As audio professionals, it’s always tempting to stick to what you know. However, remaining in comfort can often come at a price.
Head of Audio Products at Abbey Road Studios Mirek Stiles expresses the paramount importance of experimentation in this instalment of #AllStarMixTricks.
Touching upon his experience diving into spatial audio in game engines, he shares how free resources found on platforms such as YouTube allowed him to grasp concepts that initially felt alien to him.
“Hi, my name is Mirek Stiles. I’m the head of audio products at Abbey Road Studios.
My mix trick, even though it isn’t really a trick, I suppose, is to get outside of your comfort zone. From an audio point of view, it’s tempting to stay in the arena of what you know. I was put into a situation a few years ago where I started to explore spatial audio in game engines. It was completely out of my comfort zone. And it took a while to get my head around it all. But there’s great resources out there on platforms like YouTube.”
Yeah, I just think that’s the best tip I can give is just get out of your comfort zone.”
#AllStarMixTricks is where the very best mixers, engineers, producers and musicians share some of the best tips and tricks they’ve picked up on their way to the top.
The series kicked off with mixer and engineer Teezio. With a number one record and two GRAMMY nominations under his belt, his credits include world-renowned artists such as Chris Brown, Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow, Paulo Londra and Ed Sheeran.
Speaking from his home studio, Teezio shares his trick for keeping his ears on top during mixing sessions. Only mixing for 10-20 minutes at a time, he revealed that taking regular breaks is key to making the best decisions, allowing him to frequently approach the track with fresh ears and avoid dampening his hearing.
For those who prefer to stay locked into their sessions for longer, he advises keeping an eye on volume levels, only listening at higher volume for short bursts of time. In his example, Teezio shares how he uses a higher dB to work on the low-end of his mixes, bringing it down for the rest of his session.
Watch Teezio’s full #AllStarMixTrick and subscribe to the Audiomovers YouTube channel for more insights from the best in the game:
“Hey, I’m Teezio, and here’s my mix trick. I take a lot of breaks, when I’m mixing. I mix, like 15 to 10 minutes at a time. And then I take a 10 minute break or 20 minutes and then take a break. Your hearing over time, especially sitting in front of these big speakers will start to sort of dampen and you’ll start to make decisions based on how fried your hearing is. And I think taking breaks and allowing your ears to sort of open back up will allow you to make better decisions. A good way of doing it sometimes if you don’t want to take breaks is just sort of watching where your volume is. A lot of times when I’m mixing, I like to listen to things loud. And when you listen to things loud, obviously, that’s not good for your hearing. So I try to listen to things loud for the smallest amount of time at a time. So I might blast it just to kind of get a feeling of the low end and then kind of bring it back down.
That sort of can also be a way of doing it and try to stay in a lower dB range just because once you start listening to things too loud, you’ll literally start to fry your hearing. And you’ll notice over time, your high end double down and you’ll start adding more high into your mixes. Not that take breaks. We got to take breaks.”
Your voice is the only instrument that is completely unique to you. Whether you’re a gifted vocalist or not, using vocals as instruments and textures in your tracks can be a great way to help it stand out, as well as filling out the mix or adding some ambience.
As part of our #AllStarMixTricks, Alina Smith, ½ of the production and songwriting duo LYRE MUSIC GROUP explains how she layers up her airy vocals to create unique pad sounds and melodies.
“What I mean by this is specifically using your voice, because it is the only instrument that you have that no one else will have, to create melodies and pads.”
Opening up the project for ‘Bathing Suit’, a track she produced for her LYRE MUSIC GROUP counterpart, Elli Moore, Alina shares:
“This is a technique I use on every single song I produce. I have a pretty airy voice and I use it as a pad quite a bit, to add a bit of oomph to this post-chorus.”
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“What’s up my name is Alina Smith and my mix trick is using vocals as instruments in your session.
It’s really more of a production trick but what I mean by this is specifically using your voice because it is the only instrument that you have that no one else will have to create melodies and pads.
This is a technique I use an every single song I produce.
I have a pretty airy voice, and I use it as a pad quite a bit so you can hear this here, to kind of add a little bit of oomph to this post course.“