The All-Things-Audio Blog

Mastering With Distortion

distortion Jan 20, 2018

Do you ever find yourself mastering and feel like the EQ moves you’re doing are a little underwhelming? Maybe you are mastering a mix you didn’t do and wish you could go back and add a little more energy to it? Today I want to share a hack with you to add more energy to your masters. It’s called distortion.

What??? Isn’t distortion supposed to be used for grungy guitars and gritty things? NOT ALWAYS. And if you’ve been following me for a while you know how much I love distortion. Don't be afraid to use distortion on your master to enhance certain frequencies and create energy. A little can go a long way. Don’t just think of distortion as an “on or off” type of thing. I love iZotope Ozone for my mastering for this reason. It includes a harmonic enhancer, which is a multi-band distortion.

The advantage to using distortion over something like EQ is you create and enhance harmonics that were not there or were buried beneath the mix. This...

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Don't Let Perfectionism Slow You Down

motivation Nov 26, 2017

A perfectionist rarely gets things done. Commit and move on. Chances are your "perfect product" won't be perfect 5 years from now.

Doug and I scored a TV series that interviews various creative entrepreneurs. One of the creative artists is named Jake Parker. He is an inspirational and talented artist who really has his head on straight (he drew the picture for this post!). One thing that was a big takeaway from me was to get away from being a perfectionist. I always try and make everything perfect. Perfect mix, perfect vocal, perfect drums, etc. But the truth is, I look back at things that made me pull my hair out and realize it wasn't worth all the stress. And in almost every single case, I think to myself now "oh man... If I did that now it would be 100 times better." Which proves a point that he made in the show. He said something along the lines of  (not a direct quote, but summary) “If you spend all your time and energy trying to make something perfect, you’ll...

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Gaining a Vision For Your Mixes

mixing motivation Nov 17, 2017

If you don't have a vision for how your song will sound, you're going to be shooting in the dark and just end up twisting knobs and getting nowhere. By determining the sonic end goal of a song before you start, it will speed up your mixing tremendously.

Before you mix, determine what makes a "good mix" and write down a list of goals and milestones you need to hit to achieve that "good mix." A great practice is pulling up a song that you're going to use as a mix reference. Write down what you like about it and see if your song has something similar. Don't COPY it sonically. Pick out what you like and then give your song a listen through with a pen and paper. Write down where your song is and where you'd like to end up.

For example. Let’s say you use Justin Bieber's All Around the World (link to song) (one of my favorite mix reference tracks, it sonically is fantastic to my ears) as your reference track and you love the beef of the kick. Listen to your song and see if your song...

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Limit Your Options

mixing plugins workflow Jun 02, 2016

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m always talking about ways to save time in the studio. It’s all about finding the best and quickest way to get something done, whether it’s utilizing your plugin workflow or limiting your options. And that’s what I want to talk about today. Here are 2 painfully easy and free ways to limit your options that will save you a ton of time in the studio.  


Pick one EQ

Pick one EQ plugin to use on a song & move on. ONE. WAY too much time is wasted debating which EQ would suit best. I don’t care if it’s the latest API or Neve modeled whatever with the saturation knob that takes it to the next level… I don’t care. Pick one. And if it is the Neve or API, good on you. That works perfect, but pick and commit.

Pick one compressor

Pick one compressor plugin and commit. MU, 2A, VCA, 76, whatever your flavor, in the end it doesn’t matter. I get that compressors...

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Multi-Band Compressors

compressors mastering May 09, 2016

If you feel like your songs always end up pumping when you get to the mastering stage, you could be driving your compressor too hard. You might find yourself backing off to get rid of the pumping. But by backing off, it loses the glue. So what do you do?

Be careful with a regular compressor on a master. There’s nothing wrong with using one, but if you have heavy kick/bass content it could cause the song to pump.

Try using a multi-band compressor as a solution to pumping.

Multi-band compressors allows you to control different frequencies (think of a compressor-EQ) with different amounts of compression. So if your bass/kick is overpowering the song, you can treat 120hz and below rather than the entire spectrum. I love iZotope’s Ozone or Alloy for this but most, if not all DAWs have a multi-band compressor included.

All the knobs, meters, bells, whistles, and tweakable parameters get really overwhelming. When I first started using them I was intimidated and afraid because I...

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Using A/B Referencing In Mastering

mastering Apr 16, 2016

A/B referencing in mastering is perhaps one of the most important things you can do. A/B referencing refers to the process of switching back and forth between two audio sources. This kind of referencing can be a HUGE help, but make sure what you're doing is helping, not hurting. Of course you want to help your song, right?  Here are a couple of things you can do to make sure you are using A/B to help your master.

Always Volume Match

This is probably the number one problem when people master. The deception that comes from your track and a reference track being just 0.5db off can make a huge difference. Why is this so dangerous? If one track is louder than the other, you’re going to be tricked into thinking it MUST sound better, even if that’s not the case. Because of the increase in volume, your brain tricks you into thinking it’s clearer, punchier, and wider. Louder isn’t necessarily “better.” Always make sure that in this crucial stage of...

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Tape Saturation

distortion mixing tape Apr 13, 2016

Tape machines (or tape modeled plugins) are a great way to add that “analog warmth” to your digital mixes. They add a nice fat bottom end and a smooth top end. Sometimes analog warmth is just what you need to tame the occasional unpleasant digital highs. But that’s just the beginning! Tape machines can do so much more for your mixing.

Smoothing out harsh guitars
One of the most common ways to smooth out harsh guitars is by using tape saturation. It does something magical to the top end that isn’t achieved by a simple EQ move. It seems to bring down the gross, unnecessary high fizz without making it muffled. Using a low IPS helps to create a more “lo-fi” sound.

Taming transients
Oversaturating or overdriving a tape machine helps tame transients by crushing the top end of the transient. Think of it as a kind of compressor. Compression can glue together overly transient material. By overdriving a heavily transient source (like a snare drum) you can...

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Distorting Your Plugins Can Ruin A Mix

plugins Apr 09, 2016

An easy way to ruin a mix is by distorting your plugins. Yes, your software plugins can distort just like analog gear.

A lot of plugins have lights or other ways of letting you know that your input is clipping. If you’re not paying attention you can end up unintentionally clipping your plugins and over time it can add an unpleasant distortion to your mix.

However, there are some plugins (analog modeled) that can add desired saturation. A good example is tape saturationBut there's a difference between adding saturation and clipping.

Saturation and distortion are things that you can use to help enhance your mix. Clipping is unpleasant and distracting. It often comes across, even if you intentionally do it, as an accident.

I mixed an album for a guy once. He was using Logic X and I was too so I thought the job would be a breeze because I could just work in his original project. It was a nightmare. He was clipping on EVERY channel, EVERY bus, EVERY plugin. And...

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Tuning Your Kick Drum Samples

drums Apr 07, 2016

Tuning your drum samples is a simple and free solution for a tighter, more cohesive mix.

How does this happen? Let’s focus on the kick drum and break it down really quick.

A kick has that fat low end, usually with lots of low sub information. The low sub information gives you that nice chest thump that you’re used to. On the upper end of the frequency spectrum, there’s usually a tick/click/knock that helps make the kick known in a thick mix. In this case, we’re going to want to look at the sub end.

If I told you “It doesn’t really affect your song if your bass is out of tune”, you’d call me crazy.

When you start thinking about your kick as an extension of your bass, it helps switch your mindset from something you brush off, to something you take note of.

This is especially important for EDM style music. When you're using a sine wave style kick (like an 808), the pitch and tune of the kick is what gives it so much of its character....

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Getting an Instrument or Vocal to Cut Through a Mix Using Distortion

distortion Apr 06, 2016

When you're having trouble getting something to cut through a mix, (like a vocal) a little bit of distortion can go a long way. Sometimes parallel compression doesn't cut it. Try distorting upper mids/highs to get it to cut! (Think 500/600-15k)

Remember to not get too carried away. Bring it in subtly and A/B to make sure it's adding and not taking away. A lot of times it's easy to get fooled into thinking that something sounds better just because it's louder. This is a time where you need to use your ears critically and really analyze.

I used to think of distortion as something that was either on or off. Grungy guitars or clean. Distorted bass or not distorted. You get the idea. But the truth is, by distorting things you create subtle harmonics that poke through at different frequencies in a mix.

Take for example a simple sine wave. As soon as you start distorting that wave, you're going to create harmonics and it's going to start poking out (helping your ear detect and pick up) at...

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