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How to use Delays instead of Reverb on Vocals when Mixing - YouTube

This video shows just one way that you can use a couple of delays, instead of reverb, for the main vocal effects when mixing. For this song, I used a short diffuse delay to create a subtle ambient effect throughout the song. Then I used a longer echo that is brought up and down with automation throughout the song, at very low levels during the verses, and then louder during the choruses. I also ramp up the long delay during long held out notes to give them a longer tail.

The song is “Grow Old With Me” by Greg Adams and East Bay Soul, which I mixed for their “That’s Life” CD. Vocals by Darryl Walker.
Visit: http://eastbaysoul.com for more info and to purchase their CDs.

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Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but I joined a few FB groups a while back, thinking that maybe I can share some of my knowledge with young aspiring producers/engineers. Unfortunately, it seems that a large number of questions asked by “newbies” is “What’s the best _____?”.

Here are some actual questions posted:

Yo people so what’s the best plugin for making snares?

Hey guys, quick question: Anyone have recommendations on the best orchestral plug-ins?

best premium quality recording audio interfaces for solo artists?

Best soundcard for routing DAW through external effects?

Which DAW?

The list goes on and on, those are just a few recent ones I saw with a quick look. But, you get the idea. People love to post vague questions about “what’s the best” something or other, and usually don’t go into ANY specifics about what they are recording, what their budget is, what type of environment, skill level, preferred work flow, etc.

The short answer to ALL of these question is: There is no “Best” of anything!

If there was a “best” something, that was truly best for everyone and every possible scenario, then wouldn’t all the others have gone out of business by now?

There is a good reason why there are so many different choices for music gear and software, because there simply isn’t one combination of gear, or even one piece of gear in a certain category, that is the “best” for every possible situation.

I think it’s mostly that “these young kids” are generally lazy and possibly have some entitlement issues. They don’t want to do the work themselves to figure out what is going to work “best” for them. They don’t want to use their ears and decide for themselves. They just want someone else to tell them what is best. Then, they get mad when they get a bunch of sarcastic answers. Often someone else jumps in to tell us old cranky guys that we aren’t being helpful when we try to tell them (sometimes very sarcastically) that what’s “best” is a matter of opinion and highly dependent on the specific situation.

In my own studio, I don’t have just one of everything, because none of the gear or software that I own is “best” for every situation. If I was ONLY working on my own music, and recording the same things, and always wanting the same sound for everything, then I could certainly narrow down my selection of gear considerably. But, I need to work with a wide variety of musicians/artists in a wide variety of styles, with all different types of instruments and voices. So, I own a LOT of microphones, quite a few different pre-amps and compressors, and a HUGE amount of software and plugins (probably way too much, but I am a geek and love my toys).

Also, even if there was a “best” of something, maybe you don’t always want the “best”? Sometimes you want something that adds some color or character, or even has some grit or distortion. There are plenty of times when I go for something based on the character it adds, rather than what’s going to technically give me the “best” reproduction.

So, the proper types of questions should be worded more like “What is your favorite ___?” or “What are some recommendations for ___?” followed by a good amount of detail about your budget, location, style of music, instruments you’ll be recording, preferred workflow, etc. Even then, you still need to do the research and try things out for yourself to figure out which one works best, or is at least good enough, for your particular situation.

But, hey, if you want to know what the best DAW is, it’s Cubase Pro!
(for me, maybe not for you)

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Submit your best song for a chance at a FREE Mix!

Starting in April 2016, I’m taking song submissions for a chance to get your song mixed for free, along with some online promotion.

Roughly once every other month (schedule permitting), I’ll pick one song from all the current submissions through my mixing site, and do the mixing and mastering at no cost to the band/artist. Each time a free mix is completed, I’ll do a bit of promotion for the artist and post the finished mix (streaming only) on my site. Depending on the type of work I do on it, and how busy I am at the time, I may also create a mix breakdown tutorial video of the song, showing what techniques I used to get the sound of the mix. Links to the band/artist site (or any online stores carrying the music) will be included in all promotions.

So, why am I doing this?

Certainly I get some promotional value for my mixing services, but it’s mostly because I really do love mixing great songs from great bands/artists, and am very much interested in finding some new projects to work on, just for the enjoyment of it!

I’ve had a good and long career so far in the music recording & mixing business so far, but I realize that many young bands & artists these days (with the current state of the music industry) simply can’t afford to hire a professional like myself, and so have not had the chance to experience the difference that a professional mix can make. So, I’m looking for great songs from bands and artists, that I think I would really enjoy mixing, and want to give them the chance to get at least one song professionally mixed at no cost or obligation.

Submit your song for consideration on my mixing web site at: http://stephensherrardmixing.com/free-mixing-submissions/

Please share with all your musicians friends as well!  I’m looking forward to hearing all the submissions!

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Guest article from Big Tone Mastering – Online Audio Mastering

Recording and mixing an instrument such as an acoustic guitar can be as simple or as complex as you like but most important of all we need to get the sound right at the source to set us up for a good recording. Here at our Manchester recording studio, we have learnt the hard way in our early days, so remember – record a bad sound at source and you are starting on the wrong foot and leaving yourself open to a headache of a mix!

First off, if you have a selection of guitars or access to a number of different acoustics, then make sure you utilize your resources. Choosing the right guitar with the best sound for what you need will save you a lot of time later on when mixing. Think about what role the acoustic is going to play in the track; is it to be placed into a loud and busy mix and be heard through it’s top end, or is it the absolute main focus of the track? All of these kinds of questions help us understand what we need form the guitar itself but not only that, it will help your decision in step two now you know what you need form the guitar – choosing you microphone(s) and placement.

Today we’ll talk through two of our favorite microphone placements, but don’t let this stop you being creative and finding a better way to record your acoustic guitar. Use these ideas as a good place to start and go ahead and tweak away!

The ‘XY’ Technique

The first is the popular ‘XY’ placement. This involves two pencil condenser microphones crossed over at the 12th fret. They will both be aimed at the 12th fret and at an approximate 90 degree angle against each other. Move this placement up and down the fret board and sound hole to find the best sounding point. Remember, every guitar is different and no mic position will be applicable for two different guitars. The microphones should be around 6 inches away from the guitar, but again, use this as a guide and play about with the distance. When mixing these signals, pan them left and right for a stereo feel, panning harder for a widest stereo image.

Stereo Technique

The second microphone involves, again, two condenser microphones, however, this time we will need a large diaphragm condenser and a pencil condenser. The large diaphragm condenser will be position facing the bridge of the guitar at around 6 inches away and the pencil condenser at the same distance but at the 12th fret. This allows us to capture a good rich low end from the bridge and bright clarity from the 12th fret. The large condensers can be great for capturing low end due to their structure and size. Like the other technique, spread these signals using your pan tool in your chosen DAW. The great thing about this technique is that you can now balance the low end of your acoustic guitar by bringing in the bridge microphone until you are happy with the sound against your 12th fret position.

Single Large Diaphragm Condenser

For the times where the stereo sound isn’t necessary, placing a large condenser approximately 6 inches away from the guitar around the 12th fret can still give great results. The reason we recommend the large diaphragm over the pencil is because in the mixing stage, you have the option to keep or cut the rich and full low end that a large diaphragm condenser offers. Remember, when using this technique, it is important to find the point of perfect balance between the low and muddy sound the bridge can offer, to the clarity and sometimes thin sound the neck can give. You have less room for correction, compared to a stereo technique, when mixing.

Be wary of either side of your frequency ranges

A common problem when mixing acoustic guitars is the control on either the top or low end. Managing harsh top and low end can be achieved with a simple compressor. However, before we continue, we must stress; don’t over compress. Keep the ratio below 5:1:1 and make sure you’re threshold is only cutting up to 3 to 4 dB maximum. Over compression on an acoustic guitar takes away the dynamics from what can be a beautiful sounding instrument. Always listen back to the guitar in the mix and take some time away, to come back with fresh ears and a fresh outlook.

Use these three techniques and feel free to explore and experiment to achieve the sound you desire. Remember to make the right choices at the very beginning and most of all, have fun doing what can be a very satisfying recording experience.

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For a long time, I stuck with hardware reverb when mixing, because I just didn’t feel like there were any plugin reverbs that could come close to sound of dedicated hardware, such as my Kurzweil KSP-8. Eventually we got some pretty decent software reverbs, with my early favorites being the UAD EMT 140, followed later by the UAD EMT 250.  Those were pretty good reverbs, but they had their own sound that while working great for some uses, they certainly didn’t work for everything. Convolution reverbs seemed to be a bit more versatile if they came with, or you built up, a good collection of impulse responses, but I still didn’t feel that had the sound of the hardware units that I was more familiar with.

Enter the Valhalla Room!

Valhalla Room has become my “go to” plugin reverb for many reasons:

  1. It sounds great, and has a wide variety of reverb types! Sound is everything, and if I can’t quickly find and fine tune a reverb that works for the current project, and sounds great, then I move on to something else. These days I rarely even turn on my hardware reverbs, as Valhalla Room gets the job done 90% of the time.
  2. The developer, Sean Costello is also from the Pacific Northwest, and I like to support local talent!
  3. It’s not some huge company cranking out products in a never ending quest for more profits. Sean is a gifted programmer, and is dedicated to creating software that sounds great!
  4. The prices are extremely reasonable! All his plugins are just $50! A bargain for the quality!  I have all of his plugins except the newest VintageVerb (which I will most likely get soon).
  5. The graphics are simple and easy to use. He doesn’t try to fool you with painstaking recreations of hardware reverbs, or any other type of fancy graphics which would distract you from the sound. It’s all about the sound and ease of use with Sean’s plugins!
  6. Flexible with a huge variety of reverbs.  Lots of different algorithms, and many great presets to start with. Then, you can tweak to your heart’s content with all the controls you could want (and more)! Very easy to dial in the perfect reverb for whatever you are working on.  Everything from long dark reverbs, to short bright ambient reverbs, are all quick and easy to achieve… just select a preset that’s close, and then fine tune.

Not much else to say, except that you should give this one a try!  For $50, you really can’t go wrong.

Also, no, I don’t personally know Sean (but would like to meet up with him someday). I paid for the plugins, and am not getting any kind of compensation for this.  This is just another in my series of bringing attention to my favorite tools for my work, and I especially like to help out the “little guys” who don’t get as much publicity as some of the bigger companies.

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