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Mixing, Mastering. What do you do?

 
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X-Trade
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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 5:50 pm    Post subject: Mixing, Mastering. What do you do? Reply with quote

Hi,

I've recorded a lot of tracks, and i've had a go at mixing them, but i'm curious about how other people approach it. I generally like quite a wet sound with a fair amount of delay and reverb, but I try not to overdo things. Allthough for some things I feel I have a tendance to have a "full-on or not at all" approach.

some questions:

What order to you approach things in?
What kinds of processing/EQ do you use on Bass, guitar, chords, etc?
What is your usage of send and insert effects/processors?
Any tips on compression? Reverb?
Do you look to produce a fairly even distribution across all frequencies?

Sometimes I feel i've added too much bass, or something sounds too bright, but i tend to go for a darker sound. Unfortunately i'm living in student accomodation and the room isn't great for mixing, and there's not much I can do about it

Currently I use Cubase 4. It might also help to point out that i'm trying to produce modern electronica, based around a kind of rock feeling but without guitars. actually sometimes sounds a bit too eighties...
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RVNOak
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Check out Tarekith new post Smile

After countless hours of ruining my mixes I have learned a few things. First and foremost - there isn't a cooky cutter method to mixing. Each and every sound and song has a different approach. Here's a few that might help.

My usual approach on any song is to start with my hook sound. If that sound is a cool bass line a la Primus/Rush/Victor Wooten dig, then I start by emphasizing that in such a way that you feel it throughout the song. It may be a cool lead sound on your board and it may even be a combination of vocals and blended with a great sound from your board. Whatever it is, start with your hook sound and try to develop that just enough in the beginning to keep sight of your song and its energy.

The rule less is more is certainly a mainstay in your mix downs. I try and process each track as little as possible until I can hear all of my tracks. There is, what a majority of mix engineers call carving out space, a technique to visualize. In short, volume is used to create the effect of what sounds closer and further away. Turn the volume up for singers and turn the volume down for drummers. This gives the effect that the drummer is on the back of the stage and the singer is up front. Also, your hook sound should have a sonic presence somewhere up in front. Don't make that hook sound bleed out the singer but make it powerful. Now you have to think about placing instruments in various parts of the stage. You do this with your panning. This can be really in depth but, the short answer is - pan lead guitartist on one side and synth/piano on the other side (Pan Left, Pan right). As you put more instruments on the stage, adjust your panning and volume according to where you see them.

Now the fun part. By having a basic understanding of frequencies (or having a cheat sheet that gives you basic freq ranges) of the different instruments, you can start to eq so you won't have, what I call, frequency theft. For instance - The kick drum and the bass guitar are usually panned straight center stage. Even though the bass is a bit louder than the kick, often times their frequency is close enough to cancel one another out. So, you get two tracks that you don't hear completely or you start getting boxy effects or worse, too much bass and a muddy mix. This is where a freq cheat sheet comes in handy and less is more plays a role. By rolling off the sub freqs of the bass (50 Hz?) and slightly increasing the freqs of the kick (150-200Hz? each session and song is different so these are just examples) you start to seperate the two sounds and make them work together instead of against each other. Also, and be really careful here, you can adjust their pan position very, very slightly to help seperate the two.

With me so far?

Now, using compression and reverb and delays are varied. I like to look at each individual track and use reverb or delay according to where the instrument sits on the stage. Anther example - imagine you have placed the pianist on the left of the stage of a medium size club with with walls. Delay can add a sense of realism. Create a stereo buss with delay and on the left side of your stereo channel add a about 5 ms of delay and on the right add about 150 ms of delay (again, how many ms and how much delay you add is to the taste of the mix and the engineer). You have created the illusion of a live player and his sound is hitting the audiences ears much the same as it would live! Bass usually has no delay and singers and drums usually benefit with reverb. Drum reverb is usually short as the resonance of drums is usually pretty short.

The thing to remember about effects is - each instrument has different tonal qualities and you should effect them as such. If you add speed metal distortion to tubular bells, you are certianly not accentuating on that instruments natural sound. This isn't to say that you can get wild and crazy with effects but, you should try for a clean mix first and then work on special effects when your mix is feeling good.

Compression is beautiful but it can ruin your mix faster than Vista can lose all your work for you. The one rule with any effect, and this includes compression is, use only enough to make the track sit right. Use effects when you have to and never max out any effect if you aren't getting results. Problem is, when your mix goes in for final rendering/mastering, those effects will change your tracks (those effects will be boosted far more than you could at first imagine) and destroy that sound you worked so hard to get. Usually, the only way you can repair this is by starting all over with your non effected unprocessed tracks!!

Lastly, take breaks and give your masterpiece a rest from time to time. After a week of mixing, I like to take a three day break from mixing. When I'm ready and think my mix is sitting good, I will take a couple of days and, the day before I go back to listen, I wear earplugs. When I sit down after that break, I will know if I did a good mix or not.

Couple of other tips - if you are having problems hearing you mix, before you start maxxing out eq's and volumes, try turning up your studio monitors first.

Don't record as hot as possible. If you are using a DAW, don't ever go over 0db on the input signal - you will lose some of your sound and dynamics of the instruments. Always allow some headroom as most of your effects will push those volumes up higher.

What I have explained was a very basic way to mix your songs. It's up to you beat your head against the wall, research as much as you can on different ways to mix (like slightly panning the snare and HH from your kick drum, etc.) and putting in the hours of frustration it takes to learn this art. If you start contemplating the idea of chewing on thumbtacks and throwing your mixer out the window, I would say you are on the right track!!
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Last edited by RVNOak on Sat May 31, 2008 5:51 am; edited 1 time in total
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JonSolo
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 3:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RVNOak...we approach our mixes the same. Cool. Wanna make a how to video with me? Laughing

Solo
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RVNOak
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 5:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, if I can find a job in NC I would be close enough!!

What do you use for mixing? I use Cubase SX3 (been to lazy to buy 4). But hey, I'm game. Just have to figure out how to collaborate on this Smile
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rfoshaug
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An excellent post, RVNOak!!

Smile

I've still got a lot to learn about mixing and mastering, so this is great!!

Cool
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Stephen
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post RVNOak.
That's not much different than my approach.
The thing is, once you realize the processors that are available, and just play around, hearing what they do, it's a lot of fun, and eventually things will start to click.
Just take good care of those ears, when they start to go, so does the ability to really dial things in.
Regards,
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georgeinar
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I also agree that this approach is fairly the standard, though in this case aptly described and detailed. Another point I might add is to walk all over town listening to your mix over and over in various settings and in the different moods you get in throughout the day. I invariably find that certain spots are too thick and need some instrument muted for a certain verse or chorus repeat to add variation and keep it clean sounding. This may be also to create "holes of silence" where needed, I find these quiet spots to highly contrast with the big loud thingy that may come in right after that, or that big loud thingy is so constant that unless it cuts out and back in again, the ear fatigues to it and it loses its excitement. Often during composition I don't catch all these opportunities so in the final mix test I listen carefully for these things. Also, like is there a dead spot toward the end that seems to be just filler? Is there a measure or two that seems to be simply counting out the end of a phrase before the next section kicks in? It's often at this final stage that some new composition ideas come to me and it's important to listen to my gut here and go back and add a sequence or two that can flush out a problem area. Or suddenly I'll get the idea to drop everything for a second and add a funny sound effect all by itself. I understand that these are more song production techniques rather than mastering and mixing, but I find I have to go back and forth between fixing problems and then remastering. That's what user defined pre-sets are great for, because once I get a good mastering 'chain' in my soundforge, I can go back to the synth and fix things then go right back and remaster using my preset, though sometimes I have to further tweak as a result. but it does save time to be able to return to your effects chain with a click of the mouse.
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RVNOak
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

georgeinar wrote:
I also agree that this approach is fairly the standard, though in this case aptly described and detailed. Another point I might add is to walk all over town listening to your mix over and over in various settings and in the different moods you get in throughout the day.


I couldn't agree more. Certainly listen to your mix on different systems. I highly recommend to anyone who is mixing down - GET A GOOD SET OF STUDIO MONITORS!! Studio monitors that don't colour the sound at all are very important. When listening to a mix on a boom box, often times the bass is jacked up to high levels. This will make your mix to very tinny because you will want to cut the bass more than you need to. Also, mixing in headphones can create problems. Since sound is altered as it moves through the air, it's best to set your monitors in a position that most people listen to their music from. Cars, for instance, the sound is about 3-5 feet away from the listener. I can post a great deal on proper monitor set up. With headphones, we hear the mix without any spacial charateristics and invariably the final mix will be altered when we listen to it in different systems. I'm not bashing people who use headphones as you can get some good mixes with them. There is a lot of debate on studio monitors vs. headphones (and headphones are certainly cheaper). I just prefer studio monitors as most of the great engineers will support them over headphones.

georgeinar wrote:
I invariably find that certain spots are too thick and need some instrument muted for a certain verse or chorus repeat to add variation and keep it clean sounding. This may be also to create "holes of silence" where needed, I find these quiet spots to highly contrast with the big loud thingy that may come in right after that, or that big loud thingy is so constant that unless it cuts out and back in again, the ear fatigues to it and it loses its excitement.


There is a trick to this that a lot of engineers will use. Since our brains are so great at filling in the missing spots this trick is very useful. Start chorus or verse hook at a normal volume and then slowly bring down the volume so it isn't taking away from the entire mix. By still being audible and not too strong, the overall mix will retain it's balance but keep it's powerful drive and our brains will fill in the good where it needs to be. You are right though, sometimes you just have to mute those troublesome tracks.

georgeinar wrote:
Often during composition I don't catch all these opportunities so in the final mix test I listen carefully for these things. Also, like is there a dead spot toward the end that seems to be just filler? Is there a measure or two that seems to be simply counting out the end of a phrase before the next section kicks in? It's often at this final stage that some new composition ideas come to me and it's important to listen to my gut here and go back and add a sequence or two that can flush out a problem area. Or suddenly I'll get the idea to drop everything for a second and add a funny sound effect all by itself. I understand that these are more song production techniques rather than mastering and mixing, but I find I have to go back and forth between fixing problems and then remastering. That's what user defined pre-sets are great for, because once I get a good mastering 'chain' in my soundforge, I can go back to the synth and fix things then go right back and remaster using my preset, though sometimes I have to further tweak as a result. but it does save time to be able to return to your effects chain with a click of the mouse.


Excellent advice. I guess to put all of this in simple terms - it's your song and you have to tweak it so you can deliver to your audience your vision. I can recall a time when myself and georgeinar were asking sharp about different mixing and mastering techniques. That was about three or four years ago and we have both learned a great deal from others on this site. In the end, however, we learned most of our methods from trial and error and many ruined mixes. There is no better teacher than trial and error (and a few massive headaches coupled with feelings of desperation because we spent so much money on something we felt powerless over). In short, keep to the basics and expand as you go - you will win the fight and produce some nice mixes in time!!
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higskies
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great thread going here guys!

I agree that monitors are very important. If you can't afford high end monitors, make sure you check your spec sheet so you know what frequencies they accentuate, or use a spectrum to see where you may need to cut back. If your room you're mixing in isn't treated for mixing, you should be careful and make sure you try out your mix in a few other rooms before 'finalizing' it. Sometimes standing up the hallway or outside the door of your studio can give you an idea of how your mix sounds in mono, and also can clear up what frequencies are accentuated by your room.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2009 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi.. interesting read this thread,
If you don't mind me going sideline for a minute..at the tracking stage Do you think instrumental bands like TD and Klaus Schulze would have had their instruments patched directly into the desk or used amp/speakers with Mics into the desk? because with some of the dynamics and image positioning you'd only imagine it possible using Microphones..! ?

I'm still learning about mastering and still trying to assertain how much or how little it defines the shape of the final overall audio image.

Thanks
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you are somehow into the spanish language, here's some points, that worked for me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8YeCAWPobg&t=65s
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