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Watch professional producer and mixer Brian Lee White at work in his element, as he assembles a fully mixed hip-hop track from raw stems. This advanced course gives you a peek over Brian's shoulder as he moves sequentially through the mixing process in Pro Tools. He begins by adjusting the basic level and pan settings while establishing a strong percussive foundation with the drums and bass. He then works through the vocals, featuring rapper K-I-D and vocalist Jonathan President, and individually builds up the verses, hooks, and background tracks with EQ, compression, reverb, delay, and additional effects. Working the mix to add drama and build excitement, Brian optimizes levels using automation. In the last step, Brian fine-tunes the master bus effects, prints the stereo mix, and reviews the final master.
Recommended prerequisites: Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering
So now that I have a good foundation with most of my percussion in the mix, my kicks and my main snare and percussion hits, I want to take this opportunity to start adding some reverb returns that I can use to mix in with my top end percussion. I have already done a bit of reverb with this special wide return here for the kick, but I want to go ahead and add a short ambience reverb and a longer hall reverb that I can call upon as I'm working through the rest of my mix.
Now, I'll go ahead and just on the snare here add a new stereo Aux Track for my return, I call this Short Verb. And for this Short Verb I'm first going to solo safe that like I do all my returns, Command-click on the Mac or Ctrl-click on the Solo button on the PC, and here I'm going to call up a specific Reverb > ReVibe, and we're going to hide this so we can see our presets, and I like a preset under the Ambience settings, it's called Mastering Ambience.
A lot of people think about reverb is this really long washy echoes, but they can actually be very, very short sparse spaces that just add a little bit of sense of room or depth to a sound. So in this case, with this reverb I'm not looking to wash things out, I'm looking to just add a little bit of space, a sense of room space to them. Now this sounds, let's go ahead and solo that snare up, let's listen to it.
(music playing) It's a nice tight reverb, it's just going to give us a little hint of a space and in this song there's going to be some dry elements, and there is going to be some wet elements, but the overall aesthetic of the song is just kind of dark washy space. So there's not a ton of things that are super, super upfront and dry, but it's not necessarily that everything is super wet and against the back wall.
It's really important to use reverbs both short and long on different elements of your mix to create contrast. Because if everything is pushed to the back it's just going to sound like everything is at the back of the room. And if everything is pushed to the front it's going to sound like everything is very present. And that's fine, but in this case, in this mix, I want to create a sense of front to back or depth. And I'm going to do that using different amounts of short and long reverbs on different tracks in the session. So what I do with almost all of my reverb returns is immediately throw an EQ on there.
This is just something I do, I've always done. Many reverbs have built-in EQs, even ReVibe has a built-in EQ. I find that they're just not powerful enough, or they don't give me enough flexibility in terms of shaping the signal, and I just find that having an EQ on your reverb return is a lot easier to manipulate the sound coming out of the reverb. So in this case, I'm just going to go ahead and get rid of any low-frequency mud that could build up in there and maybe just dip a little bit out, you know, around 500 that's tends to be where some of the vocal intelligibility could kind of get washed out if you're using too much reverb on something, and these aren't hard and fast rules.
Again, the only rule that I would say that you generally want to look towards is EQing reverb tails can be a great thing to increase mix clarity, especially if they are long reverb tails. The longer the reverb and the more of that reverb you're using on instruments, the more you're going to have to think about EQing that tail. And that's really the reason I like to separate my reverbs onto send and returns, because I can actually treat the return since it's a parallel signal chain separately.
I don't have to apply this EQ to the dry signal, I can apply it only to the wet signal, the reverb in this case. So, I've got my Short Verb, and I also want a longer verb to add to this Cross Stick and some of the other instruments that I'm going to work with later. So I'm going to go here and create another return called Long Verb, and usually I'd have all this stuff setup in a template so that I could just import all of my reverb returns.
That's why I kind of really know the direction I want to go. I would setup a template that had these returns with the sends and the names of the buses already intact, and then I could go ahead and tweak them, that just saves me a little bit of time when I'm starting to mix. So for this one, I really like this RandomHall here from Lexicon and the Lexicon reverbs tend to be less realistic, hyperrealistic, and kind of more of the character reverbs if that's a way to describe a reverb, they offer different texture.
The reason there are so many different reverbs out there is they are not necessarily all trying to be the same thing, they offer different textures and different flavors some are hyperreal and sound like being in the same room, some are more fantasy oriented that really kind of have let's say some modulation or coarsing or different elements inside that are going to take that signal and make it sound unique. And in this case, I've just got a hall two and half seconds, not super long, but not super short with a little bit of Pre-delay, that pre-delay is going to help set that initial signal apart from the tail of the hall which is going to be very important when we start using this reverb on lead instruments like vocals and things like that.
Now again, I'm going to want to EQ that. I can just go ahead and copy Option-drag or Alt-drag on the PC my EQ over. Now I'm going to want a little bit more aggressive of an EQ in this case, I'm actually going to kind of carve that out fairly aggressively, because I want to make sure that any of the muddy tail when I put any low-frequency elements through that send is not going to be propagated even further by that long reverb. So I'm kind of carving that up. Let's listen to that here on our side stick.
Let's make sure we go somewhere where there's some side stick. (music playing) And we'll solo safe that. (music playing) So it's got a really nice texture, let's listen in context. (music playing) And how about just our percussion? (music playing) Cool. So that's really coming along.
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