Pro Audio Files

Train Your Ears Become a Member

VLOG #2: Facebook, Discogs, Mixing Piano, Analog vs Digital & Delbert Bowers

Video Thumbnail
VLOG #2: Facebook, Discogs, Mixing Piano, Analog vs Digital & Delbert Bowers
VLOG #2: Facebook, Discogs, Mixing Piano, Analog vs Digital & Delbert Bowers - youtube Video
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here, welcome to the Wednesday show. We’re going to kick this off with a little bit of news. First up on deck, Facebook is in a 100+ million dollar negotiation with major music rights holders, so that they can stream music on their platform, and on their upcoming platform, which is called Watch, which is going to be very similar to YouTube, except owned by Facebook.

So why are they doing this? Well, it comes down to the idea of copyright. On YouTube, there is a huge problem and discrepancy with people posting up music that they do not own. Whenever you broadcast music, you need to have permission from the rights holders to do so, and you need to pay a backend royalty.

However, since YouTube is completely open content, people can upload whatever they want, and so it ends up being up to the copyright holders to go search out violations of their copyright, and make sure that infringement is shut down.

Well, what Facebook is doing is trying to preempt all of that by simply negotiating with the major rights holders, and saying, “How about we just give you this money for a blanket card to use the music as we see fit?” This is going to play into a much more user friendly service.

So, how does this affect the music business? Well, any time we’re seeing revenue coming into the music business, it’s never really a bad thing. The music business is not so much one mighty tower as it is one large collection of smaller networks. We have our major neural centers, which might be the major labels or major studios, but then we have lots of branches off of that that all communicate together, and so whenever there is money that is funding into this, that means that everybody reaps some degree of benefit.

Now, if you don’t happen to be a major label executive, chances are, that benefit is going to be very subtle, if not undetectable to you. While it is a large number to be able to be talking about over 100 million dollars, it could upwards of 500, who knows, the fact is that it’s going to be a little while before anybody even starts to see that, and in what quantity? We’ll never really know.

So the ultimate end of it is this is not something that’s going to affect most people working in music overall, but it is a good sign in terms of where things are headed for music collecting revenue coming off of the file sharing hit that we took in the early 2000’s.

Next up in news, Discogs is expanding. That is a really great sign for anbody who is a blue collar working musician, because Discogs is really a great company. Not only are they one of the few retailers left that specializes in hard copy music, but they are the only retailer that I know of that actually takes the time to make sure that all of the credits of everybody involved are able to be put on display. That’s a really, really important thing, because most of the people who work in music, do not necessarily get credited for everything that they contribute to, and when I say that, I’m being really friendly.

So now they are branching out. They’re expanding their business. They’re going to be looking at comic books, posters, movies. Personally, I feel like this might even be a bigger win for music in general, just because that site is really carrying the torch for a lot of working class musicians, such as myself.

Alright guys, so now I want to talk a little bit about technique. This week, as I stated on Monday, we’re going to be focusing on the Black Box HG-2 by Analog Designs, so here we have it, and I’ve got it going on on piano, and this time, instead of showing you what I did, I’m actually going to redo it in real time.

Oops, there I go, I’ve accidentally deleted my settings, what’s going to happen? Oh no!

Alright, let’s start it from the beginning here.


This record, by the way, is an instrumental from Sir Jones. I’m going to include a little link to his YouTube page so that you can check out his music. He’s got some really cool records, we’re working on some new stuff together. Obviously, it’s in development, but he’s been kind enough to allow me to use his music for these tutorial purposes.

So, okay, let’s talk about this piano. All in all, I actually like this piano quite a bit. I think that it’s got a really nice little bit of distune in there that the producer built in. I think that it’s got overall a good sound, but if I were going to complain a little bit, I think that it’s just a little bit too “digital” sounding.

What I would say is that it lacks a little bit of the color that we would expect from running through analog gear, so we’re going to want to incorporate a little bit of texture, and I think it could use a little bit more body as well, and if I’m thinking it needs more texture, it needs more body, then I think it’s time to pull up the HG-2.

Alright, so where it starts is from a completely passive default mode.


There’s a few different directions that we could go. So I’m going to start with the low end saturation and show you what my basic approach would be.

If I’m listening to the sound of this…

[keys, with and without HG-2]

Just by default, it’s adding a ton of weight to the low end, and that’s not a bad way to start. What I think I would do though, because the piano is such a broadband instrument, I think I would want more distortion, but I would want to blend it in in parallel, and one of the really cool things about this is right here in the upper corner, it’s a little small, but right here in this upper corner, there’s actually a mix control so that I can turn this into a parallel processor, meaning it’s going to preserve the dry sound, but it’s going to allow me to blend in whatever kind of distortion I want.

So for that, I’m going to go a little more heavy handed. I’m going to click in this Alt Tube, which is a little bit heavier, and I’m going to lean a little bit more on the pentode, and I’m going to kind of push it into distortion and turn the output down.

[piano, adjusting HG-2]

Right. So we’re starting to crunch it up pretty good. Now, I think that I’m doing it maybe a little bit too hard. What I’m going to do is turn the input down, and then start turning the saturation percentage up, so that I can get just the right amount of like, crunchy, grimy-ness that I want.

[piano, adjusting input and saturation]

Yeah, and maybe just a little bit more triode.

[keys, adjusting triode settings]

Okay, that’s pretty crunchy. We can hear the hair on it. That kind of [emulates distortion] type of texture that generally, we don’t want to be like, too dominant in a sound, unless we’re going for something that sounds very deliberately effected. But now what I’m going to do is I’m going to blend the mix in, and I’m going to turn it down to something pretty low. I’m talking maybe like, 30-40% so I’m not catching a lot of that hair.

[piano, adjusting mix]


Now I’m going to before and after that.

[piano, before and after HG-2]

So I’m going to do that one more time, because the difference is subtle, but here’s what I want you to listen for. All of that lower mid-range, like that octave of lower middle C and below, listen to how forward it sounds. We’re not changing how much of it there is really, but we’re changing how full it feels. So listen with that ear, and what you’ll really notice is that not a lot of the sound, especially above that changes. It actually preserves it very nicely. But everything that’s in the lower mids and below starts to sound a lot fuller and a lot beefier.


I like that. I think that the piano now has a lot of size, it has a lot of fullness and tone and texture, so that’s a great way of going about it, and I’m going to show really quickly just one more way that I would probably use this. Let’s say that I wanted to replace the feel of an analog console. Well, for that, I’m going to go for a much subtler set of gain staging here. I’m going to try and do something that’s almost unnoticeable.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to find a pretty strong degree of color, and then I’m going to back off the saturation percentage until that extra bit of crunch goes away.

[keys, adjusting saturation]

Basically, when I’m running hot into a console, which I like to do, I like to border right on clipping a lot of the times, just to get some juice from something that I feel like needs a little bit of flavor, and I tend to like to push consoles. So if you’re used to that sound, this is what I’m going for. Before…

[keys, before HG-2, then after]

So, what you’re hearing there is not a humongous difference, it’s just a little bit of extra tone and harmonics that we didn’t have before, and now I’ll play it with the rest of the mix. Before…

[mix, before HG-2]


[mix, after HG-2]

So not to get into the analog vs digital debate, but what do you guys prefer to work on? Do you guys prefer to work on software, or do you guys prefer to work hardware, or some combination thereof? Personally, I see a lot of benefits to both. I think it would be really cool to have the hardware unit of the HG-2 so that I could run my low end into a submix group, then into the HG-2, then back into Pro Tools.

I think that would give a fantastic sound, just because the hardware has a certain thing that’s really hard to capture outside of the actual analog world.

However, for an entire mix, it’s just unrealistic to stack up that many instances of a piece of hardware. Even if you have a collection like JJP or CLA’s kind of analog setup, it’s just really tough to do, so when it comes to mixing, the in-the-box benefit is that I can put this on every channel. I can emulate a console if I wanted to with just a basic preset, and then go from there.

Now, I love mixing on large format consoles just because of the tangibility of it, but when it comes to flexibility, it’s really hard to beat software.

But tell me your thoughts. It’s different for everybody, there aren’t really right or wrong answers to this.

For the featurette segment, I want to shine the spotlight on mixing engineer Delbert Bowers. Delbert Bowers is somebody I’ve been in communication a good amount with over the last year, he’s an incredible engineer. He worked for Lara B Studios for about four years, and if you don’t know what Lara B Studios is, it’s probably arguably the number one studio for releasing Billboard Chart topping songs.

I mean, the absolute crazy amount of number ones and just huge records to come out of there is staggering, and it’s really no surprise, because the big name in house guys that are there all the time are Manny Marroquin and Jason Joshua, and these are the guys that Delbert was assisting while he was there.

So if you’re going to be learning from anybody, obviously, he’s learning from the best, and it shows. I’ve been a fan of his mixes. I’ve been a fan of his mixes when I didn’t know they were his mixes. One of my favorite mixes to reference is Lukas Graham, Seven Years. If you haven’t heard that song, you should definitely take a listen to it. It is really, really good. In fact, I’m going to play it right now.

[Seven Years, Lukas Graham]

So that was just a little taste. Obviously, if you’re into music production, you need to be buying that song, and Delbert’s hand, as a mixer, if you’re very familiar with the mixing process, is pretty noticeable. When you listen to the rise of the strings, when you listen to where things are sitting in the stereo field, when you listen to how drums are introduced in terms of their level, and the way that they are sitting in terms of their dynamic shaping and color, you know that those are affects of a mixing engineer’s hands, and Delbert absolutely smashed it, and it’s no surprise that he was nominated for a Grammy for doing it.

So I’m going to quote Del here, and this is really why I want to feature him, because what ultimately makes people great, I feel, is their outlook on things. If you come in with a good outlook, no matter where you start, ultimately where you end is somewhere amazing. So I’m going to give him a little quote from his website here.

“Mixing is about getting music to its fullest potential. Sonics, vibe, and musicality are key to making that happen. I put everything into my mixes. It never gets tiring, and I constantly push myself to make every mix better than the last… I can’t wait to hear what I get to work on tomorrow. Mixing is my passion.”

Those words resonate very strongly with me. I believe that if you’re not trying to make every mix better than the last one, you’ve stopped trying, and you’ve lost your passion for it. It does not matter who the artist is, what matters is how you approach it, and your mentality.

What makes a record sound great? Well, mixing is about getting music to its fullest potential. It’s really the last stop outside of mastering, but really the last stop where you have hands on the production itself, where you can make things exactly what they need to be, and that’s sonics, that’s vibe, that’s musicality, and if you’re breathing in those ideas, you’re going to be making great mixes.

Alright folks, that’s the Wednesday show. As always, if you dig what I’m doing, don’t forget to hit that like button, and don’t forget to click that subscribe button if you want to get more of it. Those likes and those subscribes, they keep this going, and as always, don’t forget to check out the description below, because that’s going to have links to all of the stuff that I talked about, as well as my more in-depth tutorials on music production, which I highly, highly recommend you check out.

Alright guys, until next time.


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:

FREE Masterclass: Low-End Mixing Secrets

Downloaded Over 19,455 times!

Discover how to make your kick and bass hit hard by cutting (NOT boosting) the right frequencies! Plus, more counterintuitive ways to get fuller yet controlled low-end in your mix. Download this 40-minute workshop by Matthew Weiss, now for FREE!

Powered by ConvertKit