How To

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!

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!

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!

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!

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.

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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

How To Find Artists To Work With

Finding artists to work with can be tricky, especially at the beginning of your career. Not only is it at the start of your career but work can be very dependent on where you live in the world.

Perhaps you live in a small town with only a handful of bands and artists? Or all the bands you know are broke?

In which case, your only chance of finding people to work with is online. Of course, it's possible but a lot harder than building relationships in "real life", so to speak.

Even if you do meet a lot of musicians and you do live in a big city with a lot of music around you, it can be hard to find people to work with. This can be due to the fact that many artists use their home studio and are happy with turning out mediocre sounding music, therefore, are not very keen on spending money on you. Also, to be honest, they most likely don't have the money to pay for studio time. 

So, no matter which situation you are in, it can be difficult. 

What's the solution?

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Well, there's no one solution to the problem, however, there are a few things you can do in each of the two situations to increase your work. 

Let's start with if your only chance to find artists to work with is online.

Having your only presence online, on a website, means that you need to show people who come to your site that people love your work and how amazing you made their music sound. I see so many mixing sites online that's all about the mixing engineer and what he can do, rather than what he can do for YOU i.e., the artist. You want to avoid this as much as you can, make it all about the people you have served and ask past clients if you can get a testimonial from them. 

Now, you also need a portfolio of your previous work and this is where the problem usually lays. As I said in the beginning, maybe you live in a small town with no bands,so it's very difficult to find artists to work for, let alone build a portfolio? There's probably a thousand tips online, but one tip, which I will credit to Graham Cochrane of The Recording Revolution, is where you contact a band or artists that you have found online (through Soundcloud or Bandcamp) and approach them with an email saying, 

“Hi, my name is [insert name]”

”I love your music and I really loved your latest EP [insert EP name]. The track [Insert track name] was really great with all the [insert superlative].”

”The reason I’m writing to you is that I’m currently working on updating my portfolio and would like to offer you a free mix (recording, etc.) No charge and if you are happy it feel free to use it on your next release or as a bonus song for your fans, which is a great way of making your fans happy.” 

”Also, with your permission, I’d love to use the mix (recording, etc.) in my portfolio.”

”Let me know what you think”

This is a great way of approaching an artist or band. You are offering them great value by giving them something for free, which they can use to make their fans happy, and you can add a song to your portfolio.

Win-win situation.

Now, what do you do if you live in a big city, such as Los Angeles, London or New York and are still struggling to find bands to record?

I live in London and my experience with going out to gigs and talking to bands, although very important when I first moved here, doesn't really lead to any real business/income after I left university. Many bands who play in pubs and smaller places usually don't have the money to spend on recording their music in a studio or get it professionally mixed. Of course, I'm sure there are bands that are willing but they are few and far between. 

Broke?

Broke?

That's why I stopped doing this and instead focused on what worked and what brought me an income, for example, getting jobs at recording studios, doing live sound, play in cover bands, library/sync music, etc. This still lets me grow my clientele of artists and bands whilst working with music. 

If you want to make a living solely on recording and mixing bands, you have to be prepared to play the long game. I talk more about this in the guide, How To Find Work And Become A Freelance Engineer. It might feel lame, but it's the truth and what most of us are experiencing.  

I still go to networking events and meet artists and bands, but I know that by doing it consistently, over time, is what will eventually turn in to an income.

Now, what are your experience with finding artists and bands to work with? What have you struggled with specifically? Is there anything that is difficult at the moment? Let me know in the comments and I'll help you to the best of my ability!