Produce, Mix & Master
My specialty is developing and building your story both as an artist and in your recordings. Many studios talk about sound quality & how to make a mix sound big. This is not my thing. I won’t be looking to make every 5-second slice of your track sound immense in isolation. I will be looking to make your overall story engaging. I don’t work on a mix to make it sound big, I work on a Song to make it feel big. It has to grow in the feelings of the listener. Once it is there it is there for life.
My specialty is to help you Create & Deliver your Story. This means I will dip into any and every aspect of the song or record with the aim of making it as good as it can be. Good may be as ‘pure art’ or a ‘commercial success’, that is your call. If you feel stuck in your career, I can be the guy to help you get moving.
As the Producer, it is my role to help your record flow so well that people who hear it want to be involved in your story. They want to hear & feel it again, come to shows and wear the t-shirt next time they leave the house.
Hire me to Produce or Mix your Record
I can work in several ways:
- Remote: you send me the files and I poke them till they sound right, swapping mp3’s till we agree.
- In-Person: you come to me, or bring me to you, and we take each bit as it comes.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages:
- Face to face can be good in that discussion is easy and I can show you exactly what I am doing and why; downside is it can waste a lot of time on trivialities and travel.
- Remote works really well if both of us communicate clearly over email and or Skype; downside is a lack of immediacy so things do need to be understood.
Fees are agreed once I can see your work and the scope of your project. The absolute best way for you to get the best price from me is to excite me about your project which means good information about who you are, what you do, and what you are offering to get it done well. There is a lot of material in my Tutorials section to help you with this part. This form will also guide you through the first part of the process.
Please fill in the form below completely so I can see you, your project, and budget. This helps me to know if I can see myself in the work and what sort of costs will be required. The clearer your Brief/Spec the better the results will be.
Yo Benedict, this is awesome and I’m totally honoured that you did this! So right off the bat, you inspired me to do a little remix of my version. It’s almost the same as it was, but I cut just a tad of that gnarliness in the guitar you mentioned a few times, and made the master EQ a little less smiley face. It’s really cool hearing this softer version of the track. While I don’t agree with some of your choices, like the fading distorted guitar in and out, it’s cool to hear it it another way. And I’m totally flattered by your compliments. I actually went through all of my new tracks and controlled the gnarliness a bit more, because of your version. Rock on Benedict! Bloma (Paul Anstey)
wow… great job/video bro… love the mix, the mix advice and analysis…. you really nailed the “spirit” of the song on all points… Thank you… much respect ! Daryl Miller
Wow! That was really cool! Loved that you took the time and explained everything you did and why you did it. All from those echoes on the sticks to the modulated high octave of G, they really add up. I really appreciate your effort and time in this! There is much you did about the mix that helped it. Not just the mixing part, but also adding the vocals in the start etc. Again, appreciate it, thank you! Guy Produce
Amazing job Benedict – you’ve given this a new lease of life – That’s incredible – it’s like a totally new song – Thank you for offering to work on it 🙂 Interesting move in using the lower ‘Arps’ as a percussive element. frank1985
I just wanted to reach out to you and let you know what a big impact your teachings have had for me and my work lately. I’m a big fan of your teaching style. I really enjoy your articles and videos, but the closer ‘one on one’ work we have been doing has been revolutionary for me.
As you know I’m working on a dubstep track at the moment and I wanted to tell you a few things about the progress I’m making since working with you compared to doing it on my own.
First I would usually start with drums, I didn’t do that this time at all. The drums are still sitting in the background barely audible as a placeholder even though they do suit the track and can be mixed in eventually. A year ago this method of working would have been unacceptable to me.
Second, I got the initial idea down like I always have, never had too much trouble there. Sometimes after this I would be able to flesh it out in to an entire track and that was cool but overall it wouldn’t make too much sense musically, but more often than not I would be clueless as to how to continue from that initial idea, and would end up leaving it.
Usually that initial idea would repeat a lot, but with the lessons on story / narrative and variation, I was able to take that initial idea, and evolve it into a full meaningful piece. This right here is has made me feel more like a musician than I ever have before, it has had that much of an impact for me.
Then one thing that hinders progress massively when starting out with that initial dubstep idea – is to create an intro that fits. I used the story / narrative principle and with a little focus and effort I was able to make an intro that suited and built in to the first main section which was great.
It’s been a totally different journey than I’ve ever been on with my music before. It feels good. It feels like I’m in total control. I also feel like now I can start pushing out pieces of work on a more regular basis. It makes me wish I had of delved into your teachings much earlier.
So a huge thank you for your teachings and especially working ‘one on one’ with me, it has been revolutionary for my work physically and mentally! Travis Tanner
What Styles will you work in?: Anything. These days there are a bazillion sub-genres but I don’t care. They are distraction. What I prefer to do is work on things that have passion and a good Story. If your music has a story to tell and you can tell me that story then I’m in. If I don’t feel I can add anything then I will decline.
What will you do for me?: Producing a record is a bit nebulous but expect me to make suggestions about arrangement, instrumentation, performance and even off into ways to get your record into the public eye. A producer is always looking at the big picture and how to make the flow that gets your musical (and lyrical) ideas across to your audience. Yes, Strategy. It is all about creating a flow so that your music seems natural.
Example: Jace showed this track covered in layers of compression & distortion. I heard a powerfully tender track underneath. I got the track sent over and this is was my mix. A Record Producer is meant to hear what you may not and help you sell your message stronger.
Why all this psychology stuff? I just want to make bangin’ choonz?: I truly wish that you were just making Great tracks & a Great record. But let’s be honest, many people are a bit hung up somewhere on some kind of fear that is stopping them from getting their work out as well as they could/should. One of the most common symptoms is external obsession – if only I had the Sldhgkdfhe Tnviehutviu Pro 8 VST Plugin, my music would be great. If only I had a record deal… Part of my specialty is that I am a Musical Performance Coach to help you find how to connect with and let out your Art.
How many songs do I need for an album?: If you are making a whole record then about 1 hour of material. That is generally at least 10 songs. Now best to allow some flex there so present 12-15 songs so we can choose the best 10 (30-60 mins). You can choose to use the unused tracks for b-sides, bonus material or use what you learn to re-write for a later project. If you aren’t up to a whole album then it is an EP which can be from 3-6 songs (20 mins).
How long will it take?: Hard to answer this but best to assume about 3 months for an album. That gives us time to assess the material, perform any re-writes and practice before you hit the studio. Once the material is all recorded it will probably take about a day per track to mix and then the same to handle changes. If you are working a day job too then be prepared to add more time (or work late at night).
Do you do Free Test Mixes? Almost half of every working day is devoted to free advice already. I do some Mix Walkthrough videos. Have a good long look into them as you may find something similar to what you do. You can always present a track for me to consider. If you do, please be aware that 1) if I just did a track in your genre, then I’m probably not dying to do another unless it has something really interesting to excite me and the general viewer; 2) you don’t get the mix but of course you can point your audience to the video to show off your track. Doing this is actually great Social Proof of your music’s validity.
When should I hire you?: Early. The last thing anyone wants is a record that is plagued with problems that cause stress and missed deadlines. Far better to engage your Producer really early in the process than find your songs need changes to make them work and you don’t have any time left. Unless I have worked with you before and/or know your style, it is probably best for you to at least have your songs completed with rough demos so I can hear what we are working with.
Do you Master my tracks?: Do you want me to master your tracks? Generally if you are going to press Vinyl or CD then I would suggest a professional mastering house but be aware that a mastering process won’t make shoddy performances sound good, only louder. If you are releasing to a digital format like CD Baby (for iTunes/Spotify), Bandcamp, or even a CD then I can definitely Finalize your mixes so they sound good. Tell me all of these things up front. If you are using a Mastering service then best to be in contact with them early so we know what they want.
You write Space Music and your mixes are generally clean. Can you cope with my Gore-Step?: See above, yes. By the way, I didn’t always or only write Space Music. I also made some Metal and EBM Industrial so I am not frightened of distortion or rough stuff. My only concern will be that any effect or trick you want is helping the story. If not then I will discourage. Ultimately though you are the final decider so if you want to do it then we will do it. Maybe this can help you realize that genre has little to do with it:
What if I don’t like the mixes?: Sadly this happens. There are several reasons but let’s first look at what mixes you will probably get:
- First Mix: will simply be a clear mix of everything that is there. I don’t know your song like you do (especially if you made it at home in your DAW) so first I need to get everything up and clear so I know what is there, what works and what doesn’t. This first mix can be a shock, especially if it is the first time you have heard someone else work on your music. The first mix shows exactly what the song sounds like, as presented.
- Second Mix: seeks to solve obvious technical problems the first mix has uncovered. This can be things like drums that were over-compressed at tracking. This still tries to present the song as it was given to me but better.
- Third Mix: is my first attempt to get creative and interesting with the material and may show us something we didn’t consider before.
The first mix is normally the problem area as this is your song exactly as it is, warts and all. I’m not trying to hurt, I will make this mix as clear and “radio-friendly” as possible based on what is in front of me. If someone added a string melody it will be there. If the solo is uninspired it will be there. Hearing this mix can be a challenge as often the composer has been working with an idea that maybe he didn’t really get onto tape. He listens to the demo and hears what he expects in his head. When the first mix comes back from someone else’s hands the spell is broken and for the first time exactly what is on tape is heard. If the artist was thinking this was a Trip Hop song but the song, as presented, is really Country then this first mix will show that and the artist may be in for an ego challenge.
Good pre-Production will help alleviate some of this challenge as I am likely to have said; geez, that sounds like a Country song. If I say that, take that on-board. If it challenges your sense of cool then we need to discuss either abandoning that song or playing to that very thing. After all Kiss (and many other bands) had their greatest hits as they crossed genres that they initially weren’t cool about (“Beth” & “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”) and they are great songs.
If you just got a mix and it doesn’t gel with what you expected, or want, then talk to me. I know your ego may be feeling dented but please be sure not to go denting mine. I don’t expect to be told you love it but if you expect me to stay creative and do my best after you dumped on me then we will be on different pages. Help me to know what you want. Ask “can we try..?” If you do feel challenged, triggered etc, take a while, listen again in a day or so with lowered assumptions, lowered fear, and maybe you’ll hear what I heard. Maybe this is an option, a creative find.
We want to use some synth sounds but aren’t any good at knobs?: I’m glad you asked. I love programming synths. Either get me to make the sounds for you early-on or use adequate preset sounds and supply me with the MIDI so I can build sounds in the mix.
What DAW or gear do you use?: You’re asking about my gear before our first date? I mean seriously! Don’t you want to know who I am? You are hiring my mind not my gear. One environment is essentially the same as any other, they all sound like what you put into them. If you use Cake Base or Fruity Tools then that is just fine with me, we agree on the performances via mp3 and you send me Stems/MIDI to mix. If I show you pictures of my studio it probably won’t impress you. Working studios are a mess and these days mostly “in the box” (computer). The pics you see on most sites are stock images of gear the guy doesn’t own – there just aren’t that many SSL consoles out there. If it was only about gear, you could buy all the toys yourself. Look around, most of the people who have tried that have failed to make great records (or often even any records).
Video of my studio remember this is the tropics so it is hot
I am a pretty well-known Power User of Reason Studios (formerly Propellerheads) Reason and always on the latest version so if you happen to be working in that space I will be even more able to assist you right there in your mix. You can even have the project files back (some devices may not match yours but mostly I use Stock devices anyway – as most Pros do).
Will you record our band?: I’m not set up for recording. It is best that you find a Studio and an Engineer you like and do your tracking there. I may be able to help as I have a network of studio owners around the work I talk with. If you want me in the session then I will come along. Be sure you get good performances and they deliver you Audio Stems ready for mixing.
My Bass player says the guy at the local Studio will Produce & Mix our record for the same price as the recording?: Ok, great, do that then. Oh hang on, just before you do that, have you noticed that every professional record out there has a Producer credit on the back that is separate from the Engineer credit? Wonder why. I’m sure he is a great bloke and means well but an Recording Engineer is a Recording Engineer (sure some become great Producers) and he is there to record your performances. If he isn’t checking your work before a single note is put on tape (well hard drive really) and having strategy discussions then he is not producing anything. Recording is only part of the process of creating a record.
Why should we choose you?: I have sold cars. Why should you choose a Honda over a Mazda? No idea. You need to work that bit out. I figure that if you are reading this then there is something about me and my work that attracts you and makes you feel like we may work well together. Talk to me openly and I will be open with you – if I don’t think I can help I will decline or at least explain my concerns to let you decide.
Will you make me famous?: N.O. Not at all. What I can do is help present what you are trying to say. After that it is entirely up to you; tour, give sexual favors to the President (and leak to the press), go on Idol… Actually, make sure you at least go on YouTube. If your musical idea is well presented then you are a lot of the way there. Generally speaking, a record company won’t sign an act unless they have proved they are a draw-card. The sooner you start that hard work the sooner you can get real fans.
My drummer doesn’t like you?: Who said I like your drummer. Grow up, this is business, I have a job to do, as do you and your drummer. The record is what counts. If you or any of your bandmates are only here to “have a laff” then time to re-assess. If you don’t agree with or understand, something then have an open conversation with me so I can explain why I request this thing and we can find the right solution.
What if I don’t want to change or do something?: In theory, anything is allowable in music but there are certain conventions and traditions that help things to work. If you present me a Pop song with a 28-minute guitar solo using micro-tones then I will suggest that you revise this. If you are a Prog band and present me with a 2-second solo using only chord tones then I will suggest you swap guitarists with that Pop band. Your call. As a Producer, it is my job to make suggestions to help your project shine and be as accessible as possible to an audience. Never forget, I want your record to succeed for my own ego and bragging rights. Either way, this will be hard work. Talk it through with me. If we understand each other then one of us might just change our minds or we both find a workable solution. If you don’t want to change anything ever (and your name doesn’t end in Lennon) then maybe best you consider getting out of the music business.
Will you Side-Chain my track to the 2″ Studer Tape Machine?: Who knows? If you are asking me this I worry for two reasons 1) you don’t really trust me (or maybe yourself), 2) you are more concerned over tricks than the story. Lack of trust kills projects hard & fast. Trust we can work out by talking clearly, especially at the start of the project so I know what you want to achieve. Techniques are not any more than that. If you have made something that wouldn’t work without the trick (like cabinet distortion on a guitar) then print that to the audio that you send me. If it is just a mix decision then best to leave that till when it counts – which is the mix.
Why do I have to do so many vocal takes?: Believe me when I say I’d rather you did one. The vocal is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of your song. If you have prepared and practiced really well then I won’t need too many takes from you. Mostly I will need a lead vocal (which I will prefer you recorded in one take like it was live) and some backing vocals. If you can provide some harmonies then all the better.
What if I don’t want to sing my song?: I’ll do it for you. Just take care though as I am a truly terrible singer with a vocal range of about a semitone (even then out of tune and with a wandering tone). No really, why are you coming to me if you don’t have anything complete? If you have the music recorded then either sing it yourself as a guide vocal or hire a singer.
I have a Lyric, will you write music and record my song?: As above I am not a tracking studio. Also, I am probably not the kind of composer you are after. Check the trades or other want ads and find a songwriter to do the musical bits. You can hire me in as part of that process but if you are trying to write your first song then it could be a bit early for me.
Payment & Work Protection: Payment is always required up front. Most of a Producer’s work is not in the physical domain and starts early in the project. I find people who have invested fully financially are more fully invested emotionally when it gets to the scary bits (like vocals). If you are nervous about hiring me over PayPal because you don’t know me and are worried that maybe I won’t do your job and your money will be lost, we can move you and your project over to Fiverr. Their system is robust.
I want to see if you will work with me. How do I present myself?: Wonderful, thanks. I’m excited. Like anything in life your pitch will have an impact on the answer you get. Use the (deliberately long & detailed) form below. Explain about your project so we can start the conversation. Link me to at least 3 tracks from the project you want me to work on so I can hear where you are going. If you don’t want those tracks in public then you can use Private Tracks on Soundcloud. I prefer not to have to download tracks from odd places if I don’t already know you. Please make sure those tracks represent your sound – no point giving me your 5 y.o. sister squeaking over your Mum’s Casio piano if you are wanting to make a Deathcore record. I’m not judging the quality of the recording but the quality of the art and artists. Of course, if you happen to be called Judas Priest and Chris T is a bit too busy right now then I can be a lot more flexible.
Don’t just take my word for it:
Michel Beinhorn talking to Warren Huart about the importance of pre-production and how we let it go and records (and the bands) are suffering as a result. This is a hidden opportunity in the market 😉 One I keep harping on about – make amazing records – don’t assume they happen by themselves.
If you hand an electronics engineer an amplifier, she can take it apart and tell you what it is capable of doing, without reading the manual or seeing an ad for it.
Too often, we resort to hand waving and random hopes for the things we build, merely asserting that our hocus and our pocus will have an effect. But the artifact we leave behind might do little or nothing without the fancy packaging.
There’s nothing wrong with the cognitive dissonance that placebos cause. It’s effective indeed. But it works even better if there are actually active ingredients in the potion we’ve created.