How should I deliver my files for mixing?
Name your tracks properly and remove unneccesary track suffixes. Please.
Check all edits for clicks, weird transitions etc. before consolidating the files.
Unprocessed (dry, dynamic and unautomated) files are always nice to have.
If there are esssential automations or special plug-ins that are part of a sound that you are really happy with, feel free to commit and print these. (I don´t have to redo stuff that you are already happy with). sometimes you still may want to include an alternate processed/unprocessed track though..
If you have been living with a special blend of tracks (like multi-mic setups, BGVs, choirs, etc.) please print that stem, label it and include it as well. Double check if everything is in sync.
Please include a synced reference mix.
Include tempo information, if available.
Don’t include unused audio tracks of a session.
How should I deliver my files for mastering?
All audio tracks are required in WAV or AIFF format.
Keep the bit depth at maximum (preferably 24 bit or higher).
If you are not 100% sure what you are doing, heavy compression, limiting, saturation and clipping the master bus should always be avoided.
Do not use sample rate conversion yourself.
How do I pronounce Joe Joaquin?
Don´t say “Joe-Joe-Wah-Keen”.
When trying to say Joaquín people here tend to go something like “Joe-Wah-Keen”. But you know that “Joe” is dead. So pronouncing Joe Joaquin is kind of the wrong way of saying Joaquín.
What is included in your fee?
How should I deliver my files for stem mixing / mastering?
All audio tracks are required in WAV or AIFF format.
Name your stems properly and remove unneccesary track suffixes.
Please include a synced reference mix.
Include tempo information, if available.
Would you produce my album?
It is not always possible to clearly draw the lines between producing and mixing and sometimes my job involves a healthy dose of the work of a producer, but if we are talking about full productions from scratch the answer is:
Do you offer workshops or some sort of a mixing masterclass?
I love to give some insight about my workflow and to share what´s been working for me so far. Over the last years I have received many questions about this topic and I do think a lot about how I can find the time to make this work, virtually and personally.
Where did that long flyover text of your old website go?
It might be a little dated but I kept it here for you..:
Random words about mixing and production.
This is certainly not an attempt to explain the work of a producer or a mixing engineer. Luckily that is pretty impossible to write down (and how presumptuous would that be..). This is rather meant to show you some ways of how I approach common situations in the record making process some of which affect sound, color and feel. It might as well give you a feeling for some cornerstones in the technical translation of sonic visions or at least just make you feel a little more comfortable before you throw your money at me.
As a music fan, musician, and someone who has dedicated his life to this, I know about the beauty of having no rules in this wonderous field and that is why I think it is a hellish idea to even write about anything at all. But since I am a sympathizer of contradiction (and miserable loser in digital contact), I also think that some things are worth mentioning, inspiring or merely and simply an opportunity to laugh about.
I guess one could probably also perceive it as a tiny, poorly structured journey from essential-blurry production broad strokes to rather microsmonautic handpicked nerd notes of a mixer. All depending on, well, who you are..
And I am not writing about the mastering process here at all - that´s a whole different story and I might share some words at another point, when there is time.
Luckily my work is different each day and I enjoy that a lot. It is a huge reason for me to be able to keep on doing this until the day of my personal master fade. It also keeps me fresh and open as I always enjoy working on pretty much the opposite of what I did before and working along the sidelines of the comfort zone can be a fantastic and rewarding thing to do. This actually seems so ordinary and obvious because nobody, no record, no song, is the same but my experiences and those of many of my clients show that the dealings with individual artists are often developing into closed down routine or ego-driven work without a proper establishment of mutual trust or even conversations on eye level. I am really trying to pick up the artist at whatever point they could be stuck, take them and their work from there and try to unleash their full potential together. I believe that an enjoyable, fearless and fun atmosphere really goes a long way towards the achievement of great results. What kind of relation do we have when the artist feels nervous about stating their opinion? A production or any final results will hardly feel truly good to me when they only feel good to myself.
Writing and all..
Production most definitely also means to listen, to look closely at the musical parts and to find the right ingredients that focus on the essence of a song. To emphasize its key strenghts that transport emotions from the writer to the heart of the listener. Of course the arrangement, the lyrics, the role allocation of the instruments, their timing and dynamics, their energy and texture, their placing in the frequency spectrum, the tempo, everything should serve the song. Wouldn't it be nice to have every note to be there for a reason? That they complement and not fight each other? No element should consume space that is needed by something else. A producer should pave the way for the key emotion of a song. And this can be a lot of things.. The possibilities are probably endless and sometimes even the boundaries to mixing can collapse easily. However, for the most part it is pretty useful to have a vision from the get-go.
When putting up a rough or tracks that someone has sent to me I try to find a way to the core of the tune quickly and figure out the elements that drive the song without thinking too much. In the majority of cases that is pretty obvious and it can be told almost immediately. What are the aspects that make you feel a certain way about a song. How can they be refined and most importantly, at what stage in the process are we actually? When I have got a mixng only job and I should find myself in the rare scenario that I feel absolutely nothing, I either give my doctor or the producer a call. If there is no producer, I suggest myself to do the job and jump back in. (And if we are on a budget, we will still see that we can make our way above the mediocre somehow).
Before worrying about how to achieve that interstellar sound form an engineering perspective, most things simply come down to good performance. Obviously. Good playing and good tracking is meat and potatoes. We want that. My experiences with musicans and singers have taught me many things about the power of psychology in a recording situation. This is the delicate point where to listen, to make everyone comfortable, to open up, to let go, to br patient, to push the boundaries, to experiment, to be in the moment and do whatever you feel you have to do but to not mess things up and kill the magic... Moreover it is so much fun and many times simply incredible what the right words, gestures can evoke, especially in a vocal coaching situation for example. Great musicians can certainly make things come together naturally on their own and in that case everything should be set up in its place, also engineeringwise, so all the magic to be captured with little to no resistance. Thorough tracking then delivers the most natural sounding results and can safe precious mixing (and fixing) time. A lot of balancing and EQing can be done without any mixing gear at all and sometimes moving a microphone an inch can make all the difference in the world. Choosing the right position for the right microphone (insert three hundred and finfty pages about microphone and positioning techniques here) feeding the right preamp (in my case double that amount of pages for the preamp section and insert it here) pointing at the right instruments played by the right musicians in a decent sounding room really goes a long way.
Oh and we could do with a good song, too..
That being said, it is still not impossible to get a great record without those (trackingwise sometimes rather cost-intensive) circumstances given because I also happen to be a mixing engineer born into the digital age and therefore had to learn how to work a handful of digital miracles since many of the tracks I had to work with simply left me no other option. And besides that, even lousy tracking is capable of catching a musical spirit (that does not care what preamp you used anyway). But that is just another part of being a mixing engineer. However, if you are aiming for impeccable sound aesthetics, mediocre tracking is not going to cut it. A signal is always just as good as the weakest part in the chain and mixing is not like running a clarification plant. So, we do want good tracking. And interstellar preamps.
It is absolutely possible to get your perfectly recorded tracks totally screwed up by a bad mixing engineer, too.
No space for egos.
One of the best parts of being an audio human being is the need to invent yourself a little bit new each day. Every song is asking for a different approach and it is of utmost importance to let the song dictate what you do and to not let any ego get in the way. Maybe I should repeat that.. A producer or mixer is a servant of the song and should not be masturbating while doing his job. There is no such thing as a ‘go-to approach’ as it depends on the song, its context, the tracks, the environment, the equipment, what I was having for breakfast, etc.
In a production setting it is even more important what the musicians were having for breakfast. Or if the drummer just broke up with his girlfriend.
Visualizing and coloring a tune seems to happen naturally on a kind of synaesthteical level to me and this is where things are certainly getting more mixing-oriented. Once I got the levels and balances going for a mix, I put the key tracks in their place in the stereo field and determine the amount of space they need. Who is getting the sea view suite and who gets the supporting roles. While doing this, I am focusing exclusively on the strengths of the song, trying to ignore that list of to-do’s for now. I am riding the levels to play with the feel and the visual footprint of the tune in my head. The song needs to feel good first and sound good second. From this moment on I am in pursuit of a sonic vision. A light that many things will relate to.
However, it is essential to not get lost chasing only one target, to stay open and keep listening closely. Many beautiful things might happen and every move can open up unhoped-for possiblities. I like to think that I am getting better at embracing accidents in the studio each day.
Tone. No compromises.
Oui, there are times in music where tone is merely secondary. However, the big magic is happening when great writing meets great tone, when they seamlessly interlock, when they talk to each other and eventually become one. Well, the tune. I am not talking about lotioning or coloring a song. I am talking about the feel, when you stop thinking about the sound of a song. You just feel that it feels right. Again, there are zillions of ways to get there. Even in the digital domain a lot is possible these days. As a slightly obsessive tone hunter I am constantly trying out new techniques equipment etc and I am often reaching for rather special analog outboard gear to achieve the results I am searching for. I do not make compromises in that regard, so if a project needs that vintage tone, I do not hesitate to run each and every track through the right outboard / transformers etc.. even if it means five hours of pure re-recording (because I might not have half a million dollars for sixty-four channels of EMI REDD.47 preamps or fourty-eight Neve compressors flying around at the moment, for example) - What the hell, it is possible. I am not lazy, especially not when it comes to aesthetics. Isn't a huge part of our emotions, decisions and everyday life sitations purely aesthetically driven? For me that's true, for sure.
Fixing & fighting.
This is no studio 1x1 but given my experiences in various 'hi-end' studio facilities I cannot stretch enough how important room acoustics and listening levels are. So to get that out of the way before I start talking about EQ or what not let me just say that to me this is most common ultimate casue for troubled mixes (and often, confused artists). To me it is still shocking to see how many facilities are actually blind to low end and operating at extreme high SPL. I do not want to dive deeper into this topic since there are so many things to watch out for, but guess what, my room sounds right and real. I payed attention and it is key.
Well, surgical EQing helps to fix problems caused by sloppy tracking of course, to carve out unmusical areas of the intruments in the frequency spectrum, to get rid of unwanted room parameters and to avoid masking of multiple tracks. Phase and time alignment is key to punchyness, a solid foundation and mono compatibility. High pass and low pass filtering is needed to make sure nobody is smelling the farts and I also like to take care of the upper midrange area right away. Taming harshness and sibliance is key since a hyped upper midrange and sizzly esses can be distracting, hurt your eyes and take away from the performance. Taking care of low-end and the lower midrange is key, too.. but let's safe that yummy part for later.
I would like to point out that If the tracking was done thoroughly - or if I did all the tracking myself – most parts of the above mentioned can be skipped almost entirely. In that case everyone is already looking pretty sexy with no make-up.
Harmonic coloration & sweat.
The instruments need to be voiced in a way they don't fight but complement each other (again, with a proper production there should be little to fix). The essential tracks really need to play well together so the mix can be be pretty much build around them. Besides EQing, tapes and tubes have always been a favorite of many instruments and they are doing a great job in making a track sit better in the mix. Sometimes everyone is already happy and unfolding naturally. Sometimes it is just tweaking all the ins and outs, sometimes it is another preamp and sometimes there need to be “real” effects. Whatever feels good. However, enhancing the sound with harmonic coloration can make everyone behave a little better along the journey and since EQing is accepted more gratefully.
We do not want everything to be perfect. We do not want everything to be in tune, on time, in phase etc. simply because that's not natural. It will not sound right and it will not feel right. Even the most modern and pristine production needs saturation, distortion and non-linearities. That is why we use tape, tubes, colored summing amps, transformers, character EQs and compressors (not to mention the choruses). I will take care of all that, rest assured. There is a myriad of different techniques that will make you feel it, even If you do not hear it. Even and odd harmonics in both the analog and digital domain and their effects on music are home match to me. I spent years diving in these oceans and I am not exaggerating here.
When obviously annoying unmusicalities are out of the way and technical or timing-based issues have all been taken care of, I start bring the tracks a little closer to their comfort zone. I play with the color palette of the tune and try to serve it the best I can. A good way to define the range of the sonic playground I am in is to take the main ingredients of the mix to extremes, e.g. with character EQs. While almost every half-decent tool is capable of doing the job I like to mention that one of the first things that got me into mixing was the personality, feel and tone that is inherent in a certain type of processor. Instinctively knowing if that guitar is asking e.g. for a Neve or more for a API kind of sound just goes a long way. Equalizers are propably the most powerful weapons in the arsenal and flavoring tracks, groups and even whole mixes (mostly by just inserting them in the signal chain) with the right equipment is a great convenience.
Compressors of course are different beasts but I also do insert a lot of them mainly for character and tone, not for compression in a conventional sense. I like to be very careful with that and keep gain reduction levels at a minimum. Of course there are applications where I need to squeeze the tits out of a track or go totally overboard with compression and soft-clipping effects but for these purposes I will use them in parallel or compress only parts of the frequency spectrum so the transients stay musical and intact. I have spent years learning what compressors are capable of and I have gotten to a point where I can make them do almost anything I want. They are incredibly powerful tools in mixing if you know where their strengths and sweet spots are, even if you do not actually want to compress things. Read on and you might come a little closer to what I am talking about.
That said, every piece of cheap and half-broken equipment lets a good engineer get a better mix than fancy boutique stuff in the hands of someone who does not really know what he is doing. I have seen people spending 10 grand and more on a device with two knobs and still manage to kill all musicality. What I am trying to say is: I know my toys. I am also saying: The song must govern technology, not the other way round.
Entering the frame.
I spend a lot time to figure out a way of how to put the ears of the listener inside of a tune. I might not only want to go high and low, I might also want to go wide and deep.
Sometimes this could not be more wrong - that would be when all I really want to do is GO MONO.
There are many ways to come close but most of the time it is a combination of only a few tools and techniques that are (most often used rather subtly) capable of unlocking that path. Adding depth is a challenging part and takes not only solid sources, musical levels and panning, it needs a skillful use of the right room-, reverb-, delay- and harmonic parameters. There are endless combinations and blends possible here and it is easy to get lost in the wrong direction. Many times I will use one or two rooms, short pre-delayed reverbs, more intense reverbs with lush tail and different delays. Some of them again floating towards a parallel blend of another reverb. Again the possibilities are endless, too crazy to keep writing about this here.
Creating "natural" depth is another aspect that shows how mixing needs us to go too far and then back off again. To feel and not to think. It is traveling along the perception threshold and it is paramount to let go and let it breathe. This process is not in the slightest about thinking. It most definitely is about feeling.
Shaping the dynamic movements in a song is one of the most crucial and fun aspects to me. I have various approaches for group specific coloration and it can sometimes get a little exotic as they can involve prefader, postfader and multi-parallel processing of several busses as well as multiple AUX returns that feed on those busses. I use different derivations of that kind of setup as there are several ideas behind this approach. But even if it may seem a little tech-heavy at first, it is solely to help me along the way to more musical and dynamic sounding mixes with character.
And ok I take the chance to nerd out a little here.
I like to set up the groups depending on their home in the frequency spectrum and their musical function in the song. Each group is asking for a different treatment and they benefit greatly from the various sweet spots of their favorite tools. Knowing the kind of personality I can get out of a certain EQ model can make a difference on groups, too, even if it is only minimal adjustments. But there are also more obvious benefits in a multi-bus system. For example, a compressor on a tight rhythm section does not like to be triggered by synths, guitars or vocals since this would flatten out the dynamics and therefore reduce the overall energy. If on the other hand each group has its own separate compressor with flavor and timing settings of their choice, just the opposite is happening. The instruments are not only allowed to breathe more but also the groove is enhanced. Musical compression set up wisely can go a long way to create life and depth in a mix because its time constant components can change the feel and the overall movement and therefore even ehannce dynamics.
An interesting way to play with the musical energies is to ride the levels into the multiple bus compressors that are set up post-fader, in parallel and some in side chain mode. Setting them up post-fader makes it possible to tickle their tonality and feel without altering the volume too much. Parallel processing is useful when higher ratios or pretty extreme gain reduction is needed to get the right attitude out of a compressor. Side chain mode allows for lower frequencies to pass and our punchy transients may live on. This 'energized' group signal will then again ride its way into the master bus compressor which can be set up in parallel and side chain mode as well. Defining the amount of parallel (and side chained) compression and intense level riding (pre-, post-, and parallel compression) in multiple stages is a musical way to glue things together and accentuate the dynamic structure of a composition even when you are not given much dynamic range.
Using a compilation of several different sounding compressors in parallel for only one track allows for them to be used almost as EQs. Vocals for example are sometimes floated to several compressed auxes so I can feed them back in and dial in just the right amount of attitude that a specific model provides for the vocal (head tone, throat, dullness, aggressiveness, thickness, etc.). They can be used to make up for a lack in the performance and deliberately going overboard sometimes can bring out the different nuances of a vocal better than a traditional insert.
I also like to create additional automated auxes that feed on blends of the several instrument groups. For example this can involve a 'distortion AUX' with quite a lot of even and odd harmonics going on, a heavily automated 'atmosphere aux' with extreme lush reverb tail or just a good old 1176-style parallel compression aux to warm things up a little. Sometimes they float towards the stereo bus, sometimes they “float back” and merge with their original instrument bus in a new group (which then again will be processed in parallel, too).
The whole multi-parallel multi-bus approach gives me endless options to play with all the colors and flavors while still leaving a lot of headroom and works wonderfully in a hybrid (summing) setup (an exclusively analog setup for this would be absolutely overkill).
These are some of those things I do sometimes, but this is barely scratching the surface and at the same time all of this can be totally obsolete if the song is asking for something different. Passion, experience, intuition and good taste help me to make the right decisions along the way.
JJ, end of 2015.
I would like to work with you. How soon can you start?
Please contact me as soon as possible. I am well booked (usually for many months to come) and in the light of experience whole album mixes need to be scheduled a couple of moons in advance.