Friday, March 9, 2018

How to master a song in Mixcraft 8

The keys to publishing a song with high quality production are twofold. First, you must be creatively inspired to come up with a concept and song arrangement. Second, you need production tools and skills to publish the song so it sounds great. For me, the former is much easier than the latter. Last week I wrote and recorded a song in Mixcraft 8, Waves of change

Tracking guitars, vocals, virtual instruments, editing clips, adding loops and setting markers was the easy part. However, when it came time to adding effects and mixing, I was struggling. So, I asked my friend and talented music producer Eric VanLandingham to help mix and master the song. 

The first step to collaboration is to export and deliver the project

Step 1: Click "File"
Step 2: Click "Copy Project File To"
Step 3: Click "Zip File"
Tip of the day: I uploaded the project to my Drop Box account and shared with Eric. If you try to simply "Save As" and copy the project to a flash drive or any other destination, please note that none of the audio content will be copied over to the new project file.

While nothing can replace the trained ear and years of production experience that Eric possesses, he offers those of us who do not possess those skills hope and advice. Here are Eric's tips and tricks on how to record, mix and master a song with high quality production:

Eric's notes, check list and techniques to high quality mastering

Upon opening the project, I first look up and down the track headers to familiarize myself with how it's laid out. Looking for descriptive track names. I then play the project to start verifying that the sounds I hear on each track will match the title. If I find something without a title or with a title I am not used to seeing, I change it. Being comfortable with what you are working on is a big part of the process.

Drum tracks: At this point I listen to the entire project on a loop and start tweaking the more obvious things I want to change. For example, Anthony uses loops for drum tracks, which can have an overwhelming low end to them. So I put an equalizer on the drum track and lower the subs so that they no longer "flub" my speakers at loud volume. I'll then create a drum submix track, place the track inside as a child track and put FabFilter Pro-C2, my favorite compressor, on the sub to level out the drums. I will also put any other percussive tracks inside this submix.

Bass tracks: Anthony uses a virtual instrument for bass tracks and it has an extremely strong sub low. I add the Studio Devil Virtual Bass Amp to make it sound more like a real bass. I would also use this if it were a real bass. Finally, compression with the Pro-C2.

Guitar tracks: Anthony records tracks dry and wet. For distortion he used Shred Amp (which comes bundled in Mixcraft 8). I created a submix and put all guitar tracks inside, put an EQ on the sub and took out any low end from about 60hz on down. Guitars don't reproduce that low and if they do, it's probably a pick hitting a pickup or other unwanted noise. Next I removed redundant tracks. If someone has the same guitar part recorded several times, I remove all but one and use a stereo spread effect instead. Now comes the Pro-C2 again. Lastly comes reverb and delay if needed.

Vocal tracks: Here's the chain of effects used:
Equalizer - Remove anything from 120 on down.
De-esser - To take out harsh SSS and T sounds.
Compression - you guessed it, the Pro-C2.
Lastly comes reverb and delay.

Pan hard left and hard right if there are redundant tracks. This removes the need for the stereo spread effect.

Mastering tracks: I master with only one tool, the FabFilter Pro-MB, which is a multiband mastering compressor. A few more listening sessions adjusting levels on tracks, effects and mastering compressor, and Anthony's song was ready to publish. Exporting and encoding as an MP3 (WAV and FLAC too) in Mixcraft 8 is one click of the button.
It should be noted that Fab Filter and PSP Audioware plug-ins do not come bundled In Mixcraft 8.

Editor's note: Once I received the MP3 file from Eric, I uploaded it to my SoundCloud page. Please enjoy listening to Waves of change. For more advice from Eric, visit his blog Home Recording Studio Tips. To take a closer look at Mixcraft 8, please visit or download a free trial.