Inside The Mix | Music Production and Mixing Tips for Music Producers and Artists

#79: 6 Essential Mixing and Mastering Tips | Color Theory

April 25, 2023 Color Theory Season 3 Episode 20
#79: 6 Essential Mixing and Mastering Tips | Color Theory
Inside The Mix | Music Production and Mixing Tips for Music Producers and Artists
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Inside The Mix | Music Production and Mixing Tips for Music Producers and Artists
#79: 6 Essential Mixing and Mastering Tips | Color Theory
Apr 25, 2023 Season 3 Episode 20
Color Theory

Joining us today is the talented artist and mastering engineer, Brian Hazard, also known as Color Theory.

In this episode, we dive into the world of music creation and production, exploring Brian's influences and favorite instruments. We also talk about his approach to songwriting and composition, and he shares some valuable tips on how to get started with a new song.

Brian shares his insights on the mixing process and explains why it's not a separate process from mastering engineering. He also gives us his top tips for DIY mixing and mastering, including why you shouldn't use multi-band compression and whether dynamic EQ is a good idea.

We explore the age-old question of whether too many plugins are detrimental to mixing and mastering, and Brian shares some great advice on how to avoid common mistakes.

Finally, we get into the nitty-gritty of mastering, and Brian reveals what he thinks is the biggest mistake that can be made in the process. We also discuss whether mastering engineers hear music differently than other people.

Don't miss out on this insightful conversation with Brian Hazard of Color Theory!

To follow Color Theory, click here: https://colortheory.com/

Send me a Message

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Joining us today is the talented artist and mastering engineer, Brian Hazard, also known as Color Theory.

In this episode, we dive into the world of music creation and production, exploring Brian's influences and favorite instruments. We also talk about his approach to songwriting and composition, and he shares some valuable tips on how to get started with a new song.

Brian shares his insights on the mixing process and explains why it's not a separate process from mastering engineering. He also gives us his top tips for DIY mixing and mastering, including why you shouldn't use multi-band compression and whether dynamic EQ is a good idea.

We explore the age-old question of whether too many plugins are detrimental to mixing and mastering, and Brian shares some great advice on how to avoid common mistakes.

Finally, we get into the nitty-gritty of mastering, and Brian reveals what he thinks is the biggest mistake that can be made in the process. We also discuss whether mastering engineers hear music differently than other people.

Don't miss out on this insightful conversation with Brian Hazard of Color Theory!

To follow Color Theory, click here: https://colortheory.com/

Send me a Message

Support the Show.


► ► ► WAYS TO CONNECT ► ► ►

Grab your FREE Producer Growth Scorecard TODAY!
✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸
Are you READY to take on the 28-day challenge and release more music?
Bag your FREE Producer Growth Scorecard at Synth Music Mastering: https://www.synthmusicmastering.com/scorecard

Send a DM via IG @insidethemicpodcast
Email me at marc@synthmusicmastering.com

You are listening to the Inside The Mix podcast with your host, Mark Matthews.

Marc Matthews:

Hello and welcome to the Inside the Mix podcast. I'm Mark Matthews, your host, musician, producer, and mix and mastering engineer. You've come to the right place if you want to know more about your favorite synth music artist, music, engineering and production, songwriting and the music industry. I've been writing, producing, mixing, and mastering music for over 15 years, and I wanna share what I've learned with you. Okay folks, welcome back to the Inside The Mix podcast. If you are a new listener of the Inside The Mix podcast, welcome and don't forget to hit that subscribe button. And if you're a returning listener, welcome back. Now in this episode, I'm very excited to welcome my guest today, Brian Hazed, aka a Color Theory. So he is, or Color Theory is a synth pop artist and professional mastering engineer with a passion for songwriting and. And has amassed more than 5 million streams across streaming platforms. Wow. And he's gonna share with us a little about his background and several songwriting and music production, Pearl of Wisdom. Hi Brian, AKA Color Theory. How are you? And thank you for joining me today.

Brian Hazard:

I'm doing wonderful. Thank you for having me.

Marc Matthews:

Fantastic. Just for our audience listening, I always ask this now cuz the podcast has a a worldwide reach. Where are you joining us from today? I

Brian Hazard:

am in Huntington Beach, California.

Marc Matthews:

Oh, brilliant. Uh, what I I, this is totally, uh, a British thing to say now, but what's the weather like there?

Brian Hazard:

Uh, actually it's, it's not characteristically, uh, Southern California. It's, uh, it's over. Uh, it's in the, now don't, don't make me do a Celsius thing. It's in the, it's in the mid fifties Fahrenheit. Yeah. Right now. So, I mean, it's nice. It's, you know, I'm running in a t-shirt and shorts, but I do that all year

Marc Matthews:

anyway, so. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, nice. It's, um, It's, it's moderately overcast here and I think it's about 10 degrees. I dunno what that is in Fahrenheit. Um, that makes Yeah, two of em. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. But, uh, the fact is overcast, it's, it's the, like I said just then, the reason I ask is it's the podcast does. I speak to people all over the globe and it's so cool that there's this platform available whereby you can have these conversations and it's, uh, it's amazing. I'm always intrigued. I was chatting to you somebody earlier in Singapore. Um, wow. So, yeah, it's fantastic getting to meet people all over the globe. Brilliant stuff. So color theory, tell our audience a bit about your sort of musical influences growing up. Um, which artist song or album sort of left an indelible mark on you and sort of for, made you forge your career, your pathway in music?

Brian Hazard:

Well, my first actual music purchase was the Eagles Hotel California on cassette. Um, I wouldn't say that that was the one that really got me into music, but that's when I started having enough interest in music to branch off from my parents. I think that was right around the time where they switched over to country music. So the, the album that really connected with me the most was, it's not gonna be a big surprise, was Depeche Mode. Um, it was some great reward and, um, my best friend and I, we would like, he'd, he was always introducing me to music. We'd play the records, we'd like to sit there and listen to music. Right. I, I imagine that. Mm-hmm. Sit there with the sleeve open and the lyrics, and, you know, pretty soon we're singing along and then sooner or later it's like, okay, well I'm gonna do the higher harmonies when we're singing along. I mean, it was, it's pretty silly. Um, so I had somebody, of course, was the song that I, I really fell in love with, and I remember he had a typewriter. I, I know I sound really old, but it was, it was old for the time too. Um, his mom was a professional. I don't know the, the proper transcriber. Transcriber, yeah. Is that really it? So, um, for medical records and stuff, so there's a typewriter and I love those lyrics so much. I, um, I typed them up, um, and I took 'em home and I, you know, dubbed it to cassette from his record and I listened to it all the time. So that was, that was really the branching off point for me.

Marc Matthews:

Amazing. I love the fact you mentioned Eagles Hotel California as well. Uh, as soon as you said that it, it sparked my, um, my sort of nostalgia from my music influence. And when I started playing guitar, the, the reason I sort of started playing was because I wanted to do the, the guitar harmonies from Hotel California. Um, at the end I still, yeah, still haven't got round to actually doing it. To be fair. I then went and pivoted in various other directions and then obviously you've got the dip hash mode influence there as well. And I think it's fair to say it's, you can sort of hear that in your, in your music and. We'll come onto that in a bit, but No, that's brilliant. That's brilliant. So, as, as actually a musician, do you, do you have a, a particular instrument that you are sort of proficient with or do you have multiple instruments?

Brian Hazard:

Yeah, uh, well I am very, very proficient at the piano. More proficient of course, than I need to be because I got, I actually got a degree in piano performance. So essentially I went to school to be a concert pianist to, you know, is what it comes down to is what my day looked like. So, Uh, yeah, that's my main instrument. Um, I, uh, played mallet percussion in the drum line and all the, and all the different instruments for different things. And I taught high school drum line for a few years. So, uh, you know, I'm, I'm decent at percussion and, and can manage the drum set. I, I. Got through, uh, rock band in expert mode, the whole thing. Fantastic. Can't play a lick guitar. I think at one point I could play, um, message in a bottle by the police, which was actually pretty impressive, and I could kind of sing it, although my, by the end of the song, my voice was tired. Um, yeah. So that's about it for me. I, you know, I don. Consider myself a singer. Of course. That's the most important thing I do.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's uh, it's an interesting, interesting one being a singer because I, I every, cuz I write my own music as well and I always talk with the idea of thinking, you know, what, can I sing? Should I give it a go? Um, at what point, cause I'm always intrigued by this. At what point did you think, actually, you know what I, I, I can sing a letter. I'm gonna, I'm gonna throw it down on a, on a record and see what happens. Oh, no,

Brian Hazard:

I, I mean, I was always doing it. Like I had in, in high school, I was in a band called The Thought Chapter, which I named one of my albums after. Um, it's just me and a friend and his brother. And, uh, and I, you know, I sang and traded off with, with him. And, uh, then I was at a band called European White Disco in College that was kind of like, Wham meets Duran Duran, if you could imagine that. Wow. And I sang back up, so I, I always sang, but I, I never, I'm not lead singer material, you know what I mean? Like, I'm not going to go in on a stage with just me and a mike and, you know, yeah. Do, do the things. That's just not me.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. Yeah. I get you. I get you. Lovely stuff. I think what we'll move on to next then is sort of, um, the main item, which is surrounded sort of music production and a bit of writing songwriting about your, with regards to your music. So I think it'd be good to start off with, with a song in particular. So, uh, if you want me to be in the title of the song, um mm-hmm. Can you just break down for our audience, sort like the songwriting and composition processes or process for this particular song? How does a song start for color?

Brian Hazard:

Yeah. So the, the process between songs isn't too different. So, and I, I don't wanna bore you with a, a huge, uh, diatribe on this, but basically I have a process and then I have a process I'd like to do, but I don't do. Okay. So the process as it actually happens is, you know, like most people, I hear about people having these unfinished ideas and people don't finish songs and you see on YouTube like how to finish. That is not my problem. I do not have extra ideas lying around. Yeah. For, for me, uh, I have to deliver a song every month to patrons on Patreon and with studio work, you know, you never know when that's coming in, and that's obviously priority. And so sometimes, you know, it gets really close to the end of the month and I've gotta deliver a song. Um, so basically, I. Writing and recording a song in about five days. The whole, the whole thing. Yeah. Um, so, okay, so I always start from a production snippet and so that that's, you know, usually just like, Drums, bass, maybe some kind of lead arpeggio or synth line or just, just enough there to establish a feel. Mm-hmm. And the reason I do that is, you know, naturally I would write at the piano and I did my first couple albums. I wrote them at the piano. And I think what I found is that I, I had like reviewers refer to it as an album of ballads. There's just something about writing at the piano that. Doesn't necessarily translate to, you know, a synth pop kind of context. Mm-hmm. So I think starting with that idea and having a groove in mind makes it a lot easier. Um, so I've got that groove. Uh, as far as the song itself, I, I like to start from a title, cuz if you've got a cool title that's half the battle. Yeah. Um, generally from there, uh, I end up producing the entire instrumental. So now I've got, I mean, every little bit, you know, even though the, you know, the transitions and sweeps and all the, all that kind of stuff. Um, just because by the time I record vocals and work through the vocals and all that, like, I, I don't want to go back and read, you know, and touch up the production and add the finishing touches. Mm. Um, okay, so the mel, the, the melodies. Now I'm gonna poke out at the piano or you know, synth piano, figure that out, write some lyrics, record the vocals, mix it, and master. And for me, the mastering is not a drawn out thing. It's really just compression, limiting, and dither and anything else that needs to be addressed. I'm gonna go back in the mix and.

Marc Matthews:

Okay.

Brian Hazard:

Yeah. That's the process.

Marc Matthews:

Fantastic. Yeah, so I've, I find it, and it is fantastic that you've got the, uh, the Paton side of things going and you, you've given yourself this accountability there to, to writing these songs and. I love, I love that idea. And then it's almost like you, well you have got a deadline, haven't you? To write this song? Yeah. For your Pat, pat, Patreon, Patreons. Um, and also the idea that you have no extra ideas lying around, which I think's interesting as well, cuz it's sort of mirrors. I don't have a pat and I'm not, I'm not, um, releasing music in, in that sort of format, but it. I personally as well, I don't have loads of ideas lying around. I sort of focus on one particular idea, or maybe two or three that are gonna form a cohesive piece rather than have multiple ideas. Um, I mean, the fact that you, you don't have loads of ideas lying around, do you think that's why you find it so much easier to, to finish a song so you're not getting dis distracted by sort of like shiny objects? This other idea that I've got over there, um, how do you stay focused on one, just one.

Brian Hazard:

Well, the, the deadline is, is very persuasive, as we mentioned. Yeah. So, I mean, it's been, it's been six years now on Patreon, so that's, uh, what, 62 songs. Did I do that right? No, that can't be right. Yeah, that, uh, Why am I having trouble with this? No, 60 is five years, right? Mm-hmm. So 72, 72 songs, 72 tracks. So it works really well. Before Patreon, it took me six years to do an album because I would just keep rehash, you know what I mean? You, you finish the last song and then you go back to the first song and you're like, well, that's not up to the standard of the last song anymore. I need to touch that up. And then you, it's just an endless cycle. Um, so yeah, I think. Sit down and, and do it cuz it's gotta be done. Mm-hmm. And I don't, I'm probably not gonna abandon an, an idea because even if the song isn't great, you know, it's still gonna be up to a standard I establish. And if it's a patron exclusive that's, that's even kind of cooler, you know what I mean? Like, then that's something special that they get that nobody else gets to hear. Maybe a different side of me that doesn't, you know, kind of mesh with the public, you know, profile.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. Yeah, it is. That, that's great. I, I love that. And I think the fact that you are releasing so many, so many songs. I mean 60, what did we say? 72 songs? 72 in 60 years. Over, over, yeah, over six years is amazing. And I like the idea that you sort of, you plow on through and com complete a song and it kind of mirrors the conversation I had with, uh, with Ed's sunglasses kit before Christmas in 20, in 2022, where he said the same thing. It's kind of like you, you, you might hit a brick wall. You might think, actually this song isn't quite doing it for me, but just persevere and break through and write that song anyway. Cause you dunno what's gonna happen on the other end. Which I think is a great thing for our audience because I know I, I do chat and I interact with a lot of the audience and the idea of not finishing songs is one of their main pain points is, is finishing a song and also thinking, actually, you know what, I'm gonna start something else cuz I've got a better idea. But just, yeah, I, I mean I've, I've fallen foul of that, but in 2023 I've made a point now of thinking. I'm gonna write a song. I've got 30 minutes a day I'm gonna dedicate to songwriting and I'm gonna break the back of the song. I'm gonna get through and do it, and it, and it's, I'm reaping the awards from it. It's, and the podcast does help. I speak to so many artists like yourself, and it's great for me in the audience cuz I can take all this information, absorb it, pick the pieces I want. And create this, this amazing workflow, which is fantastic. So with regards to your composition, so we've, sorry, we've been through the composition process, so with mixing as well. So you've, you've, you're doing all that in five days. How do you, sort of, the mixing process, how do you get it? For one of a bay way of putting it. How do you get it done so quickly? It's,

Brian Hazard:

it's not really a process. Um, so the, the best example of that would be, um, you know, I, I dunno if you saw this, I, I released a cover of Depeche Mode's ghost, again, within 12 hours of them releasing it. Um, no, I haven't seen this. Yeah. So I found out, uh, I think I, I was emailing people who. Stuff on Band Camp. You know, I like to send a personal email every time somebody does that. Mm. And somebody replied and then just mentioned, Hey, the new, looking forward to the new Depeche mode single tomorrow morning or tomorrow or something. I was like, what? Okay. I, I, I mean, I knew they had an album coming out, but I tried to stay away from social media, so I didn't know that it was actually coming out at that day. So I went for my run, came back, looked for the song, it wasn't there. And I saw on YouTube it was gonna come out like in 20 minutes. So I, I, um, you know, got a drink, hug out, heard the song. I was like, oh, I kind of like this. I, I think I could do something with this. And I just threw everything aside and there it is. So the, the mixing isn't really a separate process. Um, like I don't rough everything out with sounds and just hope to fix it later. You know, I've gotta hear how it's going to sound in context. So I'm always kind of mixing as I.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah, I can see how that would make, uh, sort of expedite the process and make it quicker. So with regards to mixing, are there, have you got any sort of like top tips for if, if for producers out there, the audience are listening, who are writing and mixing as they go? Have you got any sort of top tips or maybe a top tip for producers, artists that are doing that?

Brian Hazard:

Well, I've, I've maybe a controversial one, so I've got just a load. Advice that is me as a mastering engineer. Mm-hmm. Telling clients to do so that their mixes are prepared properly. Perfect. The worst thing that they can do is to mix through compression and limiting, because they wanna know how it's gonna sound. I know this is controversial. A lot of people swear by it. Uh, what happens is they do that and. To me if they're gonna compress the whole mix. Anything you do to the whole mix is kind of by definition mastering. Yeah. In, in my opinion, right? Mm-hmm. Because that's, it's done on the master. It's performed on the master. So if you're gonna compress it before you give it to me, My hands are tied. A, as far as I'm concerned, the the attack and release characteristics of your compressor are permanently imprinted on the whole mix. I'm not gonna be able to get the punch out of it that I want. So then, then, and you know, I, I usually hear things like, oh, it's only like, you know, two or three db, which is huge. Like, like, to give you a perspective, I use, um, unison mastering compressor as, as. My main, uh, tool for mastering, and it's the most intimidating plugin ever. It's got, it's amazing the way that you can fine tune the detection circuit at different frequency bands to respond to the mix, but it's only a broadband compressor. It's not multi-band. But yeah. Anyway, one of the features is you can, um, set a, a limit on compress. Um, so I have it set to two db, like it will never compress more than two B two db because I've, I've set that as a limit. So when people say, oh, it's just a couple DB before they send it to me, it's like, well, okay, I I, there's nothing left. Yeah. So I would just, I just, my advice is always don't mix through compression and limiting, it's a crutch. Get it right in the mix. Um, so that, that would be my number one.

Marc Matthews:

Oh, brilliant. So what about, so not necessarily a devil's advocate here, but Sure. What about, uh, producers that are mixing into, I dunno, some form of like, I dunno, tape emulation or something like that. Would you advise? Oh, that's the worst. Would you advise then, like, leaving that mix bus empty. Yes.

Brian Hazard:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, okay. The, uh, so if you want, well, tape emulation, not so much, but I mean, if you want, if you want some sort of glue compression on the drum bus, I mean, go for it. Of course. That's not what I'm saying. I'm not, I'm not saying don't use a compressor anywhere in your mix. I'm just saying. Of course. Yeah. Just not on the master bus. Yeah. Um, tape emulation. You know, it's, it's compression. Yes. Somewhat, depending on how you hit it. It's adding harmonics, so it's a saturated, depending on how you hit it. Um, I again would say if we want that color, it would be better for me to apply it after I do my other stuff. Yeah. Um, there's a really cool, again, in unison, there's a little. Button called Hige, I think is how it's pronounced. I think it's like a, you know, a Scandinavian thing. I don't, I don't know. I think it means sweet or something. But anyway, it's just, it's just a little, um, Kind of transistor circuit that accomplishes a lot of the same thing that I can. That just sounds amazing that, you know, if I get something that's really cold and sterile, it doesn't happen much these days, but you know, like I just mastered a 20 year old album and, and converters were different back then, so, Hmm. I really helped warm that up. So I've got tools on my end of course, to do that. And I. I would just say, you know what I do when somebody really insists on having that is I say, okay, can you send me the mix both ways with the tape amul emulation without, and so I know what you're going for. And then I will do, hopefully prove to them that it was better without, but yeah,

Marc Matthews:

you know. Brilliant. So going back to what you said earlier then about, uh, when you are mixing, see you are effectively and, and how when you're mixing your own music and then you master. After thereafter, you, you mentioned there about you go back and fix in the mix rather than fixing the master. And obviously that is, that makes perfect sense. So just to touch on your, your mastering chain again, of what you are using in your particular, um, mastering for our audience listening and if they are doing their mastering at home, this sort of DIY mastering, have you got any advice? Maybe again, a, a top tip if they're mastering their own. Yeah, what would be your top tip there?

Brian Hazard:

Well, okay, uh, so you, if I ramble, you'll need to stop me, but No go. I've got a little bit of a preach it kind of thing. So I would, I would stay away from AI mastering at all costs. I actually. Consulted on Landers engine for a while. Um, and you've seen like the latest ozone has basically AI mastering built in. Mm-hmm. Um, so you get a little better idea of how it works and, um, Those processes and, and this is, goes for plugins like Gofo or Sooth two. Mm-hmm. Any of these plugins that are in real time, pushing your mix towards a certain spectral balance that they've predetermined is appropriate for your genre. Right. So if you've got. You know, EDM preset. Then they've, they've decided like, here's a tonal shape for the whole mix that, that we see across the number of E D M hits, which, I mean, the, the methodology sounds like it makes sense, right? So, yeah. Yeah. We want it to sound like a hit. So let's just keep pushing your mix in that direction the whole time. Um, wh where it falls apart though, is, you know, if you've. Say the third verse, you dropped the kickout for eight bars because you know you're trying to build up some tension and you want that to sound softer. Well, these plug-ins don't know that, so they're gonna push, you know, the, the low end up now to try to get you towards that. Shape that really doesn't apply anymore. Yeah. Or if the high hat drops out, you know, and what now? Now we gotta push all the highs, the sibilance is coming up. So just philosophically it just doesn't make any sense. So, um, that would be the main thing. So, You know, ozone like isotopes. Really cool. Somebody from there emailed me like a few years ago and said, Hey, is there anything from our collection you want? And I said, no. And then, and then I think just like maybe six months ago I saw the latest one and there was. There's a tool in there. I don't know if you've seen this. It, um, you can specifically raise the level of the bass. The vocal Yes. Or the drums. I have seen this. Yep. And I was like, oh, that looks cool. So I, I said, Hey, does that offer still stand? Yep. They sent me a, a code for the, the full, like top level ozone. So I've experimented with that. I've used it. I used it on that 20 year old record. I mean, it was basically, you know, it, it was thrashed. I was just trying to, you know, get, get what I could from it. And there were some really interesting tools there. Um, so the main thing there is if, if you're gonna master yourself, like. You don't have to use all the modules. Yeah. Yeah. And think really hard if you need multi-band, like the real world is not multi-band. We don't split things up and, you know, and bounce them off walls differently or Yeah. You know what I mean? Like, it's just, especially for, for people in the synth wave world, we're trying to, you know, create an 80 sound with tools that didn't exist. It it. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, so. I, you know, I use, um, broadband, as I mentioned with Unison Compressor. I, it has multi-band detection circuits, but all the compression is broadband, and I think that makes the most sense. So I would stay away, you know, when, if I'm going multi-band, it's because I'm solving a problem. You know, the, the high hats like, Maybe they're fine, but when the shaker comes in, in addition to the hi hats, now, it's crazy loud. And so, and, and I can't get them to fix it in the mix. The, the big thing with me as a mastering engineer, the, the difference I think between me and most people is that we go back and forth and fix it in the mix. And that makes my job easy. Like, I'm not, I'm not here to show off all the cool toys that I have to, you know what I mean? To demonstrate the way that I can. You know, work around all the problems you've created. I, I wanna get it right. And then what happens is over time then the people who work with me come back with better and better mixes and it's easier for everybody. So, yeah. Yeah, I would just say, you know, if you're good at do it yourself, air less is more. Um, you, compression is the main sound, the main difference between a mastered mix and an unmastered mix. So you're gonna, Same compression, and of course you're gonna need limiting and dither at the end of the stage. Mm-hmm. And, um mm-hmm. Anything else? If you can fix it in the mix, I, I say fix it in the mix.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. Great advice. Um, totally agree with that. With regards to fixing it, fixing it in the mix. And it's sort of echoes a conversation I had a few weeks ago whereby we went through the phases of recording, mixing, mastering, and how get it right at source when you're recording so you're not having to fix it in the mix and then get it right in the. So you're not then having to fix it in the master and it just ma, it just makes sense. Going back to what you said there about multi-band compression, actually no. Before I move on to that bit, I really like what you said about how, where we're creating music that existed in the eighties. We're using tools that didn't necessarily exist. And I'd never thought of it that way. And I really like that idea. And I think for the audience listening, if you think about it that way, when you're next time you're producing a song, just only use tools that might, I mean, you're not, probably not gonna have, they're necessarily have those tools to hand, but maybe limit yourself to tools that you think would've been around in that particular time and see what you come up with. I think that's a great idea. So with regards to multi-band compress, Why do you think multi-bank? Because I've heard, uh, a few people say that now audio engineers, mix engineers, mastering engineers about multi-bank compression and how not, I mean, you, you can use it, but they kind of recommend not using it. Why do you think there is, uh, a, a sort of a pocket of people that like to push multi band compression?

Brian Hazard:

Yeah, I, I don't know. I, I keep up, I, lately I've tried to keep up with quote unquote modern production techniques. Mm. You know, watching because I, I honestly, I kind of stopped upgrading my tools doing, and, and this is another discussion for later, but hardware, since I hadn't kept up with at all for like 20 years, basically. So lately I've, I've kept up with, Uh, hardware tools, you know, doll list kind of setups, and, and those k and just synths and with the latest plugins. And that's why I, I just feel, uh, so adamant against some of these, you know, uh, tools that are there to tame what they call, you know, nasty resonances. Mm. If, if you'll per me just to explain that a little more cuz that's Yeah. Go, go for it. I feel like that is so key. Like people now I see it everywhere. Like I just saw a little, um, uh, a mix demonstration from the guy who mixed the weekends after hours and it's on this site called Mix with the Masters, which, yeah. Yeah. Looks cool. So he goes through the, the chain, uh, the mastering chain and the vocal chain. And, and I. It's amazing to me the record sounds as good as it does, uh, you know, cuz he goes through a clipper and he is got, um, but he's got gold os on the master and you just see that thing like it's got this huge spike pushing up at 12 k like the whole way Bob and up and down at 12 K and it's like, you know, in gold os you can't actually restrict the frequency range. So it doesn't, you know, that's obviously not what, what we want. Um, so, but here's the thing. Okay. So. Acoustically. This idea of resonances being a problem just doesn't hold water. You know, if, if I'm singing, if the song is in the Kyiv G mm-hmm. And the bass guitar is playing a G and I'm singing a G, you're gonna see frequencies that correspond with G. Yeah. All over. That's what we want. That that is a feature, not a bug. We don't need to tame that. So if I, let's, let's turn this around. What if I said to you, I have a tool that will turn up every note that is out of key with your song. Would you like to use it? I hope that you would say no.

Marc Matthews:

I would. I would say no to that. I would say no. Yeah, a hundred

Brian Hazard:

percent. Yeah. But that's what we're signing up for. So, and now I lost what the question was, cause I'm just so passionate about this.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah, I think it was, it started off with multi-bank compression. Why? Why, uh, why? Uh, some, some producers, engineers, et cetera, advocates are multi-bank compression. Um, but what you said there about resonance is, is fantastic. Um, but yeah, it was multi-bank compression.

Brian Hazard:

Yeah. I, I, um, I can see. Yeah, I see it too in Ableton, like a lot, uh, they split it up. Uh, with that, you know, there, there are built-in audio. I dunno. You use Logic I think. I'm trying to remember. Yeah, yeah, I do. Yes. Yeah, I, I own Logic. I bought it because it's cheap price, 1 99 and I bought it cuz I had clients that I was like, oh, you know, use Logic, great. Send me your project. I'll mix it in logic and. Man, just trying to learn two sets of key commands. It, it does not work. But, um, anyway, yeah, so the multi band thing, I mean, I used to kind of experiment with it in mastering and it, it was interesting. It's, it's arbitrary of course, where you chop up the bands and it can kind of make sense, like if you. Uh, let's say you're recording a vocal and the vocalist is too close to the mic and you've got proximity effect, and that's coming in more on the lower register. Well then sure. Uh, there's a particular frequency range that really is the problem. Let's do that. Another option then would be a dynamic eq, right? Where you can fine tune just that frequency range and not necessarily chop up the whole spectrum into bands. Hmm. Um, so I mean, obviously there, there are times where you want to treat certain frequency ranges and not others dynamically, and that can make sense. I. Don't like, I mean, the worst was back in the, when the L three came out, the waves L three, right? Yeah. So you had the multi band limiter and it, you know, I was like, oh, wow, this is amazing. And you turn it up and it's like, oh, where did my base go? You know, it just, yeah, right, because most of the energy's in the low ed, so it just, it, um, yeah. So I, I would say, Not to never use multi-band, but to think really hard about why you need it for this application. And um, and there are applications, but I very rarely reach for it. Mm-hmm.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. Fantastic. Thanks for your insight on that. I'm, I'm always intrigued cuz. I get, like I said earlier, I get to speak to so many different people and you see all these different resources and um, it's, it's quite nice when I get you, you hear different sides of, of the, uh, the coin, so, so to speak. I think I mixed metaphors there. Um, but, but it's interesting you mentioned dynamic EQ because that was gonna be a question of mine actually, what your thoughts are on dynamic eq because I've, once again, I've heard some. Some individuals sit on the fence, but some are pro, some are against Dynamic iq. I mean, is, is, what are your thoughts on dynamic iq?

Brian Hazard:

Uh, again, I rarely use it. I'm thinking about, I have one. Uh, bluegrass singer that I work with, I've worked with for many years, and she's got a, there's little kind of, nasals not the right word, it's above nasal, but it's not a tone that creeps into her voice that I find, you know, her most, uh, pleasing asset. And so I. Sometimes hit that in pro Q3 with a dynamic band. The difference is, so you can set, um, with Pro q3, you, if you just turn it on, it's gonna kind of always be compressing to some degree in that band. Mm-hmm. So instead I like to take it off auto mode and set a threshold so that it's only doing the work when that particular, you know, problem area jumps in. Um, so again, it's really just a, a problem solver. Yeah. Yeah. A as for wind, and that's about, I mean, really I so rarely use it, and I wanna say I, I am a bit of a purist and a minimalist, and I think that there are probably cases where I could get over myself a little bit and use tools like that more judiciously, and they might benefit the final sound a little bit. The, the, the byproducts of that approach would kind of haunt me. Like I would hear it and it would kind of bug me. You know what I mean? And Yeah. Yeah. And the same way, like I had mentioned that, um, you know, these taming resonances doesn't make sense. It doesn't mean that if you slap gofo on a mix, It's gonna sound worse necessarily. Right? So, so there's a difference between kind of having a philosophical problem and, you know, agreeing that it has its uses or it can, uh, flatter a, a mix. I dunno. It's so funny you see that the guys, at least what I've seen in mastering is they'll, they'll put it on, they'll be, oh, we just need this little tiny bit. And it's like so much you can barely hear it. It's like, okay, really do. Did that really add anything? Yeah. So

Marc Matthews:

yeah, I, I agree and I think I'm very much, uh, in a similar camp to yourself with regards to the mini minimalist approach and not over or complicating things. And from what you've said there, and I dunno, I, uh, from what I've seen and experienced is, is there a case to say, As when we're mixing or rather than being creative, um, are we, are we, are, are, is it that we're just seeking problems and trying to fix something that might nec not necessarily exist because we've got all, because you see all these, like you mentioned there with ozone and these various different modules that you can put in ozone and then you're seeing them, you think, oh, I need to use that. I need to go and find a problem so I can use this module to show that I can use ozone because we have all these things. And then is there a case to say, Yeah, we might be mixing by roach rather than actually creatively, if that makes sense.

Brian Hazard:

Yeah. I mean, I don't think that's a danger for me. I think it can really be a danger if you're actually using presets. Yeah. You know what I mean? Like presets on EQ and compression don't. Really makes sense. I mean, maybe a preset, uh, you know, on a compressor for drums of the starting point for the attack and release, but even that's gonna, you know, change things. But, but yeah, there is, there is a mindset that we need to just get in there and, and maximize, like wider is always better, right? I want more width. Mm-hmm. Um, That's, you know, or even, even things that, that are helpful. For example, mono, your low end. Yeah. Um, I do, we have to do it with every track. Like I admit, like I, I use, um, baseline Pro, I don't know if you know Tone Projects. Baseline Pro.

Marc Matthews:

I know of Tone projects, but not of,

Brian Hazard:

not of that particular, oh man, their stuff is great. So they, they're the same company that make the Unison Mastering Compressor. They also have, um, Kelvin, which is a, um, a dual stage saturater. That's really cool. But. Anyway, like, I like to check mixes with Baseline Pro, but I don't feel like everything, unless it's, I know it's going to vinyl. Like not everything has to be in mono, below a hundred hertz. You know, if it, if it doesn't make it sound better. Um, so yeah, I think we can maybe get a little dogmatic sometimes and, and or want to use all the toys or, I mean, I don't do this, but I could imagine going so far as to create. A checklist, you know, for each element or each bus of things we need to put on or check for or, um, fine tune. And as long, I think at the end, as long as you're using your ears and as long as you don't, you, you're not listening to the same track a thousand times and then trusting your ears because we know how that works, right? You've, you've gotta kind of get in and get out to some degree. Before you lose your objectivity. So I think if you can trust your ears, work quickly, uh, and in a perfect world, set it aside and come back in a month and double check the mix, then um, you're probably not gonna get go too far off base.

Marc Matthews:

No. Brilliant. And, um, it's, it's great that you mentioned that about, uh, modeling instruments below 100 hertz or 80 hertz, because I had, um, uh, this exact conversation with someone, uh, earlier today actually. Uh, we were talking about, uh, the low end and how they wanted it to sound in a particular way. And I looked at the, the project and. Can you show me what you're doing in this particular instrument? Can you show me what, what you're doing in that, in that frequency spectrum? And is, I pretty much just said exactly what you said there is you don't necessarily, there is no rule that says that you, everything has to be mono there. Maybe try, try it not in mono and see what happens. And I, once again, I effectively said what you said. If it sounds good, it is good, you know. So it's brilliant and it's, it's great when I, when I, it's great for me when I give someone that information, that advice, and then I hear it from someone, uh, producer mix, head mastering engineer, associate yourself as well. So it's great that I, my, my, uh, advice is sort of backed up there, which is brilliant. Um, Brian, well, I aware of time here, so what, what I wanted to move on to. Because this information's been fantastic, is you've released a single, uh, the serious one. Mm-hmm. Maybe just a bit of information on that one there. Can you just explain to our audience a bit about that particular song, the start of the song, um, and what they can expect if they haven't heard it?

Brian Hazard:

Yeah. The, so this was a tricky mix. Um, it had started in a weird way. I was kind of looking for some different drum sounds and, uh, Pulled in a 6 0 6 from Ableton, and instead of just pulling in the drum samples, I think I pulled in a pattern like, I don't know if it was from some other source, but um, and it had all these crazy like 16th note symbol hits that was just, it was totally overbearing, but it was kind of cool too. And so, Worked from that and, you know, eliminated half of the, the hits. But so that, that's kind of where that one started from. And I'm not ever gonna use a 6 0 6 again because the, the kick is this weird blobby, pillowy. Indistinct thunk. Yeah. That was really hard to, to get to work. Um, so, yeah. Um, as far as the, the songwriting, like, well, okay, so I was a pretty, and I still am pretty insecure about the vocals. Like that's the lowest I've sung on a track, and I feel like. I don't know. I've tempted to resing it for the album. We'll, we'll see if I do that. Um, and it's, it's kind of. Love song about unrequited love, but I would compare it to the, uh, the polices. Every breath you take where you, you know, you hear it and you're like, oh, that's a beautiful song. And then it's like, oh, can't you see you belong to me? I'm like, oh, like it's, yeah, I'll be watching you. You're like, wait, maybe there's more to this. Than I that I realized. Yeah, it's the same, same kind of thing. So the narrator is an unreliable narrator, which is always tricky. You're right, you're writing words that you expect the audience to know that what the person is saying isn't actually true. Um, so it's a, it's about unrequited love. It's a little bit stalkerish. Or maybe, I think it could be potentially interpreted as the, the protagonist is maybe on the spectrum or you know, just. Kind of not understanding the situation socially in the way that we would hope it would be, um, taken. So it's, it's kind of a tricky, tricky song, but if you just want to take it as a, as a very pleasant love song, it certainly works that way too.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. I love what you mentioned there about, uh, the police and every breath you take. Cause it is one of those ones where actually if you think, if you listen and sort of digest the lyrics a bit more, it it has, there are slightly sinister connotations, uh, surrounding that song. So it is, yeah. It's, it's. Interesting that, um, but brilliant, no audience do go check out the serious one as well. Um, it's a fantastic song as, as they all are. And obviously I'll put links to, um, your bank camp and whatnot so the audience can go away and, and listen to those as well. Uh, Brian, we've got one question here, um, which is from our Facebook community. Now this is from, um, a member called Tim Woodruff. Oh, and I think you. Possibly answered this earlier. Um, but his question is, what is the biggest mastering mistake that you see people making and what would you do to fix it?

Brian Hazard:

Yeah, I guess it's, that's, I would go with, uh, well, I said two already, right? Um, mixing through compression and limiting and feeling like you need to use every module in ozone. Yeah. Um, yeah, just if, if you are not. Look, look, my first five years as a mastering engineer, like, I mean, I'd like to think I was good because I probably did at the time, but it's not, it wasn't that good. It really takes a long time to be able to dial in the compression on an entire mix, and I kid you not like I, I am adjusting. Thousandth on the threshold like the Rio because it'll usually be, uh, three digits after the decimal point. Mm-hmm. And that last digit, you wouldn't think it would matter. You'd think it's trivial. And I thought I was fooling myself for a long time, but, uh, it really makes a difference. Like there's just a sweet spot and it is so small. Um, and like I said, I thought I was fooling myself. There was a, um, Client, um, Craig Space March in Australia. I don't know if you've ever heard of him, but he has, he has great stuff. He used to work for Universal. He may still do that, and he had the ears to really detect it, so I would adjust things by that thousandth. And he would reliably say, Nope, nope. That was, you know, um, so it was because seriously, I thought, okay, you know, cuz you've had that right, where you're, you're mixing and you realize later that the EQ isn't bypass, but you Yes.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah. Yes. Yeah.

Brian Hazard:

We will be in there. Yeah. So anyway, yeah. The, the, so my point is that, uh, it is a very delicate process if you're not confident in what you're doing, and if you haven't, Mastering for a long time, you're probably not doing your best. At least try to minimize the potential damage. Don't compress more than, you know, one to two DB tops. Mm-hmm. Any problem you hear, if it can be fixed in the mix, fix it in the mix. Um, I would say don't master louder than negative nine Ls. Mm-hmm. Uh, The th that can be a really good test, actually. If, if I have a mix that I pull in and I, I master it at a volume that sounds about right, and then I pull it, and then I look and it's like, wow. It's like negative seven loves that probably means that there's work to be done in the mix. Like things aren't balanced, right? If you've got a good mix, the exception, I would say is a sustained like re space, something like that, that. Soak up a lot of energy. Mm-hmm. Um, but for most mixes, if, if you can't get it sounding good at negative nine loves, then you've got you, you know, go back into the mix. And for me, I've, that means, you know, bringing down the kick, bringing down the base, I always want more, but I gotta bring it down. Um, because that's, that's where a lot of that energy gets.

Marc Matthews:

Mm-hmm. Excellent advice. Yeah. Brilliant. And it's great that you mentioned that about uh, the negative nine lefts as well. Um, cuz that is, Uh, there's so much information online with regards to streaming platforms and mm-hmm. And, and advice in sort of air quotes regarding what levels should be and whatnot. So it's great to hear that you, you as a mastering engineer, you're, you're doing that, you're doing the mastering process and then looking at the level, um, there's sort of after as well. I've got one quick question with regards to this. So now you mentioned there you sort of, after the five years, you sort of progress and whatnot. Do you, uh, it's, it's a weird question, but do you hear like music differently when you're in mastering mode? If someone sends you a song, do you, it's, it's a weird question, but do you hear it differently? No, absolutely. Yeah. To, to analyzing a mix? Yeah.

Brian Hazard:

I, I definitely do because what, what happens quite often is I will master a record and then the artist will say, All right. So which is your favorite song or what, or do you have, you know, can you put it in a sequence for me? Mm-hmm. And you'd be surprised at how many artists ask me to sequence their albums. Um, but my first, you know, it takes me, takes me aback because I just have not listened that way at all. And if you ask me what the best song is, it's gonna be the. With the best mix right at that. Yeah, yeah. At that stage. So yeah, I listen very, very differently and I rarely comment on the music itself. Um, you know, when I'm, when I'm mastering stuff, I just don't, yeah. It almost doesn't even occur to me. So it, yeah, it's

Marc Matthews:

very different. Interesting. Yeah, it's uh, it echoes a conversation. Once again, I say this a lot cause I've had so many conversations, uh, but yeah. Um, exactly that. And then how music is heard differently by mastering engineers. This has been brilliant. I know we've, um, we've gone off on a tangent as I regularly do on these episodes cuz I, uh, uh, I guess we'll say something and then immediately I'll make a note and think, oh, I wanna ask this question. I end up going down a rabbit hole and then totally disregarding all the notes I've made prior to the interview. But no. Fantastic information and our audience is gonna get loads out of this. Um, this is great and it's gonna feed in nicely to like the mix engineer mastering mini series that I'm sort of. Um, collating and putting together. So this is fantastic. Um, Brian, uh, where can our audience find you online? Where's the best place to go?

Brian Hazard:

Well, uh, color theory.com would be probably the best entrance. So a lot of, like, I'm not very up on social media, like I'm not. Doing videos. I mean, this is, this isn't great. I mean, I realize I, I should probably do better, but I, I've, I'm not on, I, I have my account on TikTok, but I'm not posting anything on TikTok. I don't do reels. The, the way to really keep up with me and get to know me would be to go to color theory.com. I've got a mailing list subscription there. I send you five of my best songs for free. And, um, that's the way I. People is, is through email. Um, of course the next level then is becoming a patron, and that starts at $3. And you, as we discuss, get a new track every month. And many of those go on to be released at some point, but uh, some don't. And, uh, you have input into kind of the process and what ends up getting released and picking artwork and fun stuff like that. So it's a good.

Marc Matthews:

Fantastic. That Pat idea is, uh, is brilliant. I love that idea that you're sending music out and then I suppose your audience, then they feel connected and part of the process cuz they're having an input, which is, which is

Brian Hazard:

fantastic. Yeah, it's great. It's great for me. Like, uh, cover art specifically. Like, okay, pick a pick and design and, and that gets a lot of people really involved and I dunno if you saw this, um, Spotify, I don't, I hope it comes soon, but announce something about, Uh, connecting with Patreon so that we can have patron exclusive material on Spotify, so that would be amazing. Imagine, you know, I've got a patron only album that Yeah, because right, they're listening on Spotify too, and they've got a, you know, they can listen to my music through a podcast link, which is still cool. Mm-hmm. They can listen on their phone, but to listen on Spotify and better yet to have people who aren't patrons see that they can unlock this album. By becoming a patron. It's, uh, yeah, it's really exciting. I, I'm, I hope it actually happens.

Marc Matthews:

Yeah, definitely. It, it, it sort of sparks the creative fire in me really thinking about it. And I wonder if they'll do the same for podcasts. That's something I have to look at. Ooh. Look into. Yeah, I'm thinking exclusive. It's probably something I should discuss on air, but it's exclusive podcast, uh, episodes and whatnot. Uh, but yeah, that's, that's further down the line. That's for another day. Um, have you got any key dates or any, anything like that you'd like to share with the audience? Uh, this episode will go live, I believe memory serves sort of around the beginning of

Brian Hazard:

April. Okay. Well, April will be the first month I take off from releasing a track in a long time. And that's because I mentioned the ghost again, thing that was the fifth release in five weeks. It was insane. And I need a break. And you need a break. And, uh, so, but what I'm gonna try to do, and this is the first time I'm saying it out loud, so now it may have to happen, is I want to do. Um, free plus shipping and hamming offer. So I've got, I was thinking of giving away CD copies of the majesty of our broken past, which is kind of my. Big synth wave album. Mm-hmm. Um, from 2018 and um, so hopefully people can keep an eye out for that. It'll be on color theory.com. So the idea is the CD's free, you just gotta cover shipping, which isn't too bad in the us, but if you're not in the US it is bad and it's not my fault, but yeah. Um, and then the next actual release will be she's made of wires in the beginning of May, of course on band Camp.

Marc Matthews:

Ah, brilliant. Excellent stuff. Um, Brian, thank you so much for spending the time with me today. It's been great. I appreciate, um, you've had to, you get up earlier whatnot, and, um, squeeze this into your day. Um, yeah, it's, it's, it's one of those ones where the, the podcast is around the world, but, um, the, the times suit me and not necessarily the people I'm talking to a lot of the time. Fair

Brian Hazard:

enough. No, I really enjoyed it. No, thank you for having me. Yeah,

Marc Matthews:

no, no, it's been brilliant. It's been great to put your brains and sort of hear more. Your, your story at the beginning and also your advice with regards to music production, mixing and, and specifically mastering as well. Cause I think this year on the podcast, um, the previous sort of 60 episodes, how haven't really touched on mastering at all. Hmm. And um, it's been great that in 2023 there's been a, this episode there's a previous one, uh, earlier in March I think it was. So it's great to now have some mastering insight as well. Cause I know there are a lot of producers out there analysis who are doing it themselves and. Not necessarily know where to begin or, or have been misinformed. So it's, it's fantastic to have you on chat about that as well. Um, so I know they're gonna get a lot of it. So. Brilliant. Once again, Ryan, big thank you for joining me today. Thank you very much. You bet. Thank you. Thank you. I'll, uh, speak to you soon.

Color Theory: Influences and instrumentation
How to start a song
What are the basic mixing rules?
DIY mastering made easy
What are the disadvantages of multi band compression?
Should you use dynamic EQ?
Why are too many plugins bad?
Mastering mistakes you should avoid
Do mastering engineers hear music differently?

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