Archive for Mixing

Recording A Demo CD

Posted in Music Industry, Newbies, Recording Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by Chris Bracco

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If you’ve ever been in a band, or attended any sort of event with local music, you have surely crossed paths with “demo cds.” Unsigned bands have been using these for decades, whether it be on vinyl, cassette or CD. They are an excellent promotional tool great to hand out to fans before, during and after shows.

Demos can be created in many different ways, but all too often bands are overwhelmed by the process and don’t even know where to get started. Here are some guidelines to head you in the right direction:

1) Pick the Recording Venue: Where are you going to set up shop? Do you have the cash to book studio time, or are you planning on recording from home? If home, try to find a room in the house that is relatively dead (low echo/reverberation). If you are a one man show (acoustic guitar/singer), recording from home would suffice. If you are a twelve man bassoon army, it may be worthwhile to save up some dough and hit up the studio.

2) Choose the Recording Method: This depends largely on your budget and your style of music. Hardcore punk band crunched for money? Record live. Pop music intending to be radio friendly? Multi-track that shite.

3) Choose Recording Equipment: If you book studio time, you should check out the studio prior to your recording session to see what kind of equipment you will be able to use. If you are looking to do a home job, there are several options both cheap and expensive:

– Super Cheap: Purchase a voice/mp3 digital recorder and stick it in the middle of the room. Results will probably be crappy, but if you have virtually no money to spend, it’s better than nothing!

– Cheap: Record one of your gigs. Talk to the sound guy and see if you can work out some deal to get a recording of your show. If possible, see if they can record straight from the mixer, that usually yields better results. Nice sound guys will do it for free 🙂

– Moderate: Rent/Purchase an 8 track recorder and some microphones. Recording equipment is pretty cheap nowadays, you can usually rent or purchase everything you need from your local music store. Ebay is a good resource as well for used gear. However, this could be difficult if you do not know how to set levels correctly or use EQ effectively. Do your homework before jumping into this option!

– Expensive: Buy a computer, audio interface (sound card), sequencing software (Pro Tools, Sonar, Cubase, etc) and some microphones and create your own budget home studio! Record into the sequencer, and either mix & master the tracks yourself or send them to a studio. This will run you at least a few grand, especially if you don’t have a sufficient computer for recording music. Check out Tweakheadz website for some excellent example home studios.

-Very Expensive: Book studio time. It’s expensive, but can yield great results for your demo. Just make sure you prepare thoroughly so you don’t have to book too much extra time to finish your project.

4) Mix & Master: Record labels and fans won’t expect your demos to sound perfect, so these steps are as critical as the actual tracking. If you can put together a rough mix by yourself, more power to you. If not, there are some studios that will offer mixing & mastering services for relatively low costs, just search around your town for them.



Simple Audio Mixing Tips Part 3

Posted in Mixing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2009 by Chris Bracco

This is the 3rd and final installment of “Simple Audio Mixing Tips!” Here are 5 more intriguing tips to try out while mixing your audio! Check ’em out:

1) Turn up the monitors pretty loud, then leave the room and shut the door and listen to the mix from outside of the room. Doing this can sometimes reveal weird things in the mix that you may not have heard from directly in front of the speakers. It can also help with making sure the track levels are well balanced. I know this may not make much sense but try it out! It really does work, some professionals use this trick and swear by it!

2) A good rule is to stay away from the last 4 to 5 dB of a plug-in’s red zone. This is important to absolutely make sure your tracks are not clipping. Clipping is bad. Very bad. Don’t let it happen or the monsters in your closet will eat you.

3) If you are recording a singer/rapper on a LDC mic and you’re getting too much sibilance and popping even when using a pop screen, try adjusting the mic (hanging inverted) so that the capsule is lined up with the bridge of the singer’s nose. This tip gets the singer/rapper to sing upwards, opening their windpipe. This helps dampen those evil Ess’s and Shh’s that us engineers hate so much. Have the vocalist step forward or backward from the mic (depending on the sound you desire), and voila. Essless vox.

4) Vocal Compression Tip: Start conservatively by going to the hottest (loudest) part of the track and setting the compression plug-in parameters so you’re not getting more than 3 dB of gain reduction. Begin by adjusting the ratio at 2:1 or 3:1, then try using an automatic attack and release if available, or if you’re hearing the compressor grab and/or release too soon, aka “pumping,” go manual and set your attack to about 40 ms and your release to 300 to 400 ms to keep the compressor smooth on the attack and release. Lower your threshold until you achieve the desired gain reduction. Compression made simple.

5) Beginner Vocal EQ Tip: I like to start by setting up a 6-band EQ on my track (I like Waves REQ, but thats just me). You can add openness, presence and intelligibility by creating a high shelf anywhere from 5- up to 12 kHz. If more presence is needed, try adding a peak EQ in the 3 to 6kHz range, or taking away 1 kHz or adding a little bit of 2 kHz (the main frequency range where the voice resides). Boosting a bit of 200 to 350 Hz will add warmth and fullness, but too much will make your track muddy. These techniques differ from singer to singer and depend on gender. Once you are confident, train your ear by first listening to the vocal solo’ed while you add EQ and then listen to it within the mix.

And that concludes this 3 part series of “Simple Audio Mixing Tips!” Keep an eye out for some more monthly tips and tricks in other aspects of the recording process!

One love,


Simple Audio Mixing Tips Part 1

Posted in Tips & Tricks with tags , , , , , , on February 2, 2009 by Chris Bracco

Most people search tirelessly for the quick & simple answer to fix a problem. With mixing audio, quick & simple are two words that usually do not factor in to the process. Unless a mixing engineer is blessed with perfectly recorded tracks (which is becoming less and less the case due to the increasing volume of homemade recordings), he is going to have to do some fiddling around to get them sounding just right.

Here is part of a list of mixing tips I have compiled over the past few semesters. These are not magic tricks to make your recordings sound crystal clear, or totally eliminate noise, or make your one guitar track sound like 48. Also, these techniques, for the most part, are not universal; they depend on your specific tastes, and the final sound you are looking for in your mix. These are simple tips, some rules of thumb, to create certain effects, enhance certain characteristics, or clean up some of the unwanted mess in your mixes.

For now I will give you the first 5…I have been able to try most of these, but some I have yet to explore….so try some of these out and let me know how they work out for you!

1) Make pretty liberal use of volume automation. 2-3dB doses here and there will allow the more interesting fills and mini-riffs for each track poke through the mix.

2) Low Cut Eq on just about everything. Unless you are mixing hip-hop/dance/techno/trance music that requires the subwoofers to rattle your bones….most of this sub-bass rumble can totally kill an otherwise awesome sounding mix.

3) NY/Parallel compression. Duplicate a track. Compress the hell out of one of ‘em, but not the other. Mix the two to taste (with the uncompressed one being your “main” track). The compressed one gives you the “punch/oomph” and the uncompressed one keeps the dynamics & “sparkle.”

4) Whisper track. Have the singer whisper along with the vocal track and bring this up under the main vox in the mix. I got very awesome results doing this in the song “Wonderland” by ASBPK. I have it best being used subtly under the lead vocals, but if you can make it sound cool cranked up loud I’d love to hear it!

5) Use batteries in guitar/bass stomp boxes, they sound better than power adapters. I am not really sure why, nor do I care, but this really is true I’ve tried it. Less noise & less tone sucking. If only 9V’s weren’t ten bucks a pop…. 😛

I will post another 5 tips shortly. Let me know if you’ve tried any of these!


Mobile Marketing for Musicians Becoming Critical!!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2009 by Chris Bracco

While sifting through some articles over at Music Think Tank, i came across a particularly interesting one about how musicians should begin some sort of marketing campaign within the mobile device realm (ie. text messaging, mobile internet, etc):

Going Mobile – The Future of Marketing For Musicians By Ariel Hyatt

I think this is an excellent option for bands to look into, considering that more and more people are using mobile devices that have access to the internet. Most of my friends have either Blackberries or iPhones (however I am still stuck in the stone age with an LG Venus — awful phone, in case you were wondering) that they use religiously, so why not direct tour dates, cd releases and promo offers to their mobile devices?

There is definitely potential there. 🙂


Mastering Your Music: Why you need it, Where to get it, and how to make the most of it

Posted in Mastering with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2008 by Chris Bracco

While searching for some good articles on how to master music, I stumbled upon an interesting write-up about WHY mastering is such an important step in the recording process.

Mastering Your Music

NOTE: This article does not give instruction about the mastering process, it simply includes interesting quotes from mastering engineers, and overviews the importance of mastering audio for both CD’s and films.

I like the description they give of a typical mastering session:


In almost every mastering session, the following actions are performed:

  • Optimizing average and peak volume levels for proper relative loudness
  • Signal processing – compression & EQ
  • Arranging tracks in final sequence
  • Timing of the space between tracks
  • Establish a sonic “field” for all tracks
  • Place track markers at head of all tracks
  • Remove unwanted noise like clicks, pops, hiss
  • Clean-up start and ending of each track (including fades)
  • Insert Master Track Log – the PQ codes required for replication


This is a great read. It also gives links to many mastering studios in many different locations around the country. If you are thinking about mastering your music and unsure whether its worth the money, check out this article, it will most likely answer many of your questions.


101 Band Promotion Ideas

Posted in Music Industry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2008 by Chris Bracco

I stumbled upon a great article for those of you interested in promoting a band. It really offers some great advice on how to get your band heard and appreciated by the public.

101 Band Promotion Ideas

I manage and play in 2 bands and have used many of these techniques successfully.

Here are the top 3 ideas that i believe can really boost a band’s recognition:

1. Join MySpace, add friends, leave comments, send messages!!!

   – Myspace is, hands down, the best way for an artist to get his/her music heard!!! So simple too! Just register, throw up some tracks, and add a zillion friends!! Send messages & leave comments asking people to commit a few minutes of their time to listen to your tracks and give feedback. People WILL do it, and you will see substantial results.

2. Put your myspace website link on EVERYTHING.

   – From t-shirts to stickers to demos to your friend’s arm, expose your myspace URL everywhere you can!! Best type of promotion, hands down.

3. Ask your local record/music shop to give away your free demo.

   – If you have a demo that you are trying to get heard, it is an excellent idea to give a bunch of copies to as many small, local music shops as you can. Ask the workers to hand them out for free as a “free gift” to complement whatever a customer has just bought. And make sure your Myspace link is on the demo somewhere!

These 3 marketing strategies will get your music heard and your band out there, and maybe even into the right hands.


The Mighty Beard of Rick Rubin

Posted in Music Industry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2007 by Chris Bracco

Rick Rubin has recently been recruited as co-head of Columbia Records. Apparently Columbia does not enforce the dress code when it comes to musical geniuses, because Rubin looks pretty much like a homeless person. But don’t let his persona fool you – the man really is a genius. He has produced epic songs like “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” by The Beastie Boys, and “Walk This Way” By Run-DMC/Aerosmith.

Columbia is hoping that Rick will solve all of their problems, and then some. He’s got some big ideas, just take a look at this great article:

The Music Man