You are here

Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby nathanscribe » Sun Aug 07, 2011 8:38 pm

I'm in the long process of trying to write enough material to put a cohesive album-length bunch of stuff together. I have a few ideas in semi-baked state, and have got to the point where I have one track written, structured and recorded, and ready to make a proper mix of (I've already made a rough mix).

My decision now is whether to go to town on mixing that one track now, and then get on with the rest of the writing & recording - or to keep it at the rough mix stage, finish the rest of the material, then mix the whole lot afterwards.

I'm guessing the second approach would lead to greater overall consistency, but this is my first real stab at 'doing an album' if you want to call it that. My output to now has been rather... discontinuous, so it hasn't mattered before.

What approach do the other good folk here do, and how does it help their progress?
User avatar
nathanscribe
Frequent Poster
Posts: 846
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:00 am
Location: Yorkshire, by 'eck.

my nerdy synth tech blog


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Mixedup » Sun Aug 07, 2011 8:53 pm

Consistency is great if it's consistently *good*. Otherwise it's not such a laudable aim!

No harm to keep writing and recording stuff while you're mixing other stuff... but I would rather mix one track at a time, so that any lessons I learn can be applied to the next mix, and the next and so on.

Also, bear in mind that while mixing the first or second tracks you might have one of those dawning "oh... that would have been soooo much easier if only I' recorded it like that" moments — and that would be a bugger if you'd already tracked everything else.
User avatar
Mixedup
Frequent Poster
Posts: 3888
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: Laputa

Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:48 pm

nathanscribe wrote:I'm in the long process of trying to write enough material to put a cohesive album-length bunch of stuff together. I have a few ideas in semi-baked state, and have got to the point where I have one track written, structured and recorded, and ready to make a proper mix of (I've already made a rough mix).

My decision now is whether to go to town on mixing that one track now, and then get on with the rest of the writing & recording - or to keep it at the rough mix stage, finish the rest of the material, then mix the whole lot afterwards.

I'm guessing the second approach would lead to greater overall consistency, but this is my first real stab at 'doing an album' if you want to call it that. My output to now has been rather... discontinuous, so it hasn't mattered before.

What approach do the other good folk here do, and how does it help their progress?

There's nothing stopping you doing both. Sure, mix the first track. You'll see if you're digging yourself any holes by the way you're performing and recording. But be open to the possibility that you may later want to go back and mix it again. And remember that your composing and performing technique are ENORMOUSLY more important than your mixing technique! Maybe, after putting together a few more songs, you'll decide to go back and completely start over on the first one. (This is often a good idea with a track that needs TOO much "mixing" :-)
Exalted Wombat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5643
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:00 am
Location: London UK

You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont. Go fishing instead.


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby The Elf » Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:32 am

I like to get a mix to a point where it stands up and sounds OK, minus automation – my ‘static mix’. At that point I’ll move on and tackle the next song.

When it comes to mixing there are inevitably going to come those ‘I wish I’d used this on that other song’ moments, but I find these are easier to indulge before I get into the automation passes.

Once I have a bunch of static mixes that sound decent and cohesive, then I get into the automation and don’t look back.

Of course, it is never this clean and simple, and I’m always open to be side-tracked, but as a basic approach it works for me.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9927
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

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


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Mon Aug 08, 2011 9:36 am

The Elf wrote:I like to get a mix to a point where it stands up and sounds OK, minus automation – my ‘static mix’. At that point I’ll move on and tackle the next song.

If everyone was listening to everyone else while recording, this static mix may be very close to the final mix. This is harder to achieve with "one man band" multitracking of course. But playing it harder or softer gives a quite different sort of dynamic to playing it flat and then turning recorded volume up and down.
Exalted Wombat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5643
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:00 am
Location: London UK

You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont. Go fishing instead.


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby chew_rocket » Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:49 am

On a similar note, and regarding something I am concerned about...

How do you make an album sound fairly consistent throughout. I mean, for some styles of music (metal, pop punk etc) the drums sound very similar, the guitars sound very similar and all the levels of each instrument are the same throughout.

After getting the balance right for one song how to you get the next to sound the same... and then the next. This is something I have trouble with and I am recording an album for a punk band next week!
User avatar
chew_rocket
Regular
Posts: 336
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:00 pm

Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Henry-S » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:56 pm

My advice for that would be that similar effects will be used in the mix and this usually will give a mix a lot of character or not (depends what you are after I guess).

I think the pros who work with a lot of material will have their goto settings on certain equipment to get a good working sound. Then they will look at making it more interesting with a vocal effect or whatever they want. I know that when we were working on our tracks we worked on a vocal chain that would suit alex's voice and although we tweaked things like reverbs or compressor, the settings we used went across each track.

If this is applied over each instrument in your mix + you use similar mix bus effects like an SSL G comp will really glue a mix together giving it 'that sound'. You also have to think a mastering engineers job is to really give an album the final polish so they will make a final choice about if frequencies need boosting or cutting from track to track.
User avatar
Henry-S
Regular
Posts: 324
Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2004 11:00 pm

Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby The Elf » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:02 pm

The honest answer from me is that I actually don’t try to make tracks sound similar. I just make them sound as good as I possibly can.

As long as what comes out sounds like a polished, release-quality mix, the songs will all sound ‘right’ when glued together as an album. I don’t aim for a homogenous sound, but it somehow works that way. The album may have a full-on rock track followed by an acoustic love song – there may be little in common from a mixing point of view, but they still need to sound as if they belong on the same collection of songs.

My mixes maybe do have ‘a sound’ (that’s why artists come to me, after all), but in all cases it is the artist that shines through and gives the songs their commonality.

HTH!
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9927
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

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


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby nathanscribe » Mon Aug 08, 2011 3:12 pm

Interesting, Elf: so the cohesion of the end result is as much about the brain/ears at work in making the music as it is about aiming for a coherent end product. Makes sense.

My own stuff is going to be almost exclusively electronic sources (synths, drum machines, samples) and mixed using a combination of Logic and my Allen & Heath Zed R16 with hardware outboard. The workflow would be awkward if I were to constantly be shifting back & forth between writing and mixing as there are only so many channels I can tie up at a time. I think what I'll try is to make a good mix of this first track, see how it goes, then clear the slate for another piece to take shape. As long as I make a record of settings on whatever I use, I should be OK to get back in the zone if I need to redo anything.

Cross fingers.

User avatar
nathanscribe
Frequent Poster
Posts: 846
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:00 am
Location: Yorkshire, by 'eck.

my nerdy synth tech blog


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Mike Senior » Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:34 pm

Mixedup wrote:I would rather mix one track at a time, so that any lessons I learn can be applied to the next mix, and the next and so on.

I'd second Matt on that one. It may mean that you end up redoing the first couple of mixes with the benefit of hindsight, but I think overall it's probably the best option if you're still feeling your way a little bit with the mixing side of things.

chew_rocket wrote:How do you make an album sound fairly consistent throughout. I mean, for some styles of music (metal, pop punk etc) the drums sound very similar, the guitars sound very similar and all the levels of each instrument are the same throughout.

After getting the balance right for one song how to you get the next to sound the same... and then the next. This is something I have trouble with and I am recording an album for a punk band next week!

It's no different than when you're mixing anything -- you have to reference your work against any other material you want consistency with. Often that will of course be commercial releases with which you want your work to compete, but it can just as easily be other mixes you've done which are destined for the same record. If you make sure to do that, then everything else should sort itself out in the long run.

Henry-S wrote:My advice for that would be that similar effects will be used in the mix and this usually will give a mix a lot of character or not (depends what you are after I guess).

I do tend to keep the main send effects I used for the first mix available for the second if I'm working on several things for one artist -- as long as those effects met with their approval first time round! That does help to give some conformity to the sound. However, The Elf does make a good point that there are perfectly valid aesthetic reasons for not wanting to make all the tracks sound the same, so you should still try to make each track shine on its own terms. If that means using completely different mixing strategies, then so be it.
User avatar
Mike Senior
Frequent Poster
Posts: 959
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: Cambridge, UK

Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Stan » Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:01 pm

Depends really on how the songs were tracked. If all were tracked with the same musicians in the same studio, once you get one mixed right, you've got them all. Not so easy to get a 'family' sound if the tracks were recorded all over the place. Like a certain Kula Shaker album.

Christopher Kenneth Kimsey did a fantastic job on 'Some Girls'. Sounds like a gig! Yet, the tracking was done in New York, London and Paris. Nice one Chris!
User avatar
Stan
Regular
Posts: 483
Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2005 12:00 am

Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Dave B » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:13 pm

I had a similar quandry but coming from the other side - got a long session of playing to cut into songs and mix. I did one to make a template, but then realised that I had gone too far in a bad direction when I heard the results back on big speakers. So I mixed that first track again and got a series of channel strip settings / groups / effects that I was able to use as the basis of subsequent mixes. This means that the songs share a common sound. So far, so good.

TBH, I am surprised that nobody has mentioned instrumentation choice / palette yet. It does help if you think of the sounds that you want for the album as they will dictate quite a lot of the mix. I have a couple of stock synth pads, some standard approaches to drums, favoured way of recording and processing guitars, etc and this means that I know roughly how all songs will sound. Once I've used a combination on one album, I would try and change it around for another. Along with the changes in writing that always happen (or should imho), it helps keep things a little fresh.
User avatar
Dave B
Frequent Poster
Posts: 2935
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: Maidenhead

Veni, Vidi, Aesculi

(I came, I saw, I conkered)


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Phil O » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:15 pm

Stan wrote:Depends really on how the songs were tracked. If all were tracked with the same musicians in the same studio, once you get one mixed right, you've got them all. Not so easy to get a 'family' sound if the tracks were recorded all over the place. Like a certain Kula Shaker album.

Christopher Kenneth Kimsey did a fantastic job on 'Some Girls'. Sounds like a gig! Yet, the tracking was done in New York, London and Paris. Nice one Chris!

I wonder how they went on mixing Chinese Democracy. Different personnel, locations etc. Not sure all the tracks were even recorded in the same decade !!!

P
User avatar
Phil O
Frequent Poster
Posts: 780
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: Scotland

 


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Stan » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:59 pm

Phil O wrote: I wonder how they went on mixing Chinese Democracy. P

must have been a nightmare for producer Mike Clink - still, they had a lot of time to get it right. Did they get it rigt? I suppose they did - but -Geffen had to sit on his hands for some time.
User avatar
Stan
Regular
Posts: 483
Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2005 12:00 am

Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby nathanscribe » Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:27 pm

Mike Senior wrote:It may mean that you end up redoing the first couple of mixes with the benefit of hindsight, but I think overall it's probably the best option if you're still feeling your way a little bit with the mixing side of things.

Sounds like solid advice; I'm also reading a certain book at the moment on the subject, so we'll see if any of it sinks in.
User avatar
nathanscribe
Frequent Poster
Posts: 846
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:00 am
Location: Yorkshire, by 'eck.

my nerdy synth tech blog


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby nathanscribe » Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:40 pm

Dave B wrote:I am surprised that nobody has mentioned instrumentation choice / palette yet. It does help if you think of the sounds that you want for the album as they will dictate quite a lot of the mix.

Because I'm coming at this with an oversized pile of synths this is harder than it needs to be. However, I'm at the stage now of honing my selection. I won't be using the same patches all the time but I'm hoping the use of the same pieces will help to give it a 'feel'. I've also got a fairly compact set of outboard which should help.

I've tried my hand at a few different approaches over the last couple of years, and have done so in a way that means I've not really pursued any one direction. It feels now like it's time to try to get a quantity of material out of a style, and then go back to some of my other ideas for another project. I'll likely be wanting some variety across any material I group together, but it'll be interesting trying to balance the urge to experiment with the desire to keep things on some kind of track. I tend not to enjoy listening to albums that sound like they could have been made by ten different artists at any point in the last X number of decades - but what has been said by others here about unity coming from the mindset means I'm not too worried about playing with it and seeing what happens.

I'm enjoying these replies anyway, it's all good stuff.
User avatar
nathanscribe
Frequent Poster
Posts: 846
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:00 am
Location: Yorkshire, by 'eck.

my nerdy synth tech blog


Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Henry-S » Tue Aug 09, 2011 11:50 am

I would say for certain it is very easy to get lost in presets! I have spent many a night with massive from native instruments and I have literally just spent 3 hours thumbing through presets and then giving them a star rating on what I think which works really well, also colour coding presets.

The instruments used does have influence but to me the whole idea of post production is something that my band has been really thinking about. Once you have a guitar, bass or synth sound you like there is nothing wrong with reusing it in various songs. In my opinion a really good clean sound or a really good distorted guitar sound is allowed to be the same because why reinvent the wheel?? I doubt Kill Switch Engage reset all the guitar amps to flat and start again on each song, they will dial in what they know works from experience and then tweak from there.

My personal opinion is that the more you record and mix, the easier it becomes to know what will and won't work. So get yer hands dirty and mix everything you can find
User avatar
Henry-S
Regular
Posts: 324
Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2004 11:00 pm

Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby onesecondglance » Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:19 pm

Henry-S wrote:I doubt Kill Switch Engage reset all the guitar amps to flat and start again on each song, they will dial in what they know works from experience and then tweak from there.

well, you might dial in a new sound for a new album, but god help you if you touch one of the amps between songs in a recording session. it's a consistent sound throughout the album due to it mostly being the same sound in the first place...
User avatar
onesecondglance
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1263
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2008 12:00 am

Re: Mixing your own tracks: one at a time, or all together?

Postby Henry-S » Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:39 pm

onesecondglance wrote:
Henry-S wrote:I doubt Kill Switch Engage reset all the guitar amps to flat and start again on each song, they will dial in what they know works from experience and then tweak from there.

well, you might dial in a new sound for a new album, but god help you if you touch one of the amps between songs in a recording session. it's a consistent sound throughout the album due to it mostly being the same sound in the first place...

I'm just speaking from past experience that people can be afraid to use the same sound. From my experience I used to dial in a good sound and then think I was, well cheating using the same sound again? I felt like it had to change or that I had to use a different type of distortion pedal because otherwise things would sound "the same". It only dawned on me after recording over and over that the same sound was actually good and that the song and performance shape things a lot too.

If you think something sounds good like a particular drumkit you have put together or a certain bass sound, then don't feel you need to change it... only change if it doesn't work in the song!
User avatar
Henry-S
Regular
Posts: 324
Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2004 11:00 pm


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests