Monthly Archives: December 2014

What to Write a Song About

What to write a song about – it is the ultimate question for songwriters and music producers. Is it necessary to write a song about something or is it enough to just write music? In this article, I’ll dig deeper into the purpose of songwriting and share my thoughts on it.

Photo Credit: wakitu via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wakitu via Compfight cc

Be honest

I think if a song is written about something or for someone, it will be heard and its deeper meaning felt. The songwriter doesn’t necessary need to let it be publicly known that a particular song has a personal importance to them.

The lyrics, melody and harmony will reveal the inner meaning of the song. The best thing is, the listener can decide to adapt the meaning of the song according to their own experiences in life and choose what it means to them.

Truthful songs are able to do this to the listener, because of the message that is carved into the musicality of the piece of music, in one way or another.

Be unique

Photo Credit: duncan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: duncan via Compfight cc

Whatever you do, don’t copy already written songs. It’s a cheap trick to do, and the moment you do it, your musical integrity will be thrown out of the window – and people will hear it.

What you can do though, is let yourself be inspired and influenced by music. You might fall in love with a musical idea in a song you hear and want to incorporate similar elements to one of your songs – that’s fine!

Just do it with dignity and good taste. Make it your own – from scratch.

Pick up an instrument and play it. Jam with it. Use effects to your advantage and gain inspiration from them. Make unique sounds. The instrument will always tell you what kind of music to make. Let it be natural.

Listen to your inner voice. Music will flow from you, if you let it.

Don’t freak out

Sometimes you might not know what kind of song to make, and that’s okay. It happens to musicians all the time. The worst thing to do here is to stress it.

Writer’s block is fairly common among songwriters and artists alike, and there are different ways to get over it, such as simply showing up to your musical work and keeping your musical muscle alive.

Music will happen if you can relax and connect with your inner self. Very often it requires some kind of life experience or event to launch that natural connection with yourself. In the next section I’ll discuss some of the most usual inspirational sources, at least for myself.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Gaillard via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Jennifer Gaillard via Compfight cc

Dig deep into yourself

Things happen in our lives – continuously. If you open your eyes to whatever is going on around you, you will find something to inspire you in songwriting and to help you make genuine music. Here are my top five sources of inspiration:

  1. Love & Relationships

    Photo Credit: Nicki Dobrin via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: Nicki Dobrin via Compfight cc

Be it a cliché then, though it’s the truth! Nothing strikes emotions like love, attraction and a fresh crush. They can be euphoric and electric. On the flipside, the sadness caused by love is just as powerful and even more dramatic.

All the new people you meet, the relationships you form and the barriers you run into during them are all great sources of deep emotional activity, and therefore sources of musical inspiration.

Think about your family too, and the closest ones you have around you.

Love happens and love is lost. As songwriters, it’s our duty to take advantage of this powerful feeling and translate it into magical pieces of work. Sometimes, the deepest words can only be expressed through music. Talk about honesty…

  1. Passion

    Photo Credit: yewenyi via Compfight cc

    Goals are waiting at the end of the road. Photo Credit: yewenyi via Compfight cc

In my life, passion equals drive. If you are passionate about something, not necessarily about love or other people, but things you do in life such as work, hobbies and whatever you might do, you have drive.

Music creation requires a lot of drive to accomplish. If you lack passion in life, it could be hard to make music too. You need to find your passion.

Passion could be about the will to showcase your skills, your life goals or recent accomplishments.

I am passionate about great music, and want to belong in it, and this is why I have such a drive to write music in the first place.

  1. Traveling & Life Experiences

Get out of your comfort zone, and you’ll be surprised how much inspiration you can gather. Every once in a while, you must get out there in order to keep your mental balance.

I went to the Grand Canyon recently and while I was there, all I did was observe the vastness of it in awe. Adrenaline rushed through my body while standing next to a majestic cliff at one of the viewing points. I was shaking a bit because of the winds up there. I felt so little compared to the size of the natural wonder.

I believe that experience had a permanent effect in me, in a good way. It will surely translate in my music. Best of all, life experiences are a cumulative effect. The more experiences you have, the better music you will make.

  1. Musical Influences

Of course, musical influences are a big one. Music doesn’t necessarily rise from nothing every single time. It doesn’t have to either. Listen to the music you truly love and hold dear in your heart.

Give back by embracing your influences and make tributes to them through your own music.

  1. Seasons & Weather

    Photo Credit: Tomcat mtl via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: Tomcat mtl via Compfight cc

Weather has a psychological effect in me. I don’t know why, but I tend to write better music when it’s raining. I think there is some kind of calmness surrounding it. Some kind of ethereal state.

Different seasons easily dictate the direction of the music, too. Winters are usually quite depressing compared to the energetic spring time or the warm, mellow summers.

Fall is a special time of the year due to the nature getting ready for the cold winter – perhaps a time for us musicians too for finishing as many tunes as possible before the dark times.

Stay true

Whenever you begin to slip into the “dark side” of songwriting, starting to copy someone else instead of taking influence or wanting to create a hit sing song with only money in your eyes, stop right there.

You need to stay true to yourself and listen to your inner self. Music will come from you. It will be your music  and you can be proud of it. No one else will ever write the song you write!

Don’t stress songwriting. If it is meant to happen, it will happen naturally. Good, honest music is the only kind of music that will endure the times and be remembered. The rest will just fade away because they might offer only momentary value.

Photo Credit: Aitor Agirregabiria via Compfight cc

Stay calm, and the sky will open up in songwriting. Photo Credit: Aitor Agirregabiria via Compfight cc

Conclusion

So, what to write a song about then? Only you will know the answer!

Remember, songwriting is not only about people, cities and memorable places, but of more abstract matters equally as much. It could be literally anything you hold dear and what influences you.

I hope you now have a better, fresh view into writing songs. Be inspired, stay inspired and learn to control your emotions by routing them in your music.

For another perspective, have a look at Gary Ewer’s Beating Songwriter’s Block book, which includes songwriting workouts, what makes a successful song, creating melodies, lyrics and more.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below and I’ll be more than happy to get back to you.

Happy songwriting!

-JP

Hearing Loss Due To Loud Music – Fight Back Now

Hearing loss due to loud music is a frightening trap to fall into in the society of today. We are surrounded by loud music with the abundance of nightclubs, bars and portable music players with their in-ear buds.

The scary thing is, once your hearing has degraded, the consequences are permanent.

The five senses

 Photo Credit: Rafael Parr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Rafael Parr via Compfight cc

Hearing is one of the five traditional senses us humans have, the rest naturally being sight, taste, smell and touch. It’s quite clear no one would hope to become blind, or never being able to taste great food anymore, so why are we willingly putting our ears at risk?

I wonder what it is about hearing that’s so tricky for people to understand – it should be preserved, not just gullibly thrown away because of peer pressure or other factors.

C’mon people…

loud

Photo Credit: simongreenuk via Compfight cc

I went to a local pub the other night where a rock band was playing a live gig. As usual, upon entering a loud environment I reach for my little case of my trustworthy earplugs and plug them in.

I walk by the crowds of people and watch bewildered as the most loyal fans of the band are standing right in front of the small pub stage, with drums banging and the cymbals crashing as if they were designed to destroy people’s eardrums.

With my friends I was with, we headed instantly to the back of the pub which is a relatively “safe” area when one’s ears are concerned. The noise level was a quite normal, lively but loud bar environment.

There, we calculated a dB value of around 85dB from a smart phone application, which was equivalent to a diesel truck going 40mph at 50ft distance. That’s bearable, for a while at least.

Just for comparison, a vacuum cleaner makes noise at 70dB (which can already be an annoying noise level to some), live rock music lives in the 108-114dB range, which is the average human pain threshold, and is as much as 16 times louder than our ordinary vacuum cleaner

Car horn at one meter hits 118dB. Now that would feel quite nice, wouldn’t it?

The importance of earplugs

 Photo Credit: Modern Creature via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Modern Creature via Compfight cc

Everyone must have used basic, industrial-level foam plugs at some point of their lives. They might be a little uncomfortable to wear, for longer periods of time.

I don’t vouch for them personally, because I have found much better alternatives for myself.

In my experience, attending live gigs is actually more enjoyable with earplugs on rather than off. Here’s why:

  1. Take advantage of quality earplugs

If you find yourself in loud environments quite frequently, you need to be educated about proper and comfortable earplugs.

I use earplugs all the time in night clubs, gigs, movie theaters (oh yes), indoor skateparks, airplanes etc.

The ones I prefer are the Etymotic ETY High Fidelity Earplugs, which are probably one of the best purchases I ever made. I’ll tell you about them shortly.

 Photo Credit: Dave77459 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Dave77459 via Compfight cc

  1. You can hear music better

Yes. You can actually hear music better, because with proper earplugs, the wall of noise and sizzle will be gone, and you will hear the music again, pleasantly. And this is why you can enjoy it.

Our ears can only take so much abuse until they stop working correctly. The separation of different frequency ranges improves a lot. I have noticed high frequencies, such as drum cymbals, get so overbearing that it’s truly hard to hear the music.

  1. You can talk to your friends (ah… thank the heavens!)

     Photo Credit: avarty via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: avarty via Compfight cc

Are you tired of your friends screaming in your ears? Do you find yourself constantly screaming to them?

Personally I hate it when people shout straight into my eardrums. Just think about this: if the background music or noise was suddenly turned off, it would make quite a hilarious scene of someone shouting that loud into one’s ear.

Not to worry, the earplugs come to the rescue! With plugs, talking can be quite normal again, because you hear what people are saying and you hear yourself.

  1. Your hearing stays preserved and crystal clear

This is such a refreshing feeling. When it’s time to pull out those plugs, you know you’ll be the only person left with a high-definition hearing after a wild night out clubbing.

Say goodbye to hearing dullness and late-night tinnitus.

 Photo Credit: Chechi Pe via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Chechi Pe via Compfight cc

  1. No more self-guilt

In the past, I used to go out not wearing any earplugs, even though I knew I should wear some. Every time, I felt guilty because of this. Maybe I was too scared to wear them around people or because of some other dumb excuse.

Today, I don’t give a damn anymore. I protect my ears and feel great because I do.

Etymotic Research ER20 ETY-Plugs

The ETY-Plugs are arguably the best investment I have made throughout my musical career. This is true because my ears are the most important tools I could own being a musician.

Sure, I need my eyes to be able to look at the monitor at times, but without my ears there would be no music.

Etymotic ER20 ETY earplugs

Etymotic Research ER20 ETY earplugs

Having used a pair of ETY’s for a few years now, I have noticed my hearing has improved in accuracy and sensitivity. If you think about all the nights out in bars throughout a year and the cumulative effect of it, that’s a lot of weight for the precious ears to bear.

I literally can’t stand high-level noise bursts and high frequency signals such as peak moments during movies in theaters anymore, because my ears have gotten so sensitive for not being suited to loud environments anymore. This might sound like a bad thing for some, but I don’t see it that way.

When I’m in the studio, I know my ears are giving me the best performance they ever have before.

I love the ETY’s. They are designed to reduce the dB level by 20dB, and not alter the frequency response. In other words, what the ETY earplugs do is turn down the volume in your ears. They are so easy to insert in as well, and washing them with water is effortless.

Did I mention the small plastic case they are supplied with? I always have them with me in the small “coin pocket” in my jeans.

The carry-on case

The carry-on case

One of the absolute best things about these plugs is that they are almost invisible while you are wearing them. They have a transparent, plastic “stick” that’s the only piece which is only slightly visible, coming out of your ear canal.

Very often no one even notices I have a pair on until they get very close. The ETY’s are very stealthy.

The ETY Plugs

The ETY Plugs

I highly recommend you get a pair from Amazon for $13.19, where I also got mine a few years back. I think your ears are worth the price of a few beers and slices of pizza. Are you with me?

The path towards better hearing

I truly hope I have been able to spark something inside of you and take better responsibility regarding loud music and environments, as I sure have harassed enough people around me about it.

Please, please, please take care of your hearing, and your ears will reward you in return!

If you have any questions about this article or earplugs, comments or feedback, feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!

-JP

What Is a Reverb In Music Production

What is a reverb in music production – that’s an interesting subject. In this article I’ll be discussing different kinds and roles of reverb in music production.

Introduction to reverb

In real life, natural reverb is everywhere you are, and most often than not you don’t even pay attention it’s there. When sitting in your room, having discussions with your friends, you’ll mostly be hearing the early reflections that bounce off the walls around you back into your ears. Early reflections are the first stage of reverb, which happen almost instantaneously, and they greatly define the space you are in.

If you go to a nightclub with music playing and lots of people talking, you’ll be instantly struck with the ambience in the club. Ambience will provide a distinct characteristic for a location.

Live music creates a special ambience

Live music creates a special ambience

Now, when you enter a large church or cathedral, you’ll be hearing the long, decaying reverb tail. Whenever something is said in there, it takes time until the sound is fully gone, usually multiple seconds. So there is a contrast between your room and the cathedral in reverberation.

What to learn here is, when you are able to understand different characteristics of reverberation, you’ll be off to a very good start in your music productions.

Large cathedral - imagine shouting something in here and the reverb it produces

Large cathedral – imagine shouting something in here and the reverb it produces

Defining the song

Music can be easily defined with the use of reverb. Classic hip hop records are generally very dry, with very little or no reverb, whereas rock records from the 80s are drowned in huge reverbs. Orchestral music is laying in a bed of reverb and classic jazz has a tight club-like ambience in it.

With modern reverberation plugins, it is quite easy to create a custom reverb sound, which works just how you intend it to. And the good thing about reverb plugins is, you can create any kind of reverb with them.

Different roles of reverb

  1. Creating space and depth

With reverb, you can create or emulate any kind of space you could imagine. Be it a cold bathroom ambience, concert hall acoustics or an echo off a canyon. With the right kind of reverb, you can add “3D”-like depth to your productions.

You can create your own space with reverb

You can create your own space with reverb

  1. Making instruments belong in the same space

If the instruments weren’t recorded live in the same actual space, this is especially useful. Creating a slight ambience for drums or a large hall –type effect for vocals can glue them together in a very natural way.

  1. Remedy for the “dry instrument syndrome”

Is something too dry? Just feed your instruments into a bit of reverb, and the problem is usually gone. Generally, things sound more pleasant when they are not totally dry and “in your face”. Something to remember though, not everything needs to have reverb.

  1. Instrument separation

    Separate instruments from each other with reverb

    Separate instruments from each other with reverb

This is an important one. Inserting different kinds of reverb to different instruments of your track can greatly increase the separation between them. You can, for example, make the keyboards float in the back of your soundstage by drowning them in large reverb, and you can have your vocals up front by treating them with some sweet ambience or early reflections.

  1. Giving music character

Do you want to make a dreamy piece of music full of beautiful, lush reverbs, or do you want to create a pop song with fast, echo-type reverbs? You have the freedom to do any of it. Or create a totally new, unique character to your own song!

  1. Special effects

One of my favorite uses of reverb is to create huge special effects. You could create otherworldly soundscapes and introduce different parts of your song by creating transitions with reverb and automating it. Be creative and break the shackles of all the “rules of reverb”, because there are none!

How to use reverb in your DAW

There are two main ways to use reverb:

Very often, you’ll want to use reverb as a send effect instead of an insert straight on the track. Using the send method is useful when wanting to feed many instruments into the same reverb, by sending custom amounts of each instrument to it.

You just need to create an “auxiliary” track in your DAW and insert the reverb there as 100% wet so the reverb is the only sound coming through from that track. Then you can “send” anything you want to that reverb aux track by routing instruments to it. The reverb won’t be interfering with the instruments’ own plugin chains with this method, and the reverb can be processed and EQ’s as you wish.

There are cases when using reverb as an insert works better. If you want, for example, make something totally reverberated so no dry signal is left, just insert a reverb on a track and make its output 100% wet. You can also control the amount of wetness with the dry/wet knob.

Now that these methods are out of the way, how to use reverb correctly, then? Well let me tell you. There is no correct way to use them. Get crazy with reverbs, use and abuse them as much as you like! Personally, I have created some of the most incredible sounds by totally drowning sounds with reverb.

Don’t listen to any mixing “rules” on how to apply reverb, because honestly, where’s the fun in making music if you wouldn’t be allowed to play with the reverb?

Usual reverb types in plugins

Plate

Very 1980’s. A plate reverb’s unique character are bright, clean and lush. I think plates are good overall reverbs and work especially well for drums.

Hall

Halls tend to provide a huge, decaying space, which is perfect for certain instruments such as acoustic guitars and vocals. What’s not to love in a hall reverb?

Room

Rooms are exactly what they say, they emulate real rooms. Very natural drum kit sounds can be achieved with a nice room reverb. Room reverbs are very high in early reflections, which reproduce the feel of actual rooms.

Chamber

This is one of my favorites for drums. Chambers are very dense and have a nice, full character to them.

Ambience

Ambience is useful when you want to set something in a certain space, without creating much of a reverberated feel to an instrument. Using ambience “shifts” whatever you put through it into its own characteristic space in the sound stage. The decay of the reverb is usually very short so there would be no notable tail to the reverb.

Plugins worth trying

Valhalla VintageVerb

Valhalla VintageVerb is by far my most used reverb plugin, and my go-to for reverb needs. VintageVerb has an amazing sound, and any kind of reverb patch ranging from the smallest ambience to the largest spaces. The VintageVerb is also amazingly cheap (only $50), with a great ratio in quality and price.

Valhalla VintageVerb

Valhalla VintageVerb

Valhalla Room

Valhalla Room is very precise and capable reverb. Where VintageVerb has tons of “vintage” character, Room is designed so its user could create any kind of space they want. The sound is a little bit cleaner and natural compared to the VintageVerb. Valhalla Room is a great allround reverb.

Valhalla Room

Valhalla Room

Soundtoys EchoBoy

Even though marketed as a delay plugin, EchoBoy by Soundtoys has a nice reverb algorithm which I find useful especially for long, pad-like sounds and evolving, sustained instruments. The reverb in EchoBoy has tons of character and authenticity.

The default reverb in your DAW

Don’t underestimate the power of your DAW’s own reverb. All DAWs are supplied with at least one. No doubt you’ll get better quality reverbs with money from third parties, but the reverb in your DAW is more than enough to get you by.

Conclusion

Reverb can be your ticket to the “pro-factor” in your music. Choose the right reverb for your material, and they will shine. Remember to experiment, as you never know what you will get out of a reverb. So go on and create your own rules with reverbs, and you’ll be a step closer to a unique sound of your own.

Any questions and comments, please leave them below and I’ll get back to you.

-JP

How to Master a Song In Pro Tools – Part 3 of 3

In the final part of How to Master a Song In Pro Tools, we will be adding final polishing to our master as well as a mastering limiter.

Get Vitalized

Our master already sounds great after all the EQ and compression. What I want to do at this point is to add a little bit of stereo width to make the track sound wider and livelier. I’m going to use a dedicated enhancer or exciter plugin developed exactly for this task, the SPL Vitalizer MK2-T.

SPL Vitalizer MK 2-T

SPL Vitalizer MK2-T

I insert the Vitalizer into my mastering chain, and reach for the stereo expander knob immediately. Just like during any other task in mastering, less is more. Don’t be drawn into the “instant maximization” effect provided by the knob. Be gentle.

Slight stereo expansion

Slight stereo expansion

I find a value just below 4 is more than enough to “stereoize” our track. If I go past the value I set, the stereo effect gets too overwhelming, crowding the whole master with stereo information. Once again, it might sound nice, but don’t go overboard!

I don’t touch the other knobs in the Vitalizer, as I only wanted some stereo excitement out of it.

Make it a record

The final stage of mastering is applying the mastering limiter at the end of the chain. The limiter is used to inject final volume into the track and apply a ceiling for peaks which sound will never pass.

I will be using Slate Digital’s great FG-X mastering processor.
The FG-X basically has a compressor and a level section in one, but I will be disabling the compressor since we already applied compression, and just use the level section instead.

Slate Digital FG-X

Slate Digital FG-X

Calibrating the VU meters to -10 RMS, from the "Settings" menu

Calibrating the VU meters to -10 RMS, from the “Settings” menu

The first thing I am going to do, is calibrate the VU meters on the bottom right, to respond to the RMS (the average level) I aim for in my master. I’m going to click “Settings” and set the reference RMS level to -10RMS, which is a very healthy average level of loudness, but still loud in today’s standards.

The meters are now set and we’re ready to go. I click “Constant Gain Monitoring” button so the gain I apply into the limiter will not affect my output volume. In other words, I can compare the processed and unprocessed versions easily by clicking the “Power” button on the FG-Level. The goal here is to get a loud sounding track without it becoming distorted or crushed.

Transient enhancement

Transient enhancement

I start raising the gain to reach my goal of -10RMS on the meters. When close to it, I use the “Dynamic Perception” knob, which enhances the perceived loudness of the track to bring up more perceived level, and enhance some transients using the transient knobs to taste.

Dynamic Perception knob

Dynamic Perception knob

After these treatments, I adjust the gain once again to reach -10RMS, which will be my final average level of the master. Lastly, I adjust the ceiling to -0.2 on the peak scale and make sure dithering is on for exporting the master to CD-quality 16-bit, 44.1kHz WAV-file. Also, I disable the “Constant Gain Monitoring” function before exporting.

Raising gain to -10RMS. After calibrating the VU meters, the needle has hit 0 which equals to -10RMS.

Raising gain to -10RMS. After calibrating the VU meters, the needle has hit 0 which equals to -10RMS.

Dither and ceiling

Dither and ceiling

After the finalizing tasks with the Slate Digital FG-X, my master is finally sounding like a finished record, ready to go. All I need to do now is bounce the finished master to disk with the right settings, making sure I have chosen the right bit depth and sample rate for the bounce.

Mastering Chain

Final Mastering Chain

Bouncing the file

Bouncing the file

Bounce settings

Bounce settings

I hope you have learned a lot for your mastering endeavors from this series of articles. The tools I chose to use are just a few among an ocean of plugins. So feel free to use the EQs, compressors, enhancers and limiters you have in your possession, and the tools you are comfortable with. The principles are universally the same.

If you have any questions about mastering, comments or feedback, please leave them below and I’ll get back to you.

Happy mastering!

-JP

How to Master a Song In Pro Tools – Part 2 of 3

In part two of How to Master a Song In Pro Tools, we will add some character to our track using analog-style EQ and compression.

Analog vibes

My EQ of choice is SPL Passeq, which walks in the footsteps of the famous Pulteq EQ from the 50’s, but has a modern sound to it. It’s great for adding some sweet tone-shaping and character to our music. Let’s begin.

SPL Passeq

SPL Passeq

 

While the song at this point sound good, it’s a bit clinical and flat. The track definitely needs some fat low end to it. I find 80Hz adds a nice punch to the low end.

Low boost

Low 80Hz boost

Giving it a 0.3dB boost, the track warms up a lot. Even the high end becomes sweeter and less harsh because EQ decisions always affect the opposite end of the spectrum as well.

Next I head for the middle frequencies. By sweeping the mid band around, I find a nice frequency of 3300Hz, which gives my track a nice, radio-like quality when boosted. I boost around 0.5dB in this frequency. The slight dullness of the sound is gone because of the boost, and the high mids gained a slight glow instead.

3-lmfboost

3.3kHz boost

I cranked the volume on my speakers to listen to how the song sounds, and I thought there was still just a little bit of “coldness” left somewhere in the mid frequencies. So I take the middle cut band and sweep around. I found that 1000Hz, just like earlier, had the coldness in it. I create a cut of 0.3dB, and the overall sound becomes much better.

1000Hz cut

1000Hz cut

Lastly, I want to add some high end using the high boost filter.

17kHz is where the “air” seems to lie in this track, bringing the vocal, high hats and snare more clarity. The boost is about 0.8dB, which is enough.

High end boost

High end boost

I volume-match the EQ to the original version by using the large output knob in the middle, and constantly bypassing to spot the difference. What I notice is, the low end became a little smaller after all the other EQ adjustments I did. By increasing the low end boost by one step or tick, it’s back where it should be and the track now sounds great.

Output gain to match unprocessed version

Output gain to match unprocessed version

All the EQing is now done, and by doing comparisons between the original and the EQ’d version, I very much prefer the track processed with the SPL Passeq. The low end kept its original punch but added a bit of warmth and weight, and the whole track sounds larger because of it. The separation between the low end and the high end is better because of the boosts in the high end and the slight dip in the 1kHz range.

The track now has a tone I like and sounds more professional and “radio ready”. The spectral work is done. The next step is to control the dynamics and enhance the groove using a compressor.

Final settings on the Passeq

Final settings on the Passeq


 

Finding the right punch

My mastering compressor for the application is Vertigo VSC-2 by brainworx. It is a VCA compressor, as I tend to prefer VCA-style compressors with their snappy, fast, clean, “rock n roll” sound.

Vertigo VSC-2 compressor

Vertigo VSC-2 compressor

I pull down the threshold so the compressor starts working, and set the ratio to 2:1. For mastering duties, you don’t generally want to go over 2:1 because that could result in a sound that’s too aggressive. Remember, we are being subtle here.

Ratio, attack and release

Ratio, attack and release

I set the attack to 30ms, to let transients trough and not let them be squashed by the compressor – want them to be enhanced by it. The key here is to find the right release value, which works as a rhythmic groove control. It’s unique to each track when mastering. For this piece of music, 0.1s is the right value as it is the only setting to affect the drums the way I want it to, especially the snare. With any other setting, the compressor doesn’t “grab” the snare in the punchy way I want it to. So listen and find the right release value for your track by listening to its groove and how the compressor affects the drums.

Side chain filter at 60Hz

Side chain filter at 60Hz

I enable the side chain filter for 60Hz so the compressor doesn’t affect any frequencies below it. I don’t want the compressor to react to the sub-bass under that frequency, because it only causes unwanted pumping for the compressor.

Okay, now it’s time to find the sweet spot by using the threshold and aim for 0.5-2dB of gain reduction by using the meters. Be very careful here, as this could potentially ruin everything you’ve done so far – if you do too much. My sweet spot seems to lie just below the 1dB mark on the meter, by carefully listening while adjusting the threshold. Any more, and the compressor would be working too much.

Sweet spot just below 1dB of gain reduction

Sweet spot just below 1dB of gain reduction

What the Vertigo VSC-2 did, it added a cohesion by enhancing the dynamics in a very pleasant way. The kick and snare punch harder, but not any louder on the peak scale! Instruments also gained separation and authority. All this from a meticulously set up compressor with a maximum of 1dB gain reduction.

Here are my final settings for the compressor:

Final settings for the VSC-2

Final settings for the VSC-2

At this point, the master already sounds very good. It doesn’t sound drastically different from the original, but it feels more polished and has that professional sound people are after.

In the next and final part, I will be adding an exciter to control the stereo width and enhance some frequencies if needed, and finally, adding a mastering limiter to control final volume and loudness of the track, ready for distribution.

-JP

CONCLUDED IN PART 3

How to Master a Song In Pro Tools – Part 1 of 3

Mastering

Mastering engineer at work

Mastering is like the secret practice of audio engineering. How the professionals do it in their million dollar mastering facilities is not talked about much. I’m going to reveal a few pointers on the philosophy of mastering and lastly – how to master a song in Pro Tools, or any other DAW you might be using.

First things first

Before you start mastering anything, you need to set yourself in a new state of mind. If you don’t, dare I say, I guarantee you will ruin your preciously put together mix. You need to think as the actual mix as the final “master” already. All that’s needed in mastering is very subtle polishing, and the less you have to do, the better.

So cut off that emotional bond you have for your song when you enter the mastering stage, and be objective. Just like the professionals. Here are a few things you need to be aware of:

  1. The MIX must shine

    The mix should already be like a diamond, the job of mastering is only to clean it and make it sparkle

    The mix should already be like a diamond, the job of mastering is only to clean it and make it sparkle

If the mix doesn’t already sound like the final record, you need to stop right now and back up. Don’t be fooled that “mastering will fix it”. Because it won’t. A

reliable mastering engineer would probably tell you the same thing, to go fix it in the mix and then send it again for mastering.

If the mix isn’t good, mastering will be encumbering and the end result unsatisfactory. On the other hand, if the mix is great, mastering will be enjoyable and the sonic quality improved.

  1. Keep mastering chain as CLEAN as possible

You need to keep this in mind, because anything you add to the mastering chain will alter the original sound and potentially degrade it. So beware of the risks of adding plugins (or hardware) to your mastering chain.

I would recommend having tools of the best quality as possible to add in the chain. This doesn’t mean you couldn’t use plugins that add a certain color, of course. Just make sure you are not heading in the wrong direction, by objectively listening to whatever it is they add to your sound.

  1. Be very SUBTLE with your tweaks

I can’t stress this point enough. If you add EQ boosts or cuts, 0.2-1dB is enough to make a sonic impact in tone. I’m serious. Very rarely do I go past the 1dB point, and if I do, I go back to the mix. When you make multiple tone-shaping decisions of a small amount, it will affect the whole picture in a noticeably audible way. So be gentle, and your music will sparkle.

Same with compression. 0.5-2dB of gain reduction should provide you enough “glue” and “punch” and somewhere between that range of gain reduction lies the sweet spot, where you will want to tune your compressor to.

  1. LISTEN with your ears – not your eyes

    Listen with your ears

    Listen with your ears

Listening is crucial to mastering. If you focus when you listen, your masters will be so much better than if only partly listening. What I mean by this is, whenever you try to find problem frequencies or trying to decide whether your tweaks are taking you in the right direction, close your eyes and your brain will free more capacity for your ears when your sense of sight is turned “off”. Only your ears will tell if your music sounds good!


 

Okay, I hope you have had time to think about these principles, and now it’s time to get to action. For this example, I pulled a remix I recently did and will be mastering it.

Waveform

A dynamic mix peaking at -9.5dB, leaving lots of headroom for mastering

 

Cleaning things up – Cutting and Balancing

The first thing I do, is pull up an EQ and insert it as the first plugin in the chain. I’m going to use my favorite – the FabFilter Pro-Q 2.
First, let’s clean up the low end. The EQ is set to mid/side mode which allows us to process the mono and stereo information individually. Bass doesn’t generally like to be reproduced in stereo, so I create a gentle 6dB/oct low cut (also known as a high pass filter) at 70Hz, only cutting the sides. My first impressions are my kick drum just gained more clarity and weight, and my bass improved in imaging and definition. Good!

Low Cut

Low cut at 70Hz on the side signal only, the blue line representing the sides in FabFilter Pro-Q 2, the white being the mids

The snare seems to lack just a little bit of clarity, so I tried a small cut at 200Hz. What I noticed was, while my snare clarified a bit, it lost its punch totally. To remedy this, I switch the cut only to the side signal, so the middle information, where the punch of the snare lies, isn’t touched at all. Now the snare is quite clear. I still hear a little bit of “boominess” in it so I make another, smaller cut at the same frequency, but in the mid signal, where the boomy frequencies lie. The side cut is 0.5dB and the mid cut 0.2dB. We’re getting there.

Snare EQ

EQing the snare drum at 200Hz with mid/side EQ

I find in this particular song, the 1000Hz range includes some of the “coldness” I don’t like, and reducing it brings some warmth back that I want. What happened though, was that the vocal lost some of its power. I tried to switch the cut only to the sides, but in this range, I needed to cut the mids too in order to gain the warmth I wanted. So what I did was, create a mid-only boost just a tad bit higher, at 2000Hz, to affect the vocal and bring its presence back. The cut was again a gentle 0.5dB and the boost 0.30dB.

Removing some 1000Hz coldness and adding a bit of 2000Hz presence

Removing some 1000Hz coldness and adding a bit of 2000Hz presence

At this point, my master so far sounds pretty good. Lastly, I found that cutting just a little bit at 400Hz would remove some “boxyness” and result in a warmer low end and not-so-cluttered midrange. I only cut the mids and left the sides untouched, so the stereo width would stay unharmed at this frequency.

Gentle, 0.25dB cut at 400Hz for warmth

Gentle, 0.25dB cut in the mids at 400Hz for warmth

After some comparative listening with the bypass button on the EQ, I noticed that the 2000Hz boost I had made earlier was too much, because the high end had gained too much crispiness compared to the original. So I needed to back it down from 0.30dB to 0.10dB to tame the crispiness a bit. Talk about subtlety, right?

Final Spectrum

The final spectrum of the cleaning EQ. Notice the scale on the right – it only goes to 3dB so everything you see is VERY subtle. Click for a large image.

Okay, this is it for cleaning my mix up using very subtle EQing. As you can see, the biggest cut was 0.5dB and the only boost 0.10dB. The goal of this part was to gently balance out some unwanted “muddyness” or “coldness”, and the track is now prepared for all the additive EQ and compression we’ll be looking at next.

Be aware that all the frequencies I processed with EQ are unique to the song I was working on. When you master a song yourself, you need to listen which are the problematic areas in your music. So take these as general pointers.

In the next parts we’ll be looking at additive or “character” EQing, mastering compression, sonic enhancing and limiting.

Thanks for tuning in, please leave your questions and comments below and I’ll be happy to get back to you.

-JP

CONTINUED IN PART 2

Top 10 Music Production Software – Plugins

The market is filled with useful and inspiring plugins for the user to take advantage of. It’s quite important to find your own “Top 10” because those are the ones you’ll be coming back to. A lot.

Here I have listed my favorite music production software plugins, which I use in a recurring fashion. They are in no specific order.


 

1. Native Instruments KONTAKT

1-kontakt

Native Instruments KONTAKT 5

KONTAKT is everything that one could desire for sampling. It’s the ultimate sampler. You can purchase third party instrument or drum libraries for it or create your own. The default library that comes with KONTAKT is quality. You can modulate any parameter within KONTAKT which makes it truly a modular sampler. It requires a little effort to get to know KONTAKT, but is well worth it.

2. Soundtoys EchoBoy

2-echoboy

Soundtoys EchoBoy

Analog delays, chorusing, flanging, reverbs, saturation… You name it. Soundtoys Echoboy is a multi-effects box hidden under the name of a delay. The sound is amazing, analog and dirty if needed. EchoBoy models the sound of a bunch of classic hardware delay boxes, as well as tape. I’m wondering if I ever need another delay in my life.

3. Soundtoys PanMan

3-panman

Soundtoys PanMan

PanMan provides the classic automatic panning effects that sweep audio between the left-right axis. Is something too centered and dull? Got it. Need some movement? No problem. The concept of PanMan is simple, but very effective.

4. Fabfilter Pro-Q 2

4-proq

FabFilter Pro-Q 2

The desert island EQ. FabFilter Pro-Q 2 provides everything anyone could ever need in an EQ. Spectrum analysis, frequencies in note values, 6dB to 96dB/octave filter slopes and mid/side processing are just a scratch on the surface. Did I mention the sound quality on this thing? I’m especially fond of the new Natural Phase processing mode, which matches the phase response of analog EQ’ing.

5. PSP McQ

5-mcq

PSP McQ

Inspired by analog classic EQs, the McQ delivers that sound. I love this thing for general track tone-shaping and cutting, which seem to make my instruments “sit” in the mix just the way I want them to. PSP McQ has a very nice color to it, which I’m especially fond of for vocals.

6. Slate Digital Virtual Console Collection

6-vcc

Virtual Mixbuss from Slate Digital VCC

Slate Digital’s VCC is a bit of a luxury. It models the signal path of classic mixing consoles’ channel and mixbuss. VCC is great for mixing. When you put things through it, the effect is certainly subtle but if you know what you are looking for, it’s there. Do you need it? Generally, it might not be the most important plugin to reach for. But if you’re an analog nut like me, you’ll certainly value and love it.

7. Valhalla VintageVerb

7-veethree

Valhalla VintageVerb

Valhalla makes some great plugins. And they go for cheap. I have tried lots of reverbs, and always find myself tweaking them in order to fit an element into the mix. With VintageVerb, it always happens quickly. I find myself tweaking less and finding the sound I want from a reverb. My instruments just tend to “sit” better in my tracks when processed with some VintageVerb flavor.

8. Waves CLA-2A

8-cla2a

Waves CLA-2A

Definitely not a go-to, Swiss army knife compressor, but the CLA-2A rocks. Modeled after the legendary LA-2A Leveling Amplifier, it’s my favorite analog style compressor. The way this thing “grabs” whatever you put through it is like no other. I use it on melodic instruments mainly, but my favorite applications would be piano and vocals. Best of all, there are only two main knobs, which makes my grandma able to use it.

9. Waves MetaFlanger

9-metaflanger

Waves MetaFlanger

The MetaFlanger is a classic Waves effect. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does, you know why this thing is so good. Soft, deep, evolving sounds for days. It’s my favorite on long, sustaining sounds. Could work wonders on a bassline as well.

10. Brainworx bx_meter

10-bxmeter

Brainworx bx_meter

All the effects aside, let’s not forget about proper metering. Brainworx bx_meter has everything you could ask for in a metering plugin. Stereo balance and correlation, peak, RMS and dynamic range values, K-system metering… Man, this thing lives on my master bus.


 

Hopefully you have found some inspiration from my top 10 plugin list. Now go and gather your own and see what makes your music tick! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I’ll be happy to get back to you.

-JP

How to Compress Vocals – Part 2 of 2

Continued from Part 1.

Getting the dynamics spot-on

Very often the vocals I receive are too dynamic, which means the loud parts can have sudden peaks that are too much, and the softer parts are just too quiet to hear in context of a song. This is the case especially if no compression was used in the recording stage, which is usually a good thing because compression can always be added afterwards. In this section I’ll show you how to compress vocals as a whole, and tailor its dynamic range to fit into a mix.

A dynamic vocal

A dynamic vocal. Spot the difference between the largest peak and the quiet parts.

The main goals I have for vocal dynamics are:

  1. Hear every single word
  2. Get a professional sounding feel to the vocal

Songs would be pointless if one could not hear what the singer is singing. If some words are being drowned in the mix, the compressor comes to the rescue. My favorite method for bringing out quiet words and details in a vocal is fast attack, fast release compression, with a capable compressor such as Waves CLA-76.
Try it if you have problems not hearing every word properly, or want to bring forward low-level details.

Set the ratio to 3:1 or 4:1, attack and release to as fast as possible, then adjust the threshold to get a healthy -3 to -6 dB of gain reduction. Adjust the make-up gain accordingly to level match the loudest parts, and you’ll hear the difference. Tweak the attack to let some transients through if needed, for a less “squashed” sound. Tweak the release for a less in-your-face, and a more gentle sound. The attack and release knobs are great tools to adjust the vocal to your personal taste.

When done, you should have a nice, rounded vocal which sits nicely in the mix. You can try stacking more than one compressor to flatten it out even more, if you didn’t achieve desired results.

Waves CLA-76 - one of my favorite compressors for the job. Fastest attack and release, 6dB of gain reduction.

Waves CLA-76 – one of my favorite compressors for the job. Fastest attack and release, 6dB of gain reduction.

Original and compressed vocal

The original vocal on top, and the CLA-76 processed version on the bottom. Notice how the quiet parts gained more level, while the peaks were flattened a bit.

Hiss, you shall not pass

A very critical and often overlooked part of a vocal is the high end, especially the annoying, ear-abusing “ess” –sounds. Just like working with the low midrange, you can use the same tools but focus on the highs. Usually, the annoying frequencies lie above 3000hz, all the way up to the frequency spectrum.

My method of highlighting the problem frequencies is, set up a single-band compressor like we did tackling the low mids (or use the EQ into compressor trick), crank your monitors so you hear the annoying frequencies and where they “hurt” your ears, create a narrow filter area and sweep it around until you find a spot where the compressor starts attenuating the bad frequencies and the vocal actually turns out sounding pleasant. Set a large ratio so the compressor can act more like a limiter.

Custom de-esser

Custom de-esser. Notice the sidechain filter is calibrated to 3-18kHz, as that is where the “ess” lies in this vocal, which is highlighted and played as a loop on the right. Fastest attack and release to quickly tame the bad frequencies, 10:1 ratio and 6dB of gain reduction was enough to do the job.

You have just created a custom de-esser. Well, you could’ve just used a simple de-esser plugin in the first place, though I believe when you do things the hard way, you’ll actually learn more and find applications you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

When you get the “esses” under control, the music can be played louder and the cold sounding frequencies won’t be bothering the listener anymore.

I hope these techniques have helped you in your vocal mixes, as they sure have made my life easier. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below as usual.

-JP

 Listen to these song examples, to hear compression in action

Drake – Furthest Thing (Extremely compressed vocal but doesn’t sound squashed. Suits the dirty vibe of the track and low mids are perfectly under control. Love it.)

Coldplay – Always In My Head (Huge vocal sound. Great, radio-style vocal compression. Listen to the “esses” in this one, de-essing is done beautifully.)

Dido – My Lover’s Gone (Very dynamic and natural vocal, not too compressed at all. Every word is heard though, and shows that it can be done without excessive amounts of compression.)

How to Produce a Song at Home – This Is What You Need

In 2014, we are very lucky to be spoiled with an abundance of music creation tools.  Anyone is now able to learn how to produce a song at home – or anywhere for that matter, due to technological leaps in computers, laptops and music production software.

I’m going to list everything you need to have in order to start producing music. Fun fact: you’ll probably already have most of it in your possession.


 

Making Music

Making Music

What You Absolutely Need

  1. Computer

Any modern computer will do, be it a desktop or laptop. Keep in mind though, that CPU power and physical memory are key here. With 8 to 16 GB of installed memory and a CPU capable of multithreading, such as the Intel Core i7-2600, you’ll have a killer rig that will handle any situation in your production affairs.

  1. Audio Interface

Every modern computer will have an audio interface integrated into it, so you can get straight into the production game. But if you are even the least bit serious about making your own tunes, you need to buy an external audio interface, so you’ll get your audio performance, sound quality and latencies to real world levels. You’ll be able to record your instruments or singing through it as well. Read my review of RME’s Babyface interface here.

  1. Speakers

    Studio Monitors

    Studio Monitors

You probably have a set of speakers already, and those will work just fine, up to a point. When I started out, I owned a pair of Logitech T20’s, and made a bunch of music with them. Porter Robinson used a pair of $100 Logitech Speakers too, and look at him now. After some point though, you’ll want to look into acquiring real studio monitors, such as the cheap but surprisingly good Behringer Truth –series.

In addition to speakers, you could look into using headphones. Read my review of Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones.

  1. DAW Software

Lastly, you need a Digital Audio Workstation – a DAW. There are lots to choose from, and you should check out this list by Musicradar if you are in the search of one. Personally, I have used Image-Line FL Studio, Cockos REAPER and Avid Pro tools, and they are all good, capable workstations, though different. Choose wisely for your own needs, and stick with it.

Most DAWs are fully equipped with everything you need to make music. Virtual instruments, effects, mixer, sampler, it’s all there. You could basically use your mouse and keyboard to make full songs, as I have done when I was a starting out.

Avid Pro Tools

Avid Pro Tools


 

Home Recording Environment

Home Recording Environment

What Are Optional, But Highly Recommended

  1. MIDI Keyboard

You wouldn’t be wanting to use your mouse or keyboard to play virtual instruments forever, would you? These things go for very cheap, and I think it’s an essential piece of hardware to have in the studio. You can basically trigger all MIDI events with it. You can play drum kits from samplers, improvise with a virtual piano or create the nastiest bassline by playing it.

A MIDI Keyboard

A MIDI Keyboard

  1. Real Musical Instruments

Having real, actual instruments is always a good thing. Musical ideas are easily extracted from different instruments, by playing and just improvising with them. Also, they provide true contrast to all

Shure SM57 Microphone

Shure SM57 Microphone

the digital. It’s only healthy to have at least some instrument laying around, such as a guitar.

  1. Microphone

If you want to record yourself singing, you need to have a microphone. You could also record yourself playing for example, acoustic guitar, and lay down songs in no time.

  1. Virtual Instruments and Plugins

There are tons of virtual instruments and effects plugins out there. Even though most DAWs have their default instruments and plugins, and you’ll do perfectly fine with them, it is a good idea to do some research about a particular instrument or effect you would be searching for, because they could greatly increase the quality of your productions. Check out this article over at Producer’s Mind for a good selection of third-party instruments and plugins.

  1. Sample Packs

You’ll probably need samples, most often drums (if you’re not a drummer and willing to record yourself playing) to be able to lay down a beat. Again, DAWs usually have a set of default drum kits, but look deeper for a quality boost in your drum samples. Native Instruments’ KONTAKT has some great drum kits and sampled instruments which I use all the time.

Native Instruments KONTAKT

Native Instruments KONTAKT – with piano and drums loaded


 

As DAWs are relatively cheap nowadays (such as Cockos REAPER, which costs only $60 – the price of a video game), it would be a perfect gift for someone interested in music to get their hands on a fully equipped music creation environment.

I hope you now have a picture of what you need to do to immerse yourself in the world of music production. Of course, after you have acquired all the necessary tools in order to make music, all you have to do then is, well, make music. If you have questions, comments or feedback, please leave them below and I’ll get back to you.

-JP

RME Babyface Review – Real, Portable Sound Delivered

During fall 2014 I purchased a new audio interface because I thought it was time to upgrade the core of my studio’s sound. I had some problems with the interface I had earlier, such as blue screen crashes and static noise coming out of my speakers, as well as sudden cuts to silence in audio which all contributed to my decision to get a new interface.

After some research, I was confident that RME Babyface would become my new audio interface. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. This is my RME Babyface Review.

The Package

The Package

The Package

RME Babyface is supplied with a nice carrying bag, user guide, drivers and TotalMix software as well as a USB-cord and an breakout cable for I/O. I could imagine the breakout cable a problem for someone who doesn’t want a bunch of cords laying on their desk or the potential hassle, but for myself it isn’t a problem. There are inputs on the side of the Babyface for headphones and a line input for plugging in a guitar for example. Two XLR inputs for microphones are accessed by the breakout cable, as well as the outputs for main speakers.

RME Babyface

RME Babyface – guitar plugged in on the side

In total there are two analog preamp inputs which means you could plug in two microphones, or one microphone and instrument at the same time. In addition to the two analog inputs, there are digital ADAT and SPDIF connections available to expand on, providing a potential total of 10 analog input and 12 output channels.

For more information and tech specs, head over to RME’s website.

Quality, quality, quality…

Here I have listed the main reasons why I think the Babyface is a great product:

  1. Sound Quality

The sound quality on the Babyface is top notch. It is crystal clear, transparent, dynamic, and has such presence that it requires one to hear it for themselves. The separation between the high-, mid- and low-ranges is excellent, and there is no “mud” whatsoever to make it harder to pinpoint certain frequencies. To sum the sound quality of the Babyface in one word: pristine.

  1. Stability and Trust

I don’t know what to say. I haven’t had one crash, noise burst, or problem with the Babyface since I acquired it. In short, RME Babyface is an extremely stable and trustworthy device to have in the studio which makes its owner proud. The drivers are in a league of their own.

  1. Recording Quality

What you put through the Babyface’s preamps is what you get. The recordings are incredibly clean and clear and there is virtually no noise floor. Because of the quality of the recording, it leaves the user to process the recordings afterwards at their own will, with compressors, saturators and so on.

Features

Big Knob, Select, Recall and Dim

  1. Features

RME Babyface has some pro-level features without which my life would get much harder.

  • Dim

The dim function works by pressing the large volume knob on top of the interface and it “dims” the main volume by a user-set amount. I have mine set to -20dB. For example, if I need to answer my phone or do some talking, I can just hit the dim button and push it back again to return to the level of volume I had before. It is also useful to quickly reference whatever you are working on at a lower level and hear how the mix or instrument levels sound at a lower volume.

  • Recall

The Recall function becomes useful when you have found that perfect level to monitor your mix or production. How it works is, just find an appropriate volume that pleases you with the main volume knob, then press and hold down the Recall button for a few seconds, and it has now stored that volume setting in its memory. Now, whenever you click the Recall button the volume returns to the level you set it to remember. You can now, for example, quickly listen to your music at a loud level to see how hard it punches and push the Recall button to return to your main level of volume. I love this function.

  • Navigation
Navigation

Navigation and Meters

The navigation through the different functions is dead easy. You can navigate between the recording input levels, main output level and headphone level by clicking at the “Select” button and adjusting the levels with the main volume knob. While in “In” mode, pressing the main volume knob jumps between adjusting the input gain of inputs 1 and 2 individually, and both at the same time.

  1. Big Volume Knob

Probably my favorite feature of the Babyface is the giant volume knob. It’s so pleasant to use and I love the fact that it adjusts volume in little steps or ticks. So adjusting the volume is not stepless. The steps are around 3dB. I find this decision of design useful when browsing through different volume levels and effortlessly finding that spot you want. As said before, the volume knob also works as the Dim function by pressing it.

TotalMix FX

The Babyface is supplied with TotalMix FX software which basically acts as a software mixer and controller. Personally I don’t use it too much, except to enable Phantom Power for my microphones (I think it can only be enabled through the software) and using some of the DSP effects, such as the EQ to cut some unneeded low end on the recording inputs before they reach my DAW, so I don’t need to insert any EQs there.

You can also set up a monitoring reverb for recording an instrument from the software. The Dim function’s dB values are set here too.

I think TotalMix FX and its usability could split some opinions between users but for my personal needs using it has not been an issue. Not to confuse things, TotalMix FX is a very powerful mixer and offers deep routing capabilities. It just demands a bit of studying the manual to fully get the grip on it.

TotalMix FX

TotalMix FX

PROS

  • Excellent Sound Quality
  • Extremely Stable
  • Clean, Quality Preamps
  • Hardware Features

CONS

  • The Breakout cable is a potential nuisance
  • TotalMix FX could get a bit frustrating
  • The price which floats around 500€ or $700Babyface_Score

To conclude, RME Babyface is an excellent piece of hardware with long-lasting audio performance for years to come. It is a product for audio professionals and those who are serious about audio and music production. I highly recommend you to keep the Babyface in mind if you are looking for a high level, portable audio interface. It is a pricy product, but the price is justified by its quality. In my studio, the Babyface has arrived to stay.

-JP

Get Babyface now on Amazon and take your sound to the professional level!