Your audience only hears your final mix, never the individual tracks of a session.
How often does a compressor or EQ setting sound perfect while in solo and then you unsolo the track and it sounds worse than before you even started? Ben Lindell shows your how helpful it is to be making your mixing choices, especially compression, in context.
Professional engineers know how important it is to be able to hear and make decisions in the context of the whole production, rather than just in isolation. This tutorial while direct your ear to the subtle sonic differences and open your mind to working without the solo button.
- FLUX:: Syrah
Hey! How's it going? I'm Ben Lindell.
Today I want to talk to you about mixing in context.
Most specifically about using compression and tweaking compression settings with the whole mix going on.
I just start off mixing by just listening to the individual sounds, cleaning them up and starting to give them some shape that I think will work in the mix.
But at a certain point, you're gonna reach a stage where you need to listen to things in context.
You need to hear what the drums and the bass and the piano and the guitar all sound like together.
That's what we're going to be working today.
Here's a mix that I've been working on.
For today's example, I want you to listen specifically to the piano and how it fits with everything else that's going on in the track.
As you can hear, there's already a lot going on in this mix.
Unfortunately, I think the piano is kind of getting left behind a little bit.
I'm gonna throw a compressor on my piano and try to bring it forward again and help it speak.
The nice thing about working in context is it's gonna push me to make a bolder, more creative choice with my compression settings that I may not necessarily make if I was listening to it in solo.
I'm gonna be using the Syrah plug-in, which is great for these kinds of adjustments, because it's essentially a 1-knob compressor.
I don't have to worry about Threshold, or Ratio, or Make-Up Gain.
It takes care of all that for me. I just turn the knob, and I get a more compressed sound. I'm gonna play the chorus again.
As we're listening, I'm gonna be increasing the amount of compression on the piano.
Listen to how the piano just moves forward a little bit and becomes more of a foundation element of the track.
Great! Now let's check out what the piano sounded like before I added compression.
As you can hear, in about 30 seconds, I was able to dial in pretty much the exact amount of compression I needed on my piano to bring its presence forward and just make it more a part of the track, and sit nicely with the drums, and the vocals, and the bass.
I'm pretty sure that if I soloed the piano right now, it'd be a little bit scary how much compression is on it.
But it's fine, because in context with the song, it sounds great.
That's exactly what I was looking for: a nice, present piano that sits nicely with the drums and the vocals.
As you can see, this compressor does have more than one knob.
Let's play with those and see if we can add a little bit more color and openness to this piano, and make it shine even more in the track.
I'm gonna copy that A preset over the B by pressing Copy A.
Now I can tweak all these settings all I want, I can do whatever I feel like.
Now I can always get back to the compressor settings that I liked to begin with.
The first thing I'm gonna play with is the M/S Mode.
I think that by adding a little bit of width to my piano, I could maybe open it up and have it surround the vocal and the drums a little bit more, and I should give it even more presence.
Let's see what this sounds like.
Let me slide back over to my A preset and see what the piano sounds like with just compression, no M/S Mode.
I feel like the low end of the piano may be influencing the compressor just a little bit too much.
I'm gonna tweak the Relax Bass knob to open up the compressor a tiny bit. Let's check that out.
Again! Let me compare just the plain compressor settings to my now tweaked with M/S and Relaxed Bass compressor settings.
First, just the compressor.
And now with some extra width and relaxed emphasis on the bass.
Now for reference, let's see what the piano sounded like before I added compression to it.
Now let's listen through the Syrah with just the compression settings.
And now let's listen with the added M/S width and the relaxed bass.
And now just for fun, let's listen to it again with no compression.
I really like where the sound of my piano has arrived at.
It's got a little bit more width, a little bit more color, and it's got a nice sustain that gives it a good foundation, and it still sits very well with the rest of the track.
Once again, a lot of these settings I may not have ever got into if I was listening to the piano in solo.
It's the context that allowed me to make a bolder, more creative decision and also let me be more efficient.
Instead of soloing, tweaking, unsoloing, tweaking, and back and forth, I just did it all together and got my piano sound exactly how I wanted it even quicker.
Till next time! I'm Ben Lindell.
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Ben is a NYC based producer/engineer who has worked with artists from MGMT to Soulja Boy, Bebel Giberto to Lloyd Banks, Ryan Leslie, Olivia, Tony Yayo, Red Cafe, Edie Brickell, Carole Pope and hundreds of other artists from around the world. He grew up in Iowa and then attended the University of Miami.
In addition to being a fantastic musician he is also a tremendous geek when it comes to anything technical, be it software, plug-ins, microphones or outboard gear. It's this marriage of musical creativity and technical know-how that makes him an in demand producer/engineer.
Ben is also the Director of Marketing at pureMix.net, feel free to reach out to him directly, email@example.com