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Making a mix sound great and where am I going wrong here, A&B. [hip hop & trap]

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Making a mix sound great and where am I going wrong here, A&B. [hip hop & trap]

Postby kboxx » Sun May 02, 2021 9:27 pm

Hey guys thanks for checking out this post.

A little backstory on me for context: I’ve made hip hop and trap beats for a few years now, and sometimes mix some people’s vocals on them. I’m a complete amateur and do it because I love working on music and love all the different sounds you can incorporate into hip hop beats. I never charge money or anything like that but I genuinely want to make the best sounding stuff I can.

So for this post specifically, I have a friend whose trying to make really good sounding music (aren't we all) and so has spent a considerable amount of money on an instrumental and a verse from a fairly well known rapper. Of all the money he’s spent, he still asked me to mix his and the rapper’s voice on the instrumental. I’ve done his voice before and he really likes the way I mix his vocals on stuff so that’s easy enough. The rapper was on a song I listened to a lot in highschool so I am sort of fanboying over having the chance to work on his vocals as well, and the verse he sent already sounds great and there’s not much that needs to be done.

However, and this is where I need help, he sent me the instrumental (which sounds amazing), but it’s already mastered and has no headroom. I asked him if there was another version that had headroom and he said there wasn’t, but he does have stems. The stems aren’t mixed at all, and I’ve been mixing the instrumental for around 5 hours trying to get it to sound as close as possible as I can to the original that was sent.

The problem I’m having is getting the loudness and fullness, while still having dynamics and clarity of the original :headbang: .
My thought process is if I can mix the instrumental and then master it to sound like the original, I can then lower everything back down, mix the vocals in, and bring it back up.

Here is the original beat that I'm trying to sound like:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1P7UuTg ... sp=sharing

Here is my version:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1oKB2vS ... sp=sharing

Some things I’m noticing are differences in loudness (I will match both at 0db mastered in my DAW but the original is still much louder.) For example the synth that plays in the intro is much louder than my mix but when I attempt to have the synth play that loudly the snare loses a lot of presence. I’m wondering how to compress enough to get the loudness of the original but also still retain the dynamics of the drums punching through?

Also why does the kick in the original instrumental sound so much fuller yet punchier, it almost seems like there's some stereo to it, am I wrong in that?

Any advice or tips anyone can give me is hugely appreciated. I really want to make this sound as best as I can and I just lack the knowledge and know-how on this.

Also: I've already told my friend if he's willing to drop the money on a really good instrumental and a verse he should also spend the money on a good engineer. But he still wants me to give it a try. Thanks again.
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Re: Making a mix sound great and where am I going wrong here, A&B. [hip hop & trap]

Postby James Perrett » Sun May 02, 2021 10:25 pm

The first thing I would do is to bring the mastered version down in level by several dB and then use that as your reference. You are on a hiding to nothing if you try to match the level of your mix to the mastered version at this stage.

Add the vocals to both versions and see which you prefer after the vocals are added. There is no rule that says you can't add vocals to an already mastered track - after all, that's what rappers used to do.
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Re: Making a mix sound great and where am I going wrong here, A&B. [hip hop & trap]

Postby kboxx » Sun May 02, 2021 11:13 pm

James Perrett wrote:The first thing I would do is to bring the mastered version down in level by several dB and then use that as your reference. You are on a hiding to nothing if you try to match the level of your mix to the mastered version at this stage.
First off, thank you for the response!

I brought the mastered version down to about -9db as a reference then tried to mix and 'master' (just compress for loudness) the new one to match it at about -9db as well. Then brought the levels back up to about -0.2 db when I exported for this. Do you think that was a good way to go about it?

James Perrett wrote:Add the vocals to both versions and see which you prefer after the vocals are added. There is no rule that says you can't add vocals to an already mastered track - after all, that's what rappers used to do.

Ah thanks yes I'll give this a shot!

Edited to fix quotes - JP
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Re: Making a mix sound great and where am I going wrong here, A&B. [hip hop & trap]

Postby James Perrett » Sun May 02, 2021 11:39 pm

I haven't downloaded the files and looked at the waveforms but I would guess that the mastered version has some fairly heavy limiting on it so you would need to use a limiter on your version to match the final level.

It may be helpful to measure the LUFS values of both files as that gives you a rough idea of how loud things sound. Just looking at the peak values on a meter tells you very little about how loud things actually sound.
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