I don't like when people apologize for not blogging. It is as if they assume I was constantly refreshing the page, waiting with bated breath for an update from that person. This is my second and final blog of 2016 and I am not sorry. In fact, you're welcome. 

I had the honor and pleasure of working on A LOT of music this year. It has been so busy and equally rewarding. Below is a list of some talented people who allowed me to work with their art:

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors (Live At The Ryman)
Brittany Prescott (If That Wasn't Love)
Kris Allen (Acoustic Tapes)
Melinda Edlin (To Have, To Hold, To Break)
Thomas Toole (Place On The Sea)
SCOUTS (LBK)
Thi'sl ft. Ellie Holcomb ("Tears")
Redeemer Music (Celebrate The Cross)
Josh Wilson (The Acoustic EP)
Mat Kearney (Tour De Compadres)
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors (Again [Medicine Tour])
American Authors (Lots of one-offs)
The New Respects (The Heartland Tour)
Colony House (A few shows in April)
Jason Gray (Christmas Stories Tour)

2016 was a hard year for a lot of people. I hope and believe that someday we will look back at it as the beginning of a time of growth. Perhaps it is not coincidence that this year was more filled with music than any other year since I have been working in music. The world needs a lot of things right now, and music may not be the most important, but it is surely one of them.

2017 is already filling up. I'm so excited to dig in and get to work. I do not promise to blog more.

 

I did not know Mat was pointing at me.

I did not know Mat was pointing at me.

Posted
AuthorThomas Dulin

I was really frustrated when I started using summing mixers because I couldn't use any parallel processing without getting phase issues caused by hardware latency. I wanted to share how I was able to work around this problem in Pro Tools 11.

Warning: If you do not already know what parallel processing and analog summing is, you will not enjoy reading this blog post. Also, please note that I'm using Pro Tools 11 and that I do not know if this is necessary in other versions of Pro Tools.

Let me explain. Here is a photo of what I was trying to accomplish: several tracks of drums which are being summed externally, but that I want to also process in one stereo bus. 

How I expected this to work (it doesn't)

I must admit that I do not know why this doesn't work. It totally should. Technically it's because the signal paths (analog outs and parallel bus) arrive to the speakers at different times. You might assume, like me, that Delay Compensation would be able to handle this task. For some reason beyond my knowledge, at least in Pro Tools 10 & 11, you and I are both wrong.

The solution that I use is to add one "layer" of busses before the analog outputs. Look at this photo to see what I mean.

Now, each audio track is sending to two busses at unity, post-fader: one exclusive bus that goes to directly to its corresponding output (I hide these while mixing), and one stereo parallel bus. The audio track itself is routed to a "dummy" output bus that goes nowhere (if you choose "No Output" you lose metering capability).

And that's it! Now you can get the benefit of hardware summing and you can squash those sources in parallel without phase problems.

Posted
AuthorThomas Dulin
2 CommentsPost a comment

If you are at all interested in audio production, and you have visited the internet in the last five to ten years, you are aware of "the loudness war" which is the tendency of modern music to use peak limiters to achieve maximum perceived loudness in order to "beat" other pieces of modern music.  The idea is that louder music will sell more (a hypothesis that has since been scientifically tested and found false), so record companies have been pushing producers and mastering engineers to sacrifice dynamics for more and more loudness, even to the point of distortion and other negative audible artifacts.

What you may not have heard is that we are about to see the end of this war! All the current major music providers -- Apple Music, Spotify, and now even Youtube -- are using automatic Loudness Normalization, because their most common complaints from users are about the differences in volume between different songs. In other words, you can smash a song with as many limiters as you want to try to get it louder than everyone else, and Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube will just turn the playback volume down for your song to match everyone else.

This is great news for music fans and audio engineers alike because if we don't have to sacrifice dynamics to try and compete for loudness, we can maintain dynamics in the music we create. We can master more quietly, and the transient response of our music will translate beautifully, the way we intended. Said another way, it is now officially a terrible idea to squash the dynamics out of your music; not only does it carry absolutely no benefit (as was already the case before), but when placed on a level playing field with other music, louder music will now be perceived as equally loud and lacking in energy and dynamics.

If this was a war, the general for the side of dynamics was mastering engineer Ian Shepard. See his video below, showing real examples of how this works.


Posted
AuthorThomas Dulin

I drafted these a while back because the mix notes I was getting from clients were confusing and conflicting. I thought I'd post them here for mixers to give clients or artists/bands to use when writing mix notes.  Enjoy!

If you are reading this, congratulations! Your record or single is almost complete. In fact, it very well may be complete already. That is entirely up to you. It's time for you to make mix notes. Here are a few ideas that will help to make sure your project is completed as quickly as possible and to your complete satisfaction:

1. Stay Organized.

The mix notes you present should be either written legibly or typed and should include the following: Your name, the version number of the mixes you're critiquing, (noted in the filename) and the date you made the notes. This will prevent me from pulling out all of my hair.

2. If you are a band, you should provide me with ONE set of notes.

If I get separate mix notes from different members of the band, the notes will inevitably contradict one another. Talk amongst yourselves, come to an agreed-upon Word document, and present that document as your notes. If you are a solo artist, it may be wise to involve one or two other musicians who you trust.

3. Don't let your mom make mix notes.

While I am certain of your mother's musical shrewdness and confident in her ability to point out problems in relative levels and frequency imbalances, this is your project. The more people you involve in the mix notes process, the more varied responses you will get, the more negative reactions you will get when all the people you tried to involve hear the final mixes. Keep these mixes to a few key contributors and your record will impress everyone.

4. Remember SPUD: Section, Part, Up or Down.

With regard to simplicity and effective communication, this is the best way to communicate the changes you wish to be made in a mix. For example: "Chorus 1, Left Electric Guitar, Down" is far more effective than, "I really like the tone of the electric guitar and I know that you probably have it placed right in the mix where you want it, but if it isn't too much trouble, perhaps you could raise the left electric guitar ever so slightly because I think that it would provide a very nice lift to the chorus." Section, part, up, or down. Be bold!

5. Don't listen too hard.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, listening passively will actually serve to benefit your project. By this I mean that you should refrain from listening to these mixes on your dad's $10,000 audiophile surround sound speakers with your decibel meter in one hand and a pen in the other. Just pop it in the car and go for a ride, dude. That's what your fans will do. Listen on repeat for a while and write down what changes you'd like to hear. (On the other hand: don't just listen on your iPhone speaker at work and ask me to turn up the bass - true story.)

I hope you're excited about the thought of having your project done. As the mix engineer, I most certainly am!

 

Posted
AuthorThomas Dulin

About a year ago, my friend Jordan approached me with the idea to produce an album for him. His songs were all written on either acoustic guitar, banjo, or ukelele and had never been realized as full-band productions, but that's how he wanted to capture them: with drums and electric guitars, and maybe even cellos and woodwinds and groups of people singing together. He wanted to see what would happen when we mixed his calm crooning voice with chaotic rock and roll.

So we decided on a budget and started working. Jordan played all the drums on the record, I played the guitars and piano parts, and we had friends join in for everything in between. We spent hours and hours writing parts and melodies, demoing ideas, laughing at our mistakes, and recording his music. It was a lot of work on a very small budget but I'll never forget how much fun we had making that record. We were both very proud of it.

If you're close to anyone in Lubbock, TX, you probably already know that Jordan's life ended tragically and suddenly last week. His death has left a hole in the music scene, the art community, his church, the local coffeehouses where he played, the thousands of people he interacted with, and especially his family. We are all grieving his loss, but none of us can understand the weight of what his parents, two sisters, and extended family are going through. In response to that grief, my friend Ryan and I are putting together a very small way to help.

With the support and cooperation of his family, we are releasing a two-disc compilation album entitled "Depth Perception," named after the last song Jordan wrote, shortly before his death. The compilation will include both of Jordan's previous releases as well as demos, outtakes, jokes, and other unreleased material including the title track "Depth Perception," which is a true story about a man who sings during his final moments on earth and his first in heaven.

To order a copy of "Depth Perception," please provide a donation of any amount at this Paypal link. No Paypal account is required for donation. 100% of all proceeds will go directly to the Watts family, who is dealing with unexpected costs at this time. They have not asked me or Ryan to do this, but we are of the opinion that Jordan's family shouldn't have to spend a dime on funeral expenses. 

His life ended too soon, but I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to capture a piece of his expression. Please partner with us by giving what you can and passing this along.

Posted
AuthorThomas Dulin