A producer's blog about music, recording, mixing, songwriting and gear! (I don't know everything, but what I know I'll gladly share!)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Michael H. Brauer - Multi-Bus Compression

Ever wonder how some mixes just sound SOOOOOOO BIIIIIIIGGGG!!!?!?!?!?! Well, one way mixes sound big is by using something called the New York Compression Technique (also called Parallel Compression.) NY Compression involves taking an uncompressed audio source, duplicating it and then compressing the snot out of the duplicated track. THEN take the compressed track and tuck it underneath the uncompressed track. What this does is allow the instrument to have the dynamics of an uncompressed sound with the thickness of a compressed sound. Get it? The results can be incredible.

Michael H. Brauer is a stunning mixer. He's mixed for all kinds of artists of all styles and genres. I was rummaging through Michael's site and I noticed a wildly extensive Q&A section. I thought this could be a benefit to you all. Check it out and try grasp the ideas he presents about NY Compression.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mastering Audio: Bob Katz - A MUST READ!!

About a week before Saddleback's Worship Conference I stumbled upon a book called "Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science" by Bob Katz. Just recently I've been interested in how mastering works. I want to understand mastering so I can mix my records in a way that gets the most out of the mastering process.

Let me just say, "Mastering Audio" has changed the way I look at digital audio. Not only am I gaining an understanding of mastering, but I'm getting a better handle of how my DAW and Digital Converters are processing audio. Bob points out that Digital Recording has to be treated very differently than analog recording (I know this in basic principle, but not to this depth). There are things we must do to preserve audio once inside the computer. There are also things we can do to maximize fidelity and make our recordings sound BIG and VIBRANT!

In case you have not noticed, my opinion is that everyone should read this book! If you are serious about getting the most out of your recordings you owe it to yourself. WARNING: This is a very technical book. It is actually a text book. It is not a hard read but it is deep.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Tonight I'm up late making stem mixes for Nic Carvers project. My brother, Kyle, is going to lay down a few more guitar tracks to round out the album. Creating stem sessions can be a little time consuming. I make a new session file, bounce all the drums to a stereo mix, all keys to a stereo mix, mono bass, mono lead vocals and I'm giving him all of the guitar tracks that I did with Steve Marcia so he can easily work his stuff into the mix.

After I create all the stems, I copy all files to a new folder so that I can freely delete files without the fear of messing something up. Well it happened, I was not paying attention. I had not opened the newly created session, I started deleting files from the OLD ONE!!!! Pro Tools takes a while to boot up and the entire time I'm opening the new session (to see if the files had been copied) I am getting nervous. Luckily, my fail safe plan was actually fail safe. I messed up and because I took the proper precautions, everything worked out.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I love compression. I love the way it sounds, I love what it does to my mixes, I also love how different every unit sounds. To continue the topic of compressors, I'd like to share a short list of my favorite outboard and plugin compressors...


1) Empirical Labs Distressor
2) Universal Audio 1176
3) Universal Audio LA-2A
4) Tube Tech CL-1B
5) DBX 160 (old version6) SSL Master Bus Compressor


1) Bomb Factory 1176
2) Waves SSL Channel Strip Compression
3) Massey CT4 Compressor
4) Drawmer Dynamcis
5) Digidesign SMACK
6) Waves RCompressor

Compressor Wars

Compressors are perhaps the most mysterious of audio processors. You either admit that you don't know how to use them or you are always learning how to use them more efficiently and to every extent that they are capable. I guess what I'm trying to say is that compressors are deep.. WAY deep. There's a lot to learn. Even once you understand their concept there seems to be hundreds of ways to use them.

Different ways to use a compressor (there may be more... I'm still learning too)...

  • Control dynamics
  • Add "thickness" to an audio source
  • make something "punchy"
  • make something "pump"
  • control sibilance
  • control EQ of an audio source
  • add "color to an audio source
Like I said, there are more ways than this to use a compressor and within these functions there are plently of ways to achieve the same goal.

Honestly, the sound of modern recording is the sound of compression. I'm not just talking about a dynamically squashed sound (although this can be the result of the following) but compressors thicken and add color to anything it's applied too, especially in heavy doses. Rock music often adds compression generously, thus giving the listener the illusion that a mix is louder and thicker. Consoles like the SSL E Series console offer dynamic processing on every channel allowing mixers to use as much compression as was needed. Today, most mixes are performed inside of a DAW (digital audio workstation.) This offers the mixer even more control over dynamics.

I want to talk about the common controls that a compressor utilizes. We'll talk about the different ways to use a compressors and possible settings for different instruments later. For now, the basics.

INPUT - controls the amount of gain that enters the compressor.

THRESHOLD - the point when the compressor kicks in. i.e. If the threshold is set to -10bd then any audio louder that -10db that enters the compressor will be compressed. Anything under the threshold will be left alone (except "soft knee" compression... see below."

ATTACK - I like to rename this "attack speed" because I feel it accurately verbalizes what the attack setting does - Once an audio source rises over the threshold the compressor can kick in at different speeds. A fast attack would turn the compressor on very quickly (keeping harsh peaks at bay) where a slow attack would let the first transients (the first part of the audio source) pass through before the compressor reacts (this setting will let any percussive sounds keep their "punch"

RELEASE (or "release time") - The release setting determine how fast or slow a compressor shuts off after the source has gone below the threshold. The release time may be determined by the speed of the rhythmic-ness of the instrument. A release time that is slower that the next transient peak may sound lifeless and flat.

RATIO - Without a doubt the most complicated part of the compressor. The ratio decides by what ratio is an audio source reduced. You'lll see settings like 3:1, 4:1, 6:1. A 3:1 ratio means that an audio source will be allowed to raise 3db before 1db of compression is applied. This allows there to still be dynamics in audio even when the audio is being compressed. To complete this definition. A source that has risen 6db above the threshold and has a 3:1 ratio will be reduced by 2db. In the same manner, an audio source that has risen 12by above the thresh. and has a 4:1 ratio will be reduced 3db. It is actually very simple.

OUTPUT (or "make-up gain") - It's true, any time you add compression you are lowering the dynamic range of at least some part of the sound. The output knob simply adds gain where the compressor has taken it away. A good way to put it would be if you turned down the volume of your TIVO but turned up the TV to make up the volume loss. OR when your ipod is too loud in playing through your car stereo and it distorts... you turn the ipod down and turn up the car stereo to make up the difference.

SOFT-KNEE COMPRESSION - Soft knee compression basically makes it so the compressor is actually working a bit below the threshold. It gradually begins working harder as source nears the threshold. You might use this setting if you want the source colored in general, not just at the peaks.

HARD -KNEE COMPRESSION - this type of compression is the "normal" way of using a compressor... the compressor begins working only above the threshold. You would use this setting when you desire for only the peaks to be reduced.

That's it... the basics. I'll be touching more of compression soon. There is so much to cover. If I could offer one tip... when you're first starting to use compression, try using a LOT while you're messing around with your gear. Like any gear, take it to the limit. It is at this point where you find out what your compressors can do and what they sound like. When you learn the sound of a compressors extremes you will learn to hear when it is applied in small doses.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Imogen Heap!! Binaural Microphones

I am continually impressed with Imogen Heap and her music. I mean, "Hide and Seek" is perhaps one of the most unbelievable recordings I've ever heard. It's just so unique but SOOO listen-able. I know plenty of people who can record unique music that no one wants to hear. That's easy. I can even do that... but to make something that people want to hear and have it be "original." That to me is very cool!

Imogen Heap recently released a new song called "Not Now But Soon." The song was written, produced, performed, recorded and mixed by Emogen! Seriously????!!!!??? That's just amazing. I'm really not trying be sexist, but don't know many women who are doing this kind of stuff.

Another reason to download the song is that it includes a short video on the making of the song. While I was marveling at Emogen's use of walls, radiators and bricks to make her recording I noticed that she was wearing in-ear monitors AND what looked like a second set of headphones. "wierd," I thought. Then I heard her say something like, "I was recording my house using binaural microphones." Basically, there are headphones that have the polarity reversed, thus turning the headphones into microphones! There are a few companies who make legit binaural mics. I'm sure she's probably using one of these.

Binaural mics are basically trying to closely simulate human ears and the way our head picks up stereo images. I've even seen binaural mics that use an artificial head between the mics. The space between the mics recreates more accurately the way we hear directional sound.

I've been thinking about buying a small digital recorder. Edirol makes one that I've seen many people use. I hear that the stereo mics right on the device sound pretty good. I could even plug some binaural mics into it and walk around town recording people and nature in hopes of finding unique sounds to place in my recordings. Like all of you, budgets are tight so maybe I'll wait. I must admit, my wish list is quite long.

WARNING: HEAVY TECH TALK (in case you normal people wanna check out ;)

On that note, I just updated my digital converters from Digidesign 192 I/O's to Apogee Rosetta 800's. For real, everything is a good bit smoother and punchy. While at it I've been learning Logic. I must admit, Logic has a lot of really cool instruments. Programming goes down a lot smoother. Everything is pretty much geared towards electronic music. Drawback... the editing sucks compared to Pro Tools. You CAN edit in Logic but with much less precision.

Hopefully I'll be able to utilize both programs to my advantage. My arsenal... Pro Tools HD 7.4, Logic 8 Pro, Ableton Live 6, Finale Music.

Till next time...

Friday, July 18, 2008

How 'bout a new blog!

Hello world!!! Well, hello blogger! I've been blogging semi-regularly for a few years using Myspace. My wife has a very nice blog. It's funny, informative and mentions me a lot ;) Anyway, Erin thinks that myspace is lame so I've moved my blog here.

I love to teach! I especially love to teach about recording or anything music. I've decided that this blog should be at least partially devoted to recording tips, tricks and tutorials. I'll be posting articles, links and videos on all kinds of topics. I don't necessarily want to teach you all of the ways to record, but I do want to teach you the way I do it. You in? This should be fun!

Oh yeah, I also spend a lot of time arranging and composing. Guess what? I like to teach this too :) I hope to offer lots of resources for using Finale Music Notation Software too.

Aside from all the learning you'll be doing, you'll read about new happenings in my studio, fun facts and complete randomness.

Until next time...

About Me

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I'm a producer, mixer, songwriter. I recently moved from Orange County, CA to Nashville,TN I love making music. It is my means for creative expression. I've been married to my wonderful wife Erin for 7 1/2 years and I have a dog named Dexter.