Back in the old days, when we chiseled our thoughts down on stone walls (in the 80’s) with knives and sharp rocks…we recording people had to be very concerned about phase correlation when we mixed records-and yes, I still call them records. We aren’t talking about phase shifters here, by the way….phase.

During the mastering part of the recording process, where you sent or personally delivered your master two-track mix of your project to a mastering lab, phase was very important. VERY important. If there was a phase issue with your mixes it could actually make the needle in the cutter (of the lacquer-Google this) be spit-out. Bad….very bad, especially when you had to call your trusting client and say “Oh, by the way…we have to remix all of the record-we had a problem, Houston”…..sorry….doooh!

Personally it never happened to me, but it got close one time. We sweated as we watched this thing work. The mastering engineer was intense to be around, to say the least. Scary. I learned right then and there; watch the Phase Correlation Meter on the board always when you mix. These meters aren’t even around anymore, save a few plug-ins, which most people never use (myself included, unless mixing for vinyl.) If you are mixing for vinyl, pay attention to phase! On the meter-Center or to the right..good!……Left…bad….(Google, I am not an expert)

Why worry now about phase? You don’t really have to as much, these days. Cd’s are different. It doesn’t matter if something there, in the mix is 75% out-of-phase! It’s not an issue, unless it just simply sounds bad. Technically, it’ll work.

So-why are those phase buttons on each channel? Because they can be wonderful things! The next time you record a real-complete (not samples) drum kit, try putting the kick drum out of phase with the rest of the kit. Use your ears. Sound good? Then it is! It might just really clean up that kit in some wonderful-way. If you use a top and bottom mic on snare, try reversing the phase on maybe, the bottom mic….and then listen. Good? Bad? No difference? Nothing gained, but nothing lost.

Rule Number One: Obey all rules! (Barney Fife) Not really….actually, Rule Number One: Listen and question. If it makes a difference-use it if you like it. If not, don’t get hung up and move on to the performance…it’s the most important thing anyway!

To be continued….


Jamie Hoover