You are here

What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

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

What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Retro Joe » Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:29 pm

What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix? What are specific, concrete steps, other than “use your ears,” “whatever sounds good to you,” etc? Are there any good tutorials, classes, books, videos etc. to really learn how to properly balance a mix. Thank you.
Retro Joe
New here
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2018 8:21 am

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Jumpeyspyder » Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:38 pm

Practise and compare your mixes with reference tracks in your genre.

Read Mike Senior - Mix rescue articles they are full of tips and tricks

When I started mixing, I made the mistake of trying to make each track sound amazing on its own. It was years later I learned that it's more about creating space for each element and you can only judge if it sounds good within the framework of the mix
User avatar
Jumpeyspyder
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1103
Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2006 1:00 am
Location: Yorkshire

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Feb 04, 2019 12:13 am

I suspect much of the 'secret' (if there is one) comes down to listening to music you like and analysing what it is you like about it. Once you have done that you have a chance of working out what the musicians/mixer/producer have done to achieve that.
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9717
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby CS70 » Mon Feb 04, 2019 12:33 am

+1. Listen to pieces you like, and really *listen*, to the balance. If you haven't before you'll find roaring guitars which are quite lower than you expect, drums that stick out much more than you would think, bass lines which just purr when you think they're loud and so forth. Great fun.

Mike's book is simply great, btw.
User avatar
CS70
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3737
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video  and the FB page

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Mon Feb 04, 2019 12:36 am

Retro Joe wrote:What are specific, concrete steps, other than “use your ears,” “whatever sounds good to you,” etc? Are there any good tutorials, classes, books, videos etc. to really learn how to properly balance a mix. Thank you.

I'll second what others have said above, "Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio" by Mike Senior is an excellent book and should prove very useful: https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/mi ... all-studio

There are no 'specific, concrete steps' that will work universally. There are approaches and techniques that can be learned and applied, but if you're looking for a short-cut you'll probably be disappointed.

Mixing is something that takes practice and work, and I'll also echo the recommendation to use reference material to identify the balances in music you like.
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2192
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my musical works.
I had a weird time in Surrey once, but that was a drummer's fault.

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Jack Ruston » Mon Feb 04, 2019 6:14 am

Ah that's the big one isn't it. This is why you can watch every mix tutorial video there is, but only really pick up 'tips'. It's why Spike Stent, and Bob Clearmountain can't move for work, when most in their position would be tailing off by now. It's something you can't really be taught, but you can develop.

I'd do this- assign a fader to each of the main elements of your mix...kick snare drums bass guitars keys main vocals bvs...or whatever. Throw those faders up instinctively, getting a quick balance, and print it, ten times, saving as each time. Flick through the balances and pick the one that speaks to you. Reopen that version and move forward.

J
Jack Ruston
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3741
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2005 1:00 am

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Argiletonne » Mon Feb 04, 2019 7:30 am

Balancing a mix, ya that's the part that makes the music sound really good.
When a mix is balanced it takes the music from where it was and adds something almost invisible only now the song is better. As if the music did not already sound great to your ears when a mix is balanced really well the A/B is easily noticeable and the after is always better than the before even though without hearing the after the before mix is usually really exceptional.

Hmm, to be fair I really like non stereo mixes like you know the typical classic stuff from beatles or whatever during the pre stereo era of mixing,. Hearing a drumset primarily in one ear is so crazy and it never happens anymore. To me balance can mean many things such as energy and frequency versus volume. Most people probably think volume denotes balance but obviously we know low end energy is more powerful than high end energy.

Easiest clue to balancing music follows that logic, balancing the energy of the music found in the frequencies more than the volume of the music. Knowing the sensitivities of the ear in certain frequencies is the most common tweak done nowadays while mixing but what is forgotten is the energy those frequencies transmit.
User avatar
Argiletonne
Poster
Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:18 pm
Location: UT
Attention: Unpopular Middle Child 
Argiletonne Forevier™
1185 Normandy Dr.
Somberland, USA 16370

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:01 am

Argiletonne wrote:Hmm, to be fair I really like non stereo mixes like you know the typical classic stuff from beatles or whatever during the pre stereo era of mixing,. Hearing a drumset primarily in one ear is so crazy and it never happens anymore.

Just to be clear - especially for those just dipping their toes into the vast ocean of "What makes for a good mix?" - that wasn't a mix-choice. It was an artefact of the limitations of the equipment being used at the time.
Mike Stranks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6562
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 1:00 am

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby desmond » Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:39 am

Mike Stranks wrote:Just to be clear - especially for those just dipping their toes into the vast ocean of "What makes for a good mix?" - that wasn't a mix-choice. It was an artefact of the limitations of the equipment being used at the time.

And also, those records then were mixed for mono, so it didn't matter so much. It was only when they much later got remixed to stereo that the people doing it at the time decided to hard pan those tracks, which ended up with a weird mix that was never intended for the material.

This was eventually corrected later on I believe.

There is, of course, room for "interesting" or unconventional surprises in mixes, as long as you generally know what works and what doesn't, and why, and are making appropriate decisions. There's a track on a favourite album that has the bass panned to the left.. it certainly gives the track a different off-beat character that it wouldn't have had otherwise...
User avatar
desmond
Jedi Poster
Posts: 8729
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:00 am

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Mon Feb 04, 2019 12:08 pm

desmond wrote: There's a track on a favourite album that has the bass panned to the left.. it certainly gives the track a different off-beat character that it wouldn't have had otherwise...

As the day chugged slowly on, take after take had lead the band to realise that the initial track laid down by the bassist really wasn't quite good enough. It had sounded fine in the bright optimism of the morning, when the joy of layering it over a pristine drum track had somehow masked the critical ear when it came to those subtle pushes that weren't going to work once the keys and rhythm guitars came along.

As the shadows lengthened the record company rep arrived to "see how things were going". Peering through a haze of dope-smoke under which the drummer had long since passed out on the stained couch in the control room he asked the exhausted engineer how much more time the recording would take.

"Hmm.. I'm not sure", said the engineer, "lemme check".

Leaning his tired frame against the desk he craned towards the battered gooseneck. "HEY, STEVE", he bellowed into it, "WHAT ELSE DO WE NEED TO DO TONIGHT BEFORE WE CAN WRAP THIS THING UP?"

The answer came back, thin and crackling, delivered via a long-since unidentifiable mic in the live room. It cut in and out occasionally but the engineer had been there long enough to unconsciously fill in the gaps without realising it.

"Only ... fffzt krchhh fzzt ... the BASS LEFT"

And so it came to be.
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2192
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my musical works.
I had a weird time in Surrey once, but that was a drummer's fault.

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Watchmaker » Mon Feb 04, 2019 12:27 pm

Another plug for Mike Senior's book referenced above. Chapter 8 "Balancing" was what I was re-reading for the umpteenth time just last night. That and "The recording engineer's handbook" are always on my desk.

Like everything else, the way to learn it is take every opportunity you can to simply do it. Find people near by who are either better or worse at it than you and do it with them. Make a billion mistakes. Have a good cry, break something, and then go back and do it again.
User avatar
Watchmaker
Frequent Poster
Posts: 513
Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2016 12:00 am
Location: Upstate NY, USA
Take my advice, I'm not using it.

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Humble Bee » Mon Feb 04, 2019 12:51 pm

+1 for Mike Seniors Books! Best start from there... :thumbup:
User avatar
Humble Bee
Regular
Posts: 256
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2007 1:00 am
Location: Switzerland/Germany/Sweden

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby OK1 » Mon Feb 04, 2019 1:31 pm

A mix can be balanced in so many ways and still sound good.

So intention is key, the mix must have an intention- a direction in which it wishes the music to go.

I find that the most interesting pieces of music, that I go back to and listen to more, provide an excellent progression of interest from one bar to the next, taking me on a journey beyond my immediate surroundings.

The mediocre mixes interrupt this journey and wake me up to reality and scream - that's a recording.

The really good stuff says - this is an outstanding performance - you must listen to this, and stop whatever else you are doing and pay attention. It captures you.

A lot of this is from the arrangement, choice of instruments/processing, and I guess the mixing engineer contributes to translating this well or not so well, especially in today's pop world where many of the arrangement choices could end up being made by the mixing engineer, who has full control over levels of tracks throughout the song.

There are extremes, a lot of today's pop music overdoes this "capture" - it sounds interesting, but you do not enjoy listening to it many times over, cos its overdone, harsh, sure that's a creative choice.

My theory - as much as one listens to a lot of music, and they sound great, like great art, they do not sound alike, or similar in tone when properly analysed or listened to on good speakers, and there is such a diverse spectrum of how a good mix should sound.

So each artist/mixing engineer makes their own statement/contribution to this universe of sound, none of which ever sounds the same. Never - the same track mixed on a different day will sound different.

I suggest you make your own contribution, having a purpose in mind of what you want your mix to do to the listener, and is an iterative process, with each mix, and each feedback you hone your abilities to take the listener where you have intended, and are also willing to accommodate the lucky accidents that were unintended - tricks you discover along the way.

See mixing as playing a musical instrument, you can study it as much as you want, watch others play, read all the books, listen to recordings of your instrument, learn all the theory, but until you spend years actually playing, getting feedback, playing with others, until it becomes second nature and you go beyond the notes to the emotions in the music - which really is adding your own unique interpretation subconsciously to the music, does it come together, without having to overthink it.

This is I think what we hear in a good mix, the result of someone who mixed who has good ears/taste for emotions, and knows how to recreate this, so that others can hear, with fewer restrictions, what they hear in their mind.

Ceelo Green has two versions of a song - 1. F*ck you , 2. Forget you. The second one replaces the expletive with a more polite word. They ostensibly sound the same, but on closer listen, the polite version clearly has different balance of mixing, compression settings, eq, etc. and just sounds harsher. I can listen to the 1st version several times, but the 2nd harsh version while it immediately sounds nicer, I do not wish to hear it again. On a dance floor, I would play version 2 if I was a DJ., but at home I prefer version 1 - sound so much more natural, relaxed and good to hear.

So in conclusion, a good mix can also be judged by - did it achieve the commercial or other intended objectives. And a commercially successful mix may not be that good to hear.

Back to the word you used - Balance - A really great mix would be one that strikes that balance - sells well catches their ear instantly, and listeners still want to hear it over years after their 1st listen.

But I think it's also is about the song, and arrangement - you need a great song to start with.

A good mix is like a snapshot of a great painting, with great camera, lighting, color balance.
OK1
Regular
Posts: 80
Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2009 12:00 am
Location: Reading, Berkshire, UK

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Feb 04, 2019 1:58 pm

I'm a live sound guy really so take with a pinch......

You need a reasonable room (or good headphones)......

It's harder to fix it in the mix than to f**k it up in the mix so a great performance is #1 priority.

Reference tracks are important, they allow you to calibrate your ears.

I'd say (but see the disclaimer above) don't make it more complicated than it need to me, the 'mute' button may be more useful than eq at times.

Remember back in the day there was a good reason why the BBC guys who manned the mixing desks were called 'Sound Balancers'.
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9717
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:21 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:I'd say (but see the disclaimer above) don't make it more complicated than it need to me, the 'mute' button may be more useful than eq at times.


:clap: Spot on!

When I'm location recording gigs/concerts I tend to mic/track everything. Come the mix some of the tracks often don't get used. They're muddying rather than clarifying the mix.
Mike Stranks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6562
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 1:00 am

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby James Perrett » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:37 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:Remember back in the day there was a good reason why the BBC guys who manned the mixing desks were called 'Sound Balancers'.

And in the old days mixes were called 'Reductions'.

(or at least that's what it says on some of the old tapes I've transferred).
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 8195
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Zukan » Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:37 am

Mike's book is Jedi! Get it, read it, do it!
User avatar
Zukan
Moderator
Posts: 7801
Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby Wonks » Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:44 am

James Perrett wrote:
Sam Spoons wrote:Remember back in the day there was a good reason why the BBC guys who manned the mixing desks were called 'Sound Balancers'.

And in the old days mixes were called 'Reductions'.

(or at least that's what it says on some of the old tapes I've transferred).

So these day's they'd be called a 'Jus'.


(That's my stock answer).
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 8681
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Correcting mistakes on the internet since 1853

Re: What is the best way to learn how to properly balance a mix?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:17 pm

Wonks wrote:
James Perrett wrote:
Sam Spoons wrote:Remember back in the day there was a good reason why the BBC guys who manned the mixing desks were called 'Sound Balancers'.

And in the old days mixes were called 'Reductions'.

(or at least that's what it says on some of the old tapes I've transferred).

So these day's they'd be called a 'Jus'.


(That's my stock answer).

Source?
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7286
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: blinddrew