Production Workflow Tips with Neutron | Will Edwards | Skillshare

Production Workflow Tips with Neutron

Will Edwards, Artist. Creative Problem Solver. Musician

Production Workflow Tips with Neutron

Will Edwards, Artist. Creative Problem Solver. Musician

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14 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Overview & Goals

    • 3. Sculptor Bussing

    • 4. Keeping Notes

    • 5. My Key Commands

    • 6. Track Presets

    • 7. iZotope Standalones

    • 8. EQ Follow

    • 9. ALM - New Possibilities!

    • 10. Harmonizing Vocals

    • 11. EQ Modifier Tips

    • 12. Quick Plugin Duplication

    • 13. Mixing for Streaming

    • 14. Wrap-Up & Project

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About This Class

If you already mix your own tracks with Neutron and you're looking for tips for improving your workflow, this course will offer you a collection of ideas that you can add to your routine right away.

After years of audio recording, editing and mixing experience, I favor using Neutron because it offers so many workflow benefits.  Workflow is such a significant skill to develop.  If you have great software and great music you may still find your creative flow constrained if your workflow isn't streamlined.  This section is all about overcoming some of those constraints.

In this course, you'll learn:

  • Tips for faster Neutron processing
  • Tips applicable to any DAW
  • General organization tips for producers
  • My most-used hotkey commands
  • Tips for mixing for error-free streaming

Even if you already know Neutron, this course offers you an alternate perspective on workflow enhancements (based on years of experience).  When you've completed this course, there is a class project outlined in the last lesson to help guide you in taking ownership of the lesson topics.

Meet Your Teacher

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Will Edwards

Artist. Creative Problem Solver. Musician


I am a full-time professional musician who has broad teaching experience with guitar & bass students in rock, blues, jazz and many other genres. I perform live on bass, guitar and keyboards.  In addition, I perform live electronic music improvisation.  I've devoted over 26 years to my own well-rounded musical education, focusing on a mastery of all aspects of modern music - from music theory to ear training; from live performance to composition and practice routines.

I specialize in bridging the gap between music and technology, focusing on using modern tools to demonstrate all aspects of music.  I compose and perform with Ableton and Push 2 and I have experience with Cubase, ProTools and Logic.  I'm extremely comfortable using web-based to... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi, my name is Will and I've had a lot of experience working in audio engineering. I've run my own private studio at which ultimately became commercial. And through all my work, one of the things that I have always found to be a critical difference between somebody who knows what they're doing and someone who doesn't know what they're doing is they're workflow and how professional, how structured is the workflow, things like hotkey commands and understanding your software. Now I've got a selection of tips and tricks I'm going to provide in this section that have just to do with Cubase because that's where I do a lot of my demos. But there are going to be likewise ways to speed up your workflow, whether you're using logic or Pro Tools are able to enter any of those others. And if you have questions about those, please reach out to me. I will give you some suggestions. This course is going to be great for anybody who is trying to make the most of their workflow there may be understand what they're doing, but they have a feeling that they should be able to do this work more quickly. That's what this section is really all about. So thanks so much for joining me here. I look forward to seeing you in the upcoming lessons. 2. Overview & Goals: Let's start by talking about all of the main things we're going to discuss in this section. So we're focused on workflow tips. So we're going to be talking about some of my experience, most of my ideas based on my experience as an engineer to improve your workflow, and then also to use these tools. So I'm focusing here on using Cubase, but I'm also focusing on using isotopes software. So neutron and other related software like nectar or ozone or insight. So how these tools really can function to improve your workflow and your musical productions. That's the main purpose or set of purposes behind the following lessons. 3. Sculptor Bussing: Let's talk about using sculptor as a great tool for buses or groups. Now, I have this masking track down here which incubates they call this group, but it's basically a bus. And whether you're using Live or logic or Pro Tools, any reputable DAW will enable you to setup a bus. And essentially what that allows you to do is to send the audio from a specific channel out too, that bus. So I, for example, I have this, all of my audio tracks going out to this masking bus. What's a bus for? Well, a bus is basically just a pathway that you can send audio along. When you're in a recording studio. You might set that up in order to bus effects, bas certain channels to effects like reverb. You might even use it to create a monitor bus for different monitor bus for the drummer. Then you go send the guitarists. But here we're, we're doing production. The main benefit of using a bus is to group things together that naturally go together so that you can process them as one unit. Here. I'm doing that because I have a number of vocal tracks, it's suitable. But you could also do that with drums if you had a snare and hat I hat, overheads, ride or kick all that stuff. And you wanted to apply processing to all of the drums, then doing that with a bus would be a really solid idea. Now, I think that the best tool to use for processing of us is going to be sculptor. Sculptor comes with a whole bunch of presets that are designed for specific purposes that makes sense. You know, all these titles, master bus enhancement, remove boxing us remove mud, subtle polish. Just make sense to us when we see the target curve names, we can have a set of markers for bass or guitar keys. You know, orchestral. Seeing these options here really makes it much easier to kind of point and click and actually make a better mix. Now if you're a really experienced a mixing engineer, you know, this is not what you're gonna do. You're going to go in there and you're going to make all these fine adjustments. But for most people that I had come into my studio, they would have loved to have done the recording and the mixing at home. They just have no idea or they didn't have the tools. Now that you have neutron, you could basically use these sculpture targets, even an all-purpose target for a bus, in even the master bus, even the master channel, to basically create a point-and-click mix that would sound noticeably better and stronger than anything that you might do unless you have considerable engineering experience. So make sure that you take advantage of using these target curves and you take advantage of using sculptor on your buses. 4. Keeping Notes: Another suggestion that I have which has been born out of my own workflow is to make notes during your mixing process. Now, if I'm using mixed assistant in neutron and I am just having it create a mix for me. I'll make notes like which channel that I set as a focus. Which instruments are sounding harsh for muddy? Those being opposite extremes on one extreme, harsh on the other extreme muddy. Which ones sound clear and separate it. Is there any missing consistency, energetic consistency, making notes as you listen, you apply effects, helps you to make sure you address everything that you're hearing because it's just human nature that you won't remember everything that you come across. And you may even start to see patterns. That's where I find making notes, especially helpful. So I actually have a notepad in Cubase where I can make notes on a per channel basis. But I also have a notepad on my desk. And I would highly recommend that if you really want to learn how to mix, you don't, you're not just if you just want to produce tracks and you're trying to balance these out, see the Internet as soon as possible, then making notes is still useful. But if you really want to have all of your efforts at engineering and mixing ultimately lead to you developing a solid skillset than making notes is a great way to start to see patterns. You'll start seeing, for example, that kicks and snares and bases and vocals produce the same challenges each time. And when you find a good solution, you'll want to make notes about those as well so that you can actually sort of build up a library of what are the good ideas, what are the best things I've done? Which things have worked to solve these specific problems. So I highly recommend starting to make a notes. 5. My Key Commands: In this lesson, I want to revisit some things that I've talked about before in other lessons. Namely that if you're a Cubase user, you should watch this lesson. You probably watched my other ones where I give is similar caveat. If you're not a Cubase user, you can skip it. But having custom key commands, very important. I use Command 3 to flip between my channels. I use escape to bypass all of my inserts. When I'm in the project view, I have a hotkey for sending my cursor to the very beginning of my project. If you're not Cubase user set these up or set similar key commands up. It will dramatically improve your workflow. You'll see being able to turn on loop cycle, being able to select a clip or an event on your screen and then set markers like this. I have the P key assigned to that. Maybe you make hotkeys for audio mixed downs or specific macros that you have set up. It's just really important to think about how can you take redundant or repetitive tasks that you do all the time and turn it into just one hotkey command. In the next lesson, I want to look at Track Presets. 6. Track Presets: Whatever DAW you're using, you'll find that there are such thing as Track Presets. I can see that I've got all these inserts inherit. And I can actually go and I can save and effects chain. Like let me just zoom in on this so I can see that right here. I can load in the effects chain save and effects chain from track preset. So if I save these effects, what happens is that it creates a preset that represents all of these plugins, all of these VOCs With their specific settings. This would be something where I might want to basically have the same baseline track effects for every high hat I ever mix or every kick that I ever mix, it's a great way to start bringing consistency in style, personal flavor to your mixes. Because if you're always using similar effects, yours using similar settings, you'll find that your KYC has a sound that's unique or your snare has it sound that's unique. So using effects chains is what it's called here. But whatever DAW you're using, it'll have some kind of track, preset or effects chains, preset, saving and loading capabilities you want to research that, identify how to do it and start using it all the time. Make reset for all your vocals. Make a preset for a background vocal, snare, hit a high hat, kick, base, keys, and anything else you can think of. It, it'll save you a lot of time and it'll make your work sound more consistent and more professional. 7. iZotope Standalones: Throughout my courses on an isotope products, I have used their stand-alone modules and I just wanna take a minute to point out that when you purchase neutron nectar or ozone, they're going to have all these modules. And if you buy the advanced version of the software, one of the benefits is that you will, you'll typically get more modules. But one of the main benefits that I want to bring up here is that you'll, you'll get the specific modules that you can load independently. So here's the deal is that if I load neutron just to use It's EQ, the sort of mothership parent Neutron plugin that's hosting that module takes up a considerable amount of CPU. Whereas if I just load the individual module, the Neutron 3 EQ, then I'm going to be saving a lot of CPU resources and overhead. If you don't have these available, it's probably because you have the standard version or a lower version. You need to have the advanced version and already have the modules, but it's a great power savings, CPU saving benefit. 8. EQ Follow: There are a few features in the software packages made by isotope that I have recently started to use more and more because they opera workflow benefits. You may not have this software, but it's called nectar. And I want to bring it up here because it does benefit my workflow. Let's say that I go to my lead vocal here. And I'm just gonna go ahead and set my markers like so. And I'm going to solo this channel and listen to it. Now on this track, I have nectar three, and I want to show you these three features, but I'm going to break them out into individual essence because they're each specific workflow benefits. The first workflow benefit is what's called EQ follow. What this does is it allows me to use the EQ module and to actually force one of these EQ nodes to follow a specific harmonic frequency as it moves. So let's look at this. And I can really see my fundamental here. So I'm gonna go ahead and I'm just going to double-click to create a new node, right? And I'm going to center it right on there. Now what I'm gonna do is I'm going to expand this and I'm going to hit the frequency. And as you can see that the EQ value actually moves to follow the frequency. So why would I want to do this and why is it such a workflow enhancement? Well, because oftentimes when I'm working on either vocals or especially electronic music, there are specific frequencies, specific harmonics that are causing me problems. Maybe they're humming, maybe they're booming, maybe they're creating buzz or something like that. And I wanted tool to sort of clean that up, be able to manage it, but without having to do anything too severe to the general overall mix, like a giant high-pass or low-pass filter or something like that. This is the only tool that I've come across that allows me to target a specific problem frequency and kill it. It's great for mastering if there's a specific mode in the room that you want to kill. But also if the mike that was being used was producing some kind of feedback or there was some kind of resonance in the room that was being picked up. This is the only tool. It saves so much time. It's a great workflow tip. In the next lesson, I want to talk about ALM over here, which again, although it's part of nectar, is one of my workflow favorites. 9. ALM - New Possibilities!: In this lesson, I want to talk about ALM, which is something built into nectar and why it's such a workflow benefit. In the old days before I had ALM and nectar, what I would do with the lead vocal was I would ride the vocal writing automation into the fader so that it would ride the peak level of my vocal. And I did this to create consistency. And to a certain degree, you can do this with compression, but riding the fader and gets a more subtle approach than using compression. So I would often still use compression by the way, after that, but I would set up this fader riding to begin with. There have over the years been some cool tools. Waves made a plugin that basically wrote in that automation for you having some good tools and some ways to enhance it. But what ALM does is it's Auto Level mode. The first thing you do is turn it on, right? Then you set the peak here. And let's say I have the peak set at eight. What this means is that as long as ALM is on, the Auto Level mode is going to make sure that my input fader here, my input level, is adjusted within three dB of my target all the time. So I don't have to worry about whether the vocalists signal ever gets too quiet. I'm always going to know that I'm dealing with a level around minus 8. And down here I can see the peaks in white here. Let me zoom in on that for you. I can see the peaks in white and the RMS and gray. And let me just go ahead and play this so I can see the peak and RMS in gray. So that really helps me to make sure my vocal tract is always hot enough before I start going and doing my EQ and other processing. In the next lesson, I want to talk about the last important timesaver here, harmonizer, which again is an extra tool. 10. Harmonizing Vocals: Vector also has a feature called a harmonizer. Now, in my example here and with the stems that are provided as part of this course, there's a ton of vocals. I've got three female vocals, I've got four male vocals. There's plenty vocals you, but a lot of times you want to add some vocal harmonies, but you only have one lead vocal, right? So with my, with my lead vocal soloed here, I'm gonna go ahead and add harmonizer or harmony. Once I've added the harmonizer, what I'd like to do is make sure that my scale is set, which takes me to the pitch module. The key of this particular recording is actually C sharp or D flat major. And then I go back to my harmonizer that's important to set the scale. And I'm going to add some voices you, I'm going to add a major third. And maybe I'll add go down a sixth, which is basically going down a third. And your pan those again left and right, kind of bring them down like that. So I've created one additional upgrade to E2 unisons, which come in by default. And I've added a major third here. And go ahead and remove that six by dragging them left and right. You can do pans and my grabbing them vertically. You can set level. So, you know, making this unison louder or quieter, panning it more to the left, more to the right, that sort of thing. It's nice to have the visual space to do that. Now I can also increase a timing variation. Now I can do this for multiple. So I could say select all of those. And I could say I want the pitch correction to be improved. I want that to be tracked more accurately. But I could say that just for what's in the left. I want to introduce a bit more time variation, or maybe just for the unisons, I want to add a little more timing variation, that sort of thing. And you can also set the timing variation, a per voice basis using these controls here. So there's a lot you can do here to just quickly create some vocal harmonies. And this is a big, big productivity booster because vocal harmonies are almost an essential part of modern music. Now, this is being done all the time with harmonizer. You've eaten get real voices by all means that is the best result. But this is great. This is a powerful timesaver that will make your tracks sound better. And the next lesson, I want to just show a couple of tips and tricks for using the neutron EQ. 11. EQ Modifier Tips: So if I load up my neutron EQ here, I can hold down the Alt or Option key and select a node, and then it's solos that node. So let's listen to this. Let's wait for it to come around again. This will be so that's a really nice feature to be able to use. Because when you're setting EQ's a lot of the time when you are starting out, you don't know exactly what result you're really getting with that a hue. It takes a long time to get familiar with what 200 or 300, or 600 and or 1.2 K sounds like. What does that going to bring into your music? Being able to, being able to solo these EQ's is again, a great workflow tip. A big time-saver, trains your ears, make sure that you're targeting precisely the sounds that you want to. And it's going to help you become a better engineer more quickly. 12. Quick Plugin Duplication: This is a quick and simple tip that I've certainly brought up before. But having some mechanism for copying plug-ins from one track to another. Many DAWs will allow you to hold down the Alt or option and just drag it. And it'll create a duplicate and it'll drop it on that check. That's a big time-saver as well because you might have, for example, compression settings for your kick that you want to copy to your base, or compression settings for the high hat that you want to copy to your overheads and your ride and crash, for example, doing four instances of it in switching back and forth, making sure you get the settings right is a drag. So that certainly not a time-saver. Looking for little options like this to improve your workflow is definitely worth it. 13. Mixing for Streaming: In this lesson, I want to talk about a streaming master because these days people are producing music for streaming services more than they ever have before. And I want to talk about some important principles here. If I take a look at ozone over here, which I have running on my master channel. Down here, there is a codec feature. And what the codec does is it allows me to start previewing the music as if it were being converted into one of these lossy formats, MP3 or AAC. And I start playing this and I turn on my codec preview. What I'm going to notice is that I may get different values, not necessarily, but you may get different values up here in the peak display right there. Now the reason for that is that when you convert your audio to a lossy format like AC or MP3, you run the risk of having your audio signal basically be louder than it should be. And if you thought that you were mixing under the clipping level, as soon as it gets converted to a C, an MP3, suddenly it's clipping. So it's really important to know that you have this codec preview tool available to you so that you can target the peak level knowing that it's going to eventually be delivered on some kind of streaming lossy format. That's a great, great tool, great time-saver. Don't have to bounce tracks out, listened to actually listen to them on other platforms, then I have to do any convoluted measuring. It's all just right here. Big workflow tip, big time-saver. 14. Wrap-Up & Project: So we have covered a lot of different workflow tips that I myself use. I know some of them are just cube a specific. But if if you need suggestions on your DAW, please let me know and I will get right back to a lot of experience with Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton, and some of the other smaller or lesser known DAWs as well. And I'm happy to help I look forward to hearing your feedback. Now. I also want to suggest a project that would help you incorporate these workflow tips into your actual workflow. And my suggestion is to kind of basically run a race against yourself, right? So start with a basic mix and go through the process, not using hotkeys or using whatever prior workflow you had. See how long it takes and see how much energy you spend not having an efficient workflow. Then see where can you modify your workflow? Basically, anytime you're doing something twice, it should be automated and maybe with a hotkey, maybe you can even create macros where it does many steps in one action. Looking at the individual features of the different kinds of software that you're using, the plugins that you're using, how to use presets, all of that sort of stuff. Look for ways to enhance your workflow. Maybe even just start with two or three, itemize through three ways that you can improve your workflow, something that you're doing over and over again. And then try to turn them into hotkey commands or macros are trying to identify a fast way to try to go through the same mix again and look at how your workflow improves. It's not just about timing, but it's also about professionalism. And it's about conserving our energy, right? So that our energy that is dissipated all the time, feeling frustrated with our software because we're getting out of it exactly what we need. And we can act at the speed of thought, right? We don't have that horrible situation where boy, we have a creative idea, but we can't get to it or it's slow. We're slowed down because our software's in a way that's when I really want you to get out of this section. If you have any questions or suggestions for improving this course, please let me know. I'm all ears and I'm so grateful you join me and I look forward to seeing you in some of my other courses. Thanks so much and good luck.