In our Studio Spotlights series, we shine the spotlight on professionals who are using Bounce Boss in their workflow. They share how they got into music, their career path, setup, skills and the projects they have been working on. They also share production tips and advice for customers.
In this Studio Spotlight, we meet James F Reynolds:
A couple of things spring to mind, my first ever big break in mixing is probably a significant moment for me in my mixing career when I decided I want to move away from making the records and into mixing the records although I still write and mix alongside each other but it's predominantly mixing now… But when I decided to make this move one of my first jobs that my management managed to get in for me was with Tiny Tempah’s album Discovery. I was pitted against two or three other big engineers in the States to mix Written In The Stars. That's that's a obviously a proud moment for me because I was sort of fairly fresh off the blocks. I had come out of making a lot of house music, so I think bottom end wasn't an issue for me because I know I've been doing that for years making big house records. So kind of moving into the urban scene was quite a natural progression. So I mixed Written In The Stars, they all went away and say “we like it yeah but maybe we'll…” there's always this thing if someone's got a bigger name it always helps get that mix over the line so initially I was told that it was going with this big US mixer whose name like which will main remain unmentioned and then they did a video shoot. In that video shoot they put all three mixes on as a blind test and they chose mine and then so that obviously led to doing the rest of the album and then that became quite a big album which then sort of built my career from that stage on was really as a mixer so yeah that's a big big moment for me.
I think the other thing I'm super proud of is I've been with BTS the the Kpop band from the beginning. I always mix their singles and I've seen them come from literally nothing to the biggest band in the world now and it's a big challenge as a mixer when you're looking at 250 to 300 parts you're you think your heads going to explode and it takes a lot of prep good prep work I have to credit my my assistant James Cunningham who's been brilliant getting the mix ready for me but even so I'm still stepping into 250 stems that have been brought down from 300 so it's still a big head space to fill and it's certainly not a four-hour or even a day's mix it's two days of solid concentration and grafting but I think that's good I think it's good to be challenged and to have your boundaries pushed and then it's always quite nice when you step back out of that into a 30 or 40 stems mix makes your day and well I think I can just about cope with this so yeah it's good.
The honest answer is I'm not sure because I never heard the other mixes so I don't know what it is that I did. I know that they liked how I did all the beats in the bottom end and as I said that again is me coming from a dance background I knew how to make drums and bass big and that's essentially what they want in an urban in an especially those in the mixes active time they wanted that kind of big warm bottom end so I think that probably helped I've I've found and it's been I think it's a British and American thing. So British mixers tend to have more solo super lows and warmth whereas the Americans have got more sort of low mids and scooped it sort of cut it rolled it off a bit so they can get it louder but it won't be as warm so I think that's there used to be quite a big difference between the British and American mix. I think that's changed a bit now and it's there's a bit more of an even spread of people that do both. I certainly do both now depending on what is required of a mix if it's to really stand out on radio like this this track I've just done for another artist called Marcus McCoan. We did track called Hair Down and I would say that's quite a u.s. style mix. I just wanted it to punch on the radio and to do that you need to sacrifice a bit at the low end but you really get the the low mids and upwards knocking through.
Studio setup is quite basic really a few keyboards as I I still write and produce for artists so essentially have a few keyboards I have a mixing desk but it's really the control unit that will allow me to send out to various outboard compressors like I've got the Phoenix mastering Plus which is an amazing compressor and I'm doing more band based stuff I can sometimes mix through that. My DAW is Studio One which I've been on for last two or three years. I absolutely love it's very quick workflow so yeah my main speakers that I mix on is the Kii’s. I've had them for about a year and literally blew my socks off when I heard them incredible the design by a very very clever man who yeah they made a steel essentially they're a bit like Barefoots so a steel cabinet with but with subs built into them but wood through his DSP technology he's managed to get a lot of the bass impotence coming forward from the speaker rather than getting reflections off the back wall so they're they're brilliant for any room. I've had this room acoustically treated but even so they're great and they have phase correction technology within them's which means I have a very accurate and pretty balanced listening experience . Great great speakers and then you've got the classic Avantone, which was based on the original aura tone which is an amazing little speaker when you want to give your ears a break you want to check all the balances brilliant brilliant speaker. I think the thriller was mixed on on the aura tone speaker so I mean that speaks volumes I don't need to say much more than that.
I think my strongest skill is experience when you mix records it takes years and years and years of just practice and practice and actually what was the reason I say experiences because when I started out I had listened to a demo that I got in and I'd go sounds rubbish I'll do what I think is right and I used to put a lot more of my own stamp on something which is right in certain situations but generally when you've got a demo people have thought about it for a long time and there's a reason it sounds like that because they want it to so the biggest biggest thing I think to take away and a an upcoming mix engineer should understand is speaking - everyone has a say in the record and understanding where everyone's head is at before you start mixing it and I think that will give you a lot of strength going into the mix and know exactly where it is because you might hear something you think is wrong but they go we love it we just want it tidying up in which case you've got to go very lightly and you've just got to clear up unnecessary bottom and all the usual things that you do when you're mixing a record making a space for the all the instruments checking that all the panning is right again that it comes into the making space thing and cleaning up there's so much of a good mix is led by the prep and how well the prep is done and and I usually when I work with my assistant over the years I I build them and with the basic prep and they start and they do more and more and if they can get that into the head it just bleeds into such a good place to mix the record by prep I'm don't just mean colouring it all and putting it in the right place I mean making sure that if it's live drums at their phase will let and there's no phase issues cutting out unnecessary noise cutting out breaths from backing vocals that are going to be compressed and make the track ugly all of those little things all together add to a lot and actually you can often do a prayer and you listen to against demo and it's already in a better place and you've hardly done anything in terms of EQing so yes super important
Bounce Boss has been amazing the thing I'm most annoyed about is that I didn't do it myself because it's such a brilliant idea and for years I have needed something like this just to streamline my workflow I used to use SoundCloud to sort of try and get and what bounce boss did but it got nowhere near sound quality was no good it just didn't work proficiently so when Bounce Boss came along I was like this is absolutely brilliant it's exactly what I need especially from an organizational point of view if I'm working on an EP or an album you've got a you've got a taking consideration across that there's going to be loads of different producers it's going to be all the different A&R’s there's going to be the management and then it's gonna be the artist now sometimes it's just one person has views but sometimes it's all them have views and they all want to have their view and in those scenarios on one track or multiple tracks if everyone's sending you an email from a different email address you're just your inbox fills up and before you general whether you're coming or going so what Bounce Boss does brilliantly is allows me to contain everything in one place contain all the feedback from all the different avenues that feedback may come from on each mix have all the mixes on that per album in the same place also obviously it speeds up massively the whole issue of so for example when I work with the Koreans they're very precise in their feedback and which is brilliant I love it and they write timings down for all of their notes but even then I have to then I have to get in and I have to if the tracks not lined up in the same places places their timing of their notes in the session give then you've got to create the timing difference all those things or have QuickTime open and on that so again it streamlines it because it you can make the notes on the point you're talking about I can listen to and go yes and go to that place in the track so yeah brilliant so far it's been amazing and everyone that's I've worked with on it has been over the moon to use it.
The most important thing is not being fooled by volume and loudness when you use plugins you see a lot of beginners when they when they they start out they have like tons of plugins on honest on a signal path and you go why have you got all of those and just to get it to that loudness and then often you could take half them off turn it up a bit and it sounds better than it did from sticking all these plugins on so I think fundamentally start with the right volume levels for everything before you start adding plugins because if you add a plug-in because the volumes too low you're doing unnecessary processing on something that may not need it so that's a very important very important part of mixing.
The second thing I think that over the last years has become incredibly useful is being able to use multi-band sidechain incredibly good for notching out space in your mixes I use a lot of the Fabfilter multiband compressor but I just use it solely for I mean not always solely but a lot of the time I use it to notch out for example if I have a piano and I want the lead vocal frequencies let's say between and K but on that just the mids to come out the piano to come out the way of those so they're not cluttering so I'll put them the Fabfilter multi-bands across the piano I will send the vocal to the Fabfilter multi band I'll set the multi band range to mono and to that frequency and then I'll adjust it until I know that that's out of the way and that is that's a relatively new thing that's come in to plugins and it's incredibly good at making your mixes really shine and have space clarity.
Do some research depending on the style of music that you do every kind of mix engineer has has Forte's or certain mixed engine is do I quite like to mix different styles of music across the board but there are people that are very much more band orientated there are people that are very much more urban orientated to find the right mix of you and and yet see if they've if they've got the time to do it and and actually what actually just do some research I think you're not always sure with a lot of the really big mix engineers you're not sure whether how much they're actually going to be across it especially if you're a new artist it might be they might have the final ears on the track so sometimes you might be bit better going for a not the top of the the chain a mix engineer if you're at the bottom get someone who really will spend the time and really go into it and give it a lot of love somebody wants to make it wants to prove themselves and make a point that said obviously you can't argue with the track record someone like Serban I don't know million number ones or something so there's that you can't argue with that but yeah just do research attention to detail really I have never ever been one of these people to as I've got busier try and squeeze in more mixes and knock out two or three in a day absolute fundamental principle is quality so no matter who I'm mixing for it will be a day unless of course it's like a acoustic track with a piano and a vocal but it will generally be a day and I won't send at the end of the day I will sit on it I'll come back the following day I'll listen to it I'll double-check it myself so I I do think that that's something that I do that maybe not everyone does because they they like to squeeze in as many mixes as possible and I just think you can't keep the same level of quality up.