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Posts Tagged ‘mixing’

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Professional CD Mastering

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Mixing and mastering usually go hand-in-hand. But while most people refer to them both together, they are two distinctly different stages in the recording process. So why exactly do you need to master your album? Couldn’t you just get your songs mixed by a great engineer (maybe a Studio Pros engineer), skip the mastering step and save a few bucks on your record?

It may seem like an effective cost-cutting solution, but if you don’t get your album mastered, you’re only going to hold yourself back–way back, in fact. What many musicians don’t realize is that mastering is as important as every other aspect of recording, including recording great sounding instrumental tracks and professional mixing. Not mastering your album (or trying to master it yourself) will yield the same unprofessional results as if you recorded low-quality drum tracks or mixed it poorly.

Mastering is essential for making your songs broadcast-quality.

What exactly is mastering anyway?

Mastering might sound like a bit of a vague concept to many musicians, as though it’s just one magical step added to the end of the recording process. But while learning how to master a song very well is an extremely difficult task, learning what mastering actually is is quite simple. In our interview with Studio Pros’ mastering engineer, he explained that mastering is basically EQing, compressing, limiting and gain staging the final mix.

What that means is that the engineer tweaks your mix to sound just like the songs you hear on the radio every day–the same volume, the same balanced sound. Without this step, your song just won’t cut it for broadcast quality.

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Featured Artist: Jeff Heiniger

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Jeff Heiniger knew the importance of a professional production–so he turned to Studio Pros when he didn’t want to settle for anything less.

Jeff Heiniger has known what goes into a professional production for a long time. In 1987, he won a national songwriting competition in the UK that was put together by Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman. The prize: a chance to record in the Stones’ state-of-the-art mobile recording studio with top producers Mick McKenna and Terry Taylor. “It was brilliant to work with actual professionals,” Heiniger remembers. “They turned our demo into something that was fantastic.”

Heiniger first started taking music lessons after getting a piano when he was 13.  He also started listening to all sorts of pop music, from Electric Light Orchestra to Depeche Mode, ABBA to The Beatles. Since winning the competition he has put together a Pro Tools-equipped home studio, but soon realized that without a professional producer behind the board he wasn’t going to achieve the same sort of radio-ready product he got with is winning song. “The problem is that I’m not an engineer, so I didn’t have anybody to record my stuff,” he explains. “What I found was really good about Studio Pros was that the production was sort of taken out of my hands in a way.”

When he found the Studio Pros website, Heiniger was actually looking for session vocalists on the web. “I couldn’t find anyone locally who was any good,” he says. “It’s quite laborious, taking your music to a recording studio and finding an engineer who will record a session singer who you may not like. It seemed quite a lengthy process, and one that may not yield results at the end of the day.” He found himself intrigued by the Studio Pros website. “The site itself looked very professional. Professionalism and price were important.”

With Studio Pros, Heiniger was able to focus on writing a song on piano, then letting our team of world-class studio musicians build the rest from the ground up. Along the way, he would provide input and feedback to make sure everything came together how he wanted it. In order to make it easier, Heiniger would provide reference tracks with other music that matched the vibe he was going for with each song.

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Buying Yet Another Piece of Gear vs. Recording Your Song With Studio Pros

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Technology can be a great tool. It can help you come up with your next masterpiece, and it can give you the means of recording your latest creation.  And I don’t know about you, but it sure does make me feel warm and fuzzy inside when I buy a shiny new piece of gear for my home studio.

That is, until I plug it in.  You see, technology is something of a double-edged sword.  Even though buying new gear is really fun, it also means you have to invest a ton of time into learning how to use it well. That’s why the fuzzy feeling starts fading as soon as my new piece of gear is out of the box.  I’m faced with the daunting task of the dreaded musical equipment learning curve, something I may have time to get the hang of, but rarely have the time to master.

And there’s the real kicker–even when you get used to using new gear, it still takes a lot of time, experience, trial and error to be able to use it to its maximum potential the way a top professional would. While it would certainly be nice to get to that point eventually, I don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the recording I’m doing now to work towards the goal of great recordings later.

It’s because of this that technology, while seemingly freeing initially, can really put unnecessary limits on your song’s production and ruin your creative process!  Talk about a catch-22… Every minute you spend figuring out how to maximize your gear’s potential is taken away from time you could have spent composing, creating, and expanding your artistic horizons.

There is, of course, the obvious solution to this dilemma: put your music in the hands of a professional who already knows what they’re doing with today’s best technology.  But that sure sounds easier said than done–it’s not like you can just hand your stuff over to a Grammy-nominated engineer who will mix and master it to radio broadcast standards without forking over your life savings, right?

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Radio Play: Getting Your Music on the Airwaves

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

We’d all love to get played on the radio.  I grew up dreaming of hearing my songs on the airwaves, knowing that thousands of people were also listening.

Have you ever wondered why your songs aren’t on the radio? Most of us probably tell ourselves the same excuses–radio doesn’t care about my music, I need to be on a major label to have any hope of radio airplay, and no one listens to the radio anymore, anyway. But if you think this way, you’re selling yourself short. If you remember a recent post I wrote, that’s a self-defeating attitude that will get you nowhere!

The fact is, you could be on the radio. But there are a few things you should know before you start mailing CDs to every station in town.

Unsigned doesn’t necessarily mean un-played

Most of the bands you hear on your local radio station are signed, that much is true. But that doesn’t mean you have to be signed to get played on the air. Most radio stations have a time set aside each week to feature local artists–your best bet is to target these shows first. Find out from the station’s website what their policy is for submitting music, or find the contact information of the DJ that hosts the local show.

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Music Mixing: What It Is, and Why It’s Important

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

When I was a kid, I started playing guitar, and along with playing guitar inevitably came reading guitar-themed magazines. As a guitar neophyte, I began devouring publications on playing guitar and writing music, delving into interviews with famous artists who talked shop about writing guitar parts and recording albums. One day I was reading an interview with Sting, who mentioned the name of the person who mixed his album.

Mixed? What did that mean, I wondered? So I asked the nearest person to me at the time, which happened to be my mom. “Mixing is when they take the recordings of each instrument and adjust the volumes to make the sound you hear in the recording,” she explained to me.

“Wait,” I asked, “you mean they record everything separately?”

This was my introduction to mixing, starting with the revelation that songs weren’t just recorded live in a studio by a whole band standing around a few microphones (at least not anymore–my mental picture of recording may have been shaped by years listening to early Beatles records which did involve much more “live” recording). After all my years of listening to music, I had never known. With that revelation in mind, I knew from then on what “mixing” meant.  Well, sort of.

There was much more to it than I thought

For the next several years, I thought mixing was simply a search for the right volume levels.  While that’s not completely untrue, it was still a very incomplete picture. It wasn’t until I started interacting directly with professional mixing engineers that I finally began to fully understand how important–and complex–mixing really was.

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