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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
So, I wanted to share with you a few additional tools that are used that don't fit into any one category of plug-ins like EQ or dynamics or reverb or delay. But I do use them a lot in my mix workflow. The first one I wanted to share with you is waves MaxxBass. And what MaxxBass does, if I bring this up on the bass sub, the goal is to sort of optimize the low end content of a signal and generate harmonics that allow it to be heard better on smaller speaker system.
So, there is this concept of the missing fundamental and that humans are able to pick out pitch even if the speakers don't produce the fundamental frequency of a specific instrument. So, for example, if a tuba played up through two octaves and we listen to that on a tiny AM radio that would no way produce anything lower than let's say 100 Hz, we'd still be able to pick out which notes were lower and which notes were higher, if an octave was played.
And so this is sort of the phenomenon of the missing fundamental. Now, MaxxBass kind of takes that idea, and its goal is to take your original bass and generate harmonic content above the fundamental. So that on smaller speakers, that fundamental is going to come through a lot more, due to sort of this phenomenon of the missing fundamental. And it's actually very effective but it can kind of be a bit dangerous if you don't know what you are doing.
So, essentially what happens is you have this center frequency and this is kind of the cut-off frequency of what it looks below in terms of looking for fundamentals below to recreate higher harmonics here. And I have the Original Bass, and then the MaxxBass, or the additional harmonic content that it's generating. The thing you got to be careful with MaxxBass is putting too much bass into your mix.
Let's just listen here for a bit on the bass guitar, so I'll solo these two guys up and I'll pull down the MaxxBass. (Music playing) Now, the idea is to sort of optimize the bass for smaller speakers.
However, you have to consider who is going to be listening to our audios. Is it going to be primarily people on iPod ear buds or people with huge sub woofer systems and things like that? Ideally, you would have just sort of one type of listener. In the case of us, you are trying to optimize something for a museum exhibit and you know what speakers are going to be used and you can use MaxxBass to sort of fine-tune that. However, this is not going to be the case most of the time. You are going to have to optimize for both ends.
And so the way I tend to use MaxxBass is it can be kind if hard to hear on a full range speakers. So, what I'll do is I'll actually switch to a pair of smaller speaker or even ear buds or something like that. And then I'll tune in the MaxxBass, I'll tune in sort of these upper harmonics that it's generating, until I get sort of that nice full bass sound that I'm looking for. And then I'll go back to the larger speakers and I'll listen and make sure that it's not creating too much bass or too much mud.
And what I'm going to do is try to sort of split the difference between the two, kind of optimize it so that there's a good amount of fullness on the bass guitar and the kick drum and in any other low frequency elements. But it's not too over powering on systems that can reproduce those frequencies. The other thing you want to make sure of is that you don't clip the output. This plug-in is really easier to clip and it sounds nasty. So, bring the input down if you have to, because you are actually adding more signal as you are adding in the MaxxBass side of things.
So, it's a cool one there's also something called R bass or Renaissance Bass that comes with some of the waves. It does the same thing it has a little bit easier to use interface, but same sort of overall goal. Another processor that I use quite often, especially when I'm working with my drums is a plug-in called Oxford Transient Modulator, and this is from Sonnox. And remember how we talked about compressors and using compressors is sort of envelop shapers is to kind of make a snare drum, just to kind of hit a little bit harder, because the way the attack is set-up is to allow a little bit of that signal through.
So, you are sort of increasing or stretching out that transient spike of the sound. A transient modulator is designed to do the same exact thing, without actually compressing. So, what it's doing is it's sort of looking at the first so many milliseconds of the sound, and increasing or decreasing it. And so, I can use this to sort of inflate a transient or reduce it a little bit or soften the sound. So, we can go ahead and listen on the snare. I'll solo this up.
(Drum solo.) (Guitars join. Music playing.) (Male singing: Mess around.) (Male singing: We messed around.) Now, you got to be careful with this one, because you put it on a snare or kick drum and you're like yeah, it sounds really good.
I'm really getting it to bite through. But you can almost do too much damage and you can kind of watch out for clipping the output, because you can actually stretch the transient out so much. You can increase the amplitude of the transient relative to the rest to rest of the sound so much that you are actually clipping things. So, you kind of want to be careful with tools like this. But it is a lifesaver, especially when I have a weak sounding snare drum and I'm not going to be able to sample it out. This also works really well, if lets say a bass was maybe played with a pick, and I want to soften it out a little bit.
I can use the reverse ratio to kind of soften the attack on sounds. And maybe it's a brush kick and it's played to aggressively. So, I could use this to kind of soften things out. So, the last plug-in I want to show you here is kind of little bit of, what I would like to call Special Sass plug-in. And that is the Inflator also by Sonnox.
All these things in the other category here. And the Oxford Inflator is kind of an Exciter, if you have ever used like sort of the BBE Sonic Maximizer or the Aphex Aural Exciter. It's kind of like that but better. Basically it's very simple to use. You have an Effects percentage, and then a curve that's going to sort of shape the tonal output of the processor. Generally what I like to do is just play back the session and then increase the effect until I can kind of really start hearing it work, and then I'll back down a little.
Because a lot of times what sounds good to start out with, wow! That sounds great can get a little fatiguing after a while. So, I want to avoid trying to use too much. So, I'll just leave the Curve at 0, I'm going to push the Effect up. (Male singing: So take me down, take me down and my feet will follow, wherever my heart goes) (Male singing: I'm come around, I'll come around, like I always. I'll keep my feet on the ground.) (Male singing: I'll keep my feet on the ground.) (Music playing.) So, a little can go a long way on this processor.
Again, you want to, sort of be careful about clipping the output and, where I usually put it in my chain is somewhere on my master bus. But it can be really cool for kind of adding life to elements that maybe sound a little bit dull and need a little bit of something extra up in the top end. A lot of times what we'll use Exciters for is to kind of excite some upper harmonics so you can boost as much as you want on a signal but if there's nothing up there to boost with an EQ. It's not going to really help you to much.
And so exciters actually kind of generate focus distortion in high end and it kind of gets blended back in and you get that sort of nice harmonic additional sort of musical overtones in the mix. At the end of the day there's a lot of different plug-in tools. Some are sort of more specialties for plug-ins like the Inflator or the Transmod. But again, sort of evaluate your workflow, look at the things you are going to be using a lot everyday, and I find that it's much better to learn a smaller set of plug-ins really well, than being one of those people that has thousands of plug-in choices and never knows what to pick. When they are sort of going for a certain color or tone, they are spending all their time clicking through plug-ins.
So, I suggest take the plug-ins you have, learn them really well, maybe add a few to your kit, sort of evaluate your overall studio budget. Now, remember it's sort of all about the weakest link. So, think about having a balanced studio and a balanced plug-in set when you're out there shopping.
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