Advice on how to make good use of the meters in your DAW and learn how to properly read them.
Producing is the construction of music. You have to make choices about the project as a whole and this will include things like EQ, panning, compression, lengths of the delay, when to delay, when to chop up the vocals, when to add guitar solos, how the song begins and ends, and everything else that happens in between. This is not an easy task, but it does have huge rewards that are long-lasting if you do it right.
Selecting the right Mics for a live drum recording can be a difficult decision. Drums tend to have an unique sound for each individual kit. You also have to take into consideration the style of drumming. The drummer is just as much a part of the kit, so based on how the drummers plays the kit should factor in to your decision.
Overhead mics are by far the most important decision you make when deciding to record drums. About 75% of your audio will come from the overhead mics. Overhead Mic placement is also a big factor whether you do a symmetrical or asymmetrical mic placement.
Condenser mics are usually the first choice for overhead mics on a drum set, however many engineers have had lots of success using dynamic microphones for their overhead mics (OH). The goal is to capture the essence of the drum kit. Putting the drums in the mix to set the mood for the music is the goal. How you sculpt your sound will define your ability to record and mix a quality production.
I like to treat drums as a single instrument and not a bunch of individual instruments. This way I can place mics where they are most beneficial to the recording. Sometimes I'll mic each of the rack toms + overheads + a Beta 52 on the kick. This will give me a more snappy and punchy sound to the kit that is great for a song that needs strong dynamics and percussion. Other times I'll just use a SM57 on the snare + Overheads + an AKG D112 on the kick for tracks that are jazz flavored. These are just a few examples, but versatile dynamics for the type of drums that will fit in the mix.
You can always place mics and then decide if they are relevant to the mix. Just watch out for phasing and over-ambience. The more mics in the mix, the more likely you'll have phase problems or what I like to call a foggy mix. Try starting your mix with just the overhead mics and mute all other mics. Listen to what the OH mics are providing and then slowly bring in the other mics. You should filter and EQ each mic so it fits in with the OH mix. If the signal is weak or disappears, then invert the phase to see if the track is out of phase with the OH track.
There's more to cover, so I'll open this topic up for Q's and discussion. Leave a comment below to add any insight you'd like to share.
Multiple mixes of a song is a technique that I've developed over the many years of my career. Music tends to unfold differently every time you approach a mix. If you're using a program that allows you to save or save as multiple times, such as ProTools or logic, it's not a bad idea to try a new mix even if you think you nailed it the first time.
Here's how I like to set up my sessions. After I record, I like to save the session as just a raw track that hasn't been mixed. Then 'save as' the name of the track_mix1. This way I have a template to go back to when I want to create a new mix. You can repeat this process as many times as you like. I usually tend to think at least three mixes is a good reference point to determine whether or not you like a mix. Sometimes it's a good idea to try up to 10 mixes.
Try this, set up a timer and give yourself a time limit for the mix. Anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes should be enough time to get a good rough mix. When the timer goes off, save your mix session, close it, & open a new session.
After you feel that you've made enough versions of the mix, go back and review each of the mixes. You can bounce each of the mixes down as an MP3 file and put them on your phone or MP3 player. Then go for a run, take a drive, or head over to a friend's house and listen to your mixes outside of the studio. This will give you a reference point as to which mix is probably the best and/or if a few mixes should be worked on and handed to a client for review.
Try this technique on your next mix and see what happens. You may be surprised that the third or fourth mix is actually the one that you wind up keeping.
If I had a nickel for every time I had to turn down levels on the tracks I receive when I'm doing a mixing session, I'd be a millionaire. If you want to hear what your mix sounds like at a louder volume, try turning up the volume on your monitors first. Don't push the faders all the way up or use a compressor/limiter, you're only doing damage to your mix.
Set up a reference track! Just import your favorite song into your DAW session and listen to it through the monitors. You have an idea what that song sounds like so you can use it as a reference point to calibrate your system and get a good point of reference for your mix. Mixing without a reference track is like driving a car blindfolded. Not a good idea.
Most DAWs come with a metering plug-in or a metering software program. Use it! It's there for a reason. Metering helps you get a good idea of how loud your mix actually sounds. If your DAW doesn't show RMS levels, there are a bunch of programs out there that are free and will give you a good reference point for your RMS levels. Try and give each of your mixes at least 10dB of dynamic range. If possible, give your mix anywhere between 15dB to 20dB of dynamic range. You'll notice a huge difference in the audio quality of your mix if the dynamic range has lots of room to breathe.
Louder is not better if your mix has a bunch of digital distortion. If no one will listen to you music, it's probably not the content, but rather the lack of quality mixing that was put into the music. Take the time to give your music a real good listen. Critical monitoring is so important to making sure that you get a good mix. Don't over compress and don't smash your limiter or compressor so that your meters are all the way maxed out at 0 dBFS.
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