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Analog vs. Mixing in the Box & Dodgy Contracts

Transcript
So welcome, once again, to a FAQ Friday, which apparently, is frequently asked questions.

So what do we have? Well, first of all, please subscribe if you haven’t already, and you’ll get a notification telling you that we have put up a new video.

Okay, so there’s a good bunch of questions this week. So let’s get started.

Do you use a plugin to emulate analog subbing or do you actually use analog summing?

It’s a really interesting question because DAWs have come so far. So far, so quickly. It was late 90’s to early/mid-2000’s, and there wasn’t a single producer, engineer, or especially mixer that I knew that liked the sound of mixing in-the-box. They would all say, “Oh, you can tell it was mixed in-the-box.” And then every single one of them to a man.

Mark Endert, for those of you that watched the Mark Endert video, have watched people move not only from summing, but to now, mixing in-the-box completely and not even coming out at all.

So do I need to sum? Ha. I think again, it comes down to workflow. So if you love the idea of bringing audio through a console, and on faders, and playing with it that way, then keep doing that. If that’s something that feels good to you, then that makes perfect sense. However, if you’ve grown up recently using just the computer, just the computer’s keyboard, and you’ve not been used to using faders, why start now? I mean, it’s really difficult. For me, I like the tactileness of using a fader, but believe you me, I’ve fought many times about chopping in my SSL 4000, which cost me about X number of thousand dollars a month to maintain and in electricity.

They are an expensive thing to have. However, there’s a sound they have — which can be emulated — but also, they have a tactile sort of feeling. I sit there, and I move faders, and I reach over and I change EQ and compression, and it’s something I do enjoy.

So the answer to it is yes, if you like to use your Soundcraft to sum, and you like the feeling of it, then do it.

It is interesting though, because one of the things that Ulrich Wild in particular loves is summing microphones together, and we’ve talked about that in different videos, many people have talked about that, and he still maintains that analog summing, there’s something about going through the circuitry, summing to one channel sounds, in his opinion, different to summing through auxiliaries in the box.

So I don’t know. There’s still a discussion to be had, but as far as I’m concerned, when a guy like Mark Endert is now mixing entirely in-the-box, and is arguably one of the greatest mixers ever, then I rest my case.

What is your opinion on getting the right sound for rock out of vintage drums, versus new drums? I have a 1969 Slingerland Mahogany kit. What would you suggest I do differently with those drums as opposed to something newer?

I have a 1964 Ludwig, and it’s the Ringo sizes. It’s not a huge kick. You know, and I also have a Supraphonic — not the deep one, but just the shallow, and I’ve been using that drum kit on Ace Frehley records, on independent artists, big artists, on Trevor Hall records, that snare drum in particular was on the last Aerosmith, was on the first two Fray records, I mean, these drums have been everywhere, and everywhere that they’ve been, they’ve sounded very, very different.

The biggest differences are number one, the drummer. The drummer is the biggest difference. It’s interesting, if you get a guitar and overload it with a death metal tone, the subtleties are really lost. If I’m hitting it and going, crang, and someone else is hitting it, there’s going to be a subtle difference, but nothing compared with a drummer.

If I get on that drum kit, I play soft. I’m not a big heavy rock drummer. I can’t even lay properly across the sidestick to get the ring that Kenny can. Kenny Aronoff can make a snare go, [mimics snare]. Joey from — Joey Kramer from Aerosmith, when he hits that snare, it’s like machine guns going off. [mimics snare]. Me, it’s like, [mimics snare]. I like it actually, I like the way that I play.

However, that’s all I can do. I can only get that one sound of that drum. But that little drum kit, like your little drum kit in a small room, has had Brad Wilk playing on it, has had Steven Perkins playing on it, has had Matt Star playing on it, has had Blair Sinta playing on it. You name it, every drummer I work with has played on their drums, and they’ve all made it sound very different.

Some of them have kept everything the same. Others have changed out my Speed King pedal and put a DW on there or a Tama. The point is, they’ve all made it sound completely different, because they are the biggest difference.

Now, does that mean you shouldn’t look at brand new drums for certain sounds? Well, you could argue that, because ultimately, a brand new expensive, in particular shell, is going to ring very, very evenly. You’re going to hit a tom and it’s going to go, [mimics tom], and it’s going to have a beautiful, even ring.

My 54 year old drum kit might not be that even. It’s had a few battles. It’s old. It’s been in moisture and all kinds of different temperature changes, and I’m sure those shells are not perfectly round, and they don’t perfectly resonate.

So it’s definitely an interesting question. I think I would look at it from the point of view of what are you trying to achieve? I personally think that drum kit does everything I need it to do, because the drummers are the biggest difference.

However, if you were buying a drum kit to only do modern rock for instance, I’d be able to get something really super modern. I probably would. Something that resonates and gives me that sort of huge tom sounds that you’re looking for.

Otherwise, I honestly believe that your drum kit, tuned properly, and played properly, will probably do almost anything. You would be really surprised.

I’ve worked with a lot of famous drummers that maybe are like, endorsees of all these different drum companies, but when they get in the studio, they all call the drum doctor, and Ross comes down there, and almost every time brings out that beautiful Gretsch kit, and sticks a Black Beauty on there. I mean it’s like — or one of those Tamas. You know, the real metal ones.

There is a certain go-to that people love, and no matter who they’re endorsed by, they’re very often using those same drums.

Is it okay to use auto-tune on a singer’s voice?

Hoi Carambe. Is it okay? Hm. I think there are many, many tools that we use, and we’ve always used many, many tools.

For instance, some of the greatest recordings that I love were manipulated in very heavy ways. When a singer couldn’t get a high note, they would slow the tape down. They would slow the tape down so instead of the note being, [mimics high note], it’s now, [mimics low note], and he or she would sing that note.

These are tricks with varispeeding tape for years. In the 80’s, when the very very first samplers came out, they used to sample phrases or words into the samplers, and then with the pitch wheel, they would play it back using a tuner, and match the note, and bounce it back into the tape. I know, I was in some of those sessions.

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So we’ve always done things, whether it be the 60’s and overdub, slowing the tape down to get that vocal, through the 70’s, to early samplers. The questions isn’t should you or shouldn’t you, the question is do you need to? That’s the question you should be asking. Do I need to auto-tune?

If I’m the mixer and I’m given something that just isn’t right, and there’s a note that I have to tune, then I’ll tune it, because as a mixer, I want to give you the great result. I will properly say to you, “Hey, do you have another vocal? Do you want me to use this one?”

And if they respond, “This is all I have,” then I’ll tune it if that’s what they want.

However, if you’ve got the singer in there and he or she is singing, use your ears. If it’s not — if the pitch doesn’t feel good, work them a little harder. Get a great result out of them. Because not only will you A, get a better result, you’re also helping that singer. You’re helping that singer get better. That’s one thing we lose a lot in the copy and paste world, in the edit world, is that we forget it’s also our job as producers and engineers to help our artists.

I work a lot with — I worked two albums and a couple of EPs with Trevor Hall, and Mikey Pauker, and Christina Holmes. Now, the reason I mentioned these three artists is because all of them are multi-instrumentalists, and all of them have different degrees of abilities. Christina is a really good acoustic guitarist, great song writer, great singer, she plays bass pretty well, and she’s a pretty good drummer, but I got her in there playing drums, and by the end of it, she was a better drummer.

It is part of my job description to get performances out of people, but also, I want them to walk away from the recording experience having grown.

Don’t you want that? Don’t you want to be in a circumstance where you grow?

So I think sometimes, the quick and the easy solution is short-changing not only the music, which it dramatically is, because now everything is the same, your song has the same chorus, you’re not only short-changing the music and the end result, you’re also short-changing yourself, because you’re not learning how to communicate with artists, and you’re also short-changing most importantly, the artist, because they’re not growing from the experience.

So yes, use auto-tune when you’re forced to, but try and work with your artist to get a better vocal performance.

What speakers are you using?

I’ve got two sets of speakers that I use all the time here when mixing in front of the console. To the right are a very well known pair of speakers, the Genelec 1032s. I use those. Of course, so does Tim Palmer and many, many other mixers.

The ones down from this, the 1031s, I pretty much see in every studio, or every other studio in Los Angeles. Those particular speakers are very, very popular. Next to it are the Unity Super Rocks, which rock. They’re wonderful speakers, and they have this tweeter which is really sweet, so they’re very, very easy to work on for long periods of time.

Both speakers are now completely replaced my need for NS10s. It’s not that I don’t love NS10s, I just stopped referencing on them all the time, so I stopped using them.

However, over here, we have the baby Genelecs and the iLouds. The baby Genelecs have great mid-range detail and are really, really good when I’m editing.

The iLouds are very hyped on the top end, so they’re really good for when I’m listening back to see if I can hear pops and clicks. Also, having multiple different sets of speakers, in this case, four different just in this room, allows me to check my mixes in different situations, and also put on a pair of headphones for the five, and then I get to hear how things sound in different environments, and different speakers will exemplify different areas, like having good mid-range means I might hear a little bit of something on a guitar I want to change.

The iLouds with the hyped top end like I was saying earlier, let me hear the little pops and clicks in the edits. So they all serve a different purpose, but I spend most of my time on the Genelecs. Those are what I’ve been using now for at least twenty plus years. I know them really well, they’re kind of an industry standard, and I know how music that I love sounds on them.

What advice would you give to musicians on a tight budget so that they don’t give up or sign a dodgy contract?

Wow, that’s an interesting question, because there’s obviously tons of advice, and the bit that’s obviously quite scary is the signing the dodgy contract. Yeah, I — it’s very interesting, I watch a lot of people sign away the publishing to their songs all the time, 100%. They just give away 100% of their publishing. You know, people will come with me, and they’ll record, and they’ll spend weeks creating an amazing album, and then someone will want to license their music, and they’ll give away 100% of their publishing. Often, it just ends up in a library, and they see tiny amounts of income, and it’s really unfortunate because of a legitimate, big publishing company, mega interested in them, but then has no access to do a proper co-publishing deal.

Real publishing deals are co-publishing deals. I think about 50-50 is pretty standard. I’ve seen 80-20s, I’ve seen all kinds of things, but typically, 50-50 is standard for most publishing companies, and they’ll usually give you an upfront sum of money. For an unknown artist, it’s going to be small, for a major artist, it’s going to be huge.

They’re giving you income on future earnings, and then they go and work your music. So those kind of contracts, I see people signing all the time, and I see little to no success in them. It’s very unfortunate.

So definitely think twice before giving away 100% of anything. Giving away your rights 100% without money up front and without any real proof or track record of success should always be questioned. I think that is a true thing to say. I think every publisher watching this would agree, even all of the legitimate licensing companies would agree.

The only people that are going to disagree with this are people that don’t fall into that legitimate kind of bracket. Most of us that work in the music industry want to have careers that last forever, so we need to look after each other, and if you’re in sort of a short, sharp, try and get money and get out of it, that’s not a good place to be.

So when you’re up and coming, try to find and gravitate towards good people. I had a discussion on Facebook today about this. There are some really good people doing what we do for instance in YouTube. There are some great ones. There are guys like Graham Cochran. There’s Joe Gilder. There’s really good people. Tim Pierce, as you know, I’m a fan. You know, Glenn Fricker, love him or hate him, is a good guy.

He might be the Howard Stern of Metal, but the reality is, he’s got a good heart and he looks after people. There are people that actually do care about stuff, and so search them out. You can find them in your business, in your local area. So it’s very difficult, I know, if you’re a young and upcoming musician to find people to trust. I get it. But if anybody is trying to take 100% of anything, that’s a bad contract. So it’s a good question.

I think be vocal. This is a good step, you asking this question of those of us that are a professional in this business is a great first step. Be vocal, ask people, go into forums. You know, I have a forum at the Produce Like a Pro Academy where everybody talks about this stuff.

These are the kind of things that I absolutely, 100% really encourage. Be vocal, talk to other people, let this stuff be open, because we are all in it together. There should be nobody cashing in on each other, we should all be helping each other. This is a wonderful industry when it’s done by people who care about each other.

Okay, hope I answered as many questions as I possibly could for you. Thank you ever so much, please don’t hesitate to leave more, this is really wonderful. As ever, please subscribe, hit the bell for notifications, and you’ll get — you’ll be notified when a new video comes up!

Have a marvelous time recording and mixing, thank you ever so much for watching.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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