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

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…

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…

Vocal Compression for Beginners

Learning to mix an up-front, in-your-face vocal takes practice. Understandably the most important aspect of a song across numerous genres, a great sounding, competitive vocal has the power to stand out from the pack. But how do we even get…

PreSonus vs Focusrite Audio Interfaces 2021

An audio interface is one of the first things you’ll buy for your home studio. Typically two inputs are enough for the majority of home recordings, and there are tons of affordable entry-level interfaces. In terms of PreSonus vs Focusrite,…

IEM vs Earbuds – What’s the Difference?

Technology moves fast these days. Everyone has a personal listening device in their pocket, and with those come a slew of choices for how to get that sound to your ears. IEM (short for in-ear monitors) vs earbuds appear fairly…

Considerations for Mixing with Headphones vs. Monitors

One of the most common questions starter engineers have is whether they should mix with headphones or studio monitors. The answer tends to be that good results are achievable on either, or both. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do much to clarify.…

How to Do Reverse Reverb in 3 Easy Steps

Reverse reverb, sometimes called reverse echo or reverse regeneration, simply takes the reverb tail of any instrument and reverses it. Creating it is a matter of printing the wet signal of a reversed audio track. Reverse reverb is typically accompanied…

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…

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…

Recording Vocals [Tips from the Pros]

If you struggle recording vocals from time to time, it’s nothing to worry about! Every time a new vocalist steps up to the mic, there are a bunch of variables at play which can skew our results from session to…

How to EQ Acoustic Guitar in a Mix

The most important factor when it’s time to EQ acoustic guitar is context. You’ll have to determine its prominence against other instruments and make EQ moves based on that. Acoustic guitar can be the most important rhythm instrument, or it…

Stem Mastering Explained

If you’ve heard “stem mastering” mentioned in recent years, you’re not alone if you’re wondering what the heck it means! We’ll take a quick look at the “regular” mastering process and how stem mastering differs from it. Let’s refresh. What…

Everything You Should Know About Booking Studio Time

Booking studio time isn’t the most complicated thing in the world, but there are lots of details that both clients and sometimes studios miss the mark on all the time. As an artist, you’ll need to answer several questions for…

Using MIDI Controllers to Play Virtual Instruments

MIDI controllers are keyboards that let you play virtual instruments and transmit MIDI information to your DAW for recording. Most of the time they connect to your computer via USB for easy integration and very little set-up. They’re about as…

The Top 5 Most Common Drum Programming Mistakes

Drum samples and plugins have gotten so good that it’s never been a better time for realistic drum programming. As a matter of fact, it’s totally viable for solo artists to release projects with convincing programmed drums. But even with…

Step Sequencing: What It Is and How to Use It

Step sequencing is a MIDI-based tool that divides a measure of music into a pre-determined number of note values called “steps.” Each step laid out in the software can then trigger notes and other MIDI information you supply it. Like most…

Simple Ways to Increase Loudness in Your Mix

By definition, loudness is a subjective perception of volume. It varies from person to person based on a variety of physiology and psychological factors. It’s also frequently confused with physical measures of volume, such as sound pressure level represented by…

A Starter’s Guide to Recording Voice-Overs

There are tons of different reasons why you might want to get into recording voice-overs. We sometimes associate VO recording with film or TV post-production, in a process called “automated dialogue replacement” (ADR)—but in the grand scheme of things, that’s…

Understanding the Difference Between Gain and Volume

Many of us have wondered, what is the difference between gain vs. volume. Even though the terms sometimes seem to be used interchangeably, there are some fundamental difference. The most important distinction between gain and volume is how, or more…

Mixing with Headphones: What You Need to Know

There tend to be varying degrees of thought on mixing with headphones. Some of us are in bedrooms, our parent’s house, married with kids (not wanting to wake them up at 3am!), etc. It’s understandable that in certain cases mixing…

MIDI Basics and What You Should Know About 2.0

Short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, MIDI is a standard which includes a communications protocol, digital interface, and physical connectors for different electronic instruments, computers, and other audio devices. Perhaps most importantly to musicians, it allows us to play, record, and edit virtual/electronic instruments…

How to Use Audio Pass Filters in Your Mixes

The most frequently used audio pass filters you’ll come across are high- and low-pass filters. High-pass filters (also called “low-cut”) attenuate low-end below the chosen frequency. Literally at the other end of the spectrum are low-pass filters (also called “high-cut”),…

A Short History of the Vocoder

The vocoder has been around for a very long time… In 1938, Homer Dudley at Bell Labs invented it to reduce the bandwidth of speech transmission for telecommunications. In other words, it was originally intended as a voice codec for audio…

How to Add Drum Kits to FL Studio: Tutorial

Image-Line started off as a video game company in 1992. Eventually, one of the lead developers was drawn into music production applications. In 1998, FruityLoops debuted as a MIDI-only step sequencer inspired by early Propellerhead software. Four years later, FruityLoops became…

Creative Reverb and Delay Tricks for Vocals

Vocals are the centerpiece to any song and generally require a bit more attention than basic rhythm tracks. Since the human voice is the most expressive instrument, you can have a lot of fun mixing them. There’s lots of pretty…

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…

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…

How to Use Parallel Compression

Parallel compression, also called New York compression, is a form of upward dynamic control. An instrument’s dynamic range is reduced not by squashing the peaks, but by bringing up the quietest parts in the material, adding greater detail and excitement…

Kick Drum: Killer Tips for the Best Sounding Low End

The kick drum is one of the most important elements of any mix. Together with bass, it forms the backbone of a song and establishes the groove which grabs listeners’ attention. It’s a challenge to get the kick sounding its…

The Different Kinds of Microphones and Their Applications

The more you get into the recording craft, the more you’ll start to recognize different types of microphones and their uses. There’s a huge world of mics out there, but knowing the major types will help you determine what to…

Mix Bus Compression Tips for Better Mixes Today

Every professional mix/master you’ve heard has benefitted from a splash of bus compression. It adds what we call “glue” to a mix by smoothing out the overall dynamic range of the material. Done well, mix bus compression can take your…

6 Reverb Tips for Clean and Creative Mixes

Learning how to use reverb is an essential mixing skill. Time-based effects have the ability to add dimension to your mix, and give instruments their own sonic space. Reverb is often used to push mix elements further back, but it…

Fundamental Stereo Miking Techniques

Stereo miking techniques use two microphones at the same time to record one sound source. Each microphone is then panned to the left and to the right to mimic the way our ears perceive sound in the “real world.” This…

Recording Drums with One Microphone: Techniques

Believe it or not, you can totally get away with recording drums with one microphone! Even though we’re accustomed to close miking each piece of the kit in order to get the biggest, punchiest sound we can, that isn’t always…

The Shure SM57, the Most Popular Dynamic Mic Ever Made

The Shure SM57 is the definitive workhorse microphone. It’s ubiquitous across the world, from home project studios to world-renowned places like Sunset Sound. The microphone is rock solid, pragmatic in cost and usage, and highly effective. It’s impossible to miss…

What is a Synthesizer? A Comprehensive Guide

Synthesizers have never been more popular than they are now. They currently play a dominant role in the production of the world’s most in-demand music. Synthesizers are the sound of pop, hip-hop, EDM, and more. But you certainly wouldn’t be…

Circle of Fifths: Easily Navigate Every Key

The circle of fifths is a roadmap for musicians. It shows the relationship between all 12 notes of the chromatic scale, and helps us navigate key signatures with ease. A fundamental part of any beginner to intermediate theory lesson, the…

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…

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…

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,…

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…

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…

5 Best Mixing Plugins in 2021

Mixing is one of the most satisfying parts of music production. It’s so much fun polishing raw recordings, adding creative effects, and putting the finishing touches on a song for listeners. There are literally thousands of plugins out there that…

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…

How to Record Acoustic Guitar at Home | 7 Tips

Recording acoustic guitar for the first time can be a challenge. Usually what kind of mic to use and where to put it are the two biggest hurdles for beginners when it comes to getting the best sound, but there…

Best EQ Plugins in 2021 [Free & Paid]

Equalization is one of the most powerful tools we have as mixers. It can make instruments sound better, make instruments sound different, carve out space in a mix, add clarity, remove muddiness, and so much more. In that sense, the flexibility of…

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…

Apogee Duet 3 Review: Ultimate Portable Interface?

Fourteen years ago, Apogee revolutionized audio interfaces. The original Duet combined professional quality with portability in a never-before-seen way which changed the digital recording landscape. Over the years, they’ve consistently improved the original design, and in 2021, the Apogee Duet…

Cardioid vs Condenser – What’s the Difference?

When you’re first learning about microphones, all of the various terms can be confusing. After reading this article, you’ll have a better grasp of the different kinds of microphones, and most importantly, why cardioid vs condenser is an invalid comparison!…