The Three Most Important Plugins for Every Mix

Once you have recorded your tracks, the next step in the mixing process is to add plugins. Plugins bring life to your tracks as well as add unique effects and depth to your mix. Here are three essential plugins and the benefits they offer.

1. EQ

Capture3.JPG

Equalization is one of the most powerful, and essential, plugin effects at your disposal. EQs give you the option to boost and cut any frequencies within an audio track. This gives you the option to drastically change the tone of each track, and can help to create space within your mix. In some ways, EQ serves as the tool that neatly organizes each track within the song. This is usually the first effect that is used in the mixing process.

Here’s a great introductory guide to EQ from Sonicbids!

2. Compression

Capture.JPG

Compression is used to change the dynamic range between the loudest and quietest parts of a track. For example, if you have a vocal track with a few loud parts that stand out from the rest of the track, a compressor can be used to bring those levels down to create a smoother dynamic range. The basic controls consist of the threshold, the decibel level at which the compressor “kicks in,” the ratio, how much compression will occur after the threshold is reached, and the attack and release levels, which control the time the compressor takes to affect the signal and to let it return to normal respectively. Compression is one of the more confusing plugins to understand, but it is essential to creating a good mix.

Here’s 10 tips for getting started with compression by Home Studio Center!

3. Reverb

Capture2.JPG

Reverb is my favorite effect by far. It is essentially the reflection, or “reverberation,” of an audio track that creates a sense of distance. When properly used, reverb fills the spaces within a song and creates depth. With too much reverb, songs can sound “muddy” or too noisy. When using reverb, you can make an audio track that you recorded in your bedroom sound like it is being performed anywhere from your shower to an empty cathedral.

Here’s a video by Waves Audio that will show you how to apply reverb!

There are dozens of other types of plugins out there, so what kind do you like to use? Do you have any specific techniques or products that you prefer? Let me know in the comments! Also, check out Plugin Boutique for a great selection of paid and free software.

3 Essential Microphones for Beginners on a Budget

The types of microphones you use can greatly alter the quality and tones of your music, so you should definitely consider what kind of sound you are looking for before you make a purchase, especially considering that you could spend anywhere from $100-$5,000 on a single mic. I’m a firm believer that high price does not translate to a better sound, and as a novice recording engineer, you only need to understand the two main categories of mics: dynamic and condenser. Dynamic microphones are usually cheaper than condensers, require no external power, are capable of handling high sound pressure levels, and are built to be simple and sturdy. Condenser mics tend to be more expensive because they are much more sensitive to all frequencies, require an external power source, and are much more fragile due to their complex design. For a more in-depth comparison of these microphone types, check out this article on Make Use Of.

Here are three microphones that I believe are essential for home recording on a budget.

Shure SM57 (Dynamic)

Image result for sm57
Source: shure.eu

The SM57 is one of the most popular microphones of all time, and for good reason. It is essentially the “Swiss army knife” for recording, and it is capable of recording just about everything including guitar amps, snare drums, and even vocals. The SM57 has a frequency range of 40 to 15,000 Hz, so it can capture mid to high range frequencies very well, and it is rugged enough to be heavily used for a lifetime. You can pick one up for about $100 here at Amazon.

Audio Technica AT2020 (Condenser)

Source: audio-technica.com

When it comes to condenser mics, the AT2020 is an amazing deal. It provides a great frequency response of about 20-20,000 Hz and provides crisp and clear audio quality. This mic is great for vocals, and can be used for acoustic instruments and some percussion as well. For just around $100, this mic is an amazing value and a great choice for beginners. (Buy on Amazon)

Shure Beta 52 (Dynamic)

Image result for shure beta 52
Source: shure.eu

Designed for kick drums, the Beta 52 is an amazing low-end microphone. With a frequency response of 20Hz to 10kHz, a presence boost at 4kHz for extra “punch,” and the ability to withstand extremely high sound pressure levels, this mic is an obvious choice. It even works well for recording bass guitar amps if you prefer to not record with a direct input. The Beta 52 is a well-built and capable bass mic that you can pick up for less than $200 here on Amazon.

These are some of my favorite mics that I own, but what do you think? Did I miss something? What are some of your favorite budget microphones? Let me know in the comments!