Max McAllister
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Max is a Los Angeles-based writer, musician, and engineer at the Brewery Recording Studio.

Secrets to Mixing Rap Vocals

It’s easy to underestimate the trickiness of mixing rap vocals. Some engineers will write the genre off thinking that it’s just a 2-track and a vocal, so it must be simple. But the intricacy lies in having leads, stacks of…

Aaron Marshall of Intervals Redefines Instrumental Guitar Music

Intervals is the brainchild of guitarist/composer Aaron Marshall. Since the project’s inception in 2011, Marshall has explored sounds within the instrumental progressive scene. His latest full-length, Circadian, is a complete realization of Marshall’s unique voice on the guitar and his personal take…

Best Mic for Rap Vocals $1000 & Under

Access to the best microphone in your price range is paramount for recording rap vocals. They’re the #1 thing that has to sound great; we can forgive a beat ripped from YouTube if the vocals sound crisp and professional. Even…

Best Resources for Drum Loops in 2021

Drum loops are a quick and easy way to set up the foundation of a song. We’re lucky to have so many ways to chop up loops and samples, so they can actually become an integral part of any production…

Ableton 11: Updates, New Features, & More

Ableton is already one of the industry’s top DAWs for music production. It’s unique features and workflow set it apart as the top pick for EDM/pop/hip-hop production. 2021 marks the debut of Ableton 11, full of impressive updates, brand new…

Best Audio Interface for Mac | Entry-Level & Beyond

Apple computers are standard in creative industries because of their reliable and uncluttered operating systems. People make music on PCs as well, but sometimes have a harder time finding compatible hardware and software. Or, they encounter bugs and have stability…

Neural DSP Quad Cortex: Next Generation Modeling

The Neural DSP Quad Cortex is the most hyped piece of gear for guitarists right now. Neural have already garnered praise for their high-quality plugins, and their first foray into hardware appears to be a game-changer. Neural DSP Quad Cortex…

Kaotica Eyeball Review: Is It Worth It?

The Kaotica Eyeball is a microphone isolation ball with an integrated pop filter. It’s a big foam sphere you slide over the microphone capsule to protect it from reflections. The Eyeball intends to keep untreated room sound out of your…

Ableton vs Pro Tools | Choosing a DAW

In the current age of music production, we have virtually endless tools at our disposal. It’s overwhelming when you’re just starting out because you want to set foot on the so-called ‘correct’ path. In regards to DAWs, everybody has an…

Gifts for Music Producers | Practical Ideas

We’re out of the holiday season for now, but that doesn’t meant the next one isn’t right around the corner. These gifts for music producers are sure to satisfy the hard-to-buy-for creators in your life. Useful Gifts for Music Producers…

Sonnox Inflator Review: Loudness without Compromise

The Sonnox Inflator plugin has been around for almost two decades. It’s sort of a mysterious desert island tool for many engineers, somewhere in between a compressor and a limiter. The Inflator is able to increase perceived loudness, and it…

Sub Bass: EQ and Mixing Tips

Sub bass is the stuff that’s felt more than heard. It’s an important part of a mix because it contributes to so much of the power listeners feel. In some genres sub bass a leading part of a mix, and…

Spotify Playlist Placement | Have Your Music Heard

Digital streaming is the #1 way people consume music. Streams equated to almost 85% of US album sales in 2019, which means pushing physical copies is a thing of the past for most artists. Beyond just uploading to the platform,…

Monitor Isolation Pads | Home Studio Accessories

Monitor isolation pads are a small but important addition to any home studio arrangement. In this article we’ll look at what they are, whether they’re 100% necessary, and how you might make some of your own! What are monitor isolation…

UA Console Application Explained

The UA Console application is the key to Apollo interfaces’ Realtime UAD Processing capabilities. It lets you insert and control UAD plugins, as well as route and monitor audio. UA Console: Recording Through Plugins Perhaps the main feature of UA’s…

RC-20 Retro Color Review

RC-20 Retro Color by XLN Audio is a popular creative effects plugin. With its multiple parameters, you can quickly add character and vintage vibe to any sound source in your mix. RC-20 Retro Color Overview The idea behind Retro Color…

Pro Tools Shortcuts for Faster Session Navigation

Keyboard shortcuts are the quickest way around your DAW. They let you do in one keystroke what would normally take extra time sifting through menus. If you hope to become a proficient engineer, then key commands are indispensable! Here are…

Flux BitterSweet v3 | Free Transient Designer Plugin

The first transient designer came out in the late ’90s. It was a whole new concept that left lots of people wondering whether it was a compressor, or a noise gate, or something else entirely. The real answer is the…

How Diminished Chords Work

Diminished chords are native to both major and minor keys. You’ll find them as the seventh chord of the major scale, and the second chord of the natural minor scale. They get a bad rap for being dissonant, but they…

A Few of the Best Saturation Plugins Available

Saturation is the secret weapon for adding some grit back to pristine digital recordings. Whether you just want to add a bit of body and richness to an instrument, or make it unrecognizable with blazing distortion, saturation is one of…

Best Kontakt Libraries for Every Collection

Native Instruments‘ free sample player, Kontakt, is every music producer’s entry point to the industry’s largest collection of sampled instruments. Kontakt is a universal host to hundreds of realistic sampled libraries from dozens of manufacturers. The best Kontakt libraries should…

PreSonus FaderPort: Does Your DAW Need One?

The PreSonus FaderPort gives users tactile control over features in their DAW. With transport buttons and a single fader, it’s main use is for writing automation in a hands-on way. Control surfaces like these bridge some of the gaps between…

Is Waves Vocal Rider the Solution to Levels?

Vocal levels are one of the most important things to get right. Even with all the compressors in the world, nothing compares to putting in the work and riding the fader — automating the levels in each part of the…

iZotope VocalSynth 2 Overview

iZotope launched VocalSynth in 2016. Right away, its features got a lot of attention. It was obviously a fresh approach to creative vocal production not previously seen in other plugins. Two years later, iZotope VocalSynth 2 came out, which is…

Vocaloid: Virtual Singers in Your DAW

Vocaloid is a very unique type of voice synthesizer software. Initially not meant to be a full commercial product, research on its technology began in 2000. Yamaha then got involved during the development process, and the first version of Vocaloid came out in…

What is Audio Bit Depth?

Bit depth in digital audio is one of the settings that affects the recording’s overall resolution. In technical terms, it’s the actual number of bits (binary digits) in each sample. What is bit depth? Bit depth and sample rate work…

Choosing the Sample Rate for Your Project

Sample rate is one of the first things you’ll be asked to choose when you open a new session in your DAW. Alongside bit depth, it can have an impact on the fidelity of your audio recordings. What is sample rate? Digital…

Avid Pro Tools First | Free DAW Overview

Avid Pro Tools is the industry standard. It’s the platform for virtually every studio because it excels at tracking, editing, mixing, and production. Pro Tools First provides an introduction to the gold standard DAW without committing to a pricey monthly…

Spitfire Audio | Pro Grade Software Instruments

Spitfire Audio collaborates with the world’s top composers, producers, engineers, and studios to create ultra-detailed, realistic recordings of instruments. Their virtual instruments and sample libraries offer thousands of professional quality sounds right inside your DAW. Spitfire truly makes incredible instruments.…

Do You Need a Portable Vocal Booth?

Portable vocal booths cater to home studio enthusiasts looking to isolate their recordings. Having too many room reflections is one of the biggest problems of recording at home. Apart from sounding echoey, untreated reflections also produce comb filtering for a…

Room EQ Wizard | Free Acoustics Software

Room EQ Wizard (REW) is free room acoustics software for measuring and analyzing room and loudspeaker responses. The analysis helps you optimize your studio by finding the best spot for the speakers and listening position. Shooting the room gives you…

Top Lessons Learned My First Year in the Studio

Being a professional engineer isn’t always easy. It’s as much about perseverance and resilience as it is about technical skill and creative talent. I believe you figure out very quickly whether the life is for you, and these are the…

Tips for Recording Metal Guitar

It’s hard to think of another genre where guitar tone is as important as it is in metal. It’s so essential that an entire subgenre has been nicknamed ‘djent’ — onomatopoeia for a palm muted chug. Recording metal guitar with…

Seventh Heaven Reverb | Convolution Reverbs

LiquidSonics Seventh Heaven reverb is a plugin reproduction of the Bricasti M7 hardware unit. The company is known for their superior convolution modeling, which Seventh Heaven has in spades! Seventh Heaven Reverb: A Convolution Masterpiece Convolution digitally simulates an actual…

How to Get Rid of Vocal Sibilance

Vocal sibilance occurs when singers pronounce words with ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds, and to a lesser extent, ‘f’ and ‘v’ sounds. Phonetics calls these ‘fricatives’; they’re mainly characterized by the hissing noise they produce. When a passionate vocalist is belting…

The Best Earplugs for Musicians: Protecting Your Greatest Asset

It should go without saying that a musician, engineer, or producer’s greatest asset is his or her hearing. We rely on it for quite literally everything we do related to music, from gathering inspiration to writing, recording, and mixing. The…

Best Guitar Impulse Responses [Free and Paid]

Collecting impulse responses isn’t necessarily new tech. But it is becoming increasingly popular for capturing the sound of a unique speaker cabinet, microphone, and room for guitar. Beyond your amp settings, there’s a whole lot more that affects your recorded…

Digital Music Distribution – Getting Music Out in 2020

Before making albums in people’s bedroom was the norm, record deals were the only way to get your music out there. A label provided the budget for recording, marketing, printing, and distributing copies of an album to consumers. Today, digital…

EQ/Compression Plugins Modeled After Analog Gear

Not all, but many of the plugins we reach for while mixing in-the-box are modeled after analog gear. Engineers made some of the best sounding records of all time well before any of us started recording in our bedrooms; and…

How to Change Keys in a Song

One of the simplest ways to add interest to your songwriting is through key changes. Also called ‘modulation,’ knowing when and  how to change keys in a song is a great skill to have. Modulation should not be confused with…

Cytomic The Glue: Best SSL Bus Compressors?

Cytomic The Glue is an affordable SSL-style bus compressor plugin. The plugins gets its name from the SSL hardware’s famous ability to ‘glue’ mixes together. Even though there are tons of SSL bus compression plugins on the market, Cytomic makes…

Who is Plini? “The Future of Exceptional Guitar Playing”

Plini Roessler-Holgate is an Australian, Sydney-based guitar player, who’s been releasing instrumental progressive rock/metal under his own name since 2013. He’s a key figure of the current instrumental prog scene, alongside other pivotal artists like Intervals, Polyphia, Jakub Zytecki, David…

Best Vocoder Plugins 2020: Fun Vocal Effects

A vocoder is an effect we’ve heard in music from the ’70s to the present day. It’s frequently described as the ‘robot voice’ heard in songs like “Intergalactic” by Beastie Boys. Like everything else, vocoders have gone software in the…

FabFilter vs. iZotope Plugins for Music Production

When it comes to mixing and mastering, we have access to hundreds of amazing plugins from many companies. We collect our favorites from a variety of developers since there’s no be-all-end-all plugin maker. However, an interesting debate we’ve occasionally seen…

Getting Credit on a Major Label Release

For producers, engineers, and musicians, getting proper credit forms the foundation of a career. Credit, or lack thereof, can quite literally be the difference between being busy or waiting around for a gig. Particularly as engineers, getting credit on a…

Flanger vs. Phaser: What’s the Difference?

Two of the most common modulation effects are flanger vs. phaser. We’ve heard both all over various recordings, and they do have a similar sound. This lends itself to some confusion, but if you know the subtle differences between each,…

What Is a Pentatonic Scale? Basic Music Theory

The pentatonic scale has been around for centuries. It features 5 notes per octave compared to 7 notes per octave found in most other scales, such as the natural major and minor. Numerous ancient civilizations independently created their own pentatonic…

What Does a Pop Filter Do? Recording Vocals

(Alisa Apps Featured in Photo) A pop filter is a simple mesh shield we place in front of a microphone. Typically made of nylon or metal, they clamp to a mic stand with an adjustable gooseneck. For most close-miked vocal…

Bass Compression: The Foundation of Any Mix

Bass compression is easily one of the most important parts of a mix. Bass gives music that energy which is often felt more than heard. Low-end energy is critical because it has the power to produce a defined groove and an intelligible…

How to Mix Background Vocals

We tend to mix background vocals differently than leads. Depending on the arrangement, they’re usually underneath the lead for support so they don’t steal the show. In some cases, background vocals will actually overtake the leads, such as in a…