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A Ridiculously Simple Explanation of Vocal Compression For Beginners

UPDATE: The graphic and article have been updated with a more accurate explanation of limiting. Last night, I was giving one of our mastering clients some mixing advice regarding vocal compression. I thought I’d post the email here for those of you who might still be struggling with the concept (I know I did for […]

“Ready, Able” by Grizzly Bear: A Compositional Analysis

A rhythmic and harmonic play-by-play .

“Amazing” by Kanye West: A Compositional Analysis

A look at Kanye’s minimalist hit from a music theory perspective.

I got an email from my father today directing me to an internet forum debate regarding how over-compression in mastering is ruining music today and I responded with what you’re about to read–the simplest, most easy-to-read breakdown on this topic I could come up with–an explanation that anyone will be able to understand. No flowery or abstract adjectives, just the meat and potatoes. If something still isn’t clear, leave a comment. I’m mostly posting this article to save myself some time (to direct our clients to) but this post may be helpful for other mastering engineers who’d like to do the same. Note: this post refers to sound compression, not MP3 or zip compression. Learn more about the differences between sound compression and data compression here. What Is Mastering Compression? Mastering compression* (“limiting”) reduces the dynamic range of a recording. Dynamic range is the range between the loudest and quietest point in a recording or... Read More →

A friend of mine is an exceptionally talented bass player.  He’s played all over the world with musicians from Michael Brecker to Andy Timmons and he’s also an excellent storyteller.  One day we were hanging out and he started reminiscing about this gig he played during apartheid in South Africa.  He began by saying that he had this six-month contract to play as the house band at a nightclub.   Everybody listening had to stop him before he made it through his first sentence:  A six-month contract to play at a venue?   We were stunned.   “Was that just the way they did it in Africa back then?”   “No, that’s the way everybody used to do it back then.”   Thirty years ago, young local groups were actually contracted to play at a venue for numerous dates at a time.  Allegedly, you could actually make a decent living doing it too.  You’d play a bunch of small gigs and build a local reputation for yourself or open for a bunch of bands as they passed through town and... Read More →

It was 2003 when I first discovered Lazy Mane & Kosherbeets through the grapevine as they began to generate a buzz in the North Atlanta area. I got Kosherbeets’s number from a mutual friend, picked his brain about music, recording, etc., and the rest is history. I cut my teeth mixing his solo release, Dude, College, and now his joint effort with long time collaborator Lazy Mane: Supreme I.N.K. They’ve since shared the stage with a number of hip hop notables including Atlanta mainstays the Ying Yang Twins and quintiple-platinum act Nappy Roots (of “Awnaw” fame). Tonight, Friday, Sept. 18th, 2009, you can catch the duo at Lenny’s in Atlanta performing with Dungeon Family* artists Killer Mike (featured on a number of OutKast songs), Cool Breeze, and Rico Wade of Organized Noize. I don’t know exactly where to pin down their sound-a little Bone Thugs here, some early OutKast there, and a combination of all those jazz records, photographs, and history... Read More →

Despite the democratization of music production technology over the past ten years, most of the mastering process is still a black art to most people.  You can buy a cheap microphone for your computer at Wal-Mart to record your bedroom demos, but for some reason you still can’t get your music as loud and clean as Kanye.  The brave can attempt a lot of it at home with varying degrees of success, but an esoteric lexicon still exists that causes many to second guess their ability to deliver a professional product.  “Red Book” falls into this category.   If you just google “Red Book CD” or “Red Book Master” you’ll wind up with a bunch of questionable mastering sites offering a lot of warnings but not a lot of information.  They say “Oh, you can make a CD at home, but is it a Red Book??!?!”  Then they proceed with obfuscating generalities that encourage you to accept the fact that you are out of your depth and that you should use their service, in part, to obtain such... Read More →

Whether you are an at-home audio hobbyist or a seasoned and professional Pro Tools operator, everybody yearns for the optimum working environment to produce music. Over the next few weeks I’ll take you through the various components of the digital audio workstation and offer some suggestions for maximizing its performance. This is by no means the end-all-be-all of how-tos on the subject and I invite all of you readers out there to contribute to the body of knowledge with your personal expertise. As for me, I can only speak from my own experience as a professional audio engineer. So please offer your opinions or questions in the comments below if you are so inclined. I should admit right off the bat that I am a supporter of Macintosh computers and Pro Tools in the professional environment. The realities of the professional world decree that this is how you must go if you wish to have a successful career. I do swing every which way: I have done high-profile professional projects... Read More →

Earlier this year, Phil and I began working with rap crossover group and production team, SV & DJ Jove, who have become two of our most promising unsigned clients. Check out a sampler from their club anthem “Act Stupid!” and SV’s catchy R&B single “You Know” (currently on the front page of FixYourMix.com). You may recognize DJ Jove (birth name Vinnie) from MTV’s new reality series Is She Really Going Out With Him?, a show about bad boys that date good girls or as the network puts it, “douchebags and the women that love them.” From the creator of popular blog and book Hot Chicks With Douchebags, Is She Really Going Out With Him? chronicles the trials and tribulations of an alpha male in his natural habitat, which in Jove’s case includes his internet show, Reset Radio, where two porn stars have a cannoli-sucking contest live on the air. Watch more highlights on MTV.com by clicking on the image below: This guy knows how... Read More →

Today I was checking out one of my favorite blogs, Musformation, saw their post on this topic, and got inspired to finish a draft I started earlier in the year. Without further adieu: Even if you’re not a musician, this scenario will probably be familiar to you: a group of people are debating the merits of a popular song (particularly one which can be considered objectively terrible) and someone* interjects, “but the melody gets stuck in your head.” Everyone nods in agreement because hey, if it’s catchy it must be a well written song. Right? While a great song with a catchy melody is doubly effective, a terrible song that gets stuck in your head is still worthless. Some of you may remember the children’s show Lambchop’s Playalong, with its devastating outro, “The Song That Doesn’t End.” But you won’t see Lambchop coming up on my playlist any time soon. In fact I would probably pay iTunes the 99 cents to never hear it again. ... Read More →

From crunk to snap music, Southern rap has reigned supreme over the charts for the last half decade. When ATL stole the crown from NYC as the Mecca of hip hop, aspiring rappers and producers made the pilgrimage from all over to find a better, more trill existence. (Most would fail upon realizing it’s not enough to simply rhyme ‘grind’ with ‘shine’ as many times as possible.) After everything Lil Jon and TI did for Atlanta’s growth, the Georgia Department of Tourism should write them monthly checks. For my fellow Atlanta natives, I should point out that what old school ATLiens may think of as Southern rap is not really what I’m talking about in this article. The OutKasts and Goodie Mobs of yore are not what made the Atlanta Braves hat the new Yankees cap. What I’m talking about here is a little more, well… basic. Let’s have a look: Characteristics of (Mid-2000s Era) Southern Rap Party-oriented lyrical themes including sex,... Read More →

If you spend a lot of your time around artists and musicians, you’ve probably heard this more than once: “Nothing is original. Everything has been done before.” If someone makes this statement in a group of people, one of two things will happen: Everyone agrees and gets a sheepish look on their face as if to say, “Yeah. I guess we suck.” Frustrated with the idea of their aspirations hanging in the balance, someone references a specific work or artist as a counterargument. The two people then volley back and forth ad infinitum. Or worse, someone defers to the age old bore-fest “…but what is art, really?” Usually in these cases I just keep my mouth shut. If I’m feeling playful, I’ll chime in with something about collage art and sampling or ask for opinions on how tools affect originality. But the answer is simple: Yes, everything has been done. But not everything has been done well. Now go create.  Read More →

Key Signature: C minor Special Songwriting Devices Used: V minor chord, starting the chorus on a chord other than the root Note: This post requires a basic knowledge of intervals, solfege syllables, and voice leading. If you don’t understand a term underlined with dots (like this), move your mouse over it for the definition. The other day I was messing around with “Amazing” by Kanye West on guitar and noticed that it uses an often neglected chord in modern pop music, the V minor. Before we get into why the V minor is unusual (and what Kanye has in common with Coolio), here’s the chord progression: Verse: C minor (2x), G minor, C minor Chorus: Ab major, C minor, G minor, C minor Or in Roman numeral analysis form: Verse: I minor (2x), V minor, I minor Chorus: bVI major, I minor, V minor, I minor In “Amazing,” G minor is the diatonic V chord–the triad built on the fifth note of the scale. But V chords in today’s minor key pop songs... Read More →

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Fix Your Mix is a mastering, stem mixing, and mixing service. We have worked with Spoon, Blues Traveler, Yo-Yo Ma, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead, Los Lobos, Voxtrot and Academy Award-nominated director Richard Linklater (Waking Life, School of Rock, Dazed and Confused).

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