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Old February 13th, 2006, 08:25 AM   #1 (permalink)
kev
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Guys, the keys to a good mix? Can anyone explain frequencies to me?

Hi guys, My mixes arnt going really how i would like most of the time in terms of clarity. When i listen to Andy's work, everything is so clean and clear, and i would like to get as close to this (just like everyone else) with my current gear setup. I think my main issue is sorting out all the different instrument frequencies, as all i tend to do is stick everything together in a mix with NO frequency adjustment at all, as i dont really know what i am doing. I do a bit of panning at the moment, but im not too hot at that either. I know as much as kick, snare and bass guitar going centre mix, toms and cymbals being spread from L50 to R50 and guitar tracks on the outside. This is reffering to a pop mix tho

I guess what im looking for here is some advice on how to split a mix up with all the typical metal band instrument features in terms of panning and mainly frequency adjustment. Even a pointer to a site which could help me develop better technqiue would be ace.

I realise this is going to come far from overnight, but here's a cyber pint if you can contribute at all!

Kev
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Old February 13th, 2006, 09:34 AM   #2 (permalink)
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My oh my....

There is no answer to this question....people have to realize that no one can answer this question without hearing the material in contexts.......it really takes practice and training of the ear.....overtime you will start to be able to hear what is going on in commercial mixes.....my best advice to you is to sit down with an album you are in love with and listen.....I mean really listen.....list to the guitar....not the mix of the guitar and bass....listen to the bass....no the mix of the bass and the kick....listen to the vocals....and were they fall on the mid freq range....you have to really develop an ear and start separating this stuff in your head.......there is a reason why Andy is who he is and why we are all hear......because he has developed a great ear.....sure he has the great equipment to use but like the saying goes "you can't polish a turd"......if I were to stick you in his studio with all the same advantages you might be able to pull off something decent but not great.......it really does take practice.....practice with your ears....practice with your gear....practice with your listen environment.....let me guess your mixing on some computer speakers....I am sorry but this is just not going to work......believe me MONITERS MAKE A DIFFRENCE...a huge difference....god I can go on and on....

"The most important part of a record starts before you even hit record"
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Old February 13th, 2006, 11:45 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Well, there are some things we can help him with. Frequencies, not so much, but help with seperation, yes.

For metal, the drums have to have a certain sound, they cannot sound natural like on rock or pop music. Why? Because of the distorted guitars. If there weren't distorted guitars in metal then the kick drum would not need a click to it. The toms would not have to have all that slap. And the snare drum could sound more natural and boxy. But because we use distortion on our guitars in metal music, the drums have to accomodate.

That said, the guitar is a MID instrument. It has been since the first time anyone ever made one, and will always be- a MID instrument. You must keep this in mind. The major area of great guitar tones comes from the mids. I have explained this before but here we go again:

Drums have the highs and the low taken care of.
The bass guitar has the lows and low mids taken care of.

So where else is there for the guitar tracks to be? In the middle. Yes, guitars have highs and lows just like everything else, but the mids are what make the difference. You cannot compete with the high end that a drum set's cymbals can pump out. You just can't. So you need to let them take care of their business. The low end from a drum set cannot be faught with either, as the drum set is suppose to be felt, and it works. When you make the guitars have those low frequencies like the drums, they get muddy. The bass guitar comes into play here.

The bass guitar is going to handle the extreme low-end of the spectrum. It is felt as well as heard. It pumps out low frequencies (40Hz, etc.) like nobody's business. The thing is, thats so low that you honestly do not *hear* that part, but you *feel* it. You can't hear 20Hz. You feel it. So do the speakers. When you are adding lows like that to the guitars, it's just making them muddy.

As far as guitars are concerned, you need to roll off 80Hz and below, and typically 12kHz and above, this varies though depending on the application (guitar used, amp used, cabinet used, mic used, type of music, etc.). 80Hz and below because the kick drum, toms, and bass guitar need this space. 12kHz and above (variable) because the high end of the kick drum, snare drum, toms, and the ever loving cymbals/hi-hats need this space.

Most of the time, the toms on a recording for metal music have very little mids. They have to have a slap and a certain low-end to them. Taking the mids out welcomes this sound. Also true for the kick drum. You take the mids out of a kick drum it is literally automatically easier heard over metal guitars. You add the click (high-end) and keep the low-end tight and puncy, and you have yourself a metal kick drum that cuts through those guitars. The snare drum is suppose to have a "pop" to it, very tight. Taking some mids out, but it varies on the snare drum and the player, helps with this, as well as smashing it with a compressor. Cymbals and hi-hats can be rolled off at like 800Hz sometimes, this makes them soft sounding, especially the china crashes...those have a lot of lows that just irritate everything in the mix. Hi-hats typically have a bit more low-end than the overheads...it's just how you do it. Or at least how I do it anyway.

The bass guitar and the guitars need to be seamless. The bass guitar needs to pick up where the regular guitar leaves off, and vice versa. They need to sound like *one* instrument. This is easier said than done. Most of the time it's difficult because the players are not tight. The tighter they are, the easier this is accomplished. The bass guiatr also has to fight with the kick drum and toms of a drum set because of the low-end.

The key really is finding out every peice of the picture's place. Everything needs it's room to breathe. The more everything is fighting with each other, the more muddled and horrible it will sound. You need to find everything's area in the spectrum, and make every peice work together to create the big picture.

I hope that helped in some way. This is coming from my experience and everyone that knows, knows that there is no *perfect* mix. Even if it's Andy's . What it comes down to is making it all work together. This is not a perfect science, and it's different according to a lot of variables, the room you are in, the musicians, the picks they use, the drumsticks the use the STRINGS they are using, the temperature in the room where the guitar cabinets are, leaving the amp on for warm-up 10 more minutes rather than 10 less minutes...the angle of a microphone, one more little dB of 2,000kHz...I mean...there's a lot of shit that makes a HUGE difference.

Check out Noise 101 for tips directly from Andy involving every peice of the band. Good luck.

~006
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Old February 13th, 2006, 11:59 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Another boring day 006 eh ? ;p
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Old February 13th, 2006, 12:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett - K A L I S I A
Another boring day 006 eh ? ;p
Hahaha....he seems to be having a lot of those these days....
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Old February 13th, 2006, 12:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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On that note...

Generally the mark of a real noob or amateur and his mixing abilities is the low to low-mid range. More often then not people associate these big bottom ends with huge chugging guitar riffs strictly with the guitar. It is amazing how many people think that this 80 cycles and below felling you get from a well mixed album is from the guitars. Like I said before you really need to know what you’re going after before going after it. Try and find albums were guitars are soloed at different passages. Shoot try and find album were all instruments are soloed at different points. The point I am trying to make is what you hear is not always what you think it is.

On another note......

Don't really on the mixing phase to make things right. Especially with eq. The closer you are with tracking the better off you going to be in the end.
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Old February 13th, 2006, 12:34 PM   #7 (permalink)
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006.. good job on the explanation!

Now, if i may ask this in this topic, how much would you all rate input over mixing abillities?

Input being anything that's recorded.. guitars, drums, bass, etc..

and mixing being, well.. making everything fit in together with plugins/hardware to make sounds shine..

Which one is more important?
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Old February 13th, 2006, 12:51 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Input (including playing and assuming there's no sound replacement)=85% of the job
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Old February 13th, 2006, 12:54 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Which one is more important?
None. Or should I say both. , you get the idea
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Old February 13th, 2006, 12:54 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Kev,

One mistake I made early on was EQing when I should have been compressing. And +1 for what 006 said, even though that guy has way too much time on his hands.
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Old February 13th, 2006, 01:46 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Black neon bob
006.. good job on the explanation!

Now, if i may ask this in this topic, how much would you all rate input over mixing abillities?

Input being anything that's recorded.. guitars, drums, bass, etc..

and mixing being, well.. making everything fit in together with plugins/hardware to make sounds shine..

Which one is more important?

Depending on the music I would say it is diffrent for styles and instruments.....

But none the less I still fell like it is 90 percent of the whole picture......Espically if we are factoring in playing ability.

As far as my instrument comment goes. Well think about it. With drums we have the every so bueatiful thing called sample replacment. We don't like something bam find something we like and replace it. Also timing can be adjusted and so forth. We also can get away with a lot of stuff as far as the bass is concerned. Guitar and vocals on the other hand are all about what happens before that Red button is pushed.
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Old February 13th, 2006, 02:14 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Here's a pretty good tutorial to eq. Remember that these are just quidelines, though. http://www.computermusic.co.uk/tutorial/eq/1.asp
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Old February 13th, 2006, 02:31 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Yeah, lol, another mix day here. I type very fast too, so it's *that* long to me. And I like what Genious brought up, that he, early on, was trying to eq when compression would have done the trick. I too did this when I was first starting. But as time goes by and you learn by *experience* how to actually use compression, you see it's many uses. There are a lot of times that using band compression (such as the Waves C4 plug-in) instead of trying to actually cut out something works out much better. Like Andy's usage of it on guitars. Instead of literally cutting out the frequencies, he's compressing them, so they are still there, but they don't dominate as much anymore. If you cut that area instead of compressing it, then you might thin out the guitars too much and then you start fiddling with the other frequencies trying to bring back the life of it and you eventually end up with a mess. Compression, gating, limiting, and eq'ing really requires someone to bring an "A" game as far as knowing when to use what and how to use it. One can only develop the ear for the ques with experience.

~006
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Old February 13th, 2006, 08:15 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Jeez, just got back from a bit of a storming gig here tonite and my ears are still ringing an hour later... time to revisit that ear plug thread for sure. Its 2am too, but im pretty addicted to this great place! I have to say many thanks you guys, especially 006. Im surprised to get some good response to such a noob post. Im gonna re-read in the morning as there is a hell of a lot of good info here, but i think what has been discussed is certainly hitting the nail on the head. Its just that idea of sperating the instruments as much as possible so they each have their own distinctive place there in thr mix and can be heard with clarity. When using black album esque guitars in a mix, should the bass guitar do the work? I hear guitar sound can rely a heck of a lot on the mids, but scooping them out i guess can make it much harder to deal with as the guitar begins to occupy frequencies it ormally wouldnt???

I dont know if what i said made any sense, but hey what the hell

Thanks again,

Kev

P.s.

006 and Chad, do you guys have any recent recordings i could have a listen to?
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Old February 13th, 2006, 11:19 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kev
When using black album esque guitars in a mix, should the bass guitar do the work?
Yes. The bass guitar should deliver that low end. If you notice, sometimes it is a little hard to pick the bass guitar out. This is partly due to them playing very tightly. But also because it was engineered (mixed) the way we've been discussing, where the bass guitar picks up where the guitars leave off and vice versa. It ends up being one instrument. However, the seperation is still there, since the bass guitar is straight up the middle, and the guitars are 100% L/R.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kev
I hear the guitar sound can rely a heck of a lot on the mids, but scooping them out i guess can make it much harder to deal with as the guitar begins to occupy frequencies it ormally wouldnt???
Precisely. The guitars *are* the mids of a mix. So scooping it's fundamental area only makes it fight with the other things that are already in there positions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kev
Im surprised to get some good response to such a noob post.
Aw cmon kev, you've been here longer than I have. And this is not a noob question. Really, you are just starting out with your recording "career", everyone needs advice in the beginning, and even if they are seasoned pros, everyone needs tips, tricks, advice, and general words of the wise every once in a while.

~006
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Old February 13th, 2006, 11:24 PM   #16 (permalink)
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To add another note...

My boss is a better engineer than I am. I mean, he's got years of experience more than I have. But even still, there have been a few times when he's asked me a question about something, or he's been getting a hard time from something in a mix, and my experience has allowed me to help *him* out. Very often though, it's the other way around, hehe. But when those times comes when I can answer *his* questions or help *him* out with a mix, it feels really good. It gives me a sense of accomplishment every time, like I just scored the last second shot and won the game, lol. You too will, in time, get to that point where you are on here, or in a studio (hopefully ) and you can answer someone's questions, whether they are pros or amateurs.

~006
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Old February 14th, 2006, 10:07 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 006
Yes. The bass guitar should deliver that low end. If you notice, sometimes it is a little hard to pick the bass guitar out. This is partly due to them playing very tightly. But also because it was engineered (mixed) the way we've been discussing, where the bass guitar picks up where the guitars leave off and vice versa. It ends up being one instrument. However, the seperation is still there, since the bass guitar is straight up the middle, and the guitars are 100% L/R.



Precisely. The guitars *are* the mids of a mix. So scooping it's fundamental area only makes it fight with the other things that are already in there positions.

Aw cmon kev, you've been here longer than I have. And this is not a noob question. Really, you are just starting out with your recording "career", everyone needs advice in the beginning, and even if they are seasoned pros, everyone needs tips, tricks, advice, and general words of the wise every once in a while.

~006
Thanks a lot man. Later on tonite, im gonna have a go at a mix, and i'll see what happens. The reasons listed are hopefully gonna help me get rid of some of this mud.
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Old February 14th, 2006, 02:38 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Key....I know were you are and we all started there......I recalled when I was just starting out I would gather all the information I could and put it into one doc.....well I happen to find the doc and I am going to post a whole bunch of this shit for you to read....I am shure METALHEAD28 will recgonize this stuff...

WARNING: These are not my work......some of this stuff is legit and some sucks....but all of it will give someone who is just starting out a lot of help......if you need to know who wrote let me know and I will get you in contact with them....

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Old February 14th, 2006, 02:38 PM   #19 (permalink)
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MIXING

This is my little mix method:

1.) First thing listen to your recorded material and make some decisions. What needs to be up front? What needs to be in the background? What are the important parts of the mix? Have you recorded everything you need in a clear, high quality manner?

IF YOUR RECORDED TRACKS AREN'T UP TO SNUFF GO BACK AND REDO THEM!

Nothing slows a mix down faster than tracks that have a lot of issues. If it's noisy, pops, bad performance or whatever you owe it to yourself to fix it before you mix it.

Unless you are getting paid by the hour you don't want to play the "fix it in the mix" game. Trust me, I've polished as many turds as a toilet at an overeaters anonymous seminar, and it is never fun. You will kick yourself and end up re-tracking it anyways, so why wait?

2.) Set levels manually for a rough mix in **MONO** (don't stereo pan yet). Don't touch any eq or compression at this point. KEEP IN MIND THAT YOU SHOULD MIX AROUND YOUR *VOCAL* LINE OR MELODY (if an instrumental song). At all times remember that songs are to sell a vocal performance and everything should be subordinate to it.

KEEP IN MIND MIXING IS EASIER IF YOU START WITH THE "CORE" ELEMENTS OF A SONG AND NAIL THOSE FIRST.

Thus, start with the main percussion (which may be all of it), the bassline, the main melodic instruments, vocals, background vocals, primary guitars--anything that is the strong parst of the song. Things like background noises, samples, special effects, random noises and the like should be *MUTED* and put on the backburner until after you complete this entire process.

The reasoning is that if your core material sounds great, you can fit the 'support' stuff *around* it and the song will still sound good. After all, it is bassackwards to have the greatest sounding pad that just rules if the vocals and drums are totally buried by it.

Thus--MIX FROM MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS TO LEAST. LESS IMPORTANT STUFF MUST WORK AROUND MORE IMPORTANT STUFF. THE VOCALS ARE ALWAYS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT.

3.) Once you've gotten a rough mix going on, listen to it again and note any deficiencies--is the low end tight? Is it muddy? Is something that is important not popping thru? Is something popping thru too much? Does a part go from too loud to too soft? How's the high end balance and clarity? Does the midrange sound cluttered?

4.) Now that you've mentally assembled your laundry list of mix complaints, it's time to do something about it.

5.) First clean up your low end. Run an EQ on all the tracks with nothing but a HIGH PASS FILTER on it. Stuff that should be part of your low end like kick drums, bass and so on get a HP filter around 35 or 40hz; stuff that shouldn't be cluttering your low end much like strings, sweepy pads should get a HP cutoff around 70 to 200hz. Vocals can be cut off around 150hz pretty safely. Guitar gets cut off around 70hz in general. Remember: you don't want excess garbage cluttering your low end--this is one of the main sources of audio mud.

IN GENERAL THE MORE BACKGROUND A TRACK IS THE MORE YOU SHOULD REMOVE ITS LOW END!

I've had pads start rolling off at 400hz before because all I really wanted was a little midrange color and some upper harmonics (so I boosted them around 11khz or so later on). Heck, on high hats I typically roll off starting at 500hz for that crisp, clean and transparent high hat sound.

6.) Now that things are looking clean on your low end re-examine your VOLUME issues, which means listening and start grabbing for the compressor.

7.) Stuff that still seems to pop in and out of the mix need compression--target these and compress them so that their volume stays put. (Read my compression tutorial for additional details.)

IN GENERAL I COMPRESS **EVERYTHING** IN MY MIXES AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT.

I am a big believer in fairly low compression ratios though. 2:1 on a lot of things. I always lightly compress analog synths because they are very erratic; if it's an analog synth doing a bassline I will squish it pretty good. In general VA, softsynths and digital synths need **LESS** compression than analogs, but let your ears and mix decide.

8.) Stuff that should be prominent rhythmically like kick and snare definately get some compression as well. Make them slam hard as hell.

9.) Get your low end instruments thumping be it bass guitar, synth or whatever. Make that low end steady, yet punchy. Try not to have more than 3 "low end" elements if you can.

10.) Now that you've gotten levels to be pretty consistent re-listen to the material critically and ask yourself--what needs more seperation, and what needs more integration?

11.) Now it's time to EQ. A lot of mixes sound tinny and thin because of overuse of EQ. If you've gotten your volume levels sounding great manually, and then used compression to make it even more tight, there shouldn't be a whole lot of EQ that you need to do.

12.) First thing--listen to the mix and try to identify weak sounding areas that sound BAD. Is there a little fizz to the guitars? Kick drum a little muffly sounding? High hats sound clangy? Prepare another mental list....

13.) Now use *subtractive EQ'ing* to locate and eliminate these discrepancies. Use the narrowest and smallest cuts you can get away with to bury the offending freq's in the *mix* (not solo'd by itself--always, always look at things in the context of the mix). When you have eliminated these frequencies (and there will probably be a few, perhaps none if you're lucky, sometimes on poorly recorded stuff there will be some in almost everything) we can move on.

14.) Now that the shit frequencies have been zapped listen to the song again and listen to see if the seperation/integration issues have been taken care of. Sometimes you can get lucky and a few problems will work themselves out; if not, the overall quality should have gone up a few notches.

15.) Now it's time to EQ for *SEPERATION*. Listen to the mix and figure out what elements are fighting for space in the low freqs, low-mids, midrange and high frequencies. Choose the one that you want to be more dominant in that frequency band--now go back and slightly cut that track in that band, while (sometimes) applying a slight boost (we're talking 1-2db's) to the dominant track. Keep doing this until you've gotten them all. Re-listen to the track.

16.) Now you want to integrate some of the elements so they work together more. An example is bass and kick drum. But how do you integrate AND seperate these sounds? Easy--give them boosts that are close on the lower end of the spectrum on or near the same frequency (for example: kick drum at 80hz with a boost, bass synth at 100hz with a boost); next move up into the midrange and boost one element someplace and the other one someplace else (such as boosting kick at 4khz and bass synth at 2khz). Play around with these techniques until you have things really cooking.

17.) Now listen to the WHOLE mix. Focus on the different frequency bands, paying special attention to the high end. Does the bass sound tight and clear--with the bass and kick working together yet with distinction? Does the voice mix well in the midrange with the other instruments? Is the high end crisp and clear, but not domineering and tinny? Can you hear the "air" and upper harmonics of the instruments in the over 10khz range?

18.) Now use EQ positively to *add* any of these missing characteristics... such as boosting some cymbals at 12khz, or a string synth at 9khz or wherever there is a bit of a pocket that needs filling, or place for something to shine a bit more without queering the mix.

BE CAREFUL WITH SUB 1khz BOOSTING. Too much boosting in this area can mess you up... too much cutting will give you a thin sound. This is a difficult area to master. When in doubt, leave it alone for the most part.

19.) Now, at long last, STEREO PAN your tracks. Try not to weight any one side more than the other. Keep low frequency or primary instruments centered, or close to center. Bass and kick should always be centered... and snare as well. Give a nice panorama of sound but don't get carried away. Panning over 50% is often too much. Panning less than 30% is what I do most of the time except in specific circumstances like mic'd drum overheads (due to stereo bleeding) which I'll put at 60-75% or so.

20.) Correct any deficiencies that may have arisen from the stereo panning. 80% of the time if you've done the steps pretty good you won't have any correcting to do. The song will suddenly have "mixed" itself when you stereo pan everything.

21.) Now go back and fit the less important elements into the mix. DON'T TOUCH THE CORE ELEMENTS--make the less important ones fit around them with compression and eq.

22.) When you're done, put the mix down for a day or two and go back and listen. Correct anything you don't dig. Compare it to CD's you like and see if it measures up. Make sure it's not too bright of a mix, make sure there is good low end, make sure it doesn't sound muddy, make sure the midrange is well defined, punchy and clear.

Most of all--have fun. There is no right or wrong way to mix YOUR songs.
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Old February 14th, 2006, 02:39 PM   #20 (permalink)
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COMPRESSION

I'm "reprinting" this so it is easier to find. By popular request I typed up a quick and dirty tutorial on better use of compression.

Here's the big secret of compression:

You should *barely* hear it working except as increasing your overall volume within the parameters you need. The average person may not even hear it working much. THAT is how the pro's set 75% of their compression, the other 25% is super squish city reserved for things like submixing drums in stereo and mixing it back in at low levels to beef stuff up.

Jim's rules for compression:

First let's define what a compressor does--which is to affect the amplitude of a signal by selectively reducing it. Compressors tend to have the following controls:

Compression ratio: this determines how 'hard' the compressor is supressing the signal. Usually described as a ratio such as 2:1, 4:1 and so forth. What this means is, after you cross the threshold setting, how many db's you have to go over to effect 1db of volume change. Thus a 4:1 ratio means that once you go over the threshold for every 4db over you will only get 1 db of amplitude change.

Threshold: this sets the decibel level that the compressor starts to work. Signal underneath the threshold will be unaffected--signal above it will be hit by the compression amount determined by the ratio. Needless to say, setting the threshold above the peaks of the signal will NOT do jack shit to the signal. You gotta set it in the path of the signal, so to speak. This is always expressed in negative db, thus a -24 threshold will compress any audio above -24db, and leave everything below it alone. (*Note, soft knee compressors start to work a bit before the threshold!)

Attack time: how long, in milliseconds, it takes for the compressor to kick in. This keeps your transient peaks unaffected and is the trick for getting a "punchy" kick or snare (the front end crack will be uncompressed and thus louder than the following signal).

Release time: once the signal falls below the threshold how long, in milliseconds, it takes for the compressor to 'let go' of the signal. For vocals and other similar instruments you want this to be fairly long like 200-250ms. For drums 75-125ms is great.

Special note on soft-knee compressors: some compressors have a soft knee function. What this does is start compressing the signal lightly as it approaches the threshold, and as you get closer to the threshold it will compress harder and harder until you reach the threshold and the full compression ratio will be utilized. This provides for fairly transparent compression and is great on vocals. Personally it sucks for drums unless you are squishing a stereo submix of drums.

Another note on stereo compressors: you should *always* link stereo sides of compressors when processing stereo signals. Once a side reaches the threshold BOTH sides get the compression. Failure to do this can lead to, for example, drums that leap in volume on one side but not the other... very assy unless that's what you really wanted. (Why god, why???)

Moving right along.....

Here are some guidelines off the top of my head:

2:1 ratio--overheads, distorted guitar, soft vocals, most synths
3:1 ratio--clamping down on overheads, acoustic guitar, most singers
4:1 ratio--bass, snare, kick drums, toms, crap singers
8:1 ratio--bad bassists, screaming vocalists, squishing the life out of stuff
12:1 ratio--out of control peaks or when you want to sound like limiting but still keep some life to it

Compression ratio and threshold are intertwined, so set both accordingly!

If you need dynamic range--LOWERthe ratio
If you need more regularity in levels--RAISE the ratio
If you just need to shave off some peaks--RAISE the threshold
If you want to affect a lot of the signal--LOWER the threshold

Here's the tricky parts that require hard decisions:

If you want more smooth sounds--LOWER attack time (under 6ms)
If you want more punch--RAISE attack time (between 7-50ms)
If you need "more" compression--LOWER attack time more
If you need "less" compression--RAISE attack time

If you need 'invisible/natural' compression--RAISE release time
If you need 'audible/percussive' compression--LOWER release time

Now pull out yer ears:

If it pumps and breaths--RAISE release time (unless you want that)
If the compression seems to disappear--LOWER release time

Finally the number one rule for compression:

ALWAYS match relative volume levels (by ear) before and after compression using makeup gain--meaning that they should be peaking about the same. If you record using my "-15 to -12dbfs with peaks no greater than -6dbfs" rule this is easy; if you tend to record sloppy and "hot" you may need compression to keep you out of the red. Don't do this to yourself.

The idea for this is that LOUDER often equates to sounding better to us, fooling us into setting duff and mookish compression settings. When dialing in compression make sure that the before and after levels are identical so you can hear the compression and not the jump in volume.

Here are some guidelines on setting makeup gain:

The lower the threshold the more makeup gain you need.
The higher the threshold the less makeup gain you need.
The higher the ratio the more makeup gain you need.
The lower the ratio the less makeup gain you need.

Further modified by:

The faster the attack the more makeup gain you can get away with.
The slower the attack time the less makeup gain you can use.
The faster the release time the less makeup gain you can use.
The slower the release time the more makeup gain you can use.

You can also calculate the amount of makeup gain you need by looking at the signals peak levels or RMS--figure this out, and then:

COMPRESSION THRESHOLD = T
SIGNAL DB PEAK = P
COMPRESSION RATIO = R

(T-P)/R = A

P-A = MAKEUP GAIN

Thus if your threshold was -24db and your signal is peaking at -12db the amount of gain being compressed is 12db total; i.e. (T-P). Divide this amount, 12db, by the ratio of 4:1--making A = 3db reduction of peaks.

Then take the signal db peak and subtract the peak reduction--in this case -12db and subtract 3db... meaning you require 9db of makeup gain to approximate the original signal level.
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Old February 14th, 2006, 02:39 PM   #21 (permalink)
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EQ

One thing that is *ESSENTIAL* to a professional sound is mastering the parametric equalizer. Graphic equalizers just don't cut it for recording; in fact, I *NEVER* use one personally.

Parametric EQ is easier to use than you think, but it can appear tricky to master at first. It's not--just use your ears and don't over EQ.

KEEP IN MIND THIS GUIDE MAKES MORE SENSE IF YOU OPEN UP A PARAMETRIC EQ AND MESS WITH IT A LITTLE BIT WHILE YOU READ THIS!

This is a quick and dirty guide to parametric EQ.

First off, parametric EQ's have multiple bands--typically 4 or 6 bands. Each band is independent and can have its own individual settings. Most parametric EQ's have a number of MODES or FILTER TYPES available to them for each band:

HIGH PASS FILTER: will not affect freqs *higher* than the center frequency--in other words this cuts out lower frequencies (the highs PASS thru--get it?).

LOW PASS FILTER: reverse of the high pass--the freqs *lower* than the center frequency are unaffected--this cuts off high frequencies.

Both high pass and low pass filters have something called a *roll off* which may or may not be user definable; a roll off will determine the slope of how the frequencies are reduced--such as 6db per octave, 12db per octave and so forth. The greater the db reduction the more frequencies are reduced.

High and low pass filters are usually only available on the ends of the parametric EQ bands. Thus, a 4 band parametric could have a high pass filter, 2 band filters, and a low pass filter as its options.

NOTE: both low and high pass filters *ALWAYS* are used to cut frequencies--these cannot be used to boost.

SHELF FILTER (LOW OR HIGH): affects ALL frequencies from the center frequency and upwards (for high shelf filter) or below (for low shelf filter). Use carefully and sparingly. This is basically a relative of the high/low pass filters but contains no roll off.

BAND FILTER: this is the "typical" mode you will use--this will accent or cut a certain range defined by the user (see below).

After the mode, which 90% of the time you will be using a band filter type of mode, the next important thing to look at are the actual controls of the parametric eq--the center frequency, Q, and gain.

CENTER FREQUENCY: this is the epicenter of the where you are applying EQ at. Usually ranging from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz (20 khz). This is just the center of your eq adjustment, other frequencies will be affected.

Q: this determines the width of the eq around the center frequency. The higher this number is the narrower the range. Very narrow boosts can sound "ringy" and actually go into a (bad sounding) self-oscillation due to the feedback used to create the boost.

GAIN: the "height" or "depth" of the equalization. The gain, which can be positive or negative, determines how much cut or boost you are using in that frequency range.

In general, keep all gain cuts/boosts within 6db. Most of my cuts are under 2 or 3 db's these days. If you record sounds to be *exactly* what you want you don't have to mess with them very much--resulting in a much cleaner, pro sound.
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Old February 14th, 2006, 02:40 PM   #22 (permalink)
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PHASE

Right. There are two different things going on here: phase and polarity are only the same thing at one specific special-case point, really. Phase is a much more complex topic.

When two signals have exactly opposite voltages at each and every point in time, they are said to be "opposite polarity". They also happen to be 180deg out of phase with each other: that is the most gross phase error possible, and it happens to apply equally at all frequencies for this one special case. Add 'em together, you get zero: everybody knows that.

However, when you introduce *time* delays by spacing mics apart, the simple "opposite polarity" special case doesn't occur: because the sound takes time to go from here to there, and the wavelengths differ according to frequency, you have differing amounts of phase shift at different frequencies. This "different-phase-shift-per-frequency" thing is what gives you the "phasey" sound with a pair of mics at different distances from a source: you are creating a comb filter, where some frequencies are 180deg out of phase and cancel, and other frequencies aren't quite out and don't quite cancel, and others still are exactly in phase and *add* instead of cancel. What you really work with in mic placement is this parasitic comb filtering: it comes for free, because of the time delay.

Let's work an example, just for shits and grins. Sound moves about 1100 feet per second (close enough for this example). So let's stick a pair of mics on a guitar amp: one right up against the cone, and one back a few feet. The picker graunches a chord, and the resulting signal has all sorts of components at different frequencies, from the lowest string's fundamental at 100Hz, say, all the way up to high harmonics up at 10kHz or so.

The wavelength of a 100Hz sine wave is 1100/100: 11 feet (nice, round number, eh?). So theoretically, to perfectly cancel that 100Hz out between the two mics, you'd put the second mic back 5.5 feet: one half wavelength. Ignoring reflections and all that unpleasant real-world dreck, when the pressure was just hitting its max positive value at the close-in mic, it'd just be hitting its max _negative_ value at the mic 5.5 feet away: one half wavelength, 180deg phase shift. With me so far?

Now let's look at some 1kHz stuff in the same signal. That 1kHz stuff has a much shorter wavelength: 1100/1000, or 1.1 feet (start to see the relationship?). So to completely cancel that 1kHz, you'd only have to move back .55 foot: 6.6 inches. The perfect cancellation distance for any given frequency is _not_ the perfect concellation distance for any other frequency, because the wavelengths differ. Make sense?

If we move the second mic back that 6.6 inches behind the first, we have 180deg phase shift (cancellation) at 1kHz, and only 18deg phase shift at 100Hz: not much at all, and very little cancellation. The 1kHz stuff covers 10 wavelengths in 1 single wavelength of 100Hz. That's the key!

So phase shift is a function of frequency, when you're talking about spacing between mics. In the first example there, that perfect cancellation of 100hz at 5.5 feet would give you a perfect _doubling_ at 200hz (360deg phase shift, or perfectly in phase), and a perfect cancellation at 300hz (540deg phase shift, or effectively 180deg out of phase) and so on: so you end up with a frequency response that has a series of peaks and notches in it. Thus the term "comb filter".

Changing the spacing moves the notches around, and that's what you are doing when you play with mic placement. It also changes the contributions of reflections and all sort of that real-world stuff sweetnubs mentioned that is really a damned sight more important than this nerdy theoretical shit. So you never get the precise cancellation or reinforcement that this contrived and oversimplified example might seem to predict: the comb filtering can be pretty subtle. But that's how it works.
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Old February 14th, 2006, 02:41 PM   #23 (permalink)
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This has been posted many times in several different places. Seeing as I will be bringing these steps up from time to time, and there is a constant influx of new people, I will post it here as a referrence.

1. Mixing is an attitude.
2. If the song sucks, the mix is irrelevant.
3. Working the room, keeping people happy and relaxed is half of mixing successfully.
4. Putting everything proportional in a mix is going to make a shitty mix.
5. Gear are tools in a mix that make life either easier or more difficult, they are not what makes a mix good or bad.
6. A mix can be great and not have great sound.
7. If nothing about the mix annoys someone in the room, the mix is often times not done.
8. Mixing can not be taught, it can only be learned.
9. The overall vibe of the track is much more important than any individual element.
10. Just because it was recorded doesn't mean it needs to be in the mix.
11. Be aggressive.

What can I say? My steps are kind of like a Marshall amp. They go to 11.

Mixerman
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------And I once posted this:

The Dreaded Mixdown

This is where many new recordists fall down. It's one of the hardest things to get right, but there are a few things you can do to help get your mixes closer to where they should be, right from the start. (MixerMan, who gets paid big bucks to do this, will hopefully jump into this thread at some point.) It requires a different mindset from tracking and arranging. It also requires that you not be married or in love with any one part in the song.

Tip 1. Get as far away from the song as possible before you try mixing it. Don't try to do a mix right after a tracking session. Your ears are fried, and you're too close to the song right now. Objectivity is the word to remember. Wait a few days or even a week or more, if you have that luxury. Yes, some people can do a good mix right away, but that usually takes years to acquire that skill. If you haven't been doing mixes for many years, you ain't one of those people, so wait.

Tip 2. Mix low. Yes, cranking it sounds cool, but it will also introduce more room reflections and give you a warped picture of the sound. Crank it when you think you've got the mix nailed, but keep it low for as long as possible.

Tip 3. Listen to the song, not the tracks. The biggest mistake new mixers make is soloing each track and making it sound full and rich by itself, then they wonder why the whole thing sounds bloated and muddy. There are several methods that work to construct a good mix. You can start by bringing all the faders up, with the pan pots centered, and all effects turned off, or you can decide what the key element in the song is (the vocal, for example), and start working from that. Different engineers use different methods.

Tip 4. Build a box - a small stage in your mind. Imagine a stage. You control where the player appears on that stage. Panning lets you control left to right placement, volume and reverb lets you control front to back, and eq lets you control the frequency blend (low to high).

Tip 5. Resolving conflicts in the mix is the single biggest problem facing a mixer. You'll always find several tracks competing for attention in the same frequency range. The kick competes with the bass. The bass competes with the low guitars. The guitars may be competing with the vocals. The keyboards are all over the place. It becomes an even bigger problem for most people when they solo a track and work to make that instrument sound as big as possible. Bad move. All the instruments hafta work together and a particular instrument has to sound good with ALL the other instruments.

For the good of the song, some of the bottom end on the bass or the guitars may have to be eliminated. Yes, the instrument may not sound good when it's soloed, but it will blend in better when you listen to all the tracks. It's up to you to decide which instruments need to be shaved, but if you concentrate on the song first, it will start to become more and more obvious what needs fixing.

Tip 6. Take frequent breaks and get away from the music for a few minutes. Rest your ears. If you're doing it right, it's the most demanding part of the whole recording process. You are literally listening to ALL the instruments at the same time, following them all at once, and it's easy to burn out. Wanna see an engineer really blow up? Try talking to other people in the control room while he's trying to work on a final mix.

There's a lot more, but we'll save it for another day, or wait to let others weigh in on this most difficult of all subjects.

Harvey Gerst

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And Mixerman added:

Ahhhh.. my favorite subject. I could speak for hours and hours on mixing. Harvey's tips are great. Defenitely valuable to the beginning mixer.

What can I add? Well let's start with the fundamentals of what you're working with. It's allot to digest, particularly with Harvey's list, and it should probably have it's own header, but I'll put it here anyway.

Barring 5.1, you only have 2 speakers to work with. But we live in a 3 dimensional world. So we're basically creating an illusion so that a mix sounds 3 dimensional. Let's call this a spatial illusion

When mixing there are 5 planes of spatial illusion. Level, panning, frequency, spatial perception, and contrast. These five planes are all used to create space in a mix.

Front to back: (Level)
Level gives an element of a mix it's own space. Compression on individual channels helps keep the level so that it doesn't disappear in the mix. A loud instrument will appear forward, or towards the front. A quiet instrument will appear to be back or further away.

Left to right: (Panning)
Panning allows you to give an element of the mix it's own space. For instance putting a guitar part hard right keeps it from washing out the vocal.

Up and down: (Frequency)
Frequency is the use of EQ to boost or cut frequencies that either muddy or clear the mix up. For instance 250Hz-700Hz are fairly muddy frequencies, and if you have too many instruments using this frequency range the mix could be muddy. Everything in an arrangement or mix should have it's own unique fundamental frequency space.

Far and near: (Spatial Perception)
Spatial perception is the use of reverbs, chambers, plates, delays, far mic placement, etc.. to create the illusion of space in the mix. An instrument with allot of reverb can sound like it is placed in a large hall. An instrument or a vocal with a long delay, can sound like it's in the alps. An instrument that's completely dry, will sound like it's in a small carpeted room, right next to you.

Sparse to dense: (Contrast)
Arrangement is the use of muting, and altering the recorded arrangement to create space where it is needed to accent the more dense parts. The use of density to contrast sparse is great for creating the illusion of dynamics in a mix, within minimal dynamic range. The use of a limited dynamic range makes for better listening in more casual environments, where there tends to be external noise.

All 5 of these planes work together to create the illusion of space in a mix. One is no more important than any other in general, although one or two of the planes could prove to be more useful in a given mix. Not all are a requirement for a great mix either. For example, your mix should to be able to break down to mono, and still be a greqat mix.

Mixerman
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Old February 14th, 2006, 02:41 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Your path bays come "half-normalled" which is perfect for several applications. Unnormalled will be used for some applications. Fully normalled will not be used at all. So here is the deal.

The purpose of the path bay is two. One, the make a normal signal route for you. Two, to give you the ability to access that signal path to have the option of going somewhere else with the signal with or without returning it to it's destination. Sound confussing? It might but I will explain.

In a "normalled" configuration, the top and bottom jacks are connected together. This would be used to say go from the output of your console to the input of the tape deck. You don't need to do anything to complete this connection except to hook the cables up to the back of the patch bay. The proper way of doing this is the plug the output of the console to the top jack, and the input of the tape deck to the bottom jack.

Now, you can use a patch bay to run from the output of the tape deck to the input of the console. You would do this by connecting the ouput of the tape deck to the top jack and the input of the console to the bottom jack.

Now that you are all connected, you can start using the patch bay to insert something in between the destinations.

Let's say that you are tracking and you feel that you need to hook up a peak limiter before you get to tape. All you would have to do is on the front of the patch bay that is configured for console to tape deck, take the top jack for whatever channel you need the limiter on and run a cable from that channels top jack on the patch bay to the input of the limiter. From the output of the limiter, you would heek up a cable to the bottom jack of that channel on the patch bay. Vola!!! You have now inserted a limiter into the signal path.

You may notice something though. The limiter will not be inserted untill it's output is connected to the bottom jack on the patch bay. That is because the "half normalled" connection at the patch bay that connects your console output to the input of the tape deck is not broken untill something is plugged into the bottom jack on the patch bay.

So, let's say that not only would you want channel one on the console to go to track one (you already have this hooked up on the patch bay by following the above wiring) but you also want to send that track to something else like a drum module or something. Well, you can access that tracks source from the console via the top jack on the patch bay without affecting that source from getting to the tape deck. You see, the top jack on from just gives you access to the source signal. The bottom jack is an interrupt to the destination. using them both acts like an insert. Cool!!!

Next. Un normalled.

Usually you use unnormalled configuration for signal processors such as compressors, gates, limiters, etc......Unnormalled means that the connection is not made between the top and bottom jack on the patch bay. The reason for this is because processors don't like to have to output feeding back to the input. So, you have to have a way of accessing the input and output of the processor without the two being halfnormalled.

Usually (and this is the case with all the above named patch bays in this thread) you unnormal the patch bay by simply taking the curcuit board and turning it upside down. It is that simple. Now the output of a device will not feed the input. Actually, by doing this the input feeds the output which is okay.

So let's say you have a Re an 48 point patch bay, one 8 track machine, two stereo processors, and one stereo effects processors. Here is what you would do to make it all fly on the same patch bay.

Tape output's 1-8 of the console would go to the top jack (on the back of course) 1-8 on the patch bay. Input's 1-8 on the tape machine would go to the bottom jack(you got it, on the back) or the patch bay. Bam, 1-8 is all hooked up. The outputs of the console will go to the input of the tape deck automatically without any patching.

Next. Output's 1-8 on the tape machine would go to the top jack 9-16 on the back of the patch bay. Tape return 1-8 on the console would hook up to the bottom jack 9-16 on the back of the patch bay. Bam!!! Now your tape deck will automatically go to the console without any patching.

Next. 17-20 on the patch bay need to have their curcuit boards turned upside down. Now, you would use 17 and 18 for channels one and two of the first processor, and 19 and 20 for the second processor. Remember, processor input to the top jack, processor output to the bottom jack. Bam, processors are working.

Next. Take your aux sends one and two from the console and go to the top jack 21 and 22 of the patch bay and the effects unit input will hook up to the bottom jack of 21 and 22. Bam, automatic effects sends from the console to the effects unit without patching. Next, effects unit left and right out to top jack 23 and 24 on the patch bay, and whatever you would normally use for a effects return on your console to bottom jack 23 and 24. Bam, instant effects return.

So, if you wanted to compress track one before going to tape, plug in a cable from the top jack of one and run it to the top jack of 17 (left channel of your first processor) and hook up another cable from bottom jack 17 to bottom jack 1. Bam!!! Your compressor is "inline".

Now let's say that you are mixing instead and you want to compress track one.

You would hook up a cable from top jack 9 to top jack 17, and another cable from bottom jack 17 to bottom jack 9. Now the compressor is in between the tape deck track one and the console's tape return one.

While mixing, you could run a track directly to a effects processor just by tapping into it's input's and output's just like above.

You could plug an instrument like a keyboard directly into an effects processor and run it to to mixing board, or to the tape deck.

Get it??? You have all of your input's and output's on a jack where you can access it, and all of your normal connections you need to make are already made for you for a normal tracking or mixing environment. Cool!!!

Geez, I otta right a manual!!!

Last edited by chadsxe : December 19th, 2007 at 10:24 AM.
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Old February 14th, 2006, 04:21 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Holy. Crap.

~006
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