Juan Patino is a quadruple threat. The Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum producer, mixing engineer, singer-songwriter, and instrumentalist has been one of New York City’s busiest and most sought-after sonic sorcerers since producing and engineering Lisa Loeb’s monster hit “Stay” rocketed him to international success in 1994. He and Loeb racked up three studio albums and five Billboard Hot 100 singles. Since then, artists as diverse as Jewel, Eric Benet, Chris Stills, Avenue B, the cast of the Tonynominated Broadway musical Rock of Ages, and countless others have sought out Patino’s studio sheen, crafted in his Manhattan facility, 52nd Street Digital.
Patino, who spends most days and nights camped out at a Pro Tools HD3 rig, shared some of his best production tricks with us. Below is an overview of his go-to plug-ins (plus one toy keyboard!) for different instruments in a contemporary pop mix. In the online version of this story at keyboardmag. com, you’ll find video clips for each tip in which Juan goes into detail about the plug-in settings. Prefer brief, before-and-after audio examples? We’ve got those, too.
Tip 1. Using EQ and dynamics on the main mix.
For fattening his mixes, Patino often inserts the Channel G EQ/dynamics plugin from McDSP on his master stereo fader. It helps increase overall mix depth, providing good control over the bottom end and helping to add air to the high end. As you’ll see in the online video, he goes for about 2 to 3dB of low boost, and adds 1.5dB between 12 and 13kHz to achieve the air.
Tip 2. Adding punch with a loudness maximizer.
A permanent fixture in all of Patino’s mixes is the Waves L3 Multimaximizer plugin, as the final insert on his stereo master fader. It adds perceived loudness to the mix while keeping any disruption of the overall dynamic range to a minimum. In the online audio and video examples, he demonstrates his exact settings and shows us a before-and-after comparison using the song “Romeo” by all-female trio Avenue B.
Tip 3. Treating the kick drum.
Drum sounds are what separate an ordinary mix from a slamming one. In the online examples, Patino inserts Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip plug-in on the kick track, and shows the settings he makes to transform a rather “dull, flabby” kick into something with a lot more low-end chest thump and top-end click.
Tip 4. Treating the snare drum.
On the snare track, Patino layers EQ, compression, and reverb, courtesy of three stacked plug-ins: Metric Halo ChannelStrip, McDSP MC2000, and Digidesign ReVibe. Notice how in before and after examples online, the newly fattened, wider snare drum cuts through the mix more crisply, yet still retains most of its original sonic character. You can also see his settings in the screenshots for MC2000 (left) and ReVibe (right).
Tip 5. Unique sounds from unlikely sources.
Patino regularly searches for sounds outside the sonic box, often with the help of garage sale and toy store finds. In the online examples — these from a recent TV commercial he scored — Patino uses a child’s Casio keyboard he picked up in a Tokyo toy store to create an aural footprint all his own.
Tip 6. Sculpting a software piano into a rock track.
Patino relies heavily on Synthogy’s Ivory piano plug-in, taking full advantage of its onboard ambience and EQ settings. In the online video and audio examples, Patino demonstrates how adding slight reverb and rolling off Ivory’s upper frequencies helps to warm and settle the piano comfortably into his mix of a tune he just co-wrote for a new singer on Atlantic Records.
Tip 7. Building vocal harmony stacks with aggressive panning.
In this frequently-used Patino trick, he builds a sonic bed of ear candy around the track’s lead vocal. The first harmony vocal part is tripled in tracks 1 through 3, then panned hard left, followed by the contrapuntal 2nd harmony part also tripled in tracks 4 through 6, then panned hard right. Each track has its own highpass filter from Waves’ Renaissance EQ 2, followed by a Bomb Factory BF-76 compressor, then Digidesign ReVibe reverb for a dreamier sound. Again, see the online audio and video for detailed settings and beforeand- after comparison.
Tip 8. Creating a conducive studio environment.
Perhaps Patino’s most heavily-used studio tip is “Don’t be a jackass!” He elaborates: “Create a peaceful and stimulating environment for the creation of cool tracks. As a record producer, I try to operate from a place of humility and a heightened sense of compassion. Making music for a living is a deep privilege. Work hard to make the studio a playground for harmony and invention. Oh, and laughter. I’ve found that comedy seems to be the universal language between songwriters, musicians, and singers. Always keep a lot of laughs on tap — they came for the sound, they stayed for the comedy.”