Mixing and Mastering for the Electronic Musician

As mentioned in an earlier post, “Mixing and Mastering for the Electronic Musician” was my favorite class of Term 2. The course material was perfect for someone like me, a solo musician/composer/songwriter wanting to make their work sound a bit more polished and professional.

While the course material was very well thought out and presented I think the thing that I loved most about this class was the immediacy of being able to apply what I learned to my own music. Just what I learned about EQ, compression and limiting made a huge difference in the clarity and power of my mixes.

Other subjects that I found really helpuful were: “Developing Relationships in a Mix” via external keying and side-chaining (particularly helpful for dynamically ducking tracks under other tracks); Direction Mixer plugin on stereo tracks; using Distortion to color and shape EQ of tracks like hi-hats and vocals; using Noise Gates to shape output of audio tracks; using Side-chain/External Keying on Reverb and Delays to dynamically control output; Reshaping Transients (a bit like synthesis on audio tracks); Dotted 1/8 & 1/4 note delays; Ping Pong Delays; Pre-Fader Metering (to help control gain staging); Subgrouping; Parallel Compression (on individual tracks, subgroups and global tracks); Flex-Pitch; Auto-Filter (to help tracks stand out); using Sample Delays to pan; VCAs (to control volumes of subgroups); and how Mastering really is all about making small, subtle changes in EQ, Compression and Limiting.

As usual with a number of Berklee Online classes I’ve taken already, there was a lot of ground covered in 12 weeks. Here are the subjects, by week.

Week 1 – Getting Ready to Mix
Logic Pro Skills & Preferences, Plug-In Latency & Track Meters, Logic Pro X Interface, Screensets, Mixing and the Electronic Musician, Composing & Mixing Simultaneously, Working with Software Instrument Tracks, Rendering Software Instruments to Audio Tracks, Mixing Workspace Ergonomics and You, Monitors & Walls, The Mix Position, Monitor Loudness Levels, Using Reference Material, Getting Ready to Mix, Organizing Tracks & Assets, Setting Up a Listening Mix, Gain Structure & Digital Meters, Mixing Balance & Panning, Panning Stereo Tracks, Panning & the Direction Mixer, Working with Automation, Volume Automation & the Dynamic Mix, Real Time Automation, Automation Modes, Automation and Sculpting the Mix, Discussion 1.3: Automated Mix Example, Why We’re Starting Here, Assignment 1: Levels, Panning and Automation Mix

Week 2 – Shaping Your Sounds: EQ and Compression
Prepping the Mix Project, Working with Logic Pro X Markers, Introduction to EQ, EQ Bands, Shelving EQ, Filters, A Word About Q-Couple, EQ in Mixing, Kick Drum EQ, Snare Drum EQ, Bass and Vocals EQ, EQ in a Sample Project, Doing More with EQ, EQ Means Endless Tweaking, EQ Tips, Boosting vs. Cutting, Controlling the Low End of Your Mix, Bracketing Sounds with Filters, EQing in Solo Mode, Plugin Presets, Introduction to Dynamics Processors, Dynamics Processor Block Diagram, Working with Compressors, Compression Curves and the Transfer Function, The Logic Pro Compressor, The Logic Pro Compressor Setup, Using Compression, Compression Gain and Make Up Gain, Classic Uses of Compression, Mix Analysis: Compression, Limiters in mixing, Using the Limiter in the Logic Pro X Compressor, The Logic Pro Limiter, Assignment 2: Begin the Mix Project

Week 3 – Doing More with Dynamics Processors
Where Are We?, Compressors Continued, Detection Mode, Sidechain Filtering, Distortion and “Color”, Other DAW Compressor Plugins, Pro Tools, Waves, Circuit Types in the Logic Pro X Compressor, Compressor Design, Transfer Functions, Changing Compressor Settings, Introduction to Noise Gates, Why We Use Gates in Mixing, De-Essers, The Logic Pro X De-Esser, Why We Use De-Essers, Exercise: Listening to the Mix So Far, External Keying and “Sidechaining”, Setting Up Sends as Key Signals, Sidechaining and “The Pump”, Developing Relationships in a Mix, Externally Keyed Compressors, Externally Keyed Gates, Ghost Keys, Ghost Tracks, External Keying Vs. Automation, Discussion 3.1: Mix Analysis, Assignment 3: Dynamics Processors

Week 4 – Reverb and Delays in Mixing
Reverberation, Creating Reverb in the Studio, The Reverb Event, Algorithmic Reverbs, PlatinumVerb, Setting Up Reverb Plugins, PlatinumVerb and Reverbs on Individual Tracks, Making Reverb Decisions, Exercise: Reverb, Reverbs in Mixing, Setting Up Reverbs on Aux Tracks, Reverb Modification, Reverbs on Track Inserts, Reverb Tips, “Come to Me” Mix with Reverb, Introduction to Delays, Delay Effects, Introduction to Tape Delay and Stereo Delay, Stereo Delay, Delay Parameters, Delays in Mixing, Slap Delays, Ping-Pong Delay, Processing Delays, Delay Tips, Working With Automation: Sends Automation, Mix Limiters: An Introduction, Final Mix of “Come to Me”, Assignment 4: Finishing Project 2

Week 5 – More with Dynamics and Mixing
Working with a Large-Scale Mix Project, Strategies for Project Organization, Screensets and Markers, Marker Sets, Developing a Vision for the Mix, Discussion 5.1: Developing a Vision for the Mix due Tuesday, Arrangement Editing, Editing vs. Mute Automation, Creating and Working with Track Groups, Track Groups and Workflow, NOW Where Are We?, Reshaping Transients, Upward Expanders and the Logic Pro X Expander Plug-in, Multiband Compression Techniques, Logic Pro X Multipressor, A Sidetrip About Expanders, Noise Gates vs. Downward Expanders, Mixing, Gain Structure, and Headroom, Pre-Fader/Post-Fader Metering, Getting Off the Ground!, Assignment 5: Dynamics and Mixing

Week 6 – Doing More with Mixing
A Starting Point, Creating and Working with Audio Subgroups, Setting Up Audio Subgroups, Deciding When to use Subgroups in a Mix, Vocal Tuning, Fixing Pitch Problems, Going Deeper with Flex Pitch, Flex Pitch in the Track Editor, Tuning Other Instruments, Exercise: Exploring Vocal Tuning, The Big Freeze!, Parallel Compression Techniques, Setting Up Parallel Compression, Parallel Compression for Multiple Tracks, Parallel Compression Guidelines, Exercise: Parallel Compression, Adding Color and Character to the Mix, Filters, AutoFilter, Distortion Effects, Clip Distortion, Re-Amping, Enhancing the Low End, Exercise: Distortion, Assignment 6: Adding Character to the Mix

Week 7 – Working with Delays
Short Delay Effects, Delays and the Stereo Image, Using a Short Delay for Panning, Modulation Delay Effects: Flanging, Hands-On Tweaking, Modulation Delay Effects: Chorusing and Doubling, Chorusing, Ensemble, Exercise: Mix Example, Convolution Reverb and Space Designer, Tweaking Space Designer, Using Convolution Reverbs, Exercise: Mix Analysis, More Mixing Ideas with Delays and Reverbs, More with Processing Effect Sends and Returns, Exercise: Putting it all Together, Assignment 7: Working with Delays

Week 8 – More Mix Techniques Automation 1
Checking Up on Our Mix of “Please Baby”, The Dynamic Mix, Manipulating the Sounds, Splitting Regions to Tracks, Making Sounds Bigger: Stereo Width Ideas, Pitch Effects in Mixing, Discussion 8.1: Pitch Manipulation, Vocal Transformer, SFX, Ear Candy, and Transitions, Delay Designer, Exercise: “Please Baby” Mix, Assignment 8: Mix Techniques

Week 9 – Shaping the Mix Automation 2
Checking Up on Our Mix of “Please Baby”, Where We Are, Global Parallel Compression, VCA Tracks and Mixing, VCA Usage, Mix Bus Compression, More With Mix Automation, Working with Mix Automation, Final Touches: Mix Limiters, Final Touches: Mix Limiters – Mix Fade Out, Bouncing the Mix, Exercise: “Please Baby” Mix, Assignment 9: Automation

Week 10 – Mastering 1
What is Mastering?, The Creative Side of Mastering, Discussion 10.1: Original vs. Mastered Versions, The Technical Side of Mastering, Discussion 10.2: Top Mastering Engineers, Mastering in the Project Studio, Tweaking Your Studio Space, Installing Ozone, Mastering with Logic Pro X: an Overview, Intro to Ozone, Exercise: EQ, Corrective and Creative, The Ozone EQ Module, Exercise: Mastering EQ, Discussion 10.2: Ozone History, Ozone Digital EQ Mode, Exercise: Analog and Digital Mode, The Digital EQ Surgical Mode, Some Tips on EQ and Mastering, Limiting in Mastering, Assignment 10: Project 4

Week 11 – Mastering 2
The Mastering Process, Compression in Mastering, Using the Dynamics Module, Exercise: Compression, Multiband Compression with Ozone, Exercise: Multiband Compression, Multiband Compression Considerations, Discussion 11.1: Multiband Compression, The Dynamic EQ, Mastering, Loudness, and the “Loudness War”, Loudness and CD Mastering, Discussion 11.2: Loudness and CD Mastering, The Ozone Maximizer, Exercise: Ozone’s Maximizer module, Daily Assignment Practice, Assignment 11: Project 5

Week 12 – Mastering 3
Image Manipulation in Mastering, The Ozone Imager Module, Exercise: The Imager Module, Multiband Image Adjustment, Exercise: More With the Imager Module
The Vintage Limiter, Mastering Workflow, Making a Mastering Chain, Workflow Tips, Bouncing Your Mastered Audio, Mastering for Digital Delivery, CD Delivery Masters, Exercise: Truncation vs. Dither, Creating a CD Master, Loudness, Audio CDs, and Streaming Audio, QC = Quality Control!, Discussion 12.1: Project 6

Here are a couple screenshots of an assignment mix that I submitted. Check out the number of tracks and plug-ins. This was a pretty massive project. Took two screenshots to get all the tracks shown!

Here’s a mix that I did using many of the techniques that I learned in this class for my final project in MTC2 (Music Theory & Composition 2).