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How much can I prepare for mixing?

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How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby Robodelfy » Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:10 pm

Hi

I have an album of pop/rock/indie/folk songs I have recorded over the last couple of years. Everything has been recorded well even if DIY style! Most sessions have about 30 tracks, including a fair amount of doubled vocals, guitars etc.

As I've been going along I have set volume levels and pans to have a rough mix, but used no reverb, compression, EQ etc.

I have quite meticulously gone through editing out pops, sorting fades, cleaning it all up.

My friend who is an audio engineer and has access to some great studios has offered to help me mix it. But we will be quite restricted for time, his time and the studio time. For this reason I want to do everything humanly possible before we set foot in the studio. We plan to use mostly outboard analogue gear, so obviously I do not want to use any plugins beforehand.

What is the absolute limit I can get to with preparing the tracks without actually starting to mix it!! Any tips appreciated? I was with a friend recently who seemed to be manually gating the toms on his tracks before mixing. Things like this could be useful.

It would be ideal if when we get in the studio we are just choosing Eq, compression, reverb etc on each sound rather than fiddling around with tweaking audio files.

Thanks for any help in advance :)
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby Ben Asaro » Mon Jun 19, 2017 4:51 pm

I would say:

- gain stage all of the tracks so they are peaking in the same range

- bounce down your cleaned up and edited tracks to stems of like instruments that can be controlled from a single fader if you can

- make sure to clearly label all of your stems and bounces and put them into a clearly labeled folder so they can be accessed and mixed with ease

- make sure you have a compatible hard drive to the OS your friend is using in his studio, especially if you are taking the mixes home on an external drive. If your drive is formatted for Windows and he has a Mac, you will run into issues.
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby CS70 » Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:25 pm

Robodelfy wrote:What is the absolute limit I can get to with preparing the tracks without actually starting to mix it!! Any tips appreciated? I was with a friend recently who seemed to be manually gating the toms on his tracks before mixing. Things like this could be useful.

Tough stuff :) But if you have the discipline:

- create the individual projects with the appropriate directory structure and decide your naming conventions (mixes versions, draft folders etc)
- timing and cutting off noises are the two most time consuming "housekeeping" chores I know of. Always keep a bit of "silence" at track start for possible de-noising (and to be able to bounce or copy/paste starting from 00:00:00).
- Naming the tracks and put them in you standard order (for me for example is always kick, snares, toms, overheads, bass, guitars, vox, double vocals and then any odd instrument we happen to use.. but everyone's got theirs)
- you could gate the drums if that's what you do - at least load the gate plugin
- if you have a standard grouping system, make a template and create the song projects using this. I usually have lots of buses - e.g. kick dry, kick compressed, kick sum, going into "drums", reverb, vocal reverb, vocal delay etc.. Just having all the routing between the buses done and ready it's gonna save you big time.
- In your template, you should have a hi-pass on anything but low bass and kick. The specific corner frequency will need adjustment, but again having it there already saves dollops of time.
- For reverbs, at least for songs with the same atmosphere you can pre-load your favourite plugin. The specific settings (or impulse) will change but at least it's there.
- if you work to a grid, pre-set the project BPM
- name the sections with markers
- color code the clips and load the icons if you use that (I don't), again, best used in a template
- if your genre commonly requires drum samples, like in metal, you can well pre-load trigger and the drum machine/synth you're gonna use.

I'm sure there's plenty more but these are just on the top of my head. :)
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby Jack Ruston » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:21 pm

1. The setting up of the session is time-consuming. This is a bit tricky because it rather depends on how he prefers things to be, and how rigid he is about that. Eg...there's no point going through naming a load of tracks in a DAW he's not going to use. OR using capital letters when he specifically uses those for group returns. You can wind up making more work for someone, or at least not helping despite spending a lot of time. So it will depend how much he cares about this stuff, whether you have access to the DAW concerned, and whether he has time to explain to you how he'd like things set up.

2. Whatever happens re the above, you should provide files which all start at the same point, that being the top of the tracking session, so that if you refer to bar 23, it's the same point as HIS bar 23, in whatever DAW. Make sure he has an email with clear tempos, details of word length and sample rate, any explanatory notes, names of any reference tracks relating to each of your tracks. These files need to be in clearly labelled folders, one for each track, and it can be very handy if you've created a separate folder for eg Drums, Vocals, Instruments etc. DON'T share parts on a single stem to save space. Its confusing. Equally make sure that you've sensibly delineated and labelled the vocal parts (!)...Quite often you get BV1 BV2 etc and the registers just mix and match across all parts. In other words people have just tracked a load of ideas, quite like the mush of them all in, and haven't separated anything out. Give him Chorus Low 1, 2, 3 and 4...Chorus Mid 1, 2, 3 and 4, Chorus Hi 1-4, End Chorus Extra 1-4, V1 harmony, V2 High Harm 1, 2 etc. Don't make him go through working out what it all is, or wondering why he put the high part on the left, and how there's a high vocal coming out on the right because it's sharing a track with the 'low' one.

3. Don't force him to recreate your rough mix if he doesn't want to. Provide that session separately. If you have particular parts that rely on certain effects to create a particular sound, if it's a sound that you like just as it is, that has had considerable thought in the production process, print it like that. Otherwise leave all processing off the raw files you supply in (2).

4. THE MOST time-consuming thing mixing other people's work is FIXING it. Clean up the parts, top and tail (don't chop breathing out of vocals though). Make sure it's in tune and in time. If it isn't, leave it that way because you want it that way. Tell him that's what you want so that he doesn't spend hours correcting it.

5. Watch out for errors in the bounces on your exported files. Eg I have NEVER had a session come in from Logic without timing problems in the bouncing. This is usually to do with uncompensated plug in delays on bypassed plug ins. Check and double check that what you give him is right.

This is not an exhaustive list.
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby Robodelfy » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:48 pm

Thanks for those lists guys, I really appreciate it.

I have done a lot of tidying up, labelling, colouring etc. But there are things on your list I have not done.

Time to get to work!
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby blinddrew » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:56 pm

Jack Ruston wrote:4. THE MOST time-consuming thing mixing other people's work is FIXING it. Clean up the parts, top and tail (don't chop breathing out of vocals though).
Not that I will ever send anything to anyone else to mix, but out of curiosity Jack, why don't you want the breathing chopped?
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby Robodelfy » Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:18 pm

It sounds very unnatural if you cut out all the breathing
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Jun 20, 2017 5:11 am

Yeah never cut that out. It makes the listener very uncomfortable. It's ok to do it on stacks of bvs or on doubles etc but the singer needs to breathe or the listener feels strangled. The mixer might adjust the timing or level of some of it but don't get rid of it.

J
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby blinddrew » Tue Jun 20, 2017 8:38 pm

Thank you both :)
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby Dave B » Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:15 am

Be careful with your cleanup - err on the side of caution. As Jack says, better to have the odd breath than to hard gate/edit and leave a vocal with odd artefacts in it. When editing out silences, look for nice long sections to do and start/end a little before/after your part starts. Don't chop any tails.

Tuning - be _very_ careful with any tools to handle this. Make sure that you are either _really_ good at it, or let a pro handle it. Otherwise, you run the risk of a bad part and this is fatal for vocals.

When gain staging, make sure you leave good, clean headroom and that you are not just leaving 10dB of headroom on a badly processed / distorting signal.

A 'little bit of noise / distortion' on several track which are to be combined can result in audible distortion / noise when they are summed. Be careful, but make sure you catch those (or flag them up).

The above are from a track that someone round here was expected to mix. And was done by a 'name' producer. :(
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Re: How much can I prepare for mixing?

Postby Robodelfy » Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:10 am

Thanks Dave B

Even though they arent the most amazing vocal performances I won't be tuning them, as its not commercial music, and I hate the sound of everything being corrected to 'perfection', especially pitch.

As for exporting the files. Pro tools does not allow you to export all the tracks at once to seperate files. I posted on the Avid forums, and the general consensus was to just select everything and consolidate. Then all the audio files end up in your Audio folder. This worked fine, but I don't get to set any gain for this, I don't really know how consolidating works as far as gain is concerned?
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