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Top Down Mixing and Mastering

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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:57 am

Make this happen! :)
I'm happy to come along to take notes, or something ;)
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby Dave B » Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:58 am

How about doing it as a round table Mix Rescue article?
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:23 am

As has been said, we're in the territory of art not science, 'one man's meat...' and so on.

What would such an experiment prove? That people of experience have different ways of working and produce different mixes. That 'your' "Hmmm; I'm not too sure about that." is 'my' "What a superb sound..."

I've had some experience of being asked to provide raw live tracks for a subsequent album mix and being asked to provide a mix at the same time. Said mix receives eulogies and I'm told that "This is brilliant; we're going to use it and not change a thing!" Some months later I'm sent a complimentary copy of the album. "My" track is a different mix, which to my ears sounds appalling. Happened a few times... Who's 'right' and who's 'wrong'? (For the avoidance of doubt: on a few occasions I've sent 'raw' tracks to The Elf. I've never felt short-changed by his mixes. :D )

We all have our own ways of working, our own techniques and our own style. Take advice, ask questions of yourself about why something sounds good - or doesn't - to your ears and come to your own decisions.

I have probably 8-10 different versions of one of my favourite pieces of music. They're all different from both a musical and recording aspect. The differences are startling and extreme in some cases.

Forget metrics; use your ears.
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:41 am

If it is possible to demonstrate the different effects of eq-ing the mix and eq-ing the channels separately that would be useful. Asking the question "does one approach suit a particular genre, instrument line up or WHY better than the other?" But, I suspect other factors will have more effect on the final mix.
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:38 pm

What a fascinating discussion!

I can understand the claimed merits of both approaches (global EQ 'tailoring' vs individual EQ 'taming'), but do tend to agree with Sam that global EQ may give similar results much more quickly, and therefore be good from the artistic point of view in capturing the sound you want before getting bogged down in analytical decisions and switching brain lobes ;)

There are indeed so many different approaches to mixing. I recently read some user complaints about Waves' new CLA MixHub plug-in suite not having mute and solo buttons on each channel, which for some musicians made it almost impossible to work with.

However, this lack of Mute/Solo functions was quite deliberate, as Chris Lord-Alge (the CLA inspiration in the product title) refuses to use them, as he claims that concentrating on the sound of a single channel is detrimental to the mix in its entirety. Again, I can understand his reasoning (although personally I'd also be lost without Mute/Solo functions), but the CLA approach does once again suggest that concentrating on the top down overall sound can indeed be the most important aspect to many people when mixing.

It's a good job we're all different, but as always, it's the end result that counts!


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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby Eddy Deegan » Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:38 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:Forget metrics; use your ears.

Martin Walker wrote:It's a good job we're all different, but as always, it's the end result that counts!

Absolutely - I was sort of assuming that the results would be posted online for ones own comparison too.

Apart from the useful content of the article describing the processes involved in more detail, the subjective A/B comparison done by the reader would benefit from the fact that the mixes are done by people that know what they're doing.

I can A/B my own work of course but as my mixing skills are less developed, my thinking is that the combination of the content of such an article combined with the ability to hear the results would not only make for really good reading but would be of significant practical use also.
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby Dave B » Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:43 pm

Martin Walker wrote:It's a good job we're all different

I'm not!!

:bouncy:
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:57 pm

The more I think about this I can't help feeling that this may well be self-defeating. Whatever methods are employed, there are an awful lot of mix decisions that will end up in one mix being preferable to another - which may be completely unconnected. I mix in headphones, for example - another engineer will mix in speakers. What then? Were the differences due to an EQ over the master bus, or the type of monitoring employed?... :headbang:
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby Wonks » Thu Jan 31, 2019 1:44 pm

Two different people are always going to make different sounding mixes, so an A/B of the final mixes won't prove anything. So you could do two mixes, Elf; one your standard way and one the master bus EQ way, with help from Sam on the master bus-first side but with you still controlling the mix and trying to achieve the same final mix sound.

Then an appraisal of the time taken using both methods and a feeling of how easily the final mix was achieved might prove interesting. A sort of time and motion study.
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 31, 2019 2:03 pm

My impression is that nobody who mixes do that in a linear fashion - but what method suits one best may depend on whether or not the mixing is more towards an objective or more "explorative" and discovery-oriented.

For example I tend to have a clear idea on how I would like a track to sound.. which vocals, which ambience, which timbres. When I have the recordings ready, for me the issue is to get each bit to sound the way I have it in my head, then decide what matters most at each point in the track, and then balance, mute and carve frequencies accordingly. By the time I am at mix bus level, the mix is pretty much done. I very seldom have any plugin or EQ at all there - at most, a tape emulation to get that "printed to tape" feel and that's it.

In other words, my main issue is always to fill the gap between the sound I want to hear and the one I am hearing for each track - and when I'm done and balanced, the mix is how I want it.

Whereas if one is more explorative, I can well see how looking for a general sound first on the main bus, finding it and then tweaking backwards may indeed be quite helpful, because experimenting with many tracks would increase the combinations to try immensely and take much longer time and decreasing the likelihood of discovering that sound.

Just $.10 of course.
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 31, 2019 2:41 pm

It's a fair 10 cents-worth.

I have a philosophy for a mix - a mood, or a story I'm trying to evoke. Every decision I take serves to further that aim; the aim will change from section to section, maybe even bar to bar. This is way beyond making a mix sound subjectively 'good', but it will further that as well.

But we're getting into a whole different discussion to that set sail by the OP, so I'll leave this for another time...
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 31, 2019 4:57 pm

SOS has an interesting remit as a magazine, it caters to the fully professional reader as well as the casual hobbyist. I would see an article like this being primarily targeted at the latter, but I'm sure it could written to still have interest to the former.
It doesn't take a long search on YouTube to find some fairly, shall we say, 'interesting' videos on the subject, so there's clearly a bit of confusion that could be cleared up for the newer audience.

For me, as a rank amateur (especially compared to some of the people commenting so far!), the value of such an article wouldn't be to try and establish a 'best' way of doing things; it would be to look properly at the options and discuss how and why they both work. And why you might choose one over the other for a specific piece of work.

Might work better as a podcast / video discussion rather than an article? But I'm sure it could be done either way. :)
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 31, 2019 5:11 pm

The Elf wrote:It's a fair 10 cents-worth.

I have a philosophy for a mix - a mood, or a story I'm trying to evoke. Every decision I take serves to further that aim; the aim will change from section to section, maybe even bar to bar. This is way beyond making a mix sound subjectively 'good', but it will further that as well.

Completely agree! Mixing - like all music really - is not so much about the sound, but the result that the sound has on us.
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby Jack Ruston » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:25 pm

Sam mentioned that we had talked about this in the past. I certainly find that there's a coherence to the 'top down' approach that it's hard to get from a more individual approach. For a start...typically the mix will need some highs and high mids. It's not a totally hard and fast rule of course...someone might have added 6dB of top to every single source at tracking.
But I can't remember the last mix I didn't add high end to. Obviously you want to add the right amount, and you can't really judge that by adding it to individual sources...you need to hear how the whole balance responds as it brightens. You'll soon find out if that works, or if it just needs to be brighter drums, or guitars.

Anyway, FWIW, here's a breakdown of how I personally approach this, from an interview I did with Acustica...

"I start with EQ, and I will typically see what needs to be added in the way of top and bottom end. Broadly speaking, I’m looking for a high shelf at around 10 or 12 kHz, a broad bell at around 2-3 kHz, often from White2, and a broad bell at around 30-60 Hz depending on the key. I may nudge some sources up or down as I begin to shape the whole spectral balance of the track. I’ll apply some bus compression, often Pink2, again, and a pre module at the end of the chain. I’m not looking for dynamic control really, but more the sound of the compression, the envelope. To some extent the pre module will affect that too, and it may also prompt an EQ tweak. So, I cycle around those plug ins, nudging the balance at the faders if needs be, and getting the shape...I’m looking for a treatment that suits the track as a whole, that flatters the majority of the content, and that’s appropriate for the genre. Some elements, like drums, may well have their own bus treatment - they might need a push that’s too much for the mix bus. I want to keep hearing the track as a whole.

Once I have that balance and spectral ‘shape’, I will then go back and start making corrections to the sources, applying effects. I might take a little top or bottom off a source that the bus chain has over-enhanced in those frequencies. A good example might be an acoustic guitar, or vocal that has become a little bright. I’ll generally automate a lot. As the process goes on, I’ll start looking to create points of interest in the mix, effects throws, rides, cuts or edits etc. I’ll push the mix bus fader to create impact on the choruses. I may go back to the bus chain at some point, and make a tiny change - a squeeze more top or high mid.

I tend to EQ sources pre compression, but as mentioned above, there’s always more EQ downstream at the bus stage. So it’s often both. I don’t want the source to hit the compressor in an unbalanced way, so there might be some correction for lumpy frequencies initially, but then a lot of the broader shape comes from the bus chains, while the majority of the dynamic control will be at the source track. All that said, in terms of the final sound of the mix, the EQ is before the compression"
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Re: Top Down Mixing and Mastering

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:54 pm

Got to be honest that, despite my initially glib 'let's give it a go', I'm not actually convinced that anything would be achieved.

If anyone wants to hear examples of my work (none of which is mixed into an EQ) I can provide them (give or take a permission or two).
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