When creating your own track, the mix down process is both the most debatable and one of the most difficult processes to get right. The reason for this is that there are so many different techniques you can do in order to get all the instrument tracks to sit together nicely in the mix. It can take years to master the mix down process and this can result in a lot of amateur producers losing faith in their work. Myself being an amateur producer with very little knowledge on how to get my projects sounding professional, I thought rather than trailing the internet watching tutorials done by fellow amateur producers who are almost as clueless as I am, I would learn off of the best in the business by enrolling onto a Pointblank Mixing Dance Music course.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pointblank Online, it is a Music/Audio college based up in London that offers anything from free YouTube tutorials to full scholarships in Music. They also offer online courses which sees students enrol from all over the world, some even being high profile DJ/Producers such as Claude Von Stroke and Mr Jam from Radio 1 Xtra. Unfortunately I work full time and there was no way I was going to be able to make it up to London so I chose to do a 4 week online course on Logic Pro.
Once enrolled onto the course I was a little nervous dealing with the interface as I’m not exactly the most technically gifted person when it comes to navigating around complex interfaces. However the Pointblank system is very simple (much to my relief). In the centre of the page there is a link to the content of each course you are currently or have previously enrolled on. This option was one of the reasons I decided to go with Pointblank over their competitors as once you’ve finished the course you are able to access the course content (minus the interactive features which I will get onto later) for a whole year. Once you have clicked onto the course you will then be taken to a more complex page that can be broken down into 6 areas that are as follows:
Syllabus: This is broken down into 5 lessons (an induction lesson and 1 lesson for each week). Clicking on a lesson opens a drop down menu that breaks the lesson down into more manageable loads so you are not overwhelmed with the vast amount of content you learn each week. Clicking on a particular part jumps you straight to the content that is displayed in the centre of the screen. I found this layout so easy to work with as I could set myself mini deadlines for where I had to be up to by the end of each session resulting in me completing the whole lesson with enough time to re-cap.
Schedule: This is a small calendar that jumps you to the notes for the particular week of the course you’re in. There are also boxes highlighted to let you know when your assignment is due. These boxes then turn either green if you have successfully submitted an assignment or red if it is overdue.
Chatroom: A small window that notifies you when the next video Masterclass/chat is with your tutor and the other students as well as offering you the ability to view the chat transcripts and download the masterclass video. This was excellent as it encourages you to interact with the class more and get the tutor to answer your questions and even demonstrate techniques via the video and I have to say, I learned more about mixing in those 4 sessions than I had over the last year.
Announcements: A small window where the tutor can make announcements to the class.
Forum: This window allows you to communicate with your tutor and classmates around the clock. You can also share your work by uploading it to your post.
Class List: A list containing all of the other people taking the course and their profile information should you desire to read it.
The overall layout of this course works beautifully. I found it so easy to navigate my way around and never had to ask the tutor for guidance. Like your productions, simplicity always works out best. It could be easy to overcomplicate things but a lot of thought has gone into the layout making it accessible for almost anyone. But does the content match up to the slick system?
The course content has been put together by a professional producer (Danny J Lewis) and a professional sound engineer (JC Concato). Between the 2 of them they guide you along the course syllabus via notes and video. Like the interface every detail has been thought out carefully and broken down into small portions of information so learning becomes a pleasure rather than a daunting task. As well as course notes there are also videos that demonstrate each aspect of the lesson. There are also practical session files available for download so you can have a go at what the teacher is doing in the video. Yet again this is excellent as it gives you a scenario where you need to use the technique just learned meaning it sinks in a lot more rather than just watching the video and moving on.
At the end of each lesson week, you have the task of completing an assignment ( in total 2 assignments over the 4 weeks) which you then upload to the user interface. This assignment is then reviewed by your tutor using Pointblank’s trademark Direct Video Response system, in which your tutor is able to review your work and give one to one feedback. This part is where you gain the most knowledge as the tutor is assessing your own work and can personally highlight where you could be doing things better and the areas where you are strong. Another brilliant feature is the ability to view the tutors reviews of the other classmates and even download their assignments. This is a very intuitive facility as you can see what your classmates do differently and can help come up with new ideas and techniques.
The whole course is supported by a veteran in the music scene who goes by the name of Steve Stravell. Steve has had over 40 years in the music industry working as a producer and sound engineer as well as working at some of the most high profile studios in the UK. Not a bad brain to pick at all. What I really liked about Steve was that when he reviewed my assignment he was quite blunt with what I was doing incorrectly (the use of panning for instance) and showed me the correct technique and how to apply it in different scenarios. When you are paying £395.00 for a production course you don’t want your tutor to humour you and pretend your doing a great job because you won’t learn a thing. You want him/her to almost rip it apart (in the nicest way possible), show you what your doing wrong, why and how to correct it. In my opinion there couldn’t have been a more perfect candidate than Steve as he wore his heart on his sleeve and you could sense that he was desperate for you to leave with a much larger array of knowledge than before you enrolled.
Over the course of the last 4 weeks I feel I am a lot more confident when it comes to mixing down my music. Before, the sight of a compressor seemed a tad daunting and I often resorted to using presets to get the results I wanted. Now however, I feel at ease when it comes to the mix down stage of my productions. I now know how to get the results I want and what tools to use. The price I must admit is a tad off putting at first, but many of you would quite happily spend that amount of money on new equipment or VSTs and lets be honest, having the knowledge to achieve a clean sounding mix is much more valuable than the latest Waves plug ins you have absolutely no idea how to use. If you are serious about your music production I cannot recommend this course and Point Blank highly enough.
For a full list of courses and enrolment dates hit the following link: (Point Blank Online Music School)