All round mixing help please

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by LJ25, Jan 6, 2013.

  1. LJ25

    LJ25 Active Member

    Hi Everyone,

    Been a long time since I have posted on here but I am after a bit of help in taking my mixes to the next level.

    Here is my latest recording for the band:

    I have recorded in Cubase SX with a Blackstar Series one 200 amp head DI for guitars (both double tracked) and an Orange Terror Bass DI into a motu 8pre.

    I am looking generally to make my mixes bigger and with more depth. I have very roughly mastered it myself too using PSP Vintage Warmer, a little EQ to remove unwanted frequencies then limited with Waves Ultra-maximiser. I know I should get a pro to do this but money is an issue until I have my mix as I want it.

    Drums are ok. Unless there is something you want to add I am generally happy with them.

    OK, Short of Micing up my guitar and bass cabs what do I need to do to make this mix sound bigger, more full, with more depth and a bit more punch. Any help will be appreciated.


  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm probably not the guy to listen to, because your style isn't really my thang... however, drums sound FAR too compressed to me.

    I've heard other mixes by other bands in similar genres - bands like Disturbed, for example - and their drums are far more open, live and dynamic. A/B your drums against this and see if you can't hear what I'm referring to....

    Disturbed - Down With The Sickness [Music Video] - YouTube

    Can you hear how open and yet still driving the drum tracks are? There's no reason you can't get the same - or close to the same - results.

    You've got yours squashed to the point of them losing power and definition. Now, I don't think this is all because of a master 2-bus limiter. My guess... and I could be wrong, is that you also strapped a limiter to the drum tracks as well? Either that or a HEAVY amount of gain reduction bordering on limiter settings...

    This may in fact be the sound you are after, and if that's the case, then that's fine. But just because your music is hardcore doesn't mean it can't still breathe and have an open vibe to it.

    Put it this way... if you were to go see a band live, and the drums sounded as thin and squashed as the ones on your track, would you be happy?

    If the answer to that is yes, then my part in this conversation is over. You've done what you set out to do.

    But... and this is just me speaking as an engineer... I think you need to go back to your rhythm tracks and revisit the gain reduction, because you've got far too much of those bad boys up, let ' em breathe and knock the listener on their ass. ;)

    in my humble opinion, of course.

  3. LJ25

    LJ25 Active Member

    Thanks for that. I am definitely after a much tighter sound than Disturbed etc but certainly open too the idea So I will give that a go. My main problem is the guitars as I find they sound a bit "brittle" for lack of a better description. Maybe more open feeling drums will leave me with better sounds to work the guitars around.....lets find out ;)
  4. LJ25

    LJ25 Active Member

    Soooo, I have removed a fair bit of compression on the drums but they seem a lot more muddy relatively now. Might need to Eq them a touch more but taking ages and im knacked haha. I will do a bit of work and pot up a new mix to see what you think further. Hopefully by tomorrow when my ears don't feel battered Thanks loads for the help!

  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Nice to hear from you LJ25!

    Excellent example Donny,
    I've nothing to add here, just to support what Donny already said but once again look at the monitoring... .

    Louis, Man, you have a killer track here but the drums and bottom end sound like tooth picks. I'm wondering if you are listening ( monitoring) on really bassy speakers which is giving people a false exaggeration in the low end? What speakers are you monitoring with? Tell us what you are using and your room?

    Listening to this in my studio, all I hear is tick tick for the kick. There is nothing worth mentioning below 300.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Yup. Me too.

    Monitoring through speakers that have exagerrated bass built in, ( home stereo speakers are notorious for this) or mixing in a room where you have serious standing waves of low end will cause your mixes to be very bass shy when played back on more accurate systems.

    I guess what Chris and I are saying is it may not be you... it may be that you are being lied to in a major way when it comes to your low end. If your room or your speakers are presenting you with low end that isn't really there, you'll naturally compensate by attenuating the low end when you don't need to. This will cause the lack of freq's below 300hz that Chris mentioned.

    Are you by chance mixing with a powered sub? Curious....

  7. LJ25

    LJ25 Active Member

    Haha. I think you have both hit the nail on the head there. I mix in my livingroom with Yamaha HS50 monitors and a matched sub. To be fair, its a solid wood floor and the only thing in the room that will be treating the sound will be my sofa which im sat on opposite my monitors. I try to mix using other songs as reference but clearly this is not working. Any suggestions on what to do in that case? Throw up some acoustic padding on the walls? (by that i mean putting blankets everywhere!)
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Blankets are not gonna do much for the frequencies that are giving you problems.

    What you need to control that low end is mass, and yes, while things like upholstered couches and chairs can tame those lows to an extent, I don't believe they would anywhere near to the extent that you need.

    Low frequency traps would, of course, be your answer, of varying frequency absorption, but the pro commercial stuff isn't cheap... and while you can certainly build your own, if you are also using cheap speakers to mix through, well, you're probably into a lot more money and a lot more time before you'd like to get your final product out.

    Ya know, at this point, and I gotta say this with some hesitancy because I don't recommend this often, but in your case and at this point, you might be better off to use headphones, considering the circumstances...

    This would certainly be the cheap and easiest way to at least get you closer to any semblance of accuracy, but, it's not gonna really be the long term answer for you.

    If you do go the HP route, don't just use any cheap pair, because like home stereo speakers, there are many consumer grade headphones that, like home stereo speakers, are also designed to accentuate those low frequencies, and you could be right back where you started from.

    You'll need to use good headphones, something with a relatively flat frequency response. Audio Technica, Shure, AKG and a slew of other manufacturers all make decent cans that are relatively transparent and won't cost you a second mortgage.

    Personally, I use Audio Technica MF series. I don't use them to mix, but I do use them to occasionally check mix imaging and multi playback translation, and I think they are probably flat enough for you to use in a dicey situation such as yours, where I feel that any other method of reference and environmental frequency response will be better than the one you have now.

    A final note....if you do decide to continue to mix through speakers, dump the sub.

    Subs are fine to reference a mix after the fact, but very few pros actually use them during critical mixing applications, even in rooms that are highly accurate and tuned... in your case, mixing with a sub will bring you nothing but trouble, because you're adding more low end mush to a room that is already loaded with low end mush.

    And, sit as close to your monitors as possible, which will at least alleviate some of the reflections you are dealing with. Also, if you can, try to get your listening location as close to the center of the room as possible. Don't shove your self into a corner or up against a wall.

    Again, all these suggestions are really just band aids on a traumatic wound, so you need to accept the fact that in your current situation, you're only ever gonna get "so-so" good, sonically, if that.

    In my humble opinion, of course.

  9. LJ25

    LJ25 Active Member

    haha. Ok. Well I have removed the sub totally now and been mixing a bit on the fly as you have been giving me advice. Wasnt going to till tomorrow but when in the in the mood! Will do a mixdown soon as im content and bang a link up. See if you think iv made any forward progress. Cheers loads of this both of you! Been really helpful!
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Ya! We helped this dude in a major way.

    I'm with my colleague with the phones too, but even better... Take the subs off or at least turn them waaaay down! I bought "one" sub last year and that was enough for me to know it sucks for mixing. Two subs is way too much for mixing in an untreated room and my room is treated.
    Plus, you need to make sure they are matched right to the db. No humps or dips where they cross-over. All you are doing is creating mass low end standing waves and messing your punch.

    Buy some powered Near Fields ASAP. They are cheap. Check out Audix even. They have little guys ( $250.00) idea for someone on a budget or needing a remote rig. I'm ordering their 3/12 in as soon as I get my act together here. I want small. Small rocks. Anything will be better than what you are doing now.

    Advice: Don't be mixing pro audio loud and boomy. Thats for fun. Pro's don't mix loud and boomy. You are going to love us.
    So... Go out and bottle drive, find the money. Turn them off if you can at least. And, use the headphone for now if thats the only solution. Once your mix sounds good in the phones, check it out on your home system and you will be shocked how bassy it is. then, adjust the subs to sound closer to the phones, if you must continue using them. This way they will at least be tuned closer.
  11. LJ25

    LJ25 Active Member

    Scrap that! My ears are ruined for the night and I couldnt tell you if a kick drum is a snre or not right now! Onwards! Speak soon.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    Yup, that's what happens. Cheers!
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    Know when to walk away.

    The big problem with doing what you are doing - in that you are acting as writer (I assume) arranger, performer, engineer, producer, remix engineer, etc, is that you are wearing all the hats... and brother, those hats can get mighty cumbersome if you wear enough of them long enough.

    You start to lose objectivity - at this point I'd say you have probably lost it entirely....because you've heard this track sooo many times, constantly rewinding, playing back, rewinding again, tweaking, etc. - you have reached the point of aural fatigue... actually, I'd venture to say that you already passed that particular mile marker some time ago, and now you're just in complete burn-out mode.

    Adding to all of that is the fact that is already obvious - in that you are endlessly chasing your tail because of your inferior room and monitoring rig, and, well, it's kinda like trying to get cats to all walk together in a parade.

    You need to step away from this for awhile, and I'm not talking about just a few hours, but possibly a few days.

    Take heart, we've all faced it at one time or another. You're certainly not alone... not by a long shot.


  14. LJ25

    LJ25 Active Member

    Haha, yes you are right. I tried to have another go at this last night but after 20 minutes I was just hitting my head off the table. So my plan is to spend this week with the rest of the band, rehearse for our shows next week and come back to it at the weekend. Then you can see my progress with fresh ears ;) speak soon.
  15. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    i think theres a buildup of upper midrange, which could be from comb filtering in your listening room. the beater attack of the kick and guitars are right where they should be for this style, but the vocals have too much cut for my taste. it's not enhancing my ability to hear the words, rather making me not listen to them. you guys sound like that band 'all shall perish', i like the riffs and stuff, but the vocals sound harsh to me. if you have to adjust that snare/gtr eqs to get a fuller vocal sound thats fine, cuz it's a peircring, almost small type sound on vocs. very focussed.

    ease up on the 2-bus man. i know comercial recordings get away w/ obvious digital distortion right now, but, still. things become less huge at a certian point. it's like the 80s use of ecessive reverb, tone it down a bit, you'll get a bigger version.

    i also question the mic. was it a condenser? they're not neccessary, especially in metal. i have very good luck w/ a Sennheiser 441 for gritty voices. my personal approach to hardcore music is that the vocal needs to be smooth, because he/she is going apeshit. thats the magic, people going insane, but the presentation of that needs to be acceptable. so yeah its awesome to hear someone screaming there brains out, but smooth is the word. i'm not talking r&b smooth, but when metal dudes let loose it's a lot of high and upper mids because of how humans are made. vocal chords just vibrate more frequently in the upper range, and screamers just usually get harsh. i want to hear a more full version of the vocals, not just the cut.

    cool stuff man overall. lets her those tweaks!
  16. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I really think there is a limit as to how loud you can make something sound when it is only a single volume level throughout? There is nothing to compare the loudness to? I thought it was perfectly wonderful sounding. I thought it said what it was supposed to say as a death metal recording? I could hear all the instruments very clearly. Great articulation. One big wall of sound. And that daemonic vocal was always there yeah. What's there to fix? Everybody listens on different systems so everybody is going to hear it differently. I'm hearing the whole picture. It's good. Leave it alone. You are dismayed and confused because you've hit the pinnacle. There isn't anywhere else to go. You did good kid.

    What's everybody talking about? This is rock 'n roll isn't it?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  17. LJ25

    LJ25 Active Member

    Kmetal. Cheers for the input! I was going to post another mix up here during the week but been a bit preoccupied getting ready for a few gigs so not had time. Yeah the vocal points are something thats been mentioned so maybe we will try the Audix dynamic we have next time instead. Give it more body rather than highs.

    Remy, thanks loads for that! Really nice to hear. Just wanted my guitars sounding more ballsy but you are making me feel pretty good about that. Especially considering they came straight from the DI of my amp! Albeit a very nice amp...but DI'd guitars rarely sound as natural as a celestion V30 with a sm57 right up to it! ;)
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Man, I couldn't disagree more on this one in a whole year of eating Wheaties on crack lol. LJ25's track is severely lacking bottom end. It sounds like toothpicks at my chair. Where is the kick and bass low end? All I hear is 3k tick tick tick and upper mid dominant. Which points to bad acoustics from a mixing POV. But... . maybe we need to check our monitors here or catch up on what speed metal sounds like.
    But then I hear other tracks I much prefer so whats up with that?

    Even though this is the internet, the bottom end of LJ25's track should be closer to this to my ears:
    What better way to describe something than providing a reference. This is what I call a better reference (listen past the compressed online that it is). Whether we can accomplish this or not is another question but there is clearly a low end problem that is making him think he needs more upper mids..

    Judas Priest - You've Got Another Thing Comin' [LIVE 2005] - YouTube
    Justice! ~ Speed Metal 1 - YouTube
    Ten Best Thrash - Speed Metal Album of The WORLD - YouTube

    But, Maybe I missing something here and could use some enlightenment on this style. In all honesty I ask: Is LJ25's style of music supposed to be bottom end weak? Possibly to handle the 16th on kicks from timing out? Maybe everyone here uses subs for mixing?
    Most monitoring systems and rooms with music like this cranked might not be able to recover and handle low end coming at it like that but if it were me, I'd still be looking for more meat, less pudding.

    If everyone is wearing dark shaded glasses, we're obviously not going to be mixing dark and agreeing. We're going to be trying to see clearer and turning on bright lights. But then, what happens when someone walks into the room without dark glasses and is blinded by the light.

    LJ25's ROOM = bad monitoring and dark distorted glasses ( subs and low energy standing waves).
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm starting to think there is an even bigger problem with our rooms and monitoring systems than we ever imagined. I've been following what members like, keeping a mental picture and noticing something.
    How can we all be hearing things so different. I ask myself, If we were all mixing in the same room, would we arrive at similar mixes or critique someone closer? We need to have an in depth discussion on this. I've PM Rod. Hopefully we can turn this into a really positive turning point that is plaguing the internet engineering communities, thus effecting even how manufactures products are being reviewed.
  20. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    modern metal can have similar bottom end to hip hop and and dance. which is a bit exaggerated, but pretty cool when done right, live and on disc. the reason for the excessive buildup in the mid range is trying to get the clatiry, and attack thru. the kick (click drum) can't compete w/ the space that down tuned guitars/basses generate, so it gets left with the 10k attack that the sample offers.

    i thought the balance of this mix was overall was well done, i just thought the vocal was peiceing. high pitched screamers don't need boosts in the mid-highs, but you certainly don't have much room in the low mids to add either.

    my gripe w/ the limiting isn't so much the power of force, is the crackly distortion, and lack of push-push-pull on the head banging parts. it is rock and roll and this mix sounds good, but i'm very picky about vocal tones, cuz that's the criticisms, 'oh that guys are just screaming' 'i can't hear his words'. stuff like that is what people will say all day. like any other style, vocal technique is first. there is a video called 'the zen of screaming' where a professional vocal coach helps trains some of modern metals big time vox, and shows them stuff so they can scream and yell, night after night, w/ out surgery.

    i also blame sampling/amp sims big time for modern metal. nobody said it had to sound smooth, or high fi. the early 90's was the end of that era, of 'not horrible' recordings, that sounded like the band. imho, your should be able to zero in on any element of the hardcore mix, and just have it 'not hurt, or be too harsh'. i will use drum sampling all day if someone wants the sound. usually compression isnt enough to keep the concrete kick drum the trends are asking for. i'll tell ya sound wise, the sweeds kill it on metal, from bodem, to arch enemy, to soilwork, that stuff is a pretty very good attempt at pop/dance type range, w/ aggressive drums/guitars/vocals. i like it better than slayers sound of the past 15 years.

    this song always caught my ear, even tho it's pretty dated, and radio people actually cut the buildup intro, ugh. but listen to how a screechy vocalist was tamed and yet help up front. i say it's a pluggin, and i'd commit on transformer saturation, but, watever, it's a screechy vocalist sounding reasonable. still a bit too much, on the u tube but, an example. this sound bangs out, but is already dated. it's inhumanly tight. but one of the better albums i've heard in metal during the last decade. ugh i said decade.

    yes dynamic mics for extreme vocals. rappers too. sm 58's, re 20, sm 7, 441. audix makes good stuff it'l probably work just fine.

    fwiw my 'listening room' is a laptop w/ some 2" wedge foam on the reflection points (7.5/11.5/26 ft. rough) and it has a staircase, it's a typical ranch basement. speakers are mackie hr8mk2's, which are hooked up to the cpu, and a bose surround system, for my cable/xbox. my studio, it needs some (alot) work acoustically, i really need to learn what a reliable testing process is, in an 'already built' situation where modification is the only possible action, re-build out of question. with so many different rooms, it'd be cool to have even just a 'reasonable' base for testing, and comparison.

    so, are we gonna all try to test our room as similarly as possible? i'd be down for some friendly comparisons. it'd sure help me out.

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