Engineer Jared Robson of Asthma Attack Studios has been recording and mixing for seven years and answers some of our basic mixing questions about truncation, compression and the best monitors for a home studio.
1. What are the challenges of mixing in a digital environment verses analog?
A. The challenges of mixing in a digital environment aren’t much different then mixing in an analog environment. The main difference is the way you control the session. When mixing in analog environment everything is hands on. Every bit of the mix is curved through some kind of hardware then back to the recording source. Versus a digital system which you would then use digital plug-ins to create the mix. My system is fully digital. I use a software (Pro Tools) controlled digitally by the Digidesign 003 control surface. The sound is then processed and returned to the Mac Pro through Fire wire which is a digital transfer unlike RCA cables witch is an analog transfer. My advice here would be stick with what you know! People that know what they’re doing can always get more out of less, than people that have really expensive equipment and don’t know the first thing about it.
2. What are some affordable ways to achieve “warmth” in a beat? (not everyone has an SSL at home ya dig?)
A. Achieving warmth in a beat can be done in many ways it really just depends on what you have access to. I am a firm believer that it has a lot to do with the mix in general. A poor mix can sound very hard no matter what you do to the sounds themselves. I would focus on using the panning skills here. When you pan instruments out, they give the beat depth and motion witch in return will bring some warmth because you’re not trying to force all the sound through the same place at the same time. Also the use of effects such as reverb and flangers will help. But again if the piano is too loud then its just too loud and the only way to fix it is to remix and master or compress and equalize the beat.
3. Most of our readers use Fruity Loops, what are some of the mixing plug-ins to use or avoid in that software?
A. I don’t use any of the mixing pug-ins in that software in fact I haven’t really used Fruity loops in a couple years. And usually when I do I only use it to pattern my drums and then I export them into a sequencer software that works in conjunction with my Yamaha Motif and I recently bought Reason so that’s what I’m trying to learn now. Sorry I can’t help here.
4. What is the best way to achieve the best truncation for a sampled kick or snare?
A. This is a very good question because the best truncation is determined first by the tempo of the beat and then by length of the sound it self. Or the number of sounds your trying to layer in one place. Personally I like to truncate the kicks and snares so they snap between beats. When a kick or snare drags out too long they can sometimes give the beat a lazy dragging feel witch in some cases might actually sound cool. But snapping right on the beat will give you a crisp tight sound. Also I often use two snares and I truncate the beginning of one snare and the end of the other to give it some dynamics. But like any mix I only ad or subtract what is needed, if the instrument sounds fine from the get go I leave it alone. As far as the best way to achieve truncation depends on what is available to you. I like to sample into a program like Pro Tools or Cool Edit and then cut the sample there because you can fade in fade out etc. But I’m also a big fan of the Ensoniq ASR 10. It has all the tools you need to truncate and modify samples built right inside just like the MPC or most any hardware does.
5. What are the best monitors for a home studio set-up?
A. There are a couple different affordable quality brands for monitors. The most popular brand I would have to say is the KRK RP8G2. Personally I like the Behringer Truth B2031A. Plus they come in a pair for right around $400.00. But if you have a little more money in your budget I would recommend the Event ASP8 I’ve worked on everything from Yamaha to Mackie and I think that the sound from the Event’s are the most accurate I’ve worked with.
6. Another popular program with our readers is Adobe Audition or Cool Edit. What are some of the better filters and EQs in those programs?
A. Ah Cool Edit! One of my all time favorite recording programs! I’ll tell you if you’re looking for an affordable way to achieve quality sound Cool Edit is the perfect program. Before I switched to Pro Tools I was using Cool Edit Pro. Unfortunately one of the main problems with that program was that you could only record in a 16 bit or 32 bit float format. The newer version Adobe Audition I believe is a 24 bit system which is a noticeable difference. But even in a 16 bit system there are some things you can do to achieve a superior sound. First one of my most commonly used tricks was the use of Chorus vs. Reverb. With any vocals you record in a sound booth you want to give them a little warmth so they don’t sound so separate from the instrumental. To do this the industry standard is to ad a slightly wet reverb to the vocals. But with Cool Edit Pro I always achieved a warmer sound by using Chorus instead of Reverb. Also the use of chorus would always give me more of a stereo sound which is very important when recording mono vocals. Also I would use compression quite a bit to normalize the wave.
One of my favorite compressor presets that I used often was: Compress 8.84:1 above / Expand 1.08:1 Below / Gain processor: output gain 0 db / Attack time 1 ms / release time 500ms. Level detector: input gain 0 / attack time .5 ms / release time 300 ms / Peak / lookahead time 3 ms. This setting will work for a broad range of vocals and if it doesn’t work for a certain voice or you can begin here and slowly tweak the settings till they sound right for that particular voice.
For filters I would suggest the FFT filters, that’s where you can create effects like telephone and distortion witch seem to be very popular in today’s music. I also use the multi tap delay. When used right you can achieve a more stereo sound from a mono wave by having a slight echo slap in the background. But it has to be subtle or it will sound to busy. The list goes on but here are a few “tricks of the trade” that may help.
If you have any mixing or production questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!