Don’t believe the old saying because there is such a thing as a free lunch. As a result of the wonder that is the internet, there are, in fact, lots of great sources you can turn to for free information on almost any topic (er…. like the various iOS music making blogs) but, sometimes, rather than trawl a bunch of random webpages scattered equally randomly across the internet, what you really want is the convenience offered by having all the key information on a topic in a single, concise resource.
And, old fashioned as it may seem, books (a tried and trusted format!) do that pretty well. And the electronic book – document, PDF, Kindle or iBook – even manages to bring it into the digital era :-)
If you are new to the recording process – whether under iOS or in some other format – one topic that can be a real challenge is mixing; taking those (hopefully) well recorded individual instrument and vocal tracks that, one their own actually sound pretty good, and stopping them from turning into complete mush when you try to combine them together. Mixing is most certainly a skill that has to be worked at and, like any skill, the more you do it, (usually) the better you get at it. However, while there are no ‘rules’ that can be applied to every mix, there are some basic concepts that can be applied which, if you keep in mind, can help you improve your mixing.
Mixing with iZotope
And, as I’ve mentioned before on these pages, rather generously, those wonderful people at iZotope – makers of some rather excellent desktop music software such as Ozone and Alloy – have taken the ‘basic concepts of mixing’ and put them into a concise PDF book format that they are giving this away for free via their website.
The book – titled ‘Mixing with iZotope‘ – has just been updated and covers topics such as setting levels, the use of EQ, dynamics, using the stereo image, time-based effects (reverb, delay, etc.), distortion and then suggests some approaches for building your mix by looking at drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and vocals before finishing with some comments on song structure and generating your final stereo output format.
The reason for the update is that iZotope have just launched a new piece of desktop music software called Neutron. This is interesting in its own right as, via it’s various plugin options, it includes some novel tools for helping you craft your mix and spot potential problems (for example, with EQ-based ‘msking’ of different elements within the mix).
Of course, all the way through the book are examples of how you can use iZotope’s own software tools – and now with Neutron included – to perform and improve the mixing tasks described in the text but don’t let that distract you; this is a seriously useful read and even the somewhat more seasoned recording musician will, I’m sure, find a few useful pointers to think about.
Mastering with Ozone
iZotope’s mixing guide is, of course, just updated to include references to Neutron and so is hot off the presses. However, if you like the idea of that guide, the company also have a long-standing guide available that covers the equally challenging process of mastering your audio. This is, of course, based around their very popular Ozone mastering plugin.
Ozone is a very powerful tool but, as with the mixing guide, the ‘Mastering with Ozone‘ guide is both free to download and contains a really useful summary of the principles involved in mastering. This covers topics such as getting your mix right first, mix problem diagnosis, what mastering is for, the tools required for mastering, using EQ, dynamics, maximizing, reverb, stereo imaging and exciters in the mastering process and why metering is useful. There is all a short section of ‘tips from the pros’.
While Ozone does, of course, feature heavily in the guide, you could take the information provided here and apply it to any combination of software (or hardware) tools used for mastering. So, if you use something like Igor Vasiliev’s Audio Mastering or Positive Grid’s Final Touch app on your iPad for your own DIY mastering, there will be some very useful pointers you can easily take from the iZotope guide and translate into the feature set of Audio Mastering.
Hats of to iZotope for making these resources available. Yes, they are, in one sense, promotional platforms for their own software but, because of the way the material is presented – with a focus on the general principles – they do read much more like a ‘mixing 101’ or ‘mastering 101’ course than a sales brochure. Both a very useful read if you want to get your mixing or mastering up to speed and both are free with no purchase necessary. Just follow the links and grab your own copy.
Mixing with iZotope free guide can be downloaded here.
Mastering with Ozone free guide can be downloaded here.