Recording - September 2015 - 12

By Greg Ogan
For this mixing issue of Recording, I'd like to share some concepts and tricks I've learned through the years that have drastically helped my mixes. Whether it's mastering the uses of a compressor or figuring out how to make the song sound more "red"
(yes, this was asked of me once), music at its core is about emotion and feeling, and it's up to us to translate these abstract
ideas into practical form. Hopefully what I've learned in my
experiences can add some tools to your arsenal.

Problems and solutions
First let's cover some common mistakes I encounter during mix
sessions, along with potential improvements. Naturally, a lot of
these mistakes were committed by me through the years.
However, whether I'm listening to other people's work, reading
message boards, consulting with younger guys, or being handed mix sessions, some of these same issues keep coming up.
Some are technical points that are easily fixable, while others
are more abstract concepts that I present as food for thought.
Not properly prepping the mix. A chef once told me that in a
kitchen, a large percentage of the cooking process is dedicated to
preparation, and far less time goes towards the actual execution of
the meal. The same could be said of mix sessions. There is so much
brainpower used to achieve flow while mixing, that none should
be wasted on mundane tasks which break that flow.
After listening to the song a few times to figure out the vibe and
direction, I put effort into dealing with the technical layout of my
session. This includes track labeling, color coding, and organizing
(I often group tracks by instrument type or where the parts appear
in the song). I setup up plug-ins, sends, returns, hardware ins and
outs, groups, and VCAs so all of my tools are laid out in front of
me. Taking care of all of this ahead of time can clear away a lot
of mental garbage so you can focus on the creativity of the mix.
Not knowing your tools and gear. Now, I'm all for experimentation, and I've often experimented during mix sessions with great
results, but too much experimentation can lead to ear fatigue, wasting time and hurting the mix. This is why I think it's very important to
really know your tools so you can work towards a specific direction.
For example, not knowing which reverb plug-in gives you a
"retro-indie sound" could lead to hours of trying out reverb units
and expending valuable critical listening energy... or you could
go to the Universal Audio EMT 140 plate plug-in because you
12

RECORDING September 2015

know its sound. I always try to schedule "discovery sessions"
where I can research techniques, try out gear, go through presets, and figure out what works best for specific situations. That
way, when I have to deliver a quality job, I'm prepared.
Mixing or getting sounds in solo mode. Have you ever spent
a chunk of time processing a soloed instrument or vocal to taste,
only to plop it in the mix and hear that nothing you did works
with the song? I sure have.
This is especially vital when using EQ. Conflicting frequencies
can either cancel each other out or build on each other, unbalancing that frequency range. We need to know what's happening
with every track in a song, so we can make each part fit in correctly. I think it's important to make broad strokes while most of the
music is playing, so we can see how it all fits together. Once that's
done, you then have the option to solo and do surgical tweaks.
Not properly gain staging. I see too many mixes where individual tracks and plug-ins are overloading unintentionally, and
when summed they're slamming the master fader. A lot of this
can be hidden by compressors and limiters on subgroups and
master faders that are overcompressing/limiting the signal.
It's very easy in a mix to start inching the faders louder and louder to hear instruments better, but be mindful of the master. If levels
inside plug-ins, on tracks themselves, or on the master start seeing
red, take the time to lower the gain to nominal levels. I operate
around -12 dBFS, but I've heard of people working around -18
dBFS on 24-bit systems. Equipment and plug-ins run better at these
levels, and the mix will be smoother and sound better all around.
Relying too heavily on multi-effect presets. Nowadays we
have so many digital tools at our fingertips, working behind the
scenes and handling most of the heavy lifting for us. This can be
inspiring and speed the workflow. One time, I dialed in a bass
setting that I liked on Waves CLA Bass and then tried to beat it
with my own chain. I couldn't, and neither could some friends
who tried. Now CLA Bass is a consistent part of my arsenal.
It can be cool to drastically change the sound of a track with a
single preset, but with overuse it can be quite detrimental to the
mix. Multiprocessor plug-in presets can overprocess a mix,
degrading sound quality; too many effects, even high-end ones,
end up sounding cheap. Deconstruct those multi-effects and figure
out what's going on inside them so you can tweak them to perfection... or replace them with something simpler.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - September 2015

Contents
Recording - September 2015 - Intro
Recording - September 2015 - Cover1
Recording - September 2015 - Cover2
Recording - September 2015 - 1
Recording - September 2015 - 2
Recording - September 2015 - 3
Recording - September 2015 - 4
Recording - September 2015 - 5
Recording - September 2015 - Contents
Recording - September 2015 - 7
Recording - September 2015 - 8
Recording - September 2015 - 9
Recording - September 2015 - 10
Recording - September 2015 - 11
Recording - September 2015 - 12
Recording - September 2015 - 13
Recording - September 2015 - 14
Recording - September 2015 - 15
Recording - September 2015 - 16
Recording - September 2015 - 17
Recording - September 2015 - 18
Recording - September 2015 - 19
Recording - September 2015 - 20
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Recording - September 2015 - Cover3
Recording - September 2015 - Cover4
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