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Making a mix sound big

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Making a mix sound big

Postby WarKites » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:44 am

Okay, whilst recording for my band, or for anyone, I always run into the problem of the instruments not sounding very big. For example, the drums sound like they're very thin and small and only in the centre in the mix, when they're spread out quite a lot. I've tried using a stereo enhancer on them but it's not really working, the same applies to each other instrument. All of the recording are of high quality but I just can't understand why it's not really working!
Could it be the quality of the compressor? I'm just using cubase 5's standard one, if so, what's a decent one you'd recommend me downloading? Or could it be another plug in? Please help!
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby alexis » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:42 am

SOme of the smart guys on the board may give you advice for a quick fix (maybe you want to put a link to your work), but in the meantime, maybe this book will be of interest: Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio . I personally think it's awesome, and if you google around I think you'll find a bunch of others seem to like it as well, so maybe you will find something helpful in there too!
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Skerrick » Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:16 am

WeBuiltASkyscraper wrote:Could it be the quality of the compressor? I'm just using cubase 5's standard one, if so, what's a decent one you'd recommend me downloading? Or could it be another plug in? Please help!

i use the "focusrite scarlett compressor" and it does wonders.. you could also look at the D82 Sonic Maximizer by BBE.. you can shape the low contours of the channel you put it on and you can use the process dial to bring huge mids out of your bass etc.
if youre looking for more thump in your drums and youre just using a standard compressor, try get your hands on the D82 or scarlett compressor.. sausage fattener is awesome too, but im not sure about using it with percussion, ive never tried that tbh, but it can make a smooth/thin bassline into a deep crunchy ripping kind of sound..
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby The Elf » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:23 am

How about posting some examples for us to listen to?

Usually the problems begin at the tracking stage, so get all those plug-ins out of the way and let's hear what you're really capturing.

Then we need some details of how you're approaching the recording - the more details the better!
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Alibi Productions » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:29 am

1 possible issue might be that all the instruments are fighting each other for space in the mix so maybe look at how the instruments are working together decide which ones are the most important and cut away frequencies of the not so important instruments to give the other ones some space
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Bossman » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:30 am

+1 for posting a mix for people to listen to, otherwise all anyone here can do is make a guess.

+1 for Mike Senior's Book Mixing Secrets - Its a good read full of good info
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Stroppa » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:42 pm

Hola

If your serious about learning +1 Mikes book Mixing Secrets... it's a no brainer best money you will spend on learning material.

+1 adding a link to your music for more pointed guidance.

My 2 cents...Big is open to interpretation as with most things. But

1) Compression can make sounds fatter and more pronounced, and help find position in the mix.
2) EQ can help sculpt the sounds into the mix.
3) Reverbs, Delays, Saturation, Sausage Fattener can all help beef your sounds.
4) Someone will be along shortly to advise you not to do this but I find it a great help, Mix Bus signal chain... I like to mix into a Bus Compressor > Tape Simulator > Limiter. This kind of sets the boundries and then drive the mix into it.
5) Experience we all have to start somewhere.
6) Oh and some decent tunes will help.

Good Luck

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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Scramble » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:57 pm

Stroppa wrote:
2) EQ can help sculpt the sounds into the mix.

What is this sorcery of which you speak?
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Stroppa » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:06 pm

Haha You know that frequency bands thingy. for doing stuff to frequencies.
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:29 pm

davegorst wrote:1 possible issue might be that all the instruments are fighting each other for space in the mix so maybe look at how the instruments are working together decide which ones are the most important and cut away frequencies of the not so important instruments to give the other ones some space

Shouldn't happen if you're recording a real band who are used to playing together. They have ears, and will have chosen their sounds (and, just as importantly, WHAT they play) so as to fit in with the overall sound.

It happens all the time when building a song by multitracking one instrument at a time. Everyone gets obsessed with HIS riff, doesn't listen to everyone else (including the instruments yet to be recorded :-) and plays FAR too much.

Better sorted out in the performance and the arrangement than by remedial mixing.
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby The Elf » Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:24 pm

Stroppa wrote:4) Someone will be along shortly to advise you not to do this



Stroppa wrote:Bus Compressor

Yes.

Stroppa wrote:Tape Simulator

Maybe.

Stroppa wrote:Limiter

Hmmm.. I wouldn't. A buss limiter is for mastering, not mixing into IMO.

But all this talk of compressors and mix techniques is of no consequence if the tracking isn't up to scratch. Everyone is throwing in their favourite techniques, but if the raw drum kit sounds like kitchen pans and the bass like a bank then none of this is going to help!
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby hollowsun » Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:25 pm

The Elf wrote:But all this talk of compressors and mix techniques is of no consequence if the tracking isn't up to scratch. Everyone is throwing in their favourite techniques, but if the raw drum kit sounds like kitchen pans and the bass like a bank then none of this is going to help!
+1

Get it right at source otherwise you're turd polishing!
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby WarKites » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:42 pm

Okay, thanks to everyone who's commented and given me advice!

Firstly, here's a link to a section of the song, without any effects, just as it was recorded...

https://soundcloud.com/webuiltaskyscrapersos/the-sound-of-machines-no-fx

Secondly, I've found the sausage fattener, and so far it sounds great! I couldn't get the Scarlet compressor though as you have to pay for it :/ I'll keep looking for that one, and I couldn't find the D82 anywhere!
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby The Elf » Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:02 pm

The guitar and bass sound well-recorded.

Forget fatteners and compressors for the moment! You have more fundamental problems to solve!

You're correct that there is no stereo width anywhere, including the drums. Either you have a mono recording, or you have something strange in your routing.

Stereo width would most likely come from your drum overheads and/or room mic's. What configuration of mic's did you use for these?

Fundamentally:
How were the drums recorded?
How many mic's?
What was the assignment/configuration of mic's?
How did you set up your overheads?
How many tracks of drums did you record and how are they routed?
Are you sending them to a sub-group - if so, is the sub-group stereo?
How are you rendering your mix - Audio Export?
What happens if you pan one of your drum mic's, e.g. snare close mic? Does it pan?

Details, details, details!!!

And let's hear no more about 'finding' stuff you have to pay for. You *are* using a paid for Cubase, aren't you?
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby WarKites » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:09 pm

Thanks, I spent quite a bit of time getting those done! Not so much on the drums though, I was quite time limited!

For the drums I used 10 mics. For the Kick drum, rack tom, floor tom and second floor tom I used the Audix DP7 drum mic package, the mics are: D6, D2, D2, and D4 respectively. For the snare I used an SM57, I also used a 57 for the hats. I used SE2's as overheads and 2 SE ribbons as room mics. The drums were set up in a pretty flat room, it was treated, although it was big enough to accommodate room mics. I have each mic sent to a different channel in Cubase.

In the mix I sent, the panning wasn't too extreme, probably going no further than 2 O'clock and 10 O'clock. I am sending them through an FX channel, and yes it is stereo, although the dry signal is also being sent to the stereo output. I exported it as a .wav file.

Yes, if I pan the snare mic in Cubase, it does pan, I'll experiement with further and mroe extreme panning, and i'll let you know how that goes. In the mean time, is there anything else you can do to help? Its very much appreciated!

I am using a paid for version of Cubase, which is why I'm still stuck on Cubase 5 :') I didn't mean that I was going to download the plug-ins illegally, I meant that I though the focusrite plug in was free, or that you could use a demo version.

Thanks for the advice!
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby The Elf » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:34 pm

It's a rare mix that I pull overheads in from full L/R - they are the signal that give the kit its sense of 'realism'. 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock is way too narrow for overheads IMO - and it seems you're already hearing that for yourself.

(I'm going to assume you've already got all of the phase relationships sorted out, or we're on a non-starter...)

Mute everything but the overheads. Pan them fully L/R and bring them up in the mix. Roll off everything below 100Hz for the moment.

Now listen to the overheads and try to hear where each drum appears in the stereo image. Lift each close mic a tiny amount and match its pan position to where it appears in the overheads. You'll spend a lot of time here muting/un-muting close mic's until you have it fully set, but take your time with it.

For kick and snare you may find that you can 'force' them into the centre, even if they are not quite centred in the overheads. This is worth doing, if possible.

Use just as much close mic as you need to get the definition for each element of the kit. Close cymbal and hat mic's may need savage low-cuts; you probably only need the high 'click' of stick on cymbal for them to do their thing - you may not need them at all. Check and double-check your phase relationships as you do this - you never know.

Lastly, pan the room mic's fully L/R and lift them into the mix where they begin to give the drums their sense of space. I'm not a great fan of a 'roomy' drum sound, so I'm quite sparing with them. I often prefer a synthetic room reverb. I would also roll off some (actually I roll off a *lot* of) bottom from the room mic's. If the kit sounds too wide with the rooms L/R, bring them in and see how that sounds. You may even prefer one or other of the room mic's on it's own in mono.

You'll need to fine-tune the low-cuts in all the mic's to where it is helping to define the drum it is set on, and not adding clutter you don't need. Depending on the style of music my overheads can be cut up to 500Hz. Don't forget to gate the tom mic's (or edit the audio part, preferably), so they aren't adding even more clutter when there is no tom present - unless, of course, you like what they add by leaving them open - it happens.

Don't do any more with the EQ, other than I've suggested for now.

And...

...then drop us a new version of your mix!
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:04 pm

WeBuiltASkyscraper wrote:For the drums I used 10 mics.

Try getting a mix from just four of them - the overheads, bass and snare. Then add in just a little of the others, if needed. It might not be.
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby WarKites » Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:17 pm

Just to clear things up, all phasing problems have been addressed and solved!

I've tried to do all of the above, but I'm still left with the snare and kick drum sounding very mono, I'm not too sure why. I do like them to be in the centre of the mix, but they still sound very thin etc. Would this be where I'd look to plug ins begin to thicken out the sound?

Below is a link to the updated mix, still with no plug ins or effects used...

https://soundcloud.com/webuiltaskyscrapersos/the-sound-of-machines-no-fx-new

Like you, I'm not a huge fan of a roomy sounding drum kit, I like it to be quite tight and clean! anyway, let me know what you think

Thanks!
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby The Elf » Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:32 pm

Well that sounds a lot better, so you're on your way. The rest is down to the art of mixing, and the options are endless - with the best will in the world it's not something we can do step by step over a forum.

(I offer a 1-2-1 tuition service. You can PM me for details if you're interested.)
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:20 pm

The drums may be sounding a bit isolated from the rest of the mix because the guitar is pushing ahead of the groove - a musical ensemble problem rather than an audio one. I've got other comments, but they may change when I listen on my music computer rather than this laptop.
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:58 pm

...but it's not as bad when you can hear the bass as well. Forget that.

I'd still like to hear a mix with just the overheads, snare and bass mics. And with less reverb on the guitar, maybe a little more on the overall mix. Get everything into the same room.
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Re: Making a mix sound big

Postby WarKites » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:10 pm

Sorry that I've been quiet for a while, I've been quite busy!

Anyway, here's the latest mix of part of the song...

https://soundcloud.com/webuiltaskyscrapersos/the-sound-of-machines-output

Can you let me know what you think? Any tips/improvements etc?

Thanks a lot!
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