If you want a solution to help you maintain the quality of your audio production when you’re away from your studio then this post is for you!
I love traveling. Meeting interesting people and enjoying unique experiences is super inspiring. But being away from my studio is problematic for my clients. They have deadlines, project recalls, and a number of other instances where they might need my help. In the past I have struggled to deliver top quality work whilst traveling, however, I have fine-tuned a setup that allows me to deliver a level of quality comparable to when I’m in my studio. In this post, I’m going to share my solution with you.
Step One: Stay Organised
The last thing you want when you’re traveling is to be glued to your laptop. You want to be as efficient as possible to maximize the value of your trip, whether you’re seeing family or exploring a new city. You also don’t want to miss anything and disappoint the clients you worked so hard to get in the first place.
My clients send me their stems, files, instructions, project details and deadlines via a super-simple upload form on Bounce Boss; which organizes every single one of my collaborations.
When I’m ready to work, I can see all my projects on one page and I know exactly what needs my attention.
Within the project itself, my clients are given tools to be super-precise with their feedback, such as linking their comments to specific timestamps in the bounces. This clear communication helps me be more efficient whilst minimizing mistakes.
Accurate Listening Set-Up
There are two main problems that I always faced when mixing and mastering on the road:
- No acoustic treatment.
- Having to exclusively use headphones rather than monitors.
You simply can’t take your acoustic treatment with you on the road, so that’s a road bump you won’t overcome. So we have to make sure that we’re getting the flattest possible playback when using headphones so we can make the best possible decisions regarding the mix and sonic choices.
Sonarworks Reference 4 totally transformed my ability to deliver quality mixes outside of the studio (and in the studio). As my studio business has grown I’ve invested in increasingly accurate headphones, and Sonarworks Reference 4 has always been able to elevate and improve the results I get from the headphones, whether they cost less than £100 or over £1k.
When I made my most recent headphone purchase of the Sennheiser HD800s (a £1399 investment), I was blown away by the clarity and quality. I took my laptop to try the headphones with Sonarworks, and the difference was night and day. Even one of the most highly praised headphones on the market can be dramatically improved with Sonarworks. I can hear every detail of the music in a perfectly balanced way, allowing me to make informed mixing and mastering decisions for my clients. Don’t take my word for it, read how my clients feel after working with me on SoundBetter here. A number of these projects were completed outside of my studio and every single one of those projects had Sonarworks on the master channel.
Using Reference Tracks
Now that Sonarworks has provided a great listening set-up, we need to tune our ears as to what a great song should sound like.
REFERENCE has a unique (and incredibly effective) way of showing you the perceived level in various frequency bands. The white level-line will go drift into the lower half if those frequencies have less perceived volume than in your selected reference track. It will drift into the upper half if those frequencies have more perceived volume than in your selected reference track.
REFERENCE shows you visually what you would be able to hear if you were in a world-class studio. This isn’t a simple ‘slowed down’ frequency analyzer like many other plugins out there that claim to do the same thing as REFERENCE. It’s a complex algorithm created to specifically identify how the human ear perceives certain frequencies relative to the balance of the whole mix. With this information, we can make informed decisions regarding the EQ. This is perfect for when you’re out of the studio…
One customer, in particular, told me a story on how REFERENCE helped him outside of the studio that I won’t forget. To protect his identity we’ll call him John…
True Story: John owns a breathtakingly beautiful studio and has some serious credits. In 2017 he got sick and was bed-bound for two months. As any freelancer understands, when you don’t work, money stops flowing in. When you’re unable to keep up with bills and support your family, it’s stressful! He knew going to the studio would be too much, but he had his laptop and decided to try and work from home on projects when he could. The two months passed and he didn’t have to reject a single project. More notably, he didn’t receive even one complaint from any of his regular customers… John contacted me and thanked me, saying “he couldn’t have done it without REFERENCE!”. He was able to maintain his incredibly high standard of work when he needed to most. This is the power of REFERENCE.
Truly Understanding the Low-end
The final piece of the puzzle is nailing the low-end of you track without full range monitors or a sub-woofer.
For this, I use my Subpac. The Subpac vibrates the back of my chair relative to the bass in my production. I can compare how the vibration of my reference tracks compares to the vibration of the production I’m working on. Working on music for international renowned DJs means that I have to deliver mixes and masters with perfect low-end every time. If my clients play a track in the club and it’s not full bodied and well balanced, I can safely assume I’d lose that customer. The Subpac gives me confidence that the low-end will translate well in the club whether I’m in my studio or not.
If music is your business, then the hustle needs to be relentless. You need to deliver top quality wherever you are you are. And as your career progresses, you may find that you need to travel and be away from the studio. Finding a way to maintain your quality when you’re away from your studio will mean you never lose your momentum and your business will continue to flourish and grow.
Bonus: How to Improve Making Music With Headphones
With practice, you can get very good results just by working on headphones. Here’s how I improved my ability to mix and master tracks professionally using JUST headphones.
- I would receive a track from a client as usual and prepare the session in the studio as if I was on the road…
- I would finish the track to the best of my ability just using my portable rig.
- Then, I listen to my work on my full range speakers. Here I would be able to see the mistakes I made when just using headphones.
- I repeated this until I consistently had no changes I wanted to make when I heard the track on full range speakers.