Tag Archive for: sound engineer

Mix & Mastering Preparation Tips

As a mastering engineer one question I get asked all the time is – “how can I get the best pre-master mix out of my tracks?”. It’s an important question for sure, and this post will outline some of the actions producers can make right now to make your tracks sound way better than before. I can promise by following the mix & mastering preparation tips in this article you’ll hear a huge difference towards the final version of your projects.

My clients want big and full sounding tracks, and I love when my customers flip out after hearing the project they’ve worked hard on come back to them sounding every bit as big as the productions they are inspired by. If you ask the best engineers around the world they’ll tell you that working on music with a great quality mix is the key to turning a solid tune into a monster sounding track. But how do we get there first?

My clients come to me to correct and fix the flaws of their mixes, which isn’t always simple and straightforward. Working on properly mixed tracks with plenty of headroom (at least -6db) will make my job much easier and allow me to bring out the very best in your track.

It’s common for producers not to have the right tools or experience when tackling many of the problems that take away from a good mix, and this is where I step in to help. Let’s make clear a few things you can do in prepping your tracks to sound their best from the get go.

  • Avoid extreme EQ’ing. The greater adjustments you apply to a sound, the higher the likelihood of inducing unwanted resonances, and phasing issues. While in sound design, heavy processing can sometimes bring interesting results, it is often much more productive to pair an EQ with a compressor to get the same result. First, use your EQ to cut shelves from your audio source, then use compression to make what you want to hear, louder. TIP: Try using a maximum of 4 points on your EQ.
  • Remove unwanted frequencies. This is mainly about removing unnecessary frequencies from your sound, rather than cranking up the parts you want louder. If your sound isn’t a kick drum or something else in the lower range, apply a high pass filter or EQ and cut everything below 100hz. If your sound is a kick or bass, try cutting everything under 20-30Hz. As for pads, melodies, vocals, I’d suggest doing cuts in the 100-250Hz region as there will always resonances there. If you use reverb, make sure to remove or cut anything under 300Hz as it can easily get congested there, which will take out some of the precision and power of your song.
    In the end using your eq is a process of clearing away space to allow other sounds to be heard more clearly. Less is more.
  • Be careful with cheap plugins. While you can do a lot with free or cheap plugins, sometimes, this might compromise the quality of your work. Most DAW’s will have native plugins such as reverbs, compressors, eq’s etc.. however I recommend investing $30-$50 on a handful of plugins that more than often sound much better than the native plugins your DAW provides. This applies to compression, EQ, reverbs, chorus, delays, etc. I’ll often get effects on Plugin Boutique or Plugin Alliance.
  • Side chain your kick and bass channel. These frequencies will likely overlap to some degree, which will leave your track sounding muddy, and reduce the impact, clarity, and volume of both sounds. Use sidechain compression with your bass and kick to allow both sounds to breathe and peacefully cohabit in your mix.
  • Less is more. Busy mixes, once compressed can sound horribly busy if not EQed properly. Play safe, use less. You might be surprised that on huge sound system, simple elements can sound much more powerful than a giant wall of noise.

These next 3 important points will always make a tremendous difference in the quality of your mix.

• Do not apply compression or limiting on the master (bus). Please leave the compression to me. This might sound like a good idea but your track will likely suffer for it. Mastering is my job, and I need your track to come to me as transparent as possible. If you add compression on the master channel, you’ll likely create distortions and the end result won’t be nearly as tight.
• Give me -6dBfs of headroom. This is super important. Ideally, you should aim to have each channel at -6dB, not just turn the master channel down to -6. This reduction in volume per channel creates the right amount of space for me work with and is essential in getting your track to sound full, and deep.
• 24 or 32bits / 44khZ. This is the requirement for the best results.
• Careful with hiss. Hissing is a background noise that can happen with analog gear or some fun plugins. Once compressed, it might be loud and difficult to mix in, so be careful of the level you use.

In general, the best mixes I get are the once where everything is balanced in terms of frequencies. Here’s a easy way to get that happen:

  • Lower down the volume of your monitoring. You can’t achieve good mixing at high volume. You’ll see right away what’s too loud if you use it that way.
  •  Lower the volume of each channels if they’re too close to 0dB. One bad habit I often see is people pushing all their channels to 0dB. Not only this take off the dynamic range, but it also gets hard to see what’s at the right level. The loudest channel in your mix should be at -6dB, the others below. Why? Because it gives you room (6dB exactly!) to push louder to what requires attention.
  • Find the busiest moment in your track and listen to it looping. Now, use one channel at a time to lower your channels completely and mix each sound up until you hear it properly. The mix out/mix in technique is a good way to pinpoint if something was too loud in the mix. Sometimes, a sound doesn’t need to be that loud and because we overheard the track, we feel everything should be loud.
  • Group channels or use busses. Group your four main frequencies: low, mids, hi-mids, highs. You can then play with volumes of each zones and adjust them so they’re balanced. You may use again the mix in/mix out technique and EQ for subtle details.


I want to hear your feedback on anything talked about in this post. As always let me know if you have any suggestions or tips you’ve come across in prepping your tracks for great mixes. Share this post or leave a comment below and tell me what projects you’re working on right now.


 SEE ALSO : Dynamic Sound Layering and Design 

Conversations with Clients: Kike Mayor

In Conversations with Clients, we bring you an honest and unfiltered look at Pheek’s services, straight from the mouths of those who know — and want you to know too! For this third piece in our series, I spoke with Kike Mayor, a Peruvian techno producer based in New York. 

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Why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself and your experience as a producer?

Well I started DJing back in the year 2000. I started collecting my first records at the end of the 90s, it was during my last years in high school. And then right after, I started playing records, and playing local parties in my hometown in Peru. Shortly after that I found myself playing at these big parties, and I was the warm-up DJ for every single act that came out of the country. Then I started making music around the year 2005, and from then I just kept doing it and made a lifestyle out of it.

You’ve been producing for a long time now then, just over 10 years.

Yes, 10 to 12 years. My first record came out in 2007, so 10 years in the market anyway.

And throughout this time, have you mostly mixed your own music? What’s your experience with sound engineering in particular?

It’s not much. I’ve pretty much been doing my own mixdowns based on my ear training, and it took me a while to realize how important [the mixdown] is. Last year I found Pheek, and he explained to me how a mixdown can really make a difference on the final product. It’s just amazing. And it’s not that he… like, he does nothing to a track that is already produced, he just, how to say it… he puts every single part of a track in its own space. Do you know what I mean? And from that, the tracks sound clean. And like, I never had any complaints about it [before], but I just feel that he improves the final product. Pheek is an amazing sound engineer. He’s my sound engineer!

Until now then, you’ve basically just been doing your best on your own?

Yeah, I was trying to do my best, but I think that having sound engineer knowledge is very important, you know? And I don’t have that. I was always making music and loving my tracks. I don’t think there was ever a problem. But I also think it’s a matter of my own practice as an artist, as a producer, that I always want my stuff to sound better and better and better.

So what inspired you to seek his help, did you just discover his services through his Facebook page?

So I got signed to a vinyl release with a label from Detroit.

Detroit Vinyl Room?

Yes, Detroit Vinyl Room. The owner got in touch with me and said that Pheek was going to take care of the mastering and mixdown.

Isaac Prieto you mean [another client of Pheek’s]?

Yeah, Isaac, yeah [haha]. And so it was really good for me, because – I’m going to be honest – I was trying to get in touch with Pheek before that. I started seeing him offering all these services, but I was always wondering, I mean, would that be alright, would that be good? I didn’t know. Because there’s also the fact that then you have to spend money, you know what I mean? When it comes to spending money on your music, it always has to be a really well thought-out decision. And then Isaac offered to do this for me, and I was like okay, I want to try it for free for the first time, it doesn’t hurt.

Then he introduced us and I sent the project to Pheek, and I loved the final result. I have the test pressing of the record here. It sounds amazing. So from then on, we started talking and talking and talking, and I’m really happy that we started working together, and now we’re friends.

You sound very satisfied with having spent the money! So what was the difference exactly?

The difference was that everything sounded in its place. Like when I see the spectrum of the track, I feel that the spectrum has layers, you know? There are some sounds that go in the back, and some sounds that come in the front, and in the middle. So the tracks stop sounding flat. I don’t know if that’s something for advanced ears, but I got to a point in my life when I realized that that’s what I want. I really found that with Pheek, and I’m very very happy about it. I love making music so much, and I love my music so much, and I want to spend the money to do that. It’s a great service.

Just to hear how my track sounds after Pheek does the mixdown is inspiration for me. I love how every time I send him projects now, he takes less time every time. And that means to me that the previous mixdown I made is improving. It’s just some specific things that maybe a regular ear wouldn’t feel, but I feel it, and sometimes it bothers me.

Would you say then that having Pheek do your mixdowns is helping you develop your own ear and skills at mixing too?

Exactly. 100 percent. I think that Pheek's mixdown services changed how techno producer Kike Mayor views musicas an artist you have to have the inspiration of working with somebody that is a big name – and as I told Pheek, I’ve been following his music way, way before I knew him. Something that I was always highlighting was that thing I told you about with the layers in the music — I was like, how does this guy make his music sound like this?

So when you get the mixdown back, is the track finished, or do you work on it more?

I listen to it, and I pretty much just copy/paste the link and send it to the label. I trust it 100 percent. It sounds awesome. There’s no difference when I mix my tracks with tracks from other artists, with the volume or anything – and I definitely mix my music with music that is awesome, amaaazing – and when I’m playing live, I feel no difference, which is great. That makes me really happy.

How beneficial was it to have a second set of ears on your music? Because usually, when you mix your own music, you’re listening to your own track a million times, right?

Oh, well, I would say there’s a difference with having someone else, and then having Pheek, you know? Just the fact that I respected him so much from before. I mean him being the one now that listens to my music… It’s great, man.

Have you taken anything from the experience that has impacted your production in a more lasting way?

Umm… well basically, the music that I’m making now… I mean I just listen to it and I really love it. I find myself very, very focused right now on producing music that will be, like, timeless.

So it’s really inspired more confidence in your own abilities.

Yeah, exactly, yeah, 100 percent. Because, I mean, it’s been 10 years that I’ve been producing. I started producing progressive house, and then I produced tribal house, and then I produced tech house, and then I produced deep house. And now it’s all about the evolution. I feel like it’s different for every artist, but for me it really took me a while to get to the point where I am now.

Do you know why it took you so long to find someone to do your mixdowns?

Well, I think it depended on my environment, you know? When I was in South America, everything was different. Music was different, the crowds were different, my needs as an artist were way different. Since I moved to New York everything changed, and I started trying to develop a new sound like 3 years ago, in 2013. I’ve been constantly trying to improve and improve since then, and I have changed too. I’m producing music now that is way different from the music I was producing back in 2013, like quality-wise. And now with Pheek, everything is going great.

I’m assuming you have a lot of other friends who produce music too?

Yeah, yeah.

And do they usually do their own mixing too?

Yeah, I guess it’s normal for people that… maybe they don’t want to, maybe they don’t trust. They might think that a sound engineer that does a mixdown for them, if it’s not in person, in the studio, that maybe they would change the song, that they’d regret it. For me it was really easy to trust, because it’s Pheek. 100 percent. I’m planning a trip in February to Montreal, so I want to get down to the studio.

And before Isaac had spoken to you about Pheek’s services, did you have some of these same fears?

Yeah, with my own music, you know… like, I would never give my music or a project to anybody. But I knew Pheek, I’d heard all of his music, and I knew who I was dealing with.

I am very, very happy with his services man.

That shines through!

Awesome [haha]. And also I like the fact that Pheek is helping me. He is always pushing me, and giving me advice.

So you get more than just his mixdown services you mean.

Yeah, I would say that he’s my friend. He really supports me a lot. A lot. Like he always tells me that he loves to work on my projects because they’re fun, and he loves the music I make, which means a lot to me. I’m always like, “Aw, dude, stop!”

– Check out Kike Mayor on Soundcloud.


How To Define Your Label’s Identity With Your Sound Engineer

In this article, I discuss the impact that music mastering can have for a label, and how a good sound engineer can help.

What is label mastering and how you can benefit from it

The term “label mastering” might sound new to you, but it’s something that can make one crew stand out from the others. When I refer to a label’s sound identity, I’m referring to the impression you want your label to leave with fans. For them, a label is:

  • A sign of quality.
  • A sure bet that the sound will sound as great as fans expect.
  • Whenever you look back, that sound still remains.

Label mastering means “making sure the sound is adjusted so each release sounds close to the others, and having a signature that makes your label unique.”

As examples, I could name Chain Reaction and its dirty techno sound, Ostgut with its driven techno, or Perlon’s quirky music.

Think of your own favourite label – one that has been running for years. Now think of the label’s early releases and compare them to the label’s more recent work. There’s a correlation, right? The sound is great, regardless of the release date.

Shaping the sound

A sensitive sound engineer will pay special attention to the label owner’s aesthetics and take a moment to listen to the artists to understand their musical direction. The partnership between an audio engineer and the label is as critical as the graphic designer is to forging the label’s visual identity. I see a label as the product of a strong collaboration between the three.

  • The label owner/manager decides the content of the catalogue.
  • The sound engineer analyzes the releases and directs what will suit them, sound-wise.
  • The graphic designer will aim to visually represent the way the sound feels.

Label mastering means that you will work hand-in-hand with your sound engineer to develop the direction of your label in the long run. If people can use your label as a reference, you’ll know you did well.

my demo is not being listened

Now, a tip for musicians that are sending demos abroad. So often, I see musicians sending me music for my label that sounds like nothing comparable to what we do. It always amazes me to think artists have no idea that a label aims to maintain a certain sound aesthetic. Of course, some labels are more open to different genres and ideas, but in general, the sound quality is what really will make the huge difference in deciding whether your tracks will be accepted or not.


You might also want to consider having a trusted engineer do a proper mixdown for your song, which I can help with.

SEE ALSO : The Changing Dos and Don’ts of Contacting Record Labels

A Great Sound Engineer Will Give Your Song Its True Sound

In this blog post, I will explain how important it is, for the sake of your music as well as for the mastering process, to have a good mixdown. I also want to make the point that working with a trusted sound engineer who knows how to master can be a game-changer.

The Importance Of A Good Mixdown

No matter who your sound engineer is and how skilled he or she is or what equipment they use, there will never be a great-sounding master without a killer mixdown. A good audio engineer should understand your needs as well as your song. An engineer with experience can do that, but choosing the right one is important.

What is a great mixdown?

  • It has a perfect balance of sounds. None are battling to get heard.
  • Each part shines and feels right.
  • The stereo image gives your song a big impression.
  • The song breathes, it doesn’t sound harsh.

There are a few challenges you might face in completing your song.

Perhaps this is familiar?

  • The bass sounds muddy.
  • The main melody seems overshadowed by other sounds.
  • The song lacks overall punch.
  • Your track’s percussion sounds shy.

Sometimes, doing the mixdown yourself won’t give your project the treatment it deserves. If you spent countless hours creating it, you know that it has to sound right. Many producers, even experienced ones, know that a second pair of ears will do it justice. It’s no surprise that most of the best producers give their projects to a trusted mixing engineer.

There are some other challenges too:

  • Your studio is technically challenged (eg., lacks acoustic treatment, no sub, not EQed, etc).
  • You simply lack experience.
  • You’ve heard your song too many times and can’t make decisions.

Again, those are the kind of problems that many people have.

It’s important to choose a sound engineer who has a great understanding of the musical genre you’re producing. This will ensure your sound is in tune with what’s on the market.

Why me?

I’ve been doing mixdowns for myself and others since 2002. The number of songs I’ve done is hard to calculate, but the one thing that matters is that my clients are always satisfied. With almost 20 albums released under my Pheek moniker, I understand the challenges and know when compression should be done, and how.

My main task is to understand what you want to do so I can help you define your own personal sound.

In future articles, I will explain some of my tricks on how to get your music sounding proper.

But if you need an audio engineer like me, don’t hesitate to book me now!