The Science Of Art: Another Six Quick Mix Tips

To business:

  1. If you need more than 3-4dB of gain reduction on your master bus limiter to get up to a decent rough mix/mastering level, you’ve probably fucked up the balance of your mix (oops). Even if you're mastering 'for real though', the limiter shouldn't really need more than this even if you're trying to break people's ears - mastering compressors/saturation should take a lot of this load.
  2. Don’t be scared to automate up certain tracks (drum bus, bass, guitars etc) a dB or two on the chorus. Sounds like a lot of work? That's because you're lazy and useless and a bad person. Hell, you can even just do it on the master, a db or so, if you want. I mean, after all, you've gain staged everything so well, you have enough headroom to do that, yeah?
  3. If you want heavily compressed vox and a loud mix you’re probably going to need a hell of a lot of de-essing. That’s OK. Check my previous mix tip on how to do that properly here.
  4. Turn off your monitor occasionally when listening to the mix. If you have a control surface that lets you tweak levels etc while the screen is off, even better. Close your eyes at the very least.
  5. Don't worry about only putting reverb on sends. Insert it, insert it good, if that’s what sounds best.
  6. Feel free to cut the breath sounds and de-ess more on backing vox. I generally never remove breath sounds on lead vox, although but it’s OK to turn them down if they distract from the song/lyric - but backing vox breaths can make things sound messy. Often the backing vox will sound a bit too 'over done' in terms of de-essing when heard in isolation (but they'll never be heard like that so....) - or I might even cut the sibilant part out completely if it hits at exactly the same time as the lead vox. Don't worry about what it looks like, whatever sounds best, yeah?
  7. Bonus Tip: Get out the studio/garage/bedroom for a bit before the muse leaves you because you’re a lonely super nerd with no friends. I have no experience of this, but I know some guys who tell me it's a valid point.

With love,

Ed 🎚🎛❤️

Dope New Music: Buzzard - Magic Christian Mountain

Happy New Year!  🎉🎉🎊 Can't wait to show you all the things i've been working on for the past for weeks, months... years (ouch). Kicking off with this beautiful new track from Buzzard that I mastered. I love love love it. Please watch, stream on Spotify, purchase and all that, so that our kid can afford to buy a shirt of some description.

'Songs from this Year' available on Spotify now: http://spoti.fi/2g5Xt5P

With love,

Ed 🎚🎛❤️

The Science Of Art: Six More Mix Tips

Six more. Anything you want me to expand on, let me know, I'll do a post about it:

  1. Throw a limiter after an EQ if you’re doing a big boost to keep your levels from going crazy. Just make sure the limiter’s threshold is set correctly so that it’s actually doing something. I like to do this with the PSP VintageWarmer - it's a very coloured limiter and it's very easy to overcook it. But like, just don't do that, you know? With the VW, I simply adjust the 'ceiling' knob and leave everything at default. Just see if you like it when a limiter is 'soaking up' the boost you just did with the EQ, and keeping the levels under control.
  2. Write down the specific areas to correct before revisiting a mix to do revisions - whether they're your own mix notes or a client's. Correct them, bounce the mix, send it to the client, and move on - otherwise you’ll be tweaking forever. If you need to do more, repeat the process, like a robot. Don't get caught in a loop. If the mix realy sucks, do it again.
  3. 'Mix references' are *usually* bollocks. It’s a different song by different people (that's also been mastered), so don’t get caught up trying to copy stuff. Chances are it'll just confuse you and it’s better to just really know your monitoring environment. Use them sparingly; for mastering, they can help you match a healthy overall loudness level, and if you go to a new studio (whether that's Abbey Road or your mate's garage), then a familiar song can help you understand the monitoring environment. But that's about it.
  4. Limit your options. Have a few go-to staple plugins that you trust and know backwards. Too many options will just eat productivity. I mainly use plugins from PSP, SSL, Slate and a few of the stock Logic effects (love the Channel EQ). I'll have 2-4 different options for each effect type - EQ, reverb, compressors, etc. With my go-to options, I can probably sort 90% of mixes, regardless of the genre. As you gain more experience, you might try out a new plugin and if you like it, you can add it to your staple plugin list - perhaps discarding one of the older ones. The same goes with (software) instruments, really. Scientists have concluded that you can be stuck dicking around with NI Komplete for up to 45 years.
  5. Gain stage everything correctly. Plugins or outboard, doesn’t matter. Make sure the level going in and out of each plugin is under control. This is huge. Just do it.
  6. Don’t be scared to chain a couple of compressors on the same channel. Two plugins doing 3dB of compression is probably going to sound more transparent (if that's what you're after) than one doing 6dB. I'll often use a bunch. Same goes for limiting. Mix the colours. Don't tell anyone.
  7. Bonus Tip: It takes fucking ages to learn how to mix/be a "Mix Engineer", before you really know your arse from your elbow. This is time you will need to take away from some other activity: writing songs, rehearsing, practicing, playing/organising shows, doing band admin/social media stuff, spending time with loved ones (jk) - and if you don't have much of a life, you could be off pretending that you have one on social media. DO YOU REALLY WANNA DO THAT THO. Do you want to make that 'sacrifice' and is this the best use of your time - or is it just ego so that you can say that 'you did it'? Budget comes into it too, of course, but if you're going to spend your money somewhere, you'd be MUCH better offer getting someone that knows what they're doing to mix your tracks, and then mastering them yourself. If they mix them properly, you'll likely only need to slap a limiter on them to get the level up. Don't believe the mastering hype. It's not black magic.

That's all. Party on 🤘🏻🤘🏼🤘🏾🤘🏿

Ed 🎚🎛❤️

BBC x Art Council Wales Launchpad Fund

Just t'other day, I had the honour of being asked to be part of the Arts Council Wales x BBC Launchpad judgement panel - artists applied for Launchpad funds of up to £2000 and the panel's job was to go through the final list of applicants, listen to the music/read the applications, and then vote to help to award the funding. It was great to be a part of a lovely group of people that truly care about and understand music, and that really have the artist’s best interests at heart. It was also amazing to hear so much great new music coming from Wales - there were over 200 submissions and around 37 successful applicants, a total of £35,000 in prize money.

I was also asked to share some advice for both the successful and unsuccessful artists with the BBC Horizons team, so I thought I'd share it here, too, expanding on things a little. *Obviously* I am not proclaiming to have some sage wisdom, but I thought it could be of use to future applicants, or any artist in general.

Regardless of if you applied or not, wherever you are in the world, my biggest advice to any artist is to pick up the 'War Of Art' by Stephen Pressfield. Ask for it for Christmas. Just do it.

Thanks again to , Ceriann Williams, Fionna Allan, Lisa Matthews and Bethan Elfyn too, for inviting me along.

With love,

Ed 🎚🎛 ❤️

Advice to successful artists: Firstly, congratulations - pat yourselves on the back! Now it’s time to think about how this launchpad fund will help you in the long term - how will this factor into a bigger picture/plan? For example, if you’re looking for funding to help make a music video and/or PR - what happens next?

I don't mean to sound like a bank manager/your mother, but think about what the point of making the music video actually is - are you going to just make a video (and probably pay a PR person), and then hope for the best? If you haven't already, think about what you are actually trying to achieve by making the video - is it to raise your social media stats? Are you self releasing and trying to earn money from increased streaming revenue? Are you trying increase your profile in order to attract label attention? If so, which labels - and what can you do to make sure that people from those labels see/hear your music?

If you’re planning on using the fund to record new music - again, is your single/EP/album simply a purely an artistic endeavour with no expectation on any specific outcome, or is this merely a step that is required in order to reach your goal?

In any case, the key is to have a clear goal - i.e. what do you hope to achieve in the long term - not a dream but a goal. Then, focus on a concrete plan in order to achieve that goal. A plan means that there are achievable, smaller steps and accountable check points for you on your way to achieving your goal. This can’t guarantee any success, of course, but I feel like it will only increase your chances.

So, once you’ve figured out exactly what your goal(s) are, and have a step by step plan to achieve it (if you haven’t already), learn to love working hard and become relentless in achieving it. Try to get out into the real world (vs only being in the studio and online) - meet as many people (that are involved in music) as possible, and just generally be a lovely person. Oh, and have fun doing it!

Again, congrats - don’t forget to celebrate! Mine’s a pint. 🍺🍻



Advice to unsuccessful artists: Most importantly - don’t be disheartened. An unsuccessful application does NOT nessarily mean that the panel didn’t think that your music was good - merely that the application didn’t demonstrate how or why the fund would help you ‘launch’ to the next stage of your musical journey. Perhaps the panel thought you were doing just fine without their help at the moment! You can and should apply again next year.

With that said, be sure to work on truly mastering your craft. Become undeniably great - i.e. so good that no one can overlook your music or talent. Work on your songwriting, that’s the most important thing. If you want a career in music, take it really seriously and become a ‘pro’. I recommend reading ‘The War Of Art’ by Steven Pressfield to everyone that I can. It’s very easy to read and gives us the kick up the backside that we all need from time to time.

Finally, please do re-read your application and think about re-applying next year - and think about what you might change. Remember that in the application, you have to show how this money will take you from point A to point B in your musical career - simply saying something along the lines of 'I want/need a new microphone so I can get better quality recordings' doesn't quite cut it. You might make great music and really could do with a new mic, but unless you can explain to the people reading the application exactly how it's going to help take you to the 'next level' (hence 'Launchpad'), you might not be successful.

Think of how this launchpad fund will help you in the long term - how will this factor into a bigger picture/plan? If you can explain that in your application and your music is great, you have a very high chance of success next time around ❤️

 

 

New Dope Music: Buzzard aka Tom Rees

DOPE new artist alert - BUZZARD aka Tom Rees aka The Man. Listen to/watch the track below. Then go listen to some more: out through Bubblewrap Collective, available on vinyl split with Boy Azooga from Outpost and Spillers Records in Cardiff (see my previous post on this record), also available online here.

I mastered the Buzzard tracks and recorded / mixed / produced / mastered the Boy Azooga tracks. Listen to Songs from this Year on Spotify or iTunes. But just basically click the video below.

Some final words from the man himself: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

Cool, cool.

Ed 🎚🎛❤️

Darkhouse Family - The Offering

GOOD MORNING. Last week my buddies Don Leisure and Earl Jeffers aka the mighty Darkhouse Family put out a record on First Word Records and it's truly great. It's got a ton of my friends playing on it like Daf Davies (drums) and Davey Newington (drums, synths) of Boy Azooga, Jessy Allen (vocals) Esther (vocals), Jonathan Powell Field (violin) and Charlotte Church and more. If you like hip-hop, beats and funk, press 'play' below and go check it out NOW. Don't be a silly billy 🚀🚀

Ed 🎚🎛❤️ 

The Science Of Art: Six Quick Mix Tips

Boom, no time to mess around, here we go: 

  1. Songs with ‘fat bass’ often actually have way more mid range than bass. If it sounds big and ‘buzzy’, it’s all about the mid-range. It's all about the mid-range in general - bass and treble are for kids.
  2. High pass filter everything that doesn’t need to have any lows in it. Just do it. I bet it sounds better.
  3. Don’t forget to low pass tracks to cut off unneeded top end sizzle. Cutting top end off (drum) room mics is often pretty sexy.
  4. Turn everything down. In the digital world, red is (almost always) just bad. Make sure all of your tracks are recorded @ 24-bit and with a ton of headroom. All channels shouldn’t be clipping when faders are at 0, especially the master fader. Get your tracks PEAKING at -6 to -8dBFS and everything will sound grand.
  5. Work hard to learn to interpret what people REALLY mean. Sometimes ‘this needs more bass’ actually means ‘there’s too much treble’. ‘Turn down the harsh top end’ can mean the 3-4KHz area, not 10KHz+
  6. Chorus (the effect) isn’t just for Spandau Ballet lovers (like me). Use them with a low LFO rate to get super wide stereo sounds. I recommend Soundtoys' Little MicroShift, an Eventide H3000, a Yamaha SPX90, or simply the stock Logic chorus plugin (Super Wide preset). I'm sure whatever you have in your DAW will work fine. Mono -> Stereo, slow LFO speed, bosh, sorted.

There. Enjoy.

Ed 🎚 🎛  ❤️

Boy Azooga's First Single - Face Behind Her Cigarette

Here’s the first Boy Azooga single out on Heavenly Recordings - Face Behind Her Cigarette - I produced / mixed / engineered this track - it was mastered by Guy Davie @ Electric Mastering. The video was made by Toby @ On Par Productions and was actually shot in space, which is mad. Hope you like it x

Ed 🎚🎛❤️

P.S. Just found out it was Huw Stephen's 'Track of the Week' on Radio 1 last night 🤘🏼

P.P.S Special thanks to the wonderful Steffan Pringle who engineered the drums with us on this album! That man knows how to tune a snare.

Boy Azooga Sign to Heavenly Recordings

Davey Newington - one of my favourite humans on the planet - and his band Boy Azooga have signed to the mighty HEAVENLY RECORDINGS. I produced / mixed / engineered the album - it took years to craft, recorded in stolen moments and lots of late night sessions. We recorded, re-recorded, and re-worked until the Boy Azooga sound was formed. When wrapping up the album, we had a few talks and figured out a goal - and then a plan - to try to get the album into the ears the folks at Davey's dream label - Heavenly. Thankfully, they loved it. A special, huge thank you to Aimee-Jade-Hayes for putting the two of us in touch, all those years ago. Love you! ❤️ 

The album will be out early in 2018 - I think it’s really a rather amazing and I'm really proud of him. The band are so incredible live - amazing musicians - Davey on Vocals and Guitar, Daf Davies on Drums, Sam Barnes on Bass and Guitar, and Dylan Morgan on Keyboards and Guitar. All of them on backing vox. All of these guys can play approx 43 instruments and they're better than you at all of them.

There's a lot more coming that we can't wait to show you. Onwards to album II 🤘🏼🤘🏼

Ed 🎚🎛❤️

BOY AZOOGA x BUZZARD SPLIT 12" - 13TH OCTOBER

Verrrrrry happy to see this coming out - a double EP I mastered featuring the amazing Buzzard on one side and three wonderful Boy Azooga tracks I recorded/produced/mixed/mastered on the other, out on Bubblewrap Collective on October 13th! Amazing artwork collab with Trashman Art x Carlota 💃🏻💃🏻💃🏻

The Science Of Art: Tip #0003 - Narrow EQ Cuts Will Save Your Life & Make You Rich

Tip 3.) Cut down on nasty/harsh ringing in the 3-4KHz area - it can/will make your tracks sound sharp and amateurish. Learn to work with an EQ band set to a super narrow Q (Q = EQ bandwidth) to hulk smash horrible frequencies; it works great on drums (video ex.1: drum room mics), guitars (video ex: 2) and especially lead vocals (video ex. 3).

Obviously you could automate on/off on certain sections, or adjust the gain/amount of cut on certain sections (e.g. the singer sounds fine until they start belting it out). The EQ curve might ‘look wrong’ but it often sounds fantastic, especially if you have a frequency hunter EQ like PSP Neon (used in the below example) or FabFilter’s Pro-Q; experiment with Linear Phase EQs, too. I’ll dip out 20dB on a lead vocal, no problem - I'm fearless, like a tiger. Try it. Don’t be scared homie. 🎚 🎛 ❤️

The Science Of Art: Tip #0002 - De-Essing Vocals

Tip 2.) De-ess vocals the grown up way: manually zoom in on the waveform and chop out the ssssibilant parts (they’re easy to recognise, as you can see from the GIF below) and reduce the clip gain on that region - around 6-8dB is usually a good starting point. You might need to apply a little crossfade to address any clicks/pops when overlapping the normal region. A little more time consuming, but by far the best method. You can probably get a whole track done in 10-15 minutes once you become proficient - rap vox may take a little longer. Don’t be lazy.

Of course, this will be ‘pre-inserts’ (i.e. before your plugin chain), so if you’re using a lot of compression and/or distortion, go right ahead and try a de-esser plugin near the end of your chain, too. 

Finally, be sure to check the sibilance once a ton of compression has been applied to the lead vox, as well as on the master bus. Once the song compressed and limited, it will become a lot more apparent.

With Love,

Ed  🎛🎚❤️ 

The Science Of Art: Tip #0001 - Side-chaining

Tip 1.) Side chaining: not just for crazy electro kids with the UNF UNF UNF UNF and the donks. Use it to knock a couple of dBs off your bass line when the kick hits, helping it cut through and keep your master bus from exploding. Used subtly it won’t really be noticeable, and you could even use it so that you can make your track louder overall - but I am hoping that you use these tips for good and not evil.

It doesn't have to be much:

With Love,

Ed 🎛🎚❤️