Sound Design and Mix Tips

Image placeholder title

By Francis Preve

IT’S HARD TO IMPRESS MOST PROFESSIONALS. BY THE TIME YOU GET TO A certain level in this industry, it’s partly because you’ve mastered sound design and engineering, so this month we asked our roundtable to describe an engineering or sound design trick that impressed them.

1. Matt Lange on Amon Tobin

Amon Tobin’s new album ISAM is a spectacular example of innovative and contemporary sound design. Using a Kyma system controlled by a Haken Continuum, Amon takes recordings of simple objects around his house and creates entirely new sonic worlds via the granular and spectral re-synthesis algorithms of the Kyma system. He posted a YouTube video detailing part of this process, and it’s truly inspirational.

Image placeholder title

2. Morgan Page on EDX

I’m really impressed with how EDX’s engineer gets his songs crazy wide and loud. I think it’s a mix of delay, compression, and EQ, good room reverbs, and knowing how to judge the meters—sometimes clipping isn’t really clipping. Monaural compatibility to me is really important and it’s something I always strive to achieve, but ultimately it’s always a compromise. If you go too wide you can lose the impact with some sounds.

Image placeholder title

3. Boom Jinx on compressors

If you want a high-quality, refined, and classy mix instead of just a “functional mix” that temporarily wows you, less truly is more. This is especially true when it comes to signal compressors. As the years go by, I find myself pushing compressors less and less to achieve the results I want.

Image placeholder title

4. Josh Harris on Dr. Luke and synth stabs

I think that some of the vocal production tricks that you hear from Dr. Luke’s camp on the Katy Perry and Britney Spears tracks are awesome. A lot of the time, the stutter and pitch-bent vocals that you hear in breakdown sections or at the end of phrases add such a nice touch. They take time to create but are extremely effective. In dance music, we use a lot of synth comp sounds, e.g., stabs. Sometimes one sound isn’t thick enough, so I’ll just duplicate my MIDI data on another track and use a different sound, but something similar so that they blend well. I may also replay the part using slightly different chord voicings, so that it’s not an exact duplicate of the previous part.

Image placeholder title

***Watch Amon Tobin analyze and resynthesize sounds using the Kyma system.