Top 10 Reasons You’re Not Happy With Your Mixes – Part 2

Last week I shared with you the first five reasons you’re not happy with your mixes. Today, let’s finish out the countdown.

5. You don’t have a good understanding of EQ and Compression.

Early on in the history of Home Studio Corner, I decided to create two in-depth courses about EQ and compression. They seemed like obvious topics to me, but I didn’t expect them to be as popular as they were. To this day, Understanding EQ and Understanding Compression have been the most popular courses I offer over in the HSC Store.

Why is that? Because people quickly realize that while EQ and compression are fairly simple concepts, it is crucial to really understand what they do and how to use them if you want to create good mixes.

EQ is all about frequencies. You can never use EQ properly without first becoming intimately familiar with what different frequencies sound like. For example, you may think you know what 500 Hz sounds like, but you could be way off. I used to think 500 Hz was a “muddy” frequency. If something sounded muddy, I would cut 500 Hz. It never really helped, because muddy sounds happen more in the 150-250 Hz range.

It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but developing a deep understanding of what different frequencies sound like made a massive impact on my ability to get great mixes in my studio. (more…)

Top 10 Reasons You’re Not Happy With Your Mixes – Part 1

“I’m not happy with my mixes.”

That should become the anthem of home studio owners everywhere. (I’m thinking it would sound a lot like AC/DC’s “TNT”. Something like, “My MIX – ES SUCK … They really do.”)

Anyway…it’s a real struggle. As with anything creative (and anything worth doing), mixing takes a mountain of effort to get really good at it. And it’s not like you work hard for four years and get to graduate with a bachelor’s in mixing. You will always be capable of churning out a bad mix. The difference is those bad mixes will be fewer and fewer, and when you do crank out a steamy pile of audio poo, you’ll more than likely be able to recognize it and fix it.

All that said, take heart. Mixing is a game where you can absolutely improve your mixes over time, but you have to avoid some roadblocks. I’ve compiled them into a list of 10 Reasons You’re Not Happy With Your Mixes. I’ll share the first 5 today, and I’ll share the last 5 next week. Let’s dive in: (more…)

Every Home Studio Should Do This

It’s easy to do.

You can be so focused on one thing that you completely miss the boat on another opportunity right in front of you.

When you have a home recording studio, it’s easy to ONLY think about recording. It’s a recording studio after all, right? Right.

While I’m a HUGE fan of recording, mixing, and mastering songs, EP’s, and albums, I’m also a musician who enjoys performing. And a recording studio is a FABULOUS performing venue for a musician.

Wait…huh? “Joe, I can’t fit more than a few people in my small studio, whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout it being a venue for performing?”

The internet, my friend. The internet.

Whether you’re a musician recording your own music or a recording engineer recording music for other people, you are missing out on a killer opportunity if you don’t explore the world of live streaming online shows.

If you want to see what that looks like, come to my live online acoustic show this Wednesday night at 8pm CT. Here’s the link:


Fear, Grief, and a Cool New Project

Monday morning I had a drum recording session at my buddy Tim Horsley’s house. I can record drums at my place, but Tim has his kit and mics set up already, and he’s constantly tweaking his setting to get better and better sounds. (Timmy Boy, you’re drum sounds have gotten better and better over the years since I first recorded with you back in…2011? You’re a beast.)

Monday’s session was for a 5-song EP I’m producing for my friend Frankie Barranco. (Side-note: we’re mixing one of the songs from that EP over at Dueling Mixes this month. Now is a GREAT time to join. The song is dope.) We had three songs that needed drums.

We recorded scratch tracks a while back (acoustic guitar and vocals recorded to a click track). I scheduled some time on Friday to do some prep work. Frankie’s husband Spencer sent me some ideas and references for each song. It was super helpful. Still…with the start of every new project there can be a lot of doubt about what direction to take each song.

Enter Crippling Self-Doubt

I sat down on Friday, and my intention was to listen to the three songs, finish writing charts for each, and do some quick “pre-production.” (Pre-production is a catch-all term for making decisions about arrangement, instrumentation, vibe, feel, etc.) I scheduled one hour to do this. I really thought it wouldn’t take much more than a quick listen. (more…)

5 Lessons from a Grammy Winner: James Waddell

jamesLast week I had lunch with a new friend, a guy by the name of James Waddell of Lyricanvas Studios. James is an audio engineer/producer/mixer here in Nashville. James has won two Grammy’s. James is awesome.

I’ll be posting a video tour of James’ studio in a few weeks on my weekly Studio Tours series. You’ll get to see the Grammy’s then. 🙂

I met James at a songwriting event I played for a few weeks ago. Had my buddy Sean not told me who he was, I would have simply assumed he was just a nice southern fella. Knowing who he was and the amount of success he’s had in the industry made me pay pretty close attention to him. (Of course, right?)

Here are some things I noticed about James. Are they super secret keys to becoming a highly successful audio engineer? Maybe, maybe not. But I find this all very interesting, and I think you will, too. (more…)

One Thing You Can’t Automate

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m not a huge automation guy. I don’t like to “ride the fader” on every track in a session. I see the benefits of automation, and I certainly use it from time to time, but it’s not something I rely on heavily.

Part of it is simply laziness. (You can call it “minimalism” if that makes you feel better.) I tend to approach mixing with a sort of “Name That Tune” mindset. How few moves can I use to get a great mix? But it’s not efficiency for efficiency’s sake. In my experience minimalism ends up saving time AND being the best thing for the mix. My minimalist mixes sound great.

What does minimalism look like in action? It looks like getting a great-sounding mix with only the faders and pan knobs before ever reaching for an EQ or compressor. Minimalism keeps me from pulling up every track in solo and EQ-ing it to death. It forces me to think more about the big picture, to always have my eyes on the end game rather than getting bogged down in the details.

Details are important, to be sure. Sometimes you need to EQ a track to death. Sometimes you need to automate every vocal line to get it to sit on top of the mix just right.

Sometimes. (more…)

Gimme Momentum

Up until recently, I don’t think I could have articulated this clearly. But now that I’m aware of it, it makes so. much. sense.

I’ve talked a lot over the years about the importance of finishing projects. In a very real sense, learning how to get better at recording and mixing music is pointless if you never actually finish something, release something. It’s a waste of time and money. Sure, there’s enjoyment in the process. It’s fun to get new equipment and learn new techniques. But be careful that you don’t become so caught up in learning over doing. To know how to produce an album and to actually release an album are two completely different things. They live in completely different universes.

First, the problem…

Before diving into the solution, I think we need to explore the problem for a minute first. Cool? (more…)