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Releasing Singles vs Albums vs EP

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Hello everybody, hope you’re doing marvelously well. We’re back with another FAQ Fridays, which is Frequently Asked Questions Fridays.

As ever, please subscribe somewhere down there, hit the notification bell, and you’ll be notified when we have a new video, and of course, you can go to producelikeapro.com, sign up for the email list, and get a whole bunch of free goodies.

So, several wonderful things have happened this week. Firstly, this week, we released a course for St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital. It features a very good old friend of mine, mister Dick Wagner, who unfortunately passed away very recently, it has Leeland Sklar, it has Danny Seraphine, it has Freddy Mandel, Elliot Easton, Jennifer Batten, and a whole bunch of other amazing musicians. When I say bunch, about 40 incredible classic rock stars who got together and recorded a song at Sunset Sound over two days for this beautiful charity.

You can purchase the course somewhere around here. You get the course, you get all of the multitracks, so you can mix Danny Seraphine, and Lee, and all of their incredible playing, and you can mix it, and promote it, and help make money for a wonderful, amazing cause.

So that’s the first thing. Secondly, of old, we got this. A few of you may notice that this is something that lots of people get when they get 100,000 subscribers. We recently a few weeks ago hit 200,000. But we didn’t — well, we received this a few months ago, and we didn’t actually open this up until just the other day, because we get a lot of boxes of lots of gear to try out, so it’s my excuse. So thank you ever so much YouTube, you rock.

It was pretty amazing. Three and a half plus years now. It says, “You’ve done something very few YouTube creators accomplish. You’ve had an astonishing 100,000 people subscribe to your channel. We know numbers on YouTube can get really big, but we hope you don’t lose sight of the reality behind that six digit milestone.”

Thank you ever so much. It’s from Suzan Wojcicki? I’ll have to ask my Polish wife how to pronounce that properly, but thank you ever so much YouTube, but most importantly, thank you. Thank everybody who subscribed. You haven’t already subscribed, please subscribe, it’s wonderful. We have an amazing community of people here who help each other.

So thank you. Thank you for the plaque, and thank you because it’s all about you. Thank you for subscribing and getting us this plaque. You all rock. So thank you everybody for subscribing, thank you for supporting this channel, you all rock. This is an incredible community, love reading the comments and questions, love being able to get in there and answer them, and address them in these FAQ Fridays.

So let’s get started.

In today’s digital download and streaming age, what should an artist release? A single versus an EP or a full album?

So for me, the answer is a philosophical answer. Who are you? I think if you’re Pop and EDM, song song song only. I’m pushing singles. I highly recommend that you push singles, and do videos behind them. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but just promote yourself as a brand by song by song. You can do that in a classic rock — when I mean classic, I mean old school rock and roll way, of course you can, but I think for a lot of us, when we’re discovering new bands, when we hear a song, we hear a sound we like, we want to delve deeper immediately.

You’re not competing in a Pop world, you’re not competing against Rhianna and Justin Beiber quite so much, so I think an EP or an album world for a rock orientated or singer/songwriter makes more sense to me.

Now, obviously, albums are not being downloaded or sold in the way that they used to be, but it’s still a credible way of getting yourself out there. You know, do two, three, four, five singles on an album. You know, work towards having incredible songs. It’s always about the song, but I believe in having a firm brand. Who are you? What is your sound? What are you trying to say? What is your imagery? It’s different.

Pop songs, Pop artists, and even the best artists, live and die on songs. They can have a single with one message, then follow it up with something completely different. They’re coming out, they’re hitting it out of the park with each song. A band on the other hand may be from a small town in Wisconsin or something like that may have something to say, a bigger identity. Might be talking about growing up in the midwest. I’m just making up ideas, but you understand what I mean, there’s more to it.

Bands for me have a very, very strong identity. Everybody knows The Beatles are from Liverpool. Everybody knows about that. Everybody knows about The Stones and London. There’s something about it. There’s a story behind it. So I personally think EP, album for bands, for singer/songwriters, and for Pop orientated or EDM, song by song, that’s just me. However, these aren’t absolutes. You can do any version of these. Any version you like. It’s all about the song.

What is the main difference for you in mixing at home and traditional studios?

I have mixed in “traditional studios” that have not been the best sounding rooms. You talk to any real producer, engineer, and mixer worth his salt, they will tell you they’ve been in many, many “traditional” or well known studios, and it hasn’t translated that well, they just got to know those rooms. So not every studio that was expensive was the best sounding mix room.

It might be an incredible environment to make an album, it may have facilitated the most incredible creativity, but it doesn’t mean it was this surgically treated, absolutely perfect room, but when you sat in a room for three months making a major label record, and in a couple of instances, I was in a room for nine months at a time making big records. When you’re in that environment, your rough mixes or your mixes can sound absolutely incredible, because you have learned that room, but a lot of those big tracking rooms, I never would go back to for two weeks just to mix an album.

So it’s sort of… There are rooms that are specifically designed for mixing. That are super flat, that sound great, that translate really, really well. There’s lots of those rooms all over the place. It’s a bit of a fallacy to believe that every traditional studio is a great mixing environment.

So why am I talking about this? That’s because you can take your bedroom and you can make it pretty acoustically flat for relatively inexpensive. Plus, you can mix on headphones and blend between headphones and speakers. You can use software to flatten out the room. We’re going to be talking about that in new upcoming videos.

Mixing in your garage with a steel or aluminum door, with concrete everywhere, is going to be awful. It’s going to be lots of standing waves and reverberation. Mixing it in a bedroom with maybe a couch and some treatment on the wall, and the speakers not too close to the wall setup beautifully, not too loud can be an amazing environment with a subwoofer. Don’t underestimate what you can do at home.

Don’t underestimate the power of a nicely treated room and a pair of headphones as well, and bouncing backwards and forwards to them. So you can get incredible results. Not every studio I’ve mixed at has been absolutely perfect for mixing. I just work around it like I would if I were mixing at home or anywhere else.

What do you do when you need to hand a mix off to someone else who’s using a different DAW?

Basically WAV files can be imported into every DAW. So make WAV files. Don’t be combative. Be supportive, because ultimately it’s your job to help the artist. I’ve had people send me files where it’s just a DI, and I’m like listening to the rough mix and I’m going, “This guitar sounds like a massive wall of guitars,” and I’ll go back to the producer or the engineer and ask, “Oh, can I have that guitar sound?” And they’ll go, “Oh, I just wanted to give you the DI so you can come up with your own sound.”

It’s just not the way of doing things. When I first started, many of us first started, it was early dated digital, and many of us were still recording on tape. You’d give it to Tom Lord-Alge, Tom Lord-Alge would pull up the guitars, and then mix them. That’s what we did in 97 for my first album in America. He mixed the guitars that we recorded. I didn’t give him a DI and say, “Go buy a Marshall stack and reget your guitar amps.”

So basically be helpful. Help each other out. If your job as a producer/engineer is done, when you hand it off to a mixer, you need to raise the level. Raise the bar so you’re presenting really, really incredibly good results. You want to help your artist. Don’t be combative.

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So give them the sounds that you used. If you want to give them the DI and the processed guitar sound that was used in the mix, do that so they have a place to work from so they know what the vision was, because when I’m producing a track, if I do take a DI and create another sound, the point is my next overdub is done against that sound, so it is creating and shaping the sound of the song. So I need to make that sound available to the mixer.

So help each other out. Full, consolidated waves, starting from bar 0 to the end of the song. So they don’t have to be spots. So when they drop in there, these days, everybody likes it, and we’ve been doing this recently with our Academy members, everything to be listed 01, 02, 03, 04, in the order so that all of the drums are together, the bass parts are together, the guitars are together, the backgrounds are together, the lead vocals are together, the keys are together. Make it easy to navigate. Help each other out. Label properly.

Consolidated WAV files with the sounds that we used, consolidated options available if the mixer wants to go back to the original DI or untreated sound source, those options, but give them everything you can to make the job be easy to do so that you can get the best results for you client. It’s your job as the producer/engineer to help out the artist. You’re being paid to help the artist get the best possible results.

When summing out of the box, how hot do you print the final mix back into the DAW before sending off to mastering?

I have asked this question of Warren Sokol and every mastering engineer we’ve ever spoken to, and they all say the same thing, and this goes against all the forums, but this is the answer that every mastering engineer, whether it’s Bob Ludwig, Adam Ayan, Warren Sokol, all of the best engineers, they always respond with the same answer. They don’t care as long as it’s not clipping.

Because you can give them 1dB of headroom above the peak, you can give them 10dB, 5dB, 15dB, all they want is a good, loud enough source that has good signal/noise ratio, so it’s not like every time a guitar goes strum, you don’t hear hiss, they just want good signal to noise ratio, they want a good loud enough performance that isn’t clipping.

The idea of an industry standard is a little difficult. They want headroom there so they can apply their own compression/limiting as needed. But when it comes to the volume that’s printed, you can print as loud as you like, just don’t clip. Don’t clip. If they want it quieter, they’ll turn it down. If they want it louder, they’ll make it louder. Just don’t send them a clipped signal.

The other thing is obviously print — I always do two. Print the way the customer, the client has heard it, and then another version without a lot of limiting on it. So sometimes, what I’ll often do is I’ll do the compression, EQ, limiting trick on my 2buss, and send that mix to be approved, then when I send it to my mastering engineer, whether it be Warren Sokol, or Adam Ayan, or Bob Ludwig, or any one of those great guys, when I send it to them, I’ll send them the version without the compression, EQ, and limiting on, and the one that the client has heard.

They get to reference the client’s mix, and they get to decide — sometimes they’ll use what the clients heard. Not that often, but sometimes they will, because they’ll be like, “Oh, I like that, I can just polish it a tiny bit more,” but they get a reference point for what the client has approved.

That is more important I think than worrying about whether you’re one dB too loud or too quiet. Don’t send them clipping, but make sure you send them something that isn’t so limited it’s a big blob of no dynamics. There’s nothing they can do with that. Absolutely nothing. They can’t preserve any dynamics if there’s no dynamics to preserve.

I love this question. Is it possible to get a professional vocal recording out of a Shure SM7 in an untreated room?

Yes, yes, yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

So I may have told this story on one of my live streams, but we just did the Blackbird Master Class about three weeks ago, and we had a whole bunch of Academy members fly to Nashville, and we spent three days at Blackbird. Thank you John McBridge, it was wonderful, thank you to Mark Rubel who put the whole thing together. Mark, we are humbled by your generosity, you are amazing. Everybody at Blackbird was incredible. It is one of the finest studios in the world, not just because it’s in Nashville and has amazing gear, they looked after every single one of our Academy members, they made them feel special, they took them on tours of the studio, it was incredible. It was absolutely amazing.

Paulie Simmons, that’s Paul Simmons there, was incredible. He showed us drum tuning, he took us — all students and showed them all of the drum collection, it was amazing. It was an incredible time. The master class was incredible.

So why am I talking about this? I’m talking about this because we did a mic shootout. 15 mics. We had a U47 that George Massenberg called, “The finest U47 he’s ever heard in his life.” We had a 251. We had an SM7. We had the Lewitt LCT940. We had Steven Slate’s microphone. We had… You name it.

We had everything. We had a Wonder Audio, we had a 67, we had an 87, we had a Warm 87, we had every single mic you can think of, 15 different large diaphragm mics, and an SM7.

Then our amazing assistant mixed them all up randomly, put them all out of the console at the same volume level reasonably, within reason, there’s only so much you can do, and then played them all back, and we listened to them all with the track and in solo in no particular order. We didn’t know which one was which. We would just listen to one, and we were told what number it was, and we would mark it down blind.

There was 22 people in that room that took that test. And you know what won? The U47. The U47 is considered to be the greatest U47 ever made by George Massenberg. Look him up, he knows his onions. It won.

But you know what came second and third in everybody’s list? The SM7. It was the only other consistent mic in there, because it had a very, very specific sound that our ears wanted. Pretty amazing. There was lots of 251s, there was lots of LCT940s, also in that top four, but the SM7 was the second most consistent in there. There’s something about the sound of that mic that we’re very familiar with on vocals. Let’s not underestimate the fact that when you’re listening to a Supraphonic snare for instance with a 57 on it, it sounds like Rock and Roll, because you have grown up listening to great Rock and Roll with a Ludwig Supraphonic and a 57 on it.

So it’s that familiarity. So when you listen to an SM7, you hear Bono, or Paul Rogers, or Michael Jackson. You hear this vocal tone that you love. So it’s not surprising that it was picked in the top 3 consistently. So to answer your question, yes. The great thing about dynamic mics for vocals is they have much better rejection. The polar patterns are a lot tighter. A cardioid SM7 like this in a untreated room is going to give you a lot less problems than that U47 would in the untreated room.

You’ll get more bleed in that room from a large diaphragm condenser, so frankly, considering the SM7 is in the top 3 in a blind test. A blind test it was in the top 3, think about it, you could put that up and get an amazing vocal tone for $400. I think they’re $399. $350 to $400 against a U47, which is probably worth $20,000 if it’s the finest one ever made, arguably, obviously.

So you get the picture. A wonderful, wonderful microphone. Now, like I said, the 940 did really, really well, the 251, lots of other microphones did really, really well, don’t get me wrong, but an SM7 at that price, my hat’s off to you Shure, you made an incredible microphone.

It’s not surprising we have three or four of them, and pretty much everybody I know has a bunch of them. Great microphones.

So thank you ever so much. If you haven’t, please, please check out the mixing for charity course. It’s an amazing lineup, it’s really absolutely wonderful. I appreciate everybody. You have been wonderful. You got us that 100,000 subscribers super quick. It’s because of you, it’s because of this incredible community. Thank you ever so much.

Thank you for helping us get that TEC, that TEC award nomination. That was wonderful. You’re an incredible community. Please leave a bunch of comments and questions below, I’d love to hear what you think, have a marvelous time recoridng and mixing, and I’ll speak to you all again very soon.

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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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