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Not Anyone.



Joined: 03/11/13
Posts: 2
How can I specifically improve these mixes?
      #1072952 - 03/11/13 04:22 AM
Hey everyone,

I'm new here, but I've been lurking for a while. I've noticed that a lot of you seem to be able to get really good results from low-end gear, so this is a cry for help!

A bit of backstory. I've recently graduated from uni with a degree in Popular Music. For my final year I had to write and produce an album. So far so good, only my mixing has never been that great. It's improved massively in the last year or so, I've done a lot of reading on the subject and really got stuck in with just opening up a session and experimenting.

Anyway, I was kind of happy with my mixes when I submitted the album back in May, but I've listened to it a lot since then and, well, they suck. I don't expect fantastic results as I'm using sampled drums (Steven Slate EX) and the guitars and bass were recorded through an Avalon VT-737SP - I didn't use any amps. So, it's never going to be great, but I've got enough plugins to be able to do SOMETHING with it, surely. The vocals were recorded in a good studio, mainly using an AKG C414, occasionally a Neumann U87i. After mixing I mastered the tracks using IK Multimedia T-TrackS 3, purely just to get the volume up. My current setup is Pro Tools 10 with an MBox Mini 2, and I've got all the Waves plugins, Guitar Rig 5 and Amplitube 3. As I'm not the singer, there's no way the vocals can be rerecorded, but they're the least of my worries.

So, off the top of your head, what can I do to improve these mixes? They're of varying quality, so the first example is the best mix I've done, the second is somewhere in the middle and the third is the one that really needs work. For reference, Monster by Paramore was the kind of sound I was aiming for, although obviously I'm under no illusions that it's ever actually going to sound anywhere near as good as that! If you need to know anything else in order to offer advice just let me know.

https://soundcloud.com/theremovables/the-killing

https://soundcloud.com/theremovables/take-it-back

https://soundcloud.com/theremovables/flame

Massive thanks in advance!

Tom


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The Elf
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Joined: 14/08/01
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Re: How can I specifically improve these mixes? new [Re: Not Anyone.]
      #1072960 - 03/11/13 08:15 AM
Many pro recordings have been produced using the gear you've listed (and I've used Slate EX myself for a long time - no problem there) - these are not reasons for bad mixes!

I'm listening to the last example ('Flame')...

The vocals are the biggest problem here, and I suspect you know that yourself from what you say. For a start they are out of tune in many places and that is always going to make a song sound 'amateur-hour'. Some careful re-tuning might save them. They are also a bit tubby, so I'd be looking to thin and brighten them. A brighter, more overt reverb might help too.

The repeating strummed guitar part is a quite a problem too. It stutters too often and is not creating the confident back-bone that is required of it. That part needs to be spot on to set the tone of the song. I can also hear something like a dodgy edit around 1:21. Of course, capturing a better performance is preferable to editing, but if that's not possible you need to get busy with the scissors and glue.

The left/right rhythm guitars are too brittle. Maybe some EQ might help them, but if you recorded them DI (and hopefully clean), maybe you could re-amp them? They don't sustain enough either - they come in with a bit of a fizz, try to hold on until the next bar, but then fade away early without their fizz, making them sound wimpy.

Am I hearing tuning problems with the guitars in places? Maybe...

The drums are generally too polite. I'd get busy with a selection of EQ, compression, distortion and saturation to nasty them up. I'd also add a much bigger ambience. I know Slate EX well and they sound fantastic when treated properly, so I'm convinced the problem isn't your source material. The drum programming is a bit twee, which might not be helping. Maybe you could draft in a drummer to help out?

The bass is too pedestrian throughout. When the excitement of the chorus comes in I'd expect the bass to react, but instead it plods serenely on, seemingly oblivious to what the rest of the band are doing. Maybe it was tracked before the rest of the elements were in place?

Finally, although all of the ingredients are in there, they don't seem to add up. It all sounds a bit 'nice' and formulaic. There's not much change in dynamics or ear candy from start to finish. Everything pretty much remains as it is from the first time we hear it, and our ears aren't challenged at all. What stereo width we hear is static - nothing moves around and nothing pulls our attention left or right. The reverse/fade in is OK, but we've heard it a thousand time before, so you need to think of other ways to grab our attention.

In short you really do need to get the elements nailed at source. After that you can help them on their way with careful editing to sort out the details - there's a glaring example of a late bass note around 3:43, for example, that really should have been spotted and sorted out long before working on the mix. The guitars and vocals need to be in tune, in time and performed with conviction - if you don't believe, then your audience can't be blamed for not believing either.

After that it's about blending those elements to make a dynamic, coherent sound machine, with each element supporting the rest and sufficient dynamics, excitement and ear-grabbing detail to hold the attention.

Edit: I've taken a quick listen to a few seconds of the other mixes in your list and I'm hearing similar problems - e.g. listen to the out of time transition in 'Take it Back' at 1:18 and the vocals struggling to get down to the notes through the first verse in 'The Killing'. Get these things right and then we'll come back to details such as the mono backing vocals...

HTH!

--------------------
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


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Not Anyone.



Joined: 03/11/13
Posts: 2
Re: How can I specifically improve these mixes? new [Re: The Elf]
      #1073035 - 03/11/13 06:18 PM
Quote The Elf:

Many pro recordings have been produced using the gear you've listed (and I've used Slate EX myself for a long time - no problem there) - these are not reasons for bad mixes!



Oh yeah, I know, I just mean that using the Avalon by itself rather than using an amp is never going to yield professional standard results, right? Or am I totally wrong there? I really don't know!

Quote:

I'm listening to the last example ('Flame')...

The vocals are the biggest problem here, and I suspect you know that yourself from what you say. For a start they are out of tune in many places and that is always going to make a song sound 'amateur-hour'. Some careful re-tuning might save them. They are also a bit tubby, so I'd be looking to thin and brighten them. A brighter, more overt reverb might help too.




I agree, they are a big part of the problem. They seem to be too dominant, right? Which struck me as odd when I realised, as the high pass filter was pretty cranked. I'll attempt to retune them as that's the only choice I've got to correct them. How would you recommend I go about this?

Quote:

The repeating strummed guitar part is a quite a problem too. It stutters too often and is not creating the confident back-bone that is required of it. That part needs to be spot on to set the tone of the song. I can also hear something like a dodgy edit around 1:21. Of course, capturing a better performance is preferable to editing, but if that's not possible you need to get busy with the scissors and glue.




Yeah, you're right. This song was written, recorded and mixed inside 48 hours (don't ask), so bits of the performance are well off! The same goes for the bass, as you've mentioned later on. Luckily I do have the facility to rerecord these elements, so if you think it's worth doing then I can do that, no problem. There's no edit in that whole section, it's probably just crappy playing!

Quote:

The left/right rhythm guitars are too brittle. Maybe some EQ might help them, but if you recorded them DI (and hopefully clean), maybe you could re-amp them? They don't sustain enough either - they come in with a bit of a fizz, try to hold on until the next bar, but then fade away early without their fizz, making them sound wimpy.



I did record them clean, luckily. I've been experimenting with different amp sim settings, but finding a good blend of tones for the 4 guitars is proving elusive. It's weird, the sustain just doesn't seem to be there to be had, but the guitar I used sustains for weeks, so I know that's not the problem. I must admit this has had me baffled.

Quote:

Am I hearing tuning problems with the guitars in places? Maybe…



Probably

Quote:

The drums are generally too polite. I'd get busy with a selection of EQ, compression, distortion and saturation to nasty them up. I'd also add a much bigger ambience. I know Slate EX well and they sound fantastic when treated properly, so I'm convinced the problem isn't your source material. The drum programming is a bit twee, which might not be helping. Maybe you could draft in a drummer to help out?



I agree with this whole bit. I've since worked with a drummer on this song and really made them a lot more obnoxious compared to this version. Bigger fills, more cymbals, more flowing beats, etc. I just haven't mixed that version yet, because as you can see there are other issues to address first!

Quote:

The bass is too pedestrian throughout. When the excitement of the chorus comes in I'd expect the bass to react, but instead it plods serenely on, seemingly oblivious to what the rest of the band are doing. Maybe it was tracked before the rest of the elements were in place?



I actually tracked the bass last! I don't know what I was thinking in the choruses! Well, I was trying to give it something of a groove instead of just pounding away through that section, but maybe that's exactly what needed to happen?

Quote:

Finally, although all of the ingredients are in there, they don't seem to add up. It all sounds a bit 'nice' and formulaic. There's not much change in dynamics or ear candy from start to finish. Everything pretty much remains as it is from the first time we hear it, and our ears aren't challenged at all. What stereo width we hear is static - nothing moves around and nothing pulls our attention left or right. The reverse/fade in is OK, but we've heard it a thousand time before, so you need to think of other ways to grab our attention.



I think this is the crux of the matter. It lacks energy and doesn't hang together well, right? Listening to mixes I like, they all seem to sound massive but as though they're actually being played in the same room at the same time, whereas with this mix the elements are clearly tracked separately.

Quote:

In short you really do need to get the elements nailed at source. After that you can help them on their way with careful editing to sort out the details - there's a glaring example of a late bass note around 3:43, for example, that really should have been spotted and sorted out long before working on the mix. The guitars and vocals need to be in tune, in time and performed with conviction - if you don't believe, then your audience can't be blamed for not believing either.

After that it's about blending those elements to make a dynamic, coherent sound machine, with each element supporting the rest and sufficient dynamics, excitement and ear-grabbing detail to hold the attention.



That makes sense, yeah. That bass note was pretty dodgy! That's actually what it sounds like after editing, it was even worse before. But due to the time pressure I was under it was a case of get the edits right or finish the mix and get it submitted at all! Hardly ideal, but at least now I have the time to work on these details, especially since I'll probably be rerecording the bass entirely. I've had the conviction comment before, but I'm still not sure I understand it. What exactly do I need to do in practical terms to convey the conviction?

Quote:

Edit: I've taken a quick listen to a few seconds of the other mixes in your list and I'm hearing similar problems - e.g. listen to the out of time transition in 'Take it Back' at 1:18 and the vocals struggling to get down to the notes through the first verse in 'The Killing'. Get these things right and then we'll come back to details such as the mono backing vocals...

HTH!



Makes sense! As for the mono backing vocals, they're actually panned about 50% either side. I agree they do sound mono though, how on earth did that happen?! :s

Thanks so much for this, I really appreciate the in depth feedback!


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Jack Ruston



Joined: 21/12/05
Posts: 4426
Re: How can I specifically improve these mixes? new [Re: Not Anyone.]
      #1073036 - 03/11/13 06:37 PM
I've just listened to this on the laptop, so I'm not going to make any really technical comments but a few things are apparent...in support of what The Elf is saying...

The performances need to be right. You can't mix this sort of music to right wrongs. If those vocals, guitars and bass aren't slamming when you record them, they never will be. The vocal delivery is weak. It's soft for the genre, and the support isn't there. That's why you're having to make it loud to get it to cut through, and that's why it's out of tune. Guitar amp plug ins always going to be a huge battle. They seem to sound ok in isolation but when you start mixing the track, and especially if you AB to other stuff in that sort of genre they just don't work. At all. What Elf means by 'conviction' is that this needs to sound like it's been played by a really awesome band, who've just come off a three month tour and can play the songs like their lives depend on it! Now that's melodramatic of course, but that's why these sorts of bands often make their records as they come off tour.

I'm not saying that the mixes can't be improved. I need to listen on monitors to make comments about that. But there are glaring problems with the production that need to be fixed before you can get to a position where you stand a fighting chance. It sounds to me like there's loads of potential and you shouldn't be disheartened. But now is the moment to tackle the difficult aspects of this, before you spend any more time telling yourself that you're a bad mixer etc.

J

--------------------
www.jackruston.com


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DavieB
member


Joined: 27/07/02
Posts: 35
Re: How can I specifically improve these mixes? new [Re: Not Anyone.]
      #1077262 - 03/12/13 02:30 PM
If you are wanting to improve then don't touch these mixes again. Start again from scratch... You'll have a lot more fun doing that than picking through these again... Good points are, the songs are decent, the singer is capable.

Bad things - drums sound crap, guitars sound crap, zero space, it's like I'm in a tiny box when I listen to this. Don't be scared of the reverb processor it's for creating spaces, ambiences, small rooms, stages, etc. This band exists in a dull box. Is that what you want?

I think I know what you are aiming for. Epic rock band with an indie ish vibe... Not sure the widdly wee solos are suitable, but I dunno...


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