mixing

Compress, Digress

It has been quite a while since I updated anything on here. Primarily because a lot has been going on for me on the net, and off it as well. I spent the past fifteen days trying to mix a song and make it sound as good as possible to the best of my knowledge. And during the course of me trying to find the right tools and know-how on how to get the right mix, I stumbled onto such a huge wealth of knowledge on various mixing techniques, that I still feel quite overloaded with the information. Now that I'm mostly done with the mixing process for it, I find myself much more free to write about it.

One of the biggest problems I faced during mixing this particular project was figuring out what my approach to compression would be. Believe me when I say, compression can either make or break your mix. While some tracks needed a lot of compression, others not at all.

For all you newbies, Compression or dynamic range compression is the process of narrowing down the range of dynamic volume of a track. In other words, when you apply compression to a track, the louder parts of the track might get lower in volume and the softer parts, louder. In common man terms, compression tries to level out the audio range of your track. It is a very important technique used in mixing music extensively. Enough with the producer talk, time to talk about something else.

One of the most difficult and processed tracks on a song are usually the drums, especially if it's more of a rock track than an electronic arrangement. However, compression has to be used sparingly and not to be slapped on everything, something a lot of producers tend to do these days. Sometimes you have to look at the odds and see if everything manages to balance itself out in a mix. Other techniques like EQ, automation and various types of aural exciters can always help to take your mix where it needs to go.

Another major challenge I faced was trying to make an orchestral arrangement properly fit into a mix, without really taking a lot away from the vocals. For the longest time, I tried to figure out whether orchestral instruments need to be compressed in a mix. I ultimately decided against it, as dynamics are quite important as far as orchestral instruments go. That being said, there's never really a rule of thumb for any mixing techniques and that's something that I have eventually realized. Sometimes it's better to ride the fader into battle!

There are a lot of sample libraries and instruments like violins and cellos that sometimes end up taking a large chunk of the 5-10k spectrum of the frequency range in a track and that's somewhere the lower end of the vocals might end up sometimes. At the end of the day, if you can't hear it in a mix, it's probably not worth it to keep it around. There is of course the Fletcher-Munson curve that you have to learn to deal with. You can read more about it here. To put it in short, we all have a hearing bias and nobody has a perfectly flat perception of hearing.

As far as updates and progress goes, I managed to get my hands on a ton of books dealing with orchestration, something that I have been dabbling around with for a while, and I realize that it's important to learn how an actual orchestra sounds like to be able to emulate it well enough through samples and sample libraries, something that I will hopefully try to work some more on, in the future. (courtesy an enlightening conversation I had with an experienced musician on Skype)

Progress has been slow and time hasn't been plentiful primarily due to an exam on the horizon, but hopefully I will be able to put up a showreel/portfolio of a lot of my previous work in a few weeks. Stay tuned for that. Also being the gear-head that I am, I managed to acquire new piece of gear, work with which I shall reveal in due time.

More exciting times ahead, Ciao.

Climax & Relapse

Often in life, you find yourself tackling situations and coming head-to-head with problems you never thought you would have to deal with in the first place. It's at time like these, you sit and try to look at life from different perspectives. Some of them show you the rosy picture, some don't. It's when I am trying to tackle such problems, I find myself running out of inspiration. I have been trying a lot of things to help me out with the creative process of making music. I seem to be running low on sleep, and its usually more productive than not

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The biggest challenge I faced during these two weeks was trying to formulate a point of climax. I like to think of a song as a story. There's the introduction, then there are a number of characters that come into the plot that add color to the story. There's chaos and there's drama. And finally there is always a twist that turns the entire plot upside down. In a lot of songs you find a buildup and finally a point where it all comes together and crashes down. For me, usually this point comes in between.

I am not a person that is used to thinking of songs as having a straightforward structure. I have struggled a lot in the past trying to follow a strict formula, but it always gets boring when there is a set structure. I believe music is free and it should flow the way it comes out. I feel that crafting and modifying it to follow a certain structure is akin to betraying the original spirit of the song.

It is nothing but ironic though, that a certain mistake I made while I was tweaking the reverb settings of a certain drum part, ended up forming part of the climax. A 'breathy' effect, you could call it.

I'm really trying to not give away a lot here. But it is really hard as a musician to control your excitement when you work hard on something and it ends up sounding good to your ears.

I realize that some of the best things in life are caused by unexpected things. Something that could fit in with the state of my life right about now as well. I would say nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. But what matters is learning from your past experiences and growing into a better person rather than lingering on the bad parts.

Earlier this week, I lost a couple of opportunities due to minor differences. I also ended up parting ways with my band Ebonix permanently, something that I had hoped would not happen maybe a year ago. but it seems like your needs and what you want from life changes as time passes by. While somewhere along the line, I had hoped things wouldn't come to the stage where differences became irreconcilable, but I realize that it had to happen sooner and later. Hard decisions have to be made when they are required. We all need to let go and move on. Maybe better things lie ahead. I plan to continue working on music on my own.

The only conclusion I can draw is, you have to keep moving in life. You have to keep hunting for opportunities and look for the silver lining in every dark cloud. All I know is making music is what I love, and I will continue regardless of any setback I come across.