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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.

Recording 101 teaches us that the audio spectrum is 20-20,000 Hz and it is our job as recording engineers to manage those frequencies. For introductory level classes, that is a usable definition, but it often leads to misunderstandings. >Do we hear 20 Hz as much as 20,000 Hz? Do we hear those frequencies as well as 2,000 Hz? The answer to both is no. In fact, given contemporary technological limitations, it isn’t even possible to accomplish most of that.   For those of you who read Jay’s Primer on Audio Frequency Bands and made it all the way the bottom, you would have read some interesting things about broadcast standards and encoding algorithms.  Broadcast standards here in the US actually cut off frequencies above 15 kHz.  That is, radio and television broadcasts don’t even bother with the top 5000 Hz of the audible spectrum!  If there were such a thing as radio anymore, you’d know to laugh off any audio engineer who promises you “radio quality mixes.”  Also, cutoffs... Read More →

We’re on Twitter

Written by Keith Freund COMMENT ON THIS POST

The blog has been on hiatus for the month but we will start writing again in the next 10 days or so. We will kick things back off with a bang, I promise. (In the mean time, follow us on our shiny new Twitter page: @FixYourMix)  Read More →

Over the course of hundreds of interactions with clients through Fix Your Mix, both in a mixing and mastering capacity, I have noticed that there is a great disagreement out there on the practical frequencies in audio.  This is strange to me because we have such a vague lexicon for our enterprise (boomy, boxy, tinny, etc.) that you’d think we’d all latch on to terms with such defined parameters as Low, Low-Mid, High, et al.   But nevertheless, every couple months I get a client who says “I love the mix, but I’d really like to hear more bass, can you boost 10 Hz by like 5 dB?”  So for all of you loyal readers out there and as a reference for future clients, I have composed a series of articles describing the portions of the frequency spectrum.   Here is an excellent primer for discussing frequency ranges. Jay works in post-production (television, film, etc.), so his end goals are different from those of us in the music business. He also neglects to emphasize the importance... Read More →

In 1978 the Yamaha NS-10 first hit the home audio market. The speakers were originally designed for the consumer rather than the professional sphere. The only problem was that the speakers sounded terrible and no one wanted them for that purpose. They were often described as overly bright and harsh and the frequency response was abysmal in the low end (criticisms which are founded and still exist to this day). However, despite its audiophilic shortcomings, Fate found other uses for this Little-Speaker-That-Couldn’t. As New Wave, punk, and other lo-fi genres began to take hold on the world, a DIY spirit took over and smaller, cheaper recording studios were created that catered to a clientele who didn’t necessarily place a premium on fidelity. Near-field monitoring became the fashionable choice for these studios because it minimized the effect of listening environment on the sound of a mix. This allowed bedrooms, basements, strip-malls and other ostensibly acoustically unsound venues... Read More →

The Decibel (Producer Speak)

Written by Fix Your Mix 2 COMMENTS

There are some instances when a limited amount of knowledge can do a great deal of harm. For instance, you might know that a bit of sun is good for you. If you are not fully versed in the effects of sun exposure to the skin, you might be wondering what those strange, asymmetrical spots are that keep popping up all over your body. Get those checked out; seriously I worry about you sometimes…   Other times, a basic understanding of something might be helpful the most of the time. Take Euclidean geometry for example. If you aren’t an astrophysicist or a nuclear scientist, pretty much everything you need to know falls into Euclidean space.   But there are also times when the common sense understanding of something gets you by enough so that you don’t realize all the other times that it is absolutely wrong and leads you astray. This is the case with our friend the decibel.   I was working on a record a while back with producer/engineer extraordinaire Paul Kolderie (Radiohead, Pixies,... Read More →

Thanks to all of you over at Reddit for voting up this article. If you are a self-taught musician, you may find it helpful to check out my Solfege To Intervals Translation Chart to follow the melodic analysis. This week, I’m going to break down the music theory behind one of the most unusual pop songs to come out in years: Beyoncé’s  “Single Ladies.” (Click here to open the music video in a new window.) Tempo: 87 BPM* Key Signature(s): E major, E minor Special Songwriting Devices Used: No back beat, Polytonality (technically polymodality**), Resolution using a Minor 6 chord, Starting a melody on sol Several months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about whether or not this single would flop. Pop music has certainly gotten interesting over the past 5 years, but this song was, well, too interesting. To put it bluntly: “Single Ladies” is just downright bizarre. And yet as time went on, I began to see that it has what I call... Read More →

Artist: Noisettes Album: What’s the Time Mr. Wolf? Released: 2007 Sound: Indie Rock For Fans Of: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Janelle Monae Recommended Tracks: “Scratch Your Name,” “Don’t Give Up” To get a feel for Noisettes, you have to start by watching frontwoman Shingai Soniwa’s electrifying performance in their music video for “Scratch Your Name.” This is classic case of a lead vocalist taking an act from good to great. I saw them play a small Brooklyn night club a few summers ago. The show unexpectedly got combined with Battles at the last minute. (This was right around the time Mirrored came out, one of my favorite albums in the last 5 years.) The energy was unreal throughout the night. Since then, they’ve have toured with Bloc Party, TV on the Radio, and Muse. While their sound is not “revolutionary” per se, Noisettes doesn’t particularly sound like anyone else. It would be a disservice to compare them to the... Read More →

As mentioned earlier in the week, this tune would be a dream to mix.  It is not very compositionally dense consisting mostly monophonic synth lines.  The character of the song derives primarily from the compositional techniques—each instrumental track gets its own identifiable melodic line and discrete part of the sonic register such that nothing really muddles anything else.  This allows for easy distinction between instruments and a general air of spaciousness without the track sounding empty.   Panorama                       Most striking to me is how static and simple the panorama and sonics are for a Dave Fridmann mix.  I’m used to hearing synthesizers leap across the sonic field and evolve throughout the tune from his landmark albums with The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. There is none of that here as everything is quite stationary.   The song starts with a field recording of children playing, which is panned toward the right.  This creates a kind of imbalance... Read More →

A producer’s role is so nebulous that at times it’s hard to tell from the outside exactly which ideas came from the producer and which from the band. Part of why we chose “Kids” for this week’s Sonic Deconstruction is because it provides us with a unique opportunity to know exactly which decisions were made by Dave Fridmann and which were not: before Oracular Spectacular, MGMT recorded (and presumably self-produced) the We (Don’t) Care EP with a friend in Athens, GA, from which the only song to make it to the full length was “Kids.” Listen to the pre-Fridmann version: By comparing this to the final version we can deduce which decisions were probably Dave’s. Apart from the mix, the most obvious dramatic between the two is the lead vocal. Interestingly, the vocal is actually higher and more childlike timbrally on Oracular Spectacular. In addition to that version’s weaker performance, the vocals are much less distinct here... Read More →

In our first time at bat on these Sonic Deconstruction articles, the song choice appears to be a swing and a miss on the recording techniques day. A calamitous choice for one simple reason: almost everything is a sample, loop, or synth! As a result, recording methods aren’t immediately intuitive in the way that King of Leon or Foo Fighters would be. It also doesn’t help that the one track that undoubtedly existed at one point in the real acoustic world (as opposed to tracks that could have been DI’ed or midi triggered) is the vocal track and frankly it doesn’t sound very good. But this is our dishwashing liquid and dammit, we’re going to soak in it. Recorded at Dave Fridmann’s residential studio in upstate New York, MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular is probably the ideal album to record there. In his September 2000 article in Sound on Sound Magazine, Dave intimated that the design of Tarbox Road Studios is somewhat less than ideal: The design work required to turn... 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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