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A better mix

Postby Scouser » Mon Dec 19, 2011 9:11 pm

looking for some ways to improve my mix :

http://www.kompoz.com/compose-collaborate/home.track.project?trackId=165383#

I have a few questions too.. I know its a fairly average song/arrangement, nevertheless just want to keep improving..

1. What are thoughts on levels, (I know its a personal thing to some degree) I've got them as close as i feel I can, but feel the vox varies a little too much and maybe drums are too loud ?

2. How could I get it a bit more cohesive ?

3. Is there enough separation ? How could that be impoved ?

They are the main issues I have, im sure there are many more!

Also any constructive criticism welcome, just want to do the best with what I have, some of it is out of my hands as its an online collaboration, so inevitably some tracking is not of the best quality..

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Re: A better mix

Postby Neil C » Mon Dec 19, 2011 9:38 pm

I like it and you have a good voice there (I don't know if that's you or your collaborator).
I'd say that the drums are a bit too subdued rather than loud and the snare sounds a bit limp to me. My brain was adding more piano, or at least more brightness to it - but then I suppose you might encroach on the guitar.
Maybe too much compression? It just feels it needs to be opened out a bit to me.
I liked the overall sound of the bit before the drums better than the overall sound after.
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Re: A better mix

Postby The Elf » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:17 pm

I very much agree with the above.

It's all going well until the drums arrive. The snare is a bit dull and lifeless and the patterns sound too 'drum machine-y' for comfort. Some snare ruffs, flams and other subtelties would help, as would a few more cymbal variants - that same crash over and over gets distracting.

I did notice the vocals go a bit 'roomy' when they peaked - maybe more damping required when tracking?

It would be nice to get some 'air' into the track - maybe lift a few extreme highs here and there, but a decent drum sound might well do that job, so probably better to aim there first.

But that's a great piece of work. Nice playing and a lovely vocal. I mix this kind of thing regularly and the standard of production is unbelievably high. That your's sounds as good as it does is a testament to your efforts - well done, I say!
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:07 pm

Yeh that's me singing Neil, and playing bass and guitars.. There is not actually that much compression on it, but I know what you mean, I need to back off a bit. Totally agree about the drums, I dread the cymbals coming in! Thing is when you accept an audition on there your stuck with it, I actually had a much better drum part that was submitted after I accepted the used one, I may do a sep mix and go with the other drums..

Elf your spot on about the room creeping in on louder vocal parts, would a reflection filter help with that ?

Thanks for your help, keep it coming
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Re: A better mix

Postby RegressiveRock » Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:42 am

It is musically lovely as ever Joe.

I know they beat your ears, but you need to get over your much discussed hatred of drummers.

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Re: A better mix

Postby The Elf » Tue Dec 20, 2011 8:03 am

Scouser wrote:Elf your spot on about the room creeping in on louder vocal parts, would a reflection filter help with that?
It wouldn't hurt. But the time-honoured practice of hanging a few duvets around you would likely help more - particularly behind you.
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Tue Dec 20, 2011 8:45 am

Thanks again chaps...
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:16 pm

Wombat-Reg-Elf or anyone else for that matter. I have made some adjustments to the drums tonally, as thats all I can do really, any difference, better/worse ?

http://www.kompoz.com/compose-collaborate/home.track.project?trackId=165532&projectId=28441
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Re: A better mix

Postby EnlightenedHand » Tue Dec 20, 2011 8:14 pm

I don't think there's anything wrong with your mix. It sounds together. It doesn't offend. There are opportunities to do things slightly differently if you so desired though. It's almost a bit lacking in subtle feel or authenticity of performance texture.

For example you might consider not using a reverb on the vocal and instead using a delay. I think that can sometimes help to make things sit easier with vocals. But ultimately it all depends on how things actually sound when you try them and what specifically you dial in.

A trick that I use (and you might try) to get the vocal to have a bit of movement and yet still remain at the right volume is to use a limiter on the vocal bus to keep the level of the vocals in the right place overall. But then I'll use a compressor on an individual vocal channel (say the lead vox) and dial it in so that the initial transient of sung phrases pokes through a bit but then the compressor will clamp down to keep the entire phrase from sticking out too much.

It takes some adjustment of the attack and release of the compressor and constant listening. Too slow an attack the whole phrase pops through. Too quick and the phrases get buried. Too high of a ratio and the vocal sounds too constrained and also you need to get the release just right. But eventually you get the vocal to sit right in it's pocket while feeling like it's breathing and reaching you without being too loud and still balancing with the rest of the mix. If you get it right it doesn't sound like you're doing anything at all.

Also, I realize you're using programmed drums (at least it sounds that way to me) but the snare in particular sounds a bit obvious and it's reverb doesn't match that of the vocal enough so that I notice there is definitely a different character in the voice ambiance apart from the drum ambiance. The snare also has a bit too much compression dialed in for this style I think. I would ease it a taste and let it breathe a bit more (as much as a programmed snare can I guess). I'm also in a bit of non-agreement with your treatment of the kick drum. It's a bit softer than I think it could be to bring out a touch more of the groove.

The style of this song begs for naturalness. If it's too "clean" or too "rigid" in texture it can come across as a bit lacking in soul IMO, for whatever it's worth.
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Re: A better mix

Postby The Elf » Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:08 pm

It's definitely an improvement.

I'm a bit puzzled you seem unable to lay some new drums? There are loads of ways to replace drums, even if you don't have a tempo map. This is something I've had to do lots of times and it's so easy now with modern DAWs. What are you working with that the drums are set in stone?

I like the vocal reverb, BTW - reminds me of some of the old country classics.
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:48 pm

Elf two reasons why I'm stuck with drums. On the site where I have the song, it is considered bad etiquette to accept an audition and then turn around later in the day and say "actually no thanks" secondly I would only replace like with like, I'm not sure I could do much better!
However I am free to do what I like away from that site, so have been working with the other sep I had from the real drummer, was going to wait until MySpace updates, so I could post a link to that, to see what you think in comparison to the current version. It shouldn't be too long before it updates if you want to check it. The only prob with the real drum version is that the snare has a real ring to it, which is proving difficult to control ..
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:01 pm

Ok real drums mix is now up on myspace. Any thoughts ?
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Re: A better mix

Postby The Elf » Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:31 pm

Where do I find the mix? I'm not a MySpace (or any other social network) user.
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:55 pm

Sorry Elf here: Song title - Makers of destiny

http://www.myspace.com/joekmurphy
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Re: A better mix

Postby The Elf » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:13 pm

Ah, OK - gottit!

Wow, that's so much better! I could still hear the snare a little brighter (try a 3dB or so boost somewhere around 5kHz), but this sounds like a record now. There are a couple of drum timing hiccups - most notably around 1:50 and 2:58, but these can be fixed easily (well, in my DAW it's pretty easy!). The payback is a rhythm that breaths and compliments the song nicely.

If you can nail those timing glitches and get that room out of the vocal you have a really nice recording. It might be worth going the extra mile and handing it to a mix engineer for the final polish.
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Re: A better mix

Postby Mixedup » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:23 pm

Yep, what the Elf said. It flows so much better with a real drum sound... natural cymbals etc. I agree with what Elf said about the snare; it's just a tiny bit on the dull sound. But then it's also clearly audible, so that's a taste thing, and I wouldn't want it to intrude too much on the balance.
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:29 pm

Thanks Elf, really appreciate you having a listen..

"I could still hear the snare a little brighter (try a 3dB or so boost somewhere around 5kHz), but this sounds like a record now. There are a couple of drum timing hiccups - most notably around 1:50 and 2:58, but these can be fixed easily (well, in my DAW it's pretty easy!). The payback is a rhythm that breaths and compliments the song nicely"

Will sort that out..

"It might be worth going the extra mile and handing it to a mix engineer for the final polish"

Thats the good thing about Kompoz, everyone helps each other out, only problem is not enough mixers, its a great place to gain all kinds of experience.. However money is not an option, so unless any mix engineers here are overcome by the festive spirit, I shall have to push on.. Although obviously would be terrific to hear what a good mix engineer would do with it..

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Re: A better mix

Postby The Elf » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:15 pm



Unfortunately I have a toadstool, lady elf and hungry cat to support, and a large queue of mix work to complete by the end of the year, but if you'd like my services (and can afford to wait for some of my 'marginal' time), then feel free to PM me - I'm sure we can come to some sort of arrangement that will keep us both solvent!
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:31 pm

Elf, have raised snare as suggested, sounds a bit better to me.. I have upped it to myspace if you want to check it out ? With regard to the timing issues not sure my ears are quite as good as yours, i can only assume that you mean the rolls/fills (around the times you quoted)are not quite right ? As I only have a stereo mix of the drums, it makes smoothing out something like that quite tricky as there are hats and ride to consider, or maybe its just my lack of skills ? Maybe I could get him to send me seps on the quiet

Its proving to be an interesting mix, the non musician ie girlfriend and her pals and my kids prefer the kompoz (midi drums) version, yet all the musicians ive asked prefer the real drum version. Maybe we have good taste and they dont! Ha
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Re: A better mix

Postby The Elf » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:48 pm

Scouser wrote:Elf, have raised snare as suggested, sounds a bit better to me..
Me too!

Scouser wrote:With regard to the timing issues not sure my ears are quite as good as yours, i can only assume that you mean the rolls/fills (around the times you quoted)are not quite right ?
Yes, they stumble a bit. It happens on a few occasions, but the ones I mentioned are the ones that stand out most.

Scouser wrote:As I only have a stereo mix of the drums, it makes smoothing out something like that quite tricky as there are hats and ride to consider, or maybe its just my lack of skills ? Maybe I could get him to send me seps on the quiet
Well, separate tracks are always preferable for all sorts of reasons, but you should get away with some cut edits/cross-fades across the stereo track that should be invisible if you do it carefully. You'll need to cut ahead of beats and find a cross-fade that suits the timing.

Scouser wrote:Its proving to be an interesting mix, the non musician ie girlfriend and her pals and my kids prefer the kompoz (midi drums) version, yet all the musicians ive asked prefer the real drum version. Maybe we have good taste and they dont! Ha
Or maybe they are used to the repetitive sounds and tight timing of programmed drums from other contemporary musical styles, so find it less of a strange juxtaposition? It's just a matter of taste after all - there's no right or wrong really!
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Re: A better mix

Postby The Bunk » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:40 pm

Just to add a few thoughts from nothing much more than a spare-bedroom producer here, if only because I really like this song, a lot.
Whilst I also agree with the comments about the original and especially the repetitive cymbal crashes, I thought the drums on the Myspace version were trying to overdo it a tad; I'm not talking about the mix here (which I realise is the basis for the original post, but it's relevant in the flow of threads), I just think, whilst they add dynamics to the song, the fills sometimes lead you up the garden path of expecting a bit more than the song needs. I know trying to get a drummer to hold back is like trying to do the same to a lead guitarist but this song has such a beautiful melody, the vocals are so well sung and the guitars just sit so nicely, too many drum fills just distract from it.
Just my tuppence. It's a lovely song.
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:56 pm

Thanks bunk, I agree with your points, live drums add to the track. But fills ? Misleading to my ears too.. Will have to think about this..
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:22 pm

Elf, uploaded version (myspace) with a little editing of the drums, tried to make fills a little smoother..I think the snare is out a little towards the end of the song too(ahead of the beat, rushing it along), but before I go too far down this road, Im not liking this snare, I feel the right snare could really make this song work, not sure how to get around this one.. What I like about the live drums are the hats, rides, cymbals & toms, but obviously the bass and snare need to be as good as they can and they are not doing a lot for me.. ?
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Re: A better mix

Postby The Elf » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:49 pm

I'm afraid the fills at 1:50 and 2:58 are still stumbling over themselves. It might simply be a case of having to lift material from elsewhere in the song to paper over the cracks.

I actually like both the kick and snare as they are, but if you feel the need to replace them there are tools for the job, including Drumagog. Although it's not as instant and automatic as you might like, you can get close and then a bit of manual editing will refine the results.

If the strength of a fill is overpowering you can do a lot with automation to tame it, or, again, use other passages to paper over them - but be careful not to make any repetition too obvious.

This is a nice song and you're 90% there, so it's worth the extra effort.
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Re: A better mix

Postby Gannett » Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:07 pm

Hi Joe,

Lovely song, and I really like your vocal.

The drummer has completely missed the point. It's a good drum sound but he's not listening to what you're doing or the ebb and flow of the song. You need to be somewhere in between, with a very simple drum part played more sympathetically with the rhythm of the guitar, and not at the front of the beat like "he's got a bus to catch". (He definitely falls off the stall a couple of times). The drum sound is very "contemorary" too. I feel that a more obvious sound a la Garth Brooks or even Crockodile Shoes. You have covered a lot of basses with the guitar parts and it might have been worth experimenting a little more with the piano part and different inversions to create a little more subtle interest. AND....where is the pedal steel? Don't they have one of those at Platform 1 in Newport you could have kidnapped for the afternoon!!!!!!

Well done.
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:07 pm

It seems there are mixed feelings on this, which is healthy and normal..

There are definately issues with the drums in one way or another, so if there are any drummers out there who fancy a go at this, then be my guest, other than that, i would be happy if I could sort out the little parts of the vocal were it gets a bit roomy..
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Re: A better mix

Postby EnlightenedHand » Fri Dec 23, 2011 6:53 pm

Scouser wrote:It seems there are mixed feelings on this, which is healthy and normal..

There are definately issues with the drums in one way or another, so if there are any drummers out there who fancy a go at this, then be my guest, other than that, i would be happy if I could sort out the little parts of the vocal were it gets a bit roomy..

I told you earlier what I thought you might at least try with the vocal; I appear to have been completely ignored so far. Maybe if Elf had said it...
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Fri Dec 23, 2011 8:48 pm

Enlightened Please accept my apologies, thing is I could have sworn I replied, as I can remember exactly what I typed, as it was a longish reply, maybe one of the kids pulled me away from the pc?

Anyhow what I wanted to ask you was

"For example you might consider not using a reverb on the vocal and instead using a delay. I think that can sometimes help to make things sit easier with vocals. But ultimately it all depends on how things actually sound when you try them and what specifically you dial in"

This has been suggested to me before and I guess the reason is that when I have tried it, i havent really got anywhere (not really known a good starting point, if there is such a thing ?) Whereas with reverbs my understanding is a little better.. But if there are any tips/settings you feel may help, would be grateful.

"A trick that I use (and you might try) to get the vocal to have a bit of movement and yet still remain at the right volume is to use a limiter on the vocal bus to keep the level of the vocals in the right place overall. But then I'll use a compressor on an individual vocal channel (say the lead vox) and dial it in so that the initial transient of sung phrases pokes through a bit but then the compressor will clamp down to keep the entire phrase from sticking out too much.

It takes some adjustment of the attack and release of the compressor and constant listening. Too slow an attack the whole phrase pops through. Too quick and the phrases get buried. Too high of a ratio and the vocal sounds too constrained and also you need to get the release just right. But eventually you get the vocal to sit right in it's pocket while feeling like it's breathing and reaching you without being too loud and still balancing with the rest of the mix. If you get it right it doesn't sound like you're doing anything at all"

This is were I usually get lost, as my knowledge is quite limited ie you mention having a limiter on the aux bus vocal and then another vocal track compressed. When im working on daw I have 1 vocal channel for the main vocal and everthing runs through that, if that makes sense ? So although I understand the concept of what your saying, i sometimes get a bit lost with the mechanics.. But I would really like to try this, if I better understood what I would have to do to accomplish the desired result.

I dont know if you have had a listen to the real drum version mentioned above,(@myspace) would be interested to know what your thoughts are on that, maybe an improvement on the original drums ?

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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:17 pm

Ok update, played with the timing on the drum tonight, not so much the fills etc more the general timing, was suprised how much it was out in places, final chorus is still iffy..
Still have to paper over some of the bigger cracks..

Sound any better ?
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Re: A better mix

Postby Scouser » Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:18 pm

its @ myspace address below
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