Jim Wurster Releases New Album

It was an honor for Magic Ears Mastering to work on Jim Wurster’s recording, “No Joke.” We had the distinct pleasure to work with Vinny Fontana and Guido Marciano, who were open to my mix suggestions, which allowed me to bring out the best sonic qualities in Jim’s wonderful songs.

Lots of talent on these recordings. Lots of passion in the performances.

Congratulations to everybody involved.

Check out this article in New Times Broward Palm Beach that discusses the man behind the songs…CLICK HERE.

 

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Mixing ‘In The Box’ Strategies With Grammy Winner Jacquire King

If you haven’t already signed up for Graham Cochrane’s newsletter at The Recording Revolution, you really should. Like right now.

You get content like this video interview with Grammy Award winning mixer Jacquire King, who discusses mixing “in the box” and many other awesome mixing-related advice.

In this interview, Jacquire walks through his mixing template and setup as well as his approach to tracking bands and producing artists.

 

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Some of things covered include:

  • The missing piece for most artists when producing a record (this totally applies to home studio musicians) – 5:57
  • Why as an artist you must also see yourself as a small business – 8:24
  • The mistake many producers make is wanting to be in complete control15:19
  • One simple strategy to getting the low end in your mix perfect every time (this blew my mind) – 20:09
  • The trick to learning your room/speaker’s bass response (and how to compensate in your mix)28:19
  • The “hand raising” mix approach that allows you to know what to do next in a mix – 30:49
  • Why printing your mix in realtime is a strategic last step to getting your mix just right34:09
  • How too much flexibility is a bad thing (and committing early and often is more strategic) – 37:09
  • The danger of compartmentalizing each instrument when recording (or mixing)39:12
  • What we as engineers can learn from Motown music (hint: it wasn’t the gear) – 47:12
  • Why you shouldn’t focus on making a “good” sounding record48:19

Here’s the video. It is totally worth your time…

 

 

 

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The Simplest Mixing Tool is Often Underutilized

It has been too long since I’ve posted a new mixing tip, but as always, Graham Cochrane of The Recording Revolution shared a perfect tip recently.

It’s so easy to get carried away with all those really cool plugins we’ve spent so much money on. They seem like a panacea and sometimes they are. But there is an important and essential step before you add anything, including EQ and compression (the two most important mixing tools, by far).

What is that?

Setting the initial volume of the tracks. Yep. It is critical to spend a good amount of time sliding those volume faders to get everything in the right proportion to each other before you add any plugins. Imagine that you are mixing live sound and only have volume faders to get everything sounding just right. Below, I am sharing Graham’s recent discussion on this subject. It is great advice. I highly recommend checking out his many affordable video mixing series. They are all awesome and they all have a no-questions-asked money back guarantee.

Here it is, in its entirety:

When you think about mixing, where does your mind immediately jump to?

EQ? Compression? Or what about delay and reverb? Or perhaps automation, sample rates, conversion, summing, speakers, or acoustic treatment?

Mixing is about all of those things, yes. But ironically there is an even simpler “tool” at your disposal on every mix that in reality most of us just don’t take advantage of: volume.

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If You Don’t Get This Part Right Nothing Else Matters

Volume? “C’mon, Graham – that’s too basic. Too simple.

Simple and basic yes. But critical to all of your other mixing decisions? You bet it is.

You see, in a typical mix, many home studio owners will throw up the faders and then start dropping in plugins like they’re getting paid a $100 for each one they insert.They’ve heard that EQ, compression, tape saturation, samples, and the like are all the secret to getting a great mix. And to some extent they would be right.

I preach a message of simple EQ + compression moves as the place where 80% of your mix comes from.

But this is assuming you get the volume piece right.

You see, where you set the initial volume of your tracks will determine far more about your mixes sound than any plugin you insert. This is because the volume balance of track against track is ultimately the most important decision you will make in a mix.

If you don’t get the volume balance right in your mix, nothing else you do matters. In fact, you’re only backing yourself into a corner that is hard to fight your way out of, even with all the best plugins in the world.

So often I’ll find myself trying to get the bottom end of a bass guitar to sound even bigger. I’ll use EQ, compression, and even distortion to make it happen.

And after a while of fiddling and fighting, I’ll discover that if I simply turn off all those plugins and bring up the fader by 2db my bass sounds bigger.

Wow, what a concept.

We Used To Be Called “Balance Engineers”

It’s funny, but something Joe Gilder and I were discussing on the latest episode of The Simply Recording Podcast was the fact that mix engineers used to be called “balance engineers”.

Literally their job was to take the 3 or so tracks available to them (usually they had big old handles or levers instead of faders), and in real time while the band was recording they would balance the volume of those tracks so the final one track (mono) mix was balanced well.

Mixing in a nutshell. Wow.

Sure they might have had an EQ or a limiter somewhere, but at the end of the day, their job (and job title) was clear: create a balance of the microphones in the recording so the final “mix” allows the listener to hear everything well.

And friend, that is all we are trying to do: create a great balance of all the tracks we recorded so that the final Wav or MP3 (or whatever will be around in the future) sounds, well…balanced!

So How Do We Take Advantage Of This Knowledge?

I know what you’re thinking – “This is great and all Graham, but we’re living in the 21st century and modern recording and mixing is a far cry from what it was in the 1950s. How does this all apply to me?”

Well let me give you three practical applications when it comes to harnessing the power of volume in your next mix:

  1. Spend at least twice as much time as you usually do on your static mix. If you typically spend about 10 minutes balancing the faders at the start of the mix, double it. Spend at least 20 minutes next time. If you tend to play with volume balance for 30 minutes, take it up to an hour. The point here is that the more time you spend fine tuning the perfect volume fader balance at the beginning of a mix, the better everything will come together later when you start to add plugins.
  2. Make sure you level match your plugins. Volume is so powerful that we as humans think things that are louder sound better. This becomes a problem for a mixer because if you insert a plugin that not only changes the sound of the track but makes it slightly louder, you will assume it sounds better, when that might not be the case.It’s important that you adjust the output of the plugin so it’s volume AFTER processing is the same as BEFORE. That way you can make a fair assessment of what the plugin is actually doing to your track.
  3. Think about volume over time. Are you allowing certain sections of your song be louder than others? I sure hope so. Otherwise you’re leaving so much mixing power on the table. Take advantage of the simplicity of dynamics. It goes a long way to making a big impact on the listener!

To hear more about this concept of volume being the most important “tool” at your disposal, check out this episode of The Simply Recording Podcast as we discuss the untapped power of volume in a mix.

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RIP, George Martin…

I woke up in the middle of the night – which happens quite often these days – and read the news that George Martin had just died at 90.

There are going to be a lot of philosophically waxing epitaphs written about his contributions to music, as well there should be, but I’m going to keep it short and to the point:

If not for George Martin, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And not just as a musician/engineer/poet…I mean as a man. His contribution to my life cannot be measured, certainly not by a blog post on a mastering company’s website.

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of George Martin Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of George Martin Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

We all talk about changing the world. George Martin actually did.

He was brilliant and talented and humble. We should all strive to be the person he was.

Thank you, Sir George Martin. Rest In Peace.

I believe your first recording session with the Angelic Choir is later today…

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My Top 25 Songs About Love for Valentine’s Day

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For this list, I was going to jot down the first 10 love songs that came to mind and move on with my day. In hindsight, that was a silly notion. Once you start a list like this, there’s really no end to the number of transcendent songs that can be included.

I wasn’t sure whether to include a mixture of songs about romantic love and heartbreak, but decided that a comprehensive list including a wide range of emotions would be best.

These songs have been a huge part of my life and have helped me in ways no words would suffice to describe here. In so many ways, we are defined by these types of songs. They cut to our essence.

Without further adieu, here is my Top 25 songs about love in honor of Valentine’s Day…

25) “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain” – Willie Nelson

24) “Safe From Harm” – Massive Attack

23) “Valentine’s Day” – Bruce Springsteen

22) “Dog & Butterfly” – Heart

21) “Glory Box” – Portishead

20) “Now & Then” – Pete Townshend

19) “Pale Blue Eyes” – The Velvet Underground

18) “A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell

17) “Strange Currencies” – REM

16) “So Cruel” – U2

15) “Hearts & Bones” – Paul Simon

14) “Chances Are” – Johnny Mathis

13) “You Are So Beautiful” – Joe Cocker

12) “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – The Platters

11) “Take Me With You” – Prince & The Revolution

10) “Save The Last Dance For Me” – The Drifters

9) “Nothing Compares To U” – Sinead O’Connor

8) “Love Me Tender” – Elvis Presley

7) “Hold You In My Arms” – Ray LaMontagne

6) “Washing of the Water” – Peter Gabriel

5) “I Only Have Eyes For You” – The Flamingos

4) “Little Wing” – Jimi Hendrix

3) “Kathy’s Song” – Simon & Garfunkel

2) “Love” – John Lennon

1) “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” – Roberta Flack

 

I know there a zillion more (and there are likely glaring omissions), but this is my list.

What’s yours?

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Sometimes a Song Can Save Your Life…A Valentine’s Day Story

I receive songs from all over the world for mastering and mixing. Often it’s a fairly impersonal experience. I don’t get to know much about the song or the person who made it. I simply make it sound as good as possible, send back the finished master/mix and then move on.

Sometimes I have the privilege of getting to know the artist and gaining insight into their song or songs. I’ve had that experience quite deeply with T.C. Urquhart, a quirky South Florida-based singer songwriter who has an ear for catchy melodies and who pours his soul into everything he touches.

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Near the end of 2015, he sent me a song called “Cupid’s Arrows.” He told me that he had been trying to finish it for more than two decades and wanted to see if I could somehow match the sound he was hearing in his mind’s ear, a sonic mix that no mixing or mastering engineer could ever seem to reach.

He called the quest to finish the song his “White Whale” and confided in me that he didn’t think he’d ever get there.

But after a couple of revisions we nailed it! His happiness and appreciation filled me with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. It’s those moments that make doing this so worthwhile.

The story could happily end there, but “Cupid’s Arrows” is no mundane, silly love song; it has a back story that I wanted to share because this song literally saved T.C.’s life. And since it connects to the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, I thought you might find the story as moving as I have.

Two decades ago, T.C. was a brokenhearted and broken man. He was ready to end his life.

We all know the feeling. Who hasn’t been there? We’ve all had our hearts broken. We’ve all put our souls on the line in hopes of experiencing transcendent romantic love. And we’ve all had our souls crushed. It feels like a part of you has died. It feels like you can’t breathe. You have no idea how you’ll be able to survive. You can’t imagine ever being happy again.

For artists, this feeling cuts to our essence, and it can be something from which we never recover.

T.C. was in that dark place. His unrequited love for a cute female guitar player had sent him into a spiral of self-loathing. He was ready to call it quits. He had his suicide planned and decided that he needed to leave a note behind.

He “grabbed a crayon and a wet nap” and scrawled, I don’t want to live this life ’cause this world is so unkind ~ and though I may try my best, I’ve still got cupid’s arrows in my chest again…”

The decision to write the note as slightly florid poetry was meant to be ironic, but then something odd happened: a melody popped into his head, and then an arrangement began to form.

He concluded that if he did indeed kill himself, nobody would hear “the beautiful symphonic-pop masterpiece” that was being drawn from the creative collective and was now coalescing in his mind.

So he made a “solemn promise to the universe” that he would produce Cupid’s Arrows before ending his life.

Thus began a 20 year odyssey to get the song right, to make it sound the way he heard it while contemplating his demise.

Now that we’ve gotten it right, I’m not concerned T.C. will follow through on his suicide pact with the Universe. He has since met the true love of his life, a beautiful redhead he calls “Penny Lane.” He is happy and generous and one of the sweetest, most authentic human beings I have ever met.

I’m happy to call him a friend.

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Last year, he created a video for Cupid’s Arrows and released it on Facebook. It has received more than 80,000 likes and even more views.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, he is re-releasing the video with the remastered version of the song and is also making it available on iTunes:

CUPID’S ARROWS ON iTUNES.

You can also listen to the remastered version of Cupid’s Arrows on the Magic Ears Soundcloud page: Cupid’s Arrows Remastered.

Since Cupid’s, I’ve worked on many of T.C.’s passionately romantic songs. He is putting together an album that does not yet have a release date. I’ll share it here when he sets one.

This experience has underscored one of the most important aspects of what Magic Ears offers: we see this as a collaboration, one that is strengthened by personalized attention and detailed communication.

This is why automated mastering services will never get it right and why establishing a strong rapport with someone who is working on your music is essential to making it sound great.

I look forward to working with you, great unknown (and known) songwriters of the world. Let’s make magic happen together!

Remember that the first song is mastered for FREE!

Click here for details: FIRST SONG FREE!

Happy Valentines Day!

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2 Monitoring Tips For Mixing In The Home Studio

One of the things I do quite a bit with home recording musicians is advise them on their mixes prior to mastering. Often, having a second set of (magic) ears can be extremely helpful in hearing things you might not hear yourself. I don’t mind doing it. This is, after all, a collaborative effort.

There is so much that goes into mixing, but at its core, it’s about balancing elements. Mixing is also a constant learning experience. Even the best mixers are learning new things all the time. If mixing your songs to the best of your ability matters to you, then you should be constantly consuming new information and learning new things.

With that in mind, Graham at TheRecordingRevolution.com shares a lot of incredibly helpful information. I’m always learning from his free videos and his blog. I’ve also bought some of his content and refer to it often.

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This video below was one he shared only with his email subscribers (you should opt in right away!). In it he provides two extremely helpful pieces of simple advice on getting the most out of your home setup.

 

  1. Mix at low volume
  2. Monitor your mix on more than one set of speakers/earphones

These two pieces of advice cannot be stressed enough. They are fundamentally important and will immediately improve your mixes. I mix everything at low volume (and in mono more than 85 percent of the time).

I also check every mix and master on at least five monitoring sources, including Genelecs and Focals on the high and on the lower end, Avantone MixCubes, a pair of Ink’d 2 earbuds from Skull Candy and my iMac’s internal speaker.

Click the link below for access to the video!

Two Monitoring Tips for Mixing in the Home Studio

Also, this is a helpful guide to reference monitors for those who record at home: 10 Best Studio Monitors for Home Recording.

For first time Magic Ears customers: we offer your first song for FREE!!!

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Resolve to Master Your Recordings in 2016

First, a BIG THANK YOU to the recording artists around the world who have helped make Magic Ears successful in 2015! Your trust means the world to me, and I look forward to continuing to help you realize your artistic visions in 2016!

Another HUGE THANK YOU goes out to the members of the media (and Facebook group administrators) who have provided coverage and support in 2015. Your help is greatly appreciated.
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Throughout the year, I’ve helped many people understand the importance of mastering. Once a song has been written, there are three essential elements that go into releasing music: Recording, Mixing and Mastering.

Many artists record and mix their music, but they stop short of finishing their projects because they don’t master their mixes. Think about it this way: can you name one major album that you love that wasn’t mastered? Of course you can’t! So why release something of your own unmastered? Makes no sense, right?

So, while you are making those New Year’s resolutions, here’s one that will be a lot easier to keep than losing weight or quitting cigarettes (both things you really should do, by the way): Master your music in 2016.

Perhaps you have older mixes you never got mastered (or need to be remastered), or you have new recordings that should be mastered. I will work with you to make certain your music sounds as good as it possibly can for a price that you can afford (I also offer exceptional mixing at reasonable prices. Click here for details).

For new customers, we will continue to offer your First Song Free!

I love helping artists achieve their goals and dreams, and I look forward to collaborating with you in the new year!

Happy New Year from Magic Ears Mastering!

 

Warmest regards,

Adam Matza

Owner

Magic Ears Mastering

 

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