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Five Ways to Become a Better Audio Engineer

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Knowledge is power, and experimentation is key. But there are shortcuts to becoming a better engineer. Read everything you can get your hand on by anyone that knows their craft. Steve Albini (Producer: Nirvana, Pixies, Bush, PJ Harvey) once said in an interview, “Read, read as much as you can” when he was asked for advice on becoming a better engineer. While his advice is solid, there is just so much information to learn that you quickly get information overload.

Luckily, music production and engineering can be broken into a few different parts. Get to know them all separately, or learn them in sequence. It'll make the information easier digest, and you'll feel like you learned something.


1. Create a Good Set Up

Learning how sound travels and behaves in your room is key to understanding how to get a great sound into your microphone. Knowing how to deal with reflections, flutter echo and other acoustical problems is necessary to record great music. Avoid common beginner mistakes by learning about acoustic treatment.

A good set-up goes a long way towards creating a comfortable and creative environment. Make sure your environment is both a catalyst for great productivity and great audio.


2. Learn About Microphones

Knowing how microphones work is one of the absolutely essential parts of working in audio. The various types all have different strength and weaknesses. Being able to select the right microphone for the job at hand is an invaluable skill as an engineer. Learn how to choose and use microphones here.


3. Learn how to Edit Audio

Editing is sometimes overlooked. Mostly because it's the tedious and boring aspect of the whole process. It takes listening skills to edit correctly, cut out extraneous noises and create realistic fades.

Don't overlook this aspect of your production. A badly edited song with abrupt starts and ends of regions, click-track noises and guitar hum is a sign of an amateur producer. Make your mix sound real and sincere, but don't use that as an excuse because you're lazy. For ten quick editing tips, click here.


4. Simple Mixing Tricks Go a Long Way

Don't worry about all the fancy mixing tricks out there. I'll sum up 80% of all mixes right now. Levels, panning, EQ, compression, and depth. And start by doing it in that order.

Don't jump to EQ or compression before you've set proper levels. And don't start pushing things back with reverb and delay before you've given each instrument a place in the two dimensional spectrum. Take it, one step at a time so that you don't get overwhelmed.

Don't EQ just for EQ's sake, and don't compress without understanding what you're doing. Start with these mixing tips, and then immerse yourself gradually.


5. Learn to Prepare Your Mix for Master (Or Just Master Yourself...)

If you're just mixing your demos and want to showcase some of your songs on your website or ReverbNation, then learn simple mastering tricks to master your own tracks. But if you're creating a record for professional mastering, then make sure all your mixes are ready for the mastering engineer. There are certainly many things a beginning engineer doesn't consider when he's preparing his mix for mastering. Make sure you're doing these things, and your mastering engineer will love you for it.

If you're looking for a one-stop, crash-course guide in all the things mentioned in this post and more, then just as a heads-up, Rockable Press is going to be releasing in the upcoming weeks a new book called How to Record Great Music (with whatever equipment you got) written by yours truly.

This book aims to give you crash-course in all aspects of audio recording and music production. From getting the gear you need and setting up, to common recording techniques and mixing tips. If this is something you’d be interested in, then please sign up to Rockable’s mailing list for launch announcements, and you’ll even get a free book about Personal Branding by Skellie as well!

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