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How to mix, how to approach

Postby awjoe » Fri Nov 27, 2020 3:53 am

When I mix, I'm constantly paying attention to levels. Other stuff like EQ and effects comes into it (is a compressor an effect?), and I make adjustments, but mostly it's about levels.

Even at the end of the process, when launch onto the internet happens, it's about levels. In between those two, I can try stuff out/go crazy/go lazy. Because I know I'm going to come back to levels.

Anyway, I mix into levels all the time. You?
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby awjoe » Fri Nov 27, 2020 6:40 am

I'll tweak that, because I was too vague, and didn't give an example. No matter which aspect of mixing I'm attending to - EQ, compression, effects - whatever I tweak is about how it affects the level. How it sounds, sure - put the reverb on and decide how much is right and then ease back a taste. Listen. Got it. But how does that affect the levels? Like that.
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby blinddrew » Fri Nov 27, 2020 2:24 pm

Yes and no.
Yes in that for each element of the track it's a case of 'can I hear it?' and 'is it masking anything else?' but, and this is where it gets into the 'no' bit there's also the aspect of 'does it sound as it should / needs to?'
And this is where it gets into mixing vs production vs composition because for me, as someone who mostly works solo and therefore tends to create as I mix, there's the whole element of 'progression'. So it's not just about 'can I hear this?' it's also about 'is this taking the overall song in the direction I want it to?'
Which is where we stray into composition and production territory obviously.

But as I always I refer you to the disclaimer in my signature! ;)
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby The Elf » Fri Nov 27, 2020 6:01 pm

I spend far longer on EQ and other processes than I do levels. Once they're set they're pretty much set until the time comes for the automation passes.

If I find I'm having to constantly shift the level of a track as I'm working I would probably split the source off into multiple tracks and set those accordingly.
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby Arpangel » Sat Nov 28, 2020 9:50 am

George Martin said something interesting, something like "I can normally tell if a mix is any good just by looking at the console faders"
And there is something in that, if I’m combining individual synth lines, or separate tracks that go to make up harmonies, I do find that if I match all the levels, there is a point where it will gel, it will sound absolutely right, it’s what I’ve always used to make sure things sound good, if this optimum level isn’t reached, it sounds thin, and doesn’t glue, it’s a bit like reaching a point where there is a subtle chorusing between parts, and to make that happen you have to match the levels critically.
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby awjoe » Sat Nov 28, 2020 11:51 pm

blinddrew wrote:Yes and no.
Yes in that for each element of the track it's a case of 'can I hear it?' and 'is it masking anything else?' but, and this is where it gets into the 'no' bit there's also the aspect of 'does it sound as it should / needs to?'

Yes, I'm constantly trying to get each element to sound as it should, as you describe. But after every tweak, I always come back to 'and is the level good?' Maybe I'm obsessing. You know, when I'm recording (and even when I'm just playing/practising) I'm constantly checking tuning. Partly it's good practice, and partly it's sorta OCD. Maybe it's the mixing version of that.
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby awjoe » Sat Nov 28, 2020 11:54 pm

The Elf wrote:I spend far longer on EQ and other processes than I do levels. Once they're set they're pretty much set until the time comes for the automation passes.

If I find I'm having to constantly shift the level of a track as I'm working I would probably split the source off into multiple tracks and set those accordingly.

Do you mix on a desk? And by 'automation passes' do you mean the riding the fader thing in order to emphasize/de-emphasize various segments of a track?
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Nov 29, 2020 1:00 am

The Elf wrote:I spend far longer on EQ and other processes than I do levels. Once they're set they're pretty much set until the time comes for the automation passes.

Same here - pink noise mixing to set the basic levels, then onto more creative stuff with effects, changing timbre, adding echos/delays/distortion/grunge...


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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Nov 29, 2020 1:07 am

awjoe wrote:
The Elf wrote:I spend far longer on EQ and other processes than I do levels. Once they're set they're pretty much set until the time comes for the automation passes.

And by 'automation passes' do you mean the riding the fader thing in order to emphasize/de-emphasize various segments of a track?

I can't speak for The Elf, but for me the automation passes are when I go under headphones and work forensically on a song a section at a time, tweaking levels, sometimes pulling down the level of certain instruments slightly through an entire section when others should shine, and sometimes just pulling down individual notes if they stick out of the mix when they shouldn't, for whatever reason (played louder, hit a resonance etc.)

I personally find this a better approach than relying on a compressor. I do use compressors on bass guitar parts to generally even out levels, sometimes on lead guitars, and sometimes on synths (especially when they use filters with high resonance settings), but if an instrument only has a few notes or sections that need tweaking then automation generally gives me more transparent results.


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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby The Elf » Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:14 am

awjoe wrote:
The Elf wrote:I spend far longer on EQ and other processes than I do levels. Once they're set they're pretty much set until the time comes for the automation passes.

If I find I'm having to constantly shift the level of a track as I'm working I would probably split the source off into multiple tracks and set those accordingly.
Do you mix on a desk?
I ditched hardware mixers long ago. But it would make no difference to how I would work. It's all the same really.

awjoe wrote:And by 'automation passes' do you mean the riding the fader thing in order to emphasize/de-emphasize various segments of a track?
Yes. With a vocal, or lead part, for example, it's important that it always sits over the backing, but not jump out unduly - I'll use automation to achieve this. That's just one example. I'll mult tracks for such as effects throws, or for song sections, which can make the mix easier to manage, and I'll often automate Group Tracks, rather than sources.

...and it is the number of available tracks and powerful automation features where the DAW scores over a hardware desk.
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby awjoe » Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:23 am

Automation is level.
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby Zukan » Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:30 am

Proper gain staging and band-pass equing to tidy up all channels is my approach before any coloured processing.

In dem days (also known as 'if only I could remember shit') one of the tasks of the studio engineer was to create a level and pan mix before the producer got jiggy with the mix. Probably the most important phase of any mix project is gain staging and cleaning channels, as these two processes can alleviate a ton of headaches later.
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby The Elf » Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:41 am

awjoe wrote:Automation is level.
Anything can be automated, not just level. EQ, effects sends, plug-in parameters... Anything!
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby awjoe » Sun Nov 29, 2020 7:19 pm

The Elf wrote:
awjoe wrote:Automation is level.
Anything can be automated, not just level. EQ, effects sends, plug-in parameters... Anything!

Fair enough, but I imagine level automation to be the main type of automation you do at the end? Anyway, with this bit you said originally:

"I spend far longer on EQ and other processes than I do levels. Once they're set they're pretty much set until the time comes for the automation passes."

...that tells me that my constant attention to level is idiosyncratic. And possibly unnecessary. Cheers.
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Re: How to mix, how to approach

Postby blinddrew » Sun Nov 29, 2020 7:46 pm

It depends if by 'level' you mean 'relative volume' or 'can i hear everything i want/need/should'. Because it's not just 'level' that contributes to that.
If you're making an eq adjustment to address some masking, is that really an adjustment for level? [/sophistry]
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