The lucky attendees of the Izotope workshops yesterday walked away with a ton of useful tips on music production. We were happy to have Matt Hines and Evan Allen from Izotope presenting on drum design and mixing and mastering, and a very informative Q+A.
We understand you can’t always make it out, so we compiled a review to cover some highlights! Read on to get some great ideas and advice from professionals. Warning: some of the words you see might confuse you, if you want to know what we’re talking about, check out our courses! There are also links provided to define terms as you go.
–Sine waves are key. Try using distortion to accentuate the fundamental and add harmonics for a richer sound.
-Almost every drum sound you hear (in EDM that is) is comprised of different sounds and samples layered over each other. This creates a much thicker sounding drum hit.
- One layer of a kick, for example, can be a sample from an 808 or 909, or other drum samples. Layer this with a distorted sine wave and effect it however else you see fit. Depending on the genre you can use a lowpass filter to get rid of some of the click in the upper frequencies, or get rid of almost all of it for a more subtle kick.
- Kick drums need a sine wave (often distorted as with a snare) to add that low boom.
-Shape the envelope of the sound, usually drums have fast attacks and decays and no sustain to create that punch.
-Your ears are your best friends when deciphering what layers comprise a drum sound. With that being said, spectral analysis is like your overlooked younger brother. You may think you’re too cool for him, but he always keeps you honest.
- Spectral analysis is a terrific way to start understanding what frequencies make up a sound, and the amplitude of those frequencies.
- Many EDM snares have strong levels all the way from sub frequencies (80-100 Hz) up to around 12kHz. With a massive boost around 200Hz.
-Kick drums function like snares except their frequency response tapers off around 8kHz (with those higher frequencies being barely audible)
-Using a sample of a real kick drum adds great high end smack into the sound, giving your kick more presence in the mix.
-Hi-hats can be made simply with white noise.
- Use filters to keep the frequencies you want and take out the ones you don’t.
- Combining different colors of noise can make a hi hat with more depth.
- As always, never be afraid to use distortion.
-Setting a bandpass filter on the higher frequencies of a high hat and having it move downward with the envelope is a great way to make the hi hat sound more realistic.
- This is based on the fact that when we strike a piano key and let it ring, the higher frequencies are the ones that die down sooner leaving the low frequencies resonating.
-Drum design takes a lot of trial and error. You can’t always recreate a sound perfectly!
Mixing and Mastering:
Evan Allen had great tips on mixing vocals and general mixing and mastering. These topics are without a doubt among the more mysterious and confusing aspects of the recording process, even to seasoned musicians. Evan broke things down in a comprehensible way so you can really tighten up your tracks.
–Multiband compression is your best friend, both on the master bus and on individual elements of a track.
–Trash 2 is a great plugin. It can sidechain EQ movements to various elements in a track, allowing certain frequency bands to duck each other.
– When applicable, add straight compression on the master bus before using the multiband compression to get rid of some peaks and to tighten the sound.
-If you use multiband compression on the master track, it is VERY important to try to capture all of the vocals in one frequency band (usually the low mids).
- If you have a band crossover right in the middle of the voice it creates nasty phasing issues.
- Since humans are acutely aware of changes in an otherwise natural sound like a voice, this effect is highly noticeable.
-The reality of EDM is that the tracks are heavily compressed and therefore often lose dynamic range. Dynamics are important for expression and variation. You have to find a balance between fighting in the “loudness war” and maintaining the dynamic integrity of the song.
–Mid/Side EQing on the master bus really helps “widen” the atmospheric higher frequency elements of a track (reverb, pads, etc.) while tightening up the lower frequency sounds.
- E.g.: a subtle lowpass filter on the Mid EQ with a less subtle reduction in the highs.
- For the side EQ it is essentially the inverse. A subtle highpass with less subtle reduction of the low frequency elements of a track.
-A limiter is ALWAYS LAST in the signal chain. Generally don’t want your
limiter attenuating more than -4 or -6 db.
-Listen to your mix in mono. Summing things to mono can reveal phase issues that otherwise would be hard to hear in a stereo environment.
Thank you again to Matt and Evan from Izotope for all of their help! And don’t forget to come check out our Beat Academy Open House this Sunday!