You’ve seen by now that this blog hosts an array of talented writers and thinkers about all things music. Gary Ewer recently gave us a fantastic introductory series on creating songs that work (Missed that column? Check it out.) Now, we’re here to share another expert’s advice: this time, from one of our very own UJAM users.
You may recognize him: Matt was a finalist in the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations contest last year, and he’s continued to make great music since. (See our first post on Matt in the ACR series here.) Without further ado, Matt’s here to share his thoughts on mixing great music in UJAM.
Producing a Great Mix in UJAM
Today we’re going to be highlighting some tips that will help you create high quality recordings and produce a great final mix. Whether you are a seasoned audio veteran or have never recorded before, these tips will help you create beautiful recordings so that your jams can shine.
Before we can learn cool post-production techniques and create tracks that excite and inspire people, we must first record something! The main key to a quality mix actually begins before you record, not after. There is saying when it comes to mixing that you must live by: “You can’t polish dirt”. Your mix will always be limited to or enhanced by the quality of your recordings.
There are three principles to a good mix before you even begin recording:
#1) Cheap is Expensive: Why You Need Good Gear
Consider this. You would never phone an airline to book a flight and say, “Give me the plane built with the cheapest parts possible, but make sure they look good.” No. You would want to get whatever works best. Your life may depend on it. So many times though, musicians seem to want the shiniest gear without considering the sound quality it produces. You must spend money on good gear. Your mix depends on it. Here are some thoughts on good gear:
Save up for what you want, not what you can currently afford. If you’re going to be a professional, you must do your work with professional tools. Would you rather dig a ditch with a shovel or a bulldozer? The shovel is cheaper and easier to lift. The bulldozer requires money and time to learn how to use it, but you better believe it does a better job!
In the same way, if you would like to capture good quality music, you must have a well-made instrument with quality audio output. It must then go over quality cables to a quality audio interface. Having trouble picking your gear? Find out what your musical influencers use and why they use that gear. They probably have a reason. Check recommendations on professional audio forums and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Lastly, yes, look at the price. It can be a good indicator of how well the gear is made.
Use good cables. Cables transmit sound through them. If you’re using the cheapest brand of cables, you are probably picking up interference and maybe even something called crosstalk, where signal from another cable crosses over to the cable your using. Good cables give you an opportunity for quality sound. Bad Cables will always equate to poor quality sound. If at any point in your signal chain you have poorly made gear, it will affect the final sound you are trying to achieve.
Purchase reliable, transparent software. Not all software is created equal. The reliability of your software is crucial to your production process. The more your software crashes, the less work you will have saved. The more work lost, the more time you will waste. This is illogical. If you want to do things well, you must purchase software that does not crash and does not slow you down once you’ve learned how to use it.
Additionally, you must purchase software that is extremely transparent in the final output of your audio. Despite the fact that you are recording digitally, not all of your output audio will sound the same. In the same way two different digital cameras affect the color tones in a picture, your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software can affect your final sound. There are many DAW programs, like Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton, and Cubase. These all have different functions and uses. It is recommended you research these in the same way as you would a physical piece of gear. Some even have free fully-functioning demo’s you can download.
A good example of a reliable, transparent piece of software is Steinberg Cubase. It performs well under a lot of pressure from your audio tracks and software plugins. It will not crash every hour like some other software. It also does not affect the tone of your recordings by muddying them up. It comes in many different versions to help you get in to using it without having to spend a thousand dollars on it. See more information on Steinberg’s website.
That’s it from Matt today. In his next post, Matt will pick up with tip #2 and tell us how we can use all that gear to create some great-sounding music. Stay tuned!
PS Be sure to check out Matt’s website. Your comments are welcome here.