The fourth installment of the iconic Platinum Breakz album series on Metalheadz is out now. I’m happy and proud to be a part of it and wanted to celebrate the release by doing something a little bit special. I wanted to bring you guys some knowledge straight from the trenches.
So I took to it and spoke to many of the artists featured on the album. I asked them to share advice on things they find useful in their music creation process. It goes without saying these guys are all at the top of their game so I was as interested as anyone else about picking some brains! In this article I will also expand and share some further thoughts of my own on each topic. Let’s see what they’re saying…
You’ve spent all day on your tune, and you’re so happy with it that you feel it’s time to mixdown, you start getting really into eq’ing and building the vibe.. cranking the speaker levels up and feeling the finshing line is just ahead? STOP.
Mixdown for sure and take away the mix, but take a break from the track for a few days, more often than not there will be some sort of issue in there that you weren’t hearing, and it’s a simple bit of remedial work and perhaps going in again on the arrangement to get the best out of the tune..
But again moderation is the key when it comes to your final mix.. sometimes the frequencies that poke out of a mix can sound a little “wrong” on high class monitoring but actually give a track some character.. as important as it is to get your mix clear, is the vibe itself, which if you go too far overboard you will more often kill that vibe for the sake of a “technically” perfect mix.
Take breaks, keep the balance!
I’ve fallen victim to this trap countless times, especially when it comes to overworking the final mix. The vibe is crucial and it’s easy to kill it if you go by the book and follow all the classic mixing advice.
Get to know the ‘enveloper’ plugin in Logic. Very simple and really useful for controlling drum hit / percussion dynamics.
It’s essentially a transient shaper but very easy to use and very low CPU.
My thoughts:< Coming from guys who I consider one of the best when it comes to getting dynamics right, you should really pay attention to this. This advice is also a great display of making the most of what you have. You don’t need the latest flashy stuff to get brilliant results. Regardless of what DAW you are using, I bet it has some little plugins that you’re not using properly yet. Put those guys to work.
One of the most useful tips I think is good signal flow, so you can keep your level at the master low and to use a good VU/RMS meter to judge the “loudness” of your mix or elements. I like to have my whole mix averaging about 0vu (peaking around -6 db at the master out) and then use my mastering limiter to bring the level up to 0db and ideally hitting around -6db RMS. If you can get a balanced mix to about -6db RMS then you are well on the way to getting your mix to a comparable level with whats out there today.
It is very important to learn to hold down your levels and think about the signal flow in order to be able to control the mix. For me it’s very easy to get into a limbo where you just keep pushing the channels louder and louder, little by little, and finally end up with losing control of the mix and having to start from scratch. Watch the master and use a good level meter (such as the great and free Voxengo Span) to make assessments and establish an understanding of loudness.
- For me being in the right mind set is a definite, you have to stay focused to keep things interesting. You can’t be in the studio all the time but keeping the ball rolling regularly is a way I like to stay focused. I try to keep my body healthy and fit which I find helps.
- I like to start my tracks with the drums, spend a bit of time getting them tight and how you want them. Its like building a house, you cant build a house on bad foundations and your drums are your foundations.
- Monitor quietly (each to their own).
- Move your phone out of reach. In this day and age smart phones are a massive distraction to your daily routine so remove anything that’s going to distract you.
- Limit your projects to working on 3 or 4 projects at a time.
Top advice from a top guy, I couldn’t agree more about learning to focus, and the value of having a routine and maintaining a healthy body. It’s not about being a superhuman though, but leaning towards a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Our health has a huge effect on your ability to focus and maintain routines, as well as the quality of your decisions.
Best piece of advice I was ever given and something I tell people myself.. If you want to make music as a career then you have to put the hours in like one. Whether you’re working in a pub, an office or at uni whatever, you gotta be putting those hours in again after work to hone your craft.
Well said – you need to find a way to put in the time, and it takes a sacrifice. There is no lasting success without putting in the work. You might have heard of the 10 000 hour rule (=to truly master anything you need to put in 10 000 hours). While I think it holds a little bit of truth to it… The quality of the work you are putting in matters a lot too. You should aim for deliberate practice and learning to focus your attention while you work. If you want to learn more about it, I recommend you read this great article: Debunking the Myth of the 10,000-Hours Rule: What It Actually Takes to Reach Genius-Level Excellence. In any case there is no going around the fact that you need to be putting in tons and tons of hours.
Check out the Universal Audio Roland RE-201. If you like super dubbed out delays it’s the one for you because the presets are great plus it’s very simple to create your own crazy delays. For a more hands on live approach I use it with the nocturn 25 keyboard with Auto mapping.
Well not much to add there, if this man gives you advice about dubbed out delays you better listen. Here is the link the the plugin.
A good monitoring position is key. To have a fully sound treated room etc is quite a luxury – as this can cost a lot to achieve, or require a space where you can use it just for making music. But a good starting point is to have a good monitoring position. So, try and have your speakers away from the wall and not in a corner, and very importantly, the tweeters at ear level. Angle them so the mixing sweet spot (the axis where the sound from the speakers cross) is where your sitting position is – and then, try and get the speakers on some stands or something heavy, so as to try and lose as little bass through a table or floor.
To get a perfect listening position is hard, but every bit helps.
Great advice – again, make sure you are making the most out of what you have before investing in new stuff (like in this case – acoustic treatment). If you have the chance, it pays off to try a few different monitoring positions within your room before deciding on where to set up. This can make a big difference especially for the bass response, as standing waves cause bass to disappear/amplify at certain positions.
I like to start a new track with a batch of freshly chopped samples. I can easily liken this to djing… it’s often more fun to have a mix, when you have brand new records in the bag. Obviously you will also have your classics to draw on, but the freshness will help to make it exciting.
Yes, I love that – you should do all you can to make the process more enjoyable and exciting! Making music should be fun right?
LOXY & RESOUND:
Think forward. Do your own thing and stop trying to conform to what others are doing. If you are still new to making music it can be an useful exercise to try and replicate other styles, but keep it as just that – an exercise. Copycats are spotted from a mile away so the best way to get noticed is to have fun and give yourself the permission to venture into the unknown and different.
That’s it folks! Put this stuff to action and go grab the album (it’s out now on vinyl, CD & digital).