Overheads in B
Thanks so much for taking the time. We try to do what you do every day.
You said you use delayed plates. Do you mean plates with a predelay, or do you have a plate return that then gets sent to a delay? If it's plate getting sent to a delay, is it 100% of the signal getting delayed (insert) or just some of it getting sent to a delay?
Thanks a million!
On every digital plate you have a predelay option, that's what I'm referring to.
But since you bring up the delayed plate question, it reminds me of a cool idea we did at Mediasound back in the day. For those who have real EMT plates, this one's a beauty. You can hear what I'm talking about by listening to Luther's first two records and Aretha's "Jump to it" and "Get it right" records I recorded and mixed.
- Take the output of the Left side of a stereo cue and go into a delay (set at 125ms for example).
- Take the output of the delay and go into a mult.
- Take the output of the Right side of a stereo cue and go into the same mult.
- Go out of the mult and into the input of the EMT plate.
Now you control the amount of delay by using the pan. You can have the gtr sending to the plate w/o delay. For the vocal, you can pan the stereo cue to the center and have a little delay along with the direct signal going to the plate.
One more buss Q
I was wondering, if you use your sends to send to compressor(s), it must be pre fader right? Because if it's post, then your level of send will be unequal every time you move the main fader? Hope that I'm making sense here... mezed
I suppose that your reverb/delay sends are pre fader also, meaning that u use uncompressed signal feeding the reverb ?
This past month here was really great for me.... Actually, it was more than that, but I just don't have better words to express it...
Thank you for everything...
Logic says yes, I should be in prefader because in post fader, it will change as I ride the fader, but in practice, no. It's all good my friend, just let the fader ride, let it ride.
I've been doing it this way for years and maybe, I'm doing something magical where my brilliant brain is automatically compensating for the change in compression and blah blah blah, techitechitechifart.. yawn. Somebody call for pizza, yah, I'll tell you how I want mine ok?
I use Pre-insert on individual track channels if it sounds better aswell.
Movement in a mix
Could you speak to the issue of how you achieve movement in a mix (or your philosophy about movement in a mix)? I read in one of your other posts of how you rode a pad in one of the Coldplay mixes. Do you generally ride all instruments/sources...or are there some sources that remain rather static and others source that your regularly "move"? If you can't give a general opinion, perhaps you can comment on your philosophy in mixing with movement in mind. With the large amout of dynamics processing that today's mixes go through, how important is movement in a mix when the song is going to get pulverized to 5 - 6 dB of dynamic range anyway?
The song will dictate everything that needs to happen. Not gear, not technique, not the “go to” button. It’s about the song and nothing but the song.
Dynamics are going to play a major role in giving the chorus the payoff it needs. I’m not necessarily referring to riding the stereo track up. I mean internal rides going into the chorus like riding the drums up on the last bar or riding up the first chord of the guitars. These are just tiny basic examples to get you started.
I’m riding a whole lotta faders during the course of a mix. I’m riding the vocal to drive the song, riding the bass, toms, cymbals…well pretty much anything that helps make the song come alive. I’m making the mix as animated as possible to get the message of the song across to the listener. Imagine you’re watching an action cartoon and that will be a good starting point for how dynamics work.
Of course, not all songs are going ballistic. I probably do more rides on a ballad than I might on a rocker. It’s the accumulation of many subtle rides that add up to an emotional mix. You can probably set a good level of a compressed string section in a chorus and just let it rip. I prefer to do internal rides within those strings and overall small crescendos of the group to accentuate the passage. I may very well compress them, but that may not be enough to do the section justice. The point is to add movement to the song in order to make it seem to come alive. You’ve got to ask yourself one question, “Do I feel lucky?, Well do ya punk?”...oops sorry, I mean, What rides can help a great hook?…punk.
There are no set rules for what stays static or doesn’t because every song is different, the recording is different, the parts are different, basically, everything is different. The point is to use dynamics to bring out the best a song has to offer. What can be done to make the story and the hook of a song burn into your brain forever.
Rides are an essential part of mixing a song to its full potential regardless of the amount of compression the mix is going to get hit with by the time it goes to radio. An emotional mix will help the song survive the squash. It’s all about the song. Repeat after me, it’s all about the song.
Mixing with a subwoofer
My music is club oriented so kick and bass are very important. As ever, they are one of the hardest things to mix and get under control especially if you have a home studio like the most of us. What is your opinion for mixing with a sub bass speaker in addition to nearfield monitors?
Does your mix sound better in the club when you do or don't use a sub? That's your answer.
Given mixing is your mainstay now, how do you deal with the mix in terms of creating and realising a mix that you and the 'artist' (I hate that term btw!!!) are happy with?
Do you mix for like 3-4 hours, get the song fleshed out, then invite them in for final words?
Are they there with you from the get go?
Do you often have people asking you to chase the 'vibe' of a demo, and how do you counter it from your perspective when you are hired to put a different slant on things?
How do you both come to compromises and how do you expalain where you are going sonically if they cant envisage it?
Have you ever had clients go "No...that is totally wrong?" (I read that Bob C has had that happen) How have you dealt with conflicting opinions between 'artist', band members (more me!), producers and A&R?
Any insight would be greatly appreciated!
I tried answering a question very much like this one already and as I wrote, I got frustrated and quit. You listen closely to what the artists, producer and A&R want, then you sit down to mix. You ignore the ideas you don't like and keep the ones that work. If you want to defend your idea, show them the one they preferred, if it doesn't work, they'll notice it and it won't linger in the back of their mind. If they come in and say it's wrong, I listen to their reasons.
Message for the Monkeys
This great month is almost over, and you have given so many incredibly useful answers to our questions. Before you go away...could you answer a question of your own? Something you believe to be supremely important that we may have missed. If you were asking questions on a forum like this when you were still a monkey, what is the most iimportant question you could have asked, and what is the answer?
Well, after the 160+ questions I've been asked, you guys pretty much covered everything for this go around. Maybe in a few months, if I'm invited back, you monkeys can come up with some more questions that will have me up late at night.
Hey hey we're the monkeys. Thanks heaps, I'm sure you've earnt lots of great karma
Hey Michael, Do you use low pass filters on A Mann's vocals? It sounds really smooth yet super round... I'm sure a lot of that is her. I was just listening and wondering about that.
No memory of what I did.
Keeping compressor settings the same
Considering the extensive number of compressors/limiters you have in your arsenal, I was curious if there are any units you leave at or around the same settings most or all of the time from project to project. In other words, are some units set to a basic sweet spot that doesn't change much, and that you tend to run the same types of sounds through for those respective units?
I leave most of the ones that are in the back of the rack static. In fact, I've gotten to try and leave everything static lately. Eq's change of course, but with so many choices for sounds if one doesn't work, I just plug it into another. I may tweak the threshold but that's about it. Yes, each one is already set to it's sweetspot. My assistants love the idea, it makes recalls a breeze...to a degree.
How do you pronounce your surname?
Hi Michael, I'm loving all the info you're sharing here with us, but whenever I go to tell somebody that you're guest moderating here, I feel silly because I don't know how to pronounce your last name. I know, silly question, but it's stumped me a couple of times lately. I'm sure you've heard it said many a different way over the years. Ok, now I feel really silly. Thanks again for taking the time out to share your knowledge with us slutz. Thumbs up.
Thanks for asking. It's pronounced brower, like the brow above your eyes...unless it's preceeded by the words "that fu*king guy, Brauer" in which case it's pronuced braaaayer, like the sound an ass might make.
How do you interface your Sony Radio?
Forgive me if this has been answered, but I would love to know how you interface your Sony Radio monitor.. Isn't there an impedance issue from the very loud +4 line level to the consumer radio? Thanks, I've been looking to a get a little home audio reference in the studio but have been wondering how I will hook it up.
It has the almighty 'line in.' (Stereo Mini Plug)
How do you define the space for the music in a song?
Do you approach the mix as a physical space from which the music comes towards the listener or an intentional imaginary collage of different sounding spaces on top of each other by way of multiple tracks, artificial fx processing and mixing wizardry? Or maybe a result of a more spontaneous - and probably subconscious - "sounds good to me" kind of approach to the mix?
Since it's not completely about the captured room sound these days, how do you create a good sense of space and place in respect to the song and also getting the psychoacoustics of it all working?
I felt that you are the right person to ask this, because in many of your mixes I've felt a strong sense of space that perfectly supports the message or the lyrics of the song thus accentuating the feelings of the listener and making it a deeply felt experience.
How do you go about making the decision about using different effects/toys to achieve a certain kind of spatial feel around the song? How do you define the concept, depth or the size of the mix for the music? Do you instantly have a strong visual image and sense of how a song should sound in terms of space, perhaps analogous to the excellent floating cork example you described in an earlier thread here?
I'm interested in your thinking process in terms of space.
Thanks for your time!
Well, I asked for it, now I have to come up with the goods. As I began writing, it occurred to me that I’m not actually thinking about what I do, I just do it. I’m reacting to the song. The best way to approach this question is to ‘reverse engineer’ it a bit.
I get some of my clues from listening to the rough mix and asking questions to the artist. Some like their music dry, some hate delay, some love reverb and delay…a lot. So if, for example, the song is moody and sad, that’s what I’m going for. Are her lyrics going to be believable if I bury her in reverb? It’s not going to sound very intimate, is that good or is that bad? Should it have some reverb that sounds lonely? Does it make me feel the loneliness or does it make her too pop and she hates pop? Maybe at the chorus it would be good to open her voice up because the lyrics dictate it and then for the next verse, I’d go dry. I can use very subtle delays and small room reverbs to enlarge her image without drawing attention to the efx.
Prior to playback mix comments, all decisions made during the mixing process are based on what makes ME feel good. If I convince myself, I’ll convince the listener. Later I’ll address the comments, but not while I’m alone in my own world. Second guessing is of no use to me, I have to trust my instinct and my gut. I’m dead in the water if I doubt my thoughts. Hundreds of questions pop up as I’m mixing. (Does this idea suck? Do I suck? Am I going overboard? Is this angry enough? Is this transition working for me? She hates delays, yah, but this is a good one, I’ll risk it, nothing to lose.) There’s lots of talking going on upstairs.
Everything that is going on, as I’m mixing, is spontaneous and is triggered by recent or past memories of records that have made an impression on me. I want a certain feel, I bring up the appropriate sounds to match that feel. The performance will inspire me to create the soundscape. Over years of mixing, images come up in my mind when I begin to mix and I just follow my thoughts. If a bridge reminds me of a Hall & Oates song, I use it for inspiration. Was it the melody and the arrangement around it that reminded me of them? What elements stand out? (Is it the chord structure, the delays on the guitar, the delay on the piano, the reverb on the piano, the phase on the Rhodes?) What is it about the feel that remembering when I’m mixing this section? I analyze it and then apply it to the mix. A good example of this is in “You get what you give” from New Radicals. Every section reminded me of another song.
A lot of ideas come from artists. They push me in directions that I wouldn’t have though of. That information gets stored away in my memory to be recalled the next time the same type feel is required.
When I’m at home, I listen to old records including ones from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Perry Como. Would you like to learn how to get a warm close vocal that just makes you feel good all over? Listen to the old recordings of great singers, you’ll see where I got my vocal presence ideas. Learn from the classics.
How do you define the space for the music in a song?
When I listen to my Billie Holiday records I often am reminded that close micing techniques are a modern one. The vocal maybe close mic'ed, but not so with most of the accompaniment. The space being dictated at tracking in large part. Thinking back I notice a trend of including ambient micing in my tracks. Do you see any of this approach in the tracks you receive? If so how many are useful?
Hard concepts for a soft world?
Good evening Michael, a real pleasure to have this opportunity. I never thought I would post, but after really feeling how we G-slutz enjoy/endure some kind of common experience, even in our vastly different physical and musical realms, it seemed like too good of a chance to pass up. Thanks Michael and thanks the Internet for making this possible.
Like many others here, I'm a home-based musician/producer sound-obsessive without access to the experience/space/gear/fabulous sonic raw materials you've worked to achieve, but still find your insight very helpful in a practical sense.
1. How far do you think the mixing principles and techniques you describe ie multi-buss compression etc can successfully be applied/transferred to a small project studio ie computer-based with say a UAD-1 card and 1 or 2 each hardware compressors and fx units, or even taken to the extreme let's say 'in the box'?
2. Can you highlight any possible ways ie configuration- or usage-wise you think that the growing number of computer-centric users might better take advantage of their equipment, be it physical or software? Or again would that just be a software emulation of the hardware setups you prefer?
You bring up a very good question.
The reality is that some of us, like some of my peers I’ve spoken with on the forum over the past couple weeks, are in the minority. We have it good with the latest computers, access to any gear, and the clout to call our own shots. The majority of you are sitting in your own place that you’ve financed and you are slowly building a collection of dream gear. Everyday, many of you work just as hard and just as long on a smaller scale.
One of the reasons you haven’t seen me discussing gear much is because it’s more important that I share concepts of how I formulate the idea. Then it becomes easier to apply the idea to your own surroundings. Why I choose reverb instead of delay or chorus on a vocal is more important than what kind I used.
I think many of the mixing principles and techniques that I’ve shared on this forum can be applied to the small studio environment.
I am in the process of developing a template for Protools. It’s going to take me a little time but when it’s done, you will be able to adapt my ideas to mixing in the box.
I have been following your posts pretty religiously, but forgive me if this has been asked before: On heavier stuff that you mix, do you use any reverbs or delays to help the guitars gel? Thanks man, and I truly hope you stick around a bit after your time is up, it is a real pleasure having you here.
Generally, I don't add reverb on hard rock records. Delays, yes. very short ones and a variation of short and long for vocals.
Guitar Delays: To Print or Not
Let me echo the many thanks voiced here one more time -- reading your posts has been an absolute delight. In a perfect world (your perfect world anyway), if a guitarist uses lots of Space Echo, Boss DM-2, etc. do you mind if those effects are printed on the guitar tracks, or would you rather have the flexibility to add them yourself? Or one more option, is it better when recording to route the delay's output to a second amp and record one track main amp dry, one delay only?
If that's the guitar sound you like, print it! I'm just a mixer. Print everything that you've been living with in the course of making a record. Efx's, delays, reverbs, they all are part of the sound you've created. Don't make me try and recreate it. Yes, having the option of a dry and wet sound is good. My thoughts on this have changed over the years. I used to say, give me a dry guitar sound, now I say, give me your sound.
Going back to fine tune the first song after you've finished the album
How difficult is it for you to get in the right mindset at the very start of a project? Do you start and never look back? Or do you sometimes feel like you're growing in the project, in the album, getting better results three our four days into the session? Would that be a reason four you to leave the mixing of potential singles for the middle or end of the session? Thanks a bunch!
I like to mix all the singles and the most complex mixes right out of the gate. I'm prepared to recall it later if it looks like I've landed on something later that would improve the first song. But, by mixing the singles first, people have time to live with it. I prefer recalling a song during the scheduled mix session than trying to fit it in a month later in the middle of mixing another record. I'm pretty good at getting the template of the album on the first song, but I'm open to the idea that it might take two days to nail it.
Getting Better All The Time...
First, let me just say how much I'm enjoying all the thoughtful, informative, and entertaining answers you've been providing to all us lucky Gearsluts this month!
My question is kind of a two parter:
First, is there anything you hear in other people's mixes that just drives you up the wall and makes you say, "Egad! How can anybody DO THAT to a piece of music and get away with it!"? I'm thinking of over-used cliches, basic 'mistakes', etc...
And second, do you think your own mixes have an identifiable signature sound that would make someone else say 'Ooh, listen - that must be a Michael Brauer mix!"?
There have been a couple times where the snare was so out of place or the sound so wrong for the music that I was too distracted to listen to the record. Otherwise, the only time that happens is when I'm listening to something that I've been hired to remix and I hear obvious problems, but that doesn't really count.
I try not to get in the way of a record. I want to be as transparent in the process as possible. But I think the way I have a vocal drive a song might be identifiable. It's probably more a question for someone else to answer.
Getting Bass Guitar right
How do you get a nice fat bass to sit right in a mix without having boomy resonant notes? It is a constant problem for me, a a# and b always seem to boom out and even when I manually make them softer, they always have a strong resonance. When I compare good mixes in my room they dont have the same problem, so it's not my room or monitors.
I usually compress the bass either with a Distressor or LA4 and lately have been using some multiband compression in my computer...but still have the same problem?
I've run into that problem many times. Sucks doesn't it? This is how I deal with it; I always bring the bass amp and direct on two channels, float them to two busses and bring the two busses back on two channels. One channel has a 747 across it and the other has a dbx on it. The function of the 747 is to be the anchor and hold down the bottom end. I'll eq and compress it so that it sounds warm and fat, no top. I take the dbx and squeeze the tits out of it. I'll eq out (sharp Q) any notes that jump out and I'll take out a lot of the bottom. So now I have my bottom end from the 747 and my mid range and clarity from the dbx. Then I put a crank call in to the guy that recorded it and I'm ready to mix.
The 747/dbx combination is just an example. Take any two comps that represent a good bottom and good mid. I would stay away from the LA4 for awhile until you get the hang of it with something else. The LA will find its way back into the mix but it's not great for addressing this problem.
If you have only one direct as the source, just bring that back up on two channels. I always check the phase between the two basses to see how it sounds. There have been times where those annoying notes completely disappeared by switching phase. That bright bass sound I had on all the records I recorded for Luther, Aretha, and many other R&B records were by putting the amp and direct out of phase to each other. Marcus, the bass player, had a Music Man with the preamp in the bass and it sounded killer when I put it out of phase to the bass amp, which was an ampex (The model that has the removable head that stores in the speaker unit).
Gear vs. Engineer who is Using the Gear
First, thank you so much for doing this. I have learned a lot from you this month.
How important do you think the gear used in the studio is to making a great record vs. the knowledge and ability of the engineer who is using the gear?
Do you think you could do the same quality mix that you do now if you had to do it all completely "in the box" (i.e. you have a HD3 system, all the plugins made for Pro Tools and an Icon control surface)?
Put a monkey in my room with my gear and see what happens. If he mixes better than me, I'm gonna be pissed.
Put me in a room with whatever is available, and I'm going to deliver you a great mix. No excuses for lack of toys or different formats such as mixing in the box. Mixing is mixing, You're either a mixer or you're a monkey. Simple.
LOL, it's about f@#cking time somebody spoke out.
AWESOME ANSWER. Thanks. That reminds me of that line....."Are you a MexiCAN or a MexiCAN'T"
LOL! Funny, but true. Although, you wouldn't know by the way people talk about gear around here.
Thanks for the great response! boing
At what point do you think you go from being a monkey to a mixer? gooof
When the mix touches your heart instead of your banana.
But howz about a top engineer with gear made by monkeys vs. the same top engineer with some top gear? hidz
Put me in a room full of top gear and I'll give you a top mix
put me in a room full of bananas and I'll make you a great smoothie
Further Explanation for a Beginner
Thank you very much for your time. I have 2 questions for you.
First, I have read your tape op article and any related post, thread, comment anywhere else I could find it on your multibuss comp techniques. It's all very wonderful and informative, however I am still confused on a few aspects of it that I can't find an answer to that I can understand. I have only worked on Protools HD with no controller and will be making a big jump to an SSL 4000 in the next few months. So - being a little lost, here are my questions. a) When you set it up - are your comps on inserts across A,B,C,and/or D? If not - then I'm still lost on the routing of of the comps. b) When you are getting your stereo busses to all read at zero, you mention you send a 1k tone (or 100 or 10) to the comp and then set everything to read zero. This tone - is it just something in that frequency range like a guitar or do you boost a frequency on an eq to set the compression?
My last question is about your federal compressor. It looks as if yours has been modified. What is your extra gigantic knob on the front? Do you know where could I get mine modified? I'd like to move the threshhold to the front, put an output knob on it, and switch the power chord.
Anyway thank you very much, this whole month has been so great!
a) When you set it up - are your comps on inserts across A,B,C,and/or D? Yes
b) When you are getting your stereo busses to all read at zero, you mention you send a 1k tone (or 100 or 10) - It's an Oscillator or Tone generator that provides several frequency settings. Many consoles have them installed in the center section.
Do you usually use all four outputs on your FS-1? Any tips for it's usage as it seems to get outahand and real phasey on some settings. I guess it's better used subtly. I remember you used it on a track that you mixed for us on M. Been's solo album on Qwest there at Quad in '94. It was lotsa fun hangin' with you! Got any new jokes!!!???
ooh man, how fun was that mix session? I don't think I've laughed that hard since you had your bag stolen while waiting for a cab, or when you left your wallet in the cab and he's driving away you're running after him with you're arms flailling screaming "Habib, habib, come back" It was Michael Been that taught me how to tell a joke. Please email me his phone number. Do I have more jokes? One snake say's to the other, "hay are we poisonous?, the other says "no, I don't think so, why?" The first one answers, "because i think I just bit my tongue!" Ok, enough, back to work.
My two stereo outputs are grouped together by the switch on the back. I'll send an instrument to it and turn the depth way down so that it doesn't phase out when it's in the circular mode. You gotta just play with it and send unexpected stuff to it for a good laugh.
Actually, they are totally useless, they can ruin a mix by just putting the slightest little amount into the track. It causes some type of cosmic phase dust that seems impossible to master. They're worth nothing. Hay, if anyone has them sitting around, put them in a box and throw them away or better yet, send them to me and i'll throw them away for you.
LOL Too much!! Yeah it was my bag with my video camera and film of the mix session. Gone forever... gruudge It was Michael's wallet left in the taxi that was actually returned to him. Amazing!! Michael, thanks for the FS-1 tip AND the hilarious memories!!! I'll call you down the road a bit when I get M.B.'s info. Much continued success my friend!!
What percentage of the tracks you get have fundamental flaws? What kind of flaws do you see - distortion on the vocal, inverted phase/polarity on the drums? Meters hitting the red in ProTools, bad edits?
Not much, I'd say less than 10%. Our biggest problem is too many tracks; 4 kicks, 4 snares, MS gtrs, MS acs. Too many tracks and not enough voices(although, I'm getting a new rig soon) Bad edits on vocals isn't uncommon. Files imported from Logic or Nuendo lose their cross fades sometimes if they aren't consolidated.
Federal Compressor Mods
It looks as if you had your Federal Compressor modded. I have a two of these that I want to have some work done on. I was wondering if you could recommend who to go to. Thank you very much.
It's been modded a couple of times. That extra knob is just the threshold adjust moved from the back to the front. I found a matching knob, and did a print copy of the indicator ring. The input needs to be padded down alot.
I would recommend Steve Firlotte for anything and everything. Inward connections email@example.com He didn't mod mine but, had I known him back when I modded it, I'd have used him.
Thank you very much!! Do you have an output knob anywhere or is it fixed. For what it's worth, mine has a couple of early military mods -"military installed mod's number 31W1-2U-506 and 507 which are "H" pads installed in the input and output circuit, to increase input stabilization and reduce the output to zero DB."
Again, thank you for the info, it's been a very insightful month.
Seems like my Federals(2) take some low end out of the sound and adds some highs. Is that the case with those or is it a fault?
I'm actually not sure yet, I just got them. I'm setting up my little home room still and haven't had the chance to plug them in yet, but I'll let you know. I'm waiting for construction to begin on my actual space so for now, I'm having fun trying to collect some fairly inexpensive toys to play with.
Mine takes out lows and adds highs as well...great for vox and ac gtr, not so hot on bass.
Try sending the bass to it instead of using it as an insert.
Drugs in the Studio
In a post here you joke that to mix Pink floyd in 5.1, you might find an old joint from years past!! And work out ways to scare yourself!! Very funny indeed!!
But there is such a lot of strong weed smoked by Kids in London and I have myself quit from tobacco and weed these last 5 months.
Did you decide not to smoke dope/weed for professional reasons or because you have seen any conflict between being stoned and the'cold light of day'?
Are you happy to have assistants who smoke? What happens if some artist is a heavy smoker and wants to sit right next to you with a spliff?
I have really enjoyed your contribution to gearslutz...fantastic!! Bestwishes Scruffydog
I am really glad you asked that question. It’s an important one. I stopped smoking everything when I graduated college and went on the road with my band. I was the drummer and managed the business. In my mind it was a business and I had to be serious about it, so there was no room for weed and I quit smoking butts at the same time. I never did drugs in the studio…not that I aaah, ever did drugs mind you. That leads to a dead end and I knew it by simply watching those around me abuse it.
What my assistants do on their own time is fine with me as long as it’s limited to weed and alcohol…aah not that they smoke weed mind you. But I did walk into the studio one morning and knew my assistant had just smoked a joint. He had been up all night getting my session finished and was taking the edge off. I explained the importance of him not relying on drugs to make it through the day. Learn to work through the exhaustion with willpower. He got the message.
The control room is my room. In my room, you don’t smoke weed and you don’t smoke cigarettes. The lounge is the client’s room, You can smoke, fart, blow or sleep, I don’t care.
I’ve had “famous” people insist on smoking in the control room and I say "no" in a nice way. I had one person that insisted on smoking just in the doorway and blew the smoke away from the control room. I still got high from it, and I looked at him at one point and said “Ok, you just got me high, so here’s the deal, if you see me laughing at you when you make a comment, you can’t get mad. I warned you not to smoke around me so, if what you say sounds funny to me, I’m laughing.” About ten minutes later, he’s sitting next to me and he says something about the mix. I look at him, pause, start laughing my ass off, shake my head, wipe a tear and say, “I don’t think so.” On the next comment I did the Jerky Boys “yah, sure I will.” That’s how the rest of the day went and he couldn’t get angry. After years of holding back, it was like a genie giving me one of three wishes. Needless to say, for the rest of the week he smoked in the lounge. F*ck 'em.
If I asked the question directly, I think it would be unanswerable, so I'm going to twist it a little.
Knowing what you know now, if you were an A&R guy hiring a someone to mix an album, what level of detail would you want/expect them to take it to if you had to mix 6 songs in a day? Is there a cumulative effect of obsessing over minutiae like should the reverb time be 20. vs 2.1 seconds or pre of 42ms vs 50ms or pan the guitars to 9 and 3 or 8:30 and 3:30?
How microscopic do you need to get? (2,000 words by Saturday AM please - Jules)
I would expect the song to sound great. You're getting hung up on unmusical details. If the mix sucks, you did a bad job. If I, as A&R, love the mix, then I'm happy and the day is a success. Mixing 6 songs in one day and making them all sound ok with an asterick doesn't go far. I will find someone who CAN mix all six well in one day.
I read that you use delays a lot more than reverbs but on the few records that I own that you mixed, I never really noticed much in the way of delays. They are used very subtly.
Do you favour certain types of delays (tape/digital etc...) for their transparency and what is it in general that you prefer about delays over reverbs.
(PS I love the Retriever record - a real "classic" sound for a newer record. Thanks for the inspiration!)
I don’t know what records you are referring to, but my guess is you’re right. It’s subtle because any more than that would be distracting to the song. Some records are meant to be dry and some wet. What does the song call for?
A record like Grandaddy “Sumday” has little or no reverb or delay from my end. I’m using a lot of different sounding compressors to give the record depth and to bring out the natural room reverbs of the instruments. Some records, like the one I’m mixing right now for a band called “The Open” have all my analog delays firing along with spring reverbs, plate reverbs, room reverbs, it’s got it all. It’s fun time.
Sometimes the point of using these delays or reverbs is to help add depth in a very subtle way. There might be reverbs and delays going on, but they are to be felt, not heard. I assume that is the case on the kind of records you like that I’ve mixed.
Hi Michael - thanks a lot for the reply. the album I was thinking of in particular was the ron sexsmith "retriever" record. Since I wrote that question last week I read that you use "delayed plates" or "delayed reverbs" - does that just mean playing with the predelay or is that adding a delay and then reverbing the delayed signal?
Usually it's just delaying the plate meaning the predelay. And yes, that record had no delays and very short rooms. The direction on that record was to keep it raw and unprocessed sounding.
Are there any things you do regularly that are counterintuitive (such as cutting the low lows from bass to make it bigger in the mix)? If not, can you give some examples of things you've had to do to make it work that really suprised you?
Nothing comes to mind. I can't think of anything counterintuitive. I just keep tweaking until something works, if I go the opposite way and it works, I smile and move on. Sorry, I'm no help on this one.
Checking Mixes Outside of Your Room?
Thanks once more for doing this, Michael - your insight and information are excellent to say the least. Please don't be a stranger once the month's up... I've read through almost all the threads, but I'm not completely certain this hasn't been asked yet: These days, how much (if at all) do you reference mixes outside of your room? Are you taking anything home and casually listening in the background? Listening on your car system? Is there anything that calls for CD-R reference?
I personally don't take mixes home to check out, I go home to live my other life. Between my Proacs, Genelecs, Yamahas and my all mighty radio, I have all the references I need. And my car isn't an option because that's prebooked for Willy Wonka, Chitti Chitti Bang Bang, Elmo sings Aretha and other inspiring music my kids prefer.
Can You Explain Counter Pumping
You have mentioned a couple times that your multibus compression technique allows you to achieve a "counter pumping" which you like. Can you go into a little more detail on this? I know it's hard to describe a sound, but is it basically the comp's pumping in time to the track or agaist the track or something completely different?
There are times I get the drums and bass pumping in one direction and the guitars in another. You get the sense of the sounds coming at you in waves in a subtle way.
I'm not describing it very well. I'm sorry, this is the first time I've had to explain it without using my hands and it's making little sense. Any chance of getting a little video clip attached to this post of my hands making the counter pumping action?
It would help if I could remember what songs I've felt it on. I'll work on that too.
Bigging up the AWA
I know how much effort you went to to scour the earth for those compressors...heh!
I myself LOVE them to pieces and think they are amongst some of the most underrated (well now the cats outta the bag isn't it?) compressors around. I have used or seen so many variants and they all seem to be relatively different from each other.
What are your main uses for them and were they modified to be more 'useful' in terms of a studio instead of the more frequent programme related 'set and forget' setting?
I tried, begged, bartered with someone back in OZ when I lived there to let me buy 2 of his 8!!!!!!!! that he has sitting in his workshop. Unfortunately he knows the uses and value of them too much... and before you ask, no he has no black Fairchild model. I already checked! (Btw, only 29 of them were made apparently!)
I am keen to get an AWA clone from a person I know who says he is reverse engineering them. When I get it I will post my thoughts.
Thanks in advance!
Please write me when he comes out with the clone. But which clone? I have two and they are both different animals. I am happy that the Fairchild version exists. I've been speaking with Mic from Mixmasters in Australia and he says it's a myth. I use them just on vocals. The green one has a sound that is stunning. They were both modified to give me more control over attack and release and speed of decay. I need to find one of the 29. I thought it was out of my blood by now, but thanks to you, you got me on the hunt again. Do you know what the model number was on it?
Click to read more on the UAD Forum.
What's it take to be a great intern?
12 Steps Of Internship
1. Always be on time. Be the first to arrive and the last to leave.
2. Pay attention to detail - no matter how menial the job, do a great job at it. If you're asked to clean the coffee counter, clean it well. Go beyond what is asked. If you notice the mini fridge has a lot of smudges or the counter is messy, take it upon yourself to make it nicer. It's all about paying attention to detail. I assure you someone will notice.
3. Focus - Be a good listener. If you don't understand something, don't pretend you do. Just ask for clarification. Nobody is going to think you're stupid. It's a new language; give yourself time to understand it.
4. Get the instructions or directions correct. Don't ever mess up a food or coffee order! Repeat the order to the person giving it. When food orders are screwed up, it's an indication that you don't take direction very well and that you aren't focused. It's a huge red flag.
5. Be calm. Always stay calm under duress. Music people are crazy, they sometimes run around in circles and into walls.
6. Don't complain...ever. Don't try and defend or prove that you were right and they were wrong. Nothing is a problem for you. Just let it go and get the job done.
7. Which then leads to attitude. The minute someone sees you get an attitude, you can pretty much assume the party is over.
8. You will be tested over the course of your internship by staff in ways you are unaware of in order to determine your character, motivation, dedication, and hunger for the job. Stay sharp.
9. Be happy - it makes all the difference to those around you. The music business is incredibly stressful on everyone to produce a hit record. Having someone say to them "good morning" with a smile makes all the difference.
10. Don't ever offer an opinion unless one is asked of you. When the day comes where someone asks your opinion, be honest. Do not second guess them. If you are unsure, just say that and give a reason. Your reason for being unsure might actually give them the answer they are looking for. Anyway an opinion is just that, an opinion. If they think you are yessing them, they won't ask again.
11. That leads to one of the most important. Be invisible when you need to be. That means don't draw attention to yourself when you should be quiet. Know when to leave the room without being asked.
12. Interpersonal Communication - get this book: Non-Violent Communication by Rosenberg. It's really amazing. If you can get this approach into your daily life you will be able to deal with anyone, including clients or bosses that are super demanding. They will seek you out because they'll see that you don't judge people. It'll give you an incredible advantage over others. Why? because success at interpersonal communication is key in this business and many don't do a very good job of it.
How do you go about practicing mix techniques for styles of music that you haven't yourself recorded or mixed in the past?
You've said several times in different interviews that you like to "change things up" every few years, and go after different styles of music. You've also said that you tend to practice the new style for a couple of years before landing the clients you want. This is fascinating to me, and something that you do very well. How is it, though, that you go about practicing mix techniques for styles of music that you haven't yourself recorded or mixed in the past? In other words, say you want to start mixing New York Indie Rock (a dream of mine) so you decide to work on that dark guitar reverb sound. But you've never mixed Grizzly Bear before. What material then do you practice on? Do you just take a guitar part from another band that you've mixed and try to stylize it?
The way it starts is that a song will come along within the scope of an album I'm mixing, and it'll be one that is appropriate for ideas I've been thinking about trying. It might be just the type of song that needs a radical moment to happen and I have nothing to lose, so I try it. Some ideas suck and some trigger more ideas. How do I predict the sound before having heard the band? I just patiently wait while I develop the sound I like, and when I hear a band that I think it'll be perfect for, I pursue them, or likewise, a band might hear what I'm doing on a record and they'll call me. It's not like I drop everything that works and start again. I'll start thinking differently about a drum sound or a vocal or how I look at depth. For example, maybe I'll start thinking about adding more grit to my sound. That'll get my mind excited and it'll allow me to drop go-to ideas that no longer apply to the new approach. Lets be clear now, the new approach is being used only on music that is appropriate. If I'm doing a pop record that is going Hot AC, I'll mix it the way people expect it of me. The same goes with a rock record. I'm not gonna force sounds to the detriment of a song. Moving to a new headspace seems scary because it takes you out of your comfort zone, but I thrive on it. I am totally confident that something good and unexpected will come from this effort. I'm confident because I'm not afraid; in fact, I expect many little failures along the way so that I can build on that experience. It's just music.l people more about this item. What's it about and what makes it interesting? Give people the info they need to go ahead and take the action you want. To make this item your own, click here > Add & Manage Items.
Do you process the tracks individually before with eq and compression with the onboard processing?
Although you use your 4 buses with compressors and Eqs, do you process the tracks individually with eq and compression with the onboard processing? (I.E. - Compress snare drum with SSL Channel compressor, and then compress again on the bus?)
Remember that there are no rules here. I’m offering Brauerize as a tool to use as it applies to the application. The set up is a starting point. With that in mind I process individual tracks if they need it. Generally I don’t need to add compression to guitars unless there are some unwanted transients but “generally” doesn’t really exist in my world. The EQ’ing is done a lot on the individual tracks. I necessarily leave it to sub st buss compression but hey, if it sounds good I do. More and more I’m leaning towards the UAD plugins for the eq. Of course, I have the SSL desk so I’ll mold it there first but some of the plugins have such a great vibe to them that I love going there. Every record I get is different and the requirements are different. The purpose of this approach is to create endless combinations that are only limited by your creativity.
Do you make use of parallel compression from the beginning of your mix?
Do you make use of parallel compression from the beginning of your mix, or do you send your drums to your Bus B, and then, only if your are losing too much attack, send it to the master too? Are there instruments that you compress just as an insert, without parallel processing?
Again, the process is up to an individual's taste and of course the application which dictates the approach towards the sound you are looking for. Sometimes I only send the drums to B and the samples that support it to B and stereo buss, sometimes I don’t. What’s important is that you try every combination and see which sounds the best. Eventually, you’ll know the sound of the different combinations in your head at which point it becomes instinctual.
I read on your site your way of calibrating your outboard. When you talk about the EQs, and you say that you gain on 1dB at 100 Hz and do the same at 8KHz, do you mean that this is your starting point eq for that bus? 1 dB up at lows, and 1 dB up at Highs?
It can be a starting point, but for me it doesn’t move from that calibration. I base everything around it.
Brauerize on SSL 4000E
We finally refurbished our SSL 4000E console (the analog part... not the computer yet.) So its working flawlessly, but with no automation yet. Do you think its possible to do your Brauerize stuff on that, since i just have 1 stereo master bus on this desk?
Actually, you have two stereo busses front and back. To address my limitations of a 4k desk, I designed and patented with the help of Paul Wolff (API, Tonelux) and Nick Balsamo, a couple of units that turns the front and back stereo buss and a stereo aux into a 3 sub stereo unit. I called it the MHB850. I have one left sitting in storage. This won’t help you of course but you might be able to accomplish something close with the Dangerous Mixer. Otherwise, you can do a limited version by processing the back st. buss and bringing it up to two channels that feed the front buss. Assign whatever you want processed to the back stereo and tracks that you don’t want processed, to the front stereo,. Everything else about Brauerize you can apply on the 4k.
Pro Tools Hybrid Approach
We have a Pro Tools rig, so we work on a hybrid setup. What do you think its the best approach for me to apply your bus technique, since i only can do automation and recalls on Pro Tools?
Edit: My main studio now uses a hybrid setup, and there is no longer any latency issue with hybrid processing. With multiple I/O interfaces you can send audio tracks in their respective busses using routed Pro Tools outputs. The Pro Tools outputs route to a summing mixer for each respective bus. For example, drums and bass will output from an interface into a summing mixer, followed by the buss's respective chain. Each of the multibuss chains can then be summed down to stereo, and input back into Pro Tools. For more information of this, please see my latest Mix With Thew Masters video.
Some people have partial success by having all the sub-stereo busses and processing come up as outboard on a dangerous mixer. The options are not as endless on PT as they are on a desk due to the ongoing latency issue. There are many situations where a few layers down the path, I’ll have something processed also sending to unprocessed, that creates a phase issue. So at this point, technology is still a limiting factor in how deep you can use the approach.
Do you ever feel like your process gets stale?
Do you do personal clinics? I need my M.O. shaken up. Do you ever feel like your process gets stale? I feel like i get buried with obligations and don't have time to stretch my techniques.
No, I don't do personal clinics... yet, but let me say this;
I am always developing new or refurbishing old ideas, and what better venue than when you're in the studio working like crazy? First, I try out ideas and explore their worth over the course of a few records. When I find an idea or a sonic that I want to pursue, I develop it non-stop at every opportunity. I continue fine tuning it and patiently wait until the right artist comes along that's perfect for the concept. If the sonic imprint becomes clearly distinctive to a major artist, I may use it again in a limited capacity over the next few months of records. By the time the records are released, I've stopped using the sound.
Example of a technique concept which has unlimited shelf life:
I expected to mix Coldplay's second record after the success of mixing Parachutes. I had a strong feeling I knew where they were heading both in direction and sonically in 16 months, so I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to be able to get a chorus to explode out of a quiet verse. That was extremely hard for me to do with a window of only a few DB's of dynamics to play with. It took me months and months with limited success, until I developed a way to offer a perceived sense of loudness. When I was told I wasn't getting the Coldplay gig, I was really bummed on many levels, but I kept my focus and basically "wished myself" a band to come along with songs that were arranged having a quiet verse/loud chorus. Along came Athlete, and practically every song had that kind of arrangement. I was more than ready to make a statement. I wanted the listener to feel my emotion and this record was the perfect vehicle. The radio was my messenger to anyone listening. Skip forward several months and the next Coldplay record was mine again. First listen to Athlete's "Tourist" record and then follow it up with X&Y (especially "Fix You") which I mixed about 6 months later; you'll hear where my ideas were realized and why they were developed. If you were to reverse the order of playing those two records, one might incorrectly deduce my influence came from X&Y.
Example of a sonic idea that has limited shelf life:
When I was mixing My Morning Jacket's "Evil Ways", Jim James and Joe Chiccarelli came up with a very distinctive vocal reverb sound. Joe gave me the settings and it was the template for the whole record. Several months later, I'm mixing Coldplay's Viva la Vida, and on one song I just couldn't get a vocal sound that was distinctive enough. Chris kept pushing me and pushing me to make it even better. Finally, a light goes off in my head and I decide to take the idea I had learned mixing MMJ and apply it way over the top to Chris' voice. Between that and the compressor I was using on him, it became the driving force for Violet Hill. That was pretty much the last time I used that reverb.
Sometimes, I simply stop using a go-to idea and try something completely different just to keep me interested and curious. It forces me to remain sharp and avoids complacency. I don't find it healthy to get really comfortable because the sound of music changes all the time. Techniques must change and develop or be left behind. Sonic landscapes that become popular are always driven by new or major artists breaking new ground. Of the roads I've taken, I prefer to lead the way with inventive ideas and take the risk of falling rather than the route of being one that follows. Thinking safe is too dangerous; it's like feeding poison to longevity.
My job as a mixer is to simply bring out the spirit of a song so that it comes alive. In other words, it's the process of taking a song from being a recorded documentation to witnessing an emotional event. That's what drives me and that's what should drive and inspire you.
Why do you prefer analog hardware over plugins?
I would like to ask your opinion why do you prefer analog hardware over plugins?
Look at it this way, if plugins came first and you grew up with them being released as new ones were invented, and then hardware came along one day and emulated what you've known and loved as a plugin ,which would you prefer? I have a huge collection of compressors and eq's, all of which I know and love, because I can use them to get a tone or feel that is needed on a song. I don't need to buy a plugin that tries to emulate my modified customized original. So in those situations I prefer the hardware. But there are plugins that I could never get as hardware and they are so creative that even if a hardware version was made, I wouldn't be interested. Deessing software by oxford can't be touched by hardware. Altiverb is a great tool that does a great job of reverbs past and future. Kramer and Maserati have both come out with plugin packages that are brilliant and are the way of the future, because they aren't trying to emulate a compressor, they are presenting a sound for guitars, drums, vocals etc. It's a combination of eq's, compressors, chorusing, etc. and they sound great. I love those two and I use them all the time. So for me I have no interest defending digital vs analog or whether I prefer one over the other. I use the best from each to get the job done, end of story. Obviously, Kramer must have defended analog prior to him releasing his own digital plugin.
Ask Serbin which he prefers to use to get his mixes smoking. I think he owns maybe one analog compressor and he has no problem mixing and keeping busy. Show me an analog over digital shoot out on deessing and digital will win, do a shoot out over pitching ....oh wait, there isn't any hardware that exists, digital wins. I have some modified analog compressors that are unique in sound and no other analog or digital compressor can touch it.
So for me, it's just about using what works for the song and since I know so well the analog, I tend to go with what I know best as my first choice, and if that doesn't work I'll go to choice #2, #3 etc, digital or analog doesn't even come to mind in the process.
How do you stay in that mindset? How do you push yourself and stay creative?
How do you stay in that mindset? How do you push yourself and stay creative? It seems so easy to find what works for you and fall into a rut. Do you have moments where you find yourself doing the same things or do you just force yourself to constantly try new things? Or does it just come naturally?
Nothing comes easy. What you're going through has been experienced by every successful top engineer, producer and mixer. Our careers are roller coasters until we figure out how to maintain our affluence. What comes naturally is a starting point. You take that rough diamond and polish it.
I stay in the mindset because I love what I do and it's easier to do when I have great music to mix. Getting great music to mix is the part that takes time and patience to accomplish. It's all reputation and word of mouth. I remember thinking during the time that I wasn't doing as well as my peers, and thinking jealously that the reason they were doing so well was because they were mixing guaranteed million seller bands. What I didn't consider was why and how they got in that position of affluence. It's not luck.
I push myself and stay creative because that's the way I am. I want to be mixing the greatest bands and singers of our time and in order to do that, I have to mix records that attract them to me. I'm always thinking about new ideas just like a songwriter is always writing new songs in their head. I'll be walking down the street one day, like I did last week, and suddenly i'll have an epiphany about a sound I've been trying to go after. Something triggered the answer. Kinda like the TV character "House" when he's once again stumped by a rare patient's syndrome that's killing him, and in the middle of a sentence he realizes the answer. My situation is a bit less life saving... more like career saving. :) The way to get to that point is to exercise the brain to always be thinking about ideas. Eventually that muscle becomes strong and it comes more naturally. Having said that, no amount of exercise will ever help me write a song. I'm just not wired for it and it'll never happen, so trying to become a songwriter is a waste of time. You have to find what comes naturally and develop that talent. It's not always the first thing you love. Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but at one point in my young life, I realized I didn't have the makings, and music was becoming a stronger force in my life. It began as a drummer in a band, eventually it led to engineering and finally to mixing. I'm one of the lucky ones that found what they love to do and can make a living at it. A pivotal summer, many years ago, is still fresh in my mind when I stressed and struggled wondering if I would ever find something that I loved and be good at.
In your opinion, what do you think gives a snare drum stroke the ultimate catchy sound in a mix?
Thats a tough one to answer because there are so many variables.
For me every song is different. I decide early on how the snare should be placed and how important it is to a song. If the recorded snare doesn't sound good in the the track I add one or a combination of samples to get the sound I'm looking for. I rarely replace the source kick or snare.
I like the snare to give the song's midrange a brightness without interfering with the vocal. How bombastic, fat, funky, snappy, etc is determined by the style of music I'm mixing. If it's funk, I'm not gonna give it a rock feel...unless it works. It's always a work in progress.
The snare has over the years defined in what time period the song was released. Some snare sounds had a very short shelf life and dates a song so terribly that it's hard to listen to. I decided many years ago to come up with snare sounds that would withstand the test of time. Many times, it's the snare that gives the song it's unique hit quality. Within my discography, Coldplay's "Yellow" is probably a good example.
In general, i'm changing my snare sound every six months. As soon as I find one that is catchy, I drop it because I don't want two different artists to share the same sound. It's an easy temptation to just repeat the same snare sound but I think that's lazy and eventually people would get bored by it, not to mention it gives every artist the same generic sound. That's not the reason why artists want me mixing their record. It's harder to accomplish but so what, it's not as if I've got anything else to do.
Is it possible to hire you to mix, or do you only mix for people with top references?
The decision on who and what I mix is based on my liking the song or album. The best way to get music to me is by having the record company or artist manager contact my manager. Record companies and managers can easily get that and mixing budget information, so it's not necessary to print it here. I rarely do spec deals anymore because i'm so busy with paying clients.
Brauer multi buss technique related posts from Gearslutz
Originally Posted by Mike Caffrey (addressing question if Brauer multi-buss technique works in Pro Tools)
It's no problem to do just the ABCD routing portion, which is what I think of when I think multi-buss compression, but the complete Brauer method also includes send/returns.
Technically, I think even they can be done, but you have to have duplicate, identical signal paths with plugins bypassed to avoid the latency issues. So on a practical level, some things become too complicated if you want to have flexibility.
4 busses (A-D), with 1 different compressor for each buss (1-4). You'd created 5 busses with all 4 plugins on each. The A would use 1, with 2,3,4 bypassed. B would use 2, with 1,3,4 bypassed. C is 3 with 1,2,4 bypassed and D 4, with 1,2,3 bypassed. The 5th buss has all bypassed and functions as the stereo.
Edit: It works now! All of the routing and sends & returns can be done without issue. Although I don't mix In-The-Box, I have an ITB template that mimics my main Hybrid setup, and I take this template with me when I am away from my studio.
For those who think it can be done, do it. But I'm telling you, I've tried what Mike is talking about and it works in only one application, but not in combination. I'm not going to get into a debate on this issue. As some of the other guys are realizing, my complete multibuss concept was designed to work in the analog world. The feel that I'm looking for gets blurred and the tones get distorted when in the box. Because it is necessary to fully combine the techniques of multibuss compression, parallel compression and the use of send/return compression, the routing in the digital domain causes issues that ADC can't compensate for and causes undesirable results. Meaning it ain't f*cking musical.
Someday, it'll work and when it does, I'll be the first guy to show you the path. How will I know since I don't mix in the box you ask? Because I'm training a guy who does.
So be my guest, ITB, try using MBC (multi buss compression) individually. Combining may get you something, but it won't be my thing. Of course, it goes without saying that it if it sounds awesome, then it doesn't really matter what anybody says; good is good.
For now, just try to enjoy it in the anooolog world...what's left of it.
Originally Posted by bassman
I don't do as much stuff as Michael's setup (I have read about it and tried many things he has suggested) but I have no problems with phase issues in Nuendo's mixer. I use mostly brand name plugs such as UAD, PoCo, Sonalksis, Voxengo, and so these are well known to most DAW's. Even outboard gear in the Nuendo mixer is properly time aligned.
I did a whole bunch of testing to confirm this before really trying to mix this way and it works quite well for me. Again, my setup is no way near as complex as Michael's, but what he does is terribly complex not only from a routing POV but keeping a handle on things balance-wise with all the parallel paths takes some experience for sure. - ashley
That's great, if this approach works better than the previous way you used to work, I've accomplished what I set out to do. Use part of what I do that works for you and drop the rest. Using the full approach is very complicated because it's been an ongoing development over many years and it now addresses almost every permutation and every issue that has ever limited my executing an idea or vibe. It's still developing. And sometimes, MBC just plain doesn't work and I revert to the traditional approach of sending everything to one stereo buss and it sounds great! There are rules for setting MBC that must be followed to the letter, but there are no rules for how you're gonna use it to make a song sound great.
Do I wish MBC worked in the digital domain as well as in analog? Of course I do, unfortunately, in terms of the digital world's limitations, this approach is still a bit ahead of its time. But as we all know, that won't last for long.
Originally Posted by Mike Caffrey
One of the things that's confusing is that multi-buss compression can refer to two different things. Both refer to Michael Brauer's method of mixing.
Mult-buss compression, in all lower case letters means using compression on multiple busses, so arguably multiple busses of parallel compression could fit this description (I don't mean to imply that MB invented this).
Multi-buss compression in MB terms refers to the idea of grouping instruments into stereo compressors before arriving at the stereo buss so that they don't have the negative interactions that can happen when sending everything to a single stereo compressor (like the bass squasing the vocals). This is a Brauer concept and is basically a routing method. It's not inaccurate to call this routing method multi-buss compression.
However, there are more key aspects to the method that MB uses. It's not simply routing. He just posted about modeling the music to the compressors and there are also send/returns and the vocal approach. The cumulative use of all of these things can be refered to with a proper name, which is most commonly Multi-Buss Compression. Referring to it that way implies more than just the routing method.
"New York" style compression is straight parallel compression and as far as I know is a term coined by Bobby Owsinski in the Mix Engineer's handbook.
There's no question that any individual plugin latency can be overcome. It's certainly possible to overcome them for mbc, but MBC is a different matter. They key is making a clear distinction between the mbc routing and the MBC method.
I gotta say, that is probably the best description of my method that I've ever read and certainly better than I've ever tried to explain it. Very concise. Awesome, thanks.
Originally Posted by 3rd world order
There are a couple concepts at play here...
I had very similar ideas way back in 97 when I was trying to do a rudimentary version on this with a Mackie 8-bus... unfortunately the smackie ruined the audio enough that it wasn't worth the effort to use its subgroups, but the concept is valid and MHB has refined it lightyears beyond my initial ideas. Not that I invented it, I was just coincidentally thinking along similar lines. I'm not trying to be Al Gore here and say I invented the Internet... yeeeee
You're right on the money. I think many of us independently came to the same conclusion because, at one time or another, we found our ass in a sling over a mix that no longer catered to the approach of using a master stereo buss compressor.
I had the fortunate luck, as I was searching for an answer, to come across an SSL 6000 film mixing console and a big light bulb popped up over my head. Every problem that I might face from that point on had an easy solution and made the approach even more varsatile. The three buss approach had its drawbacks because sometimes it brought up gluing issues which was easily solved by introducing the panned stereo 1176's ( that I noticed an engineer doing once). It wasn't until years later that I added the send/return compression idea (that I learned from David Kahne).
Individually, the ideas were already being practiced, but the concept of putting them all together brought to the mixer a wealth of ideas and ways to best visualize an artist's song.
Originally Posted by bassman
Also, Michael, you mentioned that various amounts of the A, B and C busses could be sent to the D buss. Is there any more inter-bussing between the ABC and D besides this? Just curious for my testing a setup here... - ashley
Aah sending ABC to D, the memories. I forgot all about that little gem. It was awesome. That is one idea that I can say was original, I think. Actually it was A&B to the mysterious C (there was no D on the SSL 6000). Eventually I dropped the approach because the genre of music no longer warranted it. What is "IT" you ask?
ABC were all sub-stereos summing to a master stereo just like the 9000, except the 6k had the ability of sending each sub stereo buss to the other two busses. The stereo subs were also designed with an anti-feedback circuit, meaning you could select A to B and B to C, but it wouldn't allow you to select C to A or B to A. The 6k didn't have a stereo buss to choose in addition to the ABC. Each channel had only AB or C selectable (you couldn't select more than one). Alright already, so who cares? (see what you guys have turned me into?)
What was across C? An Aphex B which was fed by A and B. What was across A and B? It's hard to remember, but my guess is I had the bass and drums in B and the vocals and the rest of the track in A. If I floated A and B, you'd hear just a thin mid range Aphex process of the whole mix (the wet blend). I kept C off until the end of the mix. When the mix was complete and it was kicking ass, I'd slowly blend in some of C. It gave the mix an incredible liveness in the midrange. The Aphex B was very musical and it was the only device that worked for me (except maybe the original Aphex that was a 2U). The best example of this approach is on all the remixed singles I did for Toad the Wet Sprocket. In particular, check out "All I want." The vocal is jumping out the speakers and the mix seems to excite the ears. You can also hear the sound on the Fishbone album "The reality of my surroundings" and Chris Whitley's "Poison Girl".
When Nirvana hit the radio waves, the midrange excitement was no longer appropriate for that kind of music and over the course of a year or so, I dropped it.
How does someone get the opportunity to become your assistant?
The way the process works is that my assistant finds and trains the second assistant who will eventually take over for him. He'll become second assistant for a year and then become my main assistant for two years. As main assistant, he usually works solo for the first year and during that time decides on who would make a good future assistant. I make final decisions of course, but we both notice which interns coming through the room have the most potential, and it becomes pretty obvious which one we both like. He/she has to have total dedication, no life to speak of, and think it's pretty cool not to see daylight for weeks on end, ooh and sleep is not a priority. They need to be a pro at Pro Tools and be a musician. The rest will be taught by me.
How do you approach a mixing a single?
If the album has already been mixed and the record company is looking for a radio mix, then it’s not necessary for anyone other than A&R to be present. A&R has a specific vision in mind and probably a certain radio format they are going after. The artist has already turned in their approved mixes for the album, so my main objective on a single is to give the record company what they want. I want to keep the integrity of the music intact, because at the end of the day, the artist still has right of refusal, but I'm being hired to get the song to be more competitive at radio without pissing off the band. The usual order of events is that I’ll contact the A&R person prior to my starting the mix. I’ll listen to their comments and ask what radio format it’s intended to be played on. Whether it’s for North America or Europe will determine how I think as I'm mixing. There’s a huge difference between thinking American and English in approaching a song. It also breaks down into finer categories within each country. The album mix might be, for example, AC as is and they want it played on HOT AC or it’s indie that needs to break on Rock. The requirements from these formats change a lot so I'm not afraid to ask A&R what that particular format likes to hear in order for them to play a song.
Do you like the artist being present at the mixing session?
Hello? I'm not the artist, I'm just the mixer. It’s their vision, not mine that I want to mix. If the vision is unclear on a particular song, I can help.
The band has spent months making their record. They’ve been part of every decision, change, fight, and they’ve finally gotten their vision recorded and documented. The rough mixes are feeling great. And now for the most important part of the recording process, they aren’t allowed at the mix? Wrong, I'm not interested in mixing an album for myself. I want to know about each song including the story, the vision, the likes and dislikes of the rough mix, tracks that should be left off or changed, etc. For a new band it’s even more crucial because I want to help set up a sonic template that is unique to them that also sets them apart from other bands.
I make it very clear to the record company that if the band’s visionary or someone they completely trust to represent them isn’t at the mix, I'm not interested in mixing the record. There are very few exceptions to this rule. Sometimes the reasoning behind a record company’s request of "no artist attendance" may be valid, but most of the time I don’t buy it. I get the “they don’t know what they want”, “They’re too young to have a clue about the mixing process”, “they are such a pain in the ass that they’ll screw up the mixes”, “we don’t have the budget” and “they’re on tour.” In my mind, these reasons don’t qualify for them being excluded from the mix.
If the band agrees the producer or A&R has a better idea what is best for the band, then they should attend the session. If it’s a money issue, I can set up live Ednet sessions. The artist can be at a studio in London or LA and listen back to the mix in real time using the same speakers I'm monitoring. They can make comments via a talkback and they have visual via ichat . It works like a charm. I would prefer them to be in the same room, but this is a great alternative. And finally, I'm from NYC, nobody is going to want to be a pain in the ass for very long on my session.
It comes down to this: it’s their record, not mine. I have years of experience at their disposal. I have a short time to make their songs come to life and they have a lifetime to live with it.
Multibuss Compression in a nutshell
I use 5 busses (4 processed, 1 unprocessed), and 6 auxes (1 stereo aux and 5 mono sends, all going to compressors) to accomplish my multibuss techinique. The combination of busses and auxes is what makes this technique unique.
1 - The function of Multiple Busses is to avoid having one instrument or a group of instruments adversely affect the level or sound of another single or group of instruments.
2 - The function of Multiple Auxes is to generate tone, fatness, attitude and urgency to a sound.
A quick demonstration of Stereo vs. Mulitbuss Compression:
Scenario 1: All tracks feeding one stereo buss with a compressor across it. Bring up the vocal too loud and the stereo compressor will kick in and adversely effect bottom end instruments like kick and bass. Bring up the bass or kick too much and it'll cause havoc on the vocal level. Compression is triggered more by bottom end frequences than high end. (That's why I have some compressors modified to have a low freq. side chain HP to allow the bottom end through.)
Scenario 2: Separate instruments into different catagories that will allow freedom of movement.
A - Instruments that are in the upper midrange of a song, such as vocals or keyboards, synths, percussion. Bring up the vocal a lot and it will only effect the instruments assigned to A. Choose instruments for a buss that will compliment each other.
B - Instruments that anchor the song such as drums, bass, maybe cello, congas. Adding more bass or kick will only have an effect on the other instruments assigned to B. Choose instruments that will compliment each other.
C - Instruments that create transient midrange power and will have a lot of rides, such as guitars.
D - Instruments that need the warmth of tube and are not played staccato. To be used in combination with other categories for glue factor.
Bringing up the bass will not effect the vocal and vise versa. Each has its own pump going and is independent of each other.
ABCD Calibration Setup:
Neve 33609 into Pultec EQ 1a3s
Set the 1k tone at "0" going through the Neve with pultec toggle switch in bypass. The gain on the neve should be at Zero. bring the threshold back 1 click. you shouldn't see any movement on the tone. (sometimes I give it 3 clicks and it brings it down about 1 db, but it's best to do that after the calibration)
Switch the pultec toggle switch to put in the chain. On the pultec select 100hz for the low end and 8k for the high end. At the Oscillator select 100hs and Turn the gain on the low end of the pultec until it reads +1 and then select 10k on the Oscillator and turn the high EQ gain until it reads 1.5 on the meter.
Select 1k again on the Oscillator and it will read +1db. That's good.
Initial Setup for Using Distressors w/o EQ's in the Chain
Set the 1k tone at Zero with the Distressors out of the chain.
Next, choose the ratio amount and if you want the British setting in or out. (I set it at 6:1 with british in)
Set attack at 10 (no compression). Set a release speed. Set detector to HP. Set Audio to your liking (I set it at Dist. 2)
Set the input at 5 and output at about 5 1/2 . The ouput will vary a tiny bit around 5 1/2, but your aim is to be reading "zero".
Slowly turn on the compression until the first green LED is fully lit. Do the same with the second unit. I do not link my compressors, therefore I must fine tune both units.
Run 10k and 100hz to be confirm the unit is treating those frequences the same on both units.
The sweetspot of the console and the compressors should be about the same.
Using Distressors w/ EQ's (The EQ should be post the Compressors, and they are properly terminated)
Run 1k tone and confirm you are reading "zero" both in and out of the chain.
Run 10k and select a high freq like 8k or 10k on your EQ to + 1 db
Run 100hz and select a low freq like 100 hz and bring it up to + 1db
Run a 3k tone, if you wish, and turn a mid freq up about 1 db
Re-adjust until they sound good for the application.
When you go back to 1k, you'll notice that it is now running hot, maybe 1 to 11/2 db up. That's normal. it was probably caused by the low freq boost.
Turn compression off
Set input gain to read +1
Set output gain at 1 oclock
Input gain should be +1
Set Compression until output reads “0”
You want to get 1 db of compression going.
tfpro Edward the Compressor or any other limiter with a widener.
There is no specified calibration for this compressor. The settings are chosen by taste, with L and R output levels matching
My chosen settings for Edward are:
Input gain - 7
Mode - VCA
Slope - 3
Compression - 2
Attack - 3
Release - 2
Transient Release - 10
Output gain +2
What do you use your Pultec EQ's for during mixing?
These fabled EQ's are attracting high prices these days. When you are mixing, what do you find them particularly useful for??
When I only mixed through the stereo buss, I put my mix through a Neve 33609 and then my Pultecs.
Now, I use them across my A buss and I tend to have backing vocals, keyboards and some reverbs sending to them.
It is true, Pultecs are great in that they offer a natural sounding EQ with an open top end, but there are no replacement parts and, in my opinion, they don't sound better with age if left unmaintained. They become dark in sound from the tubes dying and the caps, etc growing old and leaking.
What are your Deliverables to the Record Company?
Thanks for taking the time to moderate this forum. I've always been curious about what the record company wants as a deliverable for your services? Are you called on just to mix a stereo master... vocal up/vocal down, stems. Does the deliverable change with a band like Coldplay that has a wider appeal (dare I say "pop"?)? Enquiring minds want to know.
Vocal up, vocal down, TV(no lead vocal), Instrumental and Acapella.
The band, producer or A&R may also want an alternate version. For example; one pass without delays on the vocals in the chorus, or more guitars in the vamp or one with me singing, yah know, stuff like that.
On rock records I tend to do a version with bass up.
There is also a good chance the single will need to be edited down to 3:30, so I include a radio edit.
And is that an edit you normally figure out on your own, or do you first consult with the producer and or band as to the best way to edit it down for radio?
I usually ask the band or record company if they have any specific ideas and if not, I do my own edit.
What about that OTHER "deliverable", the entire album delivered to the label in multi-track format? Any feelings about that?
It's not my place as mixer to decide what on a multi should or should not be delivered. I return the drive exactly as I received it. I have a backup of the song along with my mixes on it that I keep.
Vocal Tuning During A Mix?
Hi Michael, what is your policy on tuning lead vocals when mixing? If you do tune them, is that something you do regularly and is it solely at your discretion? Thank you.
I pitch correct if I feel it improves the performance. I do it at my discretion but I also inform the artist of the correction. He may reject the idea.
We spoke once a year or two back. You mixed a song I produced for Rachael Yamagata called "Collide". I LOVE what you do with vocals. Aimee Mann "Lost in Space" is the best vocal mix I've ever heard.
1. just a little compression and eq on the insert for starters?
I floated her voice to two channels and processed the two differently. I'd switch it up between verse and chorus. I changed compressors on every song.
2. buss the vocal through a squasher comp -- if so which on Aimee M.?
I remember putting the Dept of Commerce on some of the quieter ones. It was the way she sang that made the feel amazing. My toys just enhanced it a bit.
3. Ever use Dolby A or any kind of exciter?
Not on her but yes, I know those tricks. I have a set of custom made dolby cards that have all the bands bypassed except for the top end to give me the air without the pump. I have an Aphex B that I fire up on occasion.
4. Another post said you liked the DRE 777, on vocals? any other verbs you like for vocals?
5. Do you ever mix stems and blend them later, perhaps at mastering?
6. Where in the chain do you place de -essers? are they 902s??
On the channel that is being floated. I use SPL De-eesser.
The Lowdown on Lows
How do you handle the lowest bottom? Do you choose between the kick and bass as to who gets the sub-basement, or do you think they can coexist down there? Do you ever side chain a bass comp with the kick? And how low do you feel you need to get? 40? 30?
This month has been a real treat for all of us. Thank you so much for your sharing your experience.
The song dictates the bottom end. What is driving the song? Is it the bass line, the drums the gtr, the keys, the vocal? what? It depends on the song. If the bottom end needs a low bottom to the kick with a point on it so you hear the beater, the bass doesn't need to go lower. You fit the bass into the kick. If the bass is playing 16th notes, putting too much bottom will blurr it. Adding to much kick or low bottom end may take away from the punch and clarity of the notes. So the answer is, there is no correct answer to that question, because it's something that changes on every song and every style of music. If it was jazz, the kick might be only felt, the song might very well be driven by the hihat for example.
How should I anchor the bottom end of a song? That's more important to know. Same answer. My old friend and great mastering engineer, Greg Calbi, called me today. He says, "I loved two of your mixes, but the third one had way too much bass on it, I just wanted to call you to ask what you had in mind because it doesn't fit the others and I don't usually have to dig into your mixes." I explained myself and said, "Make it right, do what you suggested, take out some bottom and add some mids, it'll be right for the song."
What he was saying was, your bottom end is drawing focus away from the song, you've got too much, it needs to chill a little and by adding some midrange to the song, it'll put the focus back on the vocal. That's the way a mastering engineer should hear and that's why I love his work.
Tape Delay Maintenance
Who's your GURU for keeping those running tiptop? I have an RE-201 which needs some TLC and i have no idea where to send it. I start my day reading your posts.. it's an excellent way to wake up.
I keep it maintained myself. If you have a Binson. I would recommend only one person Eric. His site is www.binson.com
As far as Roland is concerned, I'm not sure, but since you're in the Philipines, I'd try to find someone local. The cost of shipping roundtrip and repair is probably close to the cost of a used one.
Subtle Lead Vocal Processing
Hi Michael, Welcome and thanks for doing this- very kind of you to be so forthcoming and generous with your thoughts and information.
I was wondering if you have any particular favorite tricks for emphasizing a lead vocal and making it jump out in an attention-grabbing way? I'm talking about getting an overall "superhuman" quality that is riveting.
Yah, I mix singers like Aretha, Luther, Chris Martin. It's amazing what they do on their own without my help.
No, that cannot be. It MUST be the gear. After all, this is GEARslutz.
Ok, you're right, it's all me, nothing but me, all because of me. Hmm, that felt kinda good, wrong, but good.
Stereo Comp Linking and Imaging
You've said you're a fan of leaving stereo compressors unlinked. Don't you worry at all about a shifting center image using this method? I like the width and openness it brings, but find the phantom image shift of dual mono to be too distracting for most applications. Thoughts?
Thanks in advance.
I'm sorry... you don't use them unlinked? Or you don't care what it does to the center image?
I don't have a problem with it, I don't have my image shift. I've never noticed it in all the years I've been mixing that way.
I know there are times where it is a must to stem tracks because of high track count, but in a perfect world do you feel that you prefer to have each individual track coming out onto your console for mixing or do you like to have certain elements or instruments stemmed to one or two tacks for convenience and ease of mixing? Do you feel stemming is compromising in any way sonically during miixing process? Thanks for your time, this has been my favorite month since I jumped on board here!
I would be a happy mixer if I only had 8 tracks to mix, but I only get that if I'm mixing for David Kahne. The rest of the time I want to keep it down to 46 tracks. That magic number is because the rest of the desk is allocated to all types of toys and returns of samples etc.
I don't think there is any sonic compromise to making stems that I can hear. When I make a stem it might be submixing stereo harmony vocals, kicks, snares, guitars that have a couple amps or ambience. I have my assistant make the stems and then I'll listen to them for approval.
Just two more days here, where did the time go?
Starting Your Mix
So if you hardly ever listen to anything soloed, how do you begin a mix? Do you EQ sounds as they are sitting in the mix? Do you listen to certain groups of sounds by themselves? Do you compress individual sounds while hearing everything?
If I build my mix up starting with just an acoustic guitar, I'll eq, compress, process, balance and blend, as I'm building up the mix. Every new instrument I add to the mix gets molded to the existing blend.
Yes, if I have a large string, horn or windwood section, I may very well cut my other subgroups so that I can memorize what is being played as I'm getting a good balance between the different sections. That works for me. Once I put the other tracks back in, I'll then tweak the compression,EQ and reverb to make it fit in nice.
I don't generally EQ or compress in the solo mode because I think that's working in a vacuum. So what if you get a nice sound on its own? Nice in solo doesn't make it necessarily nice when it's playing with all 40 other tracks. Other instruments may cancel out the clarity of what you've done, or vice versa. But if soloing works for you and the song sounds great, that's all that matters.
SSL orange EQ vs Pultec?
Have you had any experience with SSL4000E orange EQs? Do you like the orange EQs?
I don't remember much about the colors anymore. I think I remember liking the brown ones for the bottom end. Black seemed better for the mids and orange for the top. It was a long time ago, so I wouldn't stake much on my memory of colors. I know there's a joke in here somewhere but I'm going to resist because I'm not here to be a comedian....or am I?...nah.
Silk Purses From Sows Ears
Hi Michael, this forum has been a real treat. What general approaches that a recording engineer might have enable you as the mixer to achieve a fantastic result rather than a competent one? I am thinking in terms of the way sound is captured affecting the final processed sound, so mic techniques, room acoustics, performance and what the recording engineer might do as pre-recording processing.
What things would you rather did not happen?
I just want the recording to compliment the song. Do that and I'm happy.
I assume your method of compressing and EQing piano for that shimmering Elton John sound is for real pianos...Do you ever deal with sampled pianos? Does this change your method (sampled pianos seem pretty compressed and EQ'd already, for the most part).
Are there any sampled pianos that you favor, or that you find work as well as real ones? Thanks for doing this forum... lots of great info!!
Nope, I've been successful at both real and sampled. Yes, the harmonics don't ride up the same as in a real piano, but just adjust your approach a bit you'll be fine.
Royalty for mixing or just a one off charge?
Points for mixing... How does that work Every job? Some jobs? peachh
You don't really get to pick and choose. It takes a long time before artists are willing to give away their points. Sometimes, it's not worth spending the money to have a contract for getting a point on a radio or promo single. It'll never recoup. If it makes the album, then it's worth the effort because if the record sells a couple million, you'll get enough money, when all is said and done, to take a bus to work.
I have a question specifically about Aimee Mann's "Lost In Space". I've been trying to get that right-in-your-face-singing-to-me-personally sound while singing over a band. Any hints for me without giving away secrets? It sounds like there is no reverb, no delay, no nothing. Just TONE. And I LOVE that! So any help would be appreciated more than you can imagine. Thanks!
There are no secrets. Reading the posts on vocals will help answer it. Most of the sound is from the way she sang into the mic and how it was recorded.
I am currently being courted by a Producer Manager and my questions are with regards to you and your manager.
What are the Pros and Cons that we should look out for in the event that we are approaching or being approached by a Producer/Engineer Manager? Huge rosters, high percentage's, big gold chains, leisure suits, etc, etc.?
2)Where there any particular pitfalls or successes that you've experienced that we could learn from?
3) Also when you first started working with a Manager did your clients ever feel like they couldn't talk to you directly anymore. If they did how did you handle the situation?
4) How do you draw the line between friendships and business in the studio. I understand that you naturally refer clients and potential clients to your manager now, but was there ever an awkward transitional time where, people still insisted on negotiating with you directly?
5) And finally, How difficult was it for you to give up control to someone else. Or better yet what level of control do you maintain. Do you consider it a complete partnership or more of an Employer (you) & Employee (manager) type of relationship or vice versa?
I realise some of the answers could get a bit personal so I'll understand if you don't feel comfortable answering all of them. But your advice and experience on the subject would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again in advance for your invaluable insight and another thanks for showing all of us Slutz that it's still cool to shake yer ass while we're workin'. Don't lose your moves...
This was the big question I was waiting for, and it’s appropriate that we save the best for last. The questions are well written, thank you.
I’m going to tell it to you the way it is. It’s my opinion, my time on this forum and one topic where I’m not holding back any punches.
At some point many of you will be or are already spending most of your waking hours working on projects. How do you find the time to invoice and follow up on bill collection? How do you keep business separate from music when you’re negotiating with the very people that will be in the studio with you? How do you keep business out of the studio if you are still negotiating the deal during a project? Most deal memos are agreed upon prior to the start of a session but some get very intense and fighting over clauses continue throughout the course of the recording process. How do you find the time to pursue projects and how do you put yourself in the mix when other managers are working hard to get the project for their client? How do you deal with problems during the course of a project that are non-music related? If none of these questions pose a big problem for you, then you don’t really need a manager.
I’d been through so many managers, until a few years ago, that I might very well be in the Guiness book of world records. Were they all bad? Is it their fault? No, it’s my fault for picking managers that weren’t right for me. It took me a painfully long time to realize how they could best work for me. Once I owned up to it, I realized that I had to be running the show and be responsible for the direction I wanted them to head in.
So we begin. First of all, let’s look at what draws a manager to you. My guess is, the quality of your work and the projects you’ve completed recently have drawn attention to the fact that you are good, professional and can handle the pressures of making a project successful. You probably have some established clients that are a steady source of income and are loyal to you. Being busy and having a repeating clientele will attract a manager. It’s a no-brainer. The foundation work has already been set for them.
What can a manager offer you?
Ideally, a change for the good. They will have your best interest in mind when representing you. They will use their years of experience and contacts to bring you new clients, high-level projects and attempt to keep you busy with the goal of you becoming in great demand. They will also negotiate better deals for you that will translate to increased income and, depending on your value, royalty points on records. They will take care of invoicing, collection and chasing down outstanding receivables. They’ll check your royalty statements for accuracy. In return for this service, they’ll demand 15%-25% from all your income related to whatever your expertise is. That is what they can offer you in an ideal world.
Now, welcome to the real world. They promise you all this, but they will never say they guarantee to keep you busy. The only guarantee is, you will be paying them a commission on everything that comes to you. They have every incentive to get you work, that’s the business they’re in and, unless you’re just one of several business they have, no work for you means no money for them.
What do you look for in a manager?
Start with the basics, human nature. Can you trust them to have your best interest in mind? This person has to give you the feeling they are genuine and can be trusted. You want to feel you can relate to them easily. Go with your gut instinct on this. It’s no different than meeting someone in a non-business related situation. You get a vibe from this person or you don’t. Watch their body language. They will give you plenty of nonverbal clues about themselves. You must be confident this is the person you want representing you. If you’re not comfortable with the way they dress or their arrogance is overbearing, notate it. If too many things just don’t feel right, walk away.
Do your research. You need to answer some questions about this person. It’s an important decision that must not be rushed. How do A&R react to him and how well known is he among the record companies. (A&R assistants know all the regulars) What is his reputation like on the street? Is he a deal breaker? What do his own clients think of him? Do you need them to be traveling to bring in work? Is your source of work, local or International. Where does he live? Are you on one coast he on another? Should that be a concern for you? Is he cheap or too greedy on deals? Is he fair and flexible? A&R can answer that one. Hang out in the clubs they frequent, you can find out everything you need to know over a beer.
You want a manager to build a relationship between you and the record company. It’s about your future, not his or his relationship with them. An insecure manager isn’t going to allow that. He’s going to be the middleman and keep you out of the loop. If they have their way, you’ll never have a phone conversation with the record company. It’s not healthy, because this approach is not in your best interest in the long term.
Of course, a manager should be doing all the negotiating for you. But you should be completely informed on every deal and you have the final say on everything. Do not discuss business with producers or record companies, refer them to your manager, that’s what you pay them to do. Just talk music. You are the good guy, always. Nothing is a problem for you. You just want to make a good record. There are instances where someone might try to get you to sidestep your manager and negotiate you down. Bad move on your part. It’s not your place to negotiate. But, it must be clearly driven home to your manager that when you want to do a project, they must work within the budget. It may come down to, do you want the project or not?
Managers can kill a deal without you ever knowing about it. I’ve run into someone at a club and I’ll jokingly ask how come they don’t love me anymore and their answer is, “I wanted you for a project, you were perfect for it, I sent you the music but your manager said you were too busy and didn’t really like the music and pushed one of his other guys on me.” I’m standing there like an idiot with no knowledge of any of this having taken place. That would not have happened if he knew he could just pick up the phone and talk to me directly about a project he had in mind.
Sometimes they forget that it’s supposed to be fun. It’s about music and together you can go further than if they try to control you. It’s really about keeping it creative and not making it like a rent gig or obligation.
Should you go with a manager that has a phone book for a roster or someone that has just a few select clients?
I’ve had both and frankly, it doesn’t matter. They both have their faults and they both have their assets. They can both work to your advantage if you take a firm stance on who’s the boss. You are the boss, and you’re paying them a handsome commission, so make them work for you. Take control of what and how you want your goals achieved. Set small goals for them that must be met on a timely basis. Acknowledge their hard work. Who wants to work for someone that is unappreciative and bitches at every detail? If a manager is getting lazy, nip it in the bud. Keep them focused on your mission and objectives. Don’t lose track of the goals you’ve set for them or yourself. Don’t be intimidated by their reputation or their BS, it’s your career you’re dealing with here. If something doesn’t feel good, address your concern and resolve it. Don’t complain and whine later when your career is spiraling down and suddenly “it’s all their fault.” No, it’s your fault for letting it get this far and continuing to put your trust in someone that no longer has your best interests at stake.
Some managers love the hunt for the sake of the prize. Once they have it, they’ll go gangbusters for about three, maybe six months and then they lose interest. You’re another horse in the stable. Soon, they’re back out hunting again.
Most large management companies will include both engineers and producers in their roster. Say, that’s pretty cool. In fact, that can be great because they’ll just put their engineers together with their producers and everybody is working and all life is good. Hmm, wait a minute. Isn’t there a potential for a conflict of interests? Are you sure they’re going to be able to have your best interest in mind when they represent both parties? Double dipping and keeping it incestuous seems more like what is best in their interest to me. Say you’ve been given a huge advance and you fall out with the producer in the middle of the project. Is your manager going to side with you or with the producer? Are they going to demand you give all your money back? Feeling very alone are you? Do they also represent A&R? Wow, that’s great, now the record company calls the producer that calls you to record and mix the project. Life is good… but wait, what if you end up having a big problem on a project and the company is pissed, who’s side is the manager going to take? IF, he takes the company’s side, you are going to be left all alone to deal with the situation and you already know how the producer fits into this little scenario. It’s no fun. It’s complicated and there’s a potential for someone to come out a loser. What happened to having your best interest in mind? Does anger and betrayal come to mind as you are writing them that commission check they’re entitled to? Even if you were the screw up and you were totally in the wrong on a project, your manager must stand by your side. Once it’s resolved, they have every right to drop you as a client or kick the sense out of you, but they can not leave you hanging in a time of need.
So, it’s time for a breakfast meeting with your future manager. What happens at a meeting? I laugh when I think back to those times. It seems like every one of them was, word for word, identical. The same phrases, the same promises and the same feeling of euphoria… or not, as they walk off to an important meeting. It has to come out of a manual titled “how to land a client with these simple-to-use phrases”. It has to.
Look, they’re going to tell you what they can offer you, that’s fine. But many go overboard, and they’ll make promises they have no intention on ever keeping and you will eventually find out, when it’s too late. Some are genuine, some aren’t. The trick is to know how to differentiate between the two. My flag goes up if they tell me they could have had me mix, insert hottest project going, if I had been their client. Or my favorite, “all my guys are always working”. I love that one. It’s pure bullsh*t and it’s got an asterisk attached to it that says in hidden thoughts “WHEN I have work for them, my guys are always working.” Another classic favorite, “You’re getting paid HOW MUCH for your work? I can’t believe it, you’re worth twice that, wow!” Ooh, it’s just like it was yesterday. And of course the clincher “That guy that’s getting all the work, (insert name), is so overrated! You should be doing those gigs and I can make that happen!? Whammo, down to one nail. Now it’s time to exit, stage left. Ooh wait, one small little detail before he runs off, it’s a matter of commission and contracts. What’s their deal?
After much thought, you’ve decided on a manager. It’s time to talk business. There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when you decide to negotiate a deal with a manager. They have their standard deal, but all deals are negotiable depending on what you bring to the table. How much do you need them and how much do they need you? Are they going to gain more by representing you or is it the other way around?
Let’s say you have a successful business going with a few steady clients. The deals, fees and contracts are always the same. You have always negotiated directly with them and it’s a healthy relationship. Enter a new manager. Should you just hand over a full commission to a manager that has had nothing to do with acquiring this client? Should they take over the deals and attempt to up the price. No, I wouldn’t, not unless you want to take a risk and say bye bye to that client forever. I’d start by identifying the specific clients and exclude them from a commission. It’s not going to go over big, but keep in mind, you’re the one that busted your ass getting and keeping this client. He’s yours, fair and square. Let them work to get you new clients.
Be open to the possibility of negotiating a reduced commission for pre existing clients or offer a 50% commission after a period of time that shows good faith on both sides. It depends on the situation, but be firm. Talk to your client and discuss the new manager’s role in your relationship. Make sure your client understands nothing is going to change between the two of you. The deals remain the same, just the paper work changes hands. If any problems arise, they must inform you, and you’ll take care of it.
Should you sign a contract? I’ve done it both ways. There are two sides to this story and I’m not going to side with either. If you don’t sign a contract, I hope you’re both honorable people and you’ll honor your agreements and your loyalty to each other. If things don’t work out, you’ll do the right thing to make the business transition fair for both.
If you decide to sign a contract, make sure your interests are also included. Find a lawyer that can look over the contract and make any necessary changes that seem excessive,
When do you expect to see your career go ballistic with the phone ringing off the hook and you’re begging for a week off in Aruba with your babe?
Not anytime soon. Slap yourself awake and look around you.
A manager needs time to build a person’s career. It doesn’t come overnight and you are not doing them justice if you start bitching three months into it. You must go into a relationship trusting them. You’re going to need to give them a good six months. During that time they will have plenty of A&R meetings set up with their best connections. You should be receiving CD’s of potential projects you’re being considered for. It’s going to take teamwork. Communication between the two of you must be on a regular basis. When he gets you a job, you deliver. Every time you deliver, you make his job of selling you bit easier. The client has to not only like the quality of your work, but more importantly, have loved the experience working with you. If you’re a moody, bitchy and negative person, Aruba is probably not in your near future.
If you are already well established and your name is well respected, you should expect to see new clients coming your way within a few months of employing them. One of the reasons you’ve chosen them is for their contacts.
If you were once well respected and have fallen from grace or whatever there is to fall from, it’s going to take time. Be patient. It’s more challenging for a manager because they may have to reinvent you or change people’s perception of you. But they wouldn’t have taken you on if they didn’t think it was going to work out fine for everyone.
Ok, after all that effort and time you’ve put into this new venture, it’s not working out and you want out. If you have a signed contract, it’s time to refresh your memory on the conditions of termination. This may be the time when you wished you’d hired that lawyer I suggested. Like, what’s with this sunset clause?? What happened to all that warm and fuzzy feeling we had for each other when I signed this contract in good faith?
This is a good one. I had a former assistant, now successful engineer, call me to ask my opinion on a contract he was given to sign. His concern was the “sunset clause.” It lasts 5 years, starting from the time he terminates his manager. So for five years, on a sliding scale, his X-manager would be entitled to a commission on everything he does alone or with new management. What new manager is going to be interested in working with him knowing that there is an additional commission taken right off the top that is owed the x- manager? Needless to say, my friend didn’t sign anything. I’ve personally never had a sunset clause included in a contract by any manager.
What is fair for both parties if you decide to terminate your relationship and you have no contract?
First you should give them notice. From the time of termination, they should be entitled to full commission for three to six months. They too may have been busting their ass building up your career. They might have a lot of years invested in you. You might think they’ve done a lousy job in the last year or so but that’s irrelevant. If they were responsible for getting you a major record that went on to become a hit, the indirect work that comes from that is substantial and credit must be given to them for the direct as well as the indirect work. It’s not fair to say, “well you only got me this one gig, and the rest were just taking the calls.” Hey, how did those calls start in the first place? But, if it’s a case where they were totally incompetent managing you, they have not stood up to their part of the deal and they should be dealt with appropriately.
So there you have it. Soup to nuts. Good luck.
What can I say. Your advice has helped a budding producer more than you will ever know. I hope (better yet, I know) that some day, I will be in the studio mixing a record with you and I will have the opportunity to tell you personally how much your advice and mentorship, if you will, has meant to me.
Your experiences and knowledge of all things Technical, Professional, and Personal that you have shared with us over the last month here on Gearslutz will be sifted through, torn apart, digested, regurgitated, re-digested, tried, failed, interpreted, re-interpreted, mis-interpreted, disseminated and respected by everyone lucky enough to stumble across it for years to come.
I sincerely wish you all the best, and I truly hope that you continue on your successful trajectory both professionally and personally. I know that one day when you look back on your career, and your life, you will be proud to say that you gave more than you took. Your respect for the little guy, coupled with your willingness to share your knowledge and experiences has earned you more respect than you will ever know.
Thank-you for a truly stunning month on GearSlutz! Please don't be a stranger.
Special thanks also to Jules for moderating this forum so professionally, and also for having the energy to create and maintain this wonderful enviroment of learning and sharing.
With the utmost respect and gratitude, keep on shakin' it like a polaroid picture.
Sincerely, Jared JFK
Thank you.You're very kind. I'm glad I had the chance to help those that needed it.
Here is a cat amongst the pigeons..
Say you get a royalty for your work as well as a fee.
Should a producer manager share in that revenue? For ever? Or just earn from the fee?
(NOTE: I have blocked this page from being seen by all the producer managers in the world so please feel you can be candid).. only kidding.. worried
A commission is for fee and royalties, for the life of the record in all it's forms. You are not going to give a manager very much incentive to find you work if they don't have a stake in the profits. I suppose, if you have the clout to demand anything, you might be able to negotiate a sliding scale commission after x amount of units sold. But I'm not aware of such deals because i'm not at that level...yet, and personally I wouldn't do it. ( managers are reading this and going, yah, I like this guy!)
I know some of the artists you have mixed for personally. I am told you do indeed do little vocal pitch tweeks with A/T or Melodyne. I want to give you massive kudos for letting the character come through, and not overcooking the tuning! I think you are the the best mixer out there in this respect.
Can you talk a little about your theories and use of pitch correction and if you are an Autotune guy or if you are digging the Melodyne more. or something else completely.
Thanks for participating here !
Thank you, that's very kind. Keith, my assistant, does the actual pitch correction. If something bothers me, he'll fix it, but he knows not to go perfect with it. Just make it feel natural. He doesn't use the melodyne as much because he says it takes extra time to have to reimport every fix. He uses pitch and time or the other one (it slipped my mind) that I've mentioned in another post.
Passion, music and the muse...
Thanks so much for taking the time. We try to do what you do every day.
I was listening tonight to Amanda Marshall's debut album again... man, I love the way "Let It Rain" and "Dark Horse" sound, wonderful mixes with nothing standing in the way of the songs. You've spoken at length in the other threads about bringing your best to the table, not cutting corners and feeling at the end of the day that you've done your best. My question has to do with where that passion comes from - is it professional pride in being good at what you do, or is it a chasing of your "muse" that fuels it? How much of that passion comes from things completely outside of the music and your "work"?
Man, these questions I’ve been getting this month make me think hard. Unfortunately for me, it’s not a quick answer. Grab a beer or skip to another thread, there’s a little bit of a setup to get to my point.
I loved being a musician and being a drummer. I also loved the feeling I got from performing in front of an audience and how special it was when the band was having a good night. It became clear to me, after being on the road for a year, depending on five other people for my success was not in the cards. I wanted to be responsible for my own success or failure. The hardest part of leaving the band was my love of playing music and the addictive high of an audience applauding after a song. The easiest part of leaving was the road life and the dead end I was heading in.
I had been recording my band’s rehearsals and club dates on a two track for a year or so and I got pretty good at getting a balance the other members didn’t bitch about. When I broke the band up, I considered pursuing engineering. But my greatest fear was giving up that addictive high from playing an instrument and performing.
I got a job at Mediasound, a recording studio in New York City. Once I was there, it didn’t take long to figure out that I could still achieve the feeling of performing when mixing a song, the only problem being the lack of an audience to provide me the instant gratification. So, instead of being the musician, I could be the puppeteer playing the faders with each one or group representing a musician. I could be a conductor and interpret the dynamics and feel of a written piece of music. I could make it a performance, enjoy the moment and get the gratification by feeling like I was playing the song. The audience approval was no longer necessary. I just needed to get the console to feel like second nature, like an instrument. It had to be an easier instrument than learning drums since it only took two hands to play. So that was my mindset as I began my new career, transfer my addiction from one instrument to another.
As it turned out, recording and mixing wasn’t as easy as learning to play drums. Let me put it this way, I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the house. There were concepts and missing links that escaped me for a long, long time.
Inspiration was another motivator for me. I think growing up at Mediasound and assisting guys like Bongiovi, Christie, Clearmountain, Delugg, Diamond, Goldberg and Jorgensen inspired me a lot. I mention them in particular because I learned great things from each of them, not all being technical.
Pride of being a Mediasound engineer goes a long way. I remember doing my first session outside of Media. It was in California and I was mixing Odyssey. I remember feeling the tremendous pride representing the studio and I just knew I would do a great job. The attitude never wavered.
My dad was an industrial designer. Watching him do tediously detailed work at the drafting table, with incredible focus for hours on end, came into use years later when I was able to mix 14 to 16 hours nonstop. He designed logos, annual reports and packaging for Winchester, among others. He often asked me to pick which one I thought, of the three designs he was presenting, would be chosen. He also loved to paint watercolors, so overall he was a really creative guy.
I grew up hearing stories from my mother and grandmother about my great, great uncle, Jules Verne. He was a famous French novelist and storyteller that predicted future inventions in his stories. Not bad to have in my bloodline, might come in handy.
So what drove me to do my very best? It all came down to one thing, fear of failure. Fear of not being able to be as good as those I respected around me, not coming up with something that showed I was a descendent of a very inventive family member. Maybe it was all that but why I cared in the first place, I’ll never know.
Ben Folds Mixes - Neotek, 5 compressors, 2 Eqs, 2 verbs
I'm a huge fan. I saw on Vintage King that you mixed an album with only that gear. I'm curious how you approached that mix and how you used the gear you had. Did you use the same bussing concepts as your other mixes?
There were no bussing options. I just mixed in the regular stereo format but used my stereo 1176's to help get the depth. And there was no computer so it was back like the old days of mixing as a performance. Hit record and go.
Just out of interest...did you use the 1176's on the mixbus or on the stereo send in addition to the uncompressed signal? Also... what do you mean with 'stereo 1176's'? Do you mean the new UA 2-1176 or two regular 1176's?
I used it on the stereo send. I used two mono regular 1176's panned L/R I used an outboard SSL across the stereo buss.
Do you do any back bussing with your A,B,C,D technique? And if so, how are you using it?
Back bussing? I'm not sure what you mean. I remember doing back bussing of rear quads to two faders feeding the front busses early on with a 4k series. On a 9 series, all the busses sum to the stereo mix amp. So i'm not sure if I understand the question...and I know everything, don't I?
Average track counts
Just wondering how many tracks songs are averaging these days? It seems like (because of Protools) producers are using more and more tracks.
Do high track count sessions pose a problem, or can you still get the mix done in the same time?
Do you always use every given track?
It's not bad. The average is about 48. It varies from 10 to 120. But when I sit down to mix, it's miraculously down to 46. I don't want more and my assistant makes sure I don't see more. Meaning, a lot of internal mixing might be taking place to accomplish this. I'll listen to all the tracks before determining if I want to use a track or not, not to mention running it by the artist or producer if they are in the picture.
So, are you dictating internal PT relationships? I.E. 60% inside BD 40% outside? Are you setting 'static' levels in PT, or do you do some automation there too?
Internal comping usually stays static, but sometimes I may use automation if it needs it.
Attendance at a Mix Session
In your experience, the majority of the time, who actually attends the mix sessions? Is the producer always present? what about bands? Is it usually all the members, or is it typically 1-2 of the key members of the group? This is in regard for a full album mix session and also when you just do a single mix. (Do you request limited numbers to attend? - Jules)
All the above. I request if they own an idiot to leave him home.
Any Advice on Maintaining a Balanced Ego?
Your Coldplay mixes are very inspiring...so radio, yet so vintage-y at the same time. Have you ever had mixes that were rejected and remixed by someone else? How do you deal with that kind of thing? Any advice on maintaining a balanced ego?
All the above. Thank you, I'm proud of that record. Yes, rejection happens to us all. It's part of life. It does not happen often, because if it did, I wouldn't be working very much. I'm the guy that's hired to do the remixing so if my mixes don't fly, well...you know the ending. I know in my heart that when a mix is completed and turned in to the record company, I did the very best job possible. No excuses are acceptable. I didn't get lazy at any point in the process, I didn't cut corners, I didn't leave certain tasks or ideas unfinished. I took it all the way home. If they reject the mix and feel like someone else has a better take on the song, well, that's their right because it's their record. I'm going to sleep ok because I know I did my best. In fact, maybe I'll learn something from it. Maybe my take on it was wrong. Maybe I made it a bit too slick and the original mix just had a raw power that, with all its faults, still felt better than mine. So next time, maybe I'll pay closer attention to other elements of a song. I don't like making the same mistake twice. It doesn't really matter if I listen to my mix against the one that was chosen and think wow, mine was way better. In fact, I wouldn't waste my time. There are a lot of other reasons why a mix is rejected that has nothing to do with you. There is the real world of politics or name recognition that can help sell a product to a radio station. Yah it hurts for a minute, that my mix isn't always the best thing since sliced bread but I get over it. I have to, because I'm usually in the middle of mixing another one and I don't want it to put a damper on the task at hand. BTW, That mindset did not come naturally. I've been doing it for a long enough time that I've come to peace with it. Rejection happens; do what you can to learn from it. Turn it around. request if they own an idiot to leave him home.
What do you think about the ADl 670? How does it compare to the original?
I love the ADL. I've had mine modded (of course), but I think it sounds very close to the original. I'm not a true judge on that because we didn't have Fairchilds at Mediasound, but I have spoken to one engineer who I consider the king of Fairchilds and he gave it the thumbs up. Anyway, it doesn't matter because he only made 5 and four are sold.
A Forat F16
A Forat F16! I see in your rack ... Do you really still use it? Do you use it in realtime? Nudge things back to tighten the trigger time up? How are you using it? Only anding one sample, or using multiple thresholds with different samples, different outputs, etc? How is your unit set up? (drive type, mem, remote?, etc)
Ooh yah, what can I say? I'm old fashioned.
I have a pre trigger that goes into a delay and then I just tweak the sample until it's nice and solid. His triggers are fast but I still prefer doing it this way. I usually have two kicks and three snares that I mold around the existing sounds IF they need help, otherwise I don't use them. I don't use the thresholds, it's full level.
Racks and Interfacing
My questions concern not your gear, but your interfacing. Who builds your racks and cabling?
Vince Guttman of Marc builds my racks and maintains all the gear in it. He's located in Woodstock and is the best in the business;firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you power them?
The wall A/C goes into a SurgeX (top of the line Surge protector). From there it goes into a Furman Power conditioner that maintains proper voltage and conditions the power, and then it is distributed to all four racks.
What fans do you like for cooling?
I don't know the brand name, but they are super quiet.
Could you put up a picture of your patchbay?
Is it TT type?
And what's with the shockwatch device?
It measures G-force. If during travel a rack gets dropped, it'll log in the amount of G force and time the force occurred. Generally, more than one company is handling the gear between the time it leaves my studio until it reaches its destination. This puts the blame on the proper party and there is little that can be disputed. Moving companies are all very aware of this device, since a very large notice is on each rack, so they take extra care to insure its safety. Usually, all the gear goes in one container so the airlines don't personally handle the individual racks. I do very little traveling with the gear.
Record Engineering Career
I'm currently a Grad Student at the University of Texas El Paso. I would like to know more about recording engineering, as I would like to do this later on in my life. I don't know if you could recommend me some literature or a book about which type of equipment does what...some kind of introduction.
Well, record engineering and mixing is much like playing an instrument. You learn how to work the console until it becomes an extension of your thoughts. At that point, you can interpret the ideas of the artist without limitation. You're playing the console. Being a musician is very important because it helps in communication and understanding the needs and hopes of the artist. The more you understand all forms and types of music, the better a recording engineer and mixer you'll become. In my early years, I recorded and mixed only R&B. It was in my blood. I then moved to Blues/Rock then Jazz funk, then Pop/Rock, then Urban/Rock, then pure hard rock, and so on, until I had a deep understanding of how each of these styles felt. I can put up a song to mix and understand where the influences came from when the artist wrote the song. As I'm mixing, chords or groves will trigger past memories and I'll mix a passage that brings back that particular feel. It's very much an apprenticeship. You train under someone that you consider great and they share their experience with you. It's good to have a mentor. Then you spend years improving your craft. You have to love it because the path to becoming clear is a long one. Degrees and years of schooling will help in understanding the mechanics, but learning how to use these to tools to express something musical comes from the heart, not from a book. There is one book that can get you started: Modern Recording Techiques by David Huber. That is the book that I had when I started, even though I learned everything from working at mediasound. It's a good reference book. That in a nutshell is what it's all about. I hope this sparks your interest and is a helpful guide to my business.
EMI, Pye, and Inward Connection limiters
Can you tell me the differences between the EMI TG1, the Pye and the Inward connection limiters. In which instrument group do they sound best?
The differences between these three comps are radical. The EMI TG1It's based on the EMI limiter from the 60's. It's gone through a couple changes since Wade brought these out a couple of years ago. He's made the unit a bit more versatile so that it doesn't go into slam mode as easily. Friends of mine love it for getting a great rock vocal sound, others use it across the drum room. It's the most versatile of the three you mentioned. I use it as a stereo send return. I'll send BD's, snares, and gtrs to it to get more punch out of the track. Parts are available. PyeI love this baby. I have the stereo unit. I use it almost exclusively on toms. It makes them explode in the track. I'm sure there are plenty of other uses, but I don't venture out very much with this one. It doesn't have the bandwidth of the EMI, but that's a good thing for toms. They are hard to repair as parts don't exist, so be aware. Inward Connection limitersThis one is the farthest away from the other two in terms of slam quality. It's a warm tube unit which the others aren't. It is a limiter that you can hit hard without the sound getting smaller or dull. I use it to warm up strings and I also put vocals across it. It has a lot of uses, but the release and attack are preset unlike the other two units, which have a selection of releases. Parts are available.
My question is about subgroup processing. I subgroup the whole drumkit through an 1178 and it sounds perfect. But at the end of mixing I feel I need a bit more bassdrum, so I assign the bassdrum also to the L/R buss. Now my problem is that the BD is too loud, so I bring down the BD fader, but the subgroup processing doesn't work the same and it changes the whole drumsound in a way that I don't like. What can i do?
Usually, bringing down the bass drum (having also sent it to the L/R buss) works for me because I don't have that much extreme compression going on, but since you are using the the 1178, it makes sense.
One very important aspect of my setting up the multibuss compression was left out of the Tape Op article, which I think will address your problem. I send my stereo cue to two 1176's panned hard L/R returning to two channels assigned to the stereo buss. Need a bit more level without changing the compression? Turn up the stereo cue. It works great on Gtrs too...and pretty much anything. Let me know how that works for you.
The 1176's must be set up exactly the same to each other. All the ratios must be pressed in. Slow attack/fast release. The input should be set around 1 o'clock, output to read "0." You want to get about 3db of compression on the 1176's when sending tone (fader is aligned w/ 1K to read "0" on the st. buss) from the stereo cue when the volume knob is set around 12 o'clock. Play with it, you'll find a sweet spot.
Adjustment of Stereo Busses
The adjustment of the stereo busses that you describe (as was in the Tape Op piece) is the bit that loses me. I apologise. Could you briefly explain so I can try setting this up. I understand that the boost of either 10k and 100hz is the flavour I feel the track has to be (?), but it’s how to set this that is perplexing me.
Ok. the logic goes like this. Let's say you send a 1k tone to buss A with no process across it and get it to read '0'. Now if you just put up a couple of compressors across A without setting the levels, there's a good chance that the 1k tone will be no longer reading '0'. It might be 3 db hot on the left and 4 db down on the right. That's gonna make mixing a bit difficult and recalling the song later impossible. So, you want to set up your busses so that 1k reads '0' with or without processing across the busses. You need a reference level. That's important. Now let's start with the compressors. You want the guys to compress a litttle, so there's a way that I learned at Mediasound that works like a charm. Take off all compression threshold. Now set the unit to read +1 or +2 (depending on how soon you want the compressor to start working). It can be done on the output of the unit. Now add compression until the output reads '0'. You've now added one db of compression. If you see that it's not moving much at all during the mix, do the 2 db of compression setup. Output to +2, compress down to '0'. This must be the same on both left and right sides of the compressor. If you have an EQ in the chain, have it on bypass and make sure that the unit reads '0' without the compressor in the chain. Then once that it is, confirmed the EQ's are reading '0' put the compressors back in the chain. If there is an impedance problem, you'll see a 3 db drop or gain. You'll also notice that your bottom end is down.That can usually be corrected with a 600 term on the ouput of the unit causing the problem. Now the next step is if you're going to add an eq across it after a compressor, that too will change things, so you have to decide that both left and right Eq are set properly. What do you want to push? A good starting point is to push some low like 100hz to read +2(you started with 100hz tone reading '0') then go to the 3k tone and push that up a little, then turn your oscillator up to 10k and push that up to 1 1/2 over '0". Now when you go back to 1k it'll probably read up 1 db. That's ok. That's it. Makes better sense?
I'm feeling the need for more comps and the RNC is about what I can afford after my Distressor purchase. Well, lo and behold, I find one sitting in your rack! I was wondering if you could comment on this compressor and give some examples of where you use it.
I like the RNC on stereo background vocals. I squash it enough for it to get about 4 or 5 db of leds lighting up and a good amount of gain makeup. It makes the Bkgs pop out. I'm sure it has more uses, but since I have a wealth of compressors, I've found that this cheap little compressor does the job better than any of my other toys, so its settings stay the same and I allocate that unit just to Bkg vocals. I'm sure you can find more uses through chat forums.
Questions About ABCD Bus
When you use the ABCD subgroups, do you use the ABCD returns in the center section or do you return them to channel faders for mixing?
I use the returns in the center section. It's cleaner than going through more channels. My processing is done across the subgroup inserts.
When you are compressing a specific instrument, do you use both the compressed and uncompressed channels in combination for the mix?
I use the compressors more as a tone adjuster than a leveler. Meaning, don't have them banging, be gentle. I only use the uncompressed stereo select in addition to the compressed channel when I feel like I'm getting backed up against the wall. If the gtr, for example, is being sent to buss C . You like the sound of it, along with other tracks assigned to C, but you want it to pop out a bit more in the mix (and bringing the level up doesn't work as well because it's making the compressor work harder), you can then assign the gtr also to the stereo buss and bring the fader down a bit to compensate for the extra level. The same applies to a bass drum that needs to pop out a bit more once the mix is rockin and more level to the subs will not accomplish what you're looking for.
What's up with the British mod for the Distressors? We have 3 of them and I'd love to give my studio manager a good reason to get them upgraded.
Well, it's going to be hard to sell him on the idea to mod it just because it makes the unit sound better, but it does give the unit more versality. It mimics the old trick of putting all the ratio buttons in on the 1176. The sound it produces is a very quick attack with a bit of distortion. What makes the attack sound so good is that it allows the first transient to cut through before it grabs on to it. Meaning, if you put it across toms, you'd get the initial strike transients of the tom and then the big infamous exploding tom sound. Also, the turnaround time for the mod is really quick. You call Judy at Empirical Labs, and they'll give you a date to send it. They'll turn it around that day and send it back to you. Their contact number is (973) 541-9447. I use the settings all the time, including on Aimee's vocals( thanks for the compliment) by selecting the british mod and the opto mod together. It takes away the distortion factor in that setting and makes it sound very fat and present.
Warming Up The Stereo Bus
I'm looking for something to warm up the 2-track bus - possibly a compressor/eq combo e.g. Avalon 747, or a multi-band e.g. CraneSong STC-8, but Fatso looks like an interesting angle for mix/pseudo-mastering. I actually bought the Distressors mostly for the tape emulating features, but didn't care for them on full mixes (use them all the time for tracking and mix on individual channels, though); is Fatso, in your opinion, a hyped-up Distressor or different animal entirely?
I don't use the Fatso over the stereo buss, I use it to warm up PT overhead cymbals. The Fatso's not like the Distessors in that its main feature is to saturate the top end. A lot of people use it to warm up the stereo, but I haven't spoken to anyone personally. There are some forums that discuss the Fatso and maybe you should find your way to one of those to see how the users react to the tape simulation. I use the Avalon 747 with the tube active and the eq in. I don't use it to compress. I like what it does to the lower midrange, but I think you're looking for something to sweeten the top end. If you end up buying a Fatso, let me know how it turns out. Derr is a good friend of mine and I know his only objective with that unit was to give the user another option for tape simulation without the use of analog. I use analog as the mixing format so I have no need to use the Fatso in that capacity.
I have an old Trident Series 70, some old DBX 160vu's plus a FATSO :) and a VoxBox. I bought the FATSO to help me simulate that tape mixdown thing as I don't own a 1/2" deck. I then figured it could be used in other spots as well and was wondering how you employ it in your sessions i.e. Where in the chain and on what do you like it the most?
I use the fatso across the overhead drums. I like that sound so much that I don't really use it for much else.
I was also interested in your thoughts on the venerable 1176 (how and where you use them); It reads as if you don't use them that much.
The 1176's are great compressors and actually I use them every day. It's a bit complicated on how and why I use them the way I do, but in a nutshell, I have the two panned L/R across a stereo send returning on a couple channels and I use them to make certain instruments punchier.
I'm also getting ready to get more comps and I know you love the Distressors; I've read you recommend the British mod on it as well. I'm leaning in their direction, however what about something like the Chandler TG1, or will I get more out of the Distressor situation wise.
I love those Chandlers, but I think you'll get more out of the Distressors because they are so much more versatile in your situation.
Have you seen that new URSA Space Station delay?
I saw it at the AES show. It was ok. It doesn't have storage memory which makes it a total pain in the ass if you ever want to recall the sounds.
Dept of Commerce
I was browsing ebay just a few moments ago and I happened to find a tube-type Dept. of Commerce limiter. It looked to be in excellent condition and for $200 buy-it-now, I just had to buy-it-now. You're the first I've told! Anyway, I read the article in TapeOp a while back about subgroup compression. You have given me a whole new view of the mix process. But my big question here is...do you have any info on the compressor mentioned above? I noticed you have two-similar units. In fact I immediately recognized this unit from seeing the pictures of your racks. Well, thank you for your time. Thank you for sharing your inventive techniques with us too.
The Dept of commerce is a very aggressive-type compressor. Is it a Maxon or a Tri-sonics make? I had my Maxon modified and I got to say, it sounds amazing. It's been toned down a bit so that it has more use in different applications. If you're interested, you should contact the guy that mods them. It's worth the money, which I think is about $465. $200 for that unit is a great deal unless it's broken. Anyway check this guy out for the mod. You'll fall in love with this compressor. It's a hidden treasure. Dale Kronquist (Dept of commerce mod) 303 425-6851 email DKronquist@aol.com
I'm glad you liked the article. It's a different way of thinking about mixing, but in time, it allows you to go to new places where the old standard left you up against the wall. This approach has no limits, no dead ends.
I'm a big fan and I know that you mixed the 1st Coldplay CD. My question is: on the vocals what reverb did you use? I checked out your towers and it looks like you have the SONY REVERB DRE 777, which is totally out of my budget. Do you know of any other reverb units out there that are really good? Trying to get the reverb sound that you got with the Coldplay's vocals is really hard. Also, do you use any plugins that you think are really good, or do you think that outboard gear is superior?
I didn't get the Dre 777 until the end of the mixing. Most of the verb sound was from another toy called an EMI 245. It was a chamber type setting. It doesn't have plate sounds. It cost a ton of money at the time, and now it's worth zippo. I hardly use it anymore, but I can't bear to sell it for so much less than I paid for it. It was suppose to have ram cards with more plates and stuff made available, but they stopped developing it. Part of that sound is also from using tape delays. The bottom line is that the tone of his vocal is what makes all those things sound good. I could set up the exact settings, put another singer through it, and it would sound terrible. I rarely try to set up the same plates and delays the same because the way a singer's tone hits the verbs dictates the sound of the plate. I spend more time trying to get the right compressor/eq across the voice and everything else falls into place. Don't ask me what compressor I used because I don't remember and anyway, I usually use a different process for the verse than I do for the chorus or sometimes even the Bridge. Also, I change compressors on every song because, again, what works on one song may not work on another. I don't generally use plugins simply because I don't need them. The plugins are trying to emulate what I already own. As you can see, my toy collection is out of control. I've said this before in interviews, but if you're gonna spend money on one compressor, make it a distressor with the british mod. As far as one verb, I have no real opinion on it. Most of my sounds are based on delays.
Favorite Compressor on the Stereo Bus
What's your favorite compressor on the stereo bus?
The Avalon VT747
Your New Compressors
Can you tell us anything about your new compressors? ( AWA, Maxson, Chandler)
My new compressors offer some more options on vocal, bass and drum sounds. The AWA 58 is based on an RCA Ba6a, but because of it's different transformers and mods on the attack and release, it's character is a bit more aggressive. I've been using it on lead vocals when I'm looking for warmth with a bit more edge in the upper mids. My other AWA, the G7201, is very, very fat and is great on bass. I haven't given it a chance to see what else it's good on. It also has the coolest knobs and face plate color of all my toys. The EMI Chandler compressor is usually used on the stereo room ambience. It has a choice of compression or limiting. In the limiting mode, it just pumps like crazy and gives you the classic pumping cymbals. You can time the sucking cymbal sound by the available release settings. It's become one of my favorites of late. The Maxon is very much like the Dept of Commerce that I already own. It's an earlier model. It's a bit warmer and has a different kind of crushing sound. I use it on lead vocals to help a weak vocal sound stronger. Much care has to be takin in how hard to hit that compressor otherwise the breaths between the words will too loud.
Old Style Compressors
I am impressed at the number of compressor/limiters you have in your arsenal. I'm curious what you get from the older tube stuff like the Federal. What's your most used old style compressor and what is your most versatile compressor? I am a Gates Sta-Level fan. Have you ever tried one??
The Federal is one of my favorite compressors. I send bass and vocals to it and return the compressor on a fader. It has an excellent midrange. I also have a Gates Sta-Level. Each rack has gear on the back. It's on the back of rack #1. The most versatile is the Distressor with the British mod. I'm using almost all the tubes on every mix. Many of them are as send returns. The AWA's are pretty amazing. The gray one is really good on vocals and the green one is amazing on bass.
Snare Sound in Coldplay - Yellow
Dear Mr. Brauer, how do you obtain that great snare sound in Coldplay's Yellow?
That was the only song that I put all the drums into the Waves L2 compressor and then added the non compressed drums to the L2. I also added some of my BD and Sn samples underneath the main sounds. They didn't like the drum sound at first. They thought it was too compressed. Somewhere along the way, I changed their mind.
Inovonics and Federal Comps
Hi Mike, this question may not merit posting on your Q&A board but I'm interested in a couple of your processors in particular. What can you tell me about the Inovonics and the Federal comps? Thanks.
A former assistant, Ryan Hewitt, moved to California and called me one day to tell me there was this real nasty compressor called an Inovonics 201 that the LA mixers were using on snare and BD. The one to find was modified. The mod switch simply allowed you to control the amount of nastiness . So I got myself a couple and sure enough, it made the snare punchier. I was using the distressor to get that kind of sound but the inovonics gives it a bit more mid snap which is fine since I never have enough distressors to go around. A producer friend of mine, David Kahne, turned me on to the Federal compressor. He was using it with bass and vocals. The best way to describe the sound is that it has an aggressive low midrange. It has plenty of bottom . I use it as a send return. Meaning, I don't use it as an insert across the sound but instead send the source to it. Damn good compressor.
Quite a Pile of Gear!
I know in the long run it's not really all that important, but you've amassed quite a pile of interesting gear. How were you able to do that?
It's only taken about 20 yrs to collect it all. I first started with the Neve 33609 and the two Pultecs. I then got hold of the Panner, and the MXR's Phaser/Flangers. After that it was discovering compressors or equalizers through friends of mine and searching to obtain them. The Motowns took about 2 years to find. I just got two Datamix Eq's from the Hendrix desk. That took about 3 years to find. Every eq and compressor I own has it's own unique sound that I love and find a need for depending on the application. I got into old tape echo machines a couple years ago and now have a great collection. My sources include Pro Audio Marketplace, Ebay, FunkyJunk, Vintage King, Mercenary and for all the new equipment, I go to the guys that design them. There are a couple of pieces of gear that I've fallen in love with l like the Avalon and Distressor, I got to know both guys that made them, Wyn Morris and David Derr, and have become good friends with them. I've offered ideas and helped beta test their new toys. I admit I'm hooked on collecting, but I by no means let a piece sit in the rack just so that it looks cool. Every piece of gear works hard. If it sits for too long with no use, I replace it. So you can imagine, I keep all my gear on it's toes. No one wants to be replaced in these racks. The hardest toy to find is a tube AWA compressor** made in Australia in the 60's. I'll eventually find it but it's only been 3 months and so far no luck. I'm up to 5 racks and there doesn't seem to be any slow down. I'm not sure what i'm going to do when they don't fit in the studio anymore.
** - I finally found them in Australia. Three tube models were made by AWA. The first was designed by them and is the G7201, which I recently purchased. It's got the fattest sound I've ever heard. The second is the 2G58250, also known as the G58 licensed by RCA, which I know also own. It's very much, part for part, a BA6A, except the transformer is different and there are mods in it that give it a unique character. The third and most elusive is the G52 licensed by Fairchild. I don't know if I'll ever find it, but I'm a patient man.
Choose Just One Compressor?
If you had to choose one compressor -- perhaps broken down by various price ranges might be best -- what would it be and why?
That's an easy one. I'd go for the Distressor by Empirical Labs. That's in the $1100 price range. It's the most versatile and best sounding of them all. I think the others would be vintage types like the Decca or EMI which can run anywhere from $3K to 6K depending on your source. They have a sound that is totally great on vocals and drums and pretty much anything you want to improve. I have over 30 comps. My rack pictures need to be updated. It doesn't show the Decca's or the EMI i have my eyes on. But with all those toys the three I mentioned are my favorite.
Coldplay Acoustic Guitars
On lots of records there is this amazing accoustic guitar sounds that is very clicky (lots of the pick sound on the strings) and not very loud but really provides a great rhythm part locked into the drums and bass. (see Coldplay's Parachutes and the like) The guitar sounds compressed and warm and clicky: how's it done?
In regards to your acoustic gtr sound question, I can probably answer that one since I mixed the Coldplay record. First, the gtr was well recorded. Second, I put the acoustic across an API compressor into an API 5502 EQ. I took out a little 300hz and added a little 1.5 K. I kept tweaking the Eq's until the gtr found a nice place in the track. I also sent the acoustic to a stereo pair of 1176's that had all the ratios in. I added a little hall from the Sony DRE777 and that was about it. BTW, a good way to address extra noisy finger slides is to put the spl de-esser across the acoustic.Good luck,Michael Brauer
I’m on the verge of shelling out the money for a Fatso – but have discovered that the old ceramic pot version is now no longer available. Apparently DD has had to use plastic pots and charge for an extra mod to get them to be responsive like the old ceramic ones. The new plastic ones only work in the range 0 to 3 or 4 or something like that – unless you pay the extra for the modification. To pay extra for the mod is putting me off. Maybe I should consider something else to polish up my stereo buss with some good old valve / transformer / tape saturation type tonality? What do you recommend?
I forwarded this concern about the ceramic pot to David Derr and he responded with:
Two years ago, we did change to plastic conductive pots as a result of Clarostat discontinuing the carbon pots they had made for 60 yrs! The main difference is at really hot input levels, the new pots will operate in a lower range on the knob, between 1.5 - 5, depending. The pots are very consistent and last longer.
WE DO NOT CHARGE TO CHANGE OUT THE POTS. Most people have no problem working lower on the knobs since sound quality isn't affected whatsoever. We have been shipping the conductive plastic pots since around S/N 0250 and are now up to S/N 1000 and honestly have had verrrry few complaints (if any) in the last year.
Just before I opened this letter, we had a Protool user write us and say this, "I am a proud owner of 2 Distressors and a Fatso. Great products! .... Also, the Fatso is the best piece of gear ever invented period."
OK so maybe he went overboard on that last comment. But it is true that almost all our users of the FATSO's are extremely happy and havn't complained about the Conductive Plastic Pots. The Fatso is also upgradeable and will have new options in the near future.
Let us know what we can do to make you feel comfortable about making the plunge, and buying a Fatso.
Empirical Labs 973 541 9447
His response to David Derr's email was:
Thank you for your reply and thank you for the information from Dave Derr. My Fatso will come at the end of the month and I'm really looking forward to it!