So far in this series we’ve gone over a ton of production techniques. (If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, definitely check out some of my earlier articles… they’re worth the read.) This week I wanted to focus a bit more on some of the fun stuff – producing effects within our mixes. Generally I like to work on my effects after all of the music has been recorded, so bear that in mind while you read on.
As uninteresting as it sounds, sometimes the simplest effects are the most… dare I say… effective? A radio filter on vocals is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it always sounds so damn cool. A simple flange on your guitar tracks can pique the interest of any listener. And although you may feel like you’re going back to your old bag of tricks from time to time, keep in mind that the bands you’re working with don’t do what you do. They don’t know you added that same effect on 10 songs in the past 2 months. All they know is that it sounds hella cool on theirs. And if they’re happy, you’re doing something right.
You may not want to let your metal bands know that you’ve been pulling inspiration from Taylor Swift, but if you hear something you think would work, go for it! Side chaining isn’t a typically “metal” thing to do, but sometimes it can work perfectly. Sampling and pitch shifting are big in rap, but you’ll hear them all the time in pop and rock. Different genres are constantly borrowing ideas from one another, that’s how music evolves. Try taking ideas you find cool and see if they work with different styles. You might just surprise yourself.
Think of how your effects will sound in the song you’re working on. Every decision you make matters, and it affects how the song will be perceived. If you overdo it, your song will sound synthetic. Is that what you’re going for? Is that what the band wants? After you’ve worked out your effects on a single song, think of your effects in context of the album as a whole. If you’re working on a 10 song record, are you using the same effect too many times? Earlier we said it’s ok to use the same effect – but that’s over the span of 2 months and several different bands. You don’t want the record to sound like it was mixed by a one trick pony. Spread out those effects. Keep things moving and make sure each song has it’s own little taste of something special. The more diverse it sounds the more clout you’ll have as a producer.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard effects that are completely out of place. If it doesn’t feel right odds are that it doesn’t belong. You’ll come across bands who want to throw some awkward effects on their songs and that’s fine. It’s your job to steer them in the right direction, and find the right balance for these effects. Just make sure you aren’t making any poor mixing choices yourself. Avoid things like overly effecting intimate vocals, or layering way too many effects on one particular track. If you’ve been working on a particular part of the song for a long time, take a deep breath, step away from it for a while and come back to it later. You’ll be able to listen to it with a fresh ear and more clarity. If in doubt, you can always get input from a second ear.
Firstly, you’ll want to make sure you’re using effects that sound good. So playing it safe is always a great way to go. But don’t let this hinder your ability to create. If you’re feeling innovative in regards to certain parts of the song then go nuts! Add effects, create layers and get weird with it! What’s done can always be undone, so it’s not like you’re stuck with what you create. Find inspiration from other mixers, other songs, and try to create your own sounds. Have fun, and be creative!
I hope you’re able to incorporate some of these ideas in your future mixes and I’d really love to hear what you create. You can always find me online and send me some of your stuff. Please feel free to comment below and send me some links! As always, thanks for reading. Peace and rock on.