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Sometimes mixes sound muddy, and it’s hard to hear the indiviudal elements in a mix. Generally this comes from not properly eqing the bass out of certain parts of your mix. Here’s a few tricks to clean up the mud….
Want to add some width to your mixes? Here’s some great tricks that can make your recordings sound bigger and wider.
1. Fill up your stereo image. Put some headphones on and listen to your mix. Your left ear is 9 o’clock, your right ear is 3 o’clock. Got it? Great. Do you have different elements of the mix at 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 7 3 o’clock? If not, fill those suckers in. Empty spots in your stereo image will make your mix sound thin.
That being said, I think every musician should record and release their own music at least once. If you craft your own sound and style of production, it’s much easier to make it sound professional than it is when you’re trying to imitate someone else’s sound. I think it’s important to note that if you look at the history of recorded music, the majority of famous bands or artists who made a really ground breaking recording did it by trying to create their own sound and style of production, not by trying to sound just like someone else.
Here’s some advice on how to make a recording at home that you can be proud of…
If you’re releasing a CD, all of your song titles, your artist and album name, UPC and most importantly, ISRC meta data can be embedded in the master CD. This embedded info will show up on CD players capable of reading track names, but surprisingly, it won’t show up when you put the CD in a computer.
Getting your song titles and other artist info to show up in software like iTunes is a little different than getting song titles to show up on a physical CD player. The easiest way to get your CD info to show up when people put it in their computer is to put your first master CD into your computer, open it iTunes and add the artist name, song names etc by hand. After doing this, you’ll need to register this info with an online database called GraceNote that will recall this info every time one of your fans pops your CD in their computer. To do this, after you’ve entered all the info in iTunes, select the “Advanced” menu, and then “Submit CD Track Names…” You can enter all the data about your CD into GraceNote except for the most important stuff….the ISRC and UPC codes.
ISRC codes are used to identify a song by giving it a digital finger print that is used to track how many times a song is played on TV or radio and what royalties are due to the song’s owner. Labels also often use this info to see how much attention an unsigned artist is getting before signing them. Getting ISRC codes for your music is a little different in each country. Some countries have an online registration system, and others require you to e-mail your nation’s ISRC agency. In the USA, codes can be registered for at: https://usisrc.org and typically only take 24-48 hours to register. You can find your nations agency by going here: http://www.ifpi.org/content/section_resources/isrc_agencies.html .
UPC codes are similar, but are used to track the sales of a product and can be embedded in a CD as well. Like with ISRC codes, labels often track the number of sales an artist has had with this info, so it can be very important. You can typically get a UPC code for free from your CD manufacturer, but they can also be purchased online.
Make sure before sending your mixes in for mastering that you’ve done everything you need to get your mixes ready for mastering.
Part 2 in a 2 part series.
When a song is mastered, the whole mix will be compressed, and hopefully only enough to make it sound better, not worse. If a snare drum it peaking way above everything else in a mix, like in the middle image above, it can cause a lot of problems in mastering. If it’s the loudest single part of a song, and it’s peaking near -1 db and is about 6 db above every other element in the mix, it can effect how a song can be compressed in mastering and how loud the song will be after mastering because two things happen as a result of that snare hit: (more…)
What makes one song louder than another? The mastering? The mixing? The answer, if you’re interested in being loud and still sounding good, is both. A common misconception is that great mastering is the only thing that makes a song loud, and while it’s necessary to have a CD that compete’s at “commercial” levels, it’s only a part of the solution. A good mix can be mastered to sound very loud and still sound amazing, while a bad mix can be mastered just as loud, but it must be overly compressed to do so. While over-compression solves the volume issue for less than ideal mixes, the new issue is now a lower quality sounding master. How can you make your mixes more “loudness” friendly so that your music can be mastered to be loud and still sound great? Read on… (more…)
Throughout my career providing mastering services, I’ve had the pleasure of working on a lot of different styles of music from all over the world from people who found me online or hear about me from a friend. Some of these people send me great mixes, others, not so much. Every mix I’ve ever heard though, each falls into one of 3 categories.
1. Bad Mix:
Most people think that if your audio has too much bass or too much high frequency content, you’ve got a bad mix. False. What kills a song is when elements in a mix don’t sound right in relationship to each other. When one element, let’s say a vocal in this case, has too much high frequency energy, and other elements like the cymbals and guitars doesn’t have quite enough, it can create some real problems when the audio is sent to mastering. If the audio mastering engineer brought the highs up on the overall mix, the guitars and cymbals would start to sound better, but the vocal would start to sound really really bad, because it would now have way too much energy in the higher frequencies.
I’m stuck in this position a lot where I’m trying to EQ a mix to sound right, but one element in a mix keeps it from working out well. The same is true with the relationship between a bass guitar or synth and a kick drum. If the kick has too much low energy below 90 Mhz, and the bass guitar doesn’t have enough, if you eq the song to have less energy below 90 hz to fix the kick, you’ll ruin the bass guitar, if you EQ the frequencies below 90 Hz up to fix the bass guitar, you’ll ruin the kick. Bad mixes don’t stand up well to having their master eq adjusted, and they don’t stand up well to compression for this same reason as well. When a song is played on the radio, it’s usually compressed like crazy, and a good mix will maintain good balance while a bad mix can fall apart.
Mastering is perhaps the most mysterious part of the recording process and can sometimes be the most frustrating. Just about every engineer and recording musician in the world has at least one nightmare story about a bad experience getting an album mastered. We’ve heard it all before; “I made the a really great sounding audio recording and paid some audio jedi guru to master it and when I got it back, it sounded horrible. When I told the mastering engineer I wasn’t happy, he/she acted like/said I didn’t know what I was talking about, kept my money, and there was nothing I could do about it.”
Getting your music ready for mastering isn’t terribly difficult, but it’s easy to mess up. Using effects like compression and EQ on the “master stereo output track” can really limit what a mastering engineer can do for your music. By making sure there is some headroom to work with, I’ll will be able add a sonic depth to your project that is nothing less than amazing.
The things you want to look out for when making your final bounce are as follows:
When I first got into audio, I used to spend lots of time making test CD’s and then going out to my car to make sure everything sounded good “in the real world.” To do this back in the 60’s, legend has it that the engineers at Motown had a radio transmitter they used to transmit their mixes out to their cars and they’d hit play on the tape, and then run out to their car and tune in to their mixes.
When ever I feel the need to check something outside my studio, I use a system I developed that uses a program called “Airfoil” to stream my recording studio’s audio output to any number of Apple TV’s, iPads, computers, iPhones/ or Airport Express’ (a wireless router from Apple that has an 1/8″ audio out). (more…)