Posted by Kristian Ponsford on 4 April 2014

WeAreWorship: Songwriting and recording are not the same thing! We like stating the obvious! However, for many songwriters, the ability to record a good demo whether to play to their church or to a publisher or label is an important part of the process. A lot of time can be given to recording a good demo but it is often in the mixing and the mastering where our knowledge runs out. New from Toontrack is their EZmix 2 software plugin. We sent it down to Cornwall to Kristian Ponsford and asked him to plug it in and give it a go....

 

Kristian: Like many worship leaders I’ve tried to write and record my own songs. To be honest the challenge isn’t just finding fresh lyrics and melodies but also being able to record and present these songs in a great sounding recording. Several years ago some friends and I decided to record some of our material. Armed with a computer, software, an audio interface and an empty room we set about recording for the first time. When finished we had ten tracks ready to mix into a good sounding demo. However, mixing proved to be our downfall. We never really managed to make our demos sparkle or sound anywhere near as good as other professional recordings. We underestimated just how important quality mixing was to the presentation of our song.

Mixing is an art. Simply put, mixing is the process of using both technical and creative skill to combine all the individual tracks and “mix” them into one stereo track. It  determines where each element of the song is placed in terms of volume and the space it occupies, as well as it’s sound. Utilising a combination of volume, panning, EQ and effects to help each track sit well with others does this. At the time of our recording I had neither the skill to mix the track myself nor the finances to employ a professional to help. What I needed was a cost effective alternative that could do it for me. What I needed was an “Instagram” for my music. What I needed was EZmix 2!

Toontrack’s EZmix 2 retails for just shy of £105 and works as either a standalone program or as a plugin for your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). It is built around one great idea; “having pro-designed effect chains for instruments and channels found in every recording session, combined in one powerful mixing tool.” EZmix 2 has a vast collection of presets for instruments and vocals. The mix process is enhanced not only in the speed you can achieve it, but also in the creativity and vibrancy that these presets bring. And what you need to know is that you end up with results second to none! Essentially, EZmix 2 is a mixing engineer, mastering suite and guitar/bass amps all rolled up into one package. It’s a brilliant way of bringing a clear, punchy and creative sound to your own recordings.

To put EZmix 2 through its paces, I loaded up a multitrack session of twenty one tracks from a recent recording session in my usual DAW.

 

logic project

Above: EZmix 2 can be used on every track, independently, in a mix. One plugin is all you need as the software comes with mixing presets for instruments and vocals.

 

Selecting a track of an acoustic guitar, I loaded EZmix 2 as a plugin. EZ Mix’s intuitive interface popped up and instantly I had access to over 350 professionally designed signal chains. Using the menu I filtered the options by guitar type and then started auditioning a few presets. The “acoustic guitar with reverb” patch, which is a combination of EQ, compressor & reverb, sound great to me and I was able to tweak it further using the main two dials which control different options dependent on the preset. In this case I was able to adjust the compression and the dry/wet balance.

EZmix interface mixer 1

Above: The EXmix 2 interface is easy to use, with minimal editing needed. 
 

I repeated the process for each drum track, bass, guitars, keys and vocals. Within 30 minutes I had selected presets for all twenty one tracks and my mix was starting to come alive. I also found presets for aux, inserts, bus mixes and for the master channel too. I was particularly impressed that the presets are designed with “mixing” in mind. For example, the selected guitar preset didn’t just improve the sound of the guitar but reduced the frequencies that would usually compete with the vocals, making my mix much cleaner and tighter and really allowed the  vocal track to shine.

EZmix interface no presets

Above: EZmix 2 has so many preset options, that you will be able to find something that works quickly. With the option of purchasing more specialised presets, your creativity is not stifled, but enhanced. 

 

I showed EZmix 2 to a friend of mine who is a fantastic studio engineer to get a professional view of its capabilities. He was incredibly impressed by the variety of available presets covering a wide range of genres. Interestingly, the software can also be expanded by purchasing additional mix packs. These packs feature presets from more top professional engineers and expand the range of genre specific options. The ‘Ambient’ and ‘Songwriter’s’ pack are already on my shopping list. My engineer friend also pointed out the sheer number of plugins he would usually use for a equivalent mix would not only be super expensive but also put a strain on most computer’s resources. But it was the time saving factor that really impressed him; he was able to mix a track in 20 minutes rather than half a day!

In Conclusion: EZmix 2 is likely to become a great friend of mine and I’m planning on using it extensively for an upcoming church recording project. It gives me huge confidence that I can make our recordings sound great on a typically tight church budget. But I’ve also found myself reaching for EZmix 2 when songwriting. Being able to quickly bring recordings to life has massively impacted my writing process and inspired new ideas without interrupting my creative flow. EZmix 2 is a superb addition to your recording setup and allows you to present your recordings in a way that sounds professional and well produced. If, like me, you can only dream of the likes of Trevor Michael, Paul Burton or Bruce Pont mixing your songs, then EZmix 2 might just be the next best thing!

{Note from the Editor: In the meantime, we have had a chance to play with EZmix 2 as well – and using a Mac Mini with 16gb of RAM, we were easily able to run this plugin as individual instances on 24 tracks – it could have been more but it was late! We were really impressed with the punch that this plugin brought to our mix. Vocals stood out, delays and effects were all mapped to the tempo, and the edits that were there proved to be the ones you wanted.}

 

Kristian Ponsford is an Ableton Live Trainer and Assistant Pastor at Elim Camborne. Connect with him at www.iam-kp.com or on Twitter @iam_kp

 


 

P.S. WeAreWorship: As Kristian said, this is not the ability of a professional mix engineer in a box, but this is the closest you will get! When you marry this up against the price and the benefits to the songwriter and the speed of getting your mix sorted and the additional producer packs available and the other plugins you don’t have to buy and the fact it can also master your final recording and the…….……have we said enough?!

 

Above: Toontrack's promo video for EZMix 2. Enjoy!

 

Special thanks to Time+Space. To view and maybe purchase EZMix 2 - click here. 

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