Friday, 1 March 2013

Ear initialisation

One of the things you constantly read online is that as home recordists we should always use a reference track when we are mixing. I couldn't agree more but I think that a stage is often missed regarding this and that's the stage before we start making music.

So picture this, you sit down and get ready to start making music. You make some music and it sounds good to you. Then you listen to your preferred reference mixes and you sound......terrible. At this point you start mixing and try to fix the issues there. Nothing is working. What is the problem. Well I have some suggestions.

If you are anything like me you listen to the vast majority of your musical input on headphones. I have a couple of pairs of cans that see the most action, my bose in ears at work and my bose noise cancelling quiet comfort 3's out and about. The problem with this is that we get our reference of music from these. Chances are, the sound of this same music in your studio on your monitors is very different. In my case it certainly is as my headphones are nowhere near flat but my studio monitors are.

Now im not proposing that you bin either your headphones or your speakers or that you stop using either. That would be crazy. What im suggesting is that before you sit down and start recording a new track, take maybe 15 minutes to a half hour to listen some of your favourite mixes in a similar style through your studio monitors. This does two things, firstly it resets your ears from your headphones and secondly it also inspires you, listening to great mixes BEFORE you start making your mix is uplifting. Listening afterwards and feeling that your mix doesnt stack up actually has the opposite effect, you end up feeling down about your work !

Hope this top helps and stay creative,

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Mastering with headphones.

Probably not the world's most popular idea but recently I've been mastering with headphones. Why? Well a number of reasons.

  •  Familiarity

I listen to pretty much all my music on my headphones. That is a whole lot of mastered, finished, polished, professional music. As a result, I know my cans inside out. I know how much bass they should respond with, how much treble there should and generally I know what music should sound like through them.

  • Perfect listening environment

People tend to complain that headphones dont give an accurate responce, certain frequencies are hyped, stereo placement isn't good etc etc. But the one advantage they have for most home studio owners is that they dont suffer from reflection issues or peaks and nulls in an inconsistent way. If your room is quiet, headphones sound the same wherever you are in the room. As for the disadvantages, i've usually sorted the vast majority of those issues already by the time I come to do my mastering. Im really just making a few final eq changes at this point and doing a little bit of mastering compression and limiting.

  • The microscope effect

Because headphones typically put the sound right at your ear, you can generally hear tiny details in the music. This is generally what you are looking for when it comes to mastering, the details, the small things that polish a track. As such headphones really are perfect for this task.