Preparing A Song For A Professional Mix

 

It is an exciting experience having your songs mixed by a professional mix engineer. As an artist you have spent countless hours crafting your songs and recordings to be an accurate representation of your vision. A great mix engineer will take your vision to a new inspiring level. There are simple steps to make sure that the tracks that you provide your mix engineer can be used quickly and simply with any mix system.

Clearly label all audio files. A label such as “Johnny heavyg 56L” is not as easy to understand as “rtm gtr 1”. If there are many tracks of the same type such as synths, make sure that they are labeled in a uniform manner that tells the mix engineer what their purpose is. A track that is labeled “chorus bass synth” makes a lot of sense. If you are preparing your recording in Pro Tools (what your mix engineer will probably be using) it is a great idea to include comments on each track about how the track is to be used.

Consolidate each track so that everything starts together at the zero point of the session. If you don’t know how to do this in your Digital Audio Workstation, ask your mix engineer for instructions. This is often overlooked when delivering audio files to a mix engineer and it can take hours to rectify if it is not done correctly.

Compile your takes and only include your best performances. Your mix engineer is working to create a fantastic mix of the whole song. They don’t need to spend hours listening through less than ideal performances to choose the best take. Compiling takes saves the mix engineer time, and saves you money in the end by focusing your mix time on what matters, a great sounding mix.

If you are recording with guitar amp simulations, include a clean direct version of each track. Your mix engineer may be able to run your direct signal through a real amplifier in the studio that is far superior to what an amp simulator can provide. Even if you are happy with your guitar sounds, a clean direct signal can allow for your amplifier sounds to me modified and augmented in the mix in a creative manner that would not have been obvious in the initial recording process.

If you are recording at home, which is the reality for many musicians today, use caution in regard to distortion and levels. Within digital audio it is better to have less level than to be distorted. A clean digital signal can be boosted by a significant amount without artifacts, but distortion can not be cleaned up. Likewise, if you are compressing at home, do not over compress. If you are unsure of how much gain reduction to apply to a source, always record a dry uncompressed signal simultaneously.

Include sample frequency and bit depth with your production notes for the project. This is a courtesy that a mix engineer will appreciate when they receive your project. If possible, try to keep the sample frequency and bit depth the same throughout the entirety of your recording project. This allows for each song to operate in a similar manner with digital equipment.

Pictures from the recording of Circuitry

Gearing up for the October 2nd release of the sophomore album by Xylofaux (Circuitry) here are some photos of the recording process. You can listen to the first single off of Circuitry and pre order there recordHERE.

The record release show will be at Rock Shop in Park Slope Brooklyn September 23rd.

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Bedfellows – “It Happened One Night” {New Wave} + Free downloads | Rex Manning Day music blog.

This record was engineered and mixed by me. We tracked the record at Q Division Studios in Boston and mixed at The Buddy Project in New York city.

Bedfellows – “It Happened One Night” {New Wave} + Free downloads | Rex Manning Day music blog..

Thick Voltage Interview

Here is an interview I did with a new young band from Brooklyn called Thick Voltage. They made a cool DIY record in a basement. Check it out at Performer Magazine

Thick Voltage

recording drums tomorrow at The Buddy Project

Check out Tallahassee. They are a great band with a lot of potential. I am recording drums tomorrow with them at The Buddy Project.

Tallahassee band

Link

Fast Years Debut Single

Fast Years Debut Single

I produced this single with the band Fast Years. We tracked at The Kennel Studio in Brooklyn and mixed at The Buddy Project is Astoria Queens.

Recording With Parade Grounds at The Kennel Recording Studio in Brooklyn NY.

A new band, Parade Grounds, spent two days recording basics for an EP with me at The Kennel Recording Studio in Williamsburg Brooklyn NY. We recorded all live (drums, bass, electric guitar, organ, rhodes, piano, vocals) to 2″ tape (Otari mtr90 mkII)

The tracks sound great so far. The songs have vibe, “perfect” mistakes, a sense of space (live recording…) and it all happened in two days. If this method of making records sounds inspiring to you, email me shane@shanemix.com

Xylofaux live @ Bowery Electric

This is a video of a show I recorded and mixed (both live and post production) at Bowery Electric in Manhattan. The artist is Xylofaux.

I regularly mix shows at Bowery Electric, which is owned by singer/songwriter Jesse Malin. Jesse takes care to make sure his club is viewed not only as a fun place to hang out but as an ideal listening environment with top notch mix engineers running sound. Most of the FOH engineers at Bowery mix records primarily, but mix live sound at Bowery because it is viewed as legitimate and artist friendly.

Thoughts on Reverb

Specifically in rock music, ambience has become a major player in the distinction between sub genres. It can make or break the production difference between indie-twee-pop and surf-chill-wave. A trashy spring reverb on guitar can imply one sub genre, where that same spring generously applied to vocals creates a whole new production direction.
There is a big difference between using reverbs and ambience in a creative manner and using them in an abusive and misguided manner. In home recordings I find that this is a major giveaway of a poor production aesthetic. Even with minimal tools in a bedroom studio, it is possible to create ambient effects that are tasteful and distinct. Often it is more about how the engineer uses the ambience than the ambience itself.
Reverb is frequently described as a mechanism to move and instrument up front or in the distance within a mix. Although on a rudimentary level this may be the case, more reverb on an instrument does not necessarily mean that the instrument is set back further in the mix. Depending upon the settings of the reverb, more reverb may just result in….. more reverb.
In a real room, when an instrument is perceived as far away it has more room reflections associated with it (reverb) but those reflections are more complex and often have a diminished high end content. The depth on an instrument is not just defined by the amount of reverb but the complexity of the reflections and the EQ of said reflections. In home productions I find that this is not taken in to consideration when setting an instrument within reverb. If the goal is to create an ambience that is lifelike, one must consider the components that make up the reverb, not just the amount of reverb.
In other productions where realness is not the goal but lots of reverb is, I find a different problem occurs. The recordist wants lots of reverb like records that they love, but their reverb muddies the mix and sounds cheap or less authentic than desired. Usually, I find this problem is not due to inadequate equipment but from a lack of EQ within reverb sends and returns.
A good starting point with reverb sends is to consider what part of the instrument being sent really needs reverb. A lead vocal that needs a crazy spring reverb may only need 3khz to be sent to the reverb. This way, the reverb can do more to the intended frequencies without meddling with frequencies that are needed for other instruments or other parts of the vocal. Likewise an EQ on the return of the reverb should be considered to shape the effectiveness of the reverb. For example the high end of a long plate reverb may sound excessive in sparse verses, but shines through nicely in a loud bombastic chorus.

EMT 140 Plate Reverb. Not pretty looking ,but pretty sounding.

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