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Is it me? Or is it my gear? (An endless route to a better mix?)
Old 15th September 2012
  #1
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Is it me? Or is it my gear? (An endless route to a better mix?)

I'm not going to lie, I'm obviously a n00b - but I don't think I should be at this point. Am I aiming to high?

My story: I've been working with music for many years now, started out as many others as a guitarist, but worked my way into engineering and mixing - and about 1,5 years ago I took the step to actually invest some serious cash in my studio.

My problem: I'm a perfectionist, I know how the gear work, I know what I like and don't like. When it comes to recording I mean that I have good control over what's going on. It's not like this is the first time I do this. Come mic positioning, come gain staging, come "pre-mic-sound".. I feel I have it all under control. But still - When I enter the mixing stage nothing turns out like I imagined

My gear: Obviously there are always some piece of gear out there that will make the world a better place - and I keep a close eye on what going on out there and my list of wishes are long, but still I don't think that the gear is the problem in mixes.

Right now my setup is: A mixed variety of different microphones (typical industry standard) - Cubase 5 - Audient mic pres - KS Digital Monitors - Dangerous Music summing and Monitoring - Lynx Aurora Converters - Different Softunbe plugins + stock Cubase plugins. This surely can't be the problem!

Come recording: I mostly record metal (type extreme) and last week I was recording some guitar and drums with a friend of mine, just for practice/fun. Just recorded some random drums I could record some guitars over. Phase - check. Sound in the room - check. Gain staging - check. Happy with the raw sound? YES!

Come mixing: This is where everything goes "f**k you!". At this point I feel like I have used the right instruments, gotten the right sound in the room, chosen the right mic to the right position and gotten a nice sound into the DAW. But I cant get it to sound good afterwords. IS IT ME? OR IS IT MY GEAR?

My thoughts: I'm still a n00b and I have a lot to learn. I've learned a lot from reading and stuff and maybe not as much as I should when it comes to the actual live-experience. (At least I hope that's the problem).

But where should I go looking or answers? Maybe I just straight out suck at mixing music, or maybe my microphone placement is **** from the start? Is it my listening-station? My acoustic treatment? My gear? Me?

I know I'm not the only one out there who feel like this - and I would love to hear from you guys how you (if you) solved YOUR problems in getting better mixes.

How do I find the weakest link in my routine

(hope my english is understandable)
Old 15th September 2012
  #2
Lives for gear
 
The Elf's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
A brief, but sincere answer:

Forget the hardware for a moment.

Load up your song, remove all of the processing - ALL of it!

Leave all of the channels open and all faders at 0. Play the mix. You should be getting a peak at the master output around -6dBFS. If not, find the signals that are producing the peaks and reduce their input gain until you get -6dBFS. Let's assume you've checked phase on multiple mic sources (a topic all its own)... (Now is not the time to teach you how to track). You should now have a rough mix you can start with.

Now load a reference mix into your project - something in a similar style that you admire. Reduce the gain of the reference track so that the drums (I have to make an assumption or two somewhere here) are roughly the same sort of volume as your own (this is hit/miss and arbitrary, so don't agonise over it!). It's worth assigning the reference mix to a separate logical output to keep it away from your mix buss.

Now begin comparing your mix and your reference song. What are the differences? Use a decent pair of headphones if you're unsure anbout your monitoring - it isn't a crime.

If you can't tell what the differences are between your mix and your reference, or have trouble separating sounds in the mix, then you need to begin to train your ears. A good mix might feature light and shade, loud and quiet, close and distant, clean and dirty, ambient and dry, sharp and soft, big and small... these are all features that you need to be able to pick out from parts of a mix and begin to emulate.

If you can tell the difference between your mix and your reference, but don't know how to rectify the differences then you need to hone your understanding of the processors available to you - EQ, compression, delay, reverb, etc. The trick is to begin to understand what makes a part of a mix the way it is - why it sounds big/small, close/distant, dark/bright...

If you can hear the differences and know what type of processing is causing them, but don't know how to emulate it, then you need to develop your skills with the processors available to you - experiment with the results of different types and settings of EQ, compression, ambience, etc.

You will need to do this song after song, maybe over many styles of music. Eventually what your ears tell will will result in you reacting in an almost automatic way - you will *know* what needs to be done. Eventually you will not need a reference mix at all, though it is still useful to use from time to time to get you ears back on track.

As you work through the above you will begin to appreciate the difference between a good source signal and a bad one, the benefits of good mic's/ mic placement, beneficial distortion/saturation, good and bad ambience. You will *know* whether you chose the wrong mic, or need to replace one, whether you mic'd from too far away, or needed a second mic at the end of the room.

Oh, and your end mix should still be peaking around -6dBFS!

We've all been where you are, and it can take many years to reach your goal, but it's what sorts the future producers/engineers from those that decided to take up photography instead!
Old 15th September 2012
  #3
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Great answer, Elf, and thank you. For me it's normally the eq'ing that throws me off - not because I don't know how to work it, but as I EQ more tracks it's like the first eq'ed tracks have become something totally new. And this to me is totally understandable since you somewhat change the energy of the whole mix, but I can sit like this for hours jumping back and forth in mix quality without getting 100% satisfied.

But I will definitely try mixing with a reference track!

But you talk about -6dBFS ... normally I start by lowering my input gain on all channels (or increasing) so that each individual channels plays at -18db or less - what do you think of this method?

I'll try at some point to post a clip of some raw drums with only pan and volume edited - then maybe some of you guys and gals can tell me if the raw sound is OK or not.

And for what you say about future engineers vs photographers ... music is inside me - I'm going to make this work - and the only thing that can stop me is my ears. I will never stop recording nor will I never stop researching and dreaming of a better mix.
Old 15th September 2012 | Show parent
  #4
Lives for gear
 
The Elf's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevaso ➑️
But you talk about -6dBFS ... normally I start by lowering my input gain on all channels (or increasing) so that each individual channels plays at -18db or less - what do you think of this method?
Many ways to skin the cat... There's nothing wrong with that approach, but I'd take -18dBFS as an average level, not a peak. The important point is to ensure you have headroom to work in and preserve that headroom through the process of building the mix.

As to EQ: Be sparing. Don't EQ with your mind, EQ with your ears. It's not about what you *believe* you should or shouldn't do (regardless of what you read over and over in places like this), but about what it does in the context of the mix. I've stopped letting guitarists hear their parts solo-ed - it often leads to tears!
Old 15th September 2012
  #5
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
when it comes to EQing i always start with filtering first, HPF and LPF. I find once i've taken out the bits that don't need to be there from each track, it makes further eying easier to judge.

But i always filter within the context of the mix, never on soloed tracks
Old 15th September 2012
  #6
Lives for gear
 
abechap024's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Your recording metal, ya? Well if your comparing your mix to a finalized "professional" mix I would start first by analyzing the performance. Metal has to be so extremely tight that I find sometimes when I (used) to record metal, that you have to get in there and edit the drums to the grid, and if it wasn't done to a metronome then you have to first edit the grid to the drums. The make sure everything (kick snare toms) are exactly 100% on the bars.
I apologize if this is obvious, but seems like the mixes I've heard always sound better when a judicious amount of editing, tightening is performed. (If your going for that really polished sound)
Second, unless your recording in a very nice room with very nice drums and equipment and even then have you looked into sample replacer? Any metal albums that still use live drums anymore more (sadly most find they are getting better results and easier results with drum plugins) they will sample replace the kick, snare, and tom hits. Again I apologize if this seems obvious I know I didn't end up learning this till later in the game. Maybe I'm a little slow, but it will really help tighten up everything, I've found. Though I've also found that once you have super clean samples in there I will want to turn them up louder and louder but just loud enough usually seems to be good enough.
Also eq can be crazy. On guitar (depending again on what you are going for) try cutting out lows and highs. You'll get it! Remember have fun, if it sounds good to you than who cares?
Old 15th September 2012
  #7
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
I am going to paraphrase the "Mixing secrets for the small studio" book I just read.

The author suggests turning off all the tracks, then bringing them back in from most important to least important (for that section of the song this may change for different parts), mixing each new track into the ones you have already turned on as you go. This way, you know how much space you have for that third guitar in the mix or whatever and know where you can squeeze it in.
Old 15th September 2012
  #8
Lives for gear
 
mattjew24's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Sorry but this probably has nothin to do with gear and everything to do with the source and the method you record metal with.

If you want a thrashy Slayer sound then you can get away with sloppiness.

Death/progressive/technical/modern metal has set the bar extremely high. Either use Sample Replacement along with Audio Quantizing and spend hours recording and punching in the drums, or use EZ Drummer.

Look at the Cannibal Corpse in the studio vids - these Guys are masters at this and they do it basically live. But note how TIGHT they play...
Old 15th September 2012
  #9
Lives for gear
 
mattjew24's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by abechap024 ➑️
Your recording metal, ya? Well if your comparing your mix to a finalized "professional" mix I would start first by analyzing the performance. Metal has to be so extremely tight that I find sometimes when I (used) to record metal, that you have to get in there and edit the drums to the grid, and if it wasn't done to a metronome then you have to first edit the grid to the drums. The make sure everything (kick snare toms) are exactly 100% on the bars.
I apologize if this is obvious, but seems like the mixes I've heard always sound better when a judicious amount of editing, tightening is performed. (If your going for that really polished sound)
Second, unless your recording in a very nice room with very nice drums and equipment and even then have you looked into sample replacer? Any metal albums that still use live drums anymore more (sadly most find they are getting better results and easier results with drum plugins) they will sample replace the kick, snare, and tom hits. Again I apologize if this seems obvious I know I didn't end up learning this till later in the game. Maybe I'm a little slow, but it will really help tighten up everything, I've found. Though I've also found that once you have super clean samples in there I will want to turn them up louder and louder but just loud enough usually seems to be good enough.
Also eq can be crazy. On guitar (depending again on what you are going for) try cutting out lows and highs. You'll get it! Remember have fun, if it sounds good to you than who cares?
This is on the money

Metal is HARD don't get dissapointed, I bet your mixes sound better than mine
Old 15th September 2012
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
k3nnyt4n's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Mixing is byfar the most difficult thing i ever tried,i did lot of things ( singing,writing,playing dr,bass,guitar,piano,lot of sports too).It took me about 2years after i purchased KRK ,now i can say i pass its learning curve now.
The only solution for me when try to pass learning curves of some skills is doit,doit,keep doing it,...

Oh there is one more thing i can suggest ,mixing is about making the BEAUTIFUL recording,we always forget this when we confront with lots of tracks.
Try mixing only one track or 2 first ( only vocal or vocal acoustic guitar)and tweak them,fx them,do whatever to make them beautiful.

Last edited by k3nnyt4n; 15th September 2012 at 03:32 PM.. Reason: more info
Old 15th September 2012
  #11
Lives for gear
 
dualflip's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
With risk of sounding cliche, I think that you already answered to your question. The thing is, that when you are recording you are just recording sounds, making a guitar sound good, kick drum sound good, etc... But when its time to actually make a song out of it, then theres the problem, thats why mixing is so difficult, because you are looking at mixing as making a song from sounds (if that makes sense) rather than the next stage in a single process.

Now, IMHO the best thing is when you record with a clear perspective of what is going to become later in the mix, or better yet, record it, as you would hear it in the final mix. A mix can become overwhealming, when you have all these great sounds, that individually sound great, but they dont work that well together, sometimes EQ'ing helps, but that may not be the only answer if you are looking for a truly great mix. Why is this important? because the way the drums sound influence the way the drummer plays, and at the same time that influences the guitar sound youll choose to go with your drums, which influence the guitar player, etc..

So as you can see, its very different to have something polished on the raw recording, than just making it sound good and figure out what to do with it later in the mix, because by having it already sounding like its supposed to sound, it will influence the rest of the production and therefore the mix, and thats something that EQ or compression wont accomplish.

In my experience, you know youll have a great mix when you hit play to the raw recording and it sounds like a mix.... sounds stupid, but its true. So I like to look at mixing as refining the mix I already have, meaning the recording already sounds great, im just trying to make it greater, rather than fixing stuff or trying to figure out what the hell are you going to do with that 4th doubled guitar part....
Old 15th September 2012
  #12
Lives for gear
 
K. Osborne's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
There is lots of great information on this post, OP! Take it seriously! haha. Yay gearslutz for the win on this post.

But seriously OP. you're going to be fine. The #1 thing you need to invest in, no matter who tells you what plugin or mic or monitor this or acoustic treatment, the #1 thing to invest is your TIME. You cannot get back time. You can twiddle your thumbs and work your butt off day after day so you can afford that new gear that will "help you get the sound," but in reality, it won't ever happen that way. No single piece of gear is a magic mix piece. Good gear helps you mix faster, get closer to the sound you want faster, and easier. It helps you define a sound sonically - e.g., some compressors have a certain "sound" they impart that others don't do. However, the closest thing to a magic mix piece is your ears. If you know how your ears are responding, theoretically you can get things there. If you know what your END GOAL sounds like, and I mean KNOW it, then you can get it there. If you're mixing into oblivion without an end picture in mind, how will you ever know that it's done?

It always used to frustrate me, I would listen to professional mixes on my monitors and say "Okay. If I can HEAR these professional mixes on my monitors, and they sound that good, then theoretically I should be able to get my mixes to sound that good on my setup...if that's what THESE mixes sound like, right?" So I turned to reference mixes. I learned a few important things though.

You cannot ignore the golden rule of reference mixes: LEVEL MATCHING. You have to level match the song and your mix closely, but try to take into consideration the fact that their mix is mastered and yours is not. That doesn't mean turn theirs way down, it just means leave a little bit of difference. 3dB or so depending. I try to set a definite reference point. For example, if my (calibrated) monitoring control is at -30 for my mix, and my mix is peaking around -6dBFS in the box, that means it's peaking around -36"ish". I try to get my reference mix to be around -38 to -40. That leaves me 2-4dB of difference between the two, but still close enough in level where I can hear the differences. Also note that these are both VERY QUIET listening levels. I highly suggest that too. Don't listen loud to references or your own mix, or they will both sound good and you'll never be able to get a true representation of what's happening.

Initially what you will probably find is that your mix doesn't sound the same. What I found is that my mixes sounded much bigger (in terms of bass / low mids) so I would turn up the reference mix until they matched. WRONG. DOUBLE WRONG.

What I found later is that the entire EQ mindset must be focused on the midrange, which will cause you to take out lots of lows and low mids from things in order to make them sound real. In real space, things that are close to your face have lots of lows and highs. As they move farther away from you, they diminish in the highs, and then start to sound less bassy (to our ears...it's not that they necessarily are changing, it's just an effect of the space and volume differences from them being farther away). So the issue is, if your mix doesn't have this three dimensional plane in mind, nothing will seem to have depth. Everything will seem as though it's a straight line in front of you. Then you listen to the pro mix and it sounds like you could literally reach in and pull out a band member. Right?

It's SO SO SO true when you hear people go off about not using solo too much. It does NOT matter one bit if a source has tons of EQ or no EQ, or lots of compression, or none, or reverb, or totally dry. Who cares. Does it sound like it fills the right space in the mix? Does it sound like the source is "back there by the drummer" or "up front by your face" whatever the intent is? If it doesn't, make it that way.
Old 15th September 2012 | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
 
K. Osborne's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Elf ➑️

If you can tell the difference between your mix and your reference, but don't know how to rectify the differences then you need to hone your understanding of the processors available to you - EQ, compression, delay, reverb, etc. The trick is to begin to understand what makes a part of a mix the way it is - why it sounds big/small, close/distant, dark/bright...

If you can hear the differences and know what type of processing is causing them, but don't know how to emulate it, then you need to develop your skills with the processors available to you - experiment with the results of different types and settings of EQ, compression, ambience, etc.

You will need to do this song after song, maybe over many styles of music. Eventually what your ears tell will will result in you reacting in an almost automatic way - you will *know* what needs to be done. Eventually you will not need a reference mix at all, though it is still useful to use from time to time to get you ears back on track.
SO true! +1000
Old 15th September 2012
  #14
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
THIS IS A MESSY POST - FORGIVE ME FOR THAT - IM ALL OVER THE PLACE IN THIS ONE

Wow, lots of replies - guess I hit a sore spot here :P

DISCLAMER: I must take back the "I'm a n00b" thing - cause from what you have answered all I can say is; "I know" .. to most of it. :P So maybe I'm not such a amateur after all.

But to answer some of you:
I understand (extreme) metal often (90%) use samples on drums, quad-tracked guitars and a lot of processing on absolutely everything - also beat detective stuff and quantizing complex drum parts - these things are not why I started with music. I guess I really shouldn't have mentioned that I record metal. I WILL NOT turn to samples and try to bend laws of physics. (I know you guys want to defend samples and say, it's natural recorded sounds, so why care - but please just leave it - I will not use samples. And ofc "laws of physics" is a joke from my side.) :P

What I want is to take a i.e. drum set and make it sound like a drum set. My whole band is set on achieving a natural sound - and, don't burn me for saying this, but when we start recording my band we want to make it sound as good as possible WITHOUT any samples what so ever + even only record one guitar :O ... can you believe that? well I can - Why am I writing this in my reply? Because I'm sick and tired of all the new metal-productions - they all sound the same.

This is all washing out into a nonsense of a reply - forgive me for that :P You all wrote to much for my brain to cope with now

BUT... I just came from the studio and found out a great thing. I had recorded some guitar the other day, and the drummer from my band popped by to night and we recorded some drums on the guitars ... and it sounded GREAT!! This is only the 2nd time I've recorded drums with this guy on this drum set - the other time it was for a pop project (that never even got to the mixing stage) but it sounded good nevertheless both then and now - so this might be it. Good instruments, and luck maybe?

The other guy I've recorded drums with, who I never got a good drum sound from plays on another drum set - (2011 Tama set) - A good set, but I cant get it to sound good.
The drummer in my band play on a 1984 Tama set + a 1976 Ludwig Snare - and that set sounds good.

Also, my biggest problem now, and the actual reason for this thread is because I have recorded a singer/songwriter - and I cant get the mix right. ( I didn't mention this before cause I didn't want to open that can, as I mainly wanted a whole other answer. See first post.)

But to put it whole to an end - for now - what I record sound GREAT - as long as the instrument sound GREAT... At least that what today learned me.

Still - thanks for the answers - I'll have to read it through one more time tomorrow to make sure I got it all with me.
Old 15th September 2012
  #15
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
And another thing - I know it's only a matter of practice. A good source -> good engineering -> some digital-wichcraft -> good mixing -> GOOD RESULTS. It's that easy - and I happy to find that it's only a matter of keep going.

And I THINK the problem in my mixes have been source and engineering - at least until next time where I think I have a good raw mix - but still can't get it right. :P

I'll see if I can post a clip of what I did today, when it's mixed, and you can tell me what you think - maybe I'm not that far of after all.
Old 16th September 2012
  #16
Lives for gear
 
abechap024's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Hey, good on you for not turning to samples. Its more challenging/fun to try and get everything right from the get go.

Sent from my LG-VS700
Old 16th September 2012
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
eastsidetone's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 5 years
Take this with a grain of salt...................

I too am a perfectionist, over the years I have learned a few things about mixing.

1. You have to decide what will sound HUGE and what will not. In other words I have found that I can't have HUGE DRUMS, HUGE BASS, AND A HUGE GUITAR all in the same mix.

2. Many people here are rightfully telling you eq your stuff. For me subtly in the is area goes a long way. I noticed a big difference in how much "bigger" I could get a mix after putting a filter on master bus that would roll off anything that was below 20 HZ.

3. For someone like me, I have to get away from the songs for bit, so I if I find myself in a rut I will leave a mix for least a day so I can refresh my ears a bit.
Old 16th September 2012
  #18
Lives for gear
 
mattjew24's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I'm glad you won't resort to samples too.

Watch those cannibal corpse vids... No samples... It's all in how good these musicians are.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #19
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by abechap024 ➑️
Hey, good on you for not turning to samples. Its more challenging/fun to try and get everything right from the get go.
I understand how people see it as more challenging - but I don't think it will be harder for me to get good sounds without samples. Not because I'm a genius or something like that, just because I like a more "natural" sound - I'm not looking for that over-processed sound. And ofc - I'm not going for 1978 kick-drum sound ... but you get it. Also with samples I think I would drown in the possibilities and never be happy with the result. It will still be hard getting a good sound w/o samples, but I wouldn't be more happy with them.


Quote:
Originally Posted by eastsidetone ➑️
Take this with a grain of salt...................

I too am a perfectionist, over the years I have learned a few things about mixing.

1. You have to decide what will sound HUGE and what will not. In other words I have found that I can't have HUGE DRUMS, HUGE BASS, AND A HUGE GUITAR all in the same mix.

2. Many people here are rightfully telling you eq your stuff. For me subtly in the is area goes a long way. I noticed a big difference in how much "bigger" I could get a mix after putting a filter on master bus that would roll off anything that was below 20 HZ.
I totally agree. Huge + huge + huge = cramped. In my head: small + small + small = HUGE. Thats also one of the reasons I want to actually record only one guitar and rather play with multiple amps and fx. One thing about my band is that we actually want to record something that we can stand for when it comes to a live performance. When it comes to the sound in the room we are safe - also when it comes to playing tight we are def safe.

And I'll try the 20hz highpass on the 2bus
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #20
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The Elf's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevaso ➑️
And I'll try the 20hz highpass on the 2bus
It would be better to clean up those lows before they hit the master buss. And I'd go further. I would consider 30Hz as your extreme low.

I mix a lot of rock/metal of various styles - with a busy mix you have to be VERY sparing with the sub-100Hz region to get a mix sounding big. You'd be startled where the frequency of some of my HPF's end up - even on bass guitar!
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #21
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Elf ➑️
It would be better to clean up those lows before they hit the master buss. And I'd go further. I would consider 30Hz as your extreme low.

I mix a lot of rock/metal of various styles - with a busy mix you have to be VERY sparing with the sub-100Hz region to get a mix sounding big. You'd be startled where the frequency of some of my HPF's end up - even on bass guitar!
Actually, some time back I read that when recording to tape you really don't get anything bellow 40Hz - because of that I started to use the HPF on my ASP008 regardless of the source. The HPF on the ASP008 starts on 30Hz as far as I can remember - so I always leave it on - and when I don't use the HPF I turn it all the way down to 30Hz and call that OFF instead of actually taking the HPF out of the signal.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #22
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattjew24 ➑️
I'm glad you won't resort to samples too.

Watch those cannibal corpse vids... No samples... It's all in how good these musicians are.
Yea, just watched them - great vids, didn't know they had made new videos sp thanks for the tip.
And I love the sound - they have that "natural" sound if you know what I mean. And I think that recording "natural" will be good for the future. I.e. name a timeless record - how does it sound? I just have a hunch that all these sampled, axe fx'd, over-prosseced records will have a short lifespan. The "sound" in music will always change - but "what it actually sound like" will always be relevant. If you understand what I mean.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
Earthling's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by K. Osborne ➑️
There is lots of great information on this post, OP! Take it seriously! haha. Yay gearslutz for the win on this post.

But seriously OP. you're going to be fine. The #1 thing you need to invest in, no matter who tells you what plugin or mic or monitor this or acoustic treatment, the #1 thing to invest is your TIME. You cannot get back time. You can twiddle your thumbs and work your butt off day after day so you can afford that new gear that will "help you get the sound," but in reality, it won't ever happen that way. No single piece of gear is a magic mix piece. Good gear helps you mix faster, get closer to the sound you want faster, and easier. It helps you define a sound sonically - e.g., some compressors have a certain "sound" they impart that others don't do. However, the closest thing to a magic mix piece is your ears. If you know how your ears are responding, theoretically you can get things there. If you know what your END GOAL sounds like, and I mean KNOW it, then you can get it there. If you're mixing into oblivion without an end picture in mind, how will you ever know that it's done?

It always used to frustrate me, I would listen to professional mixes on my monitors and say "Okay. If I can HEAR these professional mixes on my monitors, and they sound that good, then theoretically I should be able to get my mixes to sound that good on my setup...if that's what THESE mixes sound like, right?" So I turned to reference mixes. I learned a few important things though.

You cannot ignore the golden rule of reference mixes: LEVEL MATCHING. You have to level match the song and your mix closely, but try to take into consideration the fact that their mix is mastered and yours is not. That doesn't mean turn theirs way down, it just means leave a little bit of difference. 3dB or so depending. I try to set a definite reference point. For example, if my (calibrated) monitoring control is at -30 for my mix, and my mix is peaking around -6dBFS in the box, that means it's peaking around -36"ish". I try to get my reference mix to be around -38 to -40. That leaves me 2-4dB of difference between the two, but still close enough in level where I can hear the differences. Also note that these are both VERY QUIET listening levels. I highly suggest that too. Don't listen loud to references or your own mix, or they will both sound good and you'll never be able to get a true representation of what's happening.

Initially what you will probably find is that your mix doesn't sound the same. What I found is that my mixes sounded much bigger (in terms of bass / low mids) so I would turn up the reference mix until they matched. WRONG. DOUBLE WRONG.

What I found later is that the entire EQ mindset must be focused on the midrange, which will cause you to take out lots of lows and low mids from things in order to make them sound real. In real space, things that are close to your face have lots of lows and highs. As they move farther away from you, they diminish in the highs, and then start to sound less bassy (to our ears...it's not that they necessarily are changing, it's just an effect of the space and volume differences from them being farther away). So the issue is, if your mix doesn't have this three dimensional plane in mind, nothing will seem to have depth. Everything will seem as though it's a straight line in front of you. Then you listen to the pro mix and it sounds like you could literally reach in and pull out a band member. Right?

It's SO SO SO true when you hear people go off about not using solo too much. It does NOT matter one bit if a source has tons of EQ or no EQ, or lots of compression, or none, or reverb, or totally dry. Who cares. Does it sound like it fills the right space in the mix? Does it sound like the source is "back there by the drummer" or "up front by your face" whatever the intent is? If it doesn't, make it that way.

Well.....this certainly is an insightful discussion SO I'll take on the n00b role since the OP has rescinded. heh.

I'm chiming in to learn & grow so-if you don't mind?- Ill sit in the back over here and just listen.

I would like to point out though that Kendall Osbourn has an excellent PODCAST called Recodring Lounge with loads of great info for those of us looking to learn on a 'deeper level'.

Check out Episode 36 'Reference Mixing':

iTunes - Podcasts - Recording Lounge by Kendal Osborne

Last edited by Earthling; 16th September 2012 at 01:32 PM.. Reason: spelling...
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
dualflip's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattjew24 ➑️
I'm glad you won't resort to samples too.

Watch those cannibal corpse vids... No samples... It's all in how good these musicians are.
You talk about samples as if you were athletes talking about steroids. Theres nothing wrong with using samples, A lot of the top mixers use them, if it sounds great then it doesnt matter if you used a sample or not, I still dont get why people feel remorse for using drums samples, seems to me like the end result is what matters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevaso ➑️
And I think that recording "natural" will be good for the future. I.e. name a timeless record - how does it sound? I just have a hunch that all these sampled, axe fx'd, over-prosseced records will have a short lifespan. The "sound" in music will always change - but "what it actually sound like" will always be relevant. If you understand what I mean.
Just FYI, samples are not something new, they have been used from long time ago, so that old record that you love may well have a drum sample in it, for example a song that comes to mind is Bohemian Rapsody by Queen, they used a snare sample to enhance the recording. Im sure a lot more albums have samples in them and you dont even know it.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by dualflip ➑️
You talk about samples as if you were athletes talking about steroids. Theres nothing wrong with using samples, A lot of the top mixers use them, if it sounds great then it doesnt matter if you used a sample or not, I still dont get why people feel remorse for using drums samples, seems to me like the end result is what matters.



Just FYI, samples are not something new, they have been used from long time ago, so that old record that you love may well have a drum sample in it, for example a song that comes to mind is Bohemian Rapsody by Queen, they used a snare sample to enhance the recording. Im sure a lot more albums have samples in them and you dont even know it.
I knew someone had to comment on this - and understand what you mean, and ofc samples isn't something new, and ofc it doesn't matter if it's a sample or not as long as it sounds good - but why drive an automatic when you can drive stick? I might turn to use samples at some time - but first I want to get as good I can without, hopefully I won't need it until someone comes and "demand" it for their sound.

And when I say "natural" I'm not talking about a rock with a microphone in front of it - anything can be natural. I'm talking about natural as an opposite of "machine" music. There is just something a bit more satisfying listening to a record for the third time and start to notice nuances in the instruments. I don't even know how to explain what I mean. It's just nice to close your eyes and see instruments in a room and not computers and midi.

Samples are great for enhancing - but I don't like it for replication.
Old 16th September 2012
  #26
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
And - samples ARE stereoids - it makes things grow bigger faster - it's just that samples don't ruin your body and it's not illegal. And I would never care if anyone used steroids on their music, why would I? If it sounds good it sounds good. Just saying that I will not take the way of samples just to "get there faster". In the future when I get a case where I understand that "I cant get it to sound the way I want w/o samples" - then why not use samples? But in the case of what I want to achieve now there's no room for it.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #27
Lives for gear
 
dualflip's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevaso ➑️
And - samples ARE stereoids - it makes things grow bigger faster - it's just that samples don't ruin your body and it's not illegal. And I would never care if anyone used steroids on their music, why would I? If it sounds good it sounds good. Just saying that I will not take the way of samples just to "get there faster". In the future when I get a case where I understand that "I cant get it to sound the way I want w/o samples" - then why not use samples? But in the case of what I want to achieve now there's no room for it.
You asked for advice on how to get your mixes to sound better, samples is one way, specially if you are doing metal.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by dualflip ➑️
You asked for advice on how to get your mixes to sound better, samples is one way, specially if you are doing metal.
Totally correct - but that still wont help me in getting any better IMHO. Well, I'll get better at using samples - but not in mixing/engineering music like a whole.

Samples should be a way out, not a way in.
Old 16th September 2012
  #29
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
In addition to level matching I would recommend some sort of premastering setup using a compressor, eq and limiter on your stereo buss when you're a/b'ing your material. Something that always gave me fits in my early days was trying to anticipate what my mixes were going to sound like after the mastering process. It's even more critical now with commercial music being so crushed and in some genres the eq being really intense especially in the upper mids. I'm not necessarily complaining about this - it is what it is. So it's best to try and create a mix scenario that allows you to hear a pseudo-finished product in order to identify potential problems.

A C4 or SSL stereo bus compressor (or similar) about 3db in. A gentle stereo buss compressor almost always helps gel a mix.

General EQ suggestions - start with some low end boost, cut around 200, medium bump around 3k and 7k shelving (none more than 3 or 4 db). As you start tweaking the 2 buss eq to match your reference material you'll notice things about your mix that need help. Boosting the overall lows often reveals a flappy kick or a boomy bass or how that first floor tom doesn't match the second. Boosting upper mids will probably make your guitars sound better but may make the vocals too shrill or that upper mid boost you put on the toms is now too much. Boosting overall highs will make your cymbals shine but identify a serious sibilance problem with the vocal etc etc.

Then a limiter Waves, PSP to drive your mix up 3 or 4 db.

I always mix with a host of tools inserted on my 2 buss. Some are used for reference purposes and others are for the premastered final mix.

*An all-in-one mastering plugin will accomplish the same - I just wouldn't print final mixes with it if you're going to send it of to a mastering house.

Speaking of drum replacement, I bought the first version of Drumagog over ten years ago and I'm still a big fan. It certainly plays a huge role in modern metal! I sample all the drums on every drum session. A lot of times I replace a drum with itself so that I can get a cleaner hit with no bleed :-)
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Nut
 
Kevaso's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Castell ➑️
In addition to level matching I would recommend some sort of premastering setup using a compressor, eq and limiter on your stereo buss when you're a/b'ing your material. Something that always gave me fits in my early days was trying to anticipate what my mixes were going to sound like after the mastering process. It's even more critical now with commercial music being so crushed and in some genres the eq being really intense especially in the upper mids. I'm not necessarily complaining about this - it is what it is. So it's best to try and create a mix scenario that allows you to hear a pseudo-finished product in order to identify potential problems.

A C4 or SSL stereo bus compressor (or similar) about 3db in. A gentle stereo buss compressor almost always helps gel a mix.

General EQ suggestions - start with some low end boost, cut around 200, medium bump around 3k and 7k shelving (none more than 3 or 4 db). As you start tweaking the 2 buss eq to match your reference material you'll notice things about your mix that need help. Boosting the overall lows often reveals a flappy kick or a boomy bass or how that first floor tom doesn't match the second. Boosting upper mids will probably make your guitars sound better but may make the vocals too shrill or that upper mid boost you put on the toms is now too much. Boosting overall highs will make your cymbals shine but identify a serious sibilance problem with the vocal etc etc.

Then a limiter Waves, PSP to drive your mix up 3 or 4 db.

I always mix with a host of tools inserted on my 2 buss. Some are used for reference purposes and others are for the premastered final mix.

*An all-in-one mastering plugin will accomplish the same - I just wouldn't print final mixes with it if you're going to send it of to a mastering house.

Speaking of drum replacement, I bought the first version of Drumagog over ten years ago and I'm still a big fan. It certainly plays a huge role in modern metal! I sample all the drums on every drum session. A lot of times I replace a drum with itself so that I can get a cleaner hit with no bleed :-)
Hmmm - sounds really smart - thanks!
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