A “Nice-to-Have” Approach to Recording and Mixing Drums

Whether you record drums or only mix ’em, here’s something to chew on.

What if you couldn’t use a kick mic? What if you couldn’t use a snare mic? What if you ONLY had a pair of overheads? Could you get a good drum sound?

Answer: YES.

On the songs I’ve been mixing lately, I’ve started muting everything but the overhead mics (and the room mic if there is one). Then I start EQ-ing and compressing JUST those mics until I get a killer drum sound.

At that point, the kick and snare mics are just “nice-to-have’s”. They can add some extra weight and presence to the drum sound, but they become MUCH less crucial when you mix ’em this way.

Now this all falls apart if the overhead sound is crappy, especially if the cymbals are too loud. (more…)

The Cure for the Self-Centered Vocal

Got this killer tip from a subscriber that I want to pass on to you.

It has to do with handling what I call the “self-centered vocal.”

See, I’m a singer, so I’m used to turning the vocals up nice and loud in my mix when I’m recording or performing. The vocal is the loudest thing in the mix by far.

The problem comes when I go to mix a song.

I can’t seem to shake this “self-centered vocal” disease that I have. I’ll end up mixing the vocal WAY too loudly. And since I’m a singer (or maybe it’s just because I’m a little slow), it usually takes me a while to get the vocal to the right level.

It usually goes like this:

Mix 1 – Vocal too loud.

Mix 2 – Overcompensate. Vocal too quiet now.

Mix 3 – Juuuuuuuust right.

But that’s annoying. Sometimes the entire mix is just slammin’ awesome, but the vocal isn’t at the right level, so I’ve got to go back and adjust it.

Well, this tip I got (which I can’t believe I’d never thought of it before…again, I’m a little slow) should help us all cure the self-centered vocal-itis.

So here it is. (more…)

Naptime Mixing

This one surprised me.

Since I work out of a home studio, and since I’m a daddy (of a 2-year-old boy and soon-to-arrive twin girls…man, I never get used to saying that), I have to coordinate my recording and mixing schedule around nap times.

Owen naps every day at 1pm. That means I do most of my recording and mixing in the mornings, when I can be loud and not wake up a sleeping kid (and evoke the wrath of an over-tired 2-year-old).

It works nicely.

I work on studio stuff in the mornings, and I work on HSC-related stuff in the afternoons. (Hopefully at our next house I’ll have some separation and isolation, so I can work in the studio any time.)

Well, the other day I was waiting on a photographer to arrive for an afternoon appointment. He was coming to take some shots of my studio for some sort of new ad campaign. (Not sure if I can say anything more than that.)

He could only come in the afternoon, which is fine. While I waited for him, I pulled up a mix that I needed to work on. (He needed shots of me working, so I figured I’d go ahead and start working until he got there.)

As you may recall, it was nap-time, so I couldn’t really turn up the speakers very loudly. So I had them nice and quiet, well below my normal listening level.

And it felt ODD. (more…)

The Golden (Compressor) Ratio

I remember being weirded out by it.

It was sophomore year of college. I was taking Music Theory II.

Dr. Linton was talking about the Golden Mean (also know as the Golden Ratio), and how it applied to all sorts of stuff in nature and composed music.

It was pretty interesting, but it mostly went over my head, much like ratios on a compressor tend to go over most people’s heads.

They have a basic understanding of what a ratio does, but they don’t really know when to use a high ratio vs a low one…or what even constitutes a high and low ratio.

I cover a lot of this in my Understanding Compression videos.

It’s easy to overlook the ratio setting…to just “set it and forget it.” (more…)

Pass the Razor Blade

My wife looked at me like I was crazy.

I’ve been on this big audiobook kick lately. I’ve probably “read” 15 books in the last few months. It’s the perfect thing to listen to while driving…or vacuuming.

Anyway, I finally got a copy of Mixerman’s “The Daily Adventures of Mixerman.”

Hilarious.

I was sitting there on the couch the other day, listening to the book (which is also narrated by Mixerman) on earbuds, when I would just bust out with a gut laugh.

That dude’s funny.

It’s definitely a “Parental Advisory” listen, but still…really funny.

Anyhoo. (more…)

The Walking Dead-line

I’m embarrassed.

And excited.

Lemme explain.

Do you watch the show “The Walking Dead”? Well, I do. All those dead people walking around…seemingly forever. What’s not to love?

Then I realized something.

There’s a zombie in my studio. He’s been walking around for quite a while now. (More on that in a second.) (more…)

Don’t take my advice

Ah…I love the internet.

You may have seen a video I posted on Home Studio Corner a couple of weeks ago.

It was called “How to Not Destroy Your Bass Tone.”

In the video, I was mixing a song with two bass tracks – a DI and an amp track, both of the same performance. When I played the two tracks together, the bass sounded a bit thin. By themselves each track sounded okay. But together? Not so great.

Red flag.

Usually this means there’s some sort of polarity or phase issue.

So, I zoomed in and looked at the waveforms. I could see that the amp signal was a little bit behind the DI signal. It was only a slight difference, one right after the other, but it was there.

So I nudged one of the tracks until the two lined up better (not perfect, but closer in line). And guess what happened? (more…)

Re-Do

Howdy.

I finished up electric guitars for my album the other day. It’s time for the finishing touches (percussion, keys, extra BGV’s, maybe even a group vocal?).

For this project I tracked drums first, then bass, then acoustic guitars, then lead vocals.

Then I tracked electric guitars, which definitely changed the feel for most of the songs.

One song in particular sounds a bit worse after tracking electrics. As I listen back to the finished recording, the lead vocal just sounds…weak. It’s a bit pitchy and lacks some energy. It sounded fine when I recorded it, but now that the recording is almost finished, the vocal isn’t working anymore.

Time for a re-do.

Now, I’m not a fan of re-doing things willy-nilly. When possible, you want to get it right the first time. (more…)