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mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

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mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Matthew Seed » Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:25 am

Hi huys i have just started to mix an album i have been on for nearly 5 years, it may not change the world but its my life's work and i am so proud of it. So much so i am gonna take up Jon Astley's SOS offer and get it mastered right. So after 5 years of tracking i come to mix it, I have read a million times about listening on diferent sound sources i.e my Mackie 824's first then the car stereo, then my tiny computer speakers etc etc. This is my problem, on my Mackie's it is great, then my car it sounds OK then one or two sources like my partners car which is a fancy Bose car stereo it sounds awful, all the the articulation of some of the mid instruments just goes. So i picked some test material (Joe Bonamassa's new album Dust bowl ) and tried that on all the same sources and of course its great on all.

Now i know that Kevin Shirley know a lot more about all this than me but i just don't get how mine can be good on some and not others and his is great on all. If mine was bad on all i would understand that more !

OK so its probably just a lack of experience, but i'm left not knowing what to do for the best, what do i trust.....the majority ???? the worst ????

please help
Matthew
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Wiseau » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:08 am

It may sound a strange anwser but just do the best job you can, don't expect to be able to compete with mixes coming out of commercial studios. You'll be suprised with the results. I mixed a track without eqing anything, using reverb, delay etc, just panning and levels in a bedroom studio and word got back to me that the mastering engineer was really impressed, and that he didn't have to do much to it. (Sound of my own horn being blown - parp!)
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Andi » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:37 am

Matthew

don't know if this would be of any interest to you but I have some spare time coming-up. If you fancy to drop a track over and I'll see how ot translates on my gear? Note that I'm not a pro and I don't have top level gear but another pair of ears?

A.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby tomafd » Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:01 am

I'd suggest you do a straight a/b ref against your reference track pretty frequently all through the mix process, ie, just get your drums & bass up (nothing else), check that against the track, see if it's at least vaguely in the ball park, then slowly introduce the other elements and do the same thing, making sure the relative levels of all your elements are pretty much the same as what you're hearing on the ref track. The problem areas for this kind of material are usually

- bass versus bass drum - are they fighting for the same space ? If you want a deep low bass, sometimes that means you can't have too much bass energy in the bass drum, especially if they landing on the same beats- tuning the bass drum to the key of the track can often help out a lot

- bass versus guitar low end - if the low notes in guitar chords are getting in the way of the bass, use a high pass filter to get rid of the low end energy in the guitar. If the sound has enough higher harmonics, you'll get the feel of it well enough without all the low mid clutter.

- vocal space. There's a whole lot of stuff in guitars and keys that will fight for the same space of the vocal. You can push the vocal up but often that just ends up with the vocal sounding as if it's just plonked on the top of everything else. You can use a compressor with the vocal side-chained to it to control the level of guitars and keys (on a separate buss with the compressor on) so that they're pushed down by the vocal but often it's better to write/play those parts so they don't get in the way too much in the first place.

- compression/expansion and sometimes both ... guitars often have a lot of quieter elements going on that just clutter things up- use an expander to reduce their levels with a compressor on that to control transient peaks. Very often you'll actually get a punchier sound that way that does the job better than just compressing them.

- filters. I often use high pass filtering quite aggressively, getting rid of all low end stuff on various instruments that just isn't useful. Don't be scared of using them - if you listen really closely to a lot of commercial recordings, a lot of the instrumentation actually sounds quite 'thin' or 'small' though at the same time hard and punchy, leaving a lot more space for the kick, bass, and vocal.

- don't forget that good mastering is often the key when it comes to getting a mix to sound good over lots of different formats and speaker systems, and relatively high end plugs (Oxford Sonnox etc) really do sound a whole lot better than standard DAW plugs. I can slap Logic's plugs over a mix and attempt to 'master' but they simply won't do what the Sonnox plugs do. With the latter I can bring up the gain and the transients still kick out nicely even though a lot of the lower volume elements now sound louder as well- set the same thing up on Logic's limiter and it just sounds crap compared ....


.... so don't kick yourself too hard. Do the best you can, get it sounding as good as you can, (though without slapping a load of plugs over the master buss, and make sure you leave plenty of headroom) and then get it mastered by someone who knows what they're doing and have some proper quality plugs and/or outboard. By the time they've finished, it should sound 'good enough' on most speaker systems, and that's about as much as us bedroom desperados can hope for ...
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Darren Lynch » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:32 am

Andi wrote:Matthew

don't know if this would be of any interest to you but I have some spare time coming-up. If you fancy to drop a track over and I'll see how ot translates on my gear? Note that I'm not a pro and I don't have top level gear but another pair of ears?

A.

Take up Andi's kind offer. Five years of sweat and tears won't leave much objectivity. A fresh pair of ears and some emotional detachment would be useful in this situation.Best of luck. D
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby The Elf » Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:01 pm

I find the hardest mixes are the ones where I really don't know what I'm aiming for - either because I don't share the artist's vision, or because I'm simply floundering to find a 'handle' on the mix.

Yes, as has been said above, having a reference song to work with is very helpful, but so is having a philosophy in mind - something you can constantly refer to in your mind as you work.

Are you aiming for a warm, intimate sound, or wild, empty spaces? Are the vocals close up to you in the comfort of a living room, or being screamed from the top of a mountain? Is the song suggestive of a musical era? I'm working on a mix at the moment for which I'm referring back to 70s Sparks songs for my inspiration - this colours every choice I make and gives me an aim. I don't care if I never get there, it's simply a target I can see in the distance every time I make decision.

After that it's down to having the ear to discern the difference between what you have and what you want, and having the technical chops to get you along the road from one to the other. Some of the most beautiful mixing moments are when you get thrown from that road and into offshoots and byways as you go. It's a true art to be able to make use of those offshoots - would that I could count myself amongst those that are masters of that art! :headbang:

Most of all, keep at it. Every time you try you get better.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby turbodave » Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:31 pm

Hi, remember also that a tune should flow, meaning that you add instruments as you progress along the timeline of a track.If you start with everything in then you will have nowhere to go.Keep em wanting more! Dave
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Handlestash » Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:45 pm

Keep it dynamic, easy on the compression.
Also just to echo what was said above, don't be afraid to carve great swathes of frequencies away to make everything slot together nicely.
If your monitoring environment is less than perfect I can't recommend HD650s highly enough for any EQ-ing you need to do. You can get in really close and bring out the beauty in anything.
Don't be afraid to play with depth in the mix. Set up a nice room reverb on an FX channel and experiment with sending different instruments to it at different levels. Try sending stuff pre fader and turning down the volume on the channel!
Parallel compression on the drum set is pretty much essential in my opinion. Really brings the beef.
Of course none of this may be relevant to what you're trying to do but that's the beauty of mixing audio. There's no right or wrong way as long as it sounds nice.
And that's subjective too.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Big_al » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:26 pm

Another thing to try is import a commercially released reference track into you mix on a fresh stereo audio channel and then insert a spectrum analyzer on the master bus and then do A-B comparisons of both mixes.

Adding some form of visual reference and not just relying on your ears can really help.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Jack Ruston » Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:27 pm

Be careful that you're not allowing deep bass and airy highs to seduce you. Mix translation is all about the midrange balancing. It's how things fit together above 100 or 200hz and below 7 or 8khz that you need to watch out for. When you take that powerful low end and pretty high end away, the mix needs to be balanced and solid. All too often it isn't. There's a reason why so many mixers use auratones and ns10s. They show you those critical balances much more easily.

Don't be disheartened. Mixing can be hard.

J
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby narcoman » Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:58 pm

Jack Ruston wrote:
Don't be disheartened. Mixing can be hard.

J


It's very hard - one reason why there are few pro's with under 20 years experience!! It doesn\t mean to say, though, you can't get pleasing results yourself by following a couple of the simple tips in this thread.

I'd add:

1. don't shoot for volume
2. clarity over bass (since great bass takes a while to learn!)
3. Not a lot of interest happens over 12k - so don't have much going on there.... have a good reason to let that through.
4. Kick drum (generally) deeper than bass.
5. Keep most things out of the bass end unless you have a "reason" (I always go on about "having a reason"... but tit's exactly that - justify it and it's cool).
6. dont make everything wide- it's comparative. Wide guitars? Make the drums less wide... etc
7. automation is your friend. You wanna hear the big guitar smacking in on beat one? automate other things down a tiny bit - I tend to run with "the newest thing tales precedence"....
8. power is all about comparison. Remember the drums from "when the levee breaks"?.... Everyone remembers how powerful they are. Actually they're only powerful for the first few bars then the rest of the instruments somewhat drown them. Arrangement and placement help you define power with subtle tricks - remind us every now and then that drums are powerful and we'll think the whole track has powerful drums.... same for anything else...
9 Let parts have their superhero moments - push drum fills up... duck guitars behind singing phrases... put synth basslines up on the 2s and 4s.... etc etc


Oh - and if you want mixes to translate (which is a compromise - you can't mix for one system) - sort your room out. No other way.

One eternally learns on this job - I've thousands of mix professional mixes under my belt and I still learn something new just about every day. Before that a had 10 years of "learning" mixes.... Also - some of my biggest product mixes are not exactly my faves!!!
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:59 pm

Yes it is difficult and you need to keep practicing.

I occasionally do a mix job at my old employers and it is sadly not like riding a bike, especially when you have to swap DAW's and what not and have been out of practice for 6 months or so.

Like anything time, skill, re-evaluation makes perfect, you will get there.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Matthew Seed » Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:10 pm

Hi guys. thank you alllll so very much. I have been doing this 20 years, but only the last 7 on a computer, and this is the fruits of the last 5 years of writing and recording. In hind sight i should have been doing practice mixes along the way. I have been reading SOS for the last 10 years or so and have absorb so much info, i have probably put far to much pressure on myself for this but hey !!!

I have got the first song to a point where it sounds full and powerfull and balanced in my recording room on my Mackie 824's but then as soon as i put that mix somewhere else its nothing like it. That really is my biggest problem, but i guess if i mix to the Mackie's then at least whatever problem there is it will be consistant through the album......i mean it's not a disaster on other sources but i was just baffled by how a pro album seems to be the same on all and mine so different ?

There has been some great advice in your replies too, much appreciated everyone.

Matthew
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby narcoman » Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:48 pm

two reasons:

the room and just raw experience!! After that it's equipment and time.... :angel:
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Mixedup » Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:56 pm

Matthew Seed wrote:I have got the first song to a point where it sounds full and powerfull and balanced in my recording room on my Mackie 824's but then as soon as i put that mix somewhere else its nothing like it.

If you can make it sound great at a sensible level then you know you can do it. There are better speakers in the world than the Mackies but they're perfectly serviceable and should show up major problems with ease. ...all of which brings us on to the listening environment.

So, tell us about the room you're mixing in: dimensions, materials, doors, acoustic treatment, position of your speakers in the room, and you in relation to the room and your speakers. Etc. Also, do you have a decent set of headphones as a secondary reference that can take the room out of the equation? How does it sound on them?
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby hollowsun » Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:06 am

Musical arrangement is also vitally important.

If you have guitars and piano and clav and organ and pads and synths and vocals and BVs, whatever, all competing in the same frequency ranges, it can be a recipe for disaster. For example, a guitar strumming the chord of C (and then you double track that to add some production impact) and a piano doing much the same with a vamped chord and a string pad playing a block chord as well and then an airy pad and maybe a synth arpeggio and BVs and vocals in the same area ... even if each part is playing inversions, they can hog a certain frequency area which might sound ok on your Mackies (or you can make 'em sound ok on your Mackies with some panning, whatever) but on a less well spec'd and maybe 'middle-ish' speaker system, they could sound cluttered and 'mushed'!

And that's before you even look into the interplay of bass and kick drum, etc ... and the snare, etc., hogging the mid range as well. Might sound (or be made to sound) great on your Mackies but elsewhere..... ?!!

Musical arrangement is so often overlooked. When mixes sound like carp, the first thought is inevitably to treat the room better, add bass traps, get SOS in for a 'mix rescue', download new plug-ins, buy a better I/O that can do 26GHz/192-bits and blame mics and monitors, etc., when it could, in fact, just be a bad and cluttered musical arrangement. Image

With so many virtual tracks and sh!t available to us today, it's all too easy to just keep adding stuff almost ad infinitum. And when it sounds crappy, compress the sh!t out of it to try and make it sound punchier. But it still sounds carp but it's ok - blame your room, your mics, your monitoring, your I/O, etc.... and the magical, mythical 'mastering' process will make it sound fantastic. No it won't - that's turd polishing!

Less is often more. Not just that but spending the time to get each sound right at source before touching the record button. With the right 'sound' at source and the right arrangement, things can almost mix themselves.

Not that I am accusing you of such derelictions of duty, just commenting in case it helps.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby narcoman » Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:06 am

yuppity yup yup.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Jim Taylor » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:08 am


Great thread, just wanted to add thanks to everyone who has posted. Really helpful, concise tips, all on one page.

I love this forum...

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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Mixedup » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:17 am

All true Hollowsun, and I couldn't agree more with the generally useful advice... but since the OP seems to think he has a great-sounding mix on his Mackies that isn't translating, that suggests that his ear-brain combo is getting all that right but that his room/acoustic treatment, speaker placement or listening position are indeed causing problems. Hopefully he can tell us a little more about the setup...
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Guest » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:39 am

Try mixing on some crappy speakers, i love these passives and have lots of back-up pairs n case they break...

http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/5136113.htm

Everyone laughs at me but they are flat and fast and seem to give a very honest mix that works on everything. Stick 'em on a couple of bricks and you're off! Great for rock/pop stuff.

I would like to see an SoS review of these speakers.


ps: I notice tbe Argeaux product description shows 'powered by usb'. That's actually bolleaux. They are just regular passive speakers with the usual spring connectors on the back.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby hollowsun » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:45 am

Aye. There's a lot to be said for mixing on unflattering, coloured, crappy speakers ... or at least having a pair easily switchable for reference monitoring.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Zukan » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:54 am

Matthew, ignore all these guys.

All you need is:

This!
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby The_BPP » Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:05 am

Zukan wrote:Matthew, ignore all these guys.

All you need is:

This!

Personally, I can't wait for TP 2.0.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby hollowsun » Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:45 am

Zukan wrote:Matthew, ignore all these guys.

All you need is:

This!

:)
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Matthew Seed » Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:52 pm

Hi guys, fuuny you should say about my listening space i have spent a bit of cash on Auralex foam to treat the room as best i can......i sometimes wonder if i have done it right and indeed if i have done the best i could. It may actually make a good mix rescue as i have a rather unique problem i.e i'm not after some freebies, ive bought it all i just may not have used it right.

Anyway below is a link to 2 pictures of my space, click the link then click the first pic to see the second.

Overview of what i have:
Mackie 824's
Logic pro on the laptop
UAD plugins
RME interface
Auralex foam behind the bridge
Auralex foam at the left mirror point (right one has guitars on the wall)
Auralex bass traps in every corner both front and back and in that cove to the right of the desk.
The celling is some cheap white acoustic foam covering the whole celling. It slopes from behind the desk i.e above the speakers up to roughly above my listening position.
Speakers sat on Auralex foam pads

Hope this helps:

my studio
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Guest » Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:00 pm

Can we hear something you aren't happy with, please?
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Flow Mastering » Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:14 pm

There are two separate issues:

-Technical ability (usually linked with experience)

-Objectivity (usually linked with fresh ears)

After spending so long recording your tracks, mixing them to get the best objective presentation will certainly be a challenge even if you have the technical know how. (which is why most artist send their tracks to be mixed by someone else who can offer the above qualities.

In terms of translation of the mixes, it does sound that you have a room issue. A way round that (but it really should be fixed) is to check the mixes very quietly, preferably on a mono small speaker).

But, if you are happy generally with the balance and "feel" of your mixes, a good mastering engineer like John Astley should be able to ensure good translation of your mixes on most systems. This is one of the most basic role of mastering, often overlooked in the battle for loudness.
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby tomafd » Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:43 pm

narcoman wrote: Also - some of my biggest product mixes are not exactly my faves!!!

A fine example of the Inverse Law that certainly applies to my stuff, and maybe Narco's too - the stuff you spend hours and hours on and love to death never makes much money. Whereas the [ ****** ] you just knocked out in a day goes on to sell shitloads and keeps selling, year after year ... though in my case that's library music, not commercial releases !
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby Captain Waves » Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:24 am

There is a lot of excellent advice here.. Pure gold. Thanks guys!
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Re: mixing - it really is hard isn't it !!!!!

Postby The Elf » Wed Apr 13, 2011 5:44 am

Jack Ruston wrote:Don't be disheartened. Mixing can be hard.
Manny happies, Jack! :D
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