Even the best producers need help and with the constant changes and updates to music production software and hardware the most dedicated novice can become frustrated. In Nodfactor.com’s continued dedication to developing and showcasing the best production talent we have resurrected ASK THE PRO Question and Answer series previously published in Scratch magazine. One of the original contributing engineers, Ariel Borujow, will be answering your technical questions with speed and accuracy. So send them over to INFO@NODFACTOR.COM with the subject “Ask The Pro” and keep checking back to Nodfactor.com for Ariel’s answers.
Today we begin with some mixing basics:
Q:What’s the best way to start a mix? Placement? Levels? Compression?
A: My rule that I always go by is to know and understand the direction and feel of the song before you start the mix, then figure out how to try and capture that. The way I go about it is by requesting from the client a rough mix of the song. By doing this, I can get a feel of the levels of the tracks and where things are placed in the song. Second I usually pull the faders up and set “levels” and just listen a few more times by solo’ing tracks and getting to know the playing field a bit. From there I mute everything and start with the drums. Ideally my goal here is to make sure that the bass and kick are knocking then slowly bring in all the other percussion elements. I might pop the vocal up here and there as I bring in the remaining percussion tracks and instruments. Once I have all the tracks minus the vocals I go directly for the hook. The reason for this approach is usually the hook has the most elements. Of course, most songs are about the hook so you want to make this very impactful. At the end of the day there are no rules on how to start a mix. Every engineer works differently, and this is a little insight to my approach. So with that said, good luck on your next mix!
Q:What’s a basic order to insert effects? (i.e reverb first?)
A: I’m not sure if I am clear on the question but I will answer it the best I can. There are really no rules in the order you insert effects or dynamics. For one, effects (reverbs,delays,etc) generally don’t get used as inserts. On occasion now, especially with DAW’s (digital audio workstations) where you can automate them it’s more common to find them on inserts. You can just automate the master bypass if need be. I sometimes do this with last minute delay throws on a mix. The “norm” for effects is to put them on an aux track and choose a bus to feed the input. At that point, on the specific channel you would want that effect on, you would choose the bus that is feeding the effect and set the level you desire. As far as inserting dynamics (gates, compressors) and eq’s there really is no right and wrong way, it all depends on the sounds you are going for. If you compress first, putting an eq second can maybe bring out some of the frequencies that the compressor may have taken out. Hope I was able shed some light.