DA Studios: Mayhem & Antiserum on better translating mixdowns
Welcome to DA Studios, a feature that dives into the world of production. In partnership with Point Blank Music School, DA Studios is returning weekly, with a variety of installments that will include guest posts from artists offering inside tips, detailed looks into the minds and tools of producers, diary entries from Point Blank students and much more.
Hear from your favorite artists and learn about their worlds when they leave the decks and hit the studio. Dancing Astronaut and Point Blank’s weekly series is educational for music students and informative for fans.
Mayhem and Antiserum enter the studios this week, bringing their tips for better translating mixdowns. Frequent collaborators, both on production and on the road, both bass-heavy artists combine for a slew of tricks up their sleeves. Together, Mayhem and Antiserum have most recently released “Check” and embark on their Seven Deadly Sins tour.
1. Use multiple references
Having a couple pairs of monitors as well as different headphones really helps. By checking your mix on several different speaker sources, you can find problems which may be consistent across all the references you test or even problems which are specific to one testing environment. Making sure your mix-down translates when people listen in their cars, off of their phones, via their ear buds, and on their laptops will ensure the listening experience is consistent. Invest in a monitor controller to quickly bounce between your reference speakers. They can range from $300-3000. However, be aware that the cheaper the monitor controller,the more coloration or noise could be introduced.Check your mix in as many different car stereos as possible, this is always a good test and you will hear things that you might have missed in the studio. Of course, there is nothing like testing your music in front of a big crowd with a massive sound system! By DJing your test mix, you can compare other records which are in the same key and tempo to get a feel for how it stands up as a whole, as well as individual parts of the mix such as bass or drums. Always use records in the same key when utilizing another mix-down as a reference.It won’t be cohesive to reference a track written in the key of A flat with one written in D#.
2. Use spectral analysis
PAZ by Waves and SPAN by Voxengo are two really nice VST plug-ins which can give you great insight into what’s happening with your mixdown. Use these as a guides to help clean and shape your mix-down. You can often find rogue frequencies peaking out over the rest of the mix to pull back on. While using spectral analysis can help a lot with certain elements you can not hear, always trust your ears. Compare similar styled tunes with great mix-downs to give yourself a different perspective on which frequency ranges in your mix may be lacking or abundant. SPAN also features pRMS and RMS metering, which can be very helpful in knowing how loud your tune will be perceived to be. RMS(RootMean Square) detects the average level of your signal, rather than it’s current peaking levels. pRMS (Perceived RootMean Square) uses an algorithm to determine how loud the signal will sound to the listener.
3. Take your time
Sometimes it takes a while to get a really dialed in mix-down. Sometimes it’s taken us months to get the mix down to place where we’re happy with it. Don’t get frustrated! Remember to take long breaks from the tune if needed. Sometimes when you work on a mixdown too much you will end up making it sound worse! It took both of us years of writing, mixing and (attempting) mastering to get tothe point where we’re relatively happy with how thefinal product sounds. It’s a long road so remind yourself that the journey is the destination. Perfecting a craft calls for a serious level of commitment, read as much as you can on different mixing and mastering techniques.
The more feedback you get the better. By sending your peers your work, they may be able to pull out details in the mix you may have missed by being so immersed in it’s process. It’s always good to get multiple opinions. The more you build your network, the more ears you have to bounce off of. Keep an open mind and try to take all criticism as constructive rather than personal.
5.Reinforce your acoustics and room treatment
The room you work inis a key ingredient in how your mixdowns will sound. Every room and acoustic situation is going to be different. Dealing with acoustical problems in your room can be complicated and expensive. Get creative with blankets, mattresses, and auralex foam to dampen high end reflections. Headphones, along with references and spectral analyzers, can take some of the weight off of a less than favorable environment in addition to making easier to get along with neighbors, roommates or parents.
For more expert tips, visit Point Blank, the award-winning music production and DJ school with classes in London, Los Angeles and online. Six-time ranked ‘Best DJ & Production School’ by DJ Mag, Point Blank offers ground-breaking courses taught by expert instruc-tors including songwriters, producers and Grammy award winners. Former students include: Claude VonStroke, Nicole Moudaber, Gareth Wyn, AlunaGeorge and more. Head to their site for production tips, tutorials or to sample an online course for free.