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audio Critique request - Touching up an old mix

Discussion in 'Fix This MIX!' started by Jeremy Dean, Dec 28, 2015.

  1. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Hey there! This is my first time posting on Recording.org. I would like some opinions/thoughts/suggestions on this mix if you have the time, please. I recorded and mixed this cover song in Febuary-March and have since learned more about mixing and decided to touch up the mix a little bit. ANY help on this mix would be much appreciated. I've uploaded both versions of the mix. Please don't hold back on your thoughts about anything(not just the mixing)! :D Thanks!
    - Jeremy


    Attached Files:

  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Hi, and welcome to RO.

    First off, on the first song, you have a little glitch at :42/:43 ... this might be due to a dicey crossfade or bad edit on a punch take (?), or a "shadow" or "ghost" track from a previously recorded take that wasn't entirely removed; or due to an unwanted auto tune note, or, it could be something that occurred in the rendering to MP3.

    These are all just guesses because you didn't mention the details of how you tracked and mixed.

    I'm hearing a wee bit too much top end on your voice, my guess is around 3k to 5k (or so), causing some slight sibilance and momentary harshness...it has nice "air" to it, but it's a bit too "brittle" (and cold) in that 3k to 5k range.

    At around 1:08, I'm hearing some kind of phasey artifact happening on the vocal track; not knowing what your room is like, what program you used ( relating to the MP3 encoding) or what your mic model/preamp/interface is, I can't offer much other than to say that I can hear it; it's almost as if it has a lossy characteristic to it.

    ( It always helps us to know the details of your recording rig; the mic, pre's, interfaces, DAW Platform, processing used on tracks, room acoustics ( treated or untreated room), etc. We can offer more assistace if we know more about what you use, how you record and mix )

    Here's the other thing... obviously you are using either samples or a pre recorded backing track, and because of the resolution of these samples/instruments, you've got a bit of a challenge to make your voice "work" with those hi res samples (I'm not referring to performance, I'm talking about audio quality and how your vocal track works with the other tracks). It's difficult to do this using good gear, let alone typical budget/home recording gear... and the "space" that is on your vocal - either added by you artificially, or due to an actual room reflection - seems to be "fighting" with the space that the instruments sit in. In short, it sounds overdubbed, and in a different space than what the samples/instruments were tracked in, so my suggestion would be to try to get your vocal track to sound more like it was recorded in the same space as the instrumental backing.

    You've got a really good voice - nicely animated and charismatic, lots of great performance character there, almost in a Broadway kind of style ... have you ever thought about acting/singing in live musical theater?

    I'm going to have to listen to the second song later, as I have my own work to do...

    It's a nice song, great performance, but there are a few audio issues that should be addressed.

  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    They don't sound like 2 mix versions. More like a mix and a mastering attempts because the levels are very different.
    As mixes, I like the first one better because it lets some dynamics to the mastering engineer to work with.

    Nice cover of Michael Card :
  4. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Thank you Donny and pcrecord for taking the time to review my mix!
    At pcrecord: Thanks for the compliment! I agree, the second "mix" is more of a mastering attempt. Glad that you liked it. I enjoy doing covers of songs making them sound nothing like the original. :)
    At Donny: It took me a few good listens but I hear the "glitch" your talking about at 0:42. That should be an easy fix. I normally don't have vocal overlays like this where the last note from the last line covers a little bit of the next one making overdubbing obvious on the lead vocal, but the song seemed to call for it and it sounded good to my ears. As for the brittle sounding vocal what I used to do months ago when I first mixed this song was add some high end to the vocal using just the "high" EQ knob in my DAW, I would turn it up from 12 o'clock to somewhere around 2-3 o'clock. I did this because the vocal sounded dull to me and in places hard to understand the lyrics. Recently I've started employing reference tracks into my workflow and realized it wasn't just my vocal that sounds dull but the whole mix. If you have the chance to review Mix 2(which pcrecord correctly said is really more of a mastered version of the song to be more correct) I did some EQ changes on the vocal and everything else in the mix, although it may still be a little too harsh in places. I also didn't notice the wierd phase thing at 1:08 until you mentioned it. I believe what you're hearing is the breath I took before starting into the chorus. That's another overdub mistake.
    Here is my setup: I used a Rauland 1282 dynamic cardioid mic(it's the only mic I have. Hopefully going to upgrade to a nice condensor soon) to record the vocals and the floor tom, maybe some small percussion parts here or there but a lot of the percussion layers were sampled. The mic ran through a Behringer Xenyx 1202FX mixer, than using RCA outputs into a Behringer UCA200 interface into my ASUS powered Windows 7 PC(Six-core Processor, 3.50 GHZ, 8.00 GB of RAM). My DAW is Mixcraft Pro Studio 6. I have no professional acoustic treatment done to my room. Although, the room I'm in is FULL of stuff that could eat up the reflections(i.e. a large couch). I used vst's for the horns, glocks, flutes, strings, pretty much all the intruments. As far as processing on the intruments almost everything has its own reverb on it, although very small amounts, with the exception of a little more on the orchestra strings. The irish whistle at 1:27 has some EQing, tube saturation, and limiting done to it. The floor tom has some EQing, bass compression, tube saturation, and tube limiting on it as well mostly to color the sound. The vocal track is doubled, the first one having some compression, EQing, and de-essing done to it. It's double is very heavily compressed(like SUPER squashed), has a de-esser running on it, and is lesser in volume. I used some lo-fi delay, did some EQing on the delay send to make it sound am radio-ish, in places at the end of phrases and kept the delay on during the last chorus verly lightly. It may be hard to explain what I did to the vocal in the 2nd verse(1:34-1:51). I had the vocal tripled there with the third track being heavily processed with reverb(I think I only used the wet signal of the vocal on this track), heavily automated to make certain vowels, sounds, and words sustain pretty long. Some reverb was also added to the primary lead vocal track there as well, but only in that section. The strings and floor tom have some added reverb in that section as well to make everything swell up to the drop out at 1:51. That part of the song is purposefully more verby than the rest. I guess just an artistic decision.
    I did a good bit of processing on the mix bus(that's on the second mix I uploaded[mastered version]) that may fix some of the issues of the vocal sounding out of place with the intruments. I used some light reverb on the whole mix and then rendered it to a single stereo file and imported that into another session and began working on it as a whole. I used some compression to glue everything together a little bit. After I did that everything sounded more "together" and in place. Then I used an exciter to open up the highs and get the dull sound out of the intruments. Although the plugin I used was an exciter, I only employed its EQ functions, not its saturation and drive settings. Since then I have also adjusted the EQ on the vocals turning down the highs quite a bit. After that I did a small downward EQ slope at around 30-40hz. After that I did some bass compression to boost the low end. I know that sounds strange after I had cut some of the low end but for some reason this really made the floor tom shine and gave some much needed punch to the song. Before this it was missing a LOT of low end and power. Then I used a stereo widener. I know those are usually a bad idea because then listening in mono could be horrible, but I checked it and it doesn't sound bad in mono. The only thing missing in the mono mix is the reverb swells in the second verse. The last thing in the chain is a limiter, which really isn't doing too much of anything. It's not squashing the mix at all. Then I normalized the track some to give it some volume. It really just raised the volume of the song, no squasing of the dynamics.
    Thank you for the compliments on my voice! I have thought about trying out for a well known dinner theater about an hour way from me before, but my schedule is usually very full. I audition for the dramas my church puts on each year and have acted and sung in these for many years now. I've been doing the music for our dramas for a few years. This song was actually recorded for an Easter drama we did in March.
    If you have a chance to listen to the mastered version when you have time, Mr. Donny, and give some feedback, I would really appreciate it. You noticed some problems I never picked up on before. Thank you for taking the time to help me!
  5. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    When I get time, I'll listen to them in my studio ;)
  6. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Thanks pcrecord! I appreciate it! :D
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Got time to listen to it in the studio. I still prefer the first mix altought it may be a bit clearer in the HF. Also, you vocal could sound a bit less nazal if you remove a bit in the 600hz area.
    All in all, go job, the worst thing to do is to squash the dynamics which in my opinion is the essences of that kind of production...
    The 3 to 5k range that Donny spoke about doesn't bother me. Specially if you brighten the higher frequencies a bit (7 to 18k)
    Of course some assumption could be wrong due to the mp3 conversion.. ;)
  8. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Ok, I might play with the EQ on my vocal a little more as suggested. So, if you were to think of both uploads of the song as being two mastered versions, as in nothing else was ever going to be done to either one of them, would you still choose the first to release???
  9. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Now, you ask me to play politics here and ask which isn't the worst... They both have defects that a Mastering engineer wouldn't let go on the shelves...
    The comprestion you've put on the second mix (let's keep calling them that) made the dynamics reduced a bit too much for me and it also changed the balance. The result is that at some places the vocal doesn't have the same space and it also made the reverb stand out a bit too much.. specially the section where you put a long one..
    The first mix need a bit more clarity and slight control of dynamics (barely). The space could be enhanced with some M/S processing...

    So I would ''Sell'' any of those versions yet..

    I trick not many people forget when mixing is that what kind of master they will ask.. If a lot of compression is to be done, the mix itself would be addressed differently...
    Some of us have started to consider mixing to master (mixing with master in mind). Thing is, you'd need a very good listening environement and monitors to hear enough details to accomplish what a ME can. It sometime better to pay a little bit and be sure our songs translate better everywhere..
  10. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Ok, I could play with the compression some. I have to admit that before recently(the last 2 months or so) I hadn't been using compression very much on the mix bus, so when I slapped one on for the first time to try it, I was pleased with how the intruments and vocals seemed to be "glued" together and not sound so seperated and obviously overdubbed. This is probably just a difference in taste but when I listen to both mixes I like the vocals on the second one better. They sound a little too forward to me on the first one. I've been busy lately but I really do need to plan myself maybe an hour or so to give this another good listen and try a few of things you and others have suggested.
    I don't have any experience with M/S processing, something I should learn, but I did use a stereo widening plugin on the 2nd mix. I had a lot of problems with the long reverb sections with the stereo widening plugin on, but I really liked the way the mix opened up. Without the stereo widening, the reverb in that section is not as prominent. Something else I'd like to adjust some more.....
    I definitely don't have the money right now to hire someone to master this for me, and honestly I would like to learn to do that myself. I know it will take practice, but I'm willing to learn. I'm enjoying trying to get some great quality results without all the industry standard "toys" that many boast you need to make anything sound good.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The industry standard "toys" you speak of are definitely not toys, and they're not a false "boast" either. To the contrary, they are a necessity - if true mastering is something you feel is on your horizon.
    Anything short of that is simply editing and "making things louder", and there is far, far more to mastering than that.

    There's also much more to mastering than just "practice".

    First, you'll need a monitoring system that is dead-on accurate, as well as a room that had been treated and balanced acoustically to very tight tolerances.
    Then it takes knowledge of things like EQ, RMS, LUFS, Dynamic Range, Broadcast Standards, Conversion, Clocking, Phase Coherency, Peaks, Gain Reduction, etc,...
    And then it takes practice... and lots of it.

    That being said, as Marco mentioned, this isn't quite ready for mastering yet. You're at a decent place, but it still needs some work.

    Suggestion: avoid "stereo widening" plugs like the plague. They are a recipe for disaster with phasing, coherency and translational response. You're much better off to consider M- S processing instead.
    I personally feel the same way about exciters, as they give a false presence, which too often results in an edginess that sounds fake, harsh, and that can be very fatiguing to listen to.

    Knowledge counts, to be sure. But gear matters a lot too. With the current rig you have, you'll only ever get an audio quality commensurate with the quality your gear allows... your signal chain will only ever be as good as your weakest link is.
    The reason you are having to use as much processing as you have mentioned using, is because there are weaknesses in your chain.

    The best mixes come from the best sounding tracks as they were recorded. If you have a poor-sounding room, a budget mic and preamp, then you'll only ever end up with a sound that is "budget" at best. You end up adding all this extra processing you've mentioned, because you don't like the way the vocal track sounded on its own, as it was recorded.
    So basically, you're starting with audio that doesn't sound good to you in its natural state, so you add things ... like exciters and wideners and tube saturation and lions and tigers and bears ( oh my), and whatever else you're adding, to try and "fix" that which you don't like; when if you had started out with a track that did sound good to you on its own, you wouldn't need all that extra stuff, which can add artifacts like phase, latency, false harmonics ... and the more you process, the worse it gets.

    This is fairly common, especially for those who have cheaper gear and poor recording environments - to add extra processing to "cover up" or "fix" the original sound ... it's referred to as "over-cooking" a track ( or a mix), using more processing than what you actually need.

    I'd like to hear a version of this without all that extra processing on your vocal... I'm not saying completely dry, use whatever verb or delay you feel it needs to give it "space"... but without the exciters, saturators, and wideners.

    IMO of course.
  12. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    I understand what you're saying about having good gear and I agree. But seeing as I don't have the money to spend on nice preamps, mics, and get professional acoustic treatment done, I will have to learn on what I do have for now. Although I would like to learn mastering, if I ever decide that I want to release this song than I will probably need to send it off to a ME who has LOTS more experience than I do.
    Just to clarify, the exciters, saturators, and wideners are used on the mix bus only, not my vocal track. The only effects on my voice are some compression, EQ, delay in places, and the reverb on my voice is coming from a short reverb on the mix bus with the exception of the sections at 1:34-1:51. The vocal is also doubled with the double being overcompressed and is at a very low volume. If I mute the double it's barely noticeable that anything has changed. The song has little to no processing done on the mix bus on mix #1. Mix #2 is the one with all the processing on the mix bus.
    I have read several times before to stay away from stereo widening plugins because your mix will fall apart in mono, but when I checked this one in mono I don't hear any big differences in balance. The only thing that changes is most of the vocal reverb at 1:34-1:51 dissapears in mono. I normally don't use stereo wideners on the mix bus, but I like the way it sounds on this song. It may just be an exception????
    I worked on it last night for a few hours, experimenting with the things suggested here. I'll hopefully be able to put up another mix soon with some more changes. Happy New Year to you guys! And thanks for sticking with me on this mix so that I can make it better. :)
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    You should do whatever it is that pleases you. Ultimately, you're the one that needs to be happy with it.

    I just commented on some things I thought to be problematic - there were certain things that I perceived, or that jumped out at me when I listened, and because you asked for a critique, I offered my opinion on that which I thought needed improvement.
    There are obviously some things I can hear that you can't, either due to my 3 decades of experience in critical listening, or because you've heard it so many times those things passed by you. Maybe it's because my monitoring and room are more accurate than yours is... and maybe it's a bit of all of those things.
    Regardless of which it is, there are other things I also heard that I felt could be improved, and I offered my opinion as to how I thought you should approach those things.

    But ...those things are just my own opinion. You don't need to explain to me, or to anyone else for that matter either, why you do what you do.

    I don't like exciters, nor do I like stereo wideners. But it's not my song, not my mix, so it really doesn't matter what I think. You're the one that needs to be happy... and if you are, then that's enough. :)

    The end result is how it sounds to you when you listen to the final outcome. Explaining the process(es) you used, or giving reasons as to "why" you did what you did, don't really figure in at this point.

    It's your creation, you're the one with the final say in how it sounds.

    Happy New Year, and good luck to you. ;)

    And with that...... I am outttttta here!



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