What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

April 30, 2013

Culled from numerous responses, here is a small collection of some of the best tips to improve your audio engineering skills:

  • It’s all about mic placement. If you want the best sound, start off with a good quality source. Spending a few extra minutes getting every set up correctly will save you time in the editing and mix down process later.
  • Never say “we’ll fix it in the mix”.
  • Work smart, not hard. Use technology to your benefit. By creating a session template that is configured with empty tracks, commonly used plug ins and routing already in place, you can save yourself set up time and you won’t lose your creative flow setting up the necessary elements.
  • Critically listen to your work. Recording and mixing are audio arts, so try giving them a pure listen once in a while. Just like blind people have other heightened senses, shut off some of yours to focus on what’s important – close your eyes and really listen.
  • A good mix will sound good whether it’s quiet or loud. Turning down the volume can help prevent ear fatigue, and it also makes certain elements stand out. Maybe at lower volumes the high hat will be more apparent, but you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed since the louder sounds mask it at higher volumes.
  • Spectrum analyzers – Putting one on your master output can help you see what frequencies aren’t represented, and you can see if your mix is bass heavy without having to depend on your room/speaker set up to tell you.
  • EQ is great but don’t overuse it. Boosting a lot of frequencies on various tracks can lead to congestion and conflicts. Instead of boosting some frequencies, think about cutting something else to avoid clutter. This can free up the aural space and give more room to the elements you want to stand out.
  • Take a break! Your ears get tired, just like everything else. Make sure to chill out every hour or two during a project. Your ears will be refreshed, you’ll get a new perspective on your mix when you come back, and you might even be able to think of other techniques to implement since you’re not distracted with the task at hand.
  • A good performance makes the track – not a technically skilled rehearsed rendition. That’s not to say that having skills is a bad thing, but when an artist plays the same performance over and over, sometimes it gets to a point where they are just going through the motions instead of giving a good feel. This ties into an earlier tip – by having templates and everything preconfigured you can get straight to recording without losing the vibe.
  • Low frequencies fill the audio spectrum and have more power than higher frequencies. Use high-pass filters on tracks that don’t have a lot of low frequency content to free up room. Even some bass elements – kick, guitar, low tom – can be improved through the use of a high pass filter by cutting out the muddy, super low frequencies.

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