feeling any pressure.


Jon: Absolutely. We talked about a little bit before that, kind of

the fish bowl type situation with a vocalist is very hard because with

vocalists it’s not like a guitar where the guitar is always in tune no

matter how nervous the player is or not. The vocalist, it’s essentially,

depending on the mood, their vocal cords may or not tense up or be loose.

That sort of thing so it’s a very different ballgame whenever you get into



Kevin: Physiological things in there that factor in.


Jon: Absolutely. Anything psychological that they have will

eventually manifest itself in the way their performance is, the way their

vocal sounds. Something I’ve seen you do before and we’ve done before is

with like Bluegrass. We had a banjo player and he was doing like a banjo

break. Basically the situation was whenever we listened to it or something

like that it was a little bit pushed, as far as the rhythm goes and

immediately, just after the take, just to make things easy on the back end,

kind of nudged it right into place where it was right in the pocket, where

it felt like it was right time lines. Essentially it never felt right to

the banjo player until we nudged it forward a little bit because in that

style basically if you’re pushing the beat a little bit it helps you stand

out a little bit more on kind of a one microphone or kind of a classic

bluegrass sound. That’s kind of unconventionals, is kind of pushing a

little bit of the rhythm to give it a little bit more of a stand out thing.


Kevin: I’m always, whenever I record, I’m always trying to learn a

lesson. I’m like a, I’m a lifetime learner. I’m almost to a fault trying to

learn something new all the time. One of the things that I, in my mind,

remember we talked about back in the day when we first started Mix Coach,

last is loudest. Also this applies to this sort of thing too. In acoustic

music what I discovered was that theory is true for first is loudest too

and he felt like he wasn’t in the pocket, he was behind. He wasn’t loud

enough and then I nudged it back to where he was actually ahead and it was

perfect to him. It wasn’t any louder. It wasn’t any, it was not any queued

any different. It wasn’t compressed but it was just ahead of the beat a

little bit.


If you noticed this too. I’ve got one more little factor. It’s kind

of, it always comes in threes, last is loudest, first is loudest and sharp

is loudest. One of the things I’ve noticed in recording orchestras is that

orchestras tend to tune just a little sharp. Did you know that?


Jon: Yes. It’s just a tiny bit though.


Kevin: It’s just a tiny bit sharp to make it stick out in a mix. It’s

a way that you can make things stick out in a mix and if you notice R&B

singers, R. Kelly for example, he tends to sing some things a little sharp

sometimes and it just makes it sound, you notice it. We’re talking about

unconventional . . .


Jon: Unconventional things.


Kevin: . . . unconventional things but yes, so I mean, if you’re

having trouble getting something to pop through a mix an unconventional

thing would be . . .


Jon: Tune it a couple cents, a few cents up.


Kevin: Make it, I would probably make… that would be the last thing

I would do.


Jon: I agree.


Kevin: Because pitch is… I’m really sensitive to pitch but you could

nudge it ahead just a little bit. Everything, if it’s perfectly in the

pocket and everything’s landing right on the down beat precisely right down

to the sample, it’s really going to, it’s going to be hard to get stuff to

pop through the mix so nudge it ahead just a little bit.


One other thing before we wrap this up. You were talking about

unconventional methods of recording. My dream several years ago was always

to just go to a vacation type environment and record.


Jon: Nice.


Kevin: I got that opportunity with my friend Wayne in a group that we

were working with at that time called Lord Song and we were doing, we did

an a capella record and it was one of the most gratifying and fun records.

You have this idea of what it’s going to be like before you get there and I

was thinking, ‘This lake house, we’re going to be at this lake house.’ All

I could think of was like floor to ceiling windows with an arched roof line

and all you could see was beautiful water and boats going by and all that

kind of stuff. I took my laptop and I took some pre’s and I took three mics

and pop filters and headphones. I had everything. When I got in there it

was not the lake house I was thinking. It was about the size of my bedroom.


Jon: Oh, man.


Kevin: There was a one window unit for the whole house.


Jon: Oh my goodness.


Kevin: It was loud.


Jon: That’s funny.


Kevin: The conventional thing, I always talk about dealing a good

engineer, a good producer, deals with the situation that you have. You kind

of sum up the whole situation. Well the situation was, ‘Here’s what we’re

going to do, guys. We’re going to set up. We’re going to rehearse with the

air conditioner on. I’m going to make sure the levels are good. When we get

this line I’m going to turn the air conditioner off and we’ve got about

five minutes until either we all pass out or you get your product.


Jon: That’s awesome.


Kevin: You know what? When I listen to that, you can go listen to it.

Look on iTunes for Lord Song and I think the name of the record is “Lord of

the Dance.” When you listen to that record know that it was done on a

laptop in a “very small” lake house but it was an unconventional way of

recording but if you ask any one of the members of Lord Song what they

remember about that it was like, “You stood up and turned the air

conditioner off and we knew it was on.” We had to get it.


Jon: It was time.


Kevin: That was kind of unconventional but fun.


Jon: That’s great. Awesome. Well that kind of wraps up the talk

about unconventional recording and mixing techniques.


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 mixcoach.com.

Question: What are some unconventional mixing techniques you use?


By Jon Wright

As a graduate of MTSU with a degree in Audio Engineering and Technology Jon has been working as a full time mixer and engineer in Nashville. He loves running, writing, and all forms of entertainment. He also enjoys long walks on the beach with his wife.

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