Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Need A Vocal To Set On Top? Try This!

Generally speaking, the vocal is one of the hardest things to get "perfect" simply because it has to compete with so many other frequencies. It also is the "star" of any given song (unless your working  in a trance/edm style) and thus we have a conundrum. How do we get that thing to poke out when it is buried under so many sounds that it has almost no room to breath? (no pun intended) Well there are a few fundamentals that need to be in place first. These are as follows...

  • You have to have a good source/singer
  • You need a pop filter in place
  • You need a mic that "fit" the artist 
  • You need proper levels and placement

Now, after these are in place there comes a few things that are subjective to the mixing engineer. For instance, I personally use these tactics...
  • I mix the vocals last
  • I put a HPF on at about 100hz and dial it in from there while the mix is in mono
  • Boosting the high mids, cutting around 3000khz, and at times a small boost at around 6800khz
Okay, so those are the methods of my approach in most cases. Of course every mix is different, but one way to really speed up your mixing is to have set patterns that have worked time and time again and to use them as starting points. Its almost like having a template, in fact I have a template saved that already has these settings dialed in! That makes things insanely simple and fast!

Every once in awhile, all of these things may only get us halfway there, or there might just seem to be something missing. Then it is time for...

Yes that's right, the mixing ninja tricks! Below is a video I recently shot on one way of many that you can achieve that sound your wanting. Check it out and let me know what you think below inthe comments section, or send me an email! You have a blessed day!

Monday, July 20, 2015

What is Phase? How do you handle it?

In this video I talk a little about what Phase is, and some simple ways to check for it. I also explain a real simple way to fix it on an acoustic guitar that has been recorded DI and mic'd simultaneously. This is by no means the definitive guide on Phase, and only covers a small area, but there are several sources out there that go so far in depth that they lose the element of simple. I like simple. Simple solutions, simple answers, and simple explanations, so I have left it as simple as I can for now. I may go more in depth later if the need arises but for now I hope this is helpful.


A number of instruments are routinely recorded both acoustically and electrically, simultaneously. For example, electric bass is often recorded via both a DI box and a miked amp, while an acoustic guitar's piezo pickup system might be recorded alongside the signal from a condenser mic placed in front of the instrument, in some situations. In such cases, the waveform of the DI or pickup recording will precede the miked signal because of the time it takes for sound to travel from the cabinet speaker or instrument to the mic. The resultant phase cancellation can easily wreck the recording.
A quick fix for this is to invert the polarity of one of the signals, and see if this provides a more usable tone. It's almost as easy to tweak the miking distance for more options if neither polarity setting works out. A better method, though, is to re-align the two signals in some way by delaying the DI or pickup channel, either using an effect unit during recording, or by shifting one of the recorded tracks after the fact using your sequencer's audio-editing tools.

Hope this helps.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Check That Mix

So you're mixing for awhile and all of the sudden this gut wrenching feeling comes on you... "Am I even helping this mix?" You start question your next move, you start doubting all the work that you've done and then you think to yourself "Maybe I should just scrap this mix and start over".

Well, DON'T! Not yet anyway. There are times where I have had to do just that and it's not cool. So, before you ruin all your hard work, try this little trick first!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Motivation for The Home Studio

Every audio engineer has their moments of motivation, and their moments of procrastination. There are several factors that play on each side. For me, I am usually less motivated when I am tired. For one, I know my mixes will suffer from sleep deprivation, and for two... I usually end up going back and thinking, "What was I thinking?" So I rely heavily on coffee. I love coffee! It not only peps me up but it relaxes me as well. I am a coffee critic. I love trying different brands, different blends, and love to make up my own. So, one oft favorite "Homebrews" is the "Juniorint Latte". Everyone who has had it also loves it! In fact I have had people travel from miles away just to have one!

So, to beak away from the monotony of typical posts, today I hand down to you my "secret recipe". Try it and let me know what think.

Why? Because coffee is good!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Tips For Playing Out

Most of us Home Studio guys and gals are musicians first and foremost. Therefore, from time to time we actually leave our Home Studios to display our talents live. Okay, so it has been awhile since I have played a show outside of my studio, and to more than just my wife and children. So as I was gathering up the gear, finishing up the set list, and generally packing for our weekend "stay-cation" in Bloomington Indiana, I thought I'd compile a small list of things (yes, I love lists) that are needed when you're thinking of playing out or are in preparation for just such a thing.

This is kinda subjective to each musician, as each one will have varying needs depending on what their instrument of choice is, but here goes.

1) A Set List- 

Okay, I know this sounds like the Kindergarten of tips, but you would be surprised how many musicians forget this critical element to a smoothly held show. There is nothing more unprofessional than a singer/songwriter setting for 2-3 minutes going "Hmmm, what should I sing next?" Now, I know that we must change that list at times to accommodate various situations that may arise, but it helps to have structure and guidance. (especially when in front of a crowd)

2) A Back Up- 

If you are a guitarist, this will really hit home. How many times has that High E string snapped at just the "right" time?! It pays dividends to have an extra set of strings on hand or two, and if you are fortunate enough even an extra guitar. I mean think about it, your loyal fan drives a distance, takes time away from their busy lives, and comes to watch a nobody perform. Then they get there and the guitar falls off its stand and the neck breaks! (Lord forbid) Another scenario is that if you are playing an electric make sure to have n extra cable on hand, extra picks, and an extra strap. Maybe that's to many extras, but I am a cautious guy. This thought of extras really can apply to any musician regardless of their instrument of choice.

3) Recon- 

I love using hose fancy military terms to something completely unrelated. Before you play, where ever it may be, know your venues preferences before you get there! Call them, ask questions, it will not only make you look more professional but it could save you a big headache. Some questions you need to ask is as follows:

  • Do you guys allow pictures/videos to be taken?

  • Are there any rules or specific guidelines that I need to know about?

  • What do I need to bring with me? An amp, a microphone, etc.?

  • Do you allow monetary tips to be accepted by the artist?

Those are just a few that I can think of. Oh. and do you like how I just squeezed another list in on ya?
Sneaky huh!? Another good thing to do is to go to the venue before hand, if possible, and get a visual on where you might perform, where the bathrooms are, etc.

4) Great Material-

When playing out, you have a short window of opportunity to "wow" your audience. You're not going to hold there attention very long, even if you are good, because for the most part people come to see bands or solo act that they already know and can sing along to. Now, if you are doing covers you might hold their attention a little longer if you're a good representation of who you are trying to cover. But for those of us, like myself, that have a set-list comprised of originals you want to perform your best stuff when the most people are present.

Though this is better caught then taught I hope that these few tips will help in some way to better prepare for a gig. If you have any tips concerning this topic let me know through email, or better yet comment below so we all can benefit! This blog/website has only been open a short while and has already received over 5,000 page views! Just think of all the people you could be helping out!

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Get That Kick Drum to Kick

In this most recent screencast I talk about a couple of ways to get your kick drum to really KICK in the mix. I have used this extensively with great results and I hope it help you as well! Have a blessed day!

What ways do you get your kick drum to kick it?!

Monday, July 6, 2015

HSS Studio Tour

I recently watched an old video of mine. It was one that I made to show the gradual progress of turning my back porch into the Home Studio I work out of now. It was an eye opening experience! For one I was able to see that, although I don't have a top of the line Home Studio, I have made some improvements. (Particularly the white walls that now cover the once yellow walls... Yuck)

On a serious note, I could tell that my gear has not grown by leaps and bounds, yet my recordings and my mixes have improved dramatically! This just further solidifies my message that it's not all about gear when it comes to the Home Studio. Yes, I have upgraded a few things. Yes, I have added a few new pieces of gear. I am not against gear at all. But the difference was made when I learned how to use the gear I already had! Take a journey with me and watch the two videos below. The first is the genesis of the Studio, the meager beginning. The second is four years later after making a few improvements.                              (Watch these two videos below)

And... Four years later.

So, as you can see, when I say Home Studio Simplified... I mean it. The fact is that even with these limited resources, I am still making some great music! Let this be an encouragement to you! For one, that you have it better than you thought, and for two that you can do more than you ever thought with only a few key components. Have a blessed day!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Fourth of July

As a freelance audio engineer, it means a lot to me that I can be free at all. I could not do the things I love to do, if someone didn't sacrifice on my behalf to make that possible. I know that freedom came at a price. A price that many of us may never truly understand the cost of. There were mothers and fathers left without children, there were children left without parents, and there was a nation of people left without some of its finest men and women who served. This time of year always leaves me with tear filled eyes and a heavy heart, and also a proud one. Our nation is still a great nation and always will be! Happy Independence Day America! And thank you to all who have served or are serving now, I am truly thankful. God Bless America and ALL who abide in her.