Every DJ seems to have a different tip to give you when recording a mix. We have heard everything from only using outboard recording equipment to using gold plated 1/8" adapters. What are some truly valid tips? Should things actually be that complicated?
The most common tip I have heard repeatedly is, "You have to get the entire mix mastered." Let's debunk this tip. Most, if not all, of the music you are playing has been mastered already. Why should you pay to have a demo mastered when all of the music in the demo has been mastered already?
What type of equipment are you recording with? In the modern age, most mixers have built in soundcards or you may be using a DVS interface with an extra channel input. If not, you should be using an audio interface. If you do not have an interface already, the Native Instruments Audio 2 is a great low cost solution.
Which software are you using? There is a plethora of different software options for recording audio. Everything from Audacity to Audition to SoundForge. They all do the same relative job. Three things to keep in mind when choosing recording software are; Can I monitor the input level? Am I able to edit the waveform after recording? Will I be able to use the software with my interface?
If you are using a mixer that has both pre-fader level indicators on each channel and a master level indicator, lets get those in balance. Play a tune with loads of audio information. Bring your gain up to have your indicator peaking at -4db. Now adjust your master level untill your master indicator is also peaking at -4. Then you will skip to the point of your mix that has the most audio information (3-4 channels in use at once). Practice it a few times while observing the master indicator. Is your master going above zero and red lining? If so, just bring your gain peak down slightly below -4.
A huge mistake while recording is to keep your peaks at -6. When producing we live by the -6 and -4 rule to leave more head room for our mastering engineers. Since we don't need mastering, you do not need that head room. Instead you want your peaks to hit right aroun -0.1. Go back to that point of your demo heavy with audio information. Here is where you will gauge that level.
Now that everything is set, it is time to get playing. You are going to mess up every once in a while. This is okay. Continue going and practice the rest of your set. Hit delete. Grab a coffee or a beer. Come back and re-record. Repeat the process until recording your mix is like second nature.
Wow, that last run was perfect. Great! Save it as a .wav. Throw that mix on a CD and rock out in your car. This is where the fun starts. Take some notes of what you loved and keep an ear out for small tweaks you can make. Make sure your levels are all where you want them to be there. Look out for volume drops and increases at transitions. It will happen. You will want to feel frustrated. Don't let your frustrations bother you. Simply go back and re-record.
Now that you have the perfect mix and you are ready to get it out there, you have to think about promotion. You don't want to throw the mix online and hope for the best. Get together some artwork and make sure to always include a track list. After all, most if not all of these tunes are someone else's music. Download MP3Tag (Download Here). Edit the tag to include your artwork, artist name, and mix title.
This is going to seem oldschool to a lot of you, but CD's still make a great impression. You can purchase 50 blank CD's, 50 jewel cases, a pack of blank CD labels, and Photo Paper for around $35. Use this to put together a CD with looks like an album you can buy in a record store. People love having something they can feel and touch.
Leave your feedback and comments below. What tips can you give to others? Share your mixes.