Production Q&A #6

1. In your mixing tutorials you’ve always emphasized that one should listen to the mix on several different systems to see how it sounds. How can I translate those impressions to tweaks at my mix position to make the mix more portable? Is it just finding a balance between what I hear at the mix position and what I remember from listening on the alternate systems?

In general I think that’s the basic idea. What I usually recommend is that when people think their mixdown is sounding good in the studio, take it to different locations and listen to it. Bring a notebook and make notes about what you hear. For instance maybe some instruments might stand out too much, or aren’t heard clearly enough. Is the overall track too bass-heavy, or too bright sounding?

When you hear something that sounds wrong to you in one location, pay attention to that when you go to your other listening locations. The goal is to try and average all these notes you’re taking so that it sounds as good as possible in as many locations as possible. Try and pay attention to how you need to make it sound in the studio, so that it also sounds good in your car, living room, iPod, etc.

Over time you’ll start seeing trends and can compensate automatically when you’re doing the mixdown. For example, if you find that you consistently think the high hats end up being too loud when you listen to the track outside your studio, then you know you need to mix the high hats quieter than you normally would back in the studio.

It takes time, but with enough practice you’ll be able to adapt what you hear when you’re writing to how you know it will likely sound elsewhere.


2. How do you organize your samples?

I try and keep it as logical as possible, so that I don’t have to hunt for too long when I’m looking for a sample. In general I have my samples organized in Drums, Synths, Field Recordings, and a random Misc folder. Then I’ll have separate folders in each of these to further break it down into type.

So my Drums folder will have separate folders for kicks, snares, percussion, cymbals, etc. The Synths folder will have Pads, Leads, Basses, etc. Field Recordings will be broken into nature and city samples most of the time.

I also use file renaming apps to keep the individual samples named and numbered. I find it’s easier for me to just have all my samples named and numbered the same way, i.e. Snare01.wav, Snare02.wav, etc. For things like high hats, I put the numbering first so that the closed and open high hat samples are always located next to each other. This short and simple naming scheme also has the benefit of making sure I can always see the sample name in those apps and gear that only displays a few characters of the sample name.

For renaming the files on OSX, I personally like Name Changer, which is free:

If anyone has one on Windows that they like, please share it in the comments.


3. How do you keep your gear clean, get rid of all the finger prints and grime, dust, etc?

It’s a bit Suzy Homemaker of a question, but if anyone has seen my studio then I guess they know I like things tidy ­čÖé I keep a couple micro-fibre cloths in the studio for dusting and keeping my gear and laptop clean. The micro-fibre cloths are great because they grab dirt and dust without having to use a liquid dusting spray. Great for cleaning computer monitors too.

For getting off finger prints and other grime, just a tiny bit of warm water on the cloths is usually enough to get it off. This is great for the laptop track pad too, as it’s much easier to use when it’s nice and clean I find. I’ve also heard of people using “Magic Erasers” for cleaning trackpads and computer keyboards. You don’t even need to use water with them supposedly.

A quick note about micro-fibre cloths though. Once you are done and you go to wash them, be sure you NEVER put them in the clothes dryer with other clothes. Dry them separately or air dry. If you put them in dryer, all the little fibers will grab all the lint from your other clothes and then they leave lint behind when you use them, instead of picking it up.

Finally, when I’m not using my gear, it all gets covered with custom ┬ástudio dust covers made by ┬áNot the greatest website, but Larry’s rates are really cheap, and he does custom sizes for anything you need.


4. Why don’t you write tutorials for more advanced users?

Mostly because I find that by the time someone gets to a more advanced stage, they already have a pretty specific workflow figured out. Plus, a lot of the more advanced guides I could think of ideas for would require very specific combinations of gear, so not everyone would have access to that.

So while it might give a few people a new idea, in general not as many people seem to respond to them as my beginner tutorials. We’ll see though, I still do them now and then as you can see with my recent Octatrack sampling video.


5. Finally, a quick tip I find useful.

I’ve started putting PDF’s of all the manuals for my gear on my iPad, instead of using the hard copies. While I generally prefer having a physical manual when possible, it’s definitely been nice having all my manuals in one place where ever I am. Plus it speeds up looking for something too, since most manuals have indexes or as table of contents that allows you to instantly jump to a topic in the manual.

Might not be for everyone (then again not everyone reads manuals anyway!), but I’ve found it one of the more useful things I’ve done in the studio lately.


Well that’s it for this time, as always please feel free to send me any more questions you might have, or post them in the comments. ┬áThanks everyone!

6 Replies to “Production Q&A #6”

  1. Good tips. I also keep all of my manuals on my iPad in PDF format. I used to sync them via iTunes to whatever PDF viewer I was using (GoodReader), but I found it better to instead put them in a dropbox, which is accessible on all of my devices as well as my laptop and desktop computers. If you use the iOS dropbox app, you can read the PDF in the app itself or forward it to your preferred PDF reader on the device.


  2. About the final tip…Absolutely, I keep PDF manuals in iBooks on my iPhone. Why recently I’ve had my phone laying landscape on my Blofeld keyboard so I can refer to that when designing patches in another location. I also keep various custom reference sheets on the phone. And sometimes if I spot a single good tip on the net I’ll just snap a pic ;p Portable devices like these have very much helped efficiency of connecting dots to get ideas out fast. Great tip

  3. As a hobby producer I am actually quite satisfied with only working with ableton and my laptop. However I have been thinking about buying some hardware. What would you recommend for a hobby producer with a small budget that would take my producing to the next level? A cheap synth or stuff with knobs? Is there a good combination of both for a fair price (~$200)?

    1. You’re probably not going to find a hardware synth for less than $200, unless you went with something like the new Korg Monotribe. Fun to have, but pretty limiting if it’s all you have. Probably better off saving for a controller. The Novation controllers usually come with a free copy of V-Station or Bass station, so you get a fun synth too.

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