I am a big fan of Dave Pensado and his Pensado’s Place show. I just love this guy. If you don’t know him already, he’s a Grammy Award winning mixing engineer who’s mixed Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Pink, Mary J. Blige… Well, you get the picture.
I especially like the “Into the Lair” section of his shows where he explains various aspects of his work in detail. All of his videos are great so I really recommend you to watch all of it. But it’s a lot to go through, so I wanted to put together a collection of “Into the Lair” clips from Pensados Place that have been especially interesting and helpful to me. Below each video, I’ve also included some bonus notes from myself.
There is a ton of technical stuff to learn about mixing from him, but perhaps even more importantly, it’s amazing to be able learn about his broad approach to things.
I love having the chance of being influenced by someone with as immense level of experience as him. Imagine that. Times have truly changed haven’t they?
The stuff Dave shares always makes me want to jump in and work on something. He’s not into keeping secrets and he’s also obviously one of the most humble guys around.
Start with these videos, and then check out more when you have time! Also make sure to watch some of the full episodes of Pensado’s Place. They get a ton of very prominent guests to come on and speak about various angles of music production. Pure gold.
Here we go.
Retaining Transients When Using Limiters
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #62
- Dave uses the Bittersweet transient enhancer plugin by Flux. He says it’s inexpensive, but in fact it’s completely free. It’s a powerful plugin, and if you don’t have it already you should go download it right now.
- A combination of a transient enhancer and a compressor can take things even further. Experiment with different compressors and settings – especially the attack time.
- If you’re using compression after transient enhancement, make sure to adjust your attack time carefully so you don’t kill the transients you’ve created.
How to Make Your Mixes Loud
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #46
- To achieve a loud mix, you have to massage and “pre-bake” the different elements in your tracks before it all goes to the stereo bus.
- Parallel compression is awesome, for drums especially.
- Dave mentions the Fletcher-Munson curves. Here is an article that goes into it in more detail.
How to Maximize Your Bass Tracks
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #86
- See how Dave is “abusing” these plugins and clipping them like it’s nothing to get this nasty, fat bass sound? Of course that doesn’t mean you should always do it, but if it fits the context, go for it. What sounds good is good. Don’t be afraid to experiment with distortion.
- Even when he is boosting the hell out of some frequencies, he is being very conscious of the levels and what is too much. “-Boost the crap out of it and take out what I don’t need”.
- Note how he automates an EQ plugin for a bass boost in certain parts of the track. Simple and powerful.
How to Use Aux Sends When Mixing
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #41
- Utilizing auxes properly gives you a lot more control over your mix.
- Automating the volume levels of the different auxes is a very powerful technique and easily overlooked
Working With Low Frequencies
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #59
- See how Dave uses MaxxBass and RBass to generate sub or high bass depending on the situation.
- “-I don’t carve frequencies, I just mess with it until it sounds good”. Hear that? Good.
Advanced Parallel Compression Techniques
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #53
- Don’t be afraid to use presets as starting points. They’re usually designed by professionals. If it works, it works.
- Instead of using a compressor, try using tape emulation or other types of saturation.
- Experiment with different kinds of processing in your parallel chain and see what you get.
All About Audio Compression Ratios
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #81
- When adjusting the settings in your compressor, focus on changes in the energy and emotion in your material, instead of the technical aspects. Try to feel it.
- EQ in front of the compressor to fix problems, in order to give the compressor a good clean signal to work with. EQ after the compressor for color.
- Compression can add to the experience of the track or it can really take away from it. Be careful.
- Don’t be freaked out if you are having difficulties with understanding or hearing compression. It takes a lot of time and practice to understand. It’s perfectly normal to struggle with it. Don’t get discouraged. Keep experimenting.
Master Low End on Stereo Bass Tracks
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #77
- On stereo bass tracks you want to put the lowest frequencies in the middle, but you can spread out the highs of the bass instrument.
- Experiment with different stuff, such as duplicating tracks and M/S techniques.
Humanizing Digital Tracks
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #72
- Try different ways to manipulate the feel of your sounds: timing, pitch, volume, etc. Combine various ways.
- The high hat is often instrumental in creating the feel! Of course it depends on the kind of stuff you’re working on, but do pay attention to the hihats.
How to Use Reference Mixes
Pensado’s Place – Into the Lair #71
- Different strokes for different folks, but I’m with Dave in that I like to listen to other music for reference when I am mixing.
- Place reference tracks within your project so you can quickly switch in and out of them for good A/B comparison.
- Don’t ruin your mix by trying to copy your reference track. Rather use referencing for things like checking the levels of various elements in your song, the EQ, compression, how the vocal sits in the track and so on.
- Referencing is a short cut way to taking a break. It refreshes your brain because we tend to get used to what we hear, and lose objectivity in the process.
There you go! Study these videos carefully. Then watch the rest. I find myself coming back to this stuff a lot. Let me know in the comments how you are liking them! Any a-ha moments?