Is EQ Really Necessary?

Someone asked this question over at the Home Recording Forum: If you're getting the right tone from the start when you record, for example using the tone control on the guitar and its amplifier, why is EQ needed in mixing? I've read a bunch of articles singing the praises of EQ, but in the mixes I made I didn't touch it and they worked fine. I think I only used it once, to round off some top end on a guitar that was annoyingly bright. Why is it considered so important? I answered the question with the following: You're right about EQ's necessity if you get the tones right at the source. Ideally it should not be needed, especially if you only have one or two tracks to deal with (say a voice over with some royalty-free music). Many folks over-use EQ to "fix" bad recording … [Read more...]

What We Can Learn About Mixing From Chris Lord-Alge

Chris Lord-Alge is a very well-known recording engineer, known chiefly for his specialty - mixing (see our article about the 3 sub-specialties of recording engineers - Recording Engineer, Mix Engineer and Mastering Engineer – Oh My).  He has put his signature of extreme dynamic range compression on a huge number of hits from the 80s up to today, including albums by James Brown, Dave Matthews, Daughtry, Creed, Nickleback, Switchfoot, Art of Dying, My Chemical Romance, Bruce Springsteen, and tons of others. Here is an article that talks about how Chris Lord-Alge got his sound - his secret of simple mixes with punch and clarity. He uses lots of sub-mixes (called "folders" in Reaper) and compositing of tracks. Here is the full article by Björgvin Benediktsson: … [Read more...]

Reverb Effect Has Many Uses In A Music Mix

Most people know what reverb sounds like at its most basic.  All by itself on a single track it can make a voice sound like it's in an empty gymnasium, a cavern, a bathroom, or any number of different kinds of spaces.  When I was in college I used to play guitar and sing in the stairwell because of the reverb sound in there.  Weird Al recorded some of his early pieces (back in the Dr. Demento days) in a bathroom for its natural reverb. It's something that my wife (Lisa Theriot) does not like when I put too much of it on her voice in a recording.  When I first started recording, I used to put it on everything.  I used too much because I liked how it sounded.  But I ended up making the mixes sound muddy and, well, reverby.  As usual, my wife was right.  Too much reverb can mess things … [Read more...]

3 Audio Mixing Habits To Avoid

I just read an article that has some tips on a few very common mindset traps you should avoid.  As I read through them I realized that I have had them all at various times, and it never ends well. The first bad habit is to assume your tracks will sound better once they are mixed with the other tracks.  Now I actually don't think it's 100 percent wrong all the time.  But in general, you should make each individual track sound as good as possible and not count on the "bad" to be less noticeable when in a crowd with other sounds.  The one exception that comes to mind, though, is how sometimes individual tracks, when soloed out of a mix, may not sound great on their own after you have applied EQ and other effects to individual instruments to allow them all to be heard in a mix.  For … [Read more...]

Mixing Music Is Like Cooking

I've often felt that there were tons of similarities between mixing music and cooking.  I'd probably see more similarities if I could create meals in the kitchen that didn't involve a bag of some kind or a jar of peanut butter.  But I get the concept.  One of the similarities that comes up a lot is how one thing can mask or overpower another thing.  The best chefs use multiple flavors that complement each other.  And if one ingredient is not as prominent as it should be, the right answer may not always be to "add more."  Sometimes a flavor can be coaxed out more by doing something with the heat, or adding a touch of another thing that makes the first thing stand out more. If you followed any of that, you may sense where I'm going with this.  In a music mix, if the acoustic guitar seems … [Read more...]

PC Recording Software – The Two Kinds You Might Need For Home Audio Recording

PC recording software comes in many different types and capabilities. What I want to focus on here is software you can use to record music or voice overs onto your computer. That narrows it down to two categories of audio recording software: programs to use for "tracking" or getting the sound into the computer, and programs used for editing audio after it has been recorded. Audio Tracking (Recording) and Mixing Software First off I should mention that there is considerable overlap between the two kinds of software I am describing, but the main difference is that one is primarily used to record (sometimes called track) the sound (music, voice over, etc.), and the other is primarily used to change the audio in some way, usually by altering the actual audio file (destructive … [Read more...]

What Does It Mean to Mix Down Audio?

To mix down audio means to combine several tracks of audio into a single file when doing multi-track recording. The term "render" is more often used these days in many audio software programs. But the terms mean essentially the same thing. Multi-Track Recording In digital audio workstation (DAW) program, such as Pro Tools or Reaper, you can record several tracks of audio and/or MIDI, and have them play back together. Multiple tracks can be recorded simultaneously or one at a time. That last option is very handy if you are a solo musician. You can play a guitar on track one, another guitar on track 2, sing on track 3, sing harmony 1 on track 4, then sing harmony 2 on track 5, and so on until you're done. You can listen to your previous track(s) as you record each subsequent one. It's very … [Read more...]