Steve's simple guide to Mixing

There are many ways to skin a cat, or so the saying goes. When it comes to mixing down your music each style and genre has a multitude of do’s and do not’s that can help to define a track, but at the heart of the process the are some standard rules you can follow to make the task quicker and easier for yourself. So we present to you a quick guide to mixing your tracks.

Some fundamentals:

1).  Clean up your audio!!!!!!

Seriously, you can save yourself a while heap of trouble and work by cleaning up your tracks before you start to mix. Get your edit tool out and remove all the noises, breaths, crackly guitar leads etc. This will also clean up your working area making it easier to see what’s ahead.

Next, find a reference CD or file that you admire or would like to emulate and listen to that on your system. Listen to the use of space/noise/effects etc.

2) Go out and put the kettle on.

Again, seriously, give yourself some time away from the project. Yours ears get ‘tired’, and tired means you’re gonna miss something.

3). When you finally feel ready to go, listen once more to each individual track or group track, nows the time to add any compression or eq to tracks. In the finished mix we want each instrument or group to hold it’s own within the particular sonic space, If you use too much of one frequency band across a number of tracks, you’ll find it dominates when everything is played back together, so pay particular attention to eq.

4). Ok. Bass and main drums into the centre please. Along with the main vocal, these should remain constant at the centre of your stereo spread. If you’ve recorded your kit correctly, or if your sample /loop is a good one, the drums should naturally assume their correct position, with the snare sitting slightly to the right, and the toms spreading R to L as they would with a real drummer. Make sure the cymbals aren’t too loud.

5). Now add the rhythm guitars, panned as they would be on stage, around 30 points left or right.

6).  Next we want synths, strings, pads, all the stuff that ‘engulfs’ the sonic space. We need to blend these instruments ‘around’ the existing ones, so that each can be heard clearly. At this point, check your reverbs. Do you have different reverb lengths for your instruments? If so, are any of them clashing i.e. Does the reverb sound consistent. Is it believable that all these instruments were in the same space at the same time?

7).  Next we want solo instruments like lead guitars or pianos or brass. See these as being layered ‘over’ the mix you have just created, and pay attention to the panning i.e. Horns usually come from the back and sides, lead guitars are usually panned 30 points L or R.

8).  Finally, vocals hard centre. Backing vox 10 points left and right.

Vocals are the most emotive instrument in any song. Make sure they’re balanced well against the backing, that harmonies “support” rather than challenge the lead vocal, and now, a very important rule.

Wherever you’ve set the reverb on the vocal track, Back it off a bit!

Seriously, again, this simple rule will stand you in good stead time and time again.

9) OK. Walk away.

Once again, rest your ears. Before the final mix, take a walk outside, let your ears re-align themselves with normal everyday sounds and sound levels. Give it at least 20 mins for your ears to reset.

10). There is no 10.

You’re on your own. Mixing is a skill and an art. Trust your ears. Burn a mix. Take it somewhere else to listen to it i.e. A boom box or car radio system. Be critical……it’s gonna be a long night……..

Jam Hub

Jam Hub is designed to be a simple solution to a the problem facing many bands of finding a rehearsal space unlikely to disturb those around them. A Jam Hub module along with a complete set of headphones will allow you to rehearse anywhere without the worry of noise bleed annoying your neighbors.

The problem has always been that gathering musicians and instruments together for a rehearsal or jam, is the noise level. Things usually start off ok, but once people get into their music, they tend to turn up a bit, and before long a simple rehearsal at home ends up at full concert volume.

Jam Hub allows a group of musicians to rehearse together in relative silence.

All you need to do is pick which colour section you want, plug your instrument in, put on your headphones and get playing.

Each musician has control over the volume of the other instruments in his/her particular mix, and therefore you do away with the volume wars.

Playing music with other people is one of the greatest things about being a musician, and Jam Hub gives you the freedom to do it in rooms where noise would otherwise be a problem.

Jam Hub Homepage

Guitar Rig 5

GUITAR RIG 5

Guitar Rig 5 is the latest in Native Instruments guitar amp modelling software. It features 2 new models, namely “Van51” and “HotSolo+” which are both pretty full on types of heavy overdrive based distortion. It features a new classic compressor model, the reverb “vintage verb” with various plate and spring emulations, a new convolution reverb,  an analog-modeled 8-band filterbank, the new “stereo tune” chorus, and a unique “Resochord” harmonizer.

A cool new feature is the “Control Room pro” model, a speaker emulator allowing up to 8 cabinets to be combined at a any one time. You can mix and match from 27 cabinets and 16 types of microphone, you have control over mic placement and room sound, and I can’t think anyone could need more than that, no matter how “experimental” you wanted to get.

For those of you who want to integrate Guitar Rig 5 further into your production, it also has a new side chaining function which can be assigned to any stereo input.

Finally, there is a new feature called “container” which allows the creation of FX chains that are easy to create and recall for live work.

And speaking of live work, check out the controller pedal/audio interface.

A proper robust piece of kit that performs incredibly well.

 

http://www.native-instruments.com/

The Breedlove Difference

Each Atlas Series Instrument has been designed and engineered by Kim Breedlove. With a strong art background and refined design sense, Kim Breedlove acquired the tools, the training and a keen interest in building guitars, mandolins, banjos and other fine instruments in 1974. At a very young age he entered the elite level of producing legendary quality instruments and has dedicated his life to this masterful artistic endeavor.

Atlas guitars feature many of the design principles from Breedlove’s custom shop including Breedlove scalloped bracing, pinless bridge and JLD Bridge Truss System.

 

 

The body shapes are similar to the custom shop offerings for deep body styles with non cutaways and soft cutaways. The bridge, fingerboard and peghead overlay on each model are made from Indian Rosewood.

The playability has been changed to a slightly narrower nut width 1-11/16 in., but each has the same low string height for fast comfortable playing. D’Addario EXP11 light gauge coated strings are comfortable, last a long time and have a full sound.

Fishman Classic IV Pickups are on all cutaway models. These are easy to use, reliable and sound great. Each Atlas Series instrument has passed the strict quality assurance process in Bend, Oregon, USA. Breedlove has reached these amazing prices by creating a high quality system to produce these exact models and specifications.

The Breedlove Difference

The Breedlove tone is an outcome of the way they brace their tops. All of their guitars have tops voiced both before and after the braces are applied. They utilize a modern bridge truss device (patented by J.L.D. Guitar Research) that counterbalances the string tension on the top of the guitar. Does this mean Breedlove guitars lose the ability to vibrate well? Just the opposite. In the past, building a guitar top has required trade-offs between sturdiness for longevity, and lightness for resonance. Due to the increased structural integrity of the bridge truss, Breedlove is able to brace their tops for optimal vibration and sound quality. This creates what they call a relaxed top. You will also notice the back of their guitars vibrate more than other guitars. The result is a responsive guitar with rich bass, balanced mids, sweet highs, and a remarkable balance of sound when playing notes up the fingerboard.

A guitar where the strings pass over the nut and then angles sharply towards the tuner posts has added dampening, which causes loss in sustain. So Breedlove designed their peghead so the strings between the tuners and the nut are parallel to the rest of the string. Then they have the Breedlove Pinless Bridge. Why drill 6 holes through a part of the guitar that needs stability?

And so finally, all these little innovations and variations become the Breedlove difference. Do yourself a big favour and check one out today.

 

 

Breedlove guitars are available from our ProAudio shop.

Breedlove Hompage

Scan Pro Audio Jam @ London International Technology Show

Our attendence at this years LITS show went down well with the Scan stand having exclusive first play throughs of BF3, Overclocking master classes the epic 3XS Swordfish system and most importantly for the audio guys hands on with some tasty kit and plenty of demo’s being performed by our team.

On the last day we attempted something a bit different by hooking everything up we had to hand and getting into a a 3 way jam session. So here’s the resulting video footage of Tom, Steve and DJ Rasp doing getting to grips with using iMaschine, Serato Itch on the Numark NS6 and Guitar Rig 5 at the London International Technology Show.

Tom's Guide to Acoustics (Without Breaking The Bank)

An introductory guide to getting the best out of your studio environment, when recording and mixing down your tracks. The guide covers speaker placement and the basics of using acoustic treatment to defuse the sonic reflections in the room and make the task of critical listening whilst mixing far easier.

Steinberg CMC Controllers

Last weekend whilst having a hunt round the BPM show at the NEC we came upon our friends at Steinberg and their wonderful little CMC series controllers. You can pick and choose from a number of cheap and cheerful units to make up your very own dream control panel. With that in mind and a view to populate his own x-mas wants list even further our Tom sat down with Andrew from Steinberg and had him take us through the options available.

Steinberg Homepage

Scan Audio Open Day 24/09/11

Many thanks to all those that made it down for our open day last Saturday making it a great success. The theatre area was set up and demos, training sessions and Q&A’s took place throughout the day with Ableton production and remixing sessions being popular and the showmanship of Dj Rasp entertaining all between the seminars themselves.

If you missed out this time watch the site for futher announcements as we have another being planned before the end of the year.

 

Dj Rasp
Dj Rasp - Record crate digging for the 21st century

 

Statelapse Q&A
Luke Statelapse and Tom Autobot dissect a Dubstep Remix.

 

Simon 1 on 1
Simon gives a 1 on 1 Ableton talk through.

NF26 System Build Log – Silent Computing Solution

 

Building A Silent PC Solution in the NoFan Set A40 Case

 

 

One of the main considerations for any audiocentric build has traditionally been the overall noise of the final system. If you get to design a studio from the ground up, you find yourself able to rack up or remove the computer hardware into a separate area away from your recording section of the studio. For a lot of users through especially those working in a small project studio environment this may not be viable and you may have to compramises in order to make the overall setup work. In this situation you may still need to have the ability to edit and record in the studio space where your setting up mic’s and instruments so the last thing you want to be able to hear in your final recordings is noise from the computer doing the processing work.

Whilst all of our systems are designed with this in mind and components are carefully chosen to ensure as little background noise is created as possible, what if we could go further than that? Ideally we want to be removing as many moving parts from inside a computer as we can to ensure you end up with the lowest noise footprint possible.

Enter the 3XS NF26 and the SET-A40 case.

NoFan are a new company setup by the original designers from Zalman, who have left to start up a new company developing unique designs and innovating in the world of PC silence. The SET-A40 bundle we base this build around includes a case, cooler and 400w PSU which are all designed to run passively with no fans for required for cooling and allowing use for CPUs rated at upto 95w TDP.

To sum up the design and idea behind the system I’ll add in here what the company themselves have to say about this product: ” Nofan’s bundle comprises their revolutionary CR-100A IcePipe Fanless Cooler, a fanless 400W power supply and a specialized convection case to accommodate the CPU cooler and any other components that are required to build the perfect silent computer, with zero dust build up.”

So without further ado let’s take a look at it.

NoFan Case Box
Ready To Be Unboxed.

 

 

 

 

Well it’s a case box. Indications on it that we should expect 0 db(a) of noise from the system and indications of the components inside. It’s at this stage that you’ll get the first indication of the crazy cooling system from the artwork on the side but more of this later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Case Front Shot
Unboxed case photo taken from the front.

 

 

 

 

Once we break it out of the box we get to take at look at the front panel. It has a couple of exposed 5.25 bays and a 3.5 for your card readers. The are the normal selection of ports and jacks on the front and all in all, so far, so ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Case Side Open First look inside with the side panel removed

 

 

 

With the side panel off we see once more fairly typical case design but lurking in there are some out of the ordinary bits and pieces. First of all the large brown box taking up most of the free space is certainly in need of further examination…

 

 

 

 

 

NoFan Heatsink
As it says on the tin… the NoFan cooler from the top down.

Having opened the box the first thoughts through many peoples minds are pretty much “What is that?!!?!?”. In office we discussed the lot from hamster wheel right through to salad spinner. In actual fact this is the very heart of the machine.

I present to you the NoFan fanless cooler.

 

 

 

 

NoFan Heatink Cooler Base
The NoFan cooler underneath.

Based around a liquid pipe design it certainly is sizable but at the same time suprisingly light. Underneath we can see a nicely polished base with the company logo etched into it with a couple of heatpipes as well as the support arms designed to carry heat away from the heatsink base itself.

It’s certainly a nice tidy design and no sharp edges to it which will make builders use to the Zalman flower designs of old breathe a sigh of relief!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Asus board set up with the heatsink mounts.
The Asus board set up with the heatsink mounts.

 

So how does this monster heatsink attach to the motherboard? With surprising ease in fact and it’s clear a lot of thought has gone into this design. 4 mounting poles are attached via screw mounts into a special backplate and that is more or less that which for a heatsink of this size is once again quite surprising.

 

 

 

 

 

MountedMOBO
The Motherboard mounted inside the system.

 

 

 

 

 

A side on shot of the system with the motherboard mounted inside. You’ll notice at this point the rather odd mounting position of the psu. As this is also passive and generating heat NoFan have decided to mount it at the front rather than the rear to keep the heat evenly spread throughout the system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NoFan Heatsink Install
Installing the NoFan Heatsink

 

 

Once again the thought that has gone into this design becomes apparent when you attempt to mount the heatsink. Some designs can be very hard to mount but with this you can just drop the cooler into the case and then you line up the screw holes…

 

 

 

 

 

NoFan Heatsink Mounted
The NoFan heatsink Screwed into the case.

 

 

Screw in the thumbscrews and the job is pretty much done.

Quick easy and far less hassle than a lot of other designs.

 

 

 

The Finished System
The Finished System

And there you have it. The system is assembled and ready to be fired up for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

So what do we think of it here in Scan? It’s a bit of a niche item but it does the job very well if it fits your requirements. Annoyingly some mechanical parts are still required to complete the build but you can work around these as well. We’ve set ours up with an SSD for the O.S. drive which will keep the performance up and the noise down but you’ll still need something to hold your project data and a larger mechanical is still the only real option. For our demonstration unit we set it up using a caddie that allows you to fit both a laptop hard drive and a slimline slot loading Dvd drive. The laptop harddrives are generally quiet solutions and by using the caddie it allows the drive to be swappable allowing for quick backups or the moving of projects between machines. Also by using a slot loading optical drive in this solution we get a reduced noise level as slot loaders tend to pinch the optical disk on both sides rather than a single sided spindle lift you see in tray designs so less rattle from your dvd’s.

On the all important performance side it work fantastically too. We initially tried it with a normal 95w 2600 CPU and ran it on Prime 95 for around 6 hours with the CPU running around the 85 degree mark. Whilst that is still within Intels limits we like to build our systems with a bit more overhead as studios as we all know tend to get a little bit toasty once all those lovely toys are turned on! So we broke out the 2600S low powered edition which uses around 30% less power than it’s bigger brother. We clocked up the CPU to around 3.3Ghz which is only just slightly slower than the 3.4Ghz rated 2600 regular and did the same Prime 95 test once more. This time we got an average of around 70 digress over the same time frame which is far below our own in house threshold and once you factor in that the machine will never be run in the real world at this sort of level for more than a few minutes at a time it promises a long and stable life for the machines usable duration… most impressive!

Whilst you can never fully remove every mechanical component from your build, by using these options you will minimize the noise levels of what’s left and the result will be an extremely quiet solution ideal for in studio usage.

This system is available on the Scan 3XS site on the audio system configurator : 3XS NF26 Silent P.C.

The NoFan Set A40 is also available as a barebones bundle : NoFan Set – A40

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Computer Based Music & Audio Production