Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pro Tools Quick Tip: Using Markers to Speed Up Your Workflow

Modern mix sessions can be a bit overwhelming in the sheer number of tracks included in them. It's not at all uncommon to encounter mixes with 50 or more tracks, and navigating through a session that large can often be frustratingly cumbersome. Here is one of my favorite techniques for streamlining what I see on my screen at any given moment, allowing me to work much more quickly and efficiently. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Keep Them Listening, Pt. 1

What is the #1 goal of all music production? From the writing to the production to the mixing and mastering, what is the most basic and essential hurdle that every production needs to clear, regardless of genre, artist, or budget?

My keep the listener engaged until the very last note. As artists, writers, musicians, engineers or producers, that simple idea is at the core of everything we do. It seems like it should be so obvious, yet it is shocking to me how often it gets ignored. I never cease to be amazed by how many people make all kinds of production decisions for all kinds of self-indulgent reasons, yet never stop to think what impact those decisions will have on the listener's experience. The truth is that it doesn't matter how brilliant your lyrics might be, or how epic that guitar solo you spent 14 hours working on is, or how gorgeous the recording sounds if the listener loses interest before the end of the song because of poor decisions or execution in other areas. Your music is very often competing for attention with the everyday chaos that all people deal with, so it is up to you to make your music so engaging that listeners can't help but be pulled into it, no matter what else is going on around them. If your song loses that battle, the listener will most likely tune it out, and once that happens, chances are pretty good that they will never listen to it again. Worse yet, they may write off the entire album or even the artist's entire catalog based on that single underwhelming experience.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pro Tools Quick Tip: Dynamically Maximize Your Computer's CPU Power

There's nothing more frustrating than to be deep inside of a mix and to suddenly start getting Pro Tools errors related to your computer reaching the limits of its processing power. Here's a simple yet effective tip that can help you make the most of the power you have available: simply automate the Master Bypass parameter on your plug-ins so that they are not using up CPU cycles when no audio is being passed through them. A good example is to bypass the plug-ins on your chorus tracks during the verse sections, and the verse plug-ins during the chorus sections. To enable automation for the Master Bypass parameter on any plug-in, hold down Ctrl+Command+Option (Ctrl+Alt+Start on PC), and click the Bypass button in the plug-in's GUI, then choose Enable Automation for Master Bypass. Next, change the track view selector to show the Bypass automation lane for that plug-in, and draw in the automation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pro Tools Quick Tip: Automatically "Mute" Your Talkback Mic During Playback

If you're like most people using a DAW, you probably don't have a recording console with a dedicated talkback mic complete with a handy push-to-talk button. This can cause problems since your talkback mic will always be open, leading to ambient noise in the headphone mix that can be distracting to the artist, and if you are monitoring the same mix they are, it can prevent you from accurately hearing what is being recorded. You could use a microphone with an on-off switch built in, but I find that this is a less than elegant solution that adds yet one more thing to think about during a session, and as far as I'm concerned, the fewer things you need to think about, the more focus you will put on the things that are the artist's performance. So here's a simple "set it and forget it" solution that will automatically mute your talkback mic anytime the track is playing, and open it back up as soon as playback stops.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Peavey Introduces New AT-200 Guitar with AutoTune

Earlier this year at NAMM, Peavey unveiled their new AT-200 guitar featuring the new AutoTune for Guitar system from Antares, creators of the world's most famous (and in some circles, infamous) pitch correction processor. Courtney Cox of the band The Iron Maidens showcases the new guitar in the video below.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pro Tools Quick Tip: Add Zero Latency "Look-Ahead" To (Almost) Any Compressor

A feature called "look-ahead" on some compressors allows you to trigger the compressor's gain reduction circuit a few milliseconds early, meaning that the compressor will already be applying gain reduction by the time the signal reaches it. This can help smooth the compressor's response by eliminating pumping, and it can also help to better control transients and sibilance. The down side is that, to accomplish this, the compressor must delay the audio signal, introducing latency. Here's a simple way to add look-ahead functionality to any compressor with a sidechain input, without adding latency.

Pro Tools Quick Tip: Compare Two Processing Chains Instantly

One situation you may have run into before when mixing is wanting to be able to compare different processing chains on the same sound. This can be kind of a headache in Pro Tools, since you would need to basically create two completely different processing chains on the same track and use the bypass buttons to compare them, or create duplicate tracks and try to keep up with muting and unmuting them one after the other. Both of these methods are cumbersome, and add pauses that can affect your judgment. What we really want to be able to do here is an instantaneous A/B comparison. Here's how, using a common Pro Tools shortcut.