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

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nudge me

I just ran into a situation where I've been muscling a mix around trying to get it to feel right. I've tried just about everything. I just put the mix up on some small speakers and started rebuilding the mix instrument by instrument and realized that the guitars were like 15ms late (I assure you it was an editing mistake. No guitarist drags. No one).

I nudged the guitars ahead a bit and BOOM, the mix feels great.

Don't be afraid to evaluate the groove of each instrument. I heard Jack Joseph Puig state in an interview once that he received a track that was way too perfect. He ended up un-editing the acoustic guitars to make it feel more alive.

Anything goes. Make it a great mix!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mixing Out of the Box: An Account of My First Time

In many ways I am a typical twenty-first century recordist. Most everything I do is done with a few preamps, a few microphones and a computer. When I mix, I mix with a computer, a mouse, a Presonus FaderPort, one compressor (a Distressor) and a host of plugins. This is me. This is what I do. This is what I am comfortable with.

Yesterday I stepped out of my typical environment and did something crazy. I stepped into the UNcomfortable. I mixed a song not IN the box, but OUT of the box! That's right, I put away most of my plugins and traded them in for outboard equipment. I stopped using my mouse and started moving real faders and pots. I traded in my small bedroom studio for a large mixing room at Blackbird Studio B. I had a freakin' blast!!!

It's been a while since I posted a blog. I thought this would be the perfect time. I left the studio 14 hours ago. I can still recall most of my settings, my workflow, the equipment I used. I wanna take you through my 11 hour day and tell you what happened to the best of my ability. Feel free to post questions and I'll be quick to reply.

A huge thanks goes out to Shane Wilson, Reid Shippen, Andy Dodd and Taylor Nyquist for your tips and advice while I prepared for my session. A huge thanks goes out to Leland Elliot, my assistant for all your help! This would have been extremely challenging if it were not for all of your help! Thanks guys!


"Love and Life" is the title cut from John Stearns' upcoming EP written by Tyler Miller of Campaign. John is a vocalist that I met at Saddleback Church. He was the worship leader at Saddleback Irvine and I was an instrumental director at the Lake Forest Campus. John is a great friend and a fantastic artist. He has sung BGVs on countless records that I have produced. The rest of the EP was mixed by Lee Bridges. Lee did a fantastic job on the other tunes so I wanted to rise to the occassion and do a great job mixing "Love and Life." This sounded like the perfect reason to go all out and mix the song on a console.

I was introduced to Blackbird Studio by engineer, Mitch Dane. When I f
irst visited Nashville, Mitch was kind enough to meet with me for coffee. We met in Barry Hill and he took me
over to Blackbird where Vance Powell was mixing a record for Jars of Clay. I was given a tour of the massive facility and was floored. I had never seen a studio like it. There were 8 studios, over 1,000 microphones and tons of priceless vintage gear.

I mixed "Love and Life" at Blackbird's Studio B, which features an API Legacy Plus 48/96 channel mixing console. This is actually the same studio Vance was using to mix the Jars record. There were several racks of outboard gear including 1176's, Neve EQ's, GML 8200 (2), Tube Tech CL1B, Lexicon Reverbs and more. The studio had ATC full range loudspeakers in the walls, Genelec 1030's and I brough my ProAc Studio 100's from home. The studio provided a JBL Sub for me to use with my ProAcs.


When I arrived at the studio, Leland and I plugged in the hard drive and spent about an hour being sure that everything was ready and that I had all of the plugins I needed. I planned on doing a hybrid approach to mixing this song so I figured I would need many of my plugins from home. I brough my ilok and we installed my SSL Bundle and the Sound Toys FX Suite. The studio had nearly everything else I needed.

We spent some time spreading all of the tracks across the desk. There were 48 channels channels with automation and an additional 48 small channel faders where we ended up routing our FX returns. Very few channels needed summed ITB (In The Box) before hitting the console. The only channels that I did this with were the synth tracks and some of the Stacked BGVs. Everything else was split out onto the desk and summed on the console.


One of the cool things about mixing on a console was the ability to easily get balances, panning and general EQ shaping happening. It was really great to be able to reach for any channel at any time to make tweaks. It sounds small, but this kind of tweaking ITB take a bit more time. Anything that must be done with a mouse takes time. This process is made better with control surfaces like Digidesign/Avid's Icon consoles, but they are expensive (and I want one! ha).

I found myself many times along the way throwing the faders back down and starting over. Each time I did this, I found that my focus on the song got better. I really enjoyed this part and felt it really helped me gain perspective. I do this at times ITB, but it was not as easy and natural as doing it on a desk.


Once I had some overall levels set, it was clear which instruments would need additional compression to level things out. This part was fun. I experimented with different pieces of gear on different instruments until I found what really worked.

Drums on this song were recorded by Dan Bailey playing one of his many vintage Ludwig kits. It was recorded on an API Legacy Console at Signature Sound Studios in San Diego, CA. Kick and Snare Drums and Overhead mics were recorded with Neve 1073 preamps.

If I recall the Kick In was recorded with an RE-20 and the Kick out was an NS10 Sub Kick. I used the UAD SSL Channel Strip to gate both tracks (I love the sound of the SSL gates) and I added Waves' MaxxBass as well. All EQ was done at the console and Compression was added to the Kick In track with a Distressor (4:1, slow attack, quick release with Dist 3 harmonics engaged. About 2-3db of gain reduction). After compression, I added the SPL Transient Designer and added a touch of attack and sustain.

I loved the API EQ on Kick. There's not a lot of frequency options and the knobs adjust at 2db increments. I was surprised at how much EQ I was able to add without things getting harsh. A great deal of 50hz was added, I cut 2db at 240hz, added 4db at 3k and 2db at 10k.


There were three snare drum tracks. Snare top (SM57), Snare Bottom (AKG 414) and a Snare Sample track (of a Ludwig Black Beauty). The snare top track had LOT of attack with little body to the sound, the snare bottom had a good amount of buzz and the snare sample provided the meat of the sound.

I notched out a bit of ring with a McDSP EQ before sending it out intro the console. I also used a McDSP EQ to take out some low mids from the sample track. These frequencies made the sample sound fake.

Once the channels hit the console I used the console EQ to shape the sound. I added a bit of 3k to the Snare top track and 100hz to get some low end. I added a great deal of 10k and 100hz to the snare bottom track and then compressed it a great deal with one of the console's compressors (fast attack, fast release).

Once EQ was added, I bussed all three channels into another channel on the console and used a distressor to compress them all. This smoothed things over a bit and made it feel like one drum.


Toms were not sampled. They were recorded with Sennheiser 421's through API 312 pres. If I'm being honest, the high tom could have probably used a sample. It did not have the sustain and body that I needed. It ended up being OK, but perhaps I should have sampled it. I found out at a later session that this lack of sustain was caused by the drum being mounted on a snare drum stand. The stand sucked all of the sustain right off the drum. Those rims mounts work! (wish we had used one).

EQ and Compression were done on the console. I added some 10k for some air, some 3k for some attack and a lot of 100hz to get some tone. I compressed the drums with about 6db of gain reduction with a fast attack and a med-long decay to get try and get as much sustain as possible. At the end of the chain, I used the SPL Transient designer to bring up the attack a bit. The toms were manually gated in Pro Tools.


Overheads were panned about 80% and I think I added 10k to the tune of 10 or 12db. I did not roll off the low end at all. I may have done this at the console when we recorded it. I believe we used Soundelux 195 mics to record these.

I used the API Compressors and took off about 4bd with a fast attack and a quick release. Again, I was amazed at how aggressive I could be with EQ.


We had used 1176's to compress the room mics when tracking. No additional compression was added. We tracked these with Neumann U67's which always adds a fantastic mid range bite which I like from room mics. I did at a bit of 10k to the sound.

I also employed a mono room mic which was recorded with a Royer 121. This mic really added a lot of character to the snare drum. I used the console EQ to remove a bit of 240hz.


The drums were fed directly into the master buss on the console with no overall compression added. I did, however, add a bit of parallel compression to the drums. Kick, Snare, Toms (and Bass Guitar) were fed one of the console's 3 master busses and compressed with an EL Fatso and tucked underneath the drum kit. This added some needed thickness to the drums.

We used a TC Electronics Gold Plate algorithm to the drums. The verb was few from the snare drum, toms and room mics. Looking back, I could probably have added 15% less to the drums. A product of being in a new room I guess.


Bass guitar was fun because it wasn't that hard. It's easy to mix when it's played well. Bass was performed by my buddy Matt Campbell.

First thing I did was duplicated the track and add Digi's new Eleven Free plugin. I dialed in a bass distortion and tucked it underneath the original track. I did this because the bass was too smooth and there was no girth to hold the bass in the mix and allow it to be heard.

I added 4b at 100hz and 2bd of 1.5k. My favorite compressor on bass guitar is a TubeTech CL-1B. Guess what, they had one!! My favorite compressor on bass guitar is a TubeTech CL-1B. Guess what, they had one!! I used a pretty fast attack and a moderately slow release. 2.5:1 ratio and took off about 5-6db.


Electric guitars were recorded by Mike Payne and he did a great job! There were about 10 guitar tracks (not all playing at once of course). Mike recorded these at his recording studio with an SM57 and a bunch of great guitar gear.


The big guitars were initially a problem. I could not get them to fit in track well. I eventually employed the help of an SSL Stereo Bus Compressed. I used a moderately slow attack and a quick release and used about 1-2 db of gain reduction. This did the trick. I added about 4db at 100hz and 4db at 1.5k. I rolled off the low end at about 80hz (12db slope) with a McDSP EQ while still in pro tools. I also widened the stereo spectrum with Waves' S-1.


Rhythm guitars were also rolled off at about 80hz with a McDSP EQ. Before they left Pro Tools, I added an 8th note delay using the Massey TD5 analog delay. This added just a little depth to the sound.

I compressed these guitars using an original URIE 1178 Stereo Compressor. I used a moderately slow attack and a fast release to allow the transients to pass through and cut through the big guitars a bit. I only compressed about 2-3db. I added 2db at 10k, 2db at 3k.


The lead guitars were compressed using a URIE 1176 with a 4:1 ratio. I worked the attack and release time so it took off just the edge of the transients but still cut through the track. I EQed the guitars so they had a bit more top end than the other guitars. I added 2db at 12k and 2bd at 3k. To my surprise, I used up adding a little 240hz to warm up the sound. This warm things up.


There are some fantastic ambient guitars that follow the lead guitar. This made it so I didn't need to add much FX to the direct sounding lead guitars. I did however add a long EMT 250 Church Hall algorithm from the TC Electronics unit with a 4 second delay. I added no additional EQ or Compression.


All of the synths and pads were summed and blended in the box. I used Massey's Tape Head to add some warmth to the brightest synth. I EQ'd everything with Waves EQ's. I added D-Virb to the verse pad to give it some serious depth. I added a bit of the EMT 250 Hall as well to give it even more depth.


All of the EQ and Compression was added ITB with Purple Audio MC77 plugins. Tape Head was added to thicken things up. The tambourine accentuates the backbeat so I used a little faster attack and compressed until 16th note note pattern was brought up and audible in the mix.


John's vocal was recorded with my Soundelux E47 through a Neve 1073 and a CL-1B Compressor. John's voice is big and warm.

I've always wanted to try compressing the lead vocal in parallel but I've never thought the results ITB was all that pleasing. This was my chance to give it a try.

A single channel within Pro Tools was sent to two channels on the console. I used Massey's De:Esser plugin for de-essing (though I added this much later in the process).

On the primary vocal channel I used the GML 8200 EQ and added 2.5db at 3.5k and 2db at 10k. The GML 8200 was then routed to a Chandler TG1 Limiter. A very small amount of compression was added to level things out.

The second LV (lead vocal) was EQed on the console with a hefty amount of 10k and 100hz and then routed to a URIE 1176 and compressed in "All Buttons In" mode with a fast attack and fast release. This track was tucked underneath the primary track. Together they created a thick vocal sound with lots of transient information and lots of meat. The vocal fit quite well in the track.

The lead vocal was treated with a lot of different FX. I used a harmonizer to further thicken the track. I then added a vocal plate from a Lexicon 480 unit. A Neve EQ was used to filter the top end of the verb which was initially very bright.

I used two delays each created with SoundToys' EchoBoy. One was a 15ips delay and the other was a stereo ping pong-type delay for the choruses.

The last delay was a wild space delay for the bridge. I wanted to create a unique, spacey atmosphere for this section.


The primary harmony vocal EQed to add some top end. 12k I think. It was then compressed with an LA-2a opto tube compressor. A small about of the vocal plate and chorus delay were added for depth.

The chorus background vocals were summed and hard panned inside of Pro Tools. Once at the console I EQ'd to add some top at 5k and 12k. The vocals were not compressed, though they could have used a touch.


The API console has three busses (A, B and C) and then it hits the master bus. The entire mix was routed into the A bus. The drum crush channel was using B and I used C to add some parallel compression to the entire mix. I used a GML 8200 EQ where I added 4db at 100hz and 4db at 10k. The EQ was then routed into a Manley Limiter and hit pretty hard. This was then tucked underneath the entire mix, adding thickness and some hype.

All of the three busses were then routed to the master bus where I compressed the entire mix with the console's 2500. I used a slow attack and a quick release at a 4:1 ratio. I reduced only a db or so to glue everything together.


All in all, it was a fantastic experience. This was definitely not my most perfect mix but it's got a lot of character, a lot of width and a lot of depth. Thus, describing the pros and cons of mixing on a console. You gain a lot of warmth, depth and character for mixing on such great stuff, but there's not as much time to get surgical and precise.

I guess in the end you can be the judge of the success of this experiment. If you happen to think it was a success then feel free to send me a million dollars so I can build a studio like this for myself. :) haha.


Here's the final mix. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


It seems like more often than not I find myself forced to work way too late into the night because of deadlines and/or too many projects have become stacked on top of one another. Tonight is no different. Here's a list of what I find myself most often working on past 1 am.

1) Printing Mixes (and mix versions) - Printing mixes is one of the most boring things on the planet to do. It takes forever and there's really nothing else you can do but listen and wait. The great thing is that I can multi-task (check facebook, twitter, do pushups)

2) Check/update facebook and twitter - I find myself going back to these pages waaaaay too often as if something magical would have happened.

3) Creating stem mixes for tomorrow morning sessions (what I'm doing right now!) - It's often last minute that I find the time to prepare session files and arrangements for the quickly approaching sessions in the morning. Nothing like a $1,000 worth of players and studios to make sure I'm ready!

4) Write a blog post. - Most if not all of my blogs have been written late into the night

5) Programming - It really does feel as though my most creative times are at night. I'm lately trying to fight this urge... trying!

So there you have it, the top five things I find myself working on late a night.

Friday, February 19, 2010

CLASP - merging the new and old

I really believe that this technology is something special. I would LOVE to have one of these. In my own recording, I want to strive to make GREAT sounding records sonically as well as creatively.

One of the cool things about this box is the abilty to track different instruments at different tape speeds. Record guitars at 7.5ips and drums at 15ips... very cool. This has never been allowed before.

If you're wondering what CLASP is, it's a processor that allows you to record THROUGH tape directly into Pro Tools with NO LATENCY. You get the color of tape with the convenience of Pro Tools. Pretty nifty.

I'm sold. Now I gotta find a tape machine and some more money :)


Monday, February 15, 2010

Organize Your Plugins

I have a lot of plugins and I find myself forgetting what some of them are called. This makes finding the plugin a bit tedious. Here's a solution that gets you a little closer to finding your plugins.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Steve Lillywhite

Steve Lillywhite is a Grammy Winning produced who has MANY great records for U2, Peter Gabriel, Chris Cornell, and many more.... He's a fantastic producer and a really unique guy (as you'll soon hear.)

I first noticed Steve Lillywhite because of his work with Dave Matthews Band. I was a huge fan of DMB in high school. My first DMB CD was given to me as a birthday present from my friend Liz. I was very quickly a fan. Me and my best friend Josh blasted Dave Matthews Band OFTEN and as a drummer I did my time trying to learn to be just like Carter Beauford.

Here's a few interviews with Steve Lillywhite. None of these are incredibly extensive, but hopefully you'll pick up something helpful along the way.

NPR - Lillywhite Interview

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Charlie Peacock and the Civil Wars

I mentioned Charlie Peacock in my last post. Tonight I was reading blogs in my blog reader and I became more inspired to create something authentic than I have in a very long time. I truly believe that this post will inspire you in much the same way. I'd love to hear your comments but more than that, please thank Charlie for this wonderful post!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

My favorite resources

I find myself frequenting many blogs and websites throughout the week as I work. Sometimes I'm looking for a specific solution for a problem I've run into, sometimes I'm looking to be creatively inspired and sometimes I'm just looking for some light reading (where I accidentally pick up on new tips and tricks). I'm sure there are lots of sites I'm forgetting and I'll surely come across new sites as I continue to scan the web!

Here's just a few....

Gearslutz.com - I mentioned Gearslutz in a post earlier this week. Gearslutz is a public forum for anyone into music production and in particular, GEAR. The people who post on GS tend to be gear fanatics and spout their opinions freely. You can learn a lot on GS. In particular, read through the Expert threads from producer/engineers like Bruce Swedien, Dave Pensado, Al Schmitt and Tony Maserati! (note: Watch out for all the crack heads who speak with no actual knowledge on a subject. It's actually kinda comical)

Youtube.com - This may be kind of obvious at this point but you'll be surprised what you can come up with in terms of a quality education on audio by searching for topics on youtube. Some of my favorite
SoundonSound.com - This magazine is fantastic. I particularly love their "Secrets of the Mix Engineer" column. They interview all kinds of mixers and analyze current hits all the way down to EQ and compression settings, types of FX and how the mixer overcame certain challenges along the way. GREAT stuff. If you subscribe to the magazine you get access to the all past issues digitally for free!

Protoolsmixing.com (BLOG) - I just found this blog and am about to dig in and read through all the posts. I enjoy blogs like this because it gives you some insight into the mind of a mixer.

deathbyprotools.com (BLOG) - Another great blog about all things recording. I enjoy the title of the blog too (I genuinely love pro tools! I still think it's funny)

Tunecore.com (BLOG) - TuneCore is a fantastic resource for digitally distributing your music. They have a passion for educating as well. Their blog features tips and tutorials as well as discussions on issues presented to the record industry. Fantastic!

http://recordproducer.typepad.com/record-producer/ (BLOG) - A blog by music genius Charlie Peacock. This one is pretty new but promises to be very educational! Charlie is definitely someone I'm excited to learn from!

There are certainly more. As I find them I'll blog them. Please, please... if you have a resource that you think others would enjoy go ahead and post it in a comment! Don't hold back. Share what you know!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In The Studio With Michael Jackson

I just finished reading In The Studio With Michael Jackson by Bruce Swedien. What a great book! If you're into recording and/or love the music of Michael Jackson you'll really get into this book. Bruce is a BRILLIANT recordist and mixer. He has been at the forefront of music recording for decades. In this book you really get a sense for Bruce's love for music and his love of Michael Jackson. What I enjoyed most was how much insight Bruce gives into technical recording techniques. Not so detailed that it's overwhelming, but he recalls techniques and tricks he and Quincy Jones used while recording Michael's great music.

I highly recommend you buy this book. (or download it on you Kindle!!)

For even more stories, tips and tricks from Bruce Swedien, check out Bruce's many posts on Gearslutz.com. Bruce moderated a forum a few years back. You can still read it here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where's your focus

Where's the focus?

Mixing for bands can be interesting. Sometimes the guys don't even need to tell me what instruments they play. I can often tell by listening to their critiques of the mix what they play. The drummer is most concerned with finding the best drum sounds. The guitarist cares most for his solos and on and on.

As a producer I find myself doing the same thing. I am an instrumentalist and sing very little. I can find myself getting really excited about the interesting band arrangement I've created and forget about what matters most... the vocal! I think this is a danger for any instrumentalist. I suppose if you're a vocalist you might care more for the vocal than the band. (I know this is true of at least a few of my vocalist/producer friends so I guess it's likely to be true across the board.)

The vocal is the most important part of your song. Try to notice when your focus has drifted to some other element, and discern whether or not the focus of the mix has improperly shifted. Maybe the guitars have found themselves too out front in the mix and the energy of the vocal is lost. If so, redirect!

From a production standpoint, remember that everything else in your song has a secondary focus to the vocal. This can actually ease the pain of arranging. Keep your mind's eye on the vocal and get a feel for what is needed to surround the vocal and lift it into focus.

It can be easy to create arrangements that are distracting and actually take away the vocal's impact. It might help to play your mix, focus and the vocal and notice when the arrangement has awkwardly stolen the attention. Things like lead guitars, background vocals and programmed FX are typical culprits.

When the vocal is not the focus

Here's an idea... Rather than placing a busy instrumental part right over the vocal, maybe consider placing these ideas between vocal lines or in vocal-less sections. You should always have something interesting to focus on in your song. When there is no vocal (intro, turnaround, instrumental section, outro) you have a great opportunity to create unique hooks and instrumental melodies that can really support the song without getting in the way.

The mixer and the focus

If you're a mixer, don't be afraid to mute, duck and rearrange for the betterment of the song. Be sure you have the blessing of the producer before trying out your arrangement ideas. Some producers are open to re-arranging and some are not. I've found that most producers are open to hearing what you can come up with, but don't get too attached. If he doesn't like your idea it's ok. You work for him! At the end of the day the producer should get what he wants from the mix. Hold everything with an open fist (good life advice if you ask me).

  • Focus on the vocal
  • eliminate distractions and clutter that distracts from the vocal
  • Find focus in every section of your song

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Here's a list of my favorite drum mics.

  • INSIDE: (one of the following) EV RE-20, AKG D12, Shure Beta52
  • OUTSIDE: Telefunken Fet 47
  • SUB: NS10M with attenuator (I like this much better than the Yamaha SubKick for some reason)
  • TOP: Shure SM57 and a Josephson E-e22s
  • BOTTOM: AKG 414 (in hyper cardioid mode) or a Shure SM57
  • Neumann KM84, AKG 451, or AKG 414 (in figure 8 mode)
(Note: using the figure 8 mode on hi hats can sometimes decrease snare bleed but placement is key)

  • Sennheiser 421's, Sennheiser e604's (potentially an EV-RE20 or AKG D112 on Floor Tom)
  • Soundelux U95S, Neumann U87's , Royer SF12 Stereo Ribbon, or AEA R88 Stereo Ribbon
  • Telefunken U47, Royer 121 or Shure SM57
  • Beyerdynamic M160 Ribbons, or Neumann KM184's
  • Neumann U67's, Neumann U87's
A few notes on why...

I try not to overdo it with too many ribbon microphones all over the place. If I'm using ribbons on overheads I try to use large diaphragm condenser microphones more on room mics and visa versa. Ribbon mics can really warm up the sound of the kit.

In my mixes I'm not necessarily using all of these mics. Sometimes I do. It is a great thing to blend mics together to achieve a certain sound rather than to EQ. I love the sound of a 57 on a snare drum but the e22 has a nice top end. The two working together can sound great.

I love having room mic options because it can give you a lot of different colors and depths while mixing. For instance, your verses could be more dry, featuring the overhead mics and direct mic sounds, your chorus might be roomier. You might turn your mono room mic into an effect for a section of the song, adding massive amounts of compression and distortion to your sound (try running this microphone through an amp or amp simulator). This leaves you with lots of options for creativity later on.


If you get your phasing right, you'll be able to fix all other problems. Check your phasing by checking your microphones in mono. It can help to run your room microphones in the same line of sight. This way, some phasing could be corrected with time adjustments later. I have a few friends who are particularly good with phasing. Maybe I'll ask them to write a blog post for you!)

TRY ANYTHING - I try to have my close room mics be a picture of the kit as it sounds in the room. My far room mics are the sound of the ROOM. For this reason, you can experiment with placement. Try NOT aiming the mics at the kit and see if you enjoy the results. If you're recording in a bedroom, try putting a room mic in the hallway or close bathroom.

Friday, January 8, 2010

If I knew then what I know now: What I'd buy with $22,500 if I was starting all over again.

My friend John Carl (who is a creative genius in any format) suggested that I write this blog.

In 2005 I put up my first investment for my studio (I purchased the assets of Unseen Sound Studios in Lynchburg, VA). I spent about $22,500 for all the gear. With that I got an Pro Tools HD System, some preamps (Avalon 737sp, Drawmer 1960 and a few other nice pieces), some Mackie 824 Monitors, and a few microphones.

Now that I've been at this a while (and sold of most of that original gear) I can safely say that you can buy a LOT with $22,500 and have a COMPLETELY pro setup. I mean, what I got was really great, but in this new age of recording I'd probably go at it a little differently.

So here it is....


GRAND TOTAL: $22,560

OK, so I'm a little over (and I didn't include tax) but it's close. :)

a little explaination....

You might notice that these prices are not exact. They are my estimates and allow for a little bargain shopping on ebay. I 100% recommend buying gear from sellers with high sale counts and near flawless feedback ratings. Especially when you're buying "vintage status" gear (gear that will likely hold its value), you can end up saving a ton and losing very little if you later decide to sell. I really think you could get everything here under the $22,500 mark if you tried. (I'm not very good at this because I am an impulse shopper :)

This studio is definitely a studio for a pro. It is NOT however a studio to record drums with. I tend to think that there are PLENTY of really affordable professional studios these days that will sound infinitely better than an average bedroom. So, at least at first I would recommend cutting drums at another facility. You could record up to 12 channels of audio if you had a six more preamps. You could record drums if you borrowed a hand full of mics. (I should do a post on my favorite drum microphones.)

You may have noticed that I did not recommend an HD system. LE systems these days are REALLY powerful and handle high track counts and lots of plugins. There's even a plugin out these days that will handle delay compensation withing LE systems! (that was always a big issue for me.)

With this setup you've got...
  • Great microphones (the Manley and SM-7 will handle vocals and you've got the best guitar mics around in the Josephsons (acoustic guitars), SM-57 and Royer mics)
  • Class A preamps (the Avedis preamps are very Neve like and sound amazing)
  • Fantastic EQ for correction
  • Incredibly versatile compressors in the EL Distressors.
  • Clean power coming from the Monster Power unit (very important)
  • Great monitoring with the Mackie 824's
  • A patch bay for easily routing your gear
  • More than enough plugins to handle pro sounding mixing without compromise.
This is all top-of-the-line gear that you will find in professional studios. There is nothing lacking in this system regarding quality. Sure, there are other options and each engineer is going to have a different opinion on gear choices, but these pieces are highly regarded as some of the best stuff money can buy. It will deliver amazing results!

So there you have it, my studio if I had to do it over again :)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

QUICK TIP-"Removing Automation"

When I'm preparing files to be mixed it is standard practice to remove all the plugins, sends and automation from the session so that the mixer has a blank session to work from. Here are a few shortcuts that will help you perform these tasks quickly.


By holding down [option] and removing a plugin it will remove all of the plugins in that row of inserts across the session. It works the same for removing send assignments too. If you perform this once on every row of you'll have removed all of the plugins and sends from your session.

(Note: This function will only work on channels of the same type. In other words in you "[option] remove" a plugin from a mono channel it will delete all the plugins from other MONO channels in that row. You'll have to perform the function again for stereo channels and master channels. It's still faster than the alternative!)


Here's an neat little trick for removing ALL of the automation from a session.

1) From the "groups" menu select "ALL" so that every channel in your session is grouped together.

2) From the "edit" menu select "Select All." (you'll notice that the entire session becomes highlighted.)

3) For our last step, within the "edit" menu you'll see "Clear Special." Within this drop down menu select "All Automation".

BAM!!! Just like that, all of the automation in your session is now gone and you can continue getting your session prepped for the mixer.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Onion Mixing

Mixing (and producing) is like peeling an onion... you mix slowly, one layer at a time. The difference is that in mixing you might put a few layers back on if you've gone too far :) Oh, and you peel away the layers with your ears not your hands (hahaha! stupid joke).

It's true, you've gotta mix with your ears and not get too bogged down with one particular task. This is where I overdo it at times. This is where my mixes fall apart, become small and uninteresting.

I find that my best mixes happen when I build a strong foundation, try to make EVERYTHING as big as possible, and move on (or take a break) when I start getting frustrated. I'm just peeling away the layers, making small adjustments until the mix falls into place.

My friend Justin watched me mix for a few days last week and he mentioned how amazed he was at watching this very thing happen. He said, "Wow, you just fight it and fight it and the mix is never good enough until, BAM, it just starts happening!"

So peel away that mix. Fight it to the ground until it's beautiful and finished!


As I continue to learn record production and mixing I'm always learning in extremes. I've tried producing tracks with extremely light "production" (few lays, fewer instruments, etc.) and I've tried massively over-producing tracks (stacks and stacks of guitars and vocals, many parts, heavy tuning). I've tried mixing songs the same way. One day I'll mix with very little EQ, Compression and FX and the next day I might try really pushing things to their limits.

As with anything there are no rules. One engineer is going to find greatness in complexity and pushing limits and another engineer will reach the same heights of success with simplicity. I'm tending to fall somewhere in the middle with my mixes. I don't particularly like extremely slammed mixes and I don't get excited over the simple alternative either.


I most often think of the "too much" or "too little" debate regarding compression. Modern mixing is the sound of compression. (and lots of other things but compression is a big one)

In my mixes, I feel safest right in the middle. I'm compressing most things in the mix, however, I'm not doing a lot of compression on any one channel. I spread the tast of compression out over several busses.

SHARE THE LOAD (over many compressors in the chain)

>>>A kick drum might be compressed 2-4db (4:1-6:1 ratio)
>>>which is fed to an SSL buss compressor or a Fairchild 660 compressor on the drum buss (compressing 1-3db with a slow release and med-fast release)
>>>which ultimately goes through the master buss which is being compressed as well (SSL buss compressor into a Massey L2000M Limiter).

So you can see, by the end of the chain there's a decent amount of compression happening, but no one compressor is doing the job on its own.

WHICH COMPRESSOR SHOULD I USE? (and does it make a difference?)

It's also VERY VERY important to mention how different compressors sound. The circuitry (or digitally emulated circuitry) carries a certain vibe which colors the sound of the source. Each compressor is going to sound soooo different from another even without compressing at all.

When I'm struggling over getting getting an instrument to compress right, I'll do the following....

  • Decide what I'm trying to accomplish and think of the potential solution (IN MY HEAD... thinking about all the gear that I have available to solve the riddle)
  • Then I try my solution and work at it for a while. In the case of a compressor, I'll choose a compressor and tweak settings for a bit. I want to be completely satisfied that what I thought up in my head is being achieved or topped!
  • If it's not happening, I don't tweak harder or to farther extremes... NOPE, I PICK ANOTHER COMPRESSOR.
  • Most of the time I find that the solution happens pretty fast when I stumble upon the right tool. That's when I know I've got it right.
If you think about this concept from that of a keyboard player selecting his or her sounds then this might makes even more sense...

For the keyboardist, one song might call for a Piano, another might call for a rhodes or Wurli patch, another song might call for a B3 or String patch. If a song is dictating a string patch, the keyboardist is not going to look for another piano patch. He needs to find a great STRING patch.

This concept can be applied to our compressor application or to anything else in music production.
  • Is the drum groove just slightly off or is it the wrong groove altogether?
  • Does the guitarist need to try another pedal or try another amp?
  • Does the horn player need to practice his part for a minute or does he need to be replaced? (kindly and as graciously as possible)
  • Does the EQ needed used heavily or do you need to choose a new EQ?
  • Do you need a new Echo patch or should you be using a reverb?
  • Does the song need a new lyric or does the entire song need to be thrown out?
See what I mean?

Try these tips the next time you're mixing. I promise you fewer headaches!! (but I'm not you so I take it back... I can't promise you anything!)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Screen Captures - "You Saved Me" by Justin Kintzel

Every now and then I'll post some screen shots from sessions I'm working on just for fun. The session below is a song called "You Saved Me" from worship artist, Justin Kintzel. His album is due out this spring. He's a very talented guy (musician, photographer, videographer, designer, underwear model... wait? what??!)

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010... my new era

I remember the year 2000. I was really young (still in high school actually) and wide-eyed about my future. There was so much I wanted to do and accomplish with my life and I was eager to get started. 10 years later I'm proud of where I've been and I'm still very excited about the future.

This year I've resolved to make several changes in my life and strengthen the things that have worked for me in the last ten years.

This year I'm going to spend some extra time on my blog writing helpful articles, posting reviews of gear, pointing you to other helpful resources to help you grow as a musician/recordist/writer!! It'll be fun and I hope you'll find it very informative.


I get emails from time to time from young recordists asking questions, soliciting advice, etc. These questions could often be answered in the blog.

If you have a topic you'd like me to address on this blog, please let me know by posting a comment or emailing me at producerkeith1@gmail.com.

Here we go!!

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.