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Mixing Master Class

Lesson 20 of 27

Creative Mixing

Joey Sturgis

Mixing Master Class

Joey Sturgis

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Lesson Info

20. Creative Mixing


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Course Overview Duration:02:36
2 What is Mixing? Duration:15:56
3 Mixing Fundamentals Duration:06:10
4 What is EQ? Duration:38:36
5 Saturation Duration:24:08
7 Volume Balance Duration:15:25
8 Dynamics Basics Duration:16:23
9 Dynamics Q&A Duration:17:26
10 Limiters Duration:15:20
11 Spatial Balance Duration:39:57
12 Delay, Echo and Reverb Duration:26:29
13 Recap and Order of Inserts Duration:20:31
14 Replacement Mixing - Kick Duration:24:34
15 Replacement Mixing - Snare Duration:31:20
20 Creative Mixing Duration:28:10
21 Creative Mixing - Vocals Duration:22:34
23 Production Mixing - Guitars Duration:18:59
24 Production Mixing - Bass Duration:15:41
25 Production Mixing - Vocals Duration:23:34
26 Translating Artist Notes Duration:28:32

Lesson Info

Creative Mixing

What is creative mixing? We kind of cover this a little bit on the first day. Try to separate mixing into three different categories. Production mixing being you take the artist's song and you don't add anything to it, you just mix it for what it is. No snare samples, no guitar tones created from scratch, none of that stuff. Then you have your creative mixing whereas that's kind of combination of still doing the same techniques that you would with a production mix, but then adding in a couple little things just to spice it up. And I find myself doing this pretty often because it seems to be one of the best solutions of making a song more exciting without having to do a bunch of, well it's basically a way of making the song more exciting without, if you try to do with just automation for example, it wouldn't be possible. So it's way of adding some excitement to the chorus for example. Making parts transition better. Things like that you couldn't accomplish without being able to do what ...

I call creative mixing. So looking at this slide here. Adding stuff to make the song sound cooler than it was recorded. Let's show an example of doing that. So we have the same song open that we did the replacement mixing on, but let's actually listen to this beginning part here and see what we have. (ominous rock music) So right off the bat I notice, it plays the keyboard part and then just goes right into the song. Nothing exciting happening. Doesn't sound like it really transitions. Doesn't like ramp up with energy or anything. So in my mind there's a couple of ways to go about this, and hopefully you would have the permission of the artist to add like additional crash symbols and things like that, but sometimes you might even add things to the song without the artist even knowing. For example a crash symbol. Adding that extra crash, I doubt anyone would even notice, but it would add that additional energy, that additional impact that you would expect it to have when it goes from a part like that into full on mix. So starting out here, just gonna hit F five, which opens this thing called the media bay. And this is basically all the stuff on your computer. Like all your sound files. So if you go through and setup like I have, I have like a sample folder setup on my computer, and I keep all of my audio samples on there, and I have access to all kinds of different things like gunshots, explosions, symbol crashing, like all that kind of stuff. So I'm gonna add a crash symbol to the beginning of this just because I think it needs more dramatic impact when it transitions from that first keyboard part into the full mix. So I have a number of different crash symbols here, let me just take a look. (crash symbol) Actually I could type the word crash, and it will narrow it down for me. (crash symbols) So there's one, I'm just gonna double click that, and that has been added to the project. And then I'm gonna find one more crash. And it's still scanning for files, so it's gonna be kinda weird for a second. (crash symbols) I need a crash that's a little bit more on the right hand side. Actually I can use, I'm gonna use this crash, but then I'm gonna flip the stereo. So double click that, it's imported. So let's see, this one. (crash symbols) Right click that, process, stereo, flip, and that gives me the crash little on the right side. (crash symbols) So take those two crashes, put them right here, right where this part kicks in. And then just hear that real quick. (ominous rock music) Sounds pretty cool. So I might even try doing like a reverse crash, but if we're just mixing the song, this is starting to get into the territory of like kind of producing the song. But nowadays it seems like the lines are pretty blurred. (ominous rock music) But however there's a lot of mixing engineers out there, for example, Chris Lord-Alge who will do whatever it takes to make the song cool. And he'll get a song, I mean I've heard that he'll get a song and he'll, if he thinks that it will be better to change the arrangement in some way, he will make that as a suggestion. Even though he's just hired as a mixing engineer. He might be like hey guys this song would be way better if you tried this. So I look at it from the same point of view where I'm given this song to mix and I'm thinking, this part right here needs a reverse crash, let's put it in and see if the artist is cool with it. But at the same time I make sure that I'm not gonna offend somebody, I'm not gonna do that if they specifically request that I don't add stuff to the song. With creative mixing, it's kind of like, you're acting on the fly. If you are working on the song, you're mixing it, and you think this part needs a little extra something, I'm gonna try to add it in, that's the kind of stuff that we're talking about is adding in layers of other sounds that weren't originally part of the recording to make the mix energetic, and to make moments stick out and happen. These crashes are a little loud, so I'm gonna turn it down. (ominous rock music) And then for this part they've got this kind of percussion stem. (drum music) Sounds pretty cool, it needs a little bit of needs a little bit of excitement. So let's add a couple of adjustments on here. (drum music) So what I'm gonna do with this is I want to add more emphasis on the deep down beat of the kick or whatever it is, I don't know maybe it's a timpani or something. But it doesn't really stick out, and all I have is this stem. This is all that they've given me. I don't have that part broken down into a bunch of different tracks. So I have to use creative mixing in order to bring out certain elements that I want to hear in this. I'm gonna just do, add a track. I'm gonna find a kick sample. (kick drums) I kind of like this one so I'm gonna use this. Gonna put that on the downbeat, and I'm gonna change the length of this kick drum. It's got a weird sort of weird sound at the end. (kick drums) I only want like the first part of it. So go like this. (kick drums) And then I'm gonna go and listen to the stem again to see what kind of what the beat is doing. (drum music) So I'm gonna accent those hits. (drum music) It probably repeats so I'll just go like this. (drum music) Okay, copy the performance, now I'm going to do a little bit of EQ on here. (drum music) So if we had not added that kick it would sound like this. (drum music) (ominous rock music) I'm still gonna tuck that in there a little more. I don't want to have it really standing out, I'm just trying to emphasize that little punch. (ominous rock music) So I sort have like this kind of weird kick sound, but since we're only using it as a layer it's not really supposed to stand out on its own. It's kind of just helping push that percussion part to a kind of a new level. (ominous rock music) Now I might even go in and find like another sample. (kick drums) Looking for. I have a sample that kind of sounds like, yeah. So I'm gonna use that as sort of like an additional accent for this part. So I bring this in, line it up with this sound here. And this one is gonna be less often. So here's our immediate accents, and then we're gonna do this one as like halfway. So pull this back. So we got, looks like I got eight bars, so I'm gonna use, this is gonna be every four bars. So put it in grid relative mode, bring it over here. Now we have these two things. (kick drums) Okay so let's see what that sounds like with everything. (ominous rock music) A little less volume, it's kind of serving its purpose as like an atmosphere type thing. (ominous rock music) Now in order to make this part even more interesting I might even go as far as doing a little bit of editing on the string part. And again, you know, this is teetering on the edge of producing versus mixing but creatively I think this can be more interesting if I added a little bit of flair to the string part underneath, so let's say. (ominous rock music) So like this bar right here, 16 to 17, is like the hanging note. (ominous rock music) What I'm gonna do here on the string track is cut out a little segment here, and try a little bit of like glitch type stuff to make it more interesting. (glitchy string music) Try like pitch shift on this. (glitchy string music) (ominous rock music) Then you know change this, every track in Cubase has this little button here which is called auto fades, and it automatically fades in and out every event based on these rules that you tell it. So I'm gonna give it a one millisecond length. With an s curve. And that's gonna get rid of those little pops and clicks. (glitchy string music) (ominous rock music) So kind of a little bit on borderline producing, maybe even writing some stuff, but just trying to heighten the song. Add some additional energy to it. (ominous rock music) And then they have their own bass drop here. (impact sound) It's kind of like I guess an impact. So there's a couple of different ways I'd probably treat this if I was creatively mixing. If I was like production mixing, you would just be stuck with that sound. So all you could really do with it I guess is turn it up, turn it down, EQ it, whatever. But I'm actually gonna break it out into different tracks. So I'm gonna call this impact high, impact low. And on the high track I'm gonna do a high pass. And then on my low track I'll do a low pass. See what we got. (impact noise) Okay so if I turn the low off. (impact noise) We just get that sound, low. (impact noise) So we have it broken up into separate pieces. Now we can change the volume of those two. The first one, the high, needs to be a lot louder. So I'm gonna start by putting a limiter on there. (impact noises) And then I'm gonna add reverb to this channel only. (impact noise) Give it a little more tail. (impact noise) But I don't want that reverb on the bass. So with the bass channel, (impact noise) we're gonna add a limiter again. (impact noises) And then I can set the volume of that track separately. So I'm just gonna turn it off first, play the part. (ominous rock music) And then slowly kind of, as I loop it, I'm gonna slowly turn it up and see if I can get it at the volume level that I want. (ominous rock music) There. So that's one way you can like break a sound into a couple different layers. Probably let's check out this piano, let's see what's going on here. (piano music) Okay so let's say I wanted this piano part to be more atmospheric. I don't have the midi, all I have this audio track they gave me. So I might start by utilizing some sort of like pad for example. I'll just try this Embracer thing. And I would solo these two, find the first note. (synth music) Get a different sound first. (synth music) (ominous piano music) So you just follow along the part. (ominous piano music) I missed a couple notes. (ominous piano music) Actually I might want this a whole octave up. (ominous piano music) Nope I want a octave down. (ominous piano music) Okay so now we have the part copied, performance copied. We can just hit play and choose different patches. (ominous piano music) I think that sounds pretty cool. And then on the piano I would probably start to mix that a little bit more aggressively now. (ominous piano music) This thing's really touchy. (ominous piano music) There we go, a little bit of EQ afterwards. (ominous rock music) Alright so let's remove all the stuff that we added to this part. (ominous rock music) Now back in. (ominous rock music) So it's one way you can kind of make song even more interesting without, you're mixing the song but you're still, you're creatively mixing the song I guess, I don't know. It's just a way of creatively making certain things stick out, accenting certain moments. More so than when you would be able to do with EQ or compression or whatever, distortion for example. And I think I would even go as far as automating this part even more. Doing a volume ramp into that section to make it more interesting. (ominous rock music) Something like that.

Class Description

Joey Sturgis is the producer behind some of the biggest names in metalcore, including Asking Alexandria, Of Mice & Men, and I See Stars. His sound is one of the most sought after sounds of the last decade and in this class, he’ll show you the unique mixing techniques that are key to getting it.

This class picks up where Joey’s Studio Pass class left off: you’ve got your session tracked and edited, now how do you turn it into a polished, world-class mix? 

He’ll show you how to get his signature sound, including: 

  • EQ and compression strategies for drums, guitar, bass, vocals, and synths/effects 
  • How to use automation to fix problem areas and bring out the song’s dynamics 
  • Tons of little tips and tricks to take your mix from good to great 

If you want to elevate the quality of your mix, don’t miss Mixing Master Class with Joey Sturgis.



I don't work exclusively in the same genre as Joey but I always make sure to clear my schedule when he's on CreativeLive. This class definitely didn't disappoint and it was awesome getting to see Joey work on a track from start to finish and what his approaches and thought processes are. And not only that, but I appreciate that he briefly touches on client communication in regards to production, mixing, etc, and the business side to the mixing process as this is an area I'm just now dipping my toes in. Even though I often find myself on the rock, indie or post-rock side of things, a lot of these ideas can apply to anything you're working on and I definitely picked up some ideas to try and work on myself. Joey gives you enough to inspire you and make that light bulb click and does it with an admirable humility that I respect. He gives you more than enough on how and why he does what he does, but I never feel like he reveals all his secrets or magic; I honestly prefer it that way as it leaves a fun challenge of taking the ideas you've learned and figuring out how, when and where you're going to use them in your own mixes. Especially if you're not doing predominantly metal, like I am. The ideas are inspiring. This class isn't about those perfect settings to that phenomenal mix or tone; it's about why you do this and how you do that. It's cool to be able to watch his process and pick his brain, start to finish and all in the box. Joey definitely doesn't need to do these classes for us, but the more I see him getting active on social media the more I get this vibe that he genuinely wants to help make the creative and mixing processes easier and help us expand our knowledge and skills. I get that it's smart business, but I respect and appreciate the hell out of him for taking time to do these classes and answer our questions... Even if there are shameless plugs here and there. I love when these great engineers take time to show us you don't need school, you don't need thousands of dollars of outboard gear, etc. It's your ear, not your gear. We live in an amazing day and age with the Internet and awesome resources like CreativeLive. I love it and these are great classes to watch and get in their heads. It set gets the hamster wheel in my head spinning and I always keep CreativeLive classes on my calendar. They're motivating and inspiring. Looking forward to the next one!


I’ll start off by saying this a amazing class not just for those looking for or interested in “The Sturg” production, but for anyone interested in mixing or mastering. You get everything from the must have fundamentals and basics of mixing and production, to the more advance technical aspects, and of course Joey’s personal approach and method to mixing. Everything from EQ, to compressors, multiband compressors, automation and chain signals. If you ever wondered whether you should place delay in front of your reverb, or reverb in front of delay, or other common chain effects, chances are they get answered in this class. The class is organized in several lessons following a logical order, each covering different topics. All the techniques are shown with examples and Joey does a great job of making it easy to understand and follow as well as explain the reasoning behind the techniques. And it’s not just mixing or production that is covered, but the importance of good songwriting, good communication with artists and good workflow. I highly recommend this for anyone looking to take their mixing or production to the next level. Regardless of skillset, if you’re a noob, intermediate or advanced mixer or producer, you’ll find very helpful and informative lessons, regardless of what style or genre you do.

a Creativelive Student

I own both of Joey`s courses. While both are full of useful information to get you started in the audio production world with lots of good technical explanation and awesome concepts for a fast and individual workflow, Joey actually comes up with average or "mediocre" mixes and tones. If you want some really detailed information about how Joey works, this class is for you. If you want to know what plugins Joey likes to use and wanna see him promote his own plugins, this class is for you! If you expect to learn how to create or come up with outstanding guitar and bass tones (which Joey is famous for) you won`t learn much and won`t hear anything in this particular regard, unfortunately. However, I`d still recomment them, especially the first course he did but again, if you expect to hear a typical Joey Sturgis mix quality, you won`t find what you`re looking for.