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A Ridiculously Simple Explanation of Vocal Compression For Beginners

Last night, I was giving one of our mastering clients some mixing advice regarding vocal compression…

“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.

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 →

Voice leading is a common songwriting or arranging technique which (traditionally) results in smooth-sounding chord transitions. To use smooth or ‘proper’ voice leading when arranging a chord progression for an ensemble, write each instrument’s part so that the performers will make the smallest note jumps possible or no jump at all if the note occurs in both chords (“common tones”). This technique is particularly important when writing harmonies for background vocalists because smaller jumps are easier to hear and sing against a melody. Soloists and lead singers are expected to break from this principle, since larger melodic leaps provide interest and can make a melody more memorable.  Read More →

Airy:  Spaciousness, often a pleasant mostly treble-based reverb sound.  Extended frequency response that runs up through the top end of the bandwidth.   Brittle:  Peaking in high-frequencies, weak fundamentals with slightly distorted or harsh highs.   Crisp:  Good high-frequency response with good transient quality   Crispy:  Constant, but perhaps random high frequency sounds not unlike frying foods.   Delicate: Extended high frequency range without being harsh.  Emphasis on high frequencies extending to 20 KHz, but without the peaking.    Edgy:  High frequency emphasis from about 3.5 to 6 KHz with harmonic content overly strong in comparison to fundamentals.  Can deal with high frequency distortion and rasp.   Piercing:  Hard on the ears, screechy and sharp.  Narrow peaks occurring between 3 and 10 KHz.   Raspy:  Harsh sounds in the 6 KHz range that sounds like a scratchy voice.   Sibilant:  S and Sh sounds are overly emphasized.    Sizzly:  Similar to crisp,... 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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