Analog Workflow Tips on YouTube.
Hi, welcome to an episode of “Thinking Inside the Box” on Noah’s Ark. In the video, I’m going to share 5 tips on how to incorporate an analog workflow in the DAW to enhance your music productions, in other words how to think “tape”.
I like to think of the recording process as something irreversible where decision-making is critical. This way, I am not postponing any mixing moves and allows me to commit to my own artistic decisions during tracking time.
As many of you may have realised, leaving the benefit of the doubt at later production stages is rarely an advantage in the creative field. An increase in choices and possibilities isn’t always synonymous to higher productivity, in fact it is often quite the opposite.
So don’t be afraid to print your EQ and compression settings in the way in. If you took the time to apply the right processing, chances are they will have a positive impact when auditioning back the raw tracks for the first time.
And even if the sound suffered irreversibly because you went too far in the EQ and compression, it will be beneficial to your experience and along the way, you will learn from these kinds of mistakes.
As much as it may be very tempting to chop up a guitar solo from hundreds of takes to find the perfect performances, chances are the feeling overall won’t be right. It is also those very mistakes that we appreciate as human beings and connect with on an emotional level when listening.
In the tape days, you couldn’t afford to comp performances as we do now in our digital world. One of the main reasons just being that it was very time-consuming to perform just a single edit on a reel of tape and the timing had to be right at the first attempt.
So think of the performance as a whole and try to edit the least possible and keep full takes to preserve authenticity and feel.
To continue on this last point, I encourage you to record full performances and keep mistakes in the final recording. I cannot stress enough how mistakes are inherently part of our DNA. We appreciate this human error as an opportunity to connect and identify to the same natural struggles of life and we understand that no one is perfect. Perfection is quite strange to us and doesn’t feel natural even in the context of a musical performance.
Making level balance and spectral balance decisions while monitoring in mono before making spatial balancing can have many benefits when mixing. When mixing in a single dimension, we are constrained in having limited space for all the instruments in the mix due to masking and therefore we are forced to make more drastic decisions in EQ and cutting unwanted frequencies to make more space. Consequently, when we open up our mixes in two dimensions, it feels much less crowded and muddy and thus makes the mix much clearer all of a sudden. Not to mention that you can check phase correlation and mono compatibility at the same time.
It is often useful to think of our plugins in DAWs as actual outboard gear. The reason behind this philosophy is that in the old days you didn’t have access to millions of reverbs and delay presets on multi-effects processors and an infinite amount of 1176s and LA-2As. You had to patch multiple sources to the same gear or use the same reverb for the entire album.
It often amazes me to think about Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon where the only reverb ever used on the entire album was an EMT 140 plate.
Psychoacoustically, we can perceive an entire band playing in the same room, just by sending two different elements of the mix to the same reverb. To push this argument further, the less the number of different processors, the more cohesion you can get in the mix.
So what I find useful is to use submixes for processing multiple tracks at once and single reverbs for entire mixes. That way it is easier for our brains to reconstruct the notion of performers playing together in a room.
Another argument for this point, that kind of goes back to the first tip, is that if you really needed to use the same gear twice, you had to print the effect and therefore commit to mixdown decisions. This is why I started Freezing and Commiting a lot more tracks in my DAW, not only to free up DSP, but as a means to assume responsibility on the decisions I make for my art.
Recording and mixing engineers used to work on physical consoles and most of the desks didn’t have setting recalls. This meant that whatever mix you had achieved during that day needed to be either printed to tape or erased by the next engineer using the desk.
This in turn introduced a time limit to the work and meant that productivity was key. But what’s interesting is that less time often turns out to be better in art. The time constraint that musicians had from record labels to produce two albums per year were often the reasons behind the output of such classic records as the ones we still listen to and know today.
To further elaborate this point, it is often hard to determine when a mix is done and how much more we can achieve even if we had unlimited time. Printing a mix after a day’s work also means restricting oneself to do our own best and be content with the work done in that time period.
So here there are, my 5 analog workflow tips to think outside the box in the DAW.
To find out more about analog workflow tips, you can watch the video above or on YouTube here.