How To Make Your Mixes Translate Well Outside Of Your Studio

Mixing can be so much fun, especially when you are that point when everything is sounding kick-ass.

The drums are hitting hard, the bass is groovy, the vocal sits nicely on top and we feel like kick-ass mixers.

Then we take our mix out in the real world and it sounds completely different.

The vocals might not feel as loud anymore and all of a sudden the drums are lacking all of its low-end.

This can make us start questioning our decisions during mixing, for example, we might question if the vocals are loud enough or if the mix is too bright or too bassy.

You might even start looking for that perfect control-room to mix in, but that will most likely take a lot of money and/or time. Time you can spend mixing and honing your craft.

So, what can you do in situations like these to fix your mixes?

Mix Quiet

Mix quietly

Mix quietly

One of the biggest impact my mixes benefitted from was to start mixing really quiet.

By mixing really quiet your perception of where things sit in the mix will improve dramatically. You will start to notice, really easily, if something is too quiet, too loud or too bright or bassy.

By mixing really quiet you will start to have a more “even” mix and when you check your mix in other speakers, it should be a much more pleasant experience rather than one of dread.

Beyond that, it will let you mix for longer periods of time because you will not suffer from tired ears and a tired brain.

This technique works great on either headphones or speakers.

Learn Your Room, Speakers, Headphones, Etc.

Learn your gear

Learn your gear

I do a lot of my mixes on headphones (I’m using the Sennheiser HD650) and over time, by playing these mixes in rooms I trust, I know how loud, for example, I need to make the bass so it translates well.

Even if you don’t find a perfect room and it varies a bit from room to room, make a note how it sounds on speakers you trust and how that sounds in your headphones.

Depending on the headphones you are using you might find that you need to make it feel a bit too bassy or slightly less bassy to make it translate well to speakers.

You also need to learn how your room sounds. Perhaps it hasn’t been designed by an acoustician which means you will most likely encounter some problems.

Listen to a lot of music and take your mixes to rooms you can trust so you know at which frequencies you have a problem at.

Make a note of this and apply that knowledge to your new mixes. Go back and check, did it improve?

Too Bright Or Too Bassy?

Too bright?

Too bright?

By implementing the previous techniques you will hopefully start to feel when something is either too bright, not bright enough, etc.

However, if you, like me, compare your mixes to other songs out there, you might find that your mix is never as bright as them.

Does that mean you need to go in and brighten every track in your session?

No, but you can perhaps add a dB or two on your master track just to brighten it up a little (Assuming you still have some headroom left).

Use some reference tracks that you know well and that sounds great wherever you listen to them. Compare them to yours and try match the brightness or the low-end if that’s what you need.

Again, listen quietly to make the best adjustments.

Side note: Don’t only mix super quiet, make sure you check your mix at loud levels too. It’s important to feel and hear the impact of your mix and if something pops out that you didn’t notice before.

Use Analysers

Built in analyser in the SSL EQ plugin

Built in analyser in the SSL EQ plugin

Something I heard from a prominent engineer is to use analysers. Especially when you are starting out.

How does your favourite sounding track look on the analyser? How loud is the bass?

Try and match your mix with your favourite track using an analyser and see how it feels.

The track you compare to have most likely been mastered so make sure you don’t get fooled by the level difference. Bring the level down of your reference track down to yours so you don’t get fooled by the “louder is better” syndrome.

I hope some of these techniques helps and let me know in the comments below what you think and if you have any other techniques you want to share!

Working Hard vs Working Long Hours

How many times have we heard someone that we look up to say how hard they worked to get to where they are?

And how many times do we hear that in conjunction with how many hours they worked every day?

Of course, working long hours, every day, is hard, but is that what it takes to “make it” and is that actually hard work?

There’s always been this notion that working long hours is required to succeed. However, if that was true we could all fill our days with random tasks to reach the 14-hour mark.

But does that mean we will also “make it”?

What if you instead worked 14 hours in one day, to hire the right assistant that let you cut down your day to 6 working hours. Does that mean you are not working hard anymore?

Seth Godin gave a great example of this in his blog where he compared two workers unloading heavy boxes from a tractor.

One of the workers worked the whole day to unload the tractor, he was exhausted, he got blisters on his fingers, strained back, etc.

A hard days work, right?

However, the other worker used his people skills to borrow a hand truck from the company next door. An hour later, he was finished and still felt fresh.

Who worked the hardest?

If you think about it, it’s hard to go talk to someone and try utilising your people skills to get what you want. It would be easier to just stay quiet and do the work yourself. But in the end, doing the hard work of asking someone for help, paid off, not working long hours.

We can apply the same thinking to our own lives

For example, what’s easier, stay at home and make music for hours on end or go out and meet other musicians to work with that could spark new ideas, create new projects and help us speed up the process?

I know what my answer to that is, what’s yours? (Let me know in the comments below)

Furthermore, I mentioned “making it” previously and that’s something that we have to decide for ourselves what that is, since it’s different for everybody, and then make a plan of how we can reach that goal.

It’s following our plan and keep going even though nothing seems to be working, to seek help when we need to, to get guidance when we are lost. That is the hard work of fighting for your dreams.

We can all fill our days with pointless stuff just to seem busy but it might not be the hard work that’s necessary for us to do.

I hope this will inspire you to think differently and question if working long hours actually will pay off, or should you instead do the hard work that’s necessary for you to accomplish your goal?

Share your thoughts about this in the comments below and let’s get the discussion going!

Do You Suffer From Musical ADHD?

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4 Steps To Start Making Money As An Audio Engineer

Learn How To:
- Get Your Foot In The Door
- How To Find Opportunities And Work
- How To Find Artists To Work With
- How To Price Yourself

When you write music do you find yourself not being able to finish your idea? Perhaps the initial idea became something else or you got distracted by something around you?

You might not actually have ADHD but It’s a pretty common problem these days and I’m not sure if that has to do with our limited attention span people keep telling us we have.

ADHD, short attention span or not, being able to stay focused and finish the work at hand is important. It will create less clutter from folders with unfinished music and unfinished mixes.

It will also let you pitch more music to publishers or labels, get more fans and listeners.

So, what can you do to combat a cluttered mind?

Don’t do too many things at the same time

Duh, obviously…

However, if you think about it, it makes sense.

Instead of trying to do 3-5 tasks simultaneously, break it down and focus on one thing. As Tim Ferriss says in the video below, “Don’t be a donkey

Makes sense, right?

Focus On What You Can Control

In a short article titled, Why Your First Decision Is Focus, by Tony Robbins he (or his employee) writes:

What do you tend to focus on more? What you can control or what you can’t control? What you have or what’s missing? The past? The present? Or the future? The honest answers to these questions will reveal your true pattern

It can be worth thinking about some of these questions when we sit down to make music.

For example, for you to be able to stay focused and do the work, what can you control to make that happen?

Turn off your phone, wifi, the mail app?

Or, why not just stop going on the internet altogether? This is what the author of Confession of a Teenage Gamer, Nicolas Cole, did for about 4 years to write his book.

Now, 4 years is a long time without the internet. But it must have cleared all the distractions he could have had.

Check Cole’s article, 10 Ways To Stay Ridiculously Focused On Your Goals, for some more tips from the man himself.

What could you accomplish if you took a break from the internet for 4 years?

What could you accomplish if you took a break from the internet for 4 years?

Make It Easy

This is a personal favourite of mine because you want to make your work as easy as possible. You don’t want to have to go through all the pain with setting up a new session, creating tracks, routing things, etc., which can cause you to lose your focus when you just want to lay down some new ideas.

The solutions for this is to have templates ready.

For example, I have a few templates (for mixing and writing) and for my current writing project, I have created a template which I can just open up and start making music within a few seconds.

In it, I have my instrument-tracks such as drums, synths and a few tracks for guitars. This is all I need to be able to make music but it saves me probably 5-10 minutes every time I open a new session.

My Pro Tools writing templates, what do you call yours?

My Pro Tools writing templates, what do you call yours?

Priorities

Being organised and having priorities can also help you stay focused on what’s at hand. For example, if you have a lot to do, perhaps sending emails, mixing for a client, write your own music, etc., it’s easy to jump between tasks and not complete one task at a time.

This can leave you feeling even more stressed because the tasks you have set out to do never get finished.

By writing down what you have to do for the day, or for the week ahead (my recommendation), you can easily follow what you have to do and check the box for “complete” when you are done.

This will help you stay more focused and feeling less rushed because you have a plan and a system for how to complete your tasks.

Now, let me know if this is something that is bothering you or if you have any other solutions for this problem in the comments below!

How I Successfully Pitched My Music To A Publisher

I recently got my first full-length sync/library album signed by my first publisher and even though the road was longer than I would have hoped, due to them being very busy (which is a good thing I hope), I’m very pleased with the outcome and I can’t wait to see it getting some great placements.

I know many of you are interested in this, and probably write some kick-ass music that would be great for library/sync purposes. Therefore, I thought I could be helpful if I shared how I did it and what I would do differently next time.

First step, Build A Library (I.e., make music)

The first thing you got to do is to write some killer music that fits within the same theme. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be everything from Funky Grooves to Scary Synths and something that you could see work as “background” music.

How many tracks?

Initially, when I started out pitching, I was pitching a small set of some awesome acoustic songs, but I ended up signing a kick-ass action rock album instead.

How did that happen?

As I said, I was pitching a small EP of acoustic tracks, done with a private link to a Soundcloud playlist, but in that playlist I had also put a few rock tracks that I had made previously, just in case they would spark some interest.

After I got some interest from a publisher, we started talking about if I had a plan going forward and if I would consider writing more.

That’s when I realised I needed to follow Dan Graham’s advice and pitch them a full-length album of 10-12 songs, instead of as small set of acoustic songs, and the Kick Ass Action Rock was born.

Even though it worked out in the end in this case, I strongly recommend that you create a 10-12 song album before you pitch to a publisher/label. This also speeds up the process of getting the album out there quicker.

This is exactly what I will be doing going forward pitching to other labels in the future.

How do you pitch?

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After you have your awesome tracks, mixed and mastered, it’s time to pitch.

Now, pitching might sound like some sleaze-ball salesmen thing, but it’s something you can’t ignore because, without a good pitch, your music is less likely to get heard and published.

Pitching doesn’t have to be hard, in fact, mine was pretty simple and followed a simple formula that I also use to land the interviews featured here on youraudiosolutions.com, and around the web.

If you want this simple formula, download the free cheat sheet below

Did you check it out?

Great!

How many publishers/labels should I pitch to?

Now, pitching to publishers and labels can be a tedious process and requires a lot of research, but don’t panic if you don’t hear back from them. They are probably getting bombarded with composers who want to work with them. Also, the bigger the label or publishers, the harder it is to get noticed.

However, and as in my case, I continued to do my research with finding publishers, finding their email addresses (personal email addresses are always best), looking at their previous work, which one of their composers do I like, etc.

I pitched to 12 publishers before I got one who was interested.

Yes, it was a smaller company but perfect if you are starting out and gaining experience so when you get to play with the big boys, you are ready.

Where do you find publishers?

Google is probably your best friend here.

Try to find any local companies and reach out to them via email. Do they have any events you could go to, where do they hang out?

Some of the sites have dedicated submission emails but if not, try to find their specific email addresses by using LinkedIn.

What I Would Do Differently next time?

As I said early on, for my next project I will finish one album of 10-12 awesome tracks (mixed and mastered) rather than pitching an EP’s worth of tracks. This helps with speeding things up and getting the music out there quicker.

More research and find more niche publishers/labels that my music will fit in to.

Continue networking within the industry and getting to know more people.

Sharing what I learn with you!

Now, let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. Are you currently trying to find publishers? Are you working on some library music? What’s your experience with pitching to publishers?

Charging Based On Value Rather Than Time

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4 Steps To Start Making Money As An Audio Engineer

Learn How To:
- Get Your Foot In The Door
- How To Find Opportunities And Work
- How To Find Artists To Work With
- How To Price Yourself

As freelancers, we get confronted with the task of figuring out how much we should charge for our service which can be quite overwhelming and difficult.

On one hand, you know how much the top mixers are charging for a mix, but they all have these hit credits that you don’t.

However, on the other hand, you have to be able to make a living so you can’t work for nothing.

Empty pockets

Empty pockets

The particular thing with the music business (perhaps other industries are facing the same problems?) is that you have to start out working for very little money.

It’s not that you are not worth more but you are more likely to be working with artists who can’t pay you much, or anything at all.

It takes time to “climb the ladder” where you can start charging a proper rate.

Having said that, it’s never too late to try to get out of the rut where you charge based on how many hours you are working and instead start charging based on the value you are providing.

This concept is brilliantly laid out in the FREE, short, book, Breaking The Time Barrier, by Mike McDerment and Donald Cowper.

This short story is about a freelance web designer, named Steve, who decides to go freelance but is struggling to keep his rates high enough so he doesn’t have to struggle and lose clients.

A problem many of us starting out in the music business are facing too.

In the book, Steve gets advice from his friend John, who tells him to figure out his rates based on what his costs are, both professionally and personally.

However, Steve, like many of us, faced the challenge of having to compete against cut-rate designers (read engineers/studios/producers, etc.) and after trying to explain why he was the better choice he would lose out if he didn’t change/lowered his rate.

(Who hasn’t been in this situation?)

However, after having worked on a successful project, Steve started to feel like he should have charged more.

He starts raising his rates but since all his previous clients had been referrals, who were used to his lower rates and Steve needing to work, he had to go back to his lower rates again.

Frustrating

Frustrating

Realising that he needs help, he sets up a meeting with a common friend named Karen, who is one of the top designers in the city.

Karen gets Steve to realise that he is, in fact, selling hours rather than basing his fees based on the value he is bringing to a project.

In the book, Karen gives a perfect example where she says to Steve:

…I’m not a collection of hours. I’m the accumulation of all my skills and talents. I’m wisdom and creativity. I’ve stopped seeing myself as a punch card. My clients don’t see me that way either. Yes, sometimes, I’ve had to change my client’s mindset. But it starts with me, first, just as it starts with you. You have to forget selling time. The best thing you could do for yourself is to get the concept of time out of your head.

She continues:

Since there are only so many hours in a year, it puts a cap on how much revenue you can collect in a year, and it means that the only way to make more money is to work more hours. These are limits...and the truth is, they are false limitations that lead to bad behaviours, like burning yourself out by working around the clock in an effort to earn more.

Who hasn’t been there? I know I have.

This is not shaming on people who need to work multiple jobs just to survive, rather, is to give you an idea of what potentials are out there for you to create the life you want, and most importantly, setting yourself up so you actually can do this until you retire without burning yourself out.

And if we as producers and engineers can take this mindset onboard I believe we can see some great changes in our lives as well as in our income.

How do you find out the value you are bringing to a project?

Investigate

Investigate

It starts with finding out more about the project before you accept it.

For example, if an artist approaches you to produce an album for him or her, start by asking what the project is about, why is it important to her to get the music out? Is it to promote touring? To send around to labels?

Find out what’s important to him or her and what would make this a successful project for them.

Anything you can find out is great and the more you learn the more you will see the real value you could be bringing to a project. Rather than just a collection of hours.

When you have gained all the inside knowledge of the project and what the artist dreams and hopes are, you can start working on a deal that could help bring that dream to life.

Which brings me to,

The Power Of Offering Various Deals

Offer various deals

Offer various deals

Just telling the artist your daily rate is kind of lazy because when you know what he or she really wants out of a project you can start working on a set of deals.

For example, try to come up with 3 or more different packages where the first one would give her everything she could possibly need to accomplish her goal and dreams.

For example, if she wants to do an EP, offer to do the recording, editing (vocal tuning if we are honest) mixing and mastering. Offer to hire a small team to film the recording that she could use for a music video, too.

Offer to have food and drink available for each session.

Perhaps even an Uber waiting to pick her up in the mornings and get her back home after every session.

I hope you realise that just offering her your, “this is my daily rate”, would not enable you to give your client the experience and product he or she deserves.

By tailoring your offers to the client's needs you can start offering different packages with different price points that they can choose from.

Have one premium and a few other offers that still will get the artist to her goal but without all cream on top.

I hope this can spark some ideas for you, or perhaps you have some even better ideas? Whatever it is, let me know in the comments below what you think.

How To Finish Your Tracks (Or Help Others)

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4 Steps To Start Making Money As An Audio Engineer

Learn How To:
- Get Your Foot In The Door
- Find Work And Opportunities
- How To Find Artists To Work With
- How To Price Yourself

Writing songs can be so much fun, especially when you hit that flow where everything is coming together and sounding awesome.

It doesn’t matter what you play, the melody just seems to write itself.

Love it!

However, how many times don’t we get stuck when writing songs?

For example, you might have a kick-ass groove and bass line but it stops there. The melody you try to write on top doesn’t seem to fit and the notes don’t excite you.

Even going into the next section of the song is a struggle.

It’s awful and even taking a break from it doesn’t seem to work.

The struggle is real

The struggle is real

What’s the solution?

Being a musician and writer myself I encounter this problem too.

I also have many ideas that I want to record and make songs out of, but sometimes it stops there and I don’t seem to be able to take it any further.

As much as I hate these situations I have found that the best solution is to move on to other ideas as quickly as possible.

Why?

Because it keeps me away from being stuck in an idea that is not leading anywhere for too long.

Also, by moving on to other ideas quickly increases my chances of starting something that will excite me and allow me to hit that flow state where everything is coming together.

Dan Graham, from the label/publisher, Gothic Storm (Hobbs & Shaw, Glass, Aquaman) relied heavily on this technique when writing 52 tracks per year.

Dan Graham

Dan Graham

He said:

In one hour I would have outlined three different ideas and if all were good, great, but if one idea was a lot better than the others, I would focus on that idea.

The reason being, by working on the idea that excites you will enable you to make it better and be able to finish it.

If you would just stick with your first idea, which might not have been your best, you are wasting time. Instead, if you quickly lay out three or more ideas and pick the best one to focus on, it will save you a lot of time.”

Don’t Throw It Out

Don’t throw your idea out of the window, keep it on your hard drive and come back to it a few days, or even a few weeks later. You never know, you might have something for it then.

Get A Second Pair Of Ears

Many times a song can feel like it’s 90% finished where you have all the parts and the melody is good but you are not sure if it’s good enough, or if it needs improvement.

This is a great time to play your song to someone whose opinion you respect.

I do this myself every time and it will either confirm that the song is done or if I need to work on the melody, transitions or whatever that needs some improvement.

Study The Great

Put on your headphones and study some music

Put on your headphones and study some music

A great way of getting stuck less is to study great songs and songs that you absolutely love.

Figure out the chord progressions and how the chords change between sections. Write down how it makes you feel.

For example, the chord progression I - V - VI - III to VI - I - V - VI felt nice and mellow.

Or, I - V - II to VII - IV - I felt very uplifting.

How did the drums change?

Did it go from a hihat groove to a ride groove in the chorus?

Which chord notes does the melody land on and how does that make you feel?

Every time you feel stuck you can take your notes out and use any of these ideas. Or you can even start a new song based on these newly acquired ideas of yours.

Go back to your notes

Go back to your notes

Trust Your Instincts

If you are working on something that you know can probably be better, like a melody or a beat, move on as quickly as possible and try new ideas.

There’s no point wasting time on something that you can do better just because it might be cool or be some show-off thing (guitar players, I’m talking to you).

Sometimes the simpler it’s is, the better it is and the quicker you can find that, the easier it will be to finish your song.

Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Do you have any techniques that helps you get unstuck in your writing? Let me know in the comments below!

Do You Need To Work 14-Hour Days To Succeed? Discuss.

Having worked in many recording studios in London and talking to people in the music industry, working 12-14 hour days is very common.

However, is this necessary to succeed or is much of it down to fear?

The fear I’m talking about is the perceived fear that if you are not working around the clock you might be risking losing clients, losing money, not being able to meet deadlines and missing opportunities.

The fear of it all stopping where no one calls you anymore might also be a big fear factor that drives you to work around the clock.

But, again, is working more hours the answer and the right preventive to stay ahead of the fear and the competition?

In my opinion, no.

Of course, when you have the pressure of bills pressing it can be hard to stop, but as Herb Trawick put it when I asked him about this a few months ago:

You have to, both emotionally and intellectually, maintain a balance which can be very hard when bills are pressing or problems are brewing. However, relationships are very important, such as family or significant others, but it often gets overlooked.
Also, whether you are male or female, trying to be macho about it, where you think you can just power through and “man up” is not always the best idea either.
— Herb Trawick

Having worked in this environment I don’t see any benefits of working around the clock all the time. And, as Herb stated, it can also affect people’s personal lives, which, I believe is important if you want to sustain a long career in music.

Why can’t you have a great career working “only” 8-hour days, 5 days a week? Or, half that, 4-hour days, 3 days a week?

As Tim Ferriss stated: What if you did the opposite?

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I believe if you work smarter and harder, harder being to stay away from distractions (like Facebook and Instagram) and only doing one thing at the time, you can achieve great results too. I know I have.

To check some other interesting things on this subject check out Tim’s blog HERE

Set Tighter Deadlines

Without coming across as a Tim Ferriss fan girl, but his comment about setting tighter deadlines can be worth thinking about and help you accomplish more in less hours.

Tim said,

Since we have eight hours to fill, we fill eight hours. If we had 15, we would fill 15.
Time is wasted in proportion to the amount that is available
— Tim Ferriss

Basically, the more hours you give yourself to complete a task, you will most likely use those hours. Instead, if you give yourself less hours and a tighter deadline, you can accomplish what you set out to do in a shorter space of time.

Let me know in the comments below what you think about this. why do you think people are workaholics and does working more hours mean you will succeed?

How To Deal With Lost Opportunities

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4 Steps To Start Making Money As An Audio Engineer

Learn How To:
- Get Your Foot In The Door
- How To Find Opportunities And Work
- How To Find Artists To Work With
- How To Price Yourself

Working in the audio/music business can bring many situations, both good and bad. One moment you can be flying high from having been booked on a great gig to feeling way down because something didn’t pan out as planned.

Sometimes you can be doing everything right but it still falls apart on the finishing line, like what happened to this woman who shared her story on Reddit, which now, unfortunately, is deleted.

This woman was booked on a tour as a backing musician, it was for one of her favourite artists and they loved her and wanted her to join the tour.

She signed all the papers and was excited and ready to go on the road.

However, she gets a phone call and it’s the management. They are calling to say that unfortunately, she will not be going on the tour after all and that they have found a replacement.

Of course, she is arguing that she has already signed the contract but, of course, there a clause saying that if there’s any security or threat against the act they are allowed to terminate the contract. In this case, the “threat” was towards the image of the band…

Instead, they hired a male, and not any random male person around, but her friend who had also applied for this position.

She, as anyone would be, was broken by this.

This is, hopefully, a rear incident and something none of us have to experience in our careers.

How do you deal with situations like these?

Doesn’t matter if it’s a big, or small opportunity lost, it can still hurt and can put you in a difficult situation, economically speaking.

I have been there and sometimes it still happens that sessions get cancelled or rescheduled for a later date. Once I was even scheduled to go to Spain for two weeks of live-sound work only to have it cancelled a week or two before, and as you can imagine, I was pissed.

In these situations it’s important, I think, to give yourself time to be angry and upset about it before accepting it and moving on.

The good thing with experiencing these situations is that you can learn from them, for example, you can start taking a deposit before every session so if the artist cancels, you are not left completely broke.

It can also make you realise that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, which I have done myself, thinking, “Oh, this project will come and I think they will pay me this, etc.” Before everything is clear, as in, dates and rates are decided, and I would actually go as far as saying until you press record, everything can happen which can leave you either empty handed or pocket “filled” with money.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a few other projects in the pipeline so if one gets cancelled you are not back at square one.

Is this something you have experienced in your career? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments below!

How To Battle Procrastination

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How To Find Work And Become A Freelance Sound Engineer

Learn How To:
- Get Your Foot In The Door
- How To Find Artists To Work With
- How To Price Yourself

And much more

Being self-employed can be awesome because you get to decide when and where you will work, when to take lunch breaks and when to finish for the day.

However, it also comes with more responsibility than being “just employed”, for instance, you have to be the one making sure things get done, that you are not wasting time, that money comes in and dealing with the panic if nothing does come in.

This is where procrastination can creep up and become your enemy because the pleasure of instant gratification is so nice that even if we have a big to-do-list we sometimes find it hard to deal with it, instead, we retrieve to something we enjoy, like watching Netflix or play Red Dead Redemption 2 (like me).

So, how can we stay productive and battle procrastination?

Stay Organised

One way that I have found helpful is to stay organised and plan my week ahead.

For example, if I have a clear plan of what I need to get done for the week ahead, I have a much easier time staying productive and not fall into a procrastinated mode.

The plan also gets easier to follow if you break down the task in hand into smaller tasks. For example, if my main goal is to finish an album, rather than looking at my week and seeing that on Friday I have to finish my album (which would feel quite overwhelming), I would break down what it would require to finish it and finish each small task throughout the week, making it much easier to grasp and complete.

Motivation vs Discipline

Sometimes you hear that people need to feel motivated to complete stuff, for example, “I’m not motivated enough to go the gym”, or, “I don’t feel motivated to finish my music”, and so forth.

However, and as a former Navy SEAL and author of Discipline Equals Freedom, Jocko Willink puts it in his interview on the Tim Ferriss podcast:

"I would venture to guess that the biggest reason creative types don't produce isn't because they don't have vision...or talent...in most cases, it's a lack of discipline."

He continues:

"The more you practice," he says, "the better you get, the more freedom you have to create." Discipline in any area of your life will increase your skills, productivity, and, he reveals, will "set you free."

Jocko Willink

Jocko Willink

Now, ironically enough, hows that for motivation?

It sounds easier than it is, but Jocko has a really good point and it’s worth thinking about when you find yourselves in moments where you are struggling to grab the guitar to finish writing that song or opening Pro Tools to finish a mix, or whatever.

Distractions

If you find yourself getting distracted a lot and that it takes you out of your flow, start organising the space around you. Perhaps turn your phone off for an hour or, if possible, go into another room where there’s no TV or Playstation laying around.

Master Procrastinators

If you, like Tim Urban from the popular blog Wait But Why, are a master procrastinator who likes to wait up until the very last minute to do things, I can highly recommend that you check out his hilarious Ted Talk on the subject below.

I don’t know about you but I knew that exact type of guy when I went to university and they always got good marks, haha.

Is this something you struggle with? Do you have any techniques that work for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Lesson Learned From Having My Music Mixed By Someone Else

As sound engineers, it’s amazing when you get hired to record or mix someone else’s music. It means the band or artist like what you do and trusts your opinion, however, how often do we base our decisions on our own perception about the music rather than working from what the band actually wants and how they hear things within their own music?

This was something I recently experienced but with the roles being reversed, as in, I was the artist and someone else was mixing it.

When I received the music it was nothing like I had envisioned it, instead, it was done with the intention and taste from the engineer.

To be a great engineer it’s really important to understand how it is at the other side of the glass, as in, you have experienced being recorded yourself or you know how it is playing live. For example, having some experience being an artist you know how important it is for them to feel relaxed in the studio and if you are doing live shows you know how important the monitoring is for them on stage.

The same thing goes for mixing other peoples music.

So, how come we sometimes can get stuck in our own way and think we know how something should sound if we haven’t fully understood the artist we are working with?

Unless someone hires you because they love your sound then you are free to do whatever you want, of course, but for most of us, that is not the case (yet).

The Importance Of Asking Questions

So, what can we as engineers do to understand what the artist hear in their head and make them become a reality?

Simple - ask them questions.

For example, before starting the project, whether it’s a recording session or a mixing session, call them up and talk about their music.

Ask for references and which artists they like. What do they like about them? Is it how the vocal or drum sounds? How they pan their guitars? How massive the bass is?

Anything you can pick up and learn the better of you will be, and the more likely you are to deliver a killer recording or mix.

Being Able To Decipher What Artist Means

It’s not always as easy that you can just ask questions to artists and get answers that you can start implementing. Sometimes, artists can say one thing and mean another thing.

For example, a Grammy-winning engineer told me once that an artist he was doing some mixing for had asked for it to sound like the ’70s with big reverbs, etc. However, when the artist heard it it was nothing like he had meant.

These things happen all the time, therefore, it’s really important to dig just a little bit deeper. If the artist asks for a particular sound, for example, a 70’s sound, send them some references or mention some artists that you associate with that decade and ask if that’s what they mean.

This could save some time down the line so you don’t have to mix it once and then come back and mix it again, completely different.

Asking bands and artists for rough mixes is also a really good way of getting a better understanding of their intentions, and gives you something to compete with

Sometimes it’s like cracking a code

Sometimes it’s like cracking a code

Let Go Of Your Ego

Working with bands and artists music, that they sometimes have spend years writing, is something that should be treated with respect and it’s our duty to, at least, ask some questions about their vision and how they want to hear it.

Therefore, it’s important to let go of your ego as much as you can and realise it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Now, I’d love to hear what you think about this, do you have any experience of this happening to you? Let me know in the comments below!

How To Talk To Strangers

Going up to bands or fellow engineers after a gig to introduce yourself can be terrifying. Your anxiety level is at its highest and before you decide to jump, you wished you had stayed home that night, or for the night to finally be over.

Same goes if you are at a networking event, alone, you want nothing more than to be done with the night.

However, these are situations you will probably find yourself in when you are trying to build your network and eventually find work through.

So, how can you get over this fear and start walking up to strangers and introduce yourself, whether at a concert or at a networking event?

Ramit Sethi

Ramit Sethi

Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich did a great article where he shares some great tips on How To Talk To People.

Some of the things he mentions are:

  1. There are no magic lines or phrases, rather, it’s how you say things.

  2. Smile - sounds easy, but often gets overlooked.

  3. Slow down - the speed in which we say something can have a huge effect on how people perceive us.

These are really good things to keep in mind when you are next out networking and if you want to check out Ramit’s full article, check it HERE.

Practice Makes Perfect

Have you found that the more you do something that is hard, the easier it gets?

Same thing with talking to people.

The more you can put yourself in a situation where you have to talk to strangers, and this can be at your local coffee shop when ordering a coffee, instead of just asking for a coffee, ask them how their day is going - start a conversation.

You Won’t Die

There have been so many times, either at gigs or at networking events, where I have been dreading to go talk to people, almost feeling like you won’t be able to do it and that something bad will happen.

But does it, ever?

Of course not!

However, this fear that holds many of us back is completely unjustified.

Practice by making conversation in places like coffee shops

Practice by making conversation in places like coffee shops

People Love To Get Compliments

If your plan is to get to know more local bands or engineers, remember that people usually love to get compliments on their music and/or work.

Wouldn’t you love it if someone walked up to you to praise your work after a show, either if you played or was doing the sound?

I know I would.

This is the perfect ice breaker and opens up many more possibilities to take the conversation further. For example, you can ask about their up and coming shows, are they working on some new music, do they need a studio to record in (this is where you can jump in and offer them a visit yours).

The same applies if you know or recognise a person at a networking event whose work you love. Compliment them.

Bring A Friend

If you find it too difficult to do this by yourself, don’t hesitate to ask a friend to come along.

Having someone there with you can work wonders and give you that extra boost you need in certain situations.

If you are interested in hearing some other great benefits on why you should talk to strangers, check out this interesting TED Talk by author Kio Stark.

Now, let me know what your experience has been in the comments below. Is this something you struggle with and/or what have you done to get over it?

How To Priorities Your Spare Time To Achieve More

I recently got this question from a reader who was wondering how he can spend his spare time to develop relationships in the music industry, he asked: “I have a little (not a ton) of time outside my job but I’m not really sure what to do with it: go push boxes with the local crews? Try to meet engineers at shows? Or online?”

It’s a great question and probably something we have all experienced, or are experiencing, whether you are trying to pursue live-sound or a music/studio career. However, there are so many options/tactics you can try that it can easily feel overwhelming, leaving you confused and passive.

In the case above, they are honestly all great tactics to pursue to further build your relationships within the live industry or any other industry for that matter.

But which one should you start with?

As stated above, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with thinking you need to do all of them, therefore, instead of looking at it as a big list of to-do’s, break it down to smaller tasks and spread them out. This will not only make your goals look easier to accomplish but it will also make you realise how you will accomplish them as well as reducing the stress that you have to do them all at once.

So, going back to the initial question, which ones should he do with his limited spare time?

All of them.

I say this because they can all offer an opportunity and you never really know where an opportunity can come from, especially in the music industry. Again, there’s no need to stress out about it, thinking that you have to do all of them at once, instead, dedicate a few weeks to try them all and start figuring out which one of these tactics works best for you.

Maybe you will find that all of them works, or if you do one or two really well they will yield a better return.

In my own experience, I have found that booking personal meetings with people in the industry and continually nurturing relationships with artists/engineers/producers have given me most of my opportunities. Therefore, I focus my energy on these two tactics.

Organisation Is Key

This is something that I talk more in the guide, How To Find Work And Become A Freelance Engineer, and this certainly applies to this.

For example, without you being organised, as in, scheduling in days to meet people, which shows to see, which people to talk to, it will be very hard for you to measure any success you might have, or not have, therefore allowing you to focus on the tactics that actually work.

So, do your homework beforehand and schedule in at least a few days for the next couple of weeks where you will try a few tactics and see which one works best.

Important note - even if you don’t have any success the first time doesn’t mean you should not try it again. It might take a few times before something happens.

The Power Of Asking Different Questions

This is a tactic I learned from Tony Robbins, the life coach, author, entrepreneur, etc., who has worked and helped people such as, Serena Williams, Hugh Jackman, Bill Clinton and many others.

In his teachings, Robbins encourage you to change the quality of your questions to get different results, for example, instead of asking yourself, “Why am I so unhealthy/fat?”, making your brain come up with all the various reasons as to why you are fat, instead, ask yourself, “What can I do to become more healthy?” This will give your brain completely new answers and better solutions to change the issue at hand.

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins

The same applies to the very same question in the beginning, “I have a little (not a ton) of time outside my job but I’m not really sure what to do with it?

This question will most likely give you some confusing answers, leaving you uncertain of what to do and what the best way forward is.

Instead, if you changed it to, “How can I make the most out of the little time I have left over to develop more relationships in the music industry?

Notice how that change in question will give you a whole new set of answers and probably more answers that you can work with as well as answers that you can work with and put into action.

I can highly recommend that you try this out and please let me know the outcome!

I hope you found this article useful and if you did, please share it with your friends and let me know what you think in the comments below!

The Importance Of Working Out A Deal Before Starting A Project

Whether you are hiring someone or someone is hiring you to work on an album or EP, make sure you have worked out a deal beforehand so both parties know what they are walking in to.

Otherwise, there can be some stressful moments for the person not knowing or thinking that he will get paid when in reality, from the “employers” perspective, you are doing them a favour.

If you are working for friends it might be that you start a project without talking about payment, for example, maybe they hung out in your studio, one thing led to another and 20 hours in you are suddenly the producer of their album.

Not to say that isn’t a great way to start a record, you just got to be aware that you have to agree on something before you are way too deep into a project. This will help clear out any misunderstandings that can happen during and after the project is done.

This situation was something a Reddit user experienced, take a look below.

Screen%252BShot%252B2018-12-17%252Bat%252B17.45.56.jpg

I hope you don’t take on that much work and spend that much time on a project before you know that you are, in fact, getting paid and know how much you are getting paid.

A situation like this can have some unwanted effects on a friendship or a professional relationship, but it can easily be avoided, you just got to work it out beforehand.

A tip here is to also have it in writing, even if you don’t want to make it too formal by having a contract, a simple email stating what you have agreed upon beforehand will be sufficient (The goal here is that you can prove in writing what has been agreed upon).

Put it in writing.

Put it in writing.

Also, looking at a situation like this from a bands perspective isn’t great either.

As an artist, you don’t want a money situation hanging over you after you have poured sweat and tears into a project, so working out a deal beforehand is good for both parties.

The deals you make doesn’t always have to be about money, initially, but a way to secure future work.

For example, let’s say someone wants you to do a mix for them, it could be a friend, a relative or a client, you can definitely offer them a free mix but the deal is, if they like it, you get to do the rest of the album, EP, or whatever they plan to release - for a price.

However, before offering them such as deal, probe for more details about what their plans are for the future, are they hoping to release a full album or EP?

If no, it might be worth sticking to a money deal from the beginning.

Another great deal you can make with your friends or partners in the music world is to exchange favours, for example, and this is something I use with my friends, where for one day of my engineering I get one day of producing back.

This deal works great for both of us because he gets what he wants and I get what I want, “for free”.

It’s a win-win situation.

The important thing to take away from this article is that don’t work blindly or under the assumption that you will get compensated for your work. It doesn’t always have to be about money, as you saw above, but make sure that you know what the deal is before, either if that’s future work or an exchange of favours. Put it in writing if you can, you never know if you need to go back and prove what was agreed upon.

Now, have you been in a situation where you didn’t agree on a deal beforehand and it just ended up being super stressful for you? Let me know in the comments below!

How To Build New Relationships With Artists

I know many of you reading this probably have your recording and mixing skills down and can turn out great sounding mixes, however, you might be struggling to find new artists or bands for which you can actually utilise these skills for.

Therefore, in this article we will look at a few simple steps that you can take to build new, lasting relationships with artists or bands.

One thing I did when I started out was that I went to a lot of gigs and talked to bands, either if it was bands I knew through friends, or bands I found online. I have had a lot of opportunities coming my way by building relationships this way, for example, by consistently hanging out with a group of musicians led me to working for Jon Moon (Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson).

This relationship then led to other work with legendary soul band, Loose Ends.

No point of rushing, you will get there in the end.

No point of rushing, you will get there in the end.

One thing to remember is that these opportunities didn’t come straight away, they happened after a few years and after having built those relationships over time.

Building a relationship that will turn into a gig later on doesn’t happen over night, you got to stay present in their minds, however, don’t harass them, instead, grab a coffee or a drink every few months, catch up see what the other person is up to.

The same goes with building relationships with artists and bands.

One of my most important relationships, which now is also a very dear friend of mine, was initially done by consistently going to their gigs, talking and finding out what they were doing. We now have worked together on multiple projects and have another album scheduled in January.

Happy days!

You can do this too, and it’s fairly simple if you think about it, it’s low cost, you don’t have to spend money on ads, perhaps just concert tickets and a few beers.

The only “downside” is that it takes time, but in the end, it’s worth it.

So, if you don’t have any artists or bands to work with or want to find more bands, do this:

  1. Find an artist/band in your town that you like, or at least can tolerate.

  2. Go up to them after the show, introduce yourself, offer them a drink and learn more about them.

  3. Go to their next gig

  4. Mention that you have a studio or that you are looking to mix some new music. Make them an offer, perhaps one free mix and if they like it, take it from there.

Now, can you do this online through social media, too?

I will reference what Herb Trawick said on this in last weeks interview:

Today, networking has become automated and technology has made everybody network, but they don’t network in the same way. For example, if you and I got in touch through social media, it’s not the same as you and I sitting down, getting to know each other, being able to customise a project, get your philosophy, etc. It’s not that you can’t do it online but most people have shorter and briefer interactions there

So, yes, it’s possible but I don’t forget to take the connection you make online and perhaps arrange a Skype meeting or, if possible, and you live in the same town, sit down with the person, get to know them.

The main thing with being able to record or mix artists for a living is that it takes time, but the more you do it the more people you will form connections and relationships with and the more work will come your way.

I hope you can take away some of these ideas and please let me know in the comments what you think or if you have any other suggestions.

audio-9066.jpg

How To GET Work And Become A Freelance Sound Engineer

Learn How To:
- Get Your Foot In The Door
- How To Find Artist To Work With
- How To Price Yourself

And Much More

When Should You Start A Website?

If you are a freelancer, or thinking about starting your freelance career, you might be wondering if you need a website to showcase your awesome recording or mixing skills to get hired for more work.

Of course, a website can be important to show your portfolio and display various records you have worked at, as well as having testimonials from clients to establish your credibility.

But if you are starting out and haven't worked on at least a few records/EP's, your potential website could look a bit empty.

 You might even be wondering if you should start a website or not?

Or, maybe you have but you are still unsure if it would help your business?

There are a few things I recommend you do before you decide to start a website and start spending money on a domain name and a monthly/yearly subscription on Squarespace or WordPress.

1. Build your portfolio

If you haven't got a portfolio yet it's time to start creating one. The most effective way is to offer your service for free to any band or artist you know, either online or offline, in exchange for you to use it in your portfolio. Also, ask if you can get a testimonial after the work is done that you will display on your website.

The added benefit with this is that if you do a kick-ass job, that free recording/mix you did might just have the artist come back to you for other, paid, work in the future.

2. Research the market

Having an awesome portfolio online is great, however, to make a living in today's music world requires that you are able to work in many areas, especially when starting out.

Therefore, just showing, for example, your mixing skills might not give you a lot of work straight away so it's important to research what people want and need.

What I mean by this, and this is the same principle Ramit Sethi teaches his business students, you got to research what people are struggling with, what their pains are, what do they want help with?

Find out where they hang out, online or offline? Go meet them or engage with them online, ask them questions about their problems and find out more information.

For example, beyond just offering your record/mixing services, you can go to various Facebook groups or various subreddits where musicians hang out, or where podcast makers discuss their various problems with audio, maybe there's even a place where YouTubers go to get help with the audio/music for their channel?

What you are looking for in these different places are peoples pains and struggles, for example, maybe there's a podcast who is really struggling with the sound quality and editing of his or her podcast, same with a YouTuber or a musician.

So, beyond you just offering a straight recording and mixing service you can also start to offer these people a solution to their other problems. And the more people you can serve and add value to, the more work will come your way.

Having said this, I don't think it's a good idea to offer too many services on your website, for example, beyond your recording or mixing service, having a few other services are fine but if you are offering everything from music recording to location recording on films, ADR, podcast recording/editing you might start to confuse people to what you are actually offering.

I hope this helps with your question about starting a website. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!

Is It Worth Joining Sites Like SoundBetter, Upwork, Fiverr, To Get Work?

audio-9066.jpg

How To Find work and become a freelance sound engineer

Learn How To:
- Get Your Foot In The Door
- Find Opportunities And Work
- Be More Productive

And Much More

There are tons of sites out there for freelancers who are looking for work, for example, SoundBetter.com, Upwork.com, Fiverr.com, etc. These sites allows you to create a profile to showcase your talent and for what position people can hire you for, for example, mixing or mastering engineer.

These sites also operate on a sort of rating system, where the person who has had a lot of work with good results and good testimonials will show up at the top of the search results, obviously, resulting in more work for them.


So, if you are thinking about creating a profile on one of these sites, is it actually worth spending time on creating a profile, hunting for projects, filling in forms, writing a bio, pitching yourself to clients, etc?

Or, can you spend your time more effectively?

If you live in a remote town, with no artist around you whatsoever, maybe creating a profile on one of these sites is tempting. Because, at least, it feels like you are putting yourself and your skills in front of people which you can’t do in real life, so to speak.

Will it give you work or is it a waste of time?

This is what some people had to say online.

Comment on SoundBetter

Comment on SoundBetter

Comment on Fiverr

Comment on Fiverr

Comment on SoundBetter

Comment on SoundBetter

 

Some interesting opinions and insights here.

Some people have a good experience using these services, however, it takes a few years before it starts to amount to a good income. But, as you know, this is what it takes outside of these platforms too. It takes years to build relationships and connections within the industry and the same is true for these platforms.

My friend Martin Merenyi, who is featured on SoundBetter and who makes most of his living there, had this to say about his experience on SoundBetter:

So far it has been very pleasant. I have completed more than 130 jobs and it was mostly with great people. I only had an issue 3-5 times when I didn't receive payment in time (or when a 50-50 payment was done and I didn't receive the 2nd half). I have mixed songs for bands that are doing really well, such as The King Lot, Psycho Skull, 777, Krzikopa and others, coming to more than 500.000 YouTube views and streams. I have worked and experienced more genres and cultures that I can count or remember.

Martin Merenyi

Martin Merenyi

The guys at SoundBetter are also amazing, they are super helpful and take on feedback really well. Of course, not every client is perfect, many times you have to deal with them more like their therapist than their engineer. But that's just the music business for you.

However, I also think that
SoundBetter is, in some ways, destroying the market by forcing engineers to lower their prices. I have seen people with platinum records and Grammy’s doing mixes for $200 which is unreasonable, however, it’s more a statement about the music industry in general. I wish we engineers stuck together a bit more, instead of mindlessly competing against each other.”

Check out Martin’s website where you can see his previous work, listen to his portfolio and hire him, here: https://www.martinmixing.com/

Conclusion

If I can put my own two cents into this, I tried Upwork.com a few years ago and it didn’t result in any work. I spend many hours looking and pitching on projects, but with no results.
Some were close, but in the end, no cigar.

Should I have tried SoundBetter and giving it a proper chance?

Maybe.

Would it have been more beneficial and productive to try to connect with people in the industry and invite them out for a coffee?

Definitely!

Even if you live in a small, remote, town, as I mentioned in last weeks article (click here), which was also echoed by Herb Trawick from Pensado’s Place, that is, travel to a bigger town and set up meetings with people in the industry.

(You will be surprised how easy it can be to set up meetings if you do your research and offer them some nice beverage in return)

Having said that, and taking into account other peoples experiences on, for example, SoundBetter, there’s definitely money to be made there. Reading other peoples experience the tactic you need to employ is the same as in “real life”, that is, you have to play the long game, success doesn’t come faster online than it does offline.

Should you try it?

I think it can be worth trying but, and as the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Now, I’d love to hear your experience on this.

Have you had any success, even failures, with any of these kinds of sites?

Let me know in the comments below!

How You Can Turn Your Engineering Skills Into A Career

A struggle that I see come up a lot, either if it’s questions from emails, or in various groups online, is how you can turn your engineering skills into something that pays and something that you eventually can turn into a career. Many of you already possess great recording or mixing skills but are struggling to make a living doing it.

Maybe you have run out of friends to record for free in exchange to help you grow your portfolio? Maybe you are living in a small remote town with no artists or no other related opportunities around you?

The questions and struggles can be many. I know, I’ve been there.

However, there are some key elements that you can focus on to turn this around.



Consistency and Patience


What is so important and what I have learned throughout the years is the importance of being consistent and having patience. If you can practise both, a lot of things can happen over time.


Let me give you an example - let's say you live in a town with a lot of music around you, such as Los Angeles, Nashville or London, and you need to grow your network of people you know in the industry (musicians, producer, label owners, etc). Going to one network event and expecting to walk out of there with a job, is highly unlikely (this is what I expected at first). The best approach and I’ve heard this from many people in the industry, is to play the long game. You need to consistently attend these events and make your face known to the people around you.


This is how you build relationships that can eventually lead to a job, or get hired for a project, down the road.

But what if you don’t live in one of the music capitals of the world?

There’s always the option of travelling to a town a few times a year that has a bigger music scene than your town. However, don’t travel there without having any meeting setup beforehand. Do your research first about whom you want to meet and try schedule in a few meeting with some key people in that city over a few days. Go see some bands and introduce yourself.


This is what Herb from Pensado’s Place had to say about it:

You also have the option of building a name for yourself online, whether you live in a big or small town. This, I believe, is based on how much value you can add to peoples lives. For example, sharing knowledge on how to overcome various recording or mixing challenges people are experiencing or providing tutorials on various audio/music subjects.

You can also use the internet to find interesting bands you would like to work with and contacting them through email. Tell them how great they are and what you are doing. Offer them your services by offering to do one song for free and if they like it and wants to work with you in the future negotiate a fee.

What is important to remember, and I say this again, consistency and patience. Building your client base from nothing takes time but stay consistent with your work and things will change for you.


Start Learning About Business

This is something I wished I started learning about way earlier and something I have delved into with great interested for the last year or so.

There are so many great resources where you can learn about how to run a business and this is an essential skill you really need to have to start make a living doing music.


Many of you might think this is boring and all you want to do is music, however, without any business sense whatsoever, chances are you will fail.


I have a few favourite resources that I like to recommend to you and they are:


GrowthLab.com

Ramit Sethi’s website where you can find amazing info about starting your own business and other great articles in all things related to having a business. He also has some premium courses that I can recommend you check out.

Check it here: https://growthlab.com/


The E Myth - Book


A newly purchase of mine but explains why most small businesses fail. Voted #1 business book by Inc. 500 CEOs. Very easy to read and I’m enjoying it so far.

Buy it here: Amazon


The Six Figure Home Studio Podcast


Discovered their podcast fairly recently but Brian and Chris are sharing some great knowledge on starting your business and most of it is related to music/audio (Where I discovered The E Myth book).

Check it here: https://www.thesixfigurehomestudio.com/podcast/



Find Out What Separates You From Other Engineers Out There


Why should artists and musicians come to you instead of the other engineer down the street? Because you are cheaper? You can deliver a mix faster? You have better credits? You know how to operate a mixing board? You are reliable?

These are questions you need to ask yourself if you want to be able to distinguish yourself from the competition out there.

However, you don’t want to have to rely on cutting your prices to get clients. Rather, focus on how you can add the most value to your client, for example, how much of the workload can you take away from them so they don’t have to think about anything else than provide you with their best recording (if you want to provide is a mixing service).

One thing that I have found that is hugely important, it surpasses any cool gear you might have or how good you are technically, and that is being reliable. Showing up on time, pick up the phone when they call, cover for someone last minute (even if it means you have get out of your couch at 11 pm).

If you want to learn more about how to find work and become a freelance sound engineer, download my free guide below!

How To find work and become a freelance sound engineer

Learn How To:
- Get Your Foot In The Door
- Find Opportunities And Work
- Be More Productive

And Much More


Let me know what you think in the comments below! Are there anything you are struggling right now with your own career? Let me know and I’ll get back to you.

Why You Should Use Parallel Compression

The term parallel compression is almost always heard when top engineers are talking about their recording or mixing techniques. It’s a technique used by almost everyone and made famous by, for example, Andrew Scheps, Vance Powell and many others. It’s a great technique that allows you to shape the envelope or manipulate the feel of an instrument/s with just the use of a compressor.

But what is parallel compression anyway?

Simply put, it’s sending a bunch of your tracks, for example, drums, bass, guitar, you name it, to a bus and on the return having a compressor set up. The compressor can be set up in a bunch of various ways, depending on what you desire (more on that later), for example, to make something pump, breathe, fatter, or just go crazy. This then gets blended back to your "dry" signal and the parallel chain is complete.

This parallel thinking doesn’t have to be exclusive to compression, but can also be used for EQ, FX or anything else you can think of.

Now, the big question, why should you use it?

It all depends on what you desire and hear in your head. Do you want something to be more exciting, fat or distorted? These can be awfully vague terms and also very personal, therefore, I have provided some sound examples below that will help you to understand what these sound like. Check it out!

First, a dry drum kit and a dry vocal performance (vocals are from the band The Brew with their song What I Want. Available from Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio By Mike Senior website)

In the next two examples listen to the length of the kick drum and snare drum as well as the thickness of the vocals.

How do they compare to the dry examples? Does it feel fatter?

In the next two examples listen to the attack, or transient, of the instruments.

Do they feel more in your face than the dry examples?

Pretty neat, right?

Internalise these sounds, and note down how the different examples sounded to you. Hopefully, this will help you associate what the different terms, such as what fatter and more attack sounds like.

You can also abuse your compressor and create some nice low-end distortion as an effect. The Pro Tools Dyn3 Compressor is particularly good at this. Check it out below.

Pretty cool and perfect to use to add some grit to your sound.

Having heard all of the above examples you can start asking yourself, "Do I want my drums, bass, vocals, etc, to feel fatter, or have more Attack?"

Maybe you want both? Maybe you want them to be distorted, too? These are just a few questions that you might ask yourself before applying any parallel compression, but ever so important to do so you know why you want to use it.

Of course, the options are not limited to just making things fatter or punchier, you can also make things pump or breathe to create excitement.

Useful tips and tricks to get you started

However, and as I know from my own experience, it’s not always as easy as it sounds, especially when it comes to compression, so in this section I have provided some useful tips that will help you apply your thinking to the most important controls on your compressor which will allow you to dial in your desired sound.

Let’s go over the most common controls you will find on a compressor and why they will help you achieve your desired sound in a parallel setup:

  • Release: The amount of time it takes for a compressor to return to its normal gain-before-threshold level. The perfect control, together with the Attack control, to create fatness by extending the tail of a sound, that is, applying a longer release time (as heard in the example above).

  • Attack: How fast the compressor will apply gain reduction after the signal has passed the threshold. Slower attack settings will allow more of the transients to pass through unaffected by gain reduction, giving us more attack (as heard in the example above).

These two controls will give you most of the power you need to achieve your desired sound. And the good thing is, doing parallel compression, is that we don’t have to be subtle in how we shape the sound because it’s getting blended black in.

How to set up your compressor for fatness

Based on what you heard in the first examples you know we are looking for a longer tail and from the description above you know that the Release control will be our friend. Having said that, it’s important to understand that the Release controls best friend is the Attack control and these two needs to interplay together.

The interplay between the attack and the release knob is worth experimenting with to find out what works for the material you are putting through it. Below you can listen to some examples where the only thing that’s changing is the attack time to hear how that can help us fine-tune the tail (fatness) of the instrument.

In this instance, although very subtle, I find that the Fast attack Slow release helps extend the tail (fatness) a bit more.

How to set up your compressor for more attack

Go back to the first audio examples and listen to the `more attack sound, remember how it felt. Based on what you learned from the above description you know we are looking for a slower attack. Again, the interplay between the attack knob and release knob is important here as you will here below.

In this instance, the clear winner for me is the Slow Attack Fast Release that wins if the goal is to create more attack.

Conclusion

Having an understanding as to what you can achieve with parallel compression will enable you to know why you should use it and not just put in on, for example, your drums just for the sake of it. I hope the audio examples and how to dial in your compressor will allow you to get your desired result quicker and give you a deeper understanding of what the controls can do. There’s so much you can experiment with in this area with all the various compressors that are available, so I encourage you to do some playing around in your DAW and find come cool sounds.

Let me know in the comments what you think about using parallel compression

Why You Should Use Delays When Mixing

You most probably know what delays are and you might even have come across a cool delay guitar pedal that makes you write some awesome psychedelic songs. Perhaps you have seen delays being used on various mixing tutorials online, especially on vocals. You know you can choose from 1/4, 1/8, 1/16-notes delays, and many other note values. (Using the Dotted note value is actually one of my favourite delays to use on drums, but more on that later).

Delays can be used to create special FX or give width to instruments, therefore, still allowing them to be dry and upfront in your mix.

In many of the pop songs nowadays, delays are almost always heard on the lead vocal, so let’s have a closer look at some examples.

Check out the delay on this track by Ariana Grande. Pay attention to the space after the first line of vocal, after she sings, “…I can barely breath

Pretty nice. Here they used delay, with some additional feedback, to fill out the space between the vocal phrases. It’s also in tempo with the track, which helps keep the groove going.

Below, another example, this time Beyoncé - Halo. The note value stays the same but listen to how the feedback increases the closer we get to the chorus, wherein the verse it’s a single repeat and in the pre-chorus, there are many more. This creates more excitement as the track builds. Pretty neat.

Now, all delays are not that obvious and many times they can be used to create width without being heard. This can be applied to vocals, guitars, drums or whatever you can think of. This is usually done with short, between 10-30 ms, delays. Below you can check this out on a drum kit. A short delay has been applied to the snare drum, the right channel and left channel vary slightly in it’s delay time to give us the spread of the image.

Did you feel the snare drum getting wider? Pretty cool, right!

As you have seen so far, delays can be used in many instances, but we are not done yet. Delays are also a great tool to add groove to a drum kit. Have a listen below.

I like to think of it as I’m adding ghost notes. It just grooves a lot more. Also, experiment with your note values, in this case, I used an 8th note delay but sometimes you get a better result with a 16th- or an 8th note dotted delay.

Learning about these various situations where delays are used is important because it will allow you to decide WHY you want to use a delay in a certain situation. Do you want to fill out a space, like in the Ariana Grande song? Do you want to create excitement or a sense of urgency as in the Beyoncé song? Do you want to widen a particular instrument? Do you want to enhance the groove on a drum kit?

The options are many but knowing what you want beforehand is the most important thing. Don’t just slap a delay plugin on something without asking what you want to achieve first.

The Most Important Features

The essential features you need on your delay plugin are, in my opinion:

Note value - Allowing you to change between 1/1 to 1/32nd notes.

Feedback - Allowing you to create repeats. Such as in Ariana Grande - Into You.

Low and High-pass filter - Allowing you to shave some of that low- and high-end of the delays. Allowing the delays to be “tucked” under without being overly distracted.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, was this helpful? Was there anything I missed that you like me to go through? Let me know!

Mix Analysis: I Don't Know - Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney recently released his 18th solo album, Egypt Station, which was produced by Greg Kurstin, who himself has had a huge amount of success over the past few years with artists such as Adele, Foo Fighters, Beck, etc.

According to Paul, the words Egypt Station felt to him like the “album” album they used to make in the past. The concept of Egypt Station is that it starts of at one station and through the various songs you end up at the end station, just like a concept album.

Egypt Station was mixed by Mark Spike Spent who has done work for Ed Sheeran, Beyonce, Muse, and many others.

Paul was definitely surrounded by top professionals to make this record.

The song I Don’t Know, which according to Paul’s website is, “a plaintive, soul-soothing ballad as only Paul can deliver.” I believe the song was one of two first singles that was released ahead of the album and it definitely caught my attention, with it’s awesome drum sound, beautiful melancholy piano part that mainly drives the song, and, of course, Paul’s distinctive vocal.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, listen to the song below and I’ll see you afterwards.

Structure wise, it’s as follows:

  • Intro 1

  • Verse

  • Chorus 1

  • Verse 2

  • Bridge

  • Verse 3

  • Intro 2

  • Chorus 2

  • Verse4/Outro

Pretty standard, however, listening to the song there seem to be no obvious chorus because the verses sound more like a chorus with the signature line, “I got crows outside my window, dogs at my door.” and the chorus sounds more like a verse. Also, going from the bridge section to the verse doesn’t immediately sound like a chorus as we are used to. Maybe that’s why the song has this floating kind of feel.

But let’s start at the beginning:

The intro starts off with a piano, most likely played on a 1905 Steinway Vertegrand, which has been doubled on a cimbalom, with a lot of reverb on it. The piano is very dynamic and so is the reverb return, that is, it has not been very much compressed so every time Paul hits the higher notes you get an “explosion” in the reverb which gives it a very nice feel. Also, the piano has also been high-passed, helping exaggerate, together with the reverb, this distant/dreamy feel.

A cimbalom. Used to double the piano intro.

A cimbalom. Used to double the piano intro.

After the first round of piano an acoustic guitar enters, it doesn’t have the same reverb applied to it, so is not in the same dreamy space, helping us “travelling” back and get ready for a dryer/more in your face verse.

To end the dreamy part we get this piano drone taking us into the dry, main piano riff. It sounds like the trick usually done with cymbal hits where you reverse a cymbal hit and use it between section to create a clear distinction, almost like a page-turner. Although, in this case, they used a reversed piano note instead. More fitting with the spirit of the track.

The verse:

The main piano riff doesn’t have the same reverb or the amount of reverb applied to it as the intro piano, and the low-end is back. This gives us this intimate, in your face and warm piano sound. The travel from the dreamy state (intro) to being in the room with you, is now complete. The piano is also much less dynamic and doesn’t have any apparent peaks as in the intro.

Notice how the image of the piano changes from the intro. In the intro, since it has so much reverb, has lost a bit of its wideness but when we get the dry piano we get the full stereo image too.

Now we are also introduced to the drums, and they sound awesome. It has been played by a real drummer, on a real drum kit (maybe Paul played it?), however, after repeated listens it feels to me that the snare has a sample underneath, perhaps an 808 or similar. The overall tone and compression of the drums are awesome. It sounds like the colour from a Fairchild or similar style of compression.

The main groove is kick, snare and hi-hat but the dynamic on the hi-hat is very interesting and has some very cool accent, making it the star together with the snare drum. Make sure you listen for it.

The vocal also comes in at this point and is obviously very well performed… it’s Paul McCartney. The vocal itself is not drained in any FX, reverb or any autotune (again, it’s Paul McCartney) as many of today's hits are. It’s mainly driven by the tone of his voice and the fact that he is a great singer. Why mess with it? Although it doesn’t feel like he is completely dry, it feels like there are some long delays/reverb, with a low-pass filter, making his vocal having this space behind him.

The bass is also introduced here, playing mostly whole notes, with a fill every time the hit the major 7 chord. It definitely sounds like the Hofner bass Paul made famous back in the 60’s. This is most apparent when he is playing that fill I just mentioned and in the choruses.

If you can get your hands on a Hofner bass, get it. They record so well. Maybe doesn’t fit with every musical style out there but you won’t be disappointed.

That’s the verse, quite simple.

Moving onto the chorus:

As mentioned above, the chorus sounds almost like a verse with a sadder feeling.

The only instruments added in the chorus are an electric guitar with a tremolo effect on the left and what sounds like a mellotron of some sort on the right. They almost play the same part, with the mellotron laying off some of the notes the guitar is playing and is instead holding them out.

The other instruments and vocal stay in the same place and space.

Egypt Station.jpg

Second Verse:

In the second verse we get back the acoustic guitar we heard in the intro, it’s very subtle but it’s there to accentuate the piano riff. Also, the electric guitar comes in and plays two chords when going to the major 7 chord. This is when he sings, “…lessons to learn, what am I doin' wrong?”

After this we go into the bridge section:

Instrument wise, what get’s added here is a synth which you can hear being pretty far back in the mix, slightly to the right and a cello on the left. We also get introduced to the backing vocals for the first time. They are also panned quite narrowed, but still leaving the centre spot for the main vocal.

Back to the third Verse:

It’s very subtle, again, but for the third verse they added a percussion, just staying behind the groove of the hi-hat, and it sounds like an egg shaker. Beyond that, it’s the same instrumentation as the second verse. They don’t play the full verse here, instead, only half then they take us back to the intro again.

Intro 2:

Same piano riff as in the intro but with the full band added and some ad libs from Paul.

Chorus 2:

Same as the previous chorus but with an added acoustic guitar.

Verse 4/Outro

Coming to end of the song here, there are no big surprises which have been the theme throughout the whole song, but we do get the shaker back again just to lift it a tiny bit.

For the outro, the drums change to a tom based groove and Timpani drums come in on every downbeat. There’s also some other percussion that sounds like some sort of a vibraslap, but it only plays twice, first downbeat of the outro and the downbeat four bars later. Works very well to bring a feeling that the song is coming to an end. The backing vocals also get re-introduced, singing, “Now what's the matter with me?” three times before the song ends with piano and acoustic guitar.

Conclusion:

This is a song that’s built on a minimalistic approach, both in term of production and mixing. Everything is based on making the song speak and not having anything distract the listener. There are a lot of subtle things going on to give the song the depth it has, in terms of the space behind the instruments and vocals, and it’s fantastically done. By introducing various instruments, such as the shaker for the third and final verse gives the groove that lift it needs. Also, the song never gets boring because by introducing various instruments, rather than mixing tricks, gives it this feeling of something that is floating very nicely from section to section.

You never notice the mixing side of the song and it’s a masterclass of how to make a song speak for itself without any mixing trickery. Very, very difficult.

Now, let me know what you think. Did I miss anything super obvious? Do you want to read more of these? Let me know in the comments below and give me any song suggestions that you would have a mix analysis of!