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

5 Best FREE VU Meter Plugins in 2021

Before people started working in-the-box, VU meters measured the average level of a signal. You’d see them on consoles and outboard gear for measuring input or output level as well as gain reduction on compressors. The default digital meter is…

Jamulus Review: The ‘Zoom’ for Musicians

Jamulus isn’t the first of its kind, but it’s definitely gotten more traction the past several months. As the need for remote collaboration skyrocketed this last year, we’ve seen dormant technology like Jamulus emerge stronger than ever. We’ll strive to…

Compression Techniques: The Multiband Compressor

Learning to use a compressor is one of the most important mixing skills you can develop. Compression is all over mixes, even becoming the sound we associate with loud, modern pop mixing. If there’s anything you want to really understand, it’s…

How to Mix Vocals to a 2-Track Instrumental

Mixing vocals to a 2-track instrumental is something every engineer will encounter at some point. It’s especially common in hip hop/pop, where artists routinely download pre-mixed instrumentals online and bring them to a studio to record. The challenge with learning…

Copyright in Music: Sample Clearance vs. Fair Use

Like any artist, songwriters have a tendency to borrow from their influences. Especially in hip hop and related genres, producers will sample music from another artist to flip it and make it their own. The issue with this, though, is…

The Best Wavetable Synthesizers

Wavetable synthesis is a technique used in certain digital music synthesizers to produce natural, note-like sounds. An existing instrument’s note can be sampled and parsed into a sequence of wavetables. Wavetable synthesizers differ from subtractive, additive, and FM/AM synths. In wavetable…

Top Drum Software for Realistic Sounding MIDI Drums

Using drum software is one of the quickest and easiest means to lock down your song’s backbone. As a matter of fact, drum software has gotten so good that it isn’t uncommon for solo artists to release finished albums with…

The DIY Vocal Booth for Home Studios

One factor in getting better sounding vocal takes at home is a DIY vocal booth. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it especially doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If your vocal recordings are suffering but you’re…

Some of the Best Drum VSTs for Programmed Drums

Drum VSTs are one of the quickest and easiest means to lock down your song’s backbone. As a matter of fact, the software has gotten so good that it isn’t uncommon for solo artists to release finished albums with entirely…

How to Master a Song at Home with These Simple Steps

Mastering is the last step in preparing a song or album for release. The overall sonic aesthetic should be well established by the time a song reaches mastering. What you or a dedicated mastering engineer can do is make final,…

Which Audio Editor and Mixer (DAW) is Right for Me?

An audio editor and mixer, simply called a DAW, is the software used to record, edit, mix, and master music, podcasts, post production projects, and anything else audio-related. The truth is, there’s no “best” DAW—only the one that you know…

Plate Reverb Plugins vs. the Real Thing

On one side is the real EMT 140 plate reverb unit: a 600-pound, 8′ x 4′ behemoth introduced in 1957 as one of the first kinds of artificial reverb. On the other is a wide variety of plate reverb plugins…

Creating Space in Your Mixes

One of the hallmarks of a great mix is separation between every instrument. Most mix elements have wide frequency spectrums—even a kick drum can extend well into the high mids and above. When so much information exists in every instrument,…

Guidelines on How to EQ 14 Common Instruments

Understanding how to EQ–probably the most used tool available to engineers–is essential. Sometimes it’s as simple as high-passing an instrument, while other cases require more precision. Either way, EQ is fundamental in making mix elements sound more or less defined,…

The Best DAWs for Windows Operating Systems

Most of today’s DAWs are cross-platform, making it easy to choose if you’re running PC. Some titles are Mac-only, like Apple’s own Logic Pro, but for the most part options won’t be limited if you’ve chosen Windows as your primary…

Song Mastering: Preparing Your Tracks to Master

Song mastering is the final step in getting your tracks ready to release. What a mastering engineer does differently than a mixer is make final, sometimes very subtle, tweaks to make something sound polished and “commercial.” You can learn how…

Mastering in the Box – Tutorial & Plugins

If you plan to put the final polish on your mixes at home, you’ll need to understand mastering in the box. Some techniques involve things like additional EQ, compression, M/S processing, and limiting to finalize a song before release. Generally…

Best DAW for Mac

Most major DAWs are cross-platform, meaning your options aren’t limited by the type of computer you’re running. This is great because it evens the playing field whether you’re comfortable on Windows or Mac operating systems. Apple users do have a…

Sound Synthesis: Basics of Granular and Wavetable Synthesis

Whether we’re aware of it, many of us are using sound synthesis technology everyday. As engineers and producers, we’re often relying on virtual instruments and plugins which use granular and wavetable synthesis to make sounds! Granular synthesis is the technology…

The Benefits of Recording a Scratch Track

A scratch track is a rough playthrough of a song, or section of a song, that acts as a guide while recording other instruments. It’s usually just a couple instruments, like a rhythm guitar and vocal playing along to a…

The Best Drum VSTs for Any Budget

The best drum VSTs we’ve gathered run the gamut between $89 all the way up to $700! Thankfully, this means there’s a variety of choices to suit any budget. Of course, there are free options as well so you can…

The Ultimate List of Free Pro Tools Plugins 2021

If you’re looking for third-party plugins to expand your growing collection, look no further than The Ultimate List of Free Pro Tools plugins. Whether you need a Pultec-style EQ or a trigger gate for electronic music stutter effects, this list…

6 Key Ingredients to a Better Vocal Production

If you’re struggling to fine-tune your vocal production chops, don’t be alarmed. 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 session. Keeping…

Home Studio on a Budget: Getting Started for Less than $1000

It’s 2019: You can make records in your home studio and spend less than $1000 getting set up! Today’s recording tech has given everybody the opportunity to create high-quality music in their bedroom, even with just the bare essentials. We’ll…

The Basics of Recording Vocals

Recording vocals seems like it should be pretty simple. You get a mic set up, the artist stands in front of it, and you’re ready to go…While this is the basic set-up, there’s a bit more to it if you…

5 Vocal Reverb Tips That Will Level Up Your Mixes!

Let’s get down to it..a dry vocal sounds pretty weird! Even what we’d consider “dry” overall mixes have at least a little bit of dimension, probably from the room where things are recorded, with a little extra help from hardware…

Gain Staging for Modern Recording

A gain stage is any point in the audio signal path where we can adjust the overall level of a track. For instance, this could be with a fader or with the output controls of plugins like compressors and EQs.…

Which Vocal Compressor is Right for the Mix?

We’ve stressed the importance of mixing vocals time and time again! Because lyrics are what average listeners immediately identify with, making a singer sound great should almost always be a priority. Amongst other tools, the perfect vocal compressor for the…

What is Plate Reverb and How is It Used?

If you’ve spent any time playing around with reverb in-the-box, you’ve probably observed the common types that exist. Chamber, hall, and room are easy enough to imagine, but what about plate reverb? We most easily associate “echo” with real-world spaces,…

Parallel Compression Explained

Parallel compression was developed as a means to an end. The vast majority of compressors are “downward” in action. This means that they work by reducing the peaks in source material. Parallel compression, on the other hand, was designed to…

How to Master a Song: Understanding the Goal of Mastering

Mastering is the final step in preparing a song or album for commercial release. This means that it takes place after mixing, so the overall sonic aesthetic should be well established by the time a song reaches mastering. What a mastering engineer…

The Best Free VST Synth Plugins

If you’re a music producer or songwriter, virtual instruments and software synthesizers are your best friend. And if you haven’t already developed an unhealthy obsession with plugins, you will eventually! The only problem with the plugin game is that it’s…

Should I Be Using Sidechain Compression?

Sidechain compression is a common “advanced” mixing technique. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Should I use sidechain compression here?,” the answer is “Give it a shot!” It uses are somewhat particular, but sidechaining generally creates more separation, more rhythm, or more…

15 Essential Mixing Tips for Better Mixes Today

Mixing music requires technical ability as well as the creativity to make a song interesting to listeners. Mix engineers firstly possess the technical knowledge of audio signal flow, DAW and/or console operation, and how to use signal processors, whether in…

Mixing Guitars: 10 Helpful Tricks for Incredible Tone

Many of us are guitarists, and most of us probably love to geek out on gear and tone as much as we like to actually play. After all, finding our individual “holy grail” tone is half of what makes playing…

The Best Tips for Producing and Mixing Guitars

A huge part of what we do as producers and engineers is not only make things sound great, but also make sure our musicians are inspired along the way. This is true for virtually all aspects of the music production…

What is Reverse Reverb? Should I Be Using It?

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…

Reference Tracks: How to Use Them and Mistakes to Avoid

Reference tracks are used as a guideline while mixing. They can be supplied by the artist to demonstrate a desired aesthetic, or chosen by the mix engineer as a standard to go by. Using reference tracks can help us craft…

Reverb Mixing Tricks to Elevate Your Mix

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

How to Use a Compressor (Easy Beginner’s Guide)

Learning how to use a compressor is one of the most important mixing skills you can acquire. Compression is quite literally all over mixes, even becoming the sound we associate with loud, modern pop mixing. If there’s anything you want to…

Mixing Vocals: The Produce Like A Pro Master List

Have you ever had trouble getting a vocal to sit right in the mix? Have you ever felt underwhelmed by the overall tonality of a vocal, whether it’s too thin or perhaps too muffled? Does the vocal feel too wet…

A Beginner’s Guide to Sidechain Compression

Sidechain compression is an intermediate level mixing technique that allows you to set an alternate input signal source from the track on which the compressor is inserted. For instance, if you place a compressor on the bass guitar and “sidechain”…

Home Recording Studio Setup Basics

Everyone’s home recording studio setup varies a little bit. Much of it is dependent on room size, budget, and what you plan to do with it. In a lot of cases, a laptop, audio interface, and a set of headphones…

Understanding Granular Synthesis

Granular synthesis is the operative force behind many plugins and DAW functions we use all the time. When it was first introduced, it was incredibly CPU heavy and confined to offline processing only. Now we have incredibly quick processing speeds…

What Is Dithering | How Is It Used for Music Production?

There’s lots of terminology in digital audio that we’ve heard before, but aren’t quite sure what it is or how it works. If dither, or “dithering,” is one of those terms for you, you’re not the only one! Dither is…

Free Audio Editors: Cutting Tracks on the Cheap!

Regardless of the type of audio you’re working with, there’s a good chance you’ll want software to help you mix, edit, or directly record the source. It doesn’t matter whether you’re producing music, podcasts, or audio to sync with video;…

Summing Mixer: Digital or Analog?

Which summing mixer is right for you is dependent on how you like to work. In a small project studio where you’re working in the box, an outboard summing mixer is probably an afterthought. But if you have the budget…

Optimizing Mixes for Streaming

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the incredibly talented Warren Sokol to talk about mixing/mastering for streaming release. Some of the main topics we covered are LUFS metering, the different codecs streaming services use to encode masters,…

20 of the Top Waves Plugins for Mixing

Waves plugins have been around since 1992 when the company first introduced its Q10 Paragraphic EQ. The Q10 broke new technological ground as the first audio plugin ever, with sound quality comparable to, or better than, its hardware equivalents. Over…

Modular Synthesis: The Most Powerful Synthesizers Ever

Modular synthesis is one of the most powerful sound design and music production tools you can use. From the outside, though, it looks pretty confusing…Even understanding the basics can take a while if you don’t know where to start. Luckily,…