Mixing Techniques: Raffer In The Mix, Platinum Mixing Engineer
"With credits ranging from Daddy Yankee and Natti Natasha to Tainy, Anuel AA and more Raffer In The Mix has become one of the most sought after engineers in the latin scene. We sat down with him to learn more about his background and sonic approach in the studio."
Photo credit: Elliott Ingham
Raffer In The Mix is a Puerto Rico based platinum mixing engineer who’s constantly involved in major label releases. With credits ranging from Daddy Yankee and Natti Natasha to Tainy, Anuel AA and more Raffer In The Mix has become one of the most sought after engineers in the latin scene. We sat down with him to learn more about his background and sonic approach in the studio.
WCM: How long have you been working on records?
Raffer: I’ve been playing with audio since I was in ninth grade. I started because, secretly, I wanted to be a reggaeton artist.
In 2008, when I was studying communications in college, I started to learn about Protools in the multimedia class. It was like finding my calling.
After studying communications for two years, in 2010, I decided to enroll in “Ccat” an audio related college with exceptional professors. After graduating, I built my own studio and started working on recording and mixing.
WCM: Who are some of your biggest influences as an engineer?
Raffer: I’ve been influenced by a lot of people who’ve been crucial to my professional development: Emmanuel Gutierrez, my multimedia professor in the University of Puerto Rico was the first person to teach me about audio. He gave some amazing audio seminars; he even wrote a great book called “La Ciencia del Sonido”(The Science of Sound).
Edgar Segarra, David Ayala, Dennis Morales - they were my professors in “Ccat”, and because of them I was able to understand that audio is a lot more than recording and adding effects. It’s about feelings, it’s about expression, it’s about art.
Kiko Hurtado - In my last semester in “Ccat” my internship was in his studio. He is a renowned Engineer in Puerto Rico, and an amazing teacher. He helped me link the theory with the practice. I learned tips and tricks about live recording, mic placement and to make the best out of the gear you have. Eduardo “Edup” Del Pilar - I was his assistant for almost a year and a half, and with him I learned a lot about vocal processing techniques and “secret sauce” for mixing reggaeton beats and vocals. He guided me to sharpen my vocal recording and editing techniques.
Tainy - he was the first big industry producer who I worked with. In 2011, I started to work in a project he was developing. With him, I learned a lot about a recording session’s workflow, and the decision-making process behind the creation of a song. One of the most important things I learned from him was to respect the producer’s vision of a song’s mix. A fun fact is that I mixed one of the first Anuel AA record’s “No Love” because of him.
Toly from the producing duo “Yai y Toly” - I’ve been his engineer since late 2017. He guided me to get that classic, big and gritty reggaeton sound that’s so important for their music. We’ve created a great producer/engineer two punch dynamic that you’ll hear in a lot of the records he will release soon.
WCM: We heard you were born in Puerto Rico and 5 years ago you moved to Colombia. Has that had an impact in the way you perceive music?
Raffer: Yes, a lot. Colombia is an amazing country, with amazing people, and amazing musical influences. It opened up a variety of music for me. Colombia is huge, so it has a multicultural music scene that will amaze any person that loves music. For example, they have Champeta, a fast-paced caribbean reggaeton-like fusion that’s really famous in the Atlantic coast of the country. It's well-known for it’s happy and joyful vibe. (Check out “La invité a bailar” by Kevin Florez)
Another style is Currulao, a fusion of sounds with heavy African influences from its people in the pacific region. They use amazing instruments and even marimba in this. (Check out “Currulao me llama” by Grupo Bahía)
And finally, there is Salsa Choke, a fast-paced salsa fused with urban sounds and loops that’s really popular in the pacific region of the country. (Check out “La rumba va sola” by Los Traviesos and “Limón con sal” by Rimante ft. Santy)
All of these influenced me in a positive way, because you never stop learning new rhythms and combinations.
WCM: When you’re tracking a song do you usually start mixing the record on the way in?
Raffer: Yes, I believe that mixing starts in the recording process. Miking techniques, preamp and compressor selection, all of it impregnates the sound with unique characteristics that can be used to give each element its own space in the song.
WCM: What are some of your favorite time-based effects for enhancing vocals?
Raffer:I love FabFilter’s Pro-R reverb. A little can go a long way to enhance leads vocals especially for trap and reggaeton.
I use a small amount of slap delay to add some depth to vocals. Sometimes I add a slap delay at a 10-12% dry/wet ratio to the reverb bus before the reverb plugin, and it sounds great because it gives it a more natural feel.
WCM: Do you use any processing on your mix buss?
Raffer: Yes, but I like to add the processing after I feel that my mix is at least 90% done. I personally think that mix buss processing should be used as the cherry on top that helps to enhance an already good mix.
On my mix buss, I normally like to use: Universal Audio Pultec EQP-1A Legacy > SSL SiX bus compressor I usually work my mixes into subgroups, for example lead vocal, background vocals, synths, bass, drums, time-based effects. And I do some processing in each of the subgroups before I add plugins to the mix buss.
WCM: What’s your take on analog vs digital processing?
Raffer: All analog gear is imperfect, and imperfection is magic! What characteristics do the best audio plugins currently tend to emulate? The noise, the saturation and the distortion, all “imperfect” traits of analog gear.
Getting that out of they way, we can’t ignore that there are some amazing sounding plugins like those by Waves, UAD and FabFilter. We can’t ignore the fact that plugin’s automatic recalling, preset saving and undoing have helped us. Audio engineers can now get faster results and with a lot of precision. I work mostly ITB but I’m starting to stack up my studio with quality outboard gear. I’m moving into a hybrid workflow for my mixing.
WCM: Do you ever reference other records when you’re working with a new artist?
Raffer: Yes, I like to get to know the artist, what influences his/her style and what their favorite records. Because with this knowledge I can achieve a “vibe” that matches what the artist conceptually perceives as a great sound.
WCM: When you’re not working on a record what type of music do you like to listen to?
Raffer: I like to listen to dembow, reggaeton, hip hop, and pop music. This way I keep myself up to date on how each genre is shaping up its current sound.
WCM: How important is the mastering process for you?
Raffer: Super important. Mastering is more than a process that optimizes volume, dynamics and frequency response. Mastering works in such a way that it makes records achieve their best potential before they hit your radio and smart devices.
WCM: Can you share some of your credits?
No love - Anuel AA Mujeres - Mozart la Para, J quiles, Farruko, Jowell y Randy
Me prefieres a mi Remix- Arcangel ft Don Omar Te dijeron Remix - Plan B, Don Omar, Natti Natasha. Llevo tras de ti Remix - Plan B, Daddy Yankee, Arcangel More- Zion, Jory, Ken y Cantazo - Zion y Lennox ft Yomo Se cree mala - Plan B Son Malas- Mozart La Para, Jay Park Karma - Mozart La Para Cola - Mozart La Para La vida es así - Mozart La Para
No te quiero perder - Alvaro Díaz & Tainy
Uwi - Alvaro Díaz & Sousa