Question & Answer #3
This is a collection of questions received by readers of the blog. All questions are securely submitted anonymously and will be answered with no judgement. Questions will be added as they are received, new editions biweekly or when applicable.
Table of Contents
Mid/Side while mixing
- Question: Is it cool I mid/side process during the mixing stages of a song? Or is that a style of processing that is most beneficial during mastering? If I do mid/side during mixing, does that create phasing issues if there’s mid/side processing done during the mastering stage?
Answer: It’s very cool to do M/S processing during the mixing stage. Using the LCR mic’ing method, it’s almost unavoidable.
Typically, if you’re squeezing out audible phasing issues during the mastering stage, you’re likely applying too much processing regardless if you touched any M/S knobs during the mixing stage or not, so it’s not something I’d be specifically concerned about.
The more realistic thing to worry about is skewing the stereo image in an unnatural way. For example, a disproportionate mix between mid/side, or a “leaning” to one side (left or right).
To stay safe, I’d recommend keeping your M/S processing relatively tame on individual tracks, with a little more leway given on buss tracks. Balance and subtlety are always key with audio processing, so it’s important to use your discretion.
One last thing to keep in consideration: while mixing, most M/S processing for individual tracks is done within the FX chain section, typically before any track panning. Having anything other than 0% pan will change how your M/S processing affects the entire mix, and won’t translate exactly like how you’d expect.
If the results are not what you’re looking for, try the same type of M/S processing during the mastering stage instead (again— balance, subtlety, discretion).
In the box mastering
- Question: any tips for using in the box mastering software like Ozone? Is it worth it to own if you don’t know much about mastering but are looking to get a quick master on a demo and cant afford an engineer?
Answer: I’d absolutely recommend getting a copy of Ozone if you’re looking for an all-in-one mastering suite. Even if you’re not planning to use the whole shebang, there are some handy tools included.
Aside from the codec preview, the reference panel and dithering functions are really nice to have. I’m also really partial to the stereo imager, and I use it frequently.
Two practical tips for working with Ozone specifically: browse through the presets, load them up and take a look at their chains— it’s a great resource to pick apart existing chains and see how they work; and second, be conscientious of your levels and leave headroom in your mix for Ozone to work with. You won’t get the full effect if you only leave a few measly dBs— at best it’ll be underwhelming.
The mastering assistant feature is great to have especially if you’re looking for quick master for a demo— just keep in mind that the result is typically a suggested starting point. This goes for just about any AI/Machine Learning type audio plugin, not just Ozone.
While using the mastering assistant, I’d suggest using loop regions within your DAW to define verses/bridges/choruses and run the assistant for each of these parts. As long as you automate the transitions between them, you have a pretty quick and effective mastering chain with section automation for relatively low effort. That’s pretty cool!
Getting a solid bass tone
- Question: What are some of your tips or techniques on getting a solid bass tone? Your bass tone in New Boot Goofin’ is really clean, is that a straight DI, or do you amp the signal (or both)?
Answer: Thanks! Initially, I spent some time doing an upright track for that song, but I couldn’t get it to translate like how I wanted so I went with Ol' Reliable— a Fender Precision with flatwound strings.
For that particular track, I used a combination of a clean DI recording and a signal through my tube amp. My recording chain was setup like this:
The way I organized my tracks inside the project looks like this:
For a general overview of how I treat my bass while recording, check this article out. I didn’t stray too much from my usual approach outlined there, in fact, I kept it a bit more tame than I usually do. I did however use my 1974 Fender Twin Reverb, which in itself adds a bit of saturation and natural tube compression. I don’t use it for bass a whole lot, but I probably should.
As far as effects go, there’s really only a few layers of compression and saturation with some EQ. My hardware compressor of choice is a Whirlwind optical compressor, which I set to a medium speed with moderate settings.
Two things I think that contributed to a clean articulate tone were the string choice and string dampening.
I’ve had the same set of Thomastik Infeld flatwound strings on my precision bass since I’ve bought it, so they’re x years old now. Unlike roundwounds, flats tend to age like a fine wine and produce little to no string/fret noise, so they’re excellent for recording.
As far as dampening goes, I use the traditional ash tray bridge cover with foam sandwiching the strings. I’ve found the foam that comes with Pelican brand cases works really well as string mutes. Up at the nut, I use a fretwrap, which helps keep errant strings from ringing out too much.
Thanks for submitting your questions!
As long as people keep sending them in, I’ll keep answering to the best of my abilities. If you’d like to touch on a subject further, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Or, if you’d like to anonymously ask a question of your own to be answered on the next Q&A post, feel free to ask here.
Last modified: May 17, 2021