Hey guys new here! I need a brutally honest yet constructive mixing critique

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by luminousegg, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. luminousegg

    luminousegg Active Member

    Hey guys, I just found this site and I'm really happy I did. I could really use some very honest critique of an EP my band self released and recorded. The mastering was done by a pretty well respected guy in the metal community named Colin Marston. As for my band, we're all trained musicians and we've performed plenty of times on recordings... but none of us have really had much experience in doing the recording and mixing ourselves. I chose the songs we recorded for this EP because I felt like they were our worst ones and I was more okay with using them to teach myself how to record/mix than with our other tunes. Now we think it's time to start recording again and I really really want to bump the production up to the next level. Can you guys give me some tips? And let me know what I got wrong and what I can do to get things right next time? I really don't want good songs to suffer from bad/inappropriate production. I've attached some links to this post for you guys to check out..Thanks y'all!!


    Gear used:
    Logic 8
    Focusrite Saffire Audio Interface
    Blue Spark Mic
    MXL 990
    Monster Cables
    Stanton DJ Pro 2000 Head Phones
    Fender Passport 300 Portable P.A. on mounts as my monitors
  2. tchambeau

    tchambeau Active Member

    Good stuff, remember the following is just my opinion and that will vary with every different person who listens.
    Breathless, I like it, only thing I would change would be less reverb on the classical guitar.
    Lotus Eater, great song, drums again, have a little too much reverb on them for me and the reverb that is used doesn't sound convincing (drums are always the hardest). Sounds like just one room mic used, instead of individual drum mic'ing
    So overall, your not doing too badly, just keep on learning and working on the mixes.Drums are the backbone, so if that isn't right, anything put on top of them will suffer.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    First off, as a disclaimer, I need to say that this stuff really isn't my "thang"... I've never really been into Glass or any of the other "esoteric" artists BUT... I still respect the musicianship involved.

    To my ears, many of your tracks sound "distant", as if mic'd from a great distance? Did you use just one room mic? Or was this room space something that you intentionally added using processing?

    I'm not hearing the definition that these instruments you used can offer.

    Also, my suspicion is that mixing through those Fender PA cabinets you listed probably isn't helping, in that those, along with many other PA cabs, are designed for hyped-up frequencies in your bottom - and sometimes top end.

    Next time around you may want to look into a pair of decent nearfields in which to reference.

    Again, take my opinion with a grain of salt, because the style isn't my bag. Perhaps this sounds exactly the way you wanted it to sound, perhaps this was precisely what you heard in your head, and if that's the case, then you've succeeded.

  4. luminousegg

    luminousegg Active Member


    Thanks for the tips! In hindsight I can see that turning down the reverb on the guitar in Breathless would have added a layer of warmth that it could use more of. I think while I was doing it I sided with more reverb because I wanted it to sound slightly other worldly. Now that I've read more about recording possibilities I think a good compromise between the 2 would be to utilize buses and to just automate the sends as I see fit. Higher on the send connected to a bus with more reverb when I want that effect. And then when I don't want that effect I'll turn it down on the send connected to the reverb bus and I'll turn it up on a bus that's free of plug-ins/effects. Does that sound like the correct course of action to you? And yes you caught me, the drums were recording with only one mic & I definitely don't plan on making that mistake again.. Do you have any suggestions for recording drums? Any procedures while recording? Can I do it effectively with a 2 channel audio interface or should I upgrade? If I were to purchase drum mics what would be a quality set, that's not too budget busting? Thanks for your help! And for listening to my tunes
  5. tchambeau

    tchambeau Active Member

    Yes, a reverb send could be used. I personally like putting individual reverb plugins on separate tracks, so I can tweak them accordingly (with maybe one reverb send say for all of the drums) However, you need processing power for that, if thats an issue. Drums were my big hurdle. I don't know of any cheap way to get around getting a good drum sound. I tried the 3 mic technique, etc, but end up with the old Sm57 on the snare, sennheiser 401's on the toms, akg? on the bass drum, 2 overhead AKG C1000's. If you check out my Youtube.com/toddchambeau, even with this setup (4 videos on there, check out Turkey Neck from last year, to Gotta Jack up your shrubs, last week) and you can see I am finally improving the sound. Just seperation, light compression and a little EQ. If you only have funds for a 2 channel interface, use what you got and spend the many hours it will take to try out everything. Then, as you work your way up the equipment ladder, you'll gain knowledge and skill as you go, making it easier. Good luck
  6. luminousegg

    luminousegg Active Member


    Hey thank you for taking the time to reply! I do think you have a point about definition for sure. There are instances where I do like that the tracks sound distant, but there are just as many if not more instances where I think they could use that definition youre talking about. Some of the parts were mic'd right up close and some were just direct inputs so it's definitely from after the fact processing that I'm getting that distant sound. I think most of that can be attributed to a desire to get everything in the mix a smoothness, but also my lack of experience in eq. I've tried searching for a standard frequency range to put my instruments in while i'm mixing, but I'm still not totally sure. I figure violins and vocals are high, guitar is about mid, and bass/drums are low, but this doesn't always work. I mainly mixed through the head phones too, and used not only the PA cabs, but my IMAC speakers as well. I'm really thinking about investing in nicer monitors though..Do you have any suggestions for a quality pair? also what frequency range do you think is appropriate for each instrument?
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    There is quite a bit of phasing. If you get that tightened up, things will really get better for you. Make sure you aren't out of phase with mic's. I'm with Donny on this, not my thing either but I like your sound. I love how you all sound together. I think you have a good thing going here and are on the verge of really connecting with an identity. I could do a lot with you guys so what that means, is , keep working at this! Despite not my bag, I am imagining how great you will sound when the mix tightens up.
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, it does help to know those primary frequency ranges that certain instruments "live" in, and it's certainly a good place to start - for example, adding 80 hz to a flute track isn't gonna do anything for the flute and will just introduce low end artifacts into your mix that you don't want.... You won't do anything to help the flute but you might end up hearing HVAC noise, or that semi truck that drove by during the recording.. LOL

    So yeah, it's good to know those primary ranges, but you don't want to lock yourself down to too narrow of a range either, because there are frequency nuances and harmonics involved throughout the bandwidths that you may want.

    For example... while the primary frequencies - the warmth, body and "oomph" for a kick drum might live down in the lower regions, the "click" of the beater hitting the head, the presence, lives up in the much higher ranges, past 1k.

    Here's what you may want to do, and engineers do this all the time, and that is to "calibrate" your hearing before mixing (and tracking too). Find some musical selections that you dig, or that are similar sonically to what you do. Play those selections and get your ears accustomed to the tones you are hearing.

    Now... having a decent pair of reference monitors to do this with is important... because you want to know that what you are hearing is truly what you are hearing, and I'm not sure that's ever gonna happen for you using PA or PC speakers... but... what is more important is the sound of the room itself.

    If your room is lying to you - for example, telling your ears that you have sufficient low end when you really don't, then your mixes will come off sounding low end shy or undefined, when played back on other systems.

    Put it this way, Egg... personally, I'd rather mix in a great sounding room with a pair of "okay" monitors, than mix in a poor sounding room with the best monitors money could buy.

    As to recording suggestions, well, I hesitate to give you much advice on your tracks because honestly, I'm not a fan of the genre.

    Your style is esoteric and ethereal, and that "distance" that bothered me might be precisely what you were looking for.

    Wearing my engineer's hat, I'd tell you to use good microphones, and capture the way the instrument was meant to sound. If you have a nice, natural sounding track of an acoustic instrument, like a violin, cello, flute, etc., you can always sculpt and manipulate that original sound to your heart's content after the fact.... but it's very hard, and in fact damned near impossible, to go the other way and attempt to get a natural sound....if you didn't capture it to begin with.

    Now I need to be clear here.... while I don't necessarily dig the style you are working in, that doesn't mean that I don't respect the art and the musicianship involved. You just need to find "your" sound, and to that, there is no "right" or "wrong". There just is. Trust your intuition, and stick with your artistic path and vision.

    It's not for me - or anyone else - to say what that vision is... just make sure that what you are hearing is truly what you are hearing, is all I'm sayin'. ;)

    IMHO of course.

  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I found your compositions both intriguing and quiet eclectic. Overall rather interesting to listen to. A pleasant vocals sound. I basically like the other instrumentation. But I really could not get my head around those Tinkertoy sounding drums? That's where ya really dropped the ball on a lot of these numbers. Some of the sound is not just a distant, it's in the bottom of a trash can. Now I do know some engineers that have put microphones in the bottom of trash cans to get a sound. Perhaps they got what they were looking for in the trash can? I know I have. It was equipment that NBC-TV was throwing out. I kept a lot of it then sold the rest off for about $8000. So if I tell you this sounds like trash? It could be worth $8000?

    So I really missed a good sounding drum track in all of your selections. They were just Tinkertoy's being beaten upon. Nothing exciting there. But it sounds like a good drum track was played and recorded? Now you just have to include it in your selections. It's the one thing you left out in the cold. And it's too cold out there. So it really didn't move me any.

    What the other contributing posters indicated, I really didn't feel either way about. I thought everything else sounded good. It's only the drum set that prevented it all from coming together well. The drums need copious amounts of EQ, compression, limiting and above all, gating. None of that was evident. Whatever EQ you used certainly wasn't the right EQ you used. It did nothing for the drums whatsoever. In fact, I think that's one of the reasons why they sound bad? You just haven't yet dialed them in right. And once you do... these will release bring to life. They will present a much better experience for all. And that's really the only ingredient I feel needs to be changed.

    Surely you have listened to other well known pop recordings on your monitoring system? And I'm sure you can tell quite quickly, where you're drums aren't. It's such an important ingredient for pop music. You're treating you're drums like that of a unwanted child. And they deserve better treatment than that LOL. I mean just because you beat them into submission does not mean they are going to perform admirably on the recording for you. Which they haven't. And it's not any problem with the drums set itself. They're not tuned right. They are not played with aggressive consistency. It sounds like somebody playing drums that doesn't know how to play drums. And I would imagine your drummer is better than that? And so you are cheating him out of his due respect for what he does for your band. Fix that and I think you have it made.

    So this is only your first mix? Good. Then there should be no problem improving it.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. luminousegg

    luminousegg Active Member

    haha I really appreciate your honesty, and I feel like I can trust your positive remarks just as much as your negative ones, which seemed to center directly around the drums. I feel like my only solution for the drums is to have them recorded somewhere else with someone who really knows what they're doing and to take the results and mix them myself. A lot of the points you mentioned such as gating and limiting I have very limited knowledge about...and I did EQ and Compress them quite a bit, but from what everyone seems to think, I did it all wrong. Could you tell me how to make the appropriate choices when EQing and Compressing? are their tell tale signs to knowing what is appropriate in each situation? Or am I just going to have to figure it out on my own? Can the gating be solved by recording in a quieter room?
  11. luminousegg

    luminousegg Active Member

    Thanks so much for the tips and for encouragement/listening!! I didn't record anything with more than 1 mic at a time, but I did take the same bits of audio and processed them differently at the same time. Do you think that's what caused the phasing?
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I could replace your drums no problem but the project would be large to do all your tracks in detail. Most likely not feasible if I or any mixer charged you for this. It would however be very interesting to do about 30 bars of Disintegrate for you as an experiment for us all. I could do this in a few hours. If you are game ( no charge), I would need the tracks to that song.

    There is another reason why I would suggest this. You are thinking about redoing just the drums and then remixing this all. In all honestly, after listening to all the songs, all the tracks have a phasy thing happening that I personally feel are not going to cut it in the bigger picture. But there is no doubt, cleaning up the drums would make a HUGE improvement.

    You are all very polished with these songs. ( the more I listen, I think you are incredible actually). Taking it all to a professional studio would really show what you are all capable of. You have a lot going on here and a good studio and producer is what you need to get to the next level.
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Chris has made a valid observation and suggestion for you. It's one of the things I call quick mix recording school. You book into the best studio you can find with the best engineer you can afford. Setup the drums, sit back, watch, listen and ask questions. Pick his brains. You are paying for it. A lot cheaper than school.

    First thing you have to understand is that there will always be some phase anomalies between many of these closely placed microphones. And it can really denigrate the sound totally. And you cannot necessarily employ the 6 to 1 foot rule. The overheads are usually far enough away so as not to cause many phase problems. But then the sound gets crappy with all of those microphones on those individual drums. And the only effective way to eliminate that problem sound is to gate each and everyone of those individual drums. And that includes the bass drum and the snare drum along with the tom-toms. Nothing need be done to the overheads other than a little high pass filtering. You'd only compressed and gate those overheads to create an effect.

    The only microphones you really need to use on all of the drums are 57's. A lot of people think you need one of those large diaphragm dynamic microphones for bass drums. You don't. 57's work just fine on bass drums.

    The equalization you'll need can get a little tricky on drums. All too often, 200-400 Hz is responsible for that cardboard box like sound. Blah. So you frequently need to cut substantially between those frequencies, around those frequencies. And the cardboard box sound will magically vanish. Now I also like to use some compression and/or limiting along with my gating. Using the dynamic range processing will add a greater degree of consistency and placement, while also contributing to bad sound. Which you then follow with the gates. Now you really don't need much in the way of the compression and/or limiting. Most of this has to be adjusted to taste. There is no hard or fast rule. But when you have done all of the above, the drums will tighten up, they'll punch better and leap out of the recording and speakers. You also want to make sure that you are woofers are punching out at you on the bass drum beats. Too frequently, the speakers are sucking because of phase or polarity reversals. And a suck is not a punch. And so you want the drums to be punchy. Remember... an ounce of punch is worth a pound of sound. Live by that. That doesn't come from bad EQ and lousy plug-ins. Though it's available in many average multitrack software. It's just how you do it that matters.

    The setting of the threshold for the drum gates is actually quite critical. So is the release time. You only want that gate to open when that drum is struck and not any others. That's a tricky threshold adjustment in a lot of software. It's actually easier with the hardware devices designed to do just that. There is another aspect to the gating and that's frequency weighting. In software and with hardware devices, we can make that gate detector, sensitive only to a narrow frequency spectrum. So that it doesn't open from any other frequency response out of that range, which you have set. In hardware, a sidechain equalizer would be used in the detector circuit. In software, it's generally an easy choice of frequencies spreads. A similar technique is used with compressors to create DE-ESing. The compressor detector is narrowed to between 3-6 kHz where all the sibilance becomes obnoxious. Gating the drums is very similar to that. A gate is just an inverse compressor. When there's signal, it turns on. When there isn't any signal, it turns down. It's really quite the same as the compressor just backwards. And you use both together along with the proper EQ to create great sounding drum tracks. And you don't need and don't want any look ahead dialed in. That really sounds unnatural. And while you think that you are losing the leading edge of that drum transient, you're not. The overheads get that just fine. In fact that is most of your drums sound just from the overheads and the bass drum. Then all the rest of the gated drums provides all the beef to the tone.

    So what you do is you first push up your overheads. Then you push up the bass drum. In many instances and especially with rock 'n roll, I usually invert the phase of the bass drum but that's the only one I do that to. The same for a bottom snare drum microphone. Nothing else on the drums should have a phase inversion button pressed. Now you've got the basic drums sound happening from the overheads and bass drum. Then you add in your processed and gated snare drum. Sounding good now? You bet. Then you add in the rest of the tom-toms. And bingo, you're there man. Then you push up your bass guitar until it matches up with the bass drum and punches through. You might need some light limiting on the bass guitar along with some low-frequency rolloff. The more low frequencies you roll off the bass guitar, the better you'll hear it. It'll pop when you get it to where it needs to be. And this will rock your socks off. Extreme EQ is usually not necessary, not recommended. And you can do this quite capably with just a bunch of 57's and a Mackie. I like both small and large diaphragm condenser microphones overhead. Lousy acoustics? Small diaphragm condenser microphones. Good acoustics? Large diaphragm condenser microphones. No budget? 57's on overheads. Rolloff the low-end and perk up the high-end. It'll sound great.

    Now there is also nothing that can be done if you gain your preamps up too high. And it's usually easy to tell when you've done that because it will all sound like total crap. And that's bad gain staging. Which should be an easy rudimentary adjustment. You do not want to over record the drums. This ain't analog. There is no reason to do that. There was in analog but there's not in digital. And I think you are doing a bit of that from what I've heard? So while you want to keep your recording levels at decent levels, you might want to go a little more conservatively on your recording levels simply due to the lack of head room one finds in this more affordable equipment roster. That does not mean you cannot record good drums. It only means you have to be a little more conservative on your level setting. 16-bit digital has a 96 db dynamic range and signal to noise ratio. That's 30 db better than any ultra expensive analog recorder could ever deliver. With 24-bit, you're talking 140 db. And where the best electronics in the world don't have much more than 110 db of usable service. And that's because of physics. Some might make it out to 115 db? And where ya will find most pop recordings don't have much more than a 40 db dynamic range. That's 40. The other 40-50 are slaughtered by dynamics processing. It's frequently quite necessary for rock 'n roll recording. I'm not talking about esoteric recordings. I'm talking about homegrown rock 'n roll. A lot of folks need to go about this in a very clinical and scientific manner. Ha! I say, slug a few beers down. Have a couple of smokes of something or other. And get on with it. Some musicians have to read music. Others are good at improvisation. This isn't any different. I'm a fly by the seat of my pants, improvisational, spontaneous, engineer. And I roll with things. On my feet and out of the box. So don't keep thinking whether you're doing something right or wrong. Just listen. Listen to somebody else's recording as a reference. Then go back to your own. It won't sound quite as refined as a Mastered Pop release will sound like. That's OK. We just want to try and reproduce some of that jump out at you quality. When I hear coming from a lot of engineers is this really slick, horizontals slather of sound. Sometimes that's perfectly right. Other times everybody sounds the same. Either way, I don't quite know how to get that perfected horizontals slather like sound? And mostly because I'm not interested. That's not my sound. That's their sound whoever that there they are. That's the goodest English I can talk. LOL because I am a recording engineer. And recording engineers don't need to say much. I'm a person of few words. Believe that and I've got a great bridge to sell you near Manhattan. And it will only cost you your firstborn male computer. And no bad Apples.

    Dr. Gates Dr. Fine Dr. Gates.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  14. luminousegg

    luminousegg Active Member

    Thanks man, that means a lot! And oh boy, we would love to have someone who actually knows what they're doing at the helm of the recordings. I have no idea how this is achieved anymore though...Most Indie groups seem to have a DIY approach and record themselves. And these days no one pays attention to you unless you have really good recordings. But the only way you get those is with lots of time in a good studio with a good producer...which we definitely don't have the funds or good luck to pull off.

    I think the drumming experiment is a great idea though! how should I send it to you? There're about 50 or so tracks in Disintegrate with all sorts of things going on through each one. I'm pretty sure the un-bounced audio folder for the recording is over around 1.5 gb or so..
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    I'll try Disintegrate. Are you able to load the session, group things and save them as stems? Or, I could take all the tracks, just make sure they are Zero'd so they line up for me. Does this make sense?

    Edit, I see there are 50 tracks for Disintegrate.
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    What software/ DAW are you using?
  17. luminousegg

    luminousegg Active Member

    Wow! I'm sorry! my email notification that you replied to me got buried super deep in my inbox. I hope you're still up for it!

    My DAW is Logic 8

    After looking at disintegrate it's closer to something like 36 tracks that are layered together
  18. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    sounds decent to me. it's kind of all over the place in terms of type of music ... the girls sing pretty well and the violins are good. hate that hi tuned overly resonant snare on "eggs". i bet if you had some real monitors and a decent room to mix in you would do much better in terms of the overall mix.

    not my kind of music but i will say your musicianship is good ... well done overall imo (and i'm hard to please).
  19. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Loved the music. Nice to hear something original. Kind of a mash between Bjork and Jeff Buckley. The panning of the bass hard right in Lotus Eaters threw me off bit. I feel like the vox could come up a bit as well in some spots. Otherwise the mixes are great.
  20. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Incidentally, bring it up to Vancouver BC. I'd love to pay to hear you guys at The Fabulous Commodore Ball Room. We have a folk festival too. Well, lets throw in the Jazz and Blues Society in there for good measure. You'd fit the Jazz Festival just fine as well.

Share This Page