Steven Slate [Mixer]

It’s been a month in the making, and admittedly a little longer than I expected, but the first few articles for our Producer’s Corner are finally coming in, and I can at last kick things off with providing some solid content for the producers out there. Here’s the first one, courtesy of Steven Slate.

PART A – Mixing

Regardless of whether you are producing acoustic music or electronic music, the ultimate goal is the same: to create a piece of music that connects with people emotionally.  They key to production is to always have that in mind.  Contrary to some popular beliefs, I don’t think that dynamics are as important as the sound of the instrumentation, the melodic journey, rhythmic patterns, and overall “feel” of the music.  Having said that, there are certain things that can bring out more of this “feel” in the art of mixing.  For instance, sometimes adding some tape saturation to sampled drums can smooth out the highs and fatten the lows so that when the track is blasting out of the club speakers, the listeners can experience the drums more intimately.  But overall, the key is to think of the end-game, the end product, and how it will appeal to the masses.  Mixing to me, is doing whatever it takes to get it there.  With this mindset, I don’t see anything unique to mixing acoustic verses electronic.

For instance, let’s say you are producing music that you want to have a tribal style beat.  Then you need to find a sample that fits that description, and you want to incorporate it into the mix in a way that fits into the final picture.  So maybe you want this kick to have a lot of resonance that sustains till each new beat.  If that is your goal, then use a compressor with a fast release and high gain reduction and compress till the sustain is correct.  I would never starting manipulating a sample for the sake of it.. I always have a goal in mind, and this is what I suggest for any audio engineer.  With this strategy, your studio gear isn’t as important as your brain and creative vision.

As far as general advice for new producers goes, I would say spend most of your money on good monitoring and acoustic treatment.  With a really nice monitor set that translates the mix properly and a room that reduces bass buildup and early reflections, you are given the opportunity to create with confidence.  From there, the first thing I would do is listen to your favorite mixes over and over again and identify what it is about them that makes them so great.  Then work on trying to recreate these nuances in your own mixes.  Any great mixer can use the stock DAW plugins to create great mixes.  Start there.  You don’t need anything too fancy; just your ears, your creativity, and passion.  Once you master the art of getting great mixes with your standard DAW plugins, you can begin to experiment with more advanced tools, like console and tape emulation.

Part B – Mixing With Slate Plugins

In the late 90′s, record labels began to demand that their artist’s masters were as loud as they can be, so that they would stand out when played on the radio.  Making a mix louder can be a very destructive process, because you have a digital ceiling that you cannot penetrate.  Therefore, audio companies began to offer peak limiters that reduced the mix peaks so that more level can be added.  The problem is that this peak reduction often changed the sound of the mix, sometimes drastically and poorly.  The FG-X uses newer state of the art saturation algorithms that reduce peaks in a much more transparent way, and you can make mixes louder while keeping their punch and dynamic impact in tact.

The VCC emulates the sound of running your audio into an analog console, including the channel and the summing section.

The RC Tube is one console off of the main VCC plugin, which emulates an old tube mixer.

The Virtual Tape Machines models both a 2-inch 16-track tape machine and a 1/2″ 2 track tape machine.

The Virtual Buss Compressors offers three unique sounding analog modeled compressors aimed at stereo applications.
All of these tools use sophisticated analog modeling to not only recreate a utility feature such as compression or EQ, but to also add nonlinear artifacts such as harmonic distortion, dynamic phase distortion, frequency modulation, and more. It is these types of non-linearities that make analog gear have it’s own unique “sound”. For instance, when people say they love Neve consoles, they aren’t saying that they love them because they give the ability to mix several tracks into a stereo mix. Any mixer can do that! But what they love, is the unique tone added to the audio by running tracks into the Neve. So the Slate Virtual Analog plugins recreate this same phenomenon by authentically modeling the components that make that analog vibe and sound. They are a great addition to a DAW mixing toolset and can add depth, width, warmth, and vibe to digital mixes.

Thanks Steven! Make sure to check out Slate Digital for further info on Slate products, and follow Speakhertz on Facebook!