Although I’m an unrepentant punkrocker who digs making any kind of less-than-high-quality studio gear work for just about any kind of project,I’ll be the first to admit that Apple’s GarageBand is not exactly aprofessional DAW. However, Idecided to use Garage Band torecord and mix all the tracks for the Ol’ Cheeky Bastards upcoming acoustic split CD (with Lewis theSwan) on Rotten Eggs Records inmy home office, using just an iMac,an M-Audio FireWire 410, M-Audiomonitors, a Shure SM58 dynamicmic, and an M-Audio Lunacondenser. When it got to the mix sessions, here is how I tried to keep the tracks sounding as professiona land out right slammin’ as possible.
I didn’t have a great room, audiophilepreamps, or expensive mics, and,quite frankly, none of that worried me.I just got to work and made sure everything I recorded—vocals,acoustic guitars, cajon, Irish whistle,bohdran, bass, bagpipes, etc.—wasclean and quiet. EQ publishes tons ofdata on how to record great tracks in home-studio environments, so doyour homework and put your shoulder to the wheel. Why am I talking abouttracking in an article on mixing? Well,just make this your mantra, and you’llunderstand: “Crap in, crap out.”
Arranging your GarageBand tracksin some kind of natural flow helpskeep your focus intact. I label everythingexplicitly (“2nd chorus gtr,” “Mainlead vox,” “Vox fix verse 1,” etc.), and arrange rhythm tracks, guitars, leadvocals, background vocals, and so onall together in their “family” groups. Ihate searching for tracks during a mix.
Plan a few “fix” sessions where alltracks are scrupulously scrubbed and edited before you sit down for thefinal mix. When you mix, your soleattention should be on arranging allthe final tracks into a cohesive and kick-ass whole.
I like to start crafting the final mixfrom the first session. The more thetracks sound like a record, the moreenergized your overdubs will be, andthe mix session will be far lessangst-filled because you’re alreadyclose to done.
Avoid soloing individual tracks whentweaking sounds. In the end,everything must co-exist together, soisolating tracks too much may put youon the road to ruin.
Ensure you’re hearing everything asaccurately as possible—despite the sonic idiosyncrasies of your room—bysitting right between your two monitorsat a distance of no more than ayard. Avoid putting papers, books,and whiskey glasses in front of the speakers.
GarageBand has some very useableeffects, but if you use them too much,or make everything too wet, your mixes will sound as amateurish as acrap ventriloquist on America’s GotTalent. Pick your spots—you don’t haveto bathe every track in reverb, chorus,delay, and compression.
If your tracks are to be masteredelsewhere you want to leave somedynamic range for the masteringengineer to process. In other words,don’t compress the crap out of eve...