TRUST YOUR EARS
Many plugins feature some kind of meter or graphical display to help you visualise what you’re hearing – eg, the spectrum analysers built into many EQs. Yes, these allow you to view problematic frequencies and overall tonal balance, and there are definitely times when you might need to confirm what you’re hearing – to help identify low frequencies, say, when working in a less-than-ideal studio environment – but it’s all too easy to become over-reliant on your eyes. A sound may contain resonant peaks when viewed in a frequency analyser, but those peaks might be what gives the sound its inherent character, and removing them could kill the vibe that you liked in the first place.
That’s why I try to steer away from analysers and visual aids when producing and mixing. Train your ears and go with what sounds good to you!
Mixing drums can be a drawn-out process, especially when you’re juggling lots of individual tracks. I’ve worked on countless projects where I just couldn’t seem to get the kick or snare to work in the mix. Even after hours of EQ and compression, I’ve still ended up with tracks that sound sloppy, muddy and amateurish.
After learning the hard way, I now bite the bullet and swap out drum hits as soon as I realise they’re not working – searching through my sample library and choosing a different sound will probably give the track that extra punch it needs.
That’s why I’ve stopped programming audio on the timeline, especially during the early stages of composition – it’s much trickier to switch out sounds in context this way. Using MIDI samplers for drum sequencing, on the other hand, allows me to keep the same MIDI notes in place but quickly scan through new sounds on the fly.