Category Archives for "Tips"

guy at desk
May 21

7 Shocking Mistakes That Kill Your Mixes

By _bayland | Mixing , Tips

7 Shocking Mistakes That Kill Your Mixes

 

As an engineer for 10 years there are some things I’ve been able to learn over the years. There are several things I can advise you as a beginner to avoid, but I’m just going to share the top 7, in no particular order.

 

1.Something From Nothing

The first thing to avoid is trying to turn sound into something it isn’t. Even as an engineer with years of experience, I am very careful with doing this. Why? It can take a lot of time and if it is not done right it tends to sound unnatural. Without experience, this particular feat is quite difficult, BUT this is not to say that you should never try this, you should. Get creative. We live in a digital age where anything is possible. Just don’t beat yourself up over it, let it be fun until you get the hang of it.

The problem with trying to get something from nothing is that you can spend hours or even days on trying to get it “perfect”. A lot of the times, the sound that’s there is going to be the sound. The key to mixing professional mixes is how good you can get the work to sound within in a given set of time. Some projects only have a budget for a few days, some only a few hours. Speed is a matter of knowing what your doing. The more you do it, the better you’ll know your tools and how to get something to sound the way you want it to. It comes around full circle though, if you don’t experiment you’ll never know how to get from Point A to Point B.

 

2. Dip your Toes In

Putting reverb on every track is something producers tend to do in fear of having a dry signal. It is important to know which reverbs belong to particular genres and trends. Limiting yourself to as few reverbs as possible can help you grow the most. This can be true for other effects too. Simplicity is key and less is more in some of these situations. Too much reverb causes problems all across the board so instead of getting your mixes to swim in reverb, it’s better to just dip your toes in.

 

3. Han Solo

Working in solo for too long is another mistake a young engineer can make. It can cause you to lose perspective quite rapidly when you are mixing single sound. Of course, working in solo is necessary to work on specific details, but as far as doing it for everything, it’s just not the best idea. Remember that the mix is about getting everything to work together. If you listen to something in solo, you may find that it doesn’t sound “good” on it’s own. That’s not a bad thing. Remember you want everything to work together.

*Extra Tip: If you’re working on an analogue console, the solo bus is not even the same circuitry as the main LR. If you solo something you’re not listening to it go through even the same path as everything else.

 

4.The Bigger Picture

Utilizing too much processing on a track is one of the biggest beginner mistakes made. This is something that takes time and skill to develop. It requires you to take some free time to mess around with it in order to get good enough to implement it into your more serious mixes. Basically, you need to develop your method before you get mad with it.

The problem with going in guns blazing is there’s more problems to fix toward the end. It’s basically like pushing the faders up instead of pulling them down. Before you know it, your destroying your master.

It’s best to be deliberate with everything you’re doing. Everything needs to make sense for the bigger picture. You need to be thinking about processing power (if you’re running a slower machine), important elements that need or don’t need a lot of processing, what elements are UN-necessary, and when the mix should or shouldn’t be balanced.

5. Clarity

Clarity is something that is essential in any industry. It is important to know what you want to. Take time to stop and think about what it is that you are trying to accomplish. In my experience, this saves frustration and time down the road.

 

6. A Mix is NOT a Master

Going for a mastered sound is something that is easy to fall into. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a fully polished record right from the get-go. This is another one of those things that requires time and experience in order to master. Getting the hang of perfecting the little details should be a greater focus before jumping into mastering. When you feel confident with your mixes, start diving into mastering. Unless you feel you’ll never be good at mixing, jump straight into mastering, but whatever you do stick with it. Either one of the two professions will take years to develop.

 

7. Don’t Smile Too Often

Adding tons of bass and treble is the last mistake I’ll mention (the smile curve). These should be treated as sprinkles on a cupcake – they shouldn’t overwhelm the track. They can translate poorly on speakers and can fatigue the ear. Unless you know in your bones that the track calls for it, don’t feel the need to do it.

 

Bonus Tip:

If you don’t have a well treated room, get yourself a great pair of reference headphones to mix on. You’ll be better off mixing on those than any untreated room with the best and most expensive studio monitors. I’ve mixed and mastered countless records on the road, in airports, and in hotel rooms on great headphones. All of which released through major labels. It’s the ear, not the gear.

May 21

Using Premire Pro for Audio Splits and Stems

By _bayland | Premier Pro , Tips

Using Premire Pro for Audio Splits and Stems

Let’s talk about audio splits and stems and what we can do with them on Premiere Pro. Audio stems are a collection of audio sources mixed together. They are audio files but the significance of calling them stems is that they collectively make sense for the project. They are essential for transporting files and basically they make an engineers life easier. Audio splits are a separation of the final mix into smaller more discrete audio elements. These stems come in handy when you want to replace some elements like dialogue in a project without having to go back into the original audio project and mess around with it to get what you want. To make it easy, it is best if you have 6 mono tracks (3 stereo stem tracks) for left and right sound effects, dialogue and music. When it comes to 5.1 surround mix, sports or comedy shows you will end up with a lot more tracks and other variations. For example, in comedy shows the laugh track is isolated as a stem. So depending on the case, you may end up with with a few DME tracks or a single M&E track in stereo.

 

df2916_audspltppro_8_sm

 

If you do work in entertainment programming, short films, commercials or corporate videos, then this should be common practice. If you do it while you are in the works of a specific project, then later down the line it WILL make your life easier. Although it is possible to go back to your files and do it later, it just saves time (time = money, people!).

 

So now it’s time to set up your new Premiere Pro sequence. For generating a multichannel master file with isolated DME stems in FCP X, we use the Roles function. In order to do this you need to ensure that the proper Roles is assigned from the start of your project. If you do this for the sound effects, music and dialogue Roles, then the stems will self-sort when you export them. It all comes down to how you route a Role to the channel that it corresponds to.

 

df2916_audspltppro_1

 

When we look at audio editing and mixing, Premiere Pro CC’s is also a good tool to use and the process is pretty easy. Just like I mentioned earlier though, you have to set up the proper sequence designed for the type of audio work you are working with. Correspondence is MAJOR KEY (thanks Dj Khaled). And just like I mentioned before, doing it right from the beginning will save you a headache and a trip to the quick mart to pick up some eye drops and a coffee.

df2916_audspltppro_4

Okay, so the first thing you want to do is create a custom preset. Presets are designed with a certain number of tracks routed to a stereo master output and thus you will have a 2-channel file when you export. You’re gonna want to change the track configuration to multi-channel and then set your number of output channels. Next, you’re gonna want to add the number of tracks you need and assign the regular tracks as “standard” or “stereo submix” for the submix tracks. The more complex the project, the more regular tracks it contains – and of course this all depends on the type of work you are doing with dialogue overlapping, sound effects or music on the timeline. Some sound engineers like to have what they call “zones” for the different types of audio. For this you would just have a certain amount of tracks for the dialogue, another amount for the music, and another for the sound effects – depending on the length of your timeline. To make for easy recognition and organization, it’s smart to rename your submixes according to what they contain. For example DLG for dialogue, or SE for sound effects. One cool feature about Premiere Pro is the ability to mix audio in several different places. You can do it in the audio track mixer or the clip mixer. To work with the audio track mixer, go to it and assign the routing and channel output (this can also be assigned in the sequence preset panel). For each of the regular tracks, it would be a good idea to set the pulldown for routing to the corresponding submix track, this way all of the submix tracks are routed to the Master Output.

df2916_audspltppro_2

Lastly, you’re going to want to assign the proper channel routing. This is so the sequence preset you created will contain the full mix in the first and second master channels. To do this you need to export a 2-channel file as either a review copy or a master file (only the first 2 output channels are used by default, which means these will always get the mix without you having to do anything). Next you’re going to want to enable stereo monitoring for the stereo stems. Since channels 1 and 2 are the default, you’re going to need to make some changes in order for this to happen. To enable this, you are going to need to assign the channel output in the following format: Dialogue (Submix 1) to 1-2 and 3-4, Sound Effects (Submix 2) to 1-2 and 5-6, and Music (submix 3) to 1-2 and 7-8. The reasoning behind this is that everything is going to go to both the full mix and the the isolated stereo channel for each of the audio components.

df2916_audspltppro_5

Okay, so now that the hard part is over, it’s time to edit the custom timeline. For this you simply edit any of the dialogue clips to track one, sound effects to track 2, and music to track 3. If you are working on a more complex project, then what you would work with are the “zones” I referred to earlier.  For example, if 1-8 are routed to the dialogue submix track, then all you would do is edit the dialogue clips to tracks 1-8. And the same goes for the others.

df2916_audspltppro_3

Now it’s time for export. This needs to be done correctly or else all of your hard work goes to waste. To do this there are a few good choices: a QuickTime ProRes files or the MXF OP1a choices. In the export settings panel there is an audio tab, you’re gonna want to change the pulldown channel selection from stereo to 8 channels. With this you’re gonna have your timeline output channels exported as a separate mono track in the file. Now you have everything in one single, neat file, you have the final image and mix in one neat file as well as your isolated stems that can make easy changes later on. If you are a little paranoid like I am and you want to future-proof your project, you’re gonna want to save and export some extra versions with and without titles.

 

Let’s suppose the day for you to reuse the file has arrived. You’re going to want to import this file back into Premiere Pro. Since the channel structure is going to be read as 8 mono channels, you’re going to need to modify the file simply by using the Modify-Audio Channels contextual menu and right-click the clip. Simply change the clip channel format from Mono to Stereo. This is going to change the 8 mono channels into 4 left stereo channels and 4 right stereo channels.

 

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. If this helped, thank me later. Looking forward to next time, Chris.

Photos courtesy of: Digital Films
garageband featured image
May 21

6 Easy Steps for Exporting Stems on Garageband

By _bayland | Garageband , Tips

6 Easy Steps for Exporting Stems on Garageband

With this simple piece of software, you’ll definitely get started on the right path to success, but exporting stems can be tricky. It doesn’t have a feature that will allow you to export multiple stems at the same time, so I’d recommend a cup of coffee and a lot of patience. If you haven’t read our blog about what stems are and why you’d need to export them for mixing and mastering, you can find that here: https://recordat411.com/how-to-prepare-your-song-for-mixing/

 

Thankfully we’re here you walk you through it.

 

Step 1: In the window that contains all your tracks, you’re going to need to press the speaker icon on all of the tracks you want to mute. With this you are ensuring that the only file heard is the file you want. The orange colored track is the one that is going to be heard while the grey colored tracks are not.

 

mute on gb

 

Step 2: To export your track, press ‘Share’ and then select ‘Send Song to iTunes’ from the top menu in Garageband

send song itunes gb

Step 3: When you do this, a menu is going to pop up that allows you to name your playlist and tend to other details. After filling it out, click ‘Share’

export gb

Step 4: Now iTunes appears, you can scroll down and find the name of your playlist

itunes gb

Step 5: After finding you have found your playlist and it opens, it is going to show you the tracks that have just been bounced. You should be able to see that the track defaults have the same name as the playlist. A good idea would be to rename each track as soon as you bounce them to avoid confusion down the line.

playlist itunes gb

Step 6: To change the name of the track, simply click on the current name until the cursor appears. After renaming your track, press enter on your keyboard.

rename playlist itunes gb

Step 7: Repeat until all of the individual tracks are in the playlist.

 

And you’re done, my friends.

This is quite a simple feat, but for new producers it’s just about getting your feet wet and listening to your own work as a professional file.

 

Hope this helps, thank me later, Chris.

Photos courtesy of: Music2be
Logic Pro 10 Blog
Mar 26

Logic Pro X: How to Prepare Stems for Mixing

By _bayland | Logic Pro X , Tips

Logic Pro X: How to Prepare Stems for Mixing

 

Sending your song to us online for mixing and mastering, is easy. It’s actually easier than exporting stems, but it’s important to make sure your files are sent correctly. Thankfully, Logic Pro X has everything you need to prepare your song for mixing!

A stem is a single element of the song exported as a single file. Multiple tracks that you’re rendering at one time can be put together to recreate the song.

Should you mix your own music? It’s hard to see the big picture when you’ve spent a lot of time on the same project. There are a lot of reasons why it’s important to send your song to a good mixing and mastering engineer at Studio 411:

  • Fast Turnaround
  • Professionally Treated Monitoring Environments
  • Skilled Professionals
  • Flat and Affordable Rates – No Need to Book Studio Time

See what our mixing and mastering engineers can do for you. For a limited time Studio 411 is offering a free trial. Try your first mix free!

Now lets get started with your exports!

Save as: New Alternative

Logic’s new “Alternatives” feature allows you to save a version of the track inside the same project. It’s similar to the “Save As” feature but it’s important to save a new “Alternative” before you begin and call it “Stem Prep.” This way you can do any of the steps below without worrying that you’ve damaged the original project. From Logic’s File menu select Alternatives, then New Alternative.

Logice Pro X: Save Alternatives

Bypass Plugins and Effects

Bypass any plugins on the tracks that will not be used in mixing. Usually it’s everything except plugins that are an integral part of the overall sound. It is not plugins that make the sound “better”, rather plugins that shape the sound. For example: if you have a audio recording of your closet door closing, and you processed it to make it sound like a kick drum. Make sure you keep as much of that sound. This is your decision and you’ll need to go track by track. As a general rule bypass everything because your mix engineer will likely be able to recreate what you did on it. If you feel your engineer will not be able to re-create that sound you may need to export a “wet” and “dry” version (with and without effects).

Logic Pro X: Bypass Plugins

Delete Muted and Unused Tracks

From Logic’s Track menu select Delete Unused Tracks. Muted tracks are included, so unless you want them included in the stems package, delete them too. If not, make sure to un-mute your tracks! They will likely get exported as an empty audio file.

Logic Pro X: Delete Muted and unused tracks

Merge Your Tracks

If you have tracks that need to be merged: ex. Door Close/Kick Sample. Those stacked sounds that are never meant to be played apart from one another, need to be merged. The less tracks your mixer needs to go through, the faster he/she will be able to return your song, and the less you will be paying for the final product! Select all the regions you’ll be merging. Control-click one of the selected regions and from the menu select Bounce in Place (from the Bounce and Join menu). You’ll be given the option of wether or not to include any effects on the tracks. Once the newly merged track is created, delete the originals and all the content on them. You saved your song as a new Alternative so you will be able to return to the original if you made a mistake.

Logic Pro X: Merge Tracks

Remove Automation

You might have added volume, panning, or modulation automation on your track as you were creating it. This is generally not wanted by the mixing engineer. To remove this: First select the track, press A to toggle the automation view, then select the automation you want to remove from the list. Once it’s visible, from the Mix: Delete Automation menu, select Delete Visible Automation on Selected Track. You have the option to remove automation/panning across all tracks when exporting, but from my experience, it’s not normally all or nothing. In most genres automation is creative effect and can be a part of the “sound” itself. Make sure to keep everything that’s important.

Logic Pro X: Delete Automation

Including Busses for Export

There are very few instances this may be an option, but you may have a “sub-group/sub-mix” of your gang vocals, or 20 rhythm guitar tracks. Instead of sending all of them to your mixer, you’ll need to export them as a single audio file. First open the mixer and find the Aux/Bus tracks you want to include. Control-click each of them and select Create Track. This will add the track to the Arrange Window/Work Space.

Logic Pro X: Add Auxes to Export

Close the Mixer window and select the newly created Aux/Bus track in the Arrange window. Switch now to the Pencil tool, and create an empty region on bar one. Stretch that region all the way out to the end of the song. When you go to Export All Tracks in the final step of this article the busses will now be part of that export!

Logic Pro X: Select Region

Rename the Tracks

IMPORTANT! Before exporting anything, give each one of your tracks a meaningful name. This will help the mixer quickly organize them before starting. There’s nothing worse than “Audio 1, 2, 3″ or “obscure preset name” when receiving a batch of stems. To avoid that, double-click the track’s existing names to rename them. Whatever you write here will be saved to the track’s file name when you export.

Logic Pro X: Rename Tracks

Export All Tracks (Including Multi-Out Instruments)

Navigate to Logic’s File menu, go to Export”, and select All Track’s as Audio Files. A finder window appears allowing you to save all the tracks from your song. Create a folder where you will save these files and call it “[Song Name] Stems.” This is where you’ll save them.

If you have them Multi-Output Software Instruments, follow these steps:

From the Multi-Output Software Instrument menu, select One File Per Channel Strip. This selection works best, but some of the other options in this menu might work better for your workflow. Let’s say that you’re not entirely sure if some of the tracks were clipping. From the Normalize menu I’ll choose Overload Protection. This great feature will lower the volume of any tracks that are over zero decibel, and doesn’t touch the tracks that are below it.

Choose WAV as the Save Format, 24-bit or 32 bit float for the Bit Depth and press Save. As mentioned above, you also have the option to bypass/include effects, and volume/pan automation. It’s all up to you as to what you actually want to include and not include, so the steps above show how to remove these on single tracks.

Logic Pro X: Export All

Bonus Tip

After the stems are saved, zip them and use our mixing site’s file upload system. On Mac right click on the folder where you exported the stems before (“[Song Name] Stems”) and click compress.

Once complete, follow this link to our upload form and follow the instructions.

Photo courtesy of: https://ask.audio/articles/logic-pro-x-prepping-stems-for-a-mix-or-remix
exporting ableton live feature photo
Mar 22

How to Export Stems In Ableton Live

By _bayland | Ableton Live , Tips

How to Export Stems In Ableton Live

 

If you are sending your song to us online for mixing and mastering, it’s very important to make sure your files are sent correctly. Thankfully, Ableton makes it quick and easy for you to export your stems!

A stem is a single element of the song exported as a single file. Multiple tracks that you’re rendering at one time can be put together to recreate the song. Ableton has a very simple and straight forward way of doing this, so let’s go through it now!

Step 1 – Label Your Tracks

Before exporting anything, you need to make sure everything is labeled. Whenever you send your files to someone else, it’s important to make sure the person it’s going to knows what every file contains. Ableton exports multiple audio tracks, so if you have a vocal and a snare on one single track, it will make things a little bit crazy. It also labels the audio tracks based on what the track names are, and not the clip names. Select each track name and label them to represent what that tracks are doing. 

Ableton labeling

Step 2 – Arrangement Is Everything!

Ableton’s session view allows you to play various Scenes and Clips in any particular order. You can render audio from the Session view just specify the amount of time with your current selection that you would like to have rendered.

In the Arrangement View, you can either drag-select the area that you would like to export…

Arrangement view rendering - Ableton

Or, you can use the loop selection range to choose what area of the song you’d like to export…

Using loop selection - Ableton

In this mode, just make sure that you have something in the arrangement!

Step 3 – Export

Once you’re ready to export your stems to audio and you’ve highlighted your arrangement (or set up your loop range), press: Command-Shift-R

This box will appear:

Export options - Ableton Live

Ensure the bottom section of the box indicates the right time range.

Set the time range - Ableton

Indicate if you want to render in stereo, or mono. For stems, or separated tracks, choose “mono”. If you have stereo loops in your arrangement, you will need to go back and render those in “stereo” separately.

More options - Ableton

Finally, select the all the tracks you want to export. If yo want all the tracks, select the “All Tracks” option.

All Tracks option - Ableton

Important: When Ableton Live asks you where you want to save the ‘audio file’, create a new folder and name it by the name of the song. Export all of those files in the same folder.  

Once complete, follow this link to our upload form and follow the instructions.

Image credit: https://ask.audio/articles/exporting-stems-in-ableton-live
Improve Your Vocal Recordings in 5 Easy Steps feature photo
Mar 20

Improve Your Vocal Recordings in 5 Easy Steps

By _bayland | Recording , Tips

Improve Your Vocal Recordings in 5 Easy Steps – Studio 411

Intro

Before we get into the nitty gritty, lets dive in to what it means to be intentional with everything we do. We first need to know exactly what we’re recording and understand the approach is never going to be exactly the same.

With regard to vocal recordings, we need to understand that background (supporting parts) and main parts will likely be treated differently. Most of this can be re-created in the mix, but it’s always better that it sounds incredible from the very beginning!

Decide what kind of sound your going for. Ask yourself these important vocal recording questions first:

* Is the vocal supposed to be big and roomy?

* Is the vocal tight and present?

* How important is the part in regards to the whole project?

* What physical space do you have available to use at the present moment?

* Do you have anything to help minimize or maximize the recording space?

* What problems do you want to avoid in your vocal recording?

* What characteristics do you want to accent in the recording?

Mood:

The most important part of any vocal recording is the performance. The vocalist needs to be in the right frame of mind to make sure they do their best because lets face it, there’s no amount of money or equipment in the world that will get a good recording out of a bad vocal performance.

A bad vocal performance could simply mean the artist was having a bad day, or is going through a breakup. It’s part of the job to make sure the artist is comfortable and in the right headspace.

Try setting up some water, hot tea, and light snacks out. It will help make the artist feel a little more at ease. If you are recording yourself, try to watch an inspirational Youtube video, or scroll through some super funny memes. Do whatever you have to do to get in the right frame of mind!

Mic placement

Next, you’ll want to decide the way you place the microphone. It is always a matter of compromise between what you want to do with the vocal recording, the environment you are recording in, and the vocalist’s tonal character. I’ll give you a quick example of a question we commonly get asked:

What’s the best way to record vocals?

In many cases this question refers to a main vocal in a modern stylistic representation (pop, hip hop, or EDM).

Make sure that the microphone is oriented in a way that will not impede their inspired, energetic performance.

Distance and Levels

For this type of vocal sound, you’ll need a to make sure the microphone is placed about 5 – 7 inches from the artist, and make sure that the levels going into your DAW are, for simplicity’s sake, sitting nicely between the green and yellow lines.

Don’t worry about compression or equalization on the way in. Your environment will factor in more than any of that.

If your room isn’t treated, try to minimize as much of the “room” sound as you can. Try draping heavy blankets over microphone stands and make a makeshift booth for the artist. You can move the microphone stands to really “dial in”

the sound you’re looking for. If you have a reflection filter, use that in conjunction with the blanket booth.

Mixing and Mastering

Mixing and mastering is much different than recording. It’s very important to have room that is designed to let the listener hear what’s really coming out of the speakers. There are special architects that specialize in designing how the audio waves in a room react inside of the very room it lives in. It also takes a specially trained ear to be able to make accurate changes to a recording so that it can sound like a radio ready hit. Studio 411 offers the best online mixing and mastering service available today and have very affordable rates for any budget. For a limited time, try our mixing and mastering service free.

Final Thoughts

In summery, make sure that the artist gives their best performance first and foremost. Other than that there isn’t a lot too a vocal recording. You can get creative and do some fun stuff with it, but always remember that there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

mixing board, screen and speaker
Feb 19

How to Prepare Your Song For Mixing

By studiowebmaster | Mixing , Tips

How to Prepare Your Song for Mixing

If you are looking to send files to any mixing engineer, most likely they are going to ask you to send them what are called “Stems” or “Track-outs”. Too many people complicate this very simple process, but you’ll have everything you need in less than 5 minutes reading this blog post. Lets get started:

Step 1: Export a Rough Mix or Demo
Before you do anything else, it’s important to save a version of how you have everything at the present moment. That’ll give your mix engineer the opportunity to hear what you have so far and get a better idea of your vision for the track.

 

Step 2. Decide what effects or plugins you want to keep
This is probably the most important step because whatever you decide will be staying, is going to forever be on the song. If you have any doubts at all, remove everything.

*Sometimes the plugins or effects are an important part of the sound.

Ex.1 You may have a synth bass that’s too crazy so you shaped it with some EQ and then decided you wanted it to be even crazier and added a bit of distortion.

Ex.2 You have an autotune effect on the vocals for a certain “flair”.

Most of the time, your mix engineer will be able to replicate what you have done to the sound. Only keep those plugins if you are 100% sure that you want to commit to that sound. If you want to get really fancy, you can export 2 versions: one without any effects (dry version), and one with the effects you want to keep (wet version). Keep in mind that some mix engineers charge by track count, so that might eat into your budget. If you have a million background vocals, you might want to consolidate those too.

 

Step 3: Remove Everything Else
Bypass every plugin and aux send in the DAW. Yes, everything. Reverb, Delays, EQ, Compression, and any other cool plugin you have.

 

Step 4: Make A Selection
You’ll need to select the length of the entire song in your timeline/edit window. Make sure that when you hit “play” it starts and ENDS where you want.

This is important because all the tracks need to start and end at the same spot. Your mix engineer will import everything and throw it at the start of the session. When he does that, everything will line up exactly the way you had it.

 

Step 5: Export
Every platform has different ways of making this part faster. The old school way of doing it is literally hitting SOLO (yes the little “S”) and bouncing a .wav file of every single element on your session.

If you have offline bouncing, congratulations! If not, you’ll be sitting there for a couple hours.

 

Now that you have exported your tracks, you can send them to us through our handy upload form.

Have an idea for future blog posts? Let us know in the comments.