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3 Most Important Things I Do Mixing for Multi-Platinum Artists

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3 Most Important Things I Do Mixing for Multi-Platinum Artists
3 Most Important Things I Do Mixing for Multi-Platinum Artists - youtube Video
Transcript
Hey folks! Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com.

I’ve got a super interesting video for you. I am going to answer a question that I’ve asked myself, and you’ve probably asked yourself as well, and that is, “What is it that the people who are behind these huge hit records, working with these multi-platinum artists do that maybe I’m not doing? What’s the secret sauce? What’s the real magic?”

And so you go onto websites like The Pro Audio Files, or you come onto this YouTube channel, and what you get is a lot of technique, and technique is extremely important. It is the foundation of what I do as an engineer, it is really the basis of how I get things done, and shameless plug, there are a bunch of full length tutorials that I’ve done, specifically on technique that I definitely encourage you to check out in the description below.

But technique is sort of the “how” we’re doing things, it’s not really the “why” we’re doing things, and the actual secret to what goes into these multi-platinum records and things like that is the why, and so what I actually do, and what I’ve learned over a long period of time working on these kinds of records is I listen to things on a musical basis first and foremost. So the things that define a hit record, or something that sounds amazing is actually not really based in technique. It’s sort of founded on something completely different.

So these are really the three first and foremost things that I’m actually listening for when I’m constructing a mix for — well, for any artist, but in this particular case, it’ll be for multi-platinum artists Akon and Pitbull.

The record is Te Quiero, music video is out. I’m going to play you a little bit of that, and then I’m going to break down what I was listening for, and how that shaped the choices I made. Here we go.

[mix]

So the first thing that I’m listening for is actually pocket. Pocket meaning groove, and specifically how different elements are all kind of playing off of each other — the bass, the drums, the synths, and of course, the vocals, and in genres where we have a lot of programmed material, the vocal relationship to the rest of the track is probably the number one thing that I’m listening for, because with programmed material, a lot of the times it’s very easy to get the pocket right when you have the bass and the kick, as opposed to if you’re playing everything live, in which case, it’s entirely dependent on the player feel.

Here, the vocals is really the X factor. It’s the element where things can go right or things can go wrong. So I make a determination about the groove of the vocal delivery, and in this case, when I listen to Pitbull, he has a very specific pocket here. He’s more energized than he normally is. He’s framing the record almost as if it’s a Club record more than an Island style record, which I think is a really cool choice, and I think it brings something to the record that really wasn’t there before.

So he has this very excited, very upbeat, very up front rhythm to the way he is getting his lyrics out.

But if we zoom in here and take a really close look, you’ll notice that I have some edits here, and that’s because there are times in the delivery where I felt like his delivery was too up front on the beat. It’s really just a couple of words and phrases. Very subtle things, very nuanced things that I felt could just be in the pocket a little bit better, and so I created some edits where I actually moved him back in time ever so slightly.

Let’s take a look at this phrase in particular, you can see this one here that I had muted is actually the original, and you can see right above it, that’s the one that we’re using for the record. You can take a look and you’ll notice that where this is coming in is ever so slightly earlier than where this one is coming in.

So what I want you to do is take a listen to this passage and listen to where the down beat comes back in on the word, “esso.” Alright?

[mix]

One more time. Listen for that very first word on the down beat.

[mix]

To my ear, it felt like he jumped the beat just a little bit. I’m not talking a lot, just a little bit. So I slid that one phrase back ever so slightly, and I came up with this.

[music]

And now it feels like the whole thing has one continuous flow. It feels like where he’s placing his voice relative to the drums is in the same pocket the whole way throughout. So I’m not really changing things so that you hear a difference, I’m actually changing things so that you don’t hear that difference. I’m going for the intention of what’s being delivered, not what’s being delivered, and for the most part, I haven’t changed anything. It’s just on a couple of words, and I do this very, very commonly. This is with pretty much everybody I work with, because timing imperfections, they happen and it’s subjective. So in my taste and my aesthetic, I felt that just nudging it back ever so slightly made it feel like it was more in the pocket and more in the groove.

So the first thing that I’m listening for is pocket.

The second thing that I’m listening for is the personality of the record, because the personality of the record is going to determine all of my choices, and this is going to be certain things like, “What are the textures that are present?”

There’s a drum sound that’s pretty consistent throughout this record.

[mix]

There’s this sort of mid-range quality. It’s really common in certain styles of Reggaeton, a lot of styles of Reggaeton are using more Hip Hop kind of drums these days, but there was definitely a long period of Dembo drums that were very organic kind of sounding, like very processed, but processed from an organic place, and that texture is very present in this record, so to me, that’s something that has to be there and present all the time.

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The congas being a driving force, very important to me. The synth that plays in the chorus, this pluck synth?

[pluck synth]

That’s the defining musical element of the biggest part of the record, the sort of climax of the chorus.

[song]

Now, it’s too loud now because it’s masking the vocal, but if I turn it down maybe about three or four dB, I believe I had it set to about minus four in the actual mix?

[song]

There it is. I want that synth that’s defining the chorus to be almost as loud as the lead vocal, because that’s what’s letting the listener know, “Here we are, this is the apex of the record, this is the part that you should be singing along with,” and so I’m always looking for these personality things, because they’re going to influence all of the techniques that I use.

If this was supposed to be a background elephant — elephant? A background element, or an undefined part of the record, I wouldn’t be looking to make it prominent, but because it is, I’m using EQ moves and I’m using some saturation moves — like, I’m using some pretty aggressive saturation to make the element more apparent, to make it stand out, and to make it more important.

So knowing where I’m going is pretty much the crux of all of the mixing that follows. All of the techniques that I choose to use, so the second one is always going to be the personality of the record, you have to make that determination right from the outset, because it’s going to determine your levels, it’s going to determine your processing, it’s going to determine everything.

The last thing that I’m listening for is just the pacing of the record. Does it feel like enough is happening to catch me moment to moment? And a lot of the times I need to go in there and sort of craft each moment to really feel special.

The producer for this, Maffio, is an unbelievably good producer. The guy will turn around records — he’s doing like, he must be doing ten records a day. It’s crazy the volume of output that this guy does. A lot of the times, producers who are doing high volume work are expecting and encouraging me to find places where I can sort of put in my own signature, put in some drops, put in some moments, because they don’t want to be responsible for all of it. They want to allow me to take a creative voice in the record when they know that I have good taste, and this is actually something that I discussed with Maffio beforehand, specifically that I should take some liberties and have some fun with it.

So there are certain moments, for example, where in Pitbull’s verse, to go back to that, where you’re going to hear some drums.

[mix]

This heavy drum right here…

[drums]

Was not in that place. I put it there myself. I grabbed it from the very beginning of the record.

[music]

But I felt because of what Pitbull was saying…

[song]

It would be fun to put in those hits again, bring that element back, and allow it to emphasize that cadence that he’s presenting, those — that sort of scheme that he’s presenting, and also to use that fill again to bring us back into the chorus. As an arrangement choice.

[music]

So I look to use a creative license when I feel that moments of the record could be made a little bit more special, and to me, these three things, the pocket of the record, the personality of the record, and the pacing of the record, those three P’s I guess, they mount up to more than what technique really brings out, because I could have a poor mix of this record, but if it’s exciting, and the personality is there, and the pocket is really locked in so it has a good groove, people are still going to like it. It’s still going to do well.

Now, if the mix was better, of course, I think that would impact better. It would certainly hit other mediums just a little bit better from laptop speakers to club speakers. We want to get that translation. We want to get the fanciest reverbs and the best sound that we can get, but the things that are selling the record are the personality, the pacing, and the pocket.

Alright guys, if you dig what I’m doing on this channel, hit that like button, don’t forget if you want to catch more videos like this one, you’re going to need to hit that subscribe with the bell so that you get notifications, and again, check out the description below for links to full length tutorials on technique. Hope you guys learned something, take care, until next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com

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