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Old September 17th, 2010, 03:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
jimwilbourne
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SMART FX: Beyond Bass Drops

so I figured I'd give a little back to the forum by writing a short article on mixing effects.
I hope you guys find some of my advice useful!



SMART FX: Beyond Bass Drops



So you finished tracking an awesome song or record. you've dialed in all your favourite tones and everything is shaping together nicely. now it's time for the real fun. all the extra things you get to add to the mix to make it more interesting!

before you use the exact same elements that you used on your last recording, let me give you a few things to think about.

1. 2 Types of Effects: Glue & Glitter

most of us have fond memories of using glue & glitter together on kindergarden projects.
Remember gluing together strips of construction paper & sprinkling glitter on some of our glue to make our mother's day card flashy?

This is easily relatable to Mixing & Production.
if the paper is the raw sounds we tracked, then the Glue & Glitter and what we do in the mixing stage.

"Glue Effects" are simple effects that we use all the time. compression, EQ, reverbs, delays are 4 of the biggest. we use these elements to create a more sonically compelling mix.
"Glitter Effects" are the effects that stand out and give a certain part it's impact: bassdrops/808 hits, reverse reverbs, etc.

The first tip starts here.
the Glitter should work together with the Glue to help create a stronger atmosphere.
and to go even farther, instead of relying on your Glue elements to hold the song together, use some Glitter in your glue. Make your next Reverse Reverb on a snare plan directly into the recording so that (unless you're listening to the production) it seems to blend right into the song writing.

Tip 2 is in the same vein.
Make sure that your Glitter doesn't stick out too much.
If all of a sudden your song has a epic large cathedral reverb that overtakes the whole song for a couple of seconds, you probably sprinkled on a bit too much glitter and you need to poor some off or add more glue to the whole song.
most of the time, it's the former.


2. Album Effects VS. Song Effects

There are 2 different Effect groups once their place on a record.
(for the most part, this doesn't really apply to single song projects)

Album Effects: these are the FX on the record that reoccur. this isn't a bad thing. these are effects like bass drops, reverse reverbs, huge reverb snare hits, etc that are commonly used on a record more than just once.

Song Effects: these are the ones that we pretty much just use on one song per record. just to make that particular song special in some way that the others aren't.

album effects (in order for them to be reused) should be a bit more subtle. these effects also tend to be producer specific and define the "sound" of a producer.


3. Our "Beloved" 808 Hits

Let's face it, Bass Drops are just WAYY too much fun to listen to. as much as some of us would love to not use them anymore, there are listeners who can't get enough of them.
They're not going anywhere anytime soon.

Instead of using them every 2 seconds in your next metal mix, or using them once every couple of songs, use a different approach.

Analyze your song. not EVERY part that comes in strong calls for a bass drop. if it doesn't feel like it's missing anything, leave it alone. let the song tell you where you need to place them.

a good way to make sure you don't over use your favourite bass drop sample is to leave them completely out until you've done every other effect that you plan on doing. at the end of the song go back and listen to it and see if you need any.
you might be surprised to find yourself using them a lot more sparingly.


4. SoftSynths

Ever come to part of a song that needs a little something extra?
You know it's not exactly an effect that you're looking for... just a little more beef in your mix. maybe your upper mids are just missing a little bit of energy.

SoftSynths is usually what I hear filling this void. whether it be strings, a classic synth sound, or a chorus of singers.

The key to making this work is careful placement in the mix. Make sure your SoftSynths are out of the way of your guitars & vocals. carve the sounds so that they fit in the mix. you're going to be using both EQ & panning to make this work.
LESS IS MORE in this one.
that means the synths should take up LESS Freq. range and LESS apparent "loudness".

if, no matter what you do, the synths still clash with the other instruments, then you probably didn't need anything there in the first place.


5. Samples

Another way to spice up your effects is to have a nice library of samples.
This is usually the LEAST used party of FX available. and there's a reason for this.
you don't need a Gunshot Effect in most songs.
However, when you're down to the grind and you're looking for something to give one of the songs on the next record more than just your typical effects, it's good to have some samples on hand.

Luckily for us, there's a HUGE library of sounds available for FREE already.
if you haven't heard of the Free Sound Project, you've missed out big time.
http://www.freesound.org/
I've even found some pretty good drum samples on the site. do some browsing. if you're looking for a particular sound, run to this site and search for it. you'll probably find what you're looking for.


6. Plug-in Mania

Almost all of us have some Plug-ins that we just don't use. and to be honest, there are some plug-ins that people make that have no good use in everyday mixing.

Most of your plug-ins on this list are unused because you haven't found the right way to use them yet. spend a few minutes using some of these plug-ins on your Drum/Guitar/Vocal/FX tracks. play around the with settings. you'll probably end up with some pretty weird sounds. most of which sound horrible in the mix.
now, think outside of the box a bit. figure out how to take a sound that you've made and turn it into a useful effect.

What about the Plug-ins you use everyday?
Misuse a plug-in every once and a while.
What about that Waves Q10 Parametric EQ that you use for tons of everyday mixing?
what happens if you push up 580 Hz in the snare by +10 db. what sound would it make? what if you placed it at the beginning of every 8 bars but kept the other hits normal?
This probably sounds horrible. but it's one way to start getting some good ideas.

Plug-in FX are much more trial and error. but when you get one that works, you'll be happy you found it.


7. Appropriate Effect Placement

Now that we've talked about a couple of ways to make your mixes more interesting. lets talk about where to put them.
there's only 2 rules I have when picking a place.

-- Does the song need something here?
I think that the effects we plan to use should only be placed if the song calls for it. if you add and effect just because you wanted to try it, you probably placed it wrong.

-- Did I really make the song better?
This is the harder question to ask yourself because you're always trying to make your song better and you wouldn't do it unless you thought it'd be cool right? take a closer look at the bigger picture. make sure that your effect doesn't take away from the song.

your job is to bring the artist's vision to life through your art. not your art to life though the artist.
if it were the other way around, he CD titles would be:
"ANDY SNEAP feat. Megadeth"



8. Final Notes

hear are a few more tips on how to use your ideas to the best of your ability!

Lyrics:
Listen to the lyrics of the song. sometimes an effect should be placed based on what's being said or how it's being said.

Storyboard:
almost every song is a story of sorts. and should be divided into 3 acts: Intro, Development & Conclusion. make sure that your FX support the story structure of your songs.
I'd love to go into more detail on this one, but it's a different article all together.

Know Your Theory!!!:
the best producers have musical background. learn some music theory as well as basic keyboarding skills. if a guitarist tells you that he's playing a solo in B flat Mixolydian, you should know what he's talking about (and that he probably knows how to play the blues. haha).

Broaden Your Horizons:
Mixing a Metal record? listen to some Incubus! Mixing a SceneXcore record? listen to some Diddy. you'll find some great element to cross genre that you didn't expect to use before.

Give up and GO TO BED:
still stumped? go to bed. come back to it the next day with new ears.



thanks for reading!
I hope this helped some of you out!
if you have anything to add or if you disagree with anything, PLEASE toss in your ideas.
Mixing is an art!
there's not as much "right" & "wrong" as people make it out to be!
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TUTORIALS:
- SMART FX: Beyond Bass Drops

Last edited by jimwilbourne : September 17th, 2010 at 03:48 PM.
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Old September 17th, 2010, 04:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
timislegend
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perfect ideas, man!
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Old September 18th, 2010, 12:15 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwilbourne View Post
Storyboard:
almost every song is a story of sorts. and should be divided into 3 acts: Intro, Development & Conclusion. make sure that your FX support the story structure of your songs.
I'd love to go into more detail on this one, but it's a different article all together.
I hereby formally request that article! This was awesome man, very easy to read and very helpful to me personally. Thanks for sharing!
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Old September 18th, 2010, 09:36 AM   #4 (permalink)
jimwilbourne
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grubbavitch View Post
I hereby formally request that article! This was awesome man, very easy to read and very helpful to me personally. Thanks for sharing!
I might do that.
I'm glad you liked it.
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I have insurance, a shot gun, electric gates and 15 acres to hide the body on.
TUTORIALS:
- SMART FX: Beyond Bass Drops
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Old September 18th, 2010, 11:29 AM   #5 (permalink)
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i second this

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Originally Posted by grubbavitch View Post
I hereby formally request that article! This was awesome man, very easy to read and very helpful to me personally. Thanks for sharing!

really good article men, thanks for sharing this.
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Old September 19th, 2010, 10:38 AM   #6 (permalink)
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nice.
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Old September 19th, 2010, 11:11 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Cool story!
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Old September 19th, 2010, 12:03 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks a lot! In the past two weeks I've been mixing a song a day (pretty much) and I've improved exponentially. I'm now "happy" with my mixes on a technical point of view, and I've been experimenting a lot with the glitter side of things. Cheers for new ideas!
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Old September 22nd, 2010, 09:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
jimwilbourne
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hopefully I'll have the Story Board Theory article written next week.
I'm a bit swamped between writing music and recording another band right now.

I also have a couple more planned that I think you guys will really enjoy!
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Originally Posted by Andy Sneap View Post
I have insurance, a shot gun, electric gates and 15 acres to hide the body on.
TUTORIALS:
- SMART FX: Beyond Bass Drops
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Old September 23rd, 2010, 12:19 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Looking forward to it mate!
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